Visual Effects (VFX) is the process of creating or manipulating images digitally and is exceptionally popular in Toronto film production and globally. It is an integral and complementing aspect of live-action production and embedded in the vast majority of screen content created.
Certificates, diplomas and degrees are often required for Visual Effects roles because experience with specific software is a key competency. The industry groups are Computer Animation Studios of Ontario and Visual Effects Society Toronto.
Research and Development (RnD) personnel develop technical tools and computer software to accomplish complex visual effects creations or processes. They step in when artists cannot perform a specific task using existing processes. A background in computer engineering and coding is necessary for success in this highly technical area of VFX.
Pre-Visualization (Pre-viz) is the function of conceptualizing and drawing what visual effects will be proposed for the project. Artists create the first representations for the final visual effects and work with the Director and Cinematographer to determine potential camera angles needed when on set to produce the effect. Whether in 2D or 3D drawings on paper or digital, the output can include anything from design ideas for creatures, characters, sets and props.
Virtual Assets are digital versions of real objects that might be created due to an object being too expensive to create in reality. The creation of these assets is done by Modeling Artists, Shade Developers, Riggers and Texture Painters. These artists either create or recreate a real-life object as a lifelike 3D model for the screen.
Animators can work on several kinds of animations, from drawings to 2D to 3D projects. For VFX, an Animator creates the movement of the object or character, frame by frame.
Matchmoving is the process of ‘matching’ the movement of the live action with a virtual camera. Matchmovers create virtual camera moves based on the live video content that has been captured ensuring each seamlessly match. Various departments rely on this function to figure out how to best incorporate 3D virtual objects into live action sequences. It is also referred to as ‘motion tracking’.
The Visual Effects Artist (FX Artist) recreates the movement and texture of real world elements, from skin, hair and fur to surfaces such as cloth or elements such as fire and, water the artist creates simulation of the object or element virtually imitates how it would react to its environment. FX Artists use specific software to assist them in the creation of these simulated elements and are an integral part in the creation of a believable, palpable effects on screen.
The Lighting Artist applies light to an object, surface or character based on the scene and what the live action camera has captured. The Lighting Artist must seamlessly bridge live action footage and virtual elements to appear to be in the same environment through complex lighting techniques and using ambient light accordingly.
The Matte Painter creates a representation of a scene that would otherwise not be possible to capture in the real world. The painter uses traditional or digital painting techniques to create backdrops and landscapes that are imaginary or too costly for the production. They use software, manipulate images and paint digitally to build the needed environments.
Rotoscoping is an animation technique that animators use to trace over live-action footage and images one frame at a time. This technique produces realistic action that is animated but completely based on live action images. The ‘drawing’ can then be extracted out of its original frame and background and be moved onto others, re-colored and re-animated. It is meticulous work that requires extraordinary attention to detail.
Compositing comes at the end the creation of several elements and is refined by artists listed on this page. It requires several VFX departments to contribute throughout the compositing process to achieve the final images ready for the screen. Compositing is the action of layering all the elements of the final shot: the live action, the Computer Graphics (CG), the matte paint elements, the lighting, the animation, etc. They have to be blended to look as realistic and from the same environment as possible. Compositing personnel are highly skilled and have a deep understanding of all elements that contribute to the final image on screen and how they interact with one another and have often occupied other positions like Rotoscoping.
The Visual Effects Producer is the head of the VFX team and is responsible for assembling the team of VFX Artists, Supervisors and technical staff to deliver the project on budget and on schedule. The VFX Producer works closely with the live-action production team, the Director, Editor and the project’s Producer(s) to conceive of and deliver the vision of the VFX contributions to the final screen project. They often pitch productions studio to get the contract. This role requires a high level of experience and expertise in VFX production and a thorough understanding of the ever-evolving film production (and virtual production) processes. The involvement of the VFX Producer comes well before production starts.
The Visual Effects Supervisor is the creative and administrative head of all Computer Graphics (CG) operations. They report directly to the Producer and are responsible for coordinating the efforts of CG personnel as creatively and efficiently as possible in order to ensure that all animation and effects are seamlessly integrated into the final production. They perform script breakdowns to determine VFX shots as well as VFX budget, utilize knowledge of on camera VFX techniques to determine methodology of filming all VFX sequences and collaborate with the Production to develop VFX post schedule. They negotiate with vendors regarding both schedule and budget and provide guidance for creating shots that match the Director’s vision. Extensive knowledge of VFX processes, team structures and individual roles and years of experience are required for VFX Supervision positions.
The VXF Manager supervises the Coordinator and together they work on the delivery of the VFX team and liaise with the production staff. They break down the work deliverables and schedule the team accordingly. Training and experience in VFX positions, staff oversight and outstanding organizational skills are key aspects of a Manager and Coordinator in VFX.