Tip #1839: Visual Effects for Low-Budget Sci-Fi

… for Visual Effects

Tip #1839: Visual Effects for Low-Budget Sci-Fi

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Effects don’t have to be explosive, they just need to help carry the story.

Jonathan Wilhelmsson directing “Untitles Earth Sim 64.”

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This article, written by Jonathan Wilhelmsson, first appeared in Motionographer.com. This is an excerpt.

My name is Jonathan; I’m a Swedish filmmaker and visual effects artist. My friends and I recently released our new short film Untitled Earth Sim 64, a sci-fi comedy about a woman faced with an existential crisis when she discovers that her universe is a simulation.

While prepping another film, I started working on different visual effects tests to design the look of the “glitches” that would feature in the film. The more I tested, the more I realized how much fun I could have with this concept. …I saw this as an opportunity to use these new ideas to make a short and sweet comedy focusing entirely on the simulation aspect (and a bit of a lighthearted exploration of existentialism).

We wanted to make something low-budget that we could get off the ground on our own, which meant we couldn’t afford any special sets, costumes, or props. Filming took place during a sweltering weekend in Gothenburg with a skeleton crew of three people behind the camera and two actors on set – British actress Karen Olrich-White and Swedish actress and pro wrestler Aya Frick. The Australian actor James Fraser joined us virtually as the voice of an alien researcher, pre-recording his lines so that we could have playback on set.

The film then went into several months of post-production.But this is where I got to use what I think is the secret superpower of low-budget filmmaking: time.

The most involved process was the visual effects work. The film consists of 73 shots in total, and 67 of those are effects shots. They range from simple sky replacements or morph cuts to the more intricate glitch effects.

My favorite shots in Untitled Earth Sim 64 are actually the ones you might not suspect to have any effects. One example that amuses me is a scene that features a CG lamppost. One day I found myself at an abandoned parking lot by the harbor and thought it would make for a great location, the only problem being that it didn’t have the lamppost that we needed.

I think all of this is an excellent example of how accessible filmmaking has become and that certain genres or types of film that have usually been reserved for bigger budget projects are becoming more and more achievable even on smaller budgets.


Here’s a link to the full article, along with a behind the scenes video and lots more details.

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