Digital Media Concepts/Visual Effects in Television and Movies

In the process of filmmaking, there is a component of Visual Effects (also known as VFX) which is the creation and manipulation of visuals taken in any given shot. The purpose of visual effects is to integrate animation or live-action footage into a film because it would be too dangerous or impossible otherwise. This has become a major cog in the film-industry machine because it assists in a film's plot. Visual effects can be subdivided into two categories; special effect, which is the use of computer-generated images, and practical effects, which is stunt people, explosions, and anything shot in real-time.

VFX Artists edit

With there being many advancements in the visual effects field, film companies hire only the most talented and experienced people for the job. Films such as Tremors (1990), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), and The Sixth Sense (1999), are examples of films that had the best working on it. The duties of a practical effects (PFX) producer include being responsible for all the illusions viewers see on screen. There are prerequisites to becoming a PFX producer, which include education and training, experience, and personality traits. A bachelor’s degree in film, graphic arts, or photography is beneficial but not required because experience is the most valued such as working as an apprentice for a visual-effects company. As for personality traits, creativity, artistry, and the ability to work in a group setting is also valued above education. A PFX artist should master the use of prosthetic makeup, animatronics, pumping blood, operating a servomechanism for remotely moving objects, and controlling rain or fog. Prosthetic makeup is used by an artist to sculpt, mold, and cast cosmetics onto an actor or an object to give it a certain look. Animatronics is the operation of lifelike robots in the film, and a servomechanism is a powered machine that produces motion or forces at a higher energy than a person could create.

Software edit

The technology-reliant film industry uses various applications and specialized technology to produce movies. Some of the common software used to create visual effects is 3Ds Max, Adobe After Effects, Boujou, Maxon Cinema 4D, Autodesk Maya, Mocha, Nuke, PFTrack, and Syntheyes. When VFX artists want to create 3D modeling, rendering, and an animated application, they would use 3Ds Max. Adobe After Effects is typically used for visual effects including motion graphics and compositing. Motion graphics uses video footage or animation to give the illusion of motion, while compositing is the combination of several sources into a single image creating the impression that all parts are from the same scene.

Boujou, a 3D motion tracking application, is used when the VFX artist wants to insert certain computer graphics into the real-life footage. Similar to 3Ds Max, Maxon Cinema 4D is a modeling and rendering application that creates a three-dimensional image from modeling several various surfaces, such as "Connected Colors" produced by a visual design studio, WOW, in Tokyo.

Autodesk Maya is appealing to many artists due to its "node-base framework" because it allows the user to see all the changes made, its strong work with dynamics, particles, animation, modeling, and rendering[1]. For filmmakers in general, Mocha is used to erase wires, "lens distortion [...] and mesh warping"[1]. Although used on a more specialized level, Nuke, similar to Adobe After Effects, makes it possible for 3D models to become 3D compositing. PFTrack, like Boujou, allows the user to insert graphics into live footage. Lastly, Syntheyes is similar to PFTrack and Boujou in the way that it also allows the artist to insert computer graphics into the footage.

There are also visual-effects techniques that include "matte paintings, and live-action effects"[2]. Matte paintings are entire 3D digital worlds and often a painted pane glass that is used to display a large set or landscape. Live-action effects are typically created with a blue/green screen to replace with another image, person, or location.

Special Effects edit

In the 1970s, with the introduction of the first Star Wars movie also came "staggering [...] advancements in special effects technology"[3]. Introducing the first "motion-controlled camera" where the Dykstraflex camera was hooked up to a computer and given a complicated series of movements to make, which created shots unseen before[4]. One example of a film that utilized the Dykstraflex camera was Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) in the Death Star battle scene at the end of the first episode. At the time, these movies visual effects were considered great and pioneered inventions.

Also, movies such as Jurassic Park (1993) helped assist in the takeover of computer-generated imagery (CGI) movies in the 1990s. Computer-generated imagery is the application of computer graphics with special effects, which is used in film, television, commercials and printed media. Steven Spielberg combined CGI with animatronics, the operation of lifelike robots in the film, in Jurassic Park (1993) and Paul Verhoeven was the first to use "motion capture technology" in Total Recall (1990)[3]. However, the biggest advancement in CGI was the creation of Toy Story (1995) because it was entirely CGI work.

Some of the greatest work to come out of the 2000s was the dramatic use of motion capture on Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006), but also with the advancements in facial and body motion capture in James Cameron's Avatar (2009). The facial and body motion capture, which is the process of capturing the movement of facial features and an actor's body, then animating digital characters, was possible because if the creation of Imocap, a "lightweight, low-footprint, robust, and filmmaker-friendly motion-capture system"[5].

Practical Effects edit

Practical effects use corporeal objects such as robotic creations, gunfire, wounds, rain, wind, fire, and explosions, while special effects create all of those effects through digital technology, or computer generation.

Practical effects have changed over time due to the advancement of technology. There is a dramatic difference between where visual-effects began, with the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1895 by Alfred Clark in The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, and now. Early on, visual effects were considered fake blood in Battle of the Bulge (1965) and Kong in King Kong (1933). Jason and the Argonauts (1963) was filmed in stop-motion by Ray Harryhausen, involving continuously starting and stopping the camera, which gives the illusion that animated characters are moving. The film The Ten Commandments (1956), one of the most costly special effect attempts in history, included the use of "matte paintings, rear projection, pyrotechnics, miniatures, water tanks - even a 32-ft.-high dam," to split the Red Sea[4].

Tyrannosaurus Rex In His Prime

Another film in the early days of visual-effects work was 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which “[utilized] various techniques like miniatures [...] and hand-drawn rotoscopes” to create a world unlike our own[3]. Additionally, in Independence Day (1996), a 168 feet long, 70 feet tall, behemoth of a building, the White House, is actually a miniature that is 15 feet long and 5 feet high. With specifically timed charges, this almost identical historical landmark was blown up in real time in front of a live audience of cast, crew, and 50 members of the press. Due to this specific example of practical effects, which became the “signature shot of the movie,” this film became the top-grossing movie of 1996, earning $817.4 million worldwide[6]. In another instance, director Christopher Nolan used “miniatures, practical locations and rear projection” in his film Interstellar (2014), because Nolan wanted to keep some authenticity to what was filmed[7]. As a result of the risks taken by these directors, creators, and producers, movies such as Jaws (1975), the original Star Wars trilogy (1977), Alien (1979), The Thing (1982), and Jurassic Park (1993) exist and continue to be used as examples of revolutionary films.

In films such as AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004), the Queen alien “look[ed] great in part because we had a real Queen there” says Alec Gillis, co-founder of the Creature FX studio Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc[8] . Amalgamated Dynamics is a company responsible for creating the most palpable creatures, beasts, and in this case, aliens for any film that needs it. The real life “Queen” they reference is an animatronic alien that moves and excretes a sticky, clear slime.

Practical effects in the award-winning, zombie-centered show The Walking Dead (2010) is mainly blood, 20 to 30 gallons worth per episode. The director Greg Nicotero and his crew “make every bit of that blood -- along with all sorts of ghoulish figures and dismembered body parts[9]. This form of practical effects, the blood, is one of the hardest to replicate using special effects because blood spatter, blood oozing from a severed head or limb, or it flowing from disembodied organs needs to be as real as possible. If blood flows freely in a human body, then it needs to flow freely onto the set of the show.

Reference edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Institute, A (March 10, 2015), Commonly Used Software and Techniques for Visual Effects in Films and Games, retrieved September 17, 2017
  2. Lealos, Shawn (February 16, 2010), Visual Effects Used in Television Production and Film Making, retrieved September 17, 2017
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 The Evolution of VFX in Movies: The 60s Till Now, January 29, 2015, retrieved September 17, 2017
  4. 4.0 4.1 A Brief History of Movie Special Effects - Photo Essays, March 21, 2014, retrieved September 17, 2017
  5. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, retrieved September 17, 2017
  6. Giardina, C (June 24, 2016), 'Independence Day': How Visual Effects Have Dramatically Escalated Since the Original Film's Release, retrieved September 17, 2017
  7. Walker, C (May 13, 2016), A Balancing Act - Practical Effects and Visual Effects, retrieved September 17, 2017
  8. Renée, V (December 3, 2014), SFX vs. VFX: Two Effects Artists Discuss the Differences Between Practical & CGI, retrieved September 17, 2017
  9. News, C (October 13, 2014), Behind the scenes of the Hollywood blood business, retrieved September 17, 2017 {{citation}}: |last= has generic name (help)