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VFX saves money on-set and in post

By utilizing VFX, a film can be written 3.5 times

Generally considered expensive, I often hear VFX getting a bad rep when it comes to a film’s budget. Sometimes at Mechanism Digital, we feel like the dentist that nobody wants to go to, but know they have too. I’d like to help turn around the negative notions and help position VFX as an opportunity to help save on costs.

When our VFX studios are doing big VFX for blockbuster films like Transformers or Jurassic Park, then sure, those are very expensive, but the larger number of shots we work on are more utilitarian, fix-it in post type shots to help push a film over the finish line.

In preproduction, a good VFX supervisor can make suggestions for digital set extensions to be added in post to augment a much lesser expensive location. For example, Bravo’s television series Odd Mom Out asked us to add 10 floors to a two-story hotel making it more grand to fit the story-line.

In Prepro, planning crowd duplication will streamline production tremendously by shooting 10-25% of the needed extras by crowd-tiling. We are currently working with Joshua Marston on his feature Come Sunday which effectively used this strategy for a large church audience by locking the camera, shooting the crowd in orderly sections, and shuffling actor’s positions for each take.

Additionally, during the edit, we are seeing more split screen work these days. The Big Sick employed this technique about 50 times giving the directors Michael Showalter more freedom to combine actors’ performances from separate takes. This isn’t so much a new technique, but I think editors are learning they can take advantage of this trick. Even with handheld cameras we can marry two different shots together seamlessly. This can even help on set if a director has two good but separate takes, the crew can move on and stop spending costly minutes for that “one more take”. We have also used this orchestrated technique in Pre-pro for ABC’s new Deception series to create twins from one actor so he could interact with himself.

They say a film is written three times; once as a script, again on set and a third time in the edit. It’s common to use a shot intended for one part of a film to help fill out another scene. VFX can help with continuity as in Love is Strange where, John Lithgow, is married during the film but we needed to remove his wedding ring in a shot that was used in a scene prior to his marriage to Alfred Molina. With VFX, maybe a film can now be written 3.5 times!

Although many VFX are not executed till after the edit is locked, it’s never too early to get the VFX house involved. When in pre-production, during shooting or mid-edit don’t hesitate to reach out to your favorite VFX team and start up a conversation. All parties, the film and even the audience will benefit!

This article originally ran in the Post NY Alliance newsletter here!

Mechanism Digital is an award-winning CGI, VFX compositing studio in NYC led by Lucien Harriot Executive Producer and VFX Supervisor.

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