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VFX: Before, During and After for Festival Films plus VR

Film festivals have three distinct waves of collaboration

It’s been another busy year at Mechanism Digital, working on VFX for award winning films. Some of the films we enhanced were Life, Animated, AWOL, The Lost City of Z and Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing which garnered awards at Sundance, NY Film Festival, and Woodstock, among others. We are happy to see many of these projects leveraging the Empire State Post Production and VFX Tax Credits which are being passionately promoted by the PNYA.

During the past 20 years of VFX and post-production, we have noticed a curious pattern concerning films being submitted to film festivals: there are three distinct waves during which we get to collaborate and add a bit of movie magic -- before, during and after the festivals.

Before submission, producers want the story locked so it can be submitted... or simply step-up their game a bit to increase the chances of acceptance. For instance, Pimp, directed by Christine Crokos, needed muzzle flashes and enhanced gunshot wounds/blood to increase the impact of the final shootout scene. This additional improvement in effects just might make the difference between going to Park City or not.

During the waiting period, after a film has been officially accepted for a festival but before it’s shown, there is typically a flurry of effort to polish the film for the “win.” Knowing a film will be in a reputable festival such as Sundance can encourage producers to put a bit more skin in the game. They might ask us to add VFX which they may have been on the fence about. Often these are effects the director had been asking for, but the financiers hadn’t yet found the necessary money or time to get them completed.

After the festival is over, we’ll get opportunities to work on films which were purchased and now have additional monies available to digitally rework some shots. Also in situations where a studio like HBO buys a film and has higher quality standards which need to be met before the sale is final.

In 2016, we began working on films submitted to festivals as 360/Virtual Reality experiences.  Last year, Tribeca Film Festival introduced Virtual Arcade for VR films including BetterVR’s Killer Deal, a horror-comedy in which our studio added digital blood spurting from a monster being chopped by Ian Ziering, a machete salesman in a surprisingly cheap hotel room. Next, Sundance 2017 is introducing its New Frontier category exhibiting innovative media projects, including several VR films/experiences for which we are in VFX discussions. This new format of storytelling is bringing the same three waves of VFX as standard features bring, although the total running times are typically much shorter. Don’t be fooled by the shorter film TRTs -- the 360 format can often require more time to execute VFX if not planned correctly. Definitely discuss post and VFX needs as soon as possible with a Post or VFX Supervisor whether you’ll need VFX before, during or after the festival.

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