Tip #710: (More) LifeSaving VFX Tips

… for Visual Effects

Tip #710: (More) LifeSaving VFX Tips

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

5 more tips to improve your VFX shots.

VFX shot from Boardwalk Empire © Home Box Office (HBO). Visual effects by Brainstorm Digital.

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This article, written by Eran Dinur, first appeared in NoFilmSchool.com. This is an excerpt. Eran Dinur’s experiences as a visual effects supervisor who works on a variety of film and TV projects caused him to write “The Filmmakers Guide to Visual Effects.”

Here are five more VFX tips to consider.

  1. Shadow alert. Strong cast shadows on a sun-lit green screen can seriously damage the success of the shot, and you want to do anything you can to avoid this. On a sunny day, it’s best to set up the screen against the sun so that it’s fully in shadow (and the actors won’t cast their own shadows on the screen). 
  2. Don’t let elements break frame. When shooting VFX elements, you naturally want to have the element as big as possible in the frame for optimal resolution and quality. But you should also make sure that no part of the element breaks frame. Partial elements that get abruptly cut off are useless.
  3. Shoot VFX elements at high frame rate. Whether you are shooting elements of smoke, fire, debris, blood squibs, dust hits or splashes, it’s almost always better to shoot at a higher frame rate. This allows the VFX team to use the elements at a slower speed and still maintain full quality. Slowing down elements to make them feel bigger is a tried and tested technique.
  4. Black is the new green — sometimes. Green screens work well for people, or cars, or horses—basically anything that’s mostly solid. But semi-transparent elements like fire or water don’t extract well from a green screen. With a black screen, the extraction process is not based on hue but on luminosity.
  5. On set reference imagery is invaluable. Reference images of the set and its surroundings are indispensable for a variety of VFX tasks, from camera tracking to matte painting.


Eran’s first 5 tips are in Tip #709. His complete article – and book – are worth reading.

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