What is your #1 tip for VFX?

What is your #1 tip for creating a realistic VFX shot?

Look at as many reference photos and videos as you can. It’s hard to get realistic results if you’re not following references of what the real thing looks/behaves like.

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Reference is king.

For example, looking at footage of real fires or explosions in actual locations - news stuff, not movies - will show you a lot about how these elements react. So, an ActionVFX explosion is carefully shot and exposed to capture detail and make certain nothing clipped. If you looked at news footage of the chemical plant explosion in Illinois, it blows out on camera.

The other classic example is the ubiquitous white/chrome ball on set for the 3D environment/modeling teams. Of course, sampling a highlight of the white ball tells the lighting artist the light color, and sampling the shadow gives you the shadow color.

There are countless other examples, of course. Reference.

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These are great tips! Thank you both!

all of the other answers and…

Never forget that the most believable effects have something based in reality.
That’s why the best monsters have some animal components or at least muscle systems based on real life creatures… vehicles are based somewhat on actual vehicles, etc.

And SCALE… never forget that physics give away SCALE.
Ever see a shot of a burning house that is so blatantly a shoebox burning?
Because 6 inch flames to not beget an huge house fire. (see Troma films, any of them… and thank you ActionVFX for providing us with various sized explosions, flames, etc.)


That’s a great tip! Thank you!

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My tip: always ask for second opinion of your work!
Especially when you have worked on one shot for days, your brain would start becoming biased and lose grip on what the shot is “supposed” to look like. Get some fresh pair of eyes. Ask a friend; they dont even have to be fellow vfx artist, just someone who understands visual language (photographer, graphic designer, etc). You have no idea how much your own brain would betray you sometimes! lol


That’s a great tip Danasa! Thank you!:relaxed:

My tip is keep things organized! When you build all of the controls for the shot, try to make it simple to adjust. I’m a Nuke user but it goes for After Effects as well. Having things like 4 or 5 transform / position adjustments when you only need 1 is a very bad habit. Especially having different scale adjustments that might end up cropping your visual effect. This can turn into a nightmare when trying to fix it. Don’t use 20 color corrections! You will start clamping darks and brights and lose the original color range you once had. Try to seperate your color corrections by what you need. A small highlight control, a saturation control, a black adjustment control and label them! Organization can be key to saving time, being efficient and hitting notes from clients. Some shots you could be tweaking for 40 or more versions! So you want the controls to be as easy as possible.


That’s an awesome tip Gregory! Thanks a lot for sharing!

Getting a good camera track is half the battle.


That is a huge deal for sure! Thanks for sharing!

Ok, so here’s one I’ve found useful.

Often, you’ll only want a single frame to use as a background plate.
There are a lot of reasons for this:

  • people in the shot (that kid skateboarding in your apocalyptic shot isn’t good)
  • more control over moving items
  • just couldn’t nail down the original shot you wanted

But how do you get this single frame tracked?

As usual, it all starts in production:
Go ahead and take a few seconds of footage, making sure to move your camera in all 3 axis (axises, axeez?).
In post, track your shot…
Nest the tracked shot.
Cut that glorious single frame and create a “hold frame” so you can extend this single frame into a sequence of the length you need.

BAM… tracked shot with no camera movement (do that yourself later with “Wiggle” or whatever your software using to fake camera shake).

Hopefully that all made sense.


Thanks for sharing!:smiley: