Visual effects, sometimes abbreviated as VFX, is the term for the process used in films and videos to create, manipulate, or enhance imagery that does not exist in real life. VFX is thus, in essence, a post-production work where practitioners work with video shots and create environments, objects, creatures, and even people that would otherwise be impossible in live-action shots. CGI (computer-generated imagery) is often integrated along with live video footage to create the visual effects that we see in so many films nowadays.
As more and more movies continue to use excellent techniques to create visually stunning effects, VFX practitioners continue to hold a vital place in the film industry. However, 2020 saw a massive blow to all the industries, as the Covid-19 pandemic spread. The entertainment industry, in particular, was regarded as one of the non-essentials and all filmmaking practices, including shooting, came to a standstill. But now the situation is a bit relaxed and film sets are reopening, but with fewer crew members, and VFX, being a post-production work, is largely being carried out remotely.
Now, remote work has its own perks and downsides, and VFX is not excluded from the list. Owing to the need of working remotely, rapid changes are happening in the industry, and VFX practitioners from all over the world are trying to find suitable ways to cope up with the situation while still producing great work and not compromising on the quality of it. Changes that were happening already, are pacing up and the VFX industry is finding its new game of working remotely, challenging, while the practitioners try to figure out ways to do the work from their home.
But what are the changes? What are the challenges? And how is the VFX industry likely to move forward from here? To answer these questions, we, a leading VFX institute in Kolkata, have come up with all the things about VFX that have changed, are changing, and are likely to be changed forever, in this blog. So, read on to learn about the growing trends in the VFX in 2021.
Changes in Visual Effects Pipeline
One change in the VFX practices that have been in effect for some time now is that it has been shifting from linear to a more criss-cross pattern. Earlier, work was streamlined into a more linear approach, and the practices that comprise VFX, such as, Storyboard, Molding, Rigging, Animation, Texturing, Rendering, Composting, and Submitting the finished work, were done one after another.
Nowadays, this has changed completely. And it is following a more criss-cross pattern, where everyone in the pipeline is communicating with everyone else, which ultimately is resulting in better workflow and probably better-finished work. VFX courses too nowadays are following this pattern where everyone communicates with everyone.
Systems and applications are being built to facilitate this new ‘circular’ model or pipeline, which is showing great promises in the VFX industry to produce work in an easier and more complete manner.
Technological advances and embracing newer technologies have been in full effect in 2021, and new companies are welcoming these technologies that allow working in a collaborative manner. For example, Cloud was already happening in the entertainment industry, and now due to the new-normal regulations in effect, the use and applications of Cloud are gaining momentum.
2020 has shown that it is possible to have fewer people on the sets and still produce a spectacle. VFX and animation are embracing newer technologies to make up for what is lost due to fewer people on the sets. Earlier it was the norm to work together. But now, due to improvement in technologies, working remotely has been possible at all levels down the pipeline.
Working from home has its own concerns, however. One instance is security, and clients need to be convinced that all their data is being safely handled and proper security protocols are in place. Fortunately, VFX professionals around the globe have been able to earn this trust in these troubled times.
Along with that, all phases of VFX, including audio, and other post-production tasks have accelerated, owing to working from home. After all, you do not have to attend meetings all day and can focus on your work better when working remotely.
Also, experiment with technology is in effect and is only likely to increase with time. For example, game engines can be used for more than video games and suddenly professionals are doing more with this technology. Organizing and how to work with newer technologies are still being discussed. It is obvious that artists and others need to learn the newer technologies which would give rise to a more holistic approach to using technologies at all levels.
Uses of AI, Machine Learning in VFX
Machine learning has been in use in imagery till now. Machine learning is like teaching a machine to learn with time and apply what it learns as a human would, while still allowing us at the driver’s seat, or as a worthy co-pilot. It opens up more doors, more opportunities than otherwise possible.
So, technologies like AI, machine learning, and Cloud have seen a rapid increase in use and applications. Earlier, machine learning was largely used for image manipulation. Now, they are being used for several other tasks. For instance, you can use AI to find even a 2-sec relevant data from weeks or even months of motion capture data.
Owing to easy search by the use of AI, the way visual effects are implemented is changing. Data is being collected and stored and collaboratively used in all the levels in the pipeline simultaneously to create better work.
With AI, it has been possible to search and turn up relevant data fast and easily. However, though the best VFX courses are already teaching how to use and implement AI and machine learning for a smoother workflow and better-finished work, holistic integration of AI all over the pipeline is still in its beginner’s step. But clients and companies are showing interest in it and it seems that AI and machine learning and its applications in VFX are likely to stay. Using AI for producing collectively, gathering resources and skills, applying complex operations in Machine learning is likely to be the future trend.
With all the positives in the VFX industry in terms of productivity, there have been challenges too. Teamwork is absent and working together in a setup is completely zero, and developing a work culture has not been possible or has been limited over Zoom and other such technologies. Along with that, it is also not possible to mentor newcomers and guide them closely in VFX training, as otherwise would have been the case.
To take the positives, time spent on commuting has been cut down, and there is no need now to live in a big city to work in VFX and motion graphics.
Possible Changes with Re-emergence of Normal Shoot
In 2020, production has been achievable without going to the sets. Even if the shooting goes normal, the sets will be smaller and it will obviously be with fewer crew members.
However, fortunately, all data are stored and integrated into Cloud, as a result of which it is possible now to spread out and work globally. Identifying and working with talents, bagging in top talents, and doing great work is made possible due to rapid involvement and use of Cloud that has accelerated during this pandemic due to known reasons. Even if shooting resumes, these remote working practices are likely to stay. The new scenario might involve some work at the sets and some remotely.
But trust is a factor in long-distance work, and there would be a need for traveling to set up the right locations for work. However, with travel restrictions in place, traveling needs to be cut down. So the likely changes that might occur are that catalogs of locations can be digitized to find the best locations, After going through a few, you can choose a primary one, and then travel and check if it would be suitable. That way, traveling is kept in check and great work can still be produced.
There have been a number of changes in VFX and how work is being done in 2021. Different ways of doing things have been in effect and working remotely has been the new norm till now. However, remote work will bring in different results for different people. Some love it, some hate it. But as the pandemic is likely to continue, how to work remotely is needed to be figured out by everyone.
Change in culture, opening up to work collaboratively yet remotely is something all got to learn and thus the culture adopted will be very different from working together in a set.
The easy way to deal with the rapid changes will be to fall back and think about what was working, but things are changing and we got to adapt to them for good. Newer technologies and techniques need to be used and we all got to learn how to best do that.
As we move forward from here in 2021, we see that VFX is expanding its scope and how it is implemented, and that is the major takeaway of VFX from 2020.
If you want to learn VFX and how to use it, you can always turn to us at Arena Animation Chowringhee for the best courses at the best rates.