Different Types of VFX
VFX has developed immensely over the past decades. Since VFX is so widely used in films and tv shows now, there are times when the viewers don’t even realize that the scene they are seeing has multiple layers of visual effects. In this article, we will be exploring different types of VFX and notable VFX milestones.
Before we can talk about the milestones of VFX, we first need to understand the beginning of VFX usage. In the initial years, special effects used in films were inspired by animation and stop motion, creating the illusion of movement. For example, Matte shots, one of the earliest forms of VFX, involved layering a painted glass panel with live footage to add imaginary elements into the scene. While this method was useful, it was extremely time consuming.
Another method that was common during the earlier phases of VFX is the use of miniatures. Miniatures are a great way to physically see and film what you have imagined. They are still widely used to this day and one of the most notable uses of miniatures is in the Star Wars series. in Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace, which used the most miniature models out of the franchise, locations such as the pod racing desert and Mustafar, were actually miniature sets and not CGI.
Then, in 1940, Larry Butler used blue screens for the special effects in The Thief of Baghdad, winning the Academy Award for its successful and innovative use of chroma key. Green screens, which are now considered as the standards of chroma keying, became popular around the 1970s, when many productions switched over from film to digital cameras. This is mainly due to the fact that digital cameras have more green-sensitive pixels. However, both blue and green screens are still commonly used because of their individual pros and cons. For example, if your character’s main color is green, one should use blue screens and vice versa. Additionally, blue screens tend to have less color spill problems, thanks to its low luminance value, while green screens can provide cleaner keys.
Moving on, in the 1990s, many films started to use computer-generated imagery, which is the most common form of VFX people think of. One of the milestone movies for CGI includes The Terminator series, which showcased ground-breaking CGI of a liquid-like metal assassin that shifts its shape seamlessly. Another great example, the Jurassic Park series created fully rendered dinosaur models that were animated and later combined with the live footage, creating CGI dinosaurs that were extremely realistic compared to the ones created through stop motion. Lastly but certainly not least, The Lord of the Rings series used motion capture and CGI to create the dynamic and natural facial expressions of its iconic character Gollum.
As one can see, VFX has gone through extraordinary changes over the years. And without a doubt, one of the newest and most exciting developments in VFX can be seen in the TV series The Mandalorian. The Mandalorian series was highly praised by general audiences and critics for its lovable characters and dynamic storyline. However, what really caught many people’s eyes was the realistic and detailed VFX background made possible due to its use of LED walls, instead of traditional green or blue screens. LED walls involve displaying a pre-made CGI environment on walls that are made up of multiple LED screens. Using LED walls allow for more accurate lighting/reflections on the subject and provide more physically grounded space for talents to interact with. However, the biggest pro of using LED walls is that one can easily go back for a pickup or an alternative shots by simply displaying the environment again but in a different angle, which is made possible by the use of unreal engine, a tech used for video games, to create a 3D background that can move according to the camera’s field of view.
Ever since its early development, VFX has expanded and enhanced the imaginary worlds presented on screen. With some recent developments, I can’t wait to see what progress can be made next to elevate the use of VFX in films and tv shows. If you know of any new, exciting VFX developments, feel free to share in the comments down below!
By. Sarah Chang
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