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How much of special effects a director or a cinematographer must know?

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How much of SFXs a director must know in order to make the movie? Is he supposed to have a great deal of knowledge of this field before embarking in such kind of projects? Must the cinematographer know this subject too?


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Guest Christopher Sheneman

James Cameron stayed up late into the night glueing plastic wings to plastic piranha for the seminal classic Piranha 2 the spawning.

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As a cinematographer I want to have a base knowledge of everything that enters my frame so I can distinguish good from bad and at least be able to have educated discussions with other department heads. Having said that, my job corresponds with some departments more than others. VFX and SFX are pretty closely tired into my job more so than make up.


For example, if I know that in the shot there is something broken that will be tossing out sparks and the sparks will be added in post, I will try to at least add a blue flickering light to where the sparks should be. In my opinion this helps create a more believable effect and on a low budget production can be the difference between selling the effect or not. Another example is sometimes the production can't afford a pyro team, so I have built my own small air canon that will toss out debris, so when the director decides he is also the VFX artist and all he adds is a flame, the debris and red light are already in the image. Not only that, but FX in general are a ton of fun and being resourceful as a department head is what will get you your next job over someone who didn't know about FX.


As a director, I believe you can go either way, either know a lot, or surround yourself with people who do.

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