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Are Visual Effects Ruining Movies? A Look at VFX In an Ever-Changing Industry

Are Visual Effects Ruining Movies? A Look at VFX In an Ever-Changing Industry

It is hard to imagine a blockbuster success without impressive visual effects supplementing the action scenes. The big-budget, big-hit movies utilize massive amounts of CGI and post-production effects to create the final look of the film. 

With the rise of photorealistic visual effects, many professionals in the industry question what the future holds for their specific trade. VFX have changed the way we make movies and have thus either negatively or positively affected movie makers.

So who are some people that are most affected by the growing visual effects industry?

Directors

For the majority of the existence of motion pictures, directors only had what was physically available on set to stage, frame, and shoot their scenes. 

Today, in the age of CGI, directors now have immense creative freedom to create scenes and images that were unimaginable in years past. 

Directors are able to include creatures, locations, or props which don’t even need to be physically present during shooting but add an incredible layer and dimension to the story. 

Having these computer-generated visuals allows them to change their mind a dozen times after principle photography is finished and not have to reshoot entire scenes.

This causes headaches for the VFX artist but offers more control to the director, as he is able to make final adjustments to the shot even until the release of the movie.
Actors
With this rise of digital independence, actors have had to face the fact that the way they are portrayed on screen is changing rapidly. 

Motion capture, digital doubles, and digital makeup allow actors to be replaced with a CGI double to do a stunt that they can’t accomplish, or they can be made to look older, younger, prettier, or uglier. 

For many actors, this is unsettling as the future seems to be somewhat ambiguous as far as what the need for actors will be in movie making. However, in my opinion, actors will never be cast out of filmmaking. 

Audiences enjoy connecting to live-action characters too much for that to be a permanent result.

The Audience

The exploding VFX industry has changed the way audiences watch movies. Viewers are submerged into stories like never before, which is an amazing accomplishment in the world of film, albeit creating a challenge to keep impressing viewers.

Audiences have gotten used to the idea that anything can happen on screen. This is both freeing and enslaving for the filmmakers who now have creative freedom to shoot for the stars, but also have an enormous amount of work cut out for them.

But that is precisely what has fueled the innovation in filmmaking since its genesis. Challenge breeds creativity.
Makeup Artists and Special Effects Artists
The unseen heroes of cinema--the special effects artists-- are often overlooked when it comes to the ways they have transformed sets, actors, and props. They create something magical out of the practical.

These masters of their craft have created memorable imagery for us such as the highly detailed scale models of the original Star Wars, the giant animatronic dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, and the impressive monster makeup of Alien, just to name a few.

In today’s world, much of this sort of work has been replaced with VFX artists who can create equally astonishing imagery. But special effects will always have their place.

ILM is known for making massively impressive digital effects, but they started with practical models, and so by their very history, they understand that what makes the best shot is the blending of the two art forms.

Should we Just go Back to the "Old" Way?

After seeing how Hollywood and small effects houses have changed in this digital era, it is easy to swing the opposite direction and suggest to just go back to the old ways of making movies.

However, I would suggest that when it comes to cinema, there is truly no “old” way. Every aspect of cinema was at one time new and groundbreaking; replacing something “old.”

Movies have always existed to entertain and tell stories how those stories are told, has changed through the years.

Movie makers and directors have become more and more creative in the ways they solve the problems their stories create, and are able to enhance the stories they tell using VFX.

Actors have always been the heart and soul of movies, but the way they portray characters on screen has shifted from silent movies, to costumes, to monster makeup, and on to Mo-Cap and digital doubles.

Practical effects served a very specific purpose in movies for years, and will continue to do so-- just in smaller amounts.

It is easy for older generations of filmmakers to blame the newer technologies for ruining movies, and it is easy for the younger generation to ignore the glorious heritage that movies were built upon.

The important thing for both parties to keep in mind is that movies have always been evolving, and the way movies are made will continue to evolve and change.

VFX do not ruin the industry, they complement the industry in the same way that animatronics and monster makeup complimented movies at one time. The solution comes in the blending of all the art forms to make the best possible shot.

For today’s filmmakers, it is important to find ways to bridge the gap between practical and digital and to remember that much can be learned from the older movies.

Effects are about problem solving and finding creative solutions to make the most impressive story-telling visuals that audiences will fall in love with.

First time here? ActionVFX creates action stock footage for VFX and filmmaking. (We also have some great free stuff!)

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