How To Create Epic Set Extensions With VFX

How To Create Epic Set Extensions With VFX

June 17, 2021
Ben Thompson

Set extensions can turn a simple shot into an environment that will add value to your narrative.

Set extensions are awesome. They can elevate the production value of a scene, turning any mundane shot into something epic and engaging. They're also one of the earliest VFX tricks in the history of cinema.

Today, we're going to share how you can implement set extensions in some innovative ways to get the most out of your production with a little VFX magic.  

Creating an Epic Set Extension

It's hard to believe how easy it can sometimes be to create powerful VFX shots. Here, a simple wide shot of a character walking across a field is turned into an ominous post-apocalyptic landscape in no time at all.
Shooting on a tripod is central to a simplified set extension workflow; eliminating the need for motion tracking in post-production. One of the slickest tips from this tutorial is how you can shoot from a high angle to frame your subject below the horizon line. 

This allows you to not have to worry about rotoscoping, and it gives your scene a nice layer to build on, with your character firmly grounded in a real shot.

If you're going for a similar mountain scene, adding VFX elements like our atmospheric fog can instantly bring life to an otherwise mostly static shot.

Using Custom Assets to Extend Your Set

Another way you can enhance your set extension is by capturing plenty of footage and images on set from different angles. This way, your lighting and environment will have the exact same feel across the entire shot.
With this technique, you can effortlessly generate massively wide shots that convey a sense of scale and grandeur.

This tutorial also covers how you can grab a quick luma key if your shot angle isn't high as in the previous example, and your subject extends above the horizon.

If you'd like to add snow elements to further enhance your scene, we've got your back with a huge selection of dynamic snow clips to choose from, easily giving your project a convincing and professional look (along with TONS of other great VFX assets).

Hiding Studio Elements with a Set Extension

When producing a commercial, you have an extremely limited amount of time to catch the audience's attention, and a set extension can be just the ticket to get you there. However, not all set extensions have to be landscape vistas.  

In the practical and very real-world example below, the director of a viral marketing campaign breaks down how his team employed incredibly basic camera tricks to extend their set and also hide production crew.
Certainly using After Effects' Content-Aware Fill for Video tool can quickly eliminate unwanted elements in your footage, but simply extending your set with pre-existing production assets can also help you achieve a great look. 

Even something as simple as an extra shot of a wall or building from your set can be composited to add depth and perfect framing to your scene. 

Set extensions give you far more creative control over the end result of your production. Think about how much of the frame you actually need to show, then consider if a set extension would lend to the narrative or visuals of the sequence. 

You may only be utilizing 30% of a wide shot, where the remaining 70% could be greatly enhanced with a set extension.

Knowing how to build set extensions is a critical aspect of VFX work and the applications of this technique are limitless. If you'd like to learn how to take your set extensions even further, be sure to check out these stunning matte painting tutorials.

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