Three Non-Obvious Uses For Your VFX Stock Footage

Three Non-Obvious Uses For Your VFX Stock Footage

August 24, 2021
Logan Leavitt

VFX stock footage is highly versatile, and can be used in a variety of ways to achieve your desired look.

Stock footage is a staple of both amateur and professional VFX work for many reasons. Some of the obvious points here are of course safety, affordable pricing, and ease of use. This article is all about a different and often overlooked component of stock footage: flexibility. 

For some, an explosion is an explosion and that’s what you’ll use it for; but for others, the very shapes, colors, and motion are just another asset to be manipulated to fit a scene. 

Consider the explosion in reverse for example, how can this help a story? Does it look like a power core at the center of a sci-fi ship absorbing energy? If you make it green, is it a superhero charging up for a massive leap? 

These non-obvious and creative uses for stock footage open up new worlds for your assets and ultimately bring even more bang for your buck on every purchase! Here are a few thought starters to get you going.

1. Energy Burst as Steam in How to Do Subsurface Energy Glow Effects

Many of the obvious adapted or unique uses of stock footage emerge from sci-fi or fantastical effects due to the fun colors and abstract shapes. As you’ll see further down the list, however, this often comes from taking an every day physical effect (i.e. smoke) and color tuning it into something out of this world. This tutorial takes a different route by using one of our energy burst effects as steam releasing from the actor’s skin. 

Again, you’ll see the common tweaks being made, starting with two separate stock footage assets being blended together into one effect. This gave the artist a more continuous look to the steam to start. From here, they duplicated and offset for even more time, and of course, color shifted it to a perfect match with the under-skin glow. 

2. Smoke for Portals in How to Create Loki-Inspired Portal & Teleportation FX

In the first tutorial, we saw the way that stock assets can be blended and stacked for sustained effects such as steam releases. In this tutorial, inspired by everyone’s favorite Disney+ God of Mischief, the star of the show is a simple dust wave stock asset

There’s a deceivingly simple, yet foundational adjustment made here to the position of the dust wave itself. While it comes out of the box as a grounded plume, the artist brought the asset into 3D space for perfect positioning as a “backing” to our actor. 

This is a simple transform but a perfect example that stock footage is never bound to its obvious use. The crucial adjustments from here come in the form of time remaps, masking, and finally the use of a lot of smaller and perfectly placed plumes to fill out the effect. 

One of the effect’s strongest sells comes from the positioning of the smaller smoke assets. They’re laid out perfectly alongside the actor’s body, creating an illusion that the body and smoke are actually interacting with one another. This being one of the downsides of stock footage, it’s always a huge win to be able to cheat interaction. 

Again we’re hue shifting to purple, and bringing in some spell hits and lightning for that extra sauce. The result is pretty solid and saves another computer from becoming a space heater during an overnight render. 

3. Energy Burst as Smoke Trails in How to Create Scarlet Witch’s Magic Energy Effects

We’re keeping it in the MCU for our final entry in the list and again looking at an example of sci-fi assets brought down to Earth.

In this tutorial, the artist is recreating Scarlet Witch’s famous red energy powers with a foundation built from our energy ball stock footage. The non-obvious use in question comes later in the composition when we look to add smoke trails behind the movement of the ball itself. 

Rather than going for smoke trails directly, the artist elects to start with energy bursts. The most elegant decision in turning the burst into exhaust smoke is simply in positioning and timing. The artist is picking the exact moments and timings which show the energy burst emitting in reverse of the ball’s motion—a true exhaust kind of feel. 

The artist doubles down, and brings another exhaust in, this time in the opposite direction as the ball comes back around. This same-but-different use of another asset adds flavor and completeness to the effect. By now you’ll know the final step: color shift to match and blend blend blend. 

These are just three examples of looking differently at stock assets but the philosophy can be applied to anything in our library.

Our new subscription model brings unlimited access to our library, so think of it this way: every time you think of a new way of using a stock asset, you’re bringing even more value to the tools you already own.

There are 12 different plans, and based on the number of VFX elements and resolutions that you need, there are plenty of options that will best suit you and your projects.

Click below to view all of our plans!


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