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Visual Effects for Directors

Visual Effects

Visual Effects, sometimes abbreviated as Visual F/X and VFX are the methods used to create and blend non-existing scenes into a live action movie. Visual effects are used when a scene would be too expensive or dangerous, or simply impossible to film any other way.

In older movies the imaginary scenes were created using models, double-exposure, stop-action, front or rear projection, matte paintings and other largly physical methods.

In films created since the digital revolution visual effects more likely involve some computer generated scenery, props, actors and other visuals. The integration of the two is accomplished by digital means during post-production.

The initial filming of scenes that will involve visual effects must be carefully adjusted to allow for the needs of the post-production processes.

Among the tools available to visual effects artists are:

  • Physical models, scale sets and robotic devices.
  • Background/matte paintings and photographs.
  • Live-action methods to digitally remove actors from the set such as bluescreening and greenscreening.
  • Digital animation of 3D characters, sets, backgrounds, particles, lighting and physical simulation.
  • Digital compositing of all these elements to create a seamless and highly realistic blend.

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Visual Effects for Directors review

A Good Overview Of Directing Visual Effects

If you are a director or DP you probably don't spend a lot of time wondering if the scene you are shooting is about to become a post-production nightmare.

But you should.

More and more today's films are depending on visual effects to raise the production values bar and still meet budget constraints. But many beginning directors and DPs don't really understand digital visual effects and don't know that a little bit of knowledge can make the difference between an easy post-production fix and a complete disaster.

After the actors are gone to other projects and the sets are broken down is no time to realize the camera angle has made what seemed like a simple shot a complete post-production nightmare.

This DVD is a good introduction to some of the issues you may have in post production with visual effects.

Per Holmes, Grammy-winning music producer, music-video director and creator of the Hollywood Camera Works Master Course in High-End Blocking and Staging, has created this new over-view on how visual effects are done and what a director needs to do to make sure they will work in the final edit.

Beyond that this course shows you how some of the effects you would like to include in your film might be done on a budget that many high-end indie filmmakers might be able to afford.

What's in the Visual Effects for Directors Course?

What you get is a box of seven DVDs with more than 11 hours of detailed, clearly explained videos on how many types of visual effects are actually accomplished.

Many complex concepts are explained in simple to understand visuals with clear narration. The course shows places where you can go wrong and simple changes that will make a scene work, both for best storytelling, and to facilitate post-production.

My Take on Visual Effects for Directors

I watched the entire 11+ hour set in two sittings. The presentation of every concept is well paced, clearly illustrated and nicely narrated. Even some very difficult to grasp concepts, such as various compositing methods, are surprising easy to understand.

A major problem with a course of this type is trying to balance theory with details about the practical tools you need to use. Because products change and new products appear constantly this type of course could quickly become outdated if it was too closely tied to particular brands and versions of the tools.

Although Visual Effects for Directors necessarily uses specific software and hardware to illustrate concepts, it sticks to theory in the explanations so newer or different brands of tools should probably work as well.

The course strikes a pretty good balance between how particular tools work and the underlying theory that most tools rely on.

While it's possible that a new piece of software sporting some as-yet unrevealed technology could change all the rules it is unlikely the material in this course will be completely outdated. All of the concepts in this course are very basic to how digital effects have been done for a number of years.

This is a very good launching pad for getting into visual effects.

Any serious student or fan of SciFi, special effects or modern movie making would probably enjoy this product. Only the high cost is going to prevent a very wide audience from experiencing it.

For the intended audience of Visual Effects for Directors the cost may seem reasonable compared to the time they will save over trying to learn these concepts and techniques any other way.

Summary

It is important to note that Visual Effects for Directors doesn't teach you how to do visual effects. It just presents the complex theory behind making digital effects work.

Any very serious director or DP should consider this product. It will also be of some interest to beginning 3D artists and post-production specialists, but may seem too elimentary.

If you can afford it and have a need to start learning the basic theory of visual effects then I can recommend you consider this product.

The Hollywood Camera Work site has a generous selection of clips and images from the course so you can decide if this course is right for you before you buy. (Note that the educational discount previously offered from this site is no longer available which made the cost of the course much more reasonable. Check with the publisher to find out if this product is still available.)

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