Manufactured Authenticity: Invisible Effects

I've posted on VFX a couple of times previous, but both cases were about spectacular ones. Effects of this ilk are showpieces and stand-outs, achievements in bringing fantasy to life. Most of the VFX work, however, is invisible. Nearly every movie utilizes some image tweak in DI. For example, a director may be unhappy with the color of a given scene, which is an easy fix by way of color correction. These "effects" are not evident for a reason: they are supposed to seem real in a way that doesn't dazzle you, but goes unnoticed instead. (Here we enter the murky territory of "realism" in the digital age.)

Click here to watch a VFX reel which showcases many invisible effects in Black Mass. Make note of the following changes: color correction, removing leaves from a tree, covering up (and in one case removing) a new building for a period film, adding snow, making the greyish Florida coastline blue, and adding crowds. These effects are not revolutionary but that's part of the point. Movies such as this one, period films in particular, aim toward authenticity. As I've discussed elsewhere, that authenticity is a style which mimics photographic realism. This example, and many others reveal the manipulation and handiwork that creates something so seemingly real. We're in a tough spot in which we need to problematize realism just as it's creation is growing faker and yet more convincing as technology improves.

Deadpool and VFX

As a person who pretty much can't stand superhero movies, I think I've found my entry into the genre: Deadpool. My usual sense of agitation that develops after too many action sequences simply never happened when watching this particular movie. The intelligence of the writing, and the surprisingly strong performance by Ryan Reynolds (I wasn't a fan until now), kept me interested and delighted during and between action-heavy sequences. Take note, superhero filmmakers: make them smarter, like Deadpool!

While reveling in smart, dark ideas and words, I was also dazzled by the effects. This video compiled by Visual Effects: Behind the Scenes showcases just a few of the truly astonishing achievements by RodeoFX. You'll see examples of all kinds of VFX techniques in the video. The demonstration of additive/combined layers to create Colossus is particularly illuminating. 

Click here to watch view the a series of VFX befores, durings, and afters. One warning: for some reason people often like to overlay lame rock musical scores over compilations. This one has a track that's particularly grating and repetitive, so hit mute before pressing play.

VFX Demo: Jurassic World

Behind the scenes footage is widely available for those interested in examining the making of VFX. This lot from Industrial Light and Magic (the Edison of VFX) is particularly valuable for the purposes of analyzing digitally manipulated footage. In specific I value the wide array of techniques presented in this 3 minute compilation. Therein you'll find visual examples of: compositing, 3D modeling, color correction, digital mattes, DI passes (a million of them), chroma key, green screen, and much more. You'll also see the various stages in compositing VFX into plates, process by process.

There's even a nice little lens flare at the beginning, completely manufactured of course, as there are no cameras, lenses, or real light involved in that part of the clip.

Click here to view the behind the scenes clip.