When I took up my course in animation, the first thing that our Film Professor told us was this:
“Once you learn the process, you will look at films and movies differently.”
and he was right…
Before when I watched movies, I never looked at how the effects were made. How these 3D models were created or if they’re realistic enough or not. I’m was not even aware that colors are being adjusted on movies. All I cared about was the story. Well now I can say, in all movies, there’s always more than what meets the eye.
Remember the 80’s movie The Shining and it’s eerie bloody elevator scene? It was done using thousands of gallons of REAL red liquid being poured, and oh my god, they’re going to do A LOT of cleaning afterwards. But now, if it was to be recreated, which was done in the movie Ready Player One, CGI got you covered.
In creating a film, there’s this thing called Production Pipeline: Pre-Production – Production – Post-Production
Pre-Production is the planning stage. Determining and preparing the location, actors, scripts, tools, and everything that you might need before the shoot. Production is the filming stage, where everything is set in motion for recording. Post-Production is where all the editing and compositing happens. These are Visual Effects, Motion Graphics, CGI, Video Editing, Matt Painting, Special Effects, and so much more.
Video Editing is the process of collecting all the raw footage, and arranging it in order to build the story of the film / movie / video. It is where you do your cutting, color adjustments, time lapse, and all those minor enhancements.
Video Compositing is adding in new elements, from different sources, that are not part of the scene. It could be an image, effects such as an explosion, a meteor shower, a ray of light coming in from a window, a 3D modeled dinosaur, birds flying in the background, OR entirely eliminating elements from your scene that are not needed. Video Compositing is bringing in all these elements to create an illusion that all these, are parts of the same scene.
Visual Effects also referred to as VFX are digital manipulated images or videos, could be CGI (Computer Generated Imagery), could be a mix of both CGI and live footage. These are elements added that were not initially on set, like smoke, fire, a 3D element, a person getting shot, cars crashing on to each other, changing the green screen background into a mountainous view, cities collapsing because of an earthquake, or anything that can’t be done on set as it will cause danger or it will be too expensive, too complicated, or just simply impossible in real life.
Special Effects is different from Visual Effects. Special Effects or SFX are effects done on set. These are real life effects. There are 2 Kinds of Special Effects: Optical and Mechanical.
Optical Effects are made by working on camera and lights on set. These are adjusted to make the scene look different as it would do normally. It’s working on different lights, camera lenses, camera movements, position, light angles, and other environment settings that could alter the look of the scene.
Mechanical Effects or Physical Effects are mechanized props added to the scene. Like animatronics (animated robots), prosthetic makeup to alter the look of the actor, creating atmospheric effects using machines for fog, rain. Using pyrotechnics, scale models, explosives.
CGI or Computer Generated Imagery, are digitally created 3D elements that are incorporated within the scene. Can either be still or animated, like Godzilla, Jurassic World’s dinosaurs, The Tiger on Life of Pi, Avatar – which was 70% CGI, Cats – which made the actors look like felines, flood, UFO’s, Aliens, or films that are full 3D, like Toy Story, which was the first ever 3D animated film.
Considered as a photography technique, matte painting has been adopted and used in films since the 19th century. It is digitally creating a landscape, or a set to be used as an environment or background for a film. Usually done to depict distant locations that are not present on the filming location, or to create an out of this world looking environment.
Motion Graphics & Animation
If you’ve seen a graphic design of flyer or brochure, imagine giving life to those elements and making them move. That’s motion graphics. Like logo animations, Motion Graphics are animation done on shapes, texts, objects, typically setting abstract objects, and other graphic design elements in motion.
Making a digital character move, or an object move, is called Animation, not motion graphics. Animation has many forms, 2D, 3D, stop motion, traditional, and motion graphics. In videos, motion graphics are usually used in creating an intro to your channel, movie title sequences, end credits, commercials, or music videos.
The word “Video Editing” seems to be used to define the entire post production process, but it’s not. It is just a part of the post-production process, and these processes listed above are just some of the elements involved.