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The Importance of Visual Effects

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Image by Akarsh Mittal from Pixabay

Almost since the first moving picture the use of visual effects has gone hand in hand with cinematic storytelling. They can enhance a scene, help build something which does not exist, cover up a mistake and so much more. Basically, they help a filmmaker tell a story the way they want to.

However, before we go any further let us all get on the same page as to what is meant by the term Visual Effects of VFX.

Visual effects is the process by which imagery is created or manipulated outside the context of a live action shot in filmmaking and video production. The integration of live action footage and CG elements to create realistic imagery is called VFX.

VFX involves the integration of live action footage (special effects) and generated imagery (digital or optics, animals or creatures) which look realistic, but would be dangerous, expensive, impractical, time-consuming or impossible to capture on film. Visual effects using computer-generated imagery (CGI) have more recently become accessible to the independent filmmaker with the introduction of affordable and relatively easy-to-use animation and compositing software

Visual Effects are best when they work in combination with everything else. When done correctly, they should be seamless and either not be noticed at all – usually when changing the background of a scene – or make the fantastical look like something real. They can make a horror movie monster become a living nightmare, a science-fiction world a place that you want to visit, or make it possible for a street scene shot today look like it was from a hundred years in the past.

The world’s first “special effect” was created in 1857 by Oscar Rejlander who combined different sections of 32 negatives into a single image. Since then, through trial and error, a few mistakes, and a lot of work we come to films such as 2019’s Avengers: Endgame that saw ninety percent of the film using VFX and CGI. In the latter example, without visual effects, the film would not exist or would at least have been radically different. They also show that some of the best visual effects are the ones you do not realise are there.

One of the big turning points for cinema as we now know it happened back in 1977 when George Lucas made a little film called Star Wars. That saw many advancements in special and visual effects technology and saw the creation of a new special effects house, Industrial Light and Magic, which are one of the most popular visual effects studios today.

Mad Max Fury Road

You can see the changes in technology throughout all of the Star Wars films. Another example is the Mad Max films by George Miller. Compare the original Mad Max from 1979 to Mad Max Fury Road in 2015. The latter film is just jam-packed full of gorgeous visual effects that enrich and enhance the film. They did use real cars and stunts while filming it, but the visual effects added after the fact just make everything pop. You could even watch it with no sound and it would still be an incredible experience.

The visual effects characterize a movie. This kind of effects can also be implemented on games or online casinos. Is definitively a satisfying experience to play a game themed with the movie you love and feel those visual effects that make you remember some special scenes. For instance, 888 online casino, one of Britain’s most respected operators, offers slots themed with movies like Mad Max and other exciting slots games where you will enjoy the visual and sounds effects.

Motion Capture

The world of motion capture is another brilliant type of visual effect. From Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars prequels to Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, and beyond, we are now able to have strange creatures give compelling performances due to the combination of brilliant acting and CGI artists.

James Cameron’s Avatar is another great example of the motion capture technology, where many of the characters only truly existing once the visual effects had been completed. It also featured an alien world with a full ecosystem and also brought some of the best 3D effects we have ever seen. His long in development sequels will no doubt push the technology forward even more.

Covering Mistakes

Justice League

The last season of Game of Thrones was extremely divisive and the effect it has on the new prequel series in development remains to be seen. However, it features a great moment that shows how visual effects can cover up visual errors that occurred during filming. The infamous Starbuck coffee cup that somehow was left in the shot and then missed on the first viewing was later digitally erased. The same effects have been used on many occasions to remove boom mics, wires keeping actors aloft, crew members who should not be on screen (the jeans guy from The Mandalorian had fifteen minutes of Internet fame before he was digitally removed). It works out so much cheaper doing it that way rather than having to go back and shoot the scene again. Plus, with everything streaming digitally, the new and improved show or film can be uploaded before anyone is the wiser. Unfortunately, that does not always work out for the best as when it is not done correctly it can be an even bigger distraction. Henry Cavill’s moustache being covered up in Joss Whedon’s version of Justice League is probably the best example of that.

Possibilities for Everyone

As time has moved on and the technology improves it also becomes cheaper over time. That means more indie filmmakers have more options and can create incredible imagery from their bedrooms. The 2010 sci-fi film Monsters by Gareth Edwards would not be the film we know without that. Edwards created the visual effects himself using off-the-shelf Adobe software, ZBrush, and Autodesk 3ds Max. He had five months to create all 250 visual effects shots, a process he undertook in his bedroom. He produced two shots a day until he reached the first creature shot. For those of you who have seen the film, what he achieved is truly stunning.

Visual Effects are important as, when done well, they give the filmmaker the finishing touches to their vision and mean they can share the vision they had in their imagination. For the viewer, it can take us on incredible voyages to alien worlds, or dream-like places and truly enhance the cinematic experience.

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