As a Visual Effects Producer, I constantly witness the same mistakes over and over on productions. I put together this list of the top 5 myths that I find are the most expensive mistakes, and are extremely easy to avoid. By understanding a bit more about visual effects and leaning heavier on VFX producers and supervisors in pre-production and production, producers can save money throughout the filmmaking process. Productions are constantly limiting themselves creatively and financially based on no longer relevant knowledge. Put these 5 myths behind you:

1.  It’s Visual Effects, so you have to lock off the shot.

Not true! Motion blur is our friend. The last thing we want you to do is turn everything with visual effects into a static shot. It makes for less interesting footage; overall, we would rather keep the Director and Cinematographer happy and not take away from the rhythm of the scene.

Now for the secret: shots with a little motion blur can actually be a whole lot more forgiving for visual effects. With current 3D tracking software, what used to be an issue is much more automated. Overall this means simpler textures and quicker rendering. Just make sure a VFX Supervisor is around to place tracking markers or gather necessary camera information.

2.  It needs to be Visual Effects or Practical Effects.

Often, VFX is seen as a replacement. Filmmakers forget we are here to fill in the gaps. This is the best way to get your money’s worth and the most impressive product.

A combination of visual effects and practical effects often ends up being the best way to go and is much more affordable overall.

The beavers in Zombeavers were puppets, which ended up making the Zombeavers a hilarious, over the top, aesthetic choice.

Would photoreal CG beavers have been as funny? Or affordable? Director Jordan Rubin’s choice of zombeaver puppets and the way they react to being hit by various weapons throughout the film adds a layer of campy fun to the film.

Talk to your Visual Effects Producer and Supervisor about the style and tone you are going for. Is it worth spending your budget on CGI creatures? Perhaps building some miniatures, some awesome costumes, puppets, and then augmenting them with VFX is the way to go.

3. My Cinematographer or Grip has lit some Visual Effects shots before so he/she is a VFX Supervisor, therefore I don’t need one on set.

A little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing. Spend the extra up front fee so you can ensure that you are shooting with the correct techniques to hand off to your VFX vendor.

This is one of those pennywise, pound foolish mistakes that some producers make. If there are problems with the plates because the footage wasn’t shot correctly, you can make post-production far more expensive or impossible. You wouldn’t hire a brain surgeon to perform heart surgery just because he saw it done in med school. Nor would you trust your friend’s cousin’s little brother who does VFX in his mom’s garage because he said he would give you a really good deal, right? Each department has specialists for a reason. Hire one!

4. The more tracking markers, the better. Just put them everywhere!

Let your VFX Supervisor select the number of tracking markers, their size, color and placement. Adding a bunch of tracking markers won’t make the VFX artists’ lives any easier. You don’t want to waste your resources painting out tracking markers instead of improving the art. Many times, compositors can use the edges or corners of an onscreen element like a monitor screen to track to, and don’t need actual markers. Additional markers mean more resources towards cleaning up the mess, and less time dedicated to the art and craft in your shots. It also adds additional time to your schedule, which you may not have.

Here’s an easy rhyme to help you remember:

If it’s a reflective surface, your markers have no purpose! (And it will just have to be painted out by sad, sad junior artists.)

5. The color green makes everything invisible and a green screen is the best option because I don’t want to go to location. It’s too cold/hot/far and I saw it on a behind-the-scenes.

I know this sounds silly, but it’s important for me to point out that green screens (or blue) are not the magical solution for every creative challenge. They are very important and allow imagination and story to go to incredible places, but they have to be taken seriously and used correctly. The wrong hair style, color, clothing, can be a very expensive mistake. Make sure to weigh out your options and resources before throwing your talent on a stage.

On La Creme Dairy Creamer’s “Get Real” campaign, Director Mike Goubeaux (for the production company Wild Plum) wanted a fantastic, surreal feel that we couldn’t have accomplished on a real location. The blue screen gave us the ability to fully create the Director’s vision, from every hill, tree, and cloud to additional blades of grass.

*There are always exceptions to the above myths, so make sure to check with your friendly, neighborhood Visual Effects Supervisor.  Click here to view Hoax Films VFX Reels

Zombeavers is on Netflix!
If you want to see the puppetry from Zombeavers and have a good laugh, check out the new cult horror/comedy which just released on Netflix! You can watch for the Visual Effects completed by HOAX Films, and try to pick out how much is visual effects and how much is practical! Also, let us know when you recognize John Mayer in his cameo.

Tweet us your thoughts on Zombeavers! @HOAXFilms

Top 5 Common VFX Myths written by Alexis Nelson, owner and VFX Producer of HOAX Films
Alexis Nelson is an EMMY®-nominated Executive Producer specializing in visual effects, and founder of the award-winning digital production and management studio, HOAX Films.

She was nominated for her first EMMY® in 2014 for her work in Art Direction and Graphic Design on the History Channel’s Ultimate Guide to the Presidents.

A California native, Nelson graduated from UCLA with a BA in Design Media Arts and a minor in Film and Television. She has been recognized industry-wide as an emerging and innovative leader, beginning her career at Motion Theory and Warner Bros. where she was involved in projects for Buick, Heineken, and Tanqueray.

In 2010, Nelson founded a visual effects and motion graphics company, HOAX Films, delivering work for commercials, music video, television, film, and branded content for production companies and agencies. Now in its fifth year, HOAX is known for its work on campaigns for Game of Thrones, Harry Potter 7, feature films like Fast 5, Zombeavers, and music videos for Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Little Dragon, and Absolut Vodka. Through HOAX Films, Nelson served as visual effects producer for Spike TV’s Deadliest Warrior. She also managed graphics, animation, and visual effects departments for the Discovery series Bad Universe