Hasraf Dulull taught a wonderful course on VFX at the 2013 Festival. From his notes, we put together this article.

VFX and SFX is the fun bit of filmmaking, right? Explosions that look cool and blow up everything on the screen, they can make Harry Potter and the Gryffindor Quidditch Team fly around, turn Ian McKellen into Gandalf and just about anything else you can think of. But why should you even bother considering thinking about this unless you’re going to blow up The Rock at the end of your film? Well, let me tell you…


Why?

These days you can’t just write a high concept script and expect a meeting. So why not get a VFX Supervisor on board from the start. It can progress the project towards a more creative and interesting one as well as luring in better actors. Not only that but if you’re looking to get some funding for a project even bigger, It’s a way to get your trailer noticed at festivals without breaking the almost non-existent bank.

Getting the Green Light.

The studio loves you, you’re gonna be the next big thing, you’re on your way to getting your teeth whitened as you read this, but the studio has asked you to budget accordingly for the production…

So why not bring in a VFX supervisor sooner rather than later and save the struggle of unexpected costs and hassle later on.

Why would I even bother?

It can not only save you money but can also help you be as creative as you want to be without your ideas running away and spending all of your budget on that crucial title sequence that you want to explode out of a skyscraper in New York. They can also help you to test out cameras, lenses and locations as well as advising you on what to do in SFX, VFX and what not to do at all (avoid Go-pro or 7D footage for heavy VFX work that requires tracking, green-screen, low-lights etc, it’s just not good)

What about my script?

Well your script can be easily broken down by your best mate/VFX Supervisor (the are the same person) and they can identify the visual effects and special effects within the script, breaking them down into scenes with ball park costs. Again, it’s all about that budget of yours and how precious it is!

Tips on saving more monies!

– Don’t use rigs/reflective objects/anything of the sort in the shot expecting post to be able to sort it out. It’ll cost you time and too much money.

-Same goes for anything else that you think can just be rubbed on in post. If it can be easily moved out of the shot in 10 minutes then it’s going to be much cheaper/quicker and more than likely better than using the eraser tool.

-Every cinephile loves 35mm, but unless you’re Nolan or Tarantino it’s just going to be a waste of money. To edit it in post it needs to be scanned and blah blah blah. It’s just not worth it. Treat yourself when you have more money.

-Speaking of saving money, budget to have a VFX supervisor on set for the duration of the shoot. If anything goes wrong it doesn’t cost you all of your budget for the day.

-Stock footage is your friend! You might want to splash out and get your VFX supervisor to create some CGI explosions, but why do that when you can purchase stock footage, do a bit of grading and then integrate it into your own shots for a more realistic and less tacky approach to explosions. It’s also a great way to find good quality establishing shots that only need a small amount of VFX to bring out a couple of features that make it yours.

Filmmaking is all about planning and storytelling. Use VFX to help tell your story and plan it so that no production company can ever pick it apart!