Visual effect

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As visual effects or English visual effects ( VFX ) are now referred digital effects in films in the post-production can be realized. They are to be distinguished from special effects (SFX) that are implemented on set during the filming.

Visual effects are often offered as a service by specialized VFX companies, so-called visual effects studios . The importance of these VFX services is growing and meanwhile up to a third of the budgets of large cinema productions flow into visual effects. Important positions in a VFX production are VFX Supervisor and VFX Producer . You are responsible for the planning and implementation of visual effects and lead the production process from a creative and technical point of view. The implementation is carried out by VFX Artists, who provide the creative part of the production.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards an Oscar annually in the visual effects category. In addition, the Visual Effects Society annually presents VES Awards for the best visual effects in feature films, series and numerous other categories.


Visual effects are used to improve film material or to achieve certain effects that would not be possible or only very difficult to achieve with an unedited film recording. VFX in the film must appear real in order to make the illusion of the plot believable to the viewer.

Visual effects created on the computer are divided into Visible VFX (German: visible VFX) and Invisible VFX (German: invisible VFX). Invisible VFX are effects that you can no longer perceive in the finished film. For example, frame -by-frame painting over a cable or sign that was overlooked while filming, or replacing green screens . As Visible VFX effects are that are striking, for example, transforming robots in the film Transformers . Since 1964, Visible VFX has been awarded the Oscar in the category Best Visual Effects , previously awarded for special effects .

Invisible VFX in particular are often used to save costs. Visual effects can cost considerable sums of money, but this is usually worthwhile, since building a film set, for example a complete medieval city, would be even more expensive. The same city can be “built” digitally with the help of VFX on the computer for a fraction of the cost. Often several levels are combined, for example the actors in a partially built set and digitally added parts. Especially in historical films , science fiction films , disaster films and fantasy films VFX are used.

The following areas can be counted for VFX:


Before computers were used for visual effects, they were mostly created through optical processes, e.g. B. back projection , double exposure or the exposure of several superimposed film and mask layers.

Today, VFX often involves 3D graphics software , which requires a lot of experience to handle. Known 3D graphics programs are z. B. Autodesk Maya , 3ds Max , Autodesk Softimage , Lightwave 3D , Cinema 4D , Sidefx Houdini , Realsoft 3D , ZBrush and the free Blender .

The work is often divided into several work steps:

Preproduction (Preproduction)

The preproduction is used to precisely plan the visual effects that will be created in the post-production of the film. The camera settings, the film sets and lighting as well as the look of the film are developed. The creation of the visual effects is about creating the best possible conditions for post-production on the film set.

This can be done in different forms, the creation of concept designs , storyboards or the creation of a previz (also: previs , English for previsualization) are common. A previz is a rough visual implementation of the storyboard in a film clip, often simple 3D animations are used. It serves as a basis for discussion and as a basis for the collaborative development of images and ideas. It serves as a reference in later phases of production. The importance of pre-visualization in film production has increased significantly; there are companies specializing in this, such as The Third Floor, and in large film productions the position of Previs Supervisor.

During the resolution of the script, the camera settings and visual effects ( VFX breakdown ) are carefully planned. Particularly in the case of complex shots that consist of many layers, precise planning of the elements to be added later is necessary.


During the filming, the planned VFX settings and all additional elements such as green screen recordings are shot. An important goal is to make all recordings that can be important in the later post-processing. These include a. 360 ° panoramas , HDR images, lidar recordings or reference and texture photos. The recordings are monitored by the VFX Supervisor or a dedicated VFX Set Supervisor .

Post production

Most of the process of creating visual effects takes place in post-production; H. after shooting, instead. Possible sub-areas of VFX post-production are:

Match moving

A matchmove or 3D camera track is required if rendered 3D elements are to be integrated into a shot with a moving camera. For this purpose, a virtual camera is generated that matches the real camera.


Modeling is the computer-aided creation of geometric objects. In the area of ​​visual effects, polygonal modeling is used. Depending on the desired result, the resulting 3D model can then be rigged or animated or it can serve as the basis for a simulation. It is rendered last.


The rigging is a method that is widely used in digital characters. It describes the creation of control elements that serve as preparation and to simplify the animation. A rig is usually a digital skeleton that is skinned to a mesh.


As part of the animation , 3D elements are changed over time. An animation rig is usually used for digital characters. Keyframes are used for animation .


The simulation in the field of visual effects is primarily concerned with the realistic appearance of physical events. Important sub-areas are rigid-body dynamics, liquid simulation, simulation of particles or gases.


Shading is the description of surface properties of objects and is therefore a prerequisite for rendering.


Texturing is the covering of 3D objects with texture maps. These are used for color design, to simulate surface properties (e.g. bump mapping ) or to change the surface ( displacement mapping ).

Lighting (Lighting)

The lighting describes the setting and design of digital light sources in a scene. When rendering this scene, lighting models are used to simulate the behavior of the light.


The rendering is the rasterization of the 3D objects in a two-dimensional pixel image. Since these are often time-consuming processes, render farms are often used for computing.

Matte painting

Matte painting describes the creation of backgrounds that are used in compositing. Matte paintings can be two-dimensional or 2½D setups realized via projection .


In compositing , all elements of the previous steps are collected and merged. The rendered 3D elements and matt paintings are integrated into the original footage as photo-realistically as possible. This is optional if necessary (e.g. by keying or rotoscopy ).

See also


  • Barbara Flückiger (2008): Visual Effects. Film images from the computer. Marburg: Stoke. 528 p., Fold-out brochure, numerous color illustrations. ISBN 978-3-89472-518-1
  • Katrin von Kap-herr (2018): Show and hide. On the double gesture of digital visual effects in Hollywood cinema. Bielefeld: Transcript. 224 pp., ISBN 978-3-8376-4192-9
  • Jeffrey A. Okun, Susan Zwerman (2010): The VES Handbook of Visual Effects: Industry Standard VFX Practices and Procedures . Taylor & Francis. 922 pp. ISBN 9780240812427

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Economic importance of the film industry in Germany. Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, p. 77 , accessed on February 22, 2017 .
  2. Previs. Retrieved February 28, 2017 .
  3. a b Planning Makes Perfect | Computer Graphics World. Retrieved February 28, 2017 .
  4. ^ VFX supervisor. Crew United, accessed March 5, 2017 .