We’re all aware that for some movies such as “Life of Pi”, “The Avengers”, or “Game of Thrones”, there’s a whole chunk of reasons why they’re such feasts for the eyes. Two words: visual effects (VFX). But do you really know just how extensively VFX are used in the production of your favourite movie or TV series, or how it must look like behind the scenes?
The basics start with “green-screens” which, in fact, aren’t always green. They can often be blue although technically, screens can be of any colour that’s not being worn by any of the actors. When these scenes are recorded, the “green-screen” colour is digitally selected and made transparent with special software.
After which, yes, you guessed it, VFX comes into play i.e. the application of a scenic background.
Watch this “The Hobbit” VFX showreel for a more in-depth look:
But VFX is not just about background; it’s also about scales.
For example, “The Lord of the Rings” (LOTR) trilogy featured Elijah Wood is 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) tall in real life, but the character of Frodo Baggins is 3 ft 6 in (1.07 m) in height. At one point in one the films, Frodo runs along a corridor in Bag End, followed by Gandalf. Elijah Wood and Sir Ian McKellen were filmed in separate versions of the same corridor, built at two different scales; then these two separate shots are combined to create a shot of both actors appearing to be in the same corridor.
VFX is also about animation in general i.e. Smaug the dragon in “The Hobbit” , the creatures in the “Maleficent” Moors, Tweedledee and Tweedledum in Tim Burton’s 3D adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland”.
Because some these characters don’t exist in real life or are hard to recreate with a latex face, a wig, makeup, and a costume, they have to be created entirely with a computer and that takes a lot of time from the drawing board to sculptures to digital work. It’s also very expensive and requires sophisticated machines, a lot of hours, and manpower.
To put that into perspective, LOTR used many ground-breaking practical and digital VFX. The first film has around 540 effects shots, the second 799, and the third 1488 (2730 in total). The total moves up to 3420 with the extended cuts. 260 VFX artists worked on the trilogy, and the number would double by “The Two Towers”.
Check out the gallery below for more behind-the-scenes as well as before and after pictures of VFX creation for some of your favourite movies and TV series. It’ll make you appreciate the movie/TV series a whole lot more!: