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Setting the Mood with Visual Effects

Setting the Mood with Visual Effects

With any visual piece of art, story should be the driving force behind what makes that piece of art great. If your movie or short film doesn’t have an engaging story, then it will fail. I set this table to illustrate that any added aspect to your story should be added to accent, modify, or perfect that story. 

Visual effects are undoubtedly one of the best ways to do just that. Movies should not be driven by VFX, but should be used to further the story, and when used effectively, can set the mood of a shot or entire scene.

This is a powerful concept for a VFX artist because it means you have a significant amount of control of what the audience sees and how they react to what is on screen.

 It isn’t enough, however, to put something awesome on screen. It has to contribute to the story you or the filmmakers are telling.

 So what are some practical ways you can effectively set the mood using visual effects?

Use VFX to Demand a Reaction

When you are adding VFX, great or small, use them to demand a reaction from the audience. That may be an enormous explosion sequence that shocks and wows your audience, or it may be something as subtle as a light fog to set the tone of a romantic evening scene. 

Whatever the case may be, thinking through how your audience will react to what is on screen will help you effectively set the tone with the visuals you create.

Make the VFX Mean Something

What you put on screen matters. Every little detail. At first glance it might not seem that way, but your audience is taking in every aspect of what is placed before their eyes. They didn’t read the script, they weren’t involved in the process of shooting or editing, they don’t know what’s coming. 

It is your job to put visuals on screen that contribute to the story and mean something to the viewer. Visual effects that are arbitrarily thrown in because they look cool or appear impressive, will only distract from the story and create unnecessary rabbit trails that stray from the plot line. 

Remember, the VFX help set the mood of the movie, so everything you do must be of some significance.

Don't Over-do an Effect

As previously mentioned, visual effects should not be put in place simply because they look cool or need to fill a time gap. It is also important to note that any effect can be overdone. Now, I love a good planet destruction scene as much as the next guy, and there is definitely a time and place for those big epic effects sequences.

Keep in mind however, that you don’t ever want an effect, however big or little, to distract from the heart of the characters in the environment. If a giant blue light from an alien spacecraft destroying a city helps set the mood of the scene, then by all means go for it, but an effect should never be overdone where it becomes the emphasis. Doing this will kill the effect all together.

At the end of the day, it is not the visual effects you want your audience to remember. It is the characters and their journey on the story arc that you want the viewers to walk away with. Every visual effect should be added to enhance, mold, and set the mood to help them do just that.

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