Industry outsiders rarely appreciate how much time is invested in each minute of a film or TV program, even if they understand the basic concept of storyboards and production teams. Possibly one of the areas of TV shows that’s least appreciated is the methodology behind computer-generated imagery (CGI).
In fact, it’s testimony to the skills of visual effects artists when visual design elements appear effortless and seamless! The best VFX companies can make CGI so well integrated and creative, that audiences and even some insiders overlook the substantial effort that’s involved.
Work that includes developing collaborative CGI ideas, studying post-production footage, attending meetings, communicating with production teams and colleagues, making edits… oh, and of course using the latest professional imaging software in a skilled way. When it’s for a television programme, this can be fast-paced and constrained by a tight budget too. In this article, we go into more detail to explore the steps involved in planning and designing CGI for TV shows.
The Difference Between SFX & VFX
In case you are wondering the difference between visual and special effects, let’s start off by differentiating the two. Special effects are added during real-time filming and involve such things as prosthetics, pyrotechnics, elaborate makeup and mechanical effects, whereas visual effects make anything possible and take place post-production. Both SFX and VFX are part of the collaborative process that produces TV shows with a high degree of creativity.
Though visual effects are added after filming is complete, the best outcome is often achieved when a VFX specialist is involved from day one. They can then dovetail with the entire concept, theme and production goals of the show. Including working with special effects coordinators in a synergic way.
CGI Based Production Goals
Good pre-planning is especially vital for major or complex CGI assets, and 3D models central to the action. During the initial phase of TV show planning, the possibilities of VFX are discussed to match aspirations and the budget. This is still a relatively new field of visual design and is quickly advancing and expanding. So, TV producers and program commissioners often take advantage of opportunities for updates on the latest VFX techniques.
Importantly, thanks to small, versatile VFX specialists, it’s becoming more cost-effective and practical for TV production companies to use sophisticated visual effects. This all means that brainstorming CGI in advance of filming can help to formulate TV show concepts.
Developing The Best CGI Assets
Going forwards, a visual effects expert would gather important intel on the project to use as inspiration for CGI assets. For example, the visual artistry involved in creating a computer-generated character must be based on an understanding of that character’s role, activities and backstory. This ensures a genuinely believable CGI entity, that moves and behaves in a plausible way, and integrates into the production brilliantly.
Another illustration would be to study the setting of the show in terms of the time period, location and atmosphere. Then, a VFX technician can add in CGI crowds or environmental features – that blend in perfectly. Those Edwardian passers-by or futuristic skyscrapers may only exist in digital form, but they are nurtured first in the imaginations of VFX experts! That can even involve sketching things out and creating mood boards in some instances.
The Best TV VFX Techniques
As an integral part of TV show production, a VFX specialist starts to develop CGI ideas in advance of when they will be needed, including pitching the various different VFX techniques that can enhance film work. This is referred to as pre-visualization or ‘previs’, which gives clients a chance to see what VFX assets will look like, and how well they match the show’s concept and action. Then, post-visualization CGI can be completed and delivered quickly, avoiding lengthy delays in editing. Responsive VFX ensures production budgets and schedules are met, but TV program-makers still need the assurance of attention to detail.
Exploring The World Of CGI
Even the most successful visual effects companies accept that the collaborative process continues from initial show briefings to the final edit. The technicians at Green Eyed Monkey Productions are always happy to make last-minute amendments to CGI elements to further improve the storytelling and visual excellence of shows. As CGI elements in TV shows and movies are becoming more and more popular thanks to the advancements and developments in technology, we can only dream of what’s next to come in the top movies for 2022!