My understanding of visual effects in the context of film and motion graphics, is something that has been added into a scene that doesn’t exist, and that the actors playing roles in the film will not see until after the scenes have been shot on camera. For my Visual Effects assignment, I was most interested in the ability to add a new environment to a film that wasn’t previously there. This has been done in pretty much every new blockbuster film, even where it is not expected to be found. This is becoming more and more common, as it is less desirable to obtain permission to alter an environment to the point where it will look completely different, as sometimes this is just not viable or necessary. 1-2 weeks of work and a trained team using visual effect software can replace 5-6 weeks of manual labour and longer, more complicated shots overall.

Some more recent films that have used this to extremes are the remake of Total Recall, which is almost entirely filmed using special effects and green screens with environments created and added in after filming. Clash of the Titans uses this concept too, and even in The Fast and the Furious films, a lot of the shots that look incredibly real, are in actual fact green screened in places to save production time and increase safety.

To conduct my research into what I might want to do when I approach this assignment, I watched Star Wars I-III. I refrained from watching the original trilogy as although they have visual effects as well, the scale in which they are used in the more recent trilogy is vast.

I have chosen two clips that I feel greatly emphasise the importance of visual effects in a film such as Star Wars, from the smallest details, to the bigger picture.

Clip 1 – Pod Race on Mos Espa

Every time I watch this race it becomes clear just how much work must have gone into completing this scene. For a start, the sheer scale of the environments would have had a lot of visual effects added, to make them more realistic and more believable. Not 100% sure if it is visible in this scene specifically, but the planet that the race is held on,  Tatooine, has two suns. It’ pretty obvious that there is no location on earth that could provide this kind of backdrop to a scene, so it would have had to have been added using a computer generated image. It could be through the use of a still image, or a computer generate 3d model.

The best parts about this scene however, all involve the individual pod racers. These obviously do not exist, and as far as making a model, there is no way this could have been achieved physically. The engine flares and explosions due to accidents and crashes happening all over the circuit are all subject to visual effects to try and convince the audience that it is actually happening. The attack by the Sand People as the racers come through the canyons would never have actually happened. Impact shots from the guns they were using would have been added in after the scene had been created, and the scenes would have been entirely filmed using green screens.

Clip 2 – Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader) vs Obi Wan Kenobi

This scene stands out to me as by far the best one on one combat scene in all six films, even better than Qui Gon Jin and Obi Wan vs Darth Maul (although many people will disagree). Choreography aside, the visual effects present in this scene are highly apparent and extremely common. From the epic surroundings of the volcanic planet, Mustafa, to the tiny display monitors inside the main buildings and the shields protecting the metalwork from simply melting in the volcanic lava. Something like the HUDs would probably not be too difficult to add using the skills I have already acquired in Adobe After Effects, as well as the shields. The most noticeable part of this scene however is the lightsabres. Although it’s only a simple effect, the way it’s been done in this film (more noticeable when you compare the increase in quality from the original trilogy to the modern trilogy) makes them look truly brilliant, as if you they actually existed.

 

Although I haven’t completely finalised what I am going to do for my assignment, I know that I want to take a Sci-Fi/Fantasy kind of angle towards my final piece, as these are two of my favourite film genres, and probably two of the heaviest users of visual effects, simply because the majority of what they are about involve places and objects that don’t exist at all.

I want my piece to involve a 30 second- 1 minute film clip that I have filmed myself, but nothing that will make adding effects too difficult. Swaying more in the direction of a fight scene between two people, similar to the previous video clip but not as long or complicated. I definitely want to experiment with different backgrounds and see what fits best and see if I can make an unrealistic environment seem more realistic, and this will involve using a green screen to film my scenes against.

My next stage of research will involve how to film effectively using a green screen and lighting, so that when I come to recording I am fully prepared. I will also prepare an action based script (I don’t want my scene to have any dialogue at all, subject to change)

I will also finalise my idea and start work on a storyboard, as well as finding some people up for taking part in the filming process as actors. I have some people in mind that I’m sure would be more than happy to help, and even willing to come here so that I can film the shots on university premises and take advantage of the green screens here.

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