A Few Techniques That Can Help You Create Effects on a Budget
For filmmakers who enjoy making effects-heavy movies, be it a horror, sci-fi, or any genre variant really, it can be challenging to find ways that make those effects more believable to your audience. And when getting really good VFX often means having access to expensive software and/or a talented effects artist, the no/low-budget filmmaker who can't afford them needs to get creative, even a little magical when putting together a film. MovieMaker Magazine shares a few tips that will help blend, hide, and solidify the special and visual effects in your film.
The foundation of a good effects-driven film is a good story. I think that kind of goes without saying, right? But, if your story calls for some effects, whether filmed in-camera or created in post, there are a few things that need to happen in order to make sure your audience doesn't laugh themselves to death as they stop watching 30 minutes in.
A good effect should be so well-done that it's believable, and part of that means weaving together what's real and what's not in such a way that the beginning and end of an effect is invisible. So, here are some helpful things, courtesy of MovieMaker, to think about as you plan your attack.
Distract and Hide
The earliest cinematic special effects were done by Georges Méliès, who interestingly enough was also an illusionist. Méliès used his mastery of illusion to create convincing special effects in similar ways that the filmmakers of today do. One technique that will help you create believable effects is using distractions to hide them. VFX specialist, Zach Lipovsky, talks about how the shaky-cam work, natural light, whip pans, and lens flares common in found-footage films help "hide the seams."
These things distract the eye from the things we’re so used to being able to pick apart, thus helping a computer-generated image merge into the fabric of the film -- If you’re doing a long take, you can whip pan amongst subjects, and within those jolts you can hide the beginning and ends of your visual effects.”
Creating effects in post is essential if you want to transport your audience into a supernatural world. However, achieving as many effects in-camera as you can will help sell them to your viewer. MovieMaker describes one creative effect Lipovsky uses that to give the illusion that one of his characters is running extremely fast:
To create the effect, Lipovsky first films a running actor while driving next to him on a scooter. He then films the same shot while driving faster, but this time sans actor with only the background in the frame. His team then takes this second shot (of the background filmed while driving faster) and composites it behind the shot of the actor running, to increase the apparent speed.
Pick your Shots
Just because you have a small budget doesn't mean that the impact of your special/visual effects is destined to be small as well. The key here is quality over quantity. In other words, spreading sub par effects throughout your entire movie may not be as beneficial to your film as picking a few important scenes and bolstering the effects in them. Lipovsky says, "By far the most important thing is picking the right shots and doing them as close to perfectly as possible."
Surely finding a workaround for making an engaging film with believable effects with no budget is just as creative as creating big budget effects! And in a time when there is no lack of big budget effects in movies, your audience might actually enjoy subtle, well-integrated effects anyway. Less might actually be more!
Be sure to check out MovieMaker's article for more tips on creating effects on a budget here.
What do you think? Do you have any low-budget effects tips/techniques to share? Let us know in the comments.