A Producer’s Guide To Switching Your Campaign From Live-Action To CGI

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Bolder creative founder Tim Bolderson shares how CGI can ensure business as usual at a time when live-action shoots are no longer possible
A Producer’s Guide To Switching Your Campaign From Live-Action To CGI

It’s not unusual for a live-action shoot to be enhanced, or even replaced, with elements in CGI. Perhaps there’s been a freak weather incident on-set, or the talent can’t make it to the shoot. Or perhaps someone has just decided the budget needs to be reduced. Whatever the reason, moving a live-action production to CGI is far from unheard of, and something that Bolder Creative is used to dealing with.

Given the disastrous outbreak of COVID-19, a lot of campaigns are finding themselves in the unenviable position of needing to think creatively in order to keep the show on the road. Current advice from the APA in the UK is that shoots taking place outside the UK are proving ‘almost impossible’, and rising uncertainty on our own shores means that on-set shooting is proving problematic at home. 

For those agencies, brands and production companies who are looking to keep their project afloat, using CGI is an attractive option. Given the current backdrop, we think it’s a good time to share advice and strategies when it comes to bringing CGI into your campaign.


VFX Artists Are Creative Problem-Solvers 

Don’t be afraid to involve the CGI artists in your strategic discussions - in fact, it’s advisable to do so. Every CG project is about creative problem-solving, i.e. how to create a scene in the most realistic or desirable way using the tools we have. We’re no strangers, therefore, when it comes to crisis management. If time and resources are scarce, the viewpoint of a CG artist could prove invaluable. They will know better than anyone what can be achieved.

Additionally, VFX studios will always have ideas to share on the creative side. For our part, we’ve worked for plenty of clients in the past who had been all set to get to work in a film studio, but suddenly find themselves unable to do so, and so we have helped them come up with an alternative solution. Like all the best VFX studios, we don’t just execute other people’s ideas, we help come up with the original concept. We can storyboard frame-by-frame so everyone can see exactly what they’re going to get from the start. So the process of moving a project into VFX because of COVID-19 would be a familiar path for us.


Be Ambitious With Timeframes

Any VFX studio would be understanding of the difficulties and stresses that campaigns are currently under. As a result of that, the ability to turn work around in a couple of weeks could prove essential, and studios will be prepared for it. 

Depending on the project, we would generally work on a timeframe of between two and eight weeks, and we have the capabilities to work to ambitious deadlines. It can’t hurt to ask, and we all understand that the priority for everyone in the industry is keeping the show on the road in whatever ways we feasibly can.


Your Budget Can Stretch Further Than You Might Think

Historically, VFX has always been less expensive than shooting live action. If you’re left picking up the pieces of a live action shoot budget which has been burned due to the outbreak, the residual budget can still be well-spent in terms of delivering CGI content. 

I remember one live-action job that had to be cancelled, which had ended up costing around an eye-watering sum, well into six figures. When we looked into replacing that cancelled shoot with a CGI job, the total cost was around half of that. There’s a huge difference between the two. The other thing we try and do here is work and try to find solutions to budgets. If you come to a VFX company with a smaller slice of your original budget remaining, they will set about trying to find a way to make that work.


We are living through trying times, and we all have a responsibility to help each other through them. As a VFX company, we are an external resource here to help, and our position in Brighton means that we are operating outside of the worst-hit areas of major cities. If you have a project that’s currently on the ropes, it may be easier to rescue than you think. 

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Bolder Creative, 2 months ago