Developing a portfolio of CGI fluid and pyro simulations in Houdini 16.

Why Use VFX?

Over the last 15 years film and television have started to use an increasing amount of CGI and as technology advances this is only going to increase further. Now it is hard to find a mainstream film or television program that uses practical effects instead of those created on the computer, and the majority of sets and environments are only real in part with the background added in after the fact – YouTube is full of videos showing the before and after VFX is added and the result is stunning.

It appears that there are two main reasons VFX is becoming such a staple of the film industry, the first is that it gives you “story telling freedom” (Squires, 2012). Without the benefit of CGI films were limited by the laws of physics and reality and could only include elements in their film that were possible in the real world. However, as Squires mentions in his essay, with VFX:

“A writer has full freedom to do anything including having their main character turn into a giant cockroach”

So the introduction of such complex VFX into mainstream film has significantly increased the scope for writers in what they can put in their screenplays as well.

The second reason computer generated VFX are taking over the special effects industry is its practicality aspect. Often both in terms of cost and logistical convenience it can be much easier to hire a company to design a CG environment for your actors to perform in than hire out/build your own, especially in the case of films set in different time periods. As Kingery points out, what if you’re shooting a film set in the 1930s or earlier, there are only a handful of places that would work and the process of hiring out public places that are used on a day to day basis is a logistical nightmare. Therefore it is not hard to see why this aspect is often outsourced to the digital world. Furthermore, concerning cost, if you were to build your set or (sometimes) character models/prosthetics from scratch a lot of money would have to be spent on hiring designers, modellers, operators without even considering the health and safety aspect of some of the larger sets.

Of course hiring a CGI company is by no means inexpensive, this is why in many cases films weigh up their different and use a balance of practical and digital effects. The foreground for example will usually be all done in camera while the background will be sorted out digitally in post production as evidenced by the image at the top.


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