While special effects such as pyrotechnics are executed live on set, visual effects are added in post-production. In fact, modern feature films often have so many complex digitally created environments and effects that VFX artists begin creating them long before the start of principal photography in a process called pre-visualization.
“Star Wars movies kind of invented pre-visualization, because they have so many complex things going on,” D’Anjou explains. “And what’s happening now with big movies is they are essentially making the whole story ahead of time. They’re making all the animations and graphics, and they even know where the actors need to stand when they film. So sometimes we’re just plugging the actors into the visual effects now.”
LED walls are a visual effects revolution.
For decades, filmmakers have filmed actors in front of green screens or blue screens to add visual effects in post-production. But with the rise of pre-visualization and advancements in video technology, some productions have begun using LED walls to bring visual effects onto the set.
“Let’s say we’ve got Matt Damon and we want to shoot him on an alien planet,” D’Anjou says. “Typically, we would have shot Matt Damon in front of a green screen, and then in post, we would add the alien planet. Now we’re creating the alien planet, putting it on the LED wall, and filming him in front of it. And once it goes into the camera, we’re done. We don’t have to do anything on the back end because the planet is already on the LED screen.”
Visual effects take many forms.
While there’s no limit to what visual effects work can do, most effects can be broken down into three categories: