Visual Effects for Film

VFX is a tool for your story telling~

How VFX can save you time and money

Many filmmakers think visual effects are a luxury reserved only for those big budget blockbuster films. This is not the case, vfx is not just about robots and dinosaurs.(See the previous post on “What VFX can do?”) With various vfx techniques today, visual effects could be a great tool not only for telling the story but also for saving you time and money. Here I’m are going to list a few situations where vfx can save you time and money.


1. Location:
There are a lot of films shot in Canada but the stories are set in New York, LA or somewhere else. The reason for doing this is because filmmakers want to take advantage of tax benefits or lower overhead provided by some countries or states. In this case, you only need few shots showing some famous landmarks to let the audiences know where the story is taking place. Sending a crew over to another city just for a few shots takes lots of time and money plus it’s hard to manage. With vfx, this might be easily replaced with a few matte paintings or building replacements. Another situation is you have an interior of a house where a lot of scenes will be shot but you don’t like the street view or window view. Instead of trying to find another location, putting a green screen on the windows and replacing the window view could be a good solution. Also some remote locations like Alaska or the desert, or forest are just too difficult to transport the entire crew to. In this case matte painting is a good way to go.

2. Set:
Instead of building a complete set, you can build only the part of set that the actors will interact with and leave the rest to visual effects. This will not only save time and money but also a lot of trouble such as getting a big enough space to arrange the set. This is where having some basic understanding of visual effects is really valuable in order to know which parts are easier to build real and what is easier done in post. The rule of thumb is that anything the actors touch or walk on, or will have moving light and shadows or reflections should generally be built real. Also, generally anything that is in the foreground of the shot should be real. We’ll go more into detail in this subject in the future when we cover green screen shooting and set extension.

3. Moving vehicle:
This is very common in movies. For filming actors in a moving vehicle such as a car, plane or train, doing green screen window replacements are usually the best way to go. For a driving car on the street, you need to pull the car which the actors are in by a truck so that the actors can concentrate on acting rather than driving, also you’ll need a permit for filming on a public street and need to close off the street to other cars and pedestrians. This is a lot of work. In the old days most car scenes were filmed in front of  a screen with footage of a street being projected on to it. For filming in a subway, you might need to apply an approval from the transit authorities. Filming in a flying plane will be even more trouble and expensive. In those situation, vfx will really save a lot of trouble and money for you.

4. climate control:
shooting in night time, snowing or raining day is not only going to cost you more on renting more lights or paying overtime to the crew and actors, but it will also get you bad quality images that are not very useful. The solution is shot in day time or clear weather and applying rain or snow elements and color correction in post. This is known as shooting day for night.

5. Fire:
Lighting set on fire is always dangerous and risky. You never want to see anybody on set get hurt and you don’t want to put yourself in the risk of only have one chance to get the shot right. Using gasoline fire will take a lot of time put out and reset the shot. An experienced vfx supervisor would probably advise you to film the fire separately as a element and the vfx team can composite it into the shot later. This will be quick and cheap. An old visual effects trick was to put a piece of glass in front of the camera at a 45 degree angle and have a fire off to the side reflecting onto the glass giving the appearance that the set was on fire.

These are just some of the situations that vfx can save you time and money. Feel free to share your vfx tips or leave a comment!

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One response to “How VFX can save you time and money

  1. Melody 2012/11/17 at 4:14 AM

    Wow! Your blog is very well written and the content is totally interesting! I’m impressed! Keep it up bro!

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