The global VFX market, including the Middle East, was valued at $26.3bn in 2021 and is set to surpass $48.9bn by 2028. As this market grows, Samer Asfour looks at how VFX and CG can take brands to the next level.
With the digital boom in the mid-2000s, computer-generated imagery (CGI) rapidly took over analogue and photochemical processes that had been the norm in the film industry for decades. That, among other technological advancements, created fertile ground for VFX to flourish and allowed machine-generated effects to begin taking precedence over on-set special effects. This not only saved valuable time and money but also unleashed endless creative possibilities, giving brands an array of options to express their values and ethos and showcase their product in the most favourable light possible.
The invisible craft
Next to its video compositing showreel, the team at Nested VFX prides itself on clients “not spotting what their magic hands fixed”, and that’s for a good reason. One of the essential roles of visual effects is to make the real look more real, whether by adding beautiful clouds to a dull grey sky or cleaning out the camera’s reflection on the body of a shiny car. This is especially important when it comes to brands.
Modern neurological and psychological studies conclude that “novelty motivates the brain to explore, seeking a reward”. In popular filming areas, the most iconic view in the city has probably been used repeatedly. Chances are that your consumers have driven on this road a thousand times or are familiar with every corner of this park or building. Simply using them as they are to showcase your product or tell your story will make your video dull and the customer’s experience boring. Creating or enhancing an environment can motivate the viewer to delve deeper into the message you want to portray.
Why not finish this unfinished building on the horizon? Remove the unsightly scaffolding, clean that dirty window, add some greenery to the environment or even a new commercial centre instead of that dirt patch. Give your consumers something new and fresh, something that is ‘real’ but still outside of their everyday visual experience.
VFX: A way to cheat
A popular sentiment is that using VFX is a cheat and a lie about how your product really looks. Have you ever stopped at a fast-food outlet, ordered a burger and received it looking anything like the video commercial that made you decide to purchase it in the first place? The truth is that a customer’s experience with a product is a live, tactile, three-dimensional, multi-sensory experience. Pointing some lights and cameras at it won’t be able to truly emulate the product experience you want your customer to imagine. Computer manipulation of imagery accentuates the visual experience to compensate for the sensory limitations of a 2D medium.
The marvellous, magnificent and extravagant
As you are bringing a new story into the world, you might say: “I do want the magic and the unreal, the futuristic and the out-of-this-world, the over-the-top and the in-your-face effects.” Here is where CG and VFX are your only recourse to supplement or even replace your live shoot. Do you want your detergent to have fresh lavenders blooming in a living room? Delicious morsels of chocolate dancing in your sublime pudding? A futuristic car using your brand of tyres to speed on a futuristic highway in a futuristic city? Or have your story play out in an enchanting Van Gogh dream? Your creativity has no limits, and in the hands of a talented artist, the newest technological tools can now help you achieve it.
Bang for the buck
Although untamed creativity, storytelling with no limits and the prospect of an appealing product are excellent reasons to rely on VFX, there is also the substantial financial aspect. You have a celebrity football player that your brand has a deal with, and you want to film them interacting with your product. Why spend millions on travel and accommodation when you can do a face replacement? You film with a local cast with similar physical features, and the tools are here to sculpt a 3D face to replace your stand-in with the celebrity.
Another example applied in Europe is a dummy car used onset instead of the final product, which allows car manufacturers to use the same commercial with different car models and colours, depending on the various market availabilities and preferences. For example, a hatchback blue car can sell well in France, whereas a black sedan is what a German consumer prefers. Suddenly you have the freedom to manipulate the exact product you want within several different markets, targeting several audiences with one film.
Not only is that true for car commercials, but for any brand film you might have. Maybe you shot a commercial last year but recently changed the pack design. Maybe, like the cars but on a smaller scale, you have different packaging designs for different markets. Or perhaps your video is still brand-relevant, but the city skyline has changed since filming. VFX is here to push the mileage capability on your video and give you the best bang for your buck.