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    A VFX pipeline’s work throughout the production

    If you like to watch VFX or animated films and series you must have wondered and got so many questions in your mind about how those visual effects work, how their studios are structured, what each department does, and when are they used throughout the production of a film? This article will assist you in briefly understanding the visual effects pipeline and the way it works. 


    What is a VFX pipeline? 


    In the conventional sense, pipelines are set up to transport a few materials or things from one point to another, and the pipe often has numerous bends between one end and another. The technique of applying VFX has the equal multi-stage principle, so naming it the VFX pipeline appears to be quite appropriate. It refers to the various stages of production required to add visual effects to a film. The pipeline helps to organize each department so that every artist knows their role, and the product can move along within the allocated timeline.


    Stages of the VFX pipeline


    Although a VFX pipeline starts with the production, the process is followed by the production and ends with post-production. But when the pipeline is used in actual production, however, it is rarely truly serial, technology advancement has allowed us to go back and apply changes that are favorable for both artists and directors. As the workflow has many branches and iterative loops.  




    This is the stage of planning when the VFX artists receive the film’s or video’s script, reference, or concept. Then the artists work with the client to make the storyboard, mood board, and lightboard for the film. The budget estimate is made, with the help of a storyboard to give a more precise number. In some cases, early production of assets also begins, assets for use in both the real world, at the set, and in 3D. 

    Pre-production in VFX is also the stage of research, development of tools, and risk analysis. . The purpose of the pre-production stage is to plan the actual production and streamline the workflow. The Pre-production phase would include, pre-visualization, conceptualization, and sometimes early production of assets. The preproduction is where the preparations and planning will be done.

    To get a grasp on how vital characters, objects, and environments will look, concept art is often created and frequently turns into a visual guide for further filming. Finally, the team needs to plot out how the filming location and process need to be approached to leave room for a smooth transition of digital elements later on.




    This is the “filming” part of the pipeline when all of the preparations of the previous stage are put to use to get footage that will be improved and updated later on. It is very important to perform the shooting in a way that will make it easy to insert visual effects organically, so directors apply many creative methods, from lifelike props to unique camera angles, to green screens. 

    During the production process, the film crew is responsible for recording the takes needed for the movie and the VFX team will make sure that a green screen is used when needed and no unnecessary objects are placed in difficult spots or other things that can cause trouble for the VFX production in the next stage. 

    The production stage is where the artists are in full production. Things such as modeling, texturing, rigging, animation, rendering, and compositing are being done.  During the production, the company also updates its budget estimate once more and starts planning the post-production stage. 




    Of the three tiers of VFX, post-production is the most essential one, as this is when a maximum of the visual effects work takes place. The stage begins after filming is complete, however may also start after a certain video fragment is complete, hence proceeding in parallel to the filming of other fragments. It is during the post-production stage that most of the VFX is being made. Leads and supervisors will receive the filmed and cut material, also called “offline”. With the help of the offline, they will also start planning the real work, before finally, the VFX production starts. Essentially, during post-production, the VFX team (artists, animators, painters, compositors, and numerous others) works with technical directors and supervisors to transform the existing footage into completed footage with all of the intended effects added.

    Once you’re in the post-production stage ideally, the film should be finished, all of the assets, render, and scenes should be done. The post-production stage is there to let you add the very last touches, enhance the grading, and perhaps even the cutting and pacing of the film.

    So basically, the VFX post-production consists mostly of compositing the last elements and mastering the shots, making sure the grading looks good and the timing and order of the shots work correctly.



    While the VFX pipeline touches each stage of the filmmaking process, the majority of VFX work happens in post-production. Let’s dive into some steps of the VFX pipeline:


    • R&D 


    Generally, the first stage of the VFX pipeline starts when the concept artist has developed his idea to pass on research and development – a team of programmers, scientists, and mathematicians. It’s their job to code/source the tools/plugins needed to make the production possible. 


    • Tests


    This stage of pre-production tests is done as a proof of concept for the client giving them an insight into the studio’s vision and capabilities.


    • Modeling 


    The modeling phase goes on through production into the start of post-production where models will be always being created, tweaked, and finalized in different resolutions until the client is satisfied. 


    • Scanning


    Then laser-based 3D scanning technology is used to create models of the environment/buildings/props. The idea is to capture as much visual information about the set as possible so it can be reconstructed in CG if needed.


    • Grading


    Once filming is complete, each shot is converted to high-dynamic quality then passed onto grading – the team that makes changes to the color and exposure according to the brief. With most movies still shot on film, dust and chemicals can stain the shots, so here a team of compositors will clean up any scratches/patches that appear in the scans.


    • Rigging


    The rigging process is essentially putting the bones in the mesh of your 3D model. A rigger’s job is to create a realistic structure with joints that coheres with the way that objects should move or react within specific environments.


    • Match-moving


    Matchmoving is the process of tracking and calibrating live footage frames to incorporate them into a virtual model. You are trying to transfer the real-life camera’s movement onto a camera that exists in CG software. The work you will be doing as a matchmoving artist seamlessly combines live camera shots into a 3D environment. 


    • Texturing


    Texturing can be defined as the process of adding color and details to a 3D model (character, object, or environment) rendered during texturing to make it look more real and lively.


    • Lighting 


    Lighting is an integral part of filmmaking, and when working in visual effects, this is a part that is given much thought and consideration as well. Lighting is not only done in live-action shoots but is also part of the visual effects production process, with an entire department usually dedicated to it.


    • Compositing


    At last, the final stage of the pipeline is composition. The step is often showcased in VFX reels, where everything comes together to assemble the completed product. 


    VFX workflows are complicated. There are so many factors to consider, and it takes years of experience to accurately estimate time and to work effectively and efficiently. 


    GelaroGrace Studios has experience of 8+ years and has worked on some of the best projects like Cursed, Arrow, Homeland, Stargirl, SEE, Hellboy, etc. To know more about us visit our website or drop us an email