In-Depth so far is going great! I am continuing to learn loads about special effects and video editing. Over the past two weeks, I have kept myself busy by spending a multitude of time learning Hitfilm Express. At first I played around with different effects, clicking on almost everything I saw and analyzing what happened. I spent a lot of time watching youtube videos about Hitfilm; I started off with basic tutorials to help me figure out basic editing skills, and then I proceeded to watch tutorials for effects that I actually wanted to recreate. For example, I was interested in creating a Harry Potter style wand effect, so I looked up ‘Harry Potter spell tutorial Hitfilm’ and once I found a video I got straight to work trying my hand at creating the effect (which I will show at the end of this blog post).


I also met with my mentor, and he gave me so much useful information! First he showed me a useful youtube video about visual effects, which gives an overview of what they are and how visual effects have evolved over time. You can watch the video here. He also showed me some useful short films that use visual effects, one of which was his own film that he entered into a competition! I was truly impressed by his work because the effects in his movie seemed to really blend into reality. What I mean by this is that he didn’t overuse flashy shockwaves or lasers, and rather used more subtle effects to make his work seem to be a part of the real world, which was what he later taught me. Some of the tips that my mentor provided me are to not overuse flashy/high-contrasting effects because they look out of place and make the viewer seem to think that they are unrealistic. Adding on, you shouldn’t overuse video effects in general, because you want the viewer to retain that sense of amazement during your movie. If they see the same effect repeated over and over again, they might feel like it is getting a little stale and boring. In this scenario, what films such as Harry Potter do is they vary up their spells, and make them all look different. This way although there are lots of wand effects in the movies, every spell is unique and done differently, so we see something fresh every time rather than the same effect.


A great quote my mentor said was, “If you think it looks good the first time you view it, then it’s good”. What he means is that when you are watching an effect you created, if you think it looks impressive the first time you see it then it really is a good effect. The reasoning behind this is that your audience is only ever going to watch an effect once, so if it looks good the first time then just leave it. What many vfx artists will do is they spend a lot of time just looking at one effect over and over again, and because they are seeing the same one over and over it begins to feel a little stale in their head. Due to this, they won’t see it as a great effect anymore.


During our mentoring session, I agreed with most of what my mentor said. For example, when he said to not have very high-contrasting effects with your scene, I agreed with what he said after thinking a little bit about where he was coming from, and the reasoning behind the point. If your effects don’t match your background, then they won’t look optimal and will seem fake to the audience. He also said not to overdo your special effects, and to include a good portion of physical effects to your movies. I agreed with this point because you want to keep a balance of physical and special effects. If I had a wand in real life that could shoot magic spells, chances are I wouldn’t be tossing fireballs at every single thing I saw. Just like this, in a film you don’t want to have your characters breathing fire all the time. Only have special effects when you need them.


When my mentor said that he preferred using rotoscoping over using a green screen, I had a slightly different opinion on the matter. This is because a lot of the video tutorials I saw beforehand used a lot of green screen and not as much roto. Rotoscoping is when you animate a mask around an object/person to bring them out of the background, where green screening is when you take an object/person recorded in front of a literal ‘green screen’, and then remove the background. I could see the reasoning behind why my mentor didn’t prefer green screens, because of how annoying the lighting is and how hard it is to accurately remove all the green, but I could think of more downsides to roto than green screening. Rotoscoping is extremely tedious and takes an extremely long time, and you require immense patience to get aesthetic results. Based on my previous experiences with rotoscoping, I knew that I preferred green screening where possible. I brought my opinion up politely because De Bono says that it’s better to be polite than to be aggressive about it, and it’s also common courtesy not to be rude where possible.


My mentor was showing me some tricks he liked to use in his films, and one of them was how he didn’t like to overuse too many effects in the same video. I’m the kind of person that when I discover something new I have to try every single possibility I can manage. It was hard for me to minimize my use of special effects, but I realized my mentor was correct and what my mentor was saying was for my own good. In this case, my opinion just merely differed, because I could see the points of both sides, and I could agree with both opinions on hand. When I am actually going to make my final project, then I will most definitely take my mentors advice, because they have had much more experience than me with this skill.


Here is my attempt at a Harry Potter style wand effect, and I apologise for the terrible lighting in the video.


That’s all for now, see you in my next post! Ka-pow.