Wanna learn VFX, but you aren’t sure what you want to do, or where to start? Director and VFX artist Clinton Jones (aka The Pwnisher) walks us through the basic disciplines & tools you should know that all fall under the big world of “Visual Effects”.


Layering, adjusting and combining different visual elements from different sources together to create a final image, to make it look and feel like everything exists within one scene.

Also known as “match moving”, tracking is when you take visuals or elements that have been composited into a scene and match their scale, position, orientation/perspective and motion to the original live action camera movement. This includes both 2D movement (camera pans, tilts and shakes) and 3D movement (moving camera, dollies, cranes, etc).

Rotoscoping aka: slow and painful death
Rotoscoping is cutting out, frame by frame, a visual element from the rest of the image so it can be composited over another background or other elements. Essentially, you are creating a matte around an object, frame by frame.

Keying, also known as color keying or chroma keying, is isolating a single color in your image (in most cases, chroma green or chroma blue from a green screen or blue screen) and telling your computer to remove every single instance in which that color occurs, allowing you to isolate and composite the remaining part of the image.

Matte Painting
A matte painting is a painting of a landscape, background or distant location used to artificially create, replace or extend a background in a shot that otherwise would not be possible to get naturally. Before digital, actual paintings on glass were used. Now we can create them digitally.

3D VFX, including…
Modeling - (creating/sculpting 3D objects)

Texturing - (adding realistic textures & colors to objects to make them appear photo realistic)

Simulations - (aka “effects animation”. Essentially, animation of objects based on fields and forces like gravity, mass, friction velocity, etc. These can be things like liquids, fire, smoke, explosions, destruction etc.)

Particle Effects - (using a large number of small 3D models-- particles-- to animate a larger phenomena’s movements. This can include things like fire, smoke, moving water, fog, snow, dust, and sometimes things like hair, fur and grass.)

Lighting - (the simulation of light and how it affects an object or the scene)

Rigging - (creating a “skeleton” of joints and bones bound to a 3D object, so that the object can be manipulated by adjusting handles on the skeleton or rig)

Animation - (creating the illusion of movement through an animated sequence of computer generated images)

Wanna get started? Here are some of our favorite VFX videos and tutorials:

Compositing & Basic Training from Video Copilot

Motion Tracking from Video Copilot

Rotoscoping with Paths on After Effects from Lynda.com

Rotoscoping with Roto Brush Tool from Lynda.com

Keying & Transparency from Video Copilot

Modeling & Texturing in 3DS Max from Chris Tate

3D Particles in 3DS Max by CGFriends

3D Lighting in Cinema 4D from AcrezHD

Rigging in Cinema4D from Royce Taylor

Basic Animation in Maya from Software Tutorials

Questions for us? Ask them below!




VCP is a great recourse. If you’re looking for tutorials on some of the industry standard software like Nuke, I’d also recommend fxphd - great community and very in-depth tutorials.

I have a question about a pretty specific effect that I saw you guys had tested in the shorts team but never actually done anything with - yet. It’s the face-replace effect, inspired by the snapchat face-swap feature. How did you pull that off, and are there any particular tricks for comping faces onto other faces?

I am looking at the effect for a sci-fi short involving clones speaking to one another, but the only shots I would need to do a full replace in would be dolly moves, which might be really hard given that we’d be looking at multiple planes of the face in one go. Could this be accomplished with projections in AE do you think? Or is it something that is way more complicated than that? I sadly don’t have Maya capabilities, and would be really dubious about trying to do a CG takeover. Any cheaper/cheerfull-er solutions? Could I potentially get away with just approximating a match move on set? If not, if it’s something you guys think is going to be a lot to try to do, that’s totally cool. Most of the scene can be done in split comps and singles, but I thought it would be so cool to have two of the clones in a two shot, and thus sell the effect a little better than just cutting together the two singles of the same actress.


What VFX software(s) do you guys use?


Blender here :slight_smile:

(free Open Source Deal Good For 0$ Budget Projects Big or Small if You’re Willing to Put in the time to understand it)


I use maya, houdini and nuke as my primary softwares.


Gotcha. I used 3DS Max and Maya.