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Thursday, September 8, 2016, 11:09

Not quite yet Hollywood dazzling

By Xu Fan

Not quite yet Hollywood dazzling
L.O.R.D: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties' cast members (from left to right) Chen Xuedong, Lin Yun and Wang Duo attend a Beijing media event. (Photo provided to China Daily)

Up to nine of this year's 10 highest-grossing films feature heavy effects, and most of the top-rated television serials are fantasy tales with lots of digital effects.

So, despite a huge potential market, why does the country's special effects industry fail to meet viewers' expectations?

Industry sources say that small budgets and less time are major problems, but these issues are typically underestimated by producers.

Dwelling on these issues, Xu Fei, the founder of Illumina, a Beijing-based special-effects studio, says: "The maker of a top Hollywood sci-fi film will spend nearly half his budget on visual effects, but in China the amount is 20 percent or less."

Typically, for visual effects, the process starts with the designing of sets in pre-production, moves on to shooting the live action and ends with doing the digital effects in the post-production process.

Xu recalls that, in his early years, most of the visual-effects creators would be hired only after most of the filming had ended. But, he says, that is not how things are done today.

"Now, without choreography in advance, it is difficult to insert digitally produced imagery into the real sets.

"The best special effects are when the audience does not realize whatever occurs on screen - whether it is an explosion or a disaster - is not produced using a computer."

Another reason the special-effects sector is not yet on par with its global rivals is domestic directors, cameramen and actors often have limited knowledge and experience when it comes to special effects.

While diehard sci-fi movie fans may be familiar with the idea of actors wearing electronic-sensing suits when they jump, run and scream to outrun some alien creature - despite the fact they're in an empty room covered in green cloth, which can be replaced by virtual sets in the post-production process - surprisingly, many in film industry are not familiar with this.

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