Visual Effects for Film

VFX is a tool for your story telling~

What VFX can do?-Part 2:Environments

Ok~let’s move on to talking about environments. This is probably most used vfx in films. For environment visual effects, there are several different techniques. We can build full 3D environment, matte painting, or projection matte painting to 3D. It all depends on how the camera is moving and how many times and different angles we need for the environment. We’ll leave the details of the techniques to later. Now we’re just going to get a concept about what VFX can do for your film as digital environments.

From a whole fantasy kingdom to a small window replacement, digital environments can play a very important role in the scene. Most of films that you think have no visual effects involved usually have some digital environments. Window replacements is one of the common vfx in films. It’s dangerous and not easy to get good shots when you try to film in a moving car. In a lot of these situations, vfx will be a good choice.

Window replacement. Picture from:

Window replacement. Picture from:

Have the perfect set or house for your film, but it’s at a different location as where the story takes place? Replacing the windows could totally do the trick. You might want the place to feel like it’s higher floor, in certain city, have certain view, or you just want to get rid of an ugly pole outside the window. These kind of window or background replacements happened a lot in films.

replace the window view to make the place feel higher. Picture from

Replace the window view to feel like the house is beside a river. Picture from LightRay FX.

We could also make audiences feel the story happened at certain location by replacing the background. Below are pictures captured from “Disney’s Snow Buddies: The Magic Of Visual Effects” video. By replacing the background, it will look like the airplane is flying in the sky. This story was supposed to happened in Alaska. Instead of bringing the whole crews and puppies to Alaska, the visual effects team made Vancouver look like Alaska by replacing the background and adding snow.

picture from video:” Disney’s Snow Buddies: The Magic Of Visual Effects”

picture from video “Disney’s Snow Buddies: The Magic Of Visual Effects”

By changing the background turn Vancouver to Alaska.

pictures from video “Disney’s Snow Buddies::The Magic Of Visual Effects”

We often see a shot from high above the sky then flies down to a certain house where the story is happening or from a house pull out to see the whole town. This kind of establishing shot is very common in the beginning of a film to tell the audiences where the story takes place and in the end of film as well. Instead of trying to find a way to let your camera fly through the window and fly higher and further, visual effects is the most common method for this.
We often build a real existing city with digital environments technique, as well. It might be because it costs too much to go there, we only need a few shots so we don’t really want to go, we need a very complex camera move, or the city needs to be destroyed such as “2012”.

This shot take us flying into a window of the tower.

This shot will take us flying through the city and ending where story takes place. From “Sanctuary”.

Set extension is one method you might find very useful as well. You might need some part of a interior for actors to act in it, but you don’t want to spend all that time and money to build the whole set. All you need to do is build the part that your actors will walk by and leave green/blue screen on the rest. The vfx team can replace the green screen with digital environments. A good example is the church in “Da Vinci Code”. And finally, there is fantasy environment which only exists in imagination and has no way to film it. Such as the planet of Asgard in “Thor”. With all these possibilities, you might be able to understand why digital environments is one of the most useful techniques for films.

A set extension in “Da Vinci Code”. Picture from

beautiful digital environment of Asgard in “Thor”. Picture from


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: