Outlook 2017: Alan Bell - The value of performance-enhancing VFX
Alan Bell
Issue: January 1, 2017

Outlook 2017: Alan Bell - The value of performance-enhancing VFX

Editor Alan E. Bell, ACE has edited films such as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1,Part 2 and Catching Fire; The Amazing Spider-Man; Water for Elephants; and (500) Days of Summer. Here, he discusses the value of performance enhancing visual effects, such as compositing.

The editing landscape is changing rapidly, and it’s not going to slow down anytime soon, so editors need to start thinking outside of the box, by developing new skills that enhance and expand on traditional aspects of editing. This can be a challenge because it’s not always easy to learn new tricks, in fact, it’s much easier to ignore technological changes and just do it the way we always have. However, as the tools of our trade advance, we need to advance with them or we face being left behind.

The story is king and telling stories is part of our life blood. At our core as editors, we enhance the actors’ performances to add impact and amplify the emotional effects of a scene. In years past we had a limited tool set to accomplish this task, such is not the case today. Now there are numerous tools (many of which are even free) that can help us to improve on an actor’s performance and even change the intent of the scene if we choose.
For example, it’s simple to incorporate many performance enhancing visual effects (VFX) into your workflow by adding solutions such as Blackmagic Design’s Fusion Studio to your arsenal.
What performance enhancing VFX essentially means is the merging of compositing and editing; using VFX to change and improve performances in a scene to increase impact and/or cohesion. Editors no longer need to rely on cutaways and other tricks to fix issues with continuity — rather, we can use compositing within our editing workflow to tweak actors’ performances so they are seamless and poignant.
Ultimately, performance-enhancing VFX is about supporting a scene using invisible effects. It’s taking an actors’ best performances and making them better, whether that means rearranging lines to add meaning, tweaking body language to increase impact or adding in something that was otherwise missing. Compositing allows us to alter footage in ways editing tools are generally incapable of. Blending performances between takes or literally molding the performance to turn it into something else becomes possible when and editor is competent at compositing.
Every editor has done the simple split screen to make a head turn match or change the timing between two actors in a two shot. “Performance Enhancing VFX” is that concept multiplied by a thousand. We are in an age where literally anything is possible, if you think of it, then it can be visualized. Composting is key to our future as storytellers, and no one is in a better place than the editor to capitalize on the solutions that its affords us.
As we head into 2017, it’s going to be crucial that editors embrace compositing as they try to keep up with the evolving filmmaking landscape. If not, they’ll find themselves left behind.