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'Before VFX' Blog Gives Us a Glimpse of Blockbuster Movies Without the Visual Effects

If you’ve ever heard someone play an electric guitar totally unplugged, tasted raw cookie dough, or planted a seed, you know the feeling. There is potential there, but something is clearly missing. This is the exact feeling you get scrolling through the Tumblr blog ‘Before VFX.’ The title just about says it all, along with its brief self-description: “Blockbuster movies without visual effects.” The core or basic element of a shot is there, for certain, but in each case, it’s obvious there’s plenty of additional magic and ingredients that must go into the shot before it can be called complete. Check out a few examples from Before VFX below.

Here are a few grabs from BeforeVFX Tumblr (Thanks to Matias for the tip-off):

From the about page (emphasis and link are my additions):

Is this blog a response to the Oscars, and the protest preceding it, and the VFX industry’s turmoil? Well sure, it did prompt its creation, I won’t deny that. The truth is this is blog has been in my head for a while but with all that’s happened in the last two days in the VFX world, I knew now was the time.

But I don’t want this site to be about the plight of the VFX industry.

My intention is to highlight the artistry of VFX by showing you the canvas. At a time when even Hollywood can’t seem tell the difference between Oscar-winning Visual Effects and Oscar-winning Cinematography, I think it needs to be made clear which is which. Without the fantastic VFX work by talented artists, Hollywood films would not be what they are today.

As filmmakers, we likely have a better understanding of what goes into the making of the final film more than most other audience members. Even for us, however, it is easy to forget just how detailed specialty work such as VFX can be once we’ve seen and become familiar with the end product. Before VFX is a very simple, straight-forward thematic blog (of which Tumblr, by the way, is a goldmine) but it reminds us just how important visual effects is to our industry and how much work is involved in order to create the fantastic imagery we see in the theater.

What do you guys think of Before VFX? Do you find the images enlightening, or too out-of-context to be useful to you? What other blogs like this do you guys know of?

Link: Before VFX — Homepage


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • I would like to give a shout out to my friend Jianghong Zhu who is a visual effects artist at PIXOMONDO. He worked on Hugo, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Red Tails, Seediq Bale, Game of Thrones, Snow White and the Huntsman and A Good Day to Die Hard.

    Thank you and to every visual effects artist, you deserve an Oscar :)

  • I love it. I wish we could see the entire process from start to finish, like a Blu-Ray dedicated to jsut the making of the film. Given, the more you learn how everything is done it might take away from the child-like wonder you experience from not knowing how its done, much like when you learn how a magic trick is done you will never see that trick again the same way.

  • Visual effects artist are pissed world wide, specially after the Oscars, the company behind Life of Pi vfx is filing for bankruptcy, almost 300 artists got fired just before the company got the Oscar, in their acceptance speech their mic got cut off by Jaws soundtrack after 40 seconds. On top of that, Samuel L. Jackson mocked visual effects professionals while presenting the category.
    Director Ang lee thanked everybody but visual effects artist who were responsible for perhaps 70% of the images of his movie, the same for DOP Claudio Miranda who unfortunately won the cinematography oscar for basically shooting ugly green screen while vfx artists did all the nice frames you can find in Life of Pi and guess what? he hasn’t mention the artists on his speech. shame on them.

    • Homer Gaijin on 02.28.13 @ 5:10PM

      I think it’s easy to vilify Ang Lee and Claudio Miranda the sound bites in the news are all a buzz about it. Here’s Ang Lee gives props to VFX artist- and Claudio Miranda is well versed DP in setting up VFX shots. A bigger problem than Directors or DPs are subsidies. There’s really no way to stop foreign companies from doing that. Even the state of New Mexico offers subsidies for filming in their own state. The city of Los Angeles needs to start helping companies do business in their own town, even by just lowering the cost of doing business. Studios need to stop bidding wars that cause VFX company to under cut to survive specially against lesser skilled VFX house under cutting them. And shame on people who turn on their own kind.

      • What I said there’s nothing to do with subsidies, its recognition, Ang lee gives props on the back stage and also said vfx was cheaper, well so do put 1500 shots in your movie and go shoot a live tiger, he tanked everyone possible and not even a nod to the artists who worked countless hours and lost their jobs after his movie was done. Claudio Miranda is a good DOP , but please knowledge that all the nice images on that movie wasn’t crafted by him, and probably the old men from the Oscars also din’t know about it as well.
        Cutting subsidies is not the solution, there are few canadian vfx companies that benefit from tax credits and still lay off half of the crew after the film is done.

        • Correcting:
          *** Ang Lee said he wished VFX was cheaper, so don’t put 1500 vfx shots in your movie and go shoot a live tiger****

  • How does one get into this industry? Are there schools that specifically cater to this art form or is it generally jsut learning and practicing the techniques yourself? Curious where a good starting point would be becasue im very interested in this field and dont have access to the expensive software and professional video to play with. Local city college here has a motion graphics class but really isnt as in depth as i would like.

    • Homer Gaijin on 02.28.13 @ 4:30PM

      Here’s top in LA I feel
      Gnomon is really amazing
      friend of mine Kevin Chen was teaching Art Center Pasadena and Gnomon but started his own, great teachers
      this is the one went to Art Center

      also here are some portals

    • Also, you can download trial versions of lots of the top VFX software (Adobe After Effects, Nuke, Maya) and there are tons of free tutorials online. There is also a free 3d program called Blender that I’ve never used but is supposed to be really good. Check out Video Copilot for lots of VFX tutorials as well as YouTube. I’m completely self-taught. I got started in the industry by doing an animated short film in my spare time and submitting it to studios. Here’s a link to some of my work done with Maya and After Effects:
      Good luck!

    • , , Andrew Kramers and Digital Tutors are a good place to start. Animation mentor should be your next step especially for character animation which I find to be the least tutorialized aspect of the vfx stuff. Good Luck

  • Great blog!

    Pictures really tell more than 1000 words sometimes :)

  • I thought VFX were supposed to be a growth industry. Why are they experiencing problems ?

    • For the same reason many other industries are experiencing problems – outsourcing to Asia where labor is a fraction of the cost. The West’s demand for cheaper products is destroying skilled labor forces – meanwhile workers in China and India etc. are working ridiculous hours in terrible conditions with zero workers protection, overtime, vacation pay, medical benefits etc. I guess this is karma for horrible Western foreign policy and past colonialism.

      This is the very negative effect of globalization and free trade. Worst thing about all of this is it cannot possibly sustain itself and once again, the 1% are getting filthy rich at the expense of the other 99%. Sorry for getting all political here but some of you really need to read a news article and pay attention to what’s going on in the world.

      • Hey Neil, I work at a major vfx shop here in Singapore, your depiction of vfx in Asia is a tad dramatic. Agreed, the artists here are cheaper than the west (I would say on average 50% cheaper). In Singapore at least, it’s culturally quite normal to live with your parents until your in your 30′s, which also helps as they do not have to splash loads of money on rental. But I would also say they are only cheap for the first few years of their career while they learn their craft. We are starting to see people leave for Weta and some of the Australian vfx shops once they get good as they are fully aware of what the daily rates are in other countries. The locals get vacation pay, and all of their medical is taken care of. As for overtime, be it in London, Vancouver and Singapore your working for free if you work into the evening. Overtime to my knowledge is only paid at Weta after you’ve worked your contracted hours.

        The reality is it’s not just labour costs which drive shows to be made in Asia, it’s mostly government incentives. The Singapore governement, like the UK and Canada, make it very attractive financially for people to make their shows here. The big reason why large vfx shops in LA have failed or are in financial difficulty is because they have no government tax break, making it near on impossible for them to compete at a global level. The studios don’t care where they get their shit made as long as the numbers look good and the quality is there.

        I personally think globalisation is a good thing both creatively and economically. As more producers and studios in Asia start to utilise visual effects it will mean we are not just beholden to the same LA based studios to feed us.

      • the 1% should know that once the system has collapsed, the y will also become the 99%.

  • Weird. All I see in these ‘Before VFX’ pics is the work of lots of rigging grips ; )

    • Give em shit brother! Lol… And fed by craft services and all the other below the line crew that go into making a film. But they don’t give oscars to craft services or grips…. :(

  • Woah… how dare you! Cookie dough is amazing.

  • Cool idea… but would be much more interesting if you had each image with the VFX added as a comparison.

  • The pic of Life of Pi makes me a bit sour that that was chosen for best cinematography of the year. It even looks like the lighting was done in post.

    • Daniel Mimura on 03.9.13 @ 2:04AM

      Yeah, I haven’t seen Pi yet, so I’m hesitant to judge too harshly, but from the trailers alone, I sort of suspect the academy often confuses cinematography with other things. Deakins got hosed again.

  • Going after the unattainable, Allan talks about his initial beginning’s at 14 in Australia working at a young age for various high profile studios such as Valve Software – through to working with directors such as Robert Zemeckis, Michael Bay and Brian Singer and for working for George Lucas’ company Industrial Light + Magic.

    Going After The Unattainable

    I’ve been hesitant to publish this, on many levels, and even writing it in a lot of ways has been difficult to look back at everything. My intent for this article is not to make a “my life” story, but more to point out certain pivotal moments that changed my life, and trickle in key bits of advice that can be applied to anyone’s career. Also. to demonstrate times of failure, self doubt, and pushing through it to success.