Have you ever wondered what made an almost impossible scene in our world able to be made realistically in movies? For example, some movies show things that no longer exist on our earth today, such as dinosaurs, pirate ships, or even ghosts. 

Thanks to all the visual effects artists and supervisors in the world who are the mastermind behind these visual effects (VFX). We can have magical and fantastical actions made into life with the help of computer graphics in movies, television series, films, commercials, or even video games. These visual artists create the illusion of reality by incorporating visual effects. 

What is VFX? In this article, we’ll explore more about VFX. 

VFX Meaning

Visual effects are also called VFX or visual FX. VFX stand for a process where images, videos, or other visual elements are altered or manipulated, and enhanced for live-action footage.

These effects allow the integration of realistic-looking environments, characters, and occurrences that could not be taken during live-action shooting for some reason. These reasons may include the scenes being too dangerous to film or because they are simply impossible to process in real life. 

How Visual FX is done?

Effects can be done in-camera and enhanced later in the filmmaking process, which is practical. But these practical effects may be too expensive, dangerous, or impractical. Effects may also be generated by computer software, animation, and compositing, which is more doable than practical visual effects. 

History of VFX

The history of visual effects started in 1856, when a Swedish art photographer, Oscar Rejlander combined 32 negatives into a single image. This finding then has turned into a convenient in-camera effect that feels more like a gimmick than image manipulation.

Film strips used to be manipulated with dissolves, double-exposed, time-lapsed, and hand-painted. 

Louis Le Prince, a French inventor has invented an automated stage for motion pictures, which then became the first-ever motion picture camera. 

Later then, Georges Méliès, a French inventor, began the first known use of stop-motion animation in 1902, then followed by his invention of the “double exposure” technique in film production in 1908. Then later after that, the first practical optical printer was introduced in 1927, which allowed the creation of three-dimensional images. 

In the 1930s, the optical compositing process allowed the production of the illusion of depth in 2D images. Afterward, the production of  Hollywood films in the 1950s started using computer technology to create special effects. 

Later on, the animation is finally on the screen, and live-action movies combine mini-kits with matte painting effects. “The Adventures of Andre and Wally B” was the first fully animated CGI short film that used motion blur effects, launched in 1984. Until nearly a decade after, “Toy Story” as the first computer film appeared on screens launched in 1995, made a new history in the journey of animation by CGI. 

Today, most films, commercials, and videogames are included with digitally created VFX.

Why do we need to add VFX to our videos?

In recent decades, we can see the use of visual effects in motion picture and television has exploded. These days these visual effects are not just seen in sci-fi, action, or fantasy films, but they also can be found on the daily rom-com nowadays. 

Storytelling is often used by companies to promote their company profile or products, and visual effects play a huge part in this process. Visual effects work to convince the audience, so companies may gain more trust from the audience rather than a well-written script. 

Visual effects can help to make your video stand out by giving you creative flexibility and helping bring your content to life. 

Moreover, these effects may enhance the overall impacts of the visuals and the mood. Visual effects may also help enhance storytelling from the video, so it could relay the message which is meant for the reader.

Differences of VFX and SFX

Many people think that visual effects and special effects are the same, while they’re actually not the same. 

The word “visual” for visual effects works directly with the manipulation of images, may it be a two-dimensional image or three-dimensional images. Whereas special effects are attained from the actual filming process and can range from different departments, such as makeup, prosthetics, pyrotechnics, fake rain, and animatronics. There are two types of special effects, including mechanical effects and optical effects.

The other difference is that VFX artists produced the visual effects in the post-production phase. VFX is made by computers and added after the shooting was conducted, while special effects are made on set. 

Special effects are needed in the film production process. For example, to create a more realistic raining scene, concept artist need to create environments to support the raining scene, such as fake rain, drenched actors, etc.

Types of VFX

There are several types of VFX, such as computer-generated imagery (CGI), compositing, motion capture, matte paintings, and animations.

1. Computer-generated visual effects (CGI VFX)

CGI is a type of visual effect that can be found everywhere, and many people outside the film industry lump all visual effects under the context of CGI VFX. 

Imagery which is made completely within computers is the definition of computer-generated imagery, or CGI for short. Other types of visual effects use this computer-made imagery to enhance or combine live-action footage. 

Computer-generated imagery is usually 3D, but it can also be 2D or 3D. This type of visual effect is most commonly used for creating creatures, mythical or extinct, like dragons or dinosaurs. CGI can also be used more subtly, like making older actors appear younger. 

Pixar has dominated CGI for the past three decades. We can see their CGI capabilities throughout all the animations they’ve brought up until this day, such as Toy Story, Cars, Monsters University, etc. 

2. Compositing

Have you ever wondered when you saw an actor, or a group of actors, perform against a green screen, or sometimes a blue screen as if they were in a scripted environment? Although later after the movie was released, we never see a scene where these actors acted in a green or blue background.

This green screen or blue screen background is actually transposed into the image which is meant to be in the story seen by the viewers, using the compositing effect. 

Digital compositing is an effect where artists combine visual effects from different places to make it look like they are in the same place. 

“Chroma Keying” is one the most prevalent and best-known compositing techniques. In fact, we may have seen or used this technique in real life. 

The making of this visual effect involves using a blue or green screen that will be replaced with various elements or with a new background image using compositing software. 

3. Motion capture

Motion capture or mocap comes from the old-fashioned technique of rotoscoping, where artists use live-action shot to create more realistic CGI. 

Motion capture is the type of VFX when an actor’s actions are digitally recorded and transferred to a 3D CG model. This technique also captured the actor’s facial expressions or also called “performance capture”.

The making of motion capture in the visual effects industry involves putting the actor in a motion-capture suit covered in markers that cameras can track. 

For example, do you remember Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings”? Or maybe the protagonist ape in “Planet of the Apes”? These roles are actually performed by an actual human, Andy Serkis. Weta Digital wanted to capture the most authentic performances possible by using a mixture of motion-capture footage and hand-drawn animation, as well as the 3D performance capture through Serkis’ body movement and facial expressions. 

4. Matte paintings

One kind of compositing visual effects is matte painting, where the effects used in this technique involve using a still background (matte painting), and later composited with live footage.

“Wizard of Oz” is one of the movies using this type of visual effect. 

5. Animation

Images that were being animated into moving images are what animation is about. This effect used to be hand-drawn, but these days the animation sequences are often made by CGI elements. 

Stop-motion is one of the most popular examples of animation. “Wallace and Gromit” or “Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs” are some films using stop-motion.

Some other cool example is the 3D animation made by Superpixel to promote the convenience of online shopping with Redmart’s online shopping app. In this project, Superpixel brought daily grocery objects to life with a total of 6 x 10 secs clips of different objects experiencing the hassle of normal outside shopping. 

Examples of VFX

The Matrix (1999)

There was a frozen moment where Keanu Reeves dodges a bullet in this movie which became one of the most iconic scenes of action movies history. 

To work this scene, John Gaeta, “The Matrix” movie’s VFX supervisor placed 122 still cameras around the actor by coordination with the directors and cinematographer. Gaeta created photorealistic sets so the cameras could be removed on screen. These still cameras were then triggered in sequence. 

Dumbo (2019)

Most of Disney’s live-action remakes deal with talking animals. Although it seems almost impossible to make this look realistic, Disney always goes full force in these remakes and creates some incredible visual effects. 

The live remake of Dumbo in 2019 was originally started as Tim Burton’s re-imagination includes a photorealistic elephant as a bunch of clay models, which is then animated by scanning it into computers. 

Dawn of the Planet of Apes (2014)

The performance of Andy Serkis in the “Dawn of the Planet of Apes” looks photorealistic, as Weta Digital used a mixture of mocap footage and hand-drawn animation. 

Superpixel, a design-driven animation studio

Companies use advertisements to promote their product to people. However, as technology develops, the more creative a product must be made. Advertising is one of the most important factors in marketing products. Creative and interactive ads may help companies to attract more customers.

Superpixel is a content creation studio that uses the power of storytelling and design to help define brands. Some of their core services are animation, motion graphics, and interactive content. Superpixel has collaborated with many well-known brands in the world and experienced creating from their company profile videos to explainer animations. 

Below are some of the projects that have been created by Superpixel:

Gardens by The Bay Revamp

Gardens by The Bay Revamp Initiative invited Superpixel Pte. Ltd. to make content explaining how we can learn from nature to install a 2.5m x 2.5m hologram. 

Superpixel used 3D animation to make a hologram that proposes how cities can adapt its use of resources to remain sustainable as demonstrated by Gardens by the Bay. 

Sentosa Merlion Content Revamp

Superpixel Pte. Ltd collaborated with Multimedia People and Kingsmen in this project. For the new makeover inside the Sentosa Merlion space, Superpixel created the animation and interactive content, such as a short film of Sang Nila Utama inside the theater and some of the videos in the gallery sections.

Ministry of Communications and Information Making Each Day Better, Together

The Singapore Government initiated a visually engaging initiative to inform every Singaporean about the various strategies and improved benefits within different economic aspects through 3D animation. 

Superpixel created some eye-catching animated videos and clean-looking models for Jobs and Education for Healthcare to draw the viewers’ attention to the details and messages of the animated video. 

So what are you waiting for? Click this link to know more about Superpixel.