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Visual Effects FAQ

What are visual effects?

Visual effects can be any effect that is adjusted for an image, video, or other graphical representation. This can be the superimposition of elements such as lens flare, removing “red eye” effects from photos, altering the chromatic scope of a video element, or even something as simple as altering the highlights and lowlights or gamma in a graphical element.

Why are visual effects important?

Visual effects can substantially impact the visual appearance of video and photo ads, product photography, and sales materials such as brochures and sales flyers. Improving visual impact allows businesses to stick deeper and better in the minds of customers and prospects.

Take Instagram photos, which are often photoshopped, and the recent Dove ad that reversed all the changes made to a young woman’s selfie. If someone can alter their appearance so heavily, the same can readily be achieved for simpler photography subjects such as food, accessories, and even cars.

What is the difference between special effects and visual effects?

Special effects tend to rely on physical applications, and as such, they’re commonly referred to as “on-set” visual effects. This can include makeup, fake wound modeling, and even partial or full prostheses. Special effects also include framing elements, such as pyrotechnics and scenery/stage design, and can even include animatronics.

Visual effects are a more digital set of adaptations. Visual effects integrate computer-generated (CG) elements with prerecorded elements, such as a video of someone walking down the street. Where special effects happen during shooting, visual effects happen only during post-production.

What are the types of visual effects?

Though there are countless visual effects, they are all categorized according to one of the three following types:
  • CG effects can include vector images, 3D graphics, simulated weather effects such as lightning, chromatic effects, and other visual effects that are entirely simulated or generated by computer modeling or animation software such as AutoCAD, Blender, and Maya.
  • Compositing joins two or more images in order to create a single, larger image. It’s used in both CG terms as well as traditional hand-sketching terms.
  • Motion capture records movement in real life, then applies animations to the frame of whatever was recorded. This is common in robotics, military applications, and computer vision.

How much do visual effects cost?

Visual effects can vary wildly in terms of cost. Basic effects such as rotoscoping can cost $100 or less, while more-intensive visual effects can run well into the thousands of dollars. The best way to approximate your cost is by knowing what you want and doing some basic research into the processes that go into it. A 10,000-foot overview is generally enough to give you those insights.