January 10

Getting Started with Visual Effects

If you are making short films or videos there is a good chance you need some type of effect.  The extent of what you need will change from project to project and be effected by your directing/film creation style.  If you have no clue where to start but want to make your own effects in your shots this post should help.

The best course of action is to plan the shots that have effects as VFX shots.  This means planning for the effects you are going to add later.  If you have the budget and resources this is where you want to bring on an effects supervisors or artist.  However, this post and site is about diy effects so you are your own effects supervisor.  Start acting as such from the beginning stages of planning your film.

So Where to begin?

This post is not going to go over when and where you should use effects in your films.  That will be for a different time.  This post is for those that have a shot already or are planning a shot that will have some sort of digital effect applied to it.

What do you need to add effects?

  • Software to edit the Clip
  • Software to Composite the scene
  • Art Assets to integrate into the scene
  • Audio for further integration of the digital assets

Lets break each of these items down a little

Software to edit the clip and the film on.

This is what is used for editing all of the clips together.  Many people and companies use Adobe's Premiere Pro to cut their move together.  However, you can add some limited effects as well.  If you have access to Premiere Pro there is a good chance you have After Effects as well.  This is a fantastic compositing program.  

However, if you don't want to pay for the never ending Adobe Cloud subscription DiVinci Resolve is very useful for both of these rolls as well. Lastly one of my favorite programs, and one you will see me cover a lot, Blender 3D is very capable of fulfilling both of these rolls as well as so much more.  But we will get into that later.

Blender 2.8+ Hotkey Map

This is NOT ANOTHER LIST of key functions.  It is a visual map of Blenders Hotkeys.

Software to Composite the Scene

Some of the programs listed for editing are the same for compositing.  Adobe's After Effects, DiVinci Resolve and Blender 3D can all be used for compositing.  They each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Many blogs have covered the differences in the past.  I may do it in the future, but for now just know that you will need something to integrate all of your digital art into the scene.  I suggest playing around with each compositing program and finding one you like to work with, don't take other peoples word for it, discover it yourself.

Don't take other people's word for it, discover for yourself!
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Art Assets to Integrate into the Scene

The are assets you need to integrate into your scene will change depending upon the scene and the look you are going for.  For example these can be matte paintings for the background, replacing signs, digital sets, and so much more.  Once you know what you need you will need to make it or get in from somewhere.  Depending upon what you need there is a lot out there.  The resource page here can help you find premade assets for your scenes. If you can't find something that you need you can always make it.  If you need a 2d background or set extension Photoshop or Gimp can work, if you need 3D assets with  animation then you are looking at Maya, Blender, and others. The next post will get into creating your own assets more.


Audio is extremely important.  Sound can go a long way to selling an effect.  You can go from okay to good with sound alone.  Sound for effects will be covered in a later post as well.  I like Adobe's Audition for audio editing, however, I recently cancelled my Creative Cloud subscription as it is out of my price range for the time being (I do have photoshop still). If you like me, don't have Audition Resolve has a very good sound editor or Audacity is a very good sound editing platform that is free.


This is the end of this post but there is far more to come.  Read the following posts to actually get started with developing your scene.  This was a very basic introduction for those that had not idea where to begin with adding effects to there videos. Further posts will break this down and go into detail. Thank you for reading!

Make it Awesome 

One of the best collections of assets and tutorials for any vfx situation!

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