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What Are Visual Effects on a Video?

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You only have a few seconds to capture attention with a video. Visual effects can do just that. So, what are visual effects on a video?

The visual effects industry in the United States is worth almost $10 billion, and it’s constantly growing.

But, what are visual effects? And how are they important for creating amazing content?

We’ve got you covered. Let’s go through what visual effects are in a video.

What Are Visual Effects?

Visual effects, or VFX, are digital or practical techniques used to create or manipulate imagery. They might just be simple effects, like color grading or image stabilization. Or, they could be complex 3D animations, green screen compositing, and motion graphics.

Visual effects enhance the story you’re trying to tell. They can create a sense of realism. Or, you can just use them to add a wow factor.

Examples of visual effects include:

  • Adding explosions, fire, or smoke to a scene

  • Creating a believable alien creature or a fantastical world

  • Removing or adding objects or people to a shot

  • Enhancing the colors, contrast, or saturation of an image

  • Creating motion graphics or animated titles

  • Adding weather effects, like rain or snow, to a scene

VFX can be done using specialized software like Adobe After Effects, Nuke, or Maya. They require a combination of technical skills and artistic creativity.

Visual Effects vs. Special Effects

Visual effects and special effects are often used interchangeably. But they are actually completely distinct aspects of filmmaking.

Special effects refer to practical effects created on set during filming. These include things like explosions, makeup, prosthetics, animatronics, and pyrotechnics.

SFX is often used to create physical illusions that you can’t make through digital means alone. They require specialized equipment, materials, and expertise to create.

Visual effects, on the other hand, are a digital creation in post-production. People use VFX to create impossible or unrealistic elements, like aliens, robots, or fantasy worlds.

Types of Visual Effects

There are many different types of VFX techniques that can be used to create different effects and achieve different visual goals.

Using different VFX techniques can also be a way to achieve effects that would be difficult or impossible to achieve through normal means.

You’ll want to use different VFX techniques to match the visual style and tone of the project. Different techniques can create different visual moods and aesthetics. So, it’s important to choose the right technique for the story.

Matte Painting

Matte painting lets you create realistic or imaginary backgrounds, landscapes, or sets that would be too hard or literally impossible to build in real life.

You can use matte painting to combine and manipulate visual elements. That way, you can create a seamless and convincing illusion of a physical environment. Matte painting is often used in science fiction, fantasy, and historical films to depict imaginary or ancient worlds.


Compositing is when you combine multiple visual elements or layers into a single image or sequence.  This technique is widely used in film, video, and animation production to create complex and realistic visual effects.

You can do things like adding computer-generated imagery to live-action footage, or creating surreal and fantastical environments.

3D Modeling

3D modeling helps people create three-dimensional objects and characters. Then, they can animate them in a virtual environment. They are widely used in the production of films, video games, television shows, and other forms of digital media.

In 3D modeling, someone creates a three-dimensional representation of an object or character. The model is built using a variety of techniques, including polygonal modeling, subdivision surface modeling, and sculpting. The resulting model can be textured, lit, and rendered to create a photorealistic image or animation.

Particle Effects

Particle effects are visual elements created using specialized software to simulate the behavior of small, often microscopic, particles such as smoke, fire, dust, water, and sparks. They are widely used in video marketing and digital media to create dynamic and realistic visual effects.

Particle effects are created using specialized software, which allows artists to define the behavior of the particles based on things like velocity, gravity, and air resistance.

The particles can be textured, lit, and rendered to create photorealistic effects. Or, you can stylize them to create more abstract or fantastical visuals.

Chroma Keying

Chroma keying is a technique used in film, television, and video production. The process involves replacing a background with another image or footage, usually using a solid-colored backdrop (such as green or blue) that can easily be separated from the foreground.

In chroma keying, the subject is filmed in front of a green or blue background. Later in post-production, the editor removes the green or blue screen. The process leaves the subject with a transparent background. This allows the editor to replace the original background with any image or footage of their choice.

You can use chroma keying to create realistic and dynamic backgrounds. For example, a weather forecaster might use chroma keying to stand in front of a map or other graphic.

The effectiveness of chroma keying depends on the quality of the lighting and the color of the screen used. If the lighting is uneven or the screen is not a consistent color, the edges may appear jagged or pixelated.


CGI stands for Computer Generated Imagery. It refers to the use of computer graphics to create visual content for movies, television shows, video games, advertisements, and other types of media. It is an essential part of modern visual effects and animation.

CGI involves the use of specialized software and computer hardware to generate realistic 3D graphics, which can be used to create lifelike characters, environments, and special effects.

Filmmakers use CGI extensively. That’s especially true in action, science fiction, and fantasy movies, where animators use it to create realistic-looking creatures, explosions, and other special effects. CGI is also popular in the gaming industry, because it can create immersive virtual environments, characters, and objects.

In recent years, advancements in CGI technology have made it increasingly difficult to distinguish between real footage and computer-generated graphics.

Motion Graphics

Motion graphics combines graphic design, animation, and audio to create the appearance of transformation or movement. It involves the use of animated elements and other visual effects to convey a message or tell a story.

Motion graphics are often used in advertising, film and television, video games, and social media. People use motion graphics to make title sequences, promotional videos, explainer videos, and other types of visual content.

Effective motion graphics should be visually appealing, engaging, and easy to understand. They should also be designed with the intended audience in mind. Designed need to account for things like such as age, gender, and cultural background.


Rotoscoping traces over live-action footage to create an animated version of the original footage. The process involves isolating the subject or objects in a live-action scene. Then, you create a matte around them. The matte is used as a guide for the animator to draw over each frame.

Rotoscoping is often used to create realistic animations. This includes things like characters or objects that appear to move seamlessly within a live-action scene. You can also use rotoscoping to remove unwanted elements from a scene, add visual effects, or create stylized animations.

The process of rotoscoping can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, as each frame must be traced and animated. However, modern software tools have made the process much faster and more efficient.

One of the most famous uses of rotoscoping is in the animated film “A Scanner Darkly” (2006), directed by Richard Linklater. The film was entirely rotoscoped to create a unique visual style.

Other examples of rotoscoping include the music video for “Take On Me” by a-ha and the films “The Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars.”

Visual Effects Equipment

There are lots of different equipment types you might use to create visual effects. You can use high-quality cameras to capture live-action footage that will be used to create visual effects.

Filmmakers use motion capture systems to record the movements of actors. Then, they translate them into digital form for use in 3D animation.

People use green screens as a backdrop during filming. Then, they’re replaced with digital elements in post-production. You can use 3D scanners to capture real-world objects and environments in 3D.

Or, you could use motion control rigs to control the movement of the camera during filming. This allows for complex and precise shots.

Visual Effects Software

There are also different software options involved in making visual effects. 3D modeling and animation software are used to create and animate 3D models, characters, and environments.

You can use tracking and match-moving software to track the movements of the camera and objects in the scene. That way, you can use digital elements in the correct perspective and scale.

Or, you can use virtual reality software to create and edit virtual reality environments and experiences.

Visual Effects in a Video: Now You Know

There’s a lot to know about visual effects. Hopefully, you now understand why they’re so important for making a video.

Are you searching for a full-service video production company? Book an appointment with Kestum Bilt today.

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