VFX Core Concepts 101

Taught By:

Clinton Jones


Clinton Jones introduces all the basic disciplines & tools that all fall under the big world of "Visual Effects".

Lesson Plan

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 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