VFX Vlog 8 - Using Visual Effects For Storytelling

User avatarFebruary 4, 2014 by Surfaced Studio

VFX Vlog #8 - Best use for VFX, After Effects Masks & Pre-Composing

Welcome to VFX Vlog number 8! The topic of the first part of this vlog is how VFX are often misused as storytelling tools.

Visual Effects Do Not Replace A Good Story

Creating compelling visual effects for your film projects can be a time consuming activity. Whenever you are planning to shoot a video, before thinking about how to shoot your VFX, you should take yet another step back and think about whether you need them or not to begin with.

A couple of times I have been approached by high school and college students, asking me to create a particular type of visual effect for their film projects. After understanding what they are after, my initial question is quite often 'do you really need it?'. I am not trying to be rude or unsupportive; I am simply trying to avoid using visual effects as a substitute for a good story and be smart about where to invest my time.

Here is an example: at the end of a short film the main character is shot by the antagonist. I was asked to create a muzzle flash and bullet hit effect for this scene. However, in my opinion, the VFX was not at all required to tell the story with strong emotional impact. Why not just have the antagonist aim the gun at the camera, cut to black and play a gunshot sound effect? It gets the emotional impact across and saves you from having to create the visual effect - which can be a time consuming activity.

People are often so focussed on visual effects that they lose sight of the basic storytelling aspect of their film, of making sure the story flows and engages the audience.

If you have a humongous budget (and I'm talking in the ranks of Michael Bay or Peter Jackson here), you can probably produce movies that pull people into the cinemas just because of the visual effects. If you are an indie film maker on a budget, you have to be more deliberate about where and when to actually use a visual effect.

If the visual effect does not help to convey something that is important to the story (e.g. show someone casting a spell or some imaginary creature), there is no real benefit for having it in your video. If you have the time and budget, sure, you can use it just for the sake of it or to demonstrate your skills; but as a storytelling tool it is often misused. Random strings of VFX might make a good show real, but by themselves they do not make an engaging story. And if you are on a budget, you should think twice about when and where to use them.

Render Order In Adobe After Effects

In the second part of VFX Vlog 8 I talk about the importance of the render order in Adobe After Effects. I show you some important things to consider when putting together your Visual Effects and how you can use masks and pre-composing to solve common problems you may encounter.

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I am passionate about providing high quality VFX & Film Making Edutainment online. Check out my training courses on Udemy
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