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HaZ: My top 10 VFX software

HaZ uses a variety of software tools to make his films, and shares them here, in no particular order.
One. Nuke compositing. Used for putting all your elements together– your flotation CGI to make your final shot. Two. Maya. 3D modelling and animation package. I want to build a character or an environment or anything that doesn’t exist in real life, I’ll build it in Maya and then I would render it out. Number three. Arnold. Now that I’ve built my 3D elements in Maya, I want to render out. Rendering is pretty much the process of printing it on the screen so that people can see what it looks like. And Arnold is an amazing renderer because, it’s not only very fast, they use it in all the major films and it produces photo-realistic quality at extremely fast speeds. Four. SynthEyes.
SynthEyes is a tracking package. It’s basically the character I’ve created in 3D, I want to put it in the footage so that it matches my camera movement. So I would use SynthEyes to 3D track to create a virtual camera to tell the computer what my real camera is doing so that the computer camera could copy that camera so that my CG stays locked in place. Five. ftrack. Now that I have 20 artists working for me, I need a way of managing it. So ftrack is a production management software that allows me to keep my thoughts together, allows me to sleep better at night, but most importantly, allows me to project manage my CG or visual effects shows.
So I can control how many shots are being done, how many shots are finished, how many shots are left to do. And who’s doing the shots, how long they’re taking, how much money’s being spent on it. It’s complete project management. And you can spend as much time making good work but you got to also manage it and ftrack is the perfect software for that. Six. Mocha. If I have a very, very tricky thing to track. So for example, I’ve got myself walking, and I want to say, remove this button or put a badge on here, then I would use Mocha. Mocha is a planar tracker.
A planar tracker is pretty much a flat thing that can lock-on to any surface and move. As opposed to tracking would look for points on the screen to move and track the object. So yeah, mocha would definitely be on my list. Number seven. Particular, which is part of the Trapcode family. It’s a plug-in. So a plug-in is basically an external piece of software that plugs into your existing software to do amazing, cool things which your current software doesn’t do. So with Particular, it allows me to do amazing particles, so I can do rain, I could do snow, I could do fire. I can also use those particles to drive other particles to create interaction.
So all the cool things you see like cosmos, stars, and galaxies, I can use Particular to do that, and Particular is a plug-in used in Aftereffects. Number eight. Photoshop. Photoshop is an image manipulation tool. So for those who don’t really use Photoshop, it means I can take several images and put them together to create my final image. I could take an image and break the image. So for example, I could take a photo of myself. I can cut myself out and replace the background. I can do all of that in Photoshop. I can change the colours of my eyes. I can change the colour of my hair.
Anything you want to do to an image, you can do it in Photoshop. It’s a 2D image compositing software. Number nine. Adobe Premiere. Adobe Premiere is a editing package. So I’ve created my visual effects shots. I’ve Gone, out and shot loads of footage. Now, I want to put it together to tell my story. And that all comes through editing. So Premiere is what’s used to edit my sequence into a film and put the music on and export out into the final film. Number 10. Resolve. Currently sold by Blackmagic. Was originally called DaVinci Resolve. Resolve is a finishing tool.
It’s a tool that adds that extra 10% polish to your film that makes it either professional looking or, if you do it badly, amateur looking. And with Resolve you do something called colour correction. So I could take my footage and change the mood of it. So I can add a bit of red in there to create a horror tense moment, or I can add a bit of blue to make it very cold and depressing. Colour is extremely important with cinematography because the colour sets the tone of the scene and you as the audience really believe it.
So colour is super important and finishing is extremely important, and Resolve is the tool I use to do the final finishing to the final step of my filmmaking process.

You’ve started to use HitFilm and it’s a great way to start your journey into VFX; you don’t need any other software for this course. Here, HaZ talks through his favourite tools of the trade. Newcomers to VFX who feel a little overwhelmed by talk of software may want to skip this page, it won’t affect your progress through the course!

As the VFX industry has proliferated, so have the available tools. We wanted to give you all an awareness of other programs you might want to check out one day. You might even have heard of some of them. Some, like ftrack are not VFX specific, but a great support for the VFX artist or filmmaker.

After looking at the video you might want to follow these links to find out more. Be aware that some of these can be quite costly and don’t have the benefit of free editions. Also we are not personally recommending any of these- it’s HaZ’s personal choice, and what he’s comfortable with using for his style of work. Here are links to their websites:

Nuke for Compositing

Maya for 3D modelling and animation

Arnold for rendering

Syntheyes for match moving

ftrack for project management

Mocha Pro for planar tracking and roto

Trapcode Particular for 3D particle effects

Photoshop for 2D image manipulation

Premiere for editing

Resolve for Colour Grading

Something to bear in mind after that long list- no-one expects you to know all these- HaZ works with a bunch of experts, but he knows what to ask for, and what’s available. So it’s worth just getting an understanding of what’s out there- but no need to be a walking encyclopaedia of software!

There’s a lot of software out there these days- maybe you’ve tried some already. What did you think? Tell us if you already have favourite bits of software, and what it does in layperson’s terms for newcomers to this field. Also, if you’re a newcomer, and maybe feeling a little overwhelmed by all this talk about different software, maybe you can ask the group for advice about where to go next to learn more about certain programs, after you’ve got comfortable with HitFilm.

We hope you enjoyed this insight. Once again, for all our newcomers- all you need for this course is Hitfilm, so maybe you’ll want to consult this article sometime in the future. It’ll be available to you even after the course is over

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Visual Effects for Guerrilla Filmmakers

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