Introducing VFX October

There are a lot of great challenges going around to help people reach new goals, so I thought I would add one to the mix. I’m calling it #VFXOctober. Each day in the month there is a challenge for you to create a visual effect using your tool of choice and share it on social media for everyone to see using the hashtag #vfxoctober. I’ll obviously be doing my part. Do this at whatever level you’re at, the point is to learn and have fun! Feel free to film your own content or get it from whatever other legal source you can.

Here’s the list of goals. Please plaster this everywhere so people can see it and participate. (Leave a comment if there are any themes you’d like to see for next year’s challenge!)

Day 1: Simple stationary green screen. Do something with a green screen where the camera doesn’t move. Try to make it look as natural as you can.

Day 2: Blood splatter. There’s a lot of blood splattering in movies, so let’s make this one gory.

Day 3: Set extension. Find or film a video and then make it appear that there’s more there. Maybe you add a castle in the background, a space station in the sky, or even put a character in an alien environment.

Day 4: Muzzle flash and/or sparks. When a gun or cannon fires, there’s usually a brief flash and a tiny bit of smoke lasting just about two frames. Try to replicate this. Maybe adding cartridges falling.

Day 5: Bullets hit something. Sorry, more guns, but I live in America, so it’s a thing in almost all our movies. Have bullets hit something like a wall or a car door. Maybe combine it with Day #17 and have them shatter whatever they hit.

Day 6: Object inserted into camera-tracked scene. Camera or motion tracking is an essential skill. Try to track a scene using the smallest solve error you can get. Then place an object in that scene and make it look like it’s interacting with it without looking like it’s sliding. Can you get it to cast a shadow or maybe even have proper reflections? See what you can do!

Day 7: Smoke, mist, or dust. Maybe it’s a cigarette, maybe the mist hugging the ground of a mysterious comet, or purple clouds in an alien sky. Try to make realistic volumetrics without making your processor smoke!

Day 8: Digital extras. What do you do when you don’t have enough people for a scene? Fake them! Maybe just one person in the background, or maybe an entire arena audience! Perhaps you’ll even take one person and zoom out (or in) and use a digital double to do a stunt that you’d never do in real life.

Day 9: Boids, automation, or procedural effects. Try to get the computer to do as much work here as you can. What can you do to get your program of choice to simulate something? You could combine this with Day 8 and have characters march together following a leader, or moths flying around a flame.

Day 10: Wind or tornado. Try to automate this as much as possible. Your call how you do it!

Day 11: Fluid. A million ways you could treat this. Maybe simulate an entire ocean, maybe a glass of coffee. It could be stationary, or it could be moving. There could be splashes and there could be caustics. Maybe it’s some alien slime creature or Constable Odo.

Day 12: Object tracking. Track something in a filmed scene and do something with it. Perhaps you track a plane in the sky and replace it with a UFO. You could track a computer screen and add your own digital replacement. Maybe even a simple billboard replacement or an entire human mocap, limitless opportunities!

Day 13: Rotoscope. Like it or not, if you’re involved in VFX you’re going to be rotoscoping. A lot. So try it here and do something fun!

Day 14: Person transforming into…something. I’m really looking forward to this one! Maybe you have a character turn into a certain muscly green monster, or a werewolf. Whatever you do, one person should turn into something else. Use whatever technique you like here, be it shape keys, illustration, morphing, etc.

Day 15: Car windows. The camera is inside a car and you see outside through the windows. Replace that with somewhere else. I know you’ve seen a million times where this looks really bad, so try to make it look better! Can you get reflections in the windows?

Day 16: Fire or explosion. This should be pretty self-explanatory. Have fun, and try to get it so it looks real without being too hard on your processor.

Day 17: Something shatters or breaks. You could simulate this or do it manually.

Day 18: Rain. Add rain falling on a scene of your choosing.

Day 19: Convert a day scene into night. Try to do more than just color grading, maybe add a moon in the sky. Make it dark, but still easy to see.

Day 20: Robot, mech, or other advanced mechanical thing. There are plenty of great sites to get free models, so you don’t need to spend all your time creating the robot. Find one you like and add it to a scene. Can you get the shadows and reflects right so it looks like it belongs there?

Day 21: Cloth or soft body. Make something soft move natural. Perhaps it’s dragon wings, perhaps its a sail or a flag, maybe it’s the belly of a fat cat.

Day 22: Green screen with moving camera. Try to find or make a video with people or objects on a green screen but without a steady camera. Track the movement and then add a background or object to the scene without making it slide. Check out Hollywood Camera Work’s free plates if you don’t have one.

Day 23: Laser. Maybe it’s a laser beam guarding mysterious jewels, or a blast from a phaser. Perhaps it’s an old-school sci-fi ray gun. Your call.

Day 24: Space. There’s a million things you could do with this. Make space or something in space. Maybe a planet, maybe a space battle, maybe a beautiful nebula or a black hole. It could be realistic, or crazy cool.

Day 25: Animal or dragon. Again, don’t focus too much on modeling here. Try to find something already rigged and textured, and really work on your compositing. Can you get the wings or fur to look good? Does it shoot fire or smoke? Is it flying in the clouds? Try to keep it simple and short because this could get complex fast, and just try to focus on making it look good.

Day 26: Green screen with transparency or shadow. Find a really challenging green screen and key it to the best of your abilities.

Day 27: Recreate a favorite special effects shot from a movie or TV #1 . I’m looking forward to this one so much I set it up twice! Find any special or visual effect someone else did and try to duplicate it your way. Maybe it is King Kong climbing a building with a blonde bombshell, maybe it’s a transporter beam, maybe it’s a car chase. Take a few seconds from a video you enjoy and try to make it exactly like they did…or, try to make it better than they did!

Day 28: Recreate a favorite special effects shot from a movie or TV #2. See Day #27 above.

Day 29: Add glasses or other props to a filmed character. On our penultimate day, find or make a video of a person and add something to it, matching their movement to the best of your abilities. Add a hat to a cowboy that never had one. Add an eyepatch to a sailor. Add a simple pair of glasses to yourself trying to get the refraction looking natural. You could even go all out and turn yourself into a cyborg or Two-Face. I recommend using face markers, as this one can be really hard to get the effect to not slide.

Days 30 & 31: Surprise me! For the final two days, choose your own challenge. Perhaps there was a project that you’d like to touch up or take further. Maybe you’d like to combine several challenges into one, like a comprehensive gun shot scene or space battle. You can do something complex, or really focus on making something good!

Good luck, have fun, and remember to give everything the hashtag #vfxoctober so we can see it!

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