Learn the basics of what visual effects are and how you can use them. Included in this awesome pdf is a quick description of different visual effects software, techniques, as well as the equipment that I use.
What are Visual Effects?
A visual effect in its most basic form, is digitally manipulated live action footage. The use of computers to add/or remove anything that was not originally in the shot would be a visual effect.
A visual effect is the integration of live-action footage and generated imagery to create environments which realistic, but would be dangerous, costly, or simply impossible to capture on film. Visual effects using computer-generated imagery (CGI) have become increasingly common in big-budget films, and have also recently become accessible to the amateur filmmaker with the introduction of affordable animation and compositing software. As a beginner to Visual Effects the number of software applications and training programs available may intimidate you. When deciding what program(s) to use and how to learn them it is important to know what your long and short-term goals are. Are you looking to break into the visual effects industry working on major motion pictures as part of a pipeline that includes huge a VFX team? Are you a one man team looking to increase the production value of your YouTube channel? Or perhaps you’re looking to just have a bit of fun with visual effects in your free time. Visual Effects often involves working for clients with specific needs. Although with increasingly capable and affordable technology there has been an emergence of filmmakers that can direct, edit, and do visual effects on there own projects. This article is dedicated to the beginning filmmaker and/or visual effects artist interested in understanding of the basics of what visual effects are and how they can be of use in filmmaking.
Who can benefit from vfx?
Anyone that benefits from advertising can benefit from visual effects. Video has an inherent appeal to audiences. Most of us want to “see” something before we want to “read” something. In the context of internet marketing, visual effects can be used to enhance the consumer experience by educating the viewer about product or services, putting a face on a company, and building a company brand. A quality video that demonstrates how a product works, with attractive visuals, would provide solid evidence that the product can indeed solve a particular problem. It sets off emotional triggers that static text simply cannot do, ultimately influencing buying decisions.
The following software applications are commonly used for visual effects on both professional and consumer levels. They all differ and serve a unique purpose on a visual effects pipeline.
3Ds Max is a 3D modeling, animation and rendering software. The application relies on widely used computer 3D technology which works by creating groups of “points” (known as vertices) who form surfaces when connected. The illusion of three dimensions is created by modeling objects out of multiple surfaces. Still pictures, movies and game environments (among other media) can be created with this technique.
After Effects – Adobe
The most commonly used visual effects software. It’s primary uses include motion graphics (title intros and logo animations) and compositing (adding fake stuff into live footage). This program is great for beginners to visual effects. It’s ease of use and wide range of uses make it the perfect tool for Indy filmmaking and small productions teams.
A 3d motion tracking software that allows the insertion of computer graphics into live-action footage with correct position, scale, orientation, and motion relative to the physical data of the original footage. Also known as matchmoving Boujou is similar to PFTrack and Syntheyes.
Cinema 4D – Maxon
Cinema 4D is a 3D modeling, animation and rendering software. The application relies on widely used computer 3D technology that works by creating groups of “points” (known as vertices), which form surfaces when connected. The illusion of three dimensions is created by modeling objects out of combined multiple surfaces. Still pictures, movies, and game environments (among other media) can be produced with this technique. Cinema 4d is used on a professional level most commonly for motion graphics. It’s ease of use gives it less of a learning curve. Cinema 4D allows for direct exporting into After Effects which also makes it a preferd software among After Effects users.
Flame – Autodesk
Perhaps the most highly-acclaimed compositing software is Flame, which runs on its own operating system. The cost of this program is cost-prohibitive for most consumers, rendering it more of professional compositing software. The high level of interactivity required for client-assisted production and quick turnaround on time-critical projects.
Maya always looks like a special software for cg artists because of its “node base” system. It has a really strong ability about animation, particles, dynamics, rendering, modeling etc. Maya is great if you use it all the time. If you don’t use it constantly, you will need to “re-learn” it everytime you pick it up. Maya has some of the best animation features.
Software used for planar tracking and rotoscoping. Comes with tools for wire removal, clean plate generation, lens distortion correction and mesh warping, to deliver an all-in-one VFX tool set. mocha Pro is designed to complement any editing, compositing and finishing environment, and offers digital media artists a powerful, intuitive and innovative planar tracking-based solution with a streamlined interface, accelerated workflow and the power to easily manipulate and track shots not possible with traditional solutions. It allows artists to easily track shots where point trackers fail: shots with noise, shots with motion blur and shots that go offscreen or are obscured. Mocha AE comes free with After Effects CS4 and above.
Primarily a compositing software, it is similar to After Effects but used on a more professional level. It is one of the most commonly used compositing softwares on big budget movies. Nuke and Flame are used by most professiona vfx companies. Nuke’s uses a node-based approach which allows for powerful workflow within a vfx team. It also has the ability to integrate 3d models making it ideal for 3D compositing and environments. Nuke also allows for deep compositing which means that artists can work with ‘deep images’ containing multiple opacity or colour samples per pixel. This allows rendering of CGI elements without predetermined holdout mattes, avoiding the need for re-renders when content changes.
A 3d motion tracking software that allows the insertion of computer graphics into live-action footage with correct position, scale, orientation, and motion relative to the physical data of the original footage. Also known as matchmoving PFTrack is similar to Boujou and Syntheyes. PFTrack is probably the most sophisticated tool when it comes to the algorithms used. It also supports object tracking, facial feature tracking (used for motion caputure). PFTrack 2011 is node based which is easier for Flame and Nuke users to work with.
A 3d motion tracking software that allows the insertion of computer graphics into live-action footage with correct position, scale, orientation, and motion relative to the physical data of the original footage. Also known as matchmoving Syntheyes is similar to Boujou and PFTrack. SynthEyes offers a complete high-end feature set, including tracking, stabilization, motion capture, and mesh building
Visual Effects Technique
Green Screen Green screening is a technique for compositing (layering) two images together. A color range in the top layer is made transparent, revealing another image behind. Also known as the chroma keying technique, it is commonly used in video production and post-production.
Motion Tracking Motion Tracking allows the insertion of computer graphics into live-action footage with correct position, scale, orientation, and motion relative to the photographed objects in the shot. The term is used loosely to refer to several different ways of extracting motion information from a motion picture, particularly camera movement. Motion tracking is related to rotoscoping and photogrammetry. It is sometimes referred to as match moving.
3d Modeling A 3d model is a representation of any three-dimensional surface of object (either inanimate or living) via a 3d modeling software such as Maya, Cinema 4d or 3Ds Max. The product is called a 3D model. It can be displayed as a two-dimensional image through a process called 3D rendering or used in a computer simulation of physical phenomena.
Matte Painting A Matte Painting is made when we combine two or more image elements into a single, final image. Usually, mattes are used to combine a foreground image (such as actors on a set, or a spaceship) with a background image (a scenic vista, a field of stars and planets). In this case, the matte is the background painting. In film and stage, mattes can be physically huge sections of painted canvas, portraying large scenic expanses of landscapes.
Physical Simulators Physical simulator software allows simulation of the way bodies of many types are affected by a variety of physical stimuli. They are also used to create Dynamical simulations without having to know anything about physics. Physics engines are used throughout the video game and movie industry. They are often used for high budget films involving natural disasters such as 2012.
Rotoscoping Rotoscoping is the process of manually altering film or video footage one frame at a time. The frames can be painted on arbitrarily to create custom animated effects like lightning or lightsabres, or traced to create realistic traditional style animation or to produce hold-out mattes for compositing elements in a scene and, more recently, to produce depth maps for stereo conversion.
Visual Effects as a Career
• The pay: Earnings vary, depending on whether you are employed by a company, a studio or as a free-lancer. Typically, short-term commercial jobs pay more, but television-show and film jobs provide more job security. Junior visual-effects supervisors earn an average of $2,500 a week. • The hours: Workdays are usually at least 10 hours long. Deadlines are high-pressure and rarely flexible. Many artists say they work through the night to deliver a project on time. Visual-effects artists bemoan that there is no union representation to regulate hours and working conditions. “More important is an eye for artistic detail, such as light, shadow, and texture. “You can teach the technical knowledge, but you can’t teach a great eye.” – VFX Artist
VFX Bro – How Do I work?
For 90% of my visual effects I use After Effects, Cinema 4d, PFTrack, and Mocha. I do most of my work on a 2010 MacBook Pro 15’’ with 8 GB of RAM and a 2.5 ghz. I shoot video primarily on the Canon 7d and 5d with a Canon 50mm f1.8 and a Tokina 11-17mm f2.8 lens. I use a Flycam Nano Steadycam to get my moving shots. When working with other on a project that involves several visual effects shots it’s important that the edit is locked so I can avoid doing visual effects on shots that aren’t necessary for the final cut. I like to shoot on the Canon 7D because it shoots in high definition and has the option of the shooting at 60 frames per second which is great for slow motion shots Learn the basics of what visual effects are and how you can use them. Included in this awesome pdf is a quick description of different visual effects software, techniques, as well as the equipment that I use. Enjoy!