ActionVFX explains how they create exceptional stock footage assets used by VFX professionals around the world
After launching in 2016, ActionVFX set out “to build the undisputed best and largest library of VFX assets in the world.” Just a few years later, the growing company can proudly say their high-quality stock VFX are being used around the world from the “Call of Duty” franchise to “Spider-Man: Far from Home,” and “Avengers: Endgame” to your favorite shows on Netflix and on-set extensions for live performances at The Grammys.
We talked with ActionVFX founder and CEO Rodolphe Pierre-Louis and COO Luke Thompson to find out more about the company’s many VFX asset collections and how they are helpful to artists using Red Giant tools, After Effects, Nuke, Fusion and more.
Tell us how ActionVFX got its start.
Pierre-Louis: I have been fascinated by VFX since I was about 13 or 14. I started creating my own VFX when I was in college in 2011and, before I started ActionVFX, I owned the website RodyPolis.com. The site no longer exists but, back then, it was my platform for posting VFX tutorials and selling VFX stock footage that I created.
After running RodyPolis for a few years, I wanted to take the company to the next level by creating bigger and better VFX assets. Even though I had never filmed large-scale pyrotechnics, something told me creating real explosions and fire assets were sure to put RodyPolis on the map.
I had a lot of passion and thought that if the new assets weren’t the best, there was no point in making them. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the shoot wasn’t very successful. The only great thing that came out of it was meeting and working with Luke Thompson, our COO, for the first time.
I ran out of money after that, and all I had to show for it were some mediocre VFX assets, which I honestly could have sold to recoup some of the money. But, deep down, I knew if I did that, I would be betraying my original vision of creating assets that were better than what the market could provide at the time. So I started a Kickstarter campaign in 2015 to raise money to continue the project and achieve the level of quality Luke and I wanted.
That’s when my vision evolved into building a new brand and website called ActionVFX. Our goal was to build the best and largest library of VFX stock footage in the world. We raised three times our original Kickstarter goal, so we planned more shoots and less than a year later, in 2016, we launched ActionVFX.
The first thing I did was survey hundreds of people to understand their needs. Our ridiculously high standards are what helps us stand out from the other companies that were also present from the beginning.
What were some of the first VFX assets you created and what has changed over time?
Pierre-Louis: Our first collections focused heavily on the action part of our name. I believe our first five products were explosions, ground fires, two fireball collections and some smoke plumes. Over the years we’ve evolved to providing assets that aren’t specific to the action genre, such as Fog, Crowds, Animals, Weather and more.
Compositors don’t always need to blow something up, so we wanted to diversify our offerings. We recently released a Sweat & Condensation collection, which is very small scale compared to what we usually do. But it felt good to know that if someone needs to make an actor sweat, they can convincingly create that effect with our assets. Don’t get me wrong, though, we still blow a lot of things up around here. That’ll never change!
Do you recognize your VFX clips when you see them used?
Thompson: It’s funny how that works. You spend so much time looking at a single explosion or muzzle flash that you really can spot it when it’s out in the wild. We have been so fortunate as a company to be involved in many types of media production around the world. Anywhere you can watch a video, you’ll find ActionVFX elements included in some aspect of the production.
How are the VFX assets you create helpful to artists in various industries?
Pierre-Louis: By far the best thing I’ve heard an industry artist say about our products was ‘ActionVFX gets me home to see my family.’ That sentence summarizes the main reason to use VFX stock footage—to create realistic VFX in a fraction of the time it would’ve taken you to build everything from scratch.
Most of our elements are shot for real, so artists can get extremely realistic results with minimal effort. Simulating a convincing CG fire typically takes a lot of time and skill whereas compositing a fire element into your shot is considerably faster and easier.
Because we provide so many different assets at so many different scales and angles, artists can find the right element for most shots they’re working on.
Talk a bit about how artists use Red Giant tools with your products.
Pierre-Louis: Red Giant’s Supercomp works great with ActionVFX products. In fact, many of the VFX shots Red Giant chose to promote the Supercomp plugin used ActionVFX elements, which shows how much the two pair naturally.
And it’s not just Supercomp, the entire VFX Suite has incredible features that are beneficial to all artists. Our product creation team at ActionVFX uses some of the utility tools to key and clean the elements we plan to release.
What’s your most popular collection, and why do you offer some things for free?
Pierre-Louis: Our Fire collections have always done very well for us, and our Blood & Gore collections have been rising in popularity lately as well. We like to release free assets as a risk-free way to get new users introduced to ActionVFX. Users have told us that the quality of our free collections was what assured them that our paid products had to be worth it.
You released a new category, “People and Crowds,” during quarantine. Tell us about that.
Pierre-Louis: We like to say, ‘real is always better,’ so the idea of capturing real actors performing real actions in a way that allows VFX artists to convincingly comp them was intriguing to us.
We met with many studios to find out exactly what their needs were when it came to crowds and used that feedback to make these collections production-ready on day one. We were definitely not expecting to have 330 clips per collection when this project first started, but it was worth it when we saw the flexibility that goes with having 15 angles of each actor
Do you get a lot of special requests from customers?
Thompson: Most definitely! It’s very important to us that we’re continually working alongside our users to create what they find most valuable, and we’ve done that from the beginning. Way before we ever picked up a camera, we surveyed hundreds of artists to find out exactly what they wanted out of visual effects stock footage.
Also, we meet constantly with compositors and VFX supervisors about the next high-impact elements they want to see from us, so the continual growth of our library is heavily influenced by our users.
Are you planning to expand your library to play a role in applications beyond traditional production, like AR/VR or the metaverse?
Thompson: Yes, one hundred percent. While traditional, 2D stock footage has been our primary focus, and to some degree there will always be a great need for it, we are always looking for ways we can continue to provide simple solutions for the complex creation of high-level visual effects.
We want to be the one common thread in every compositor’s career, whether that’s learning from our tutorials or using our elements at a studio they’re working in
We’ve also partnered with Undertone FX , a real-time VFX company, to bring our first Game-Ready VFX pack to the Unreal Engine (UE5) and Unity asset marketplace. After being available for just two months it was selected to be featured in the Unreal Marketplace Showcase, which was amazing.
The team at Undertone FX completely built out our 2D effects with full-3D particle systems that are completely looped, so an artist can easily throw them into a scene and get straight to their main work telling their story and building their world.
Do you have any promotions coming up that artists should know about?
Thompson: Absolutely! It’s the best time of year for that. We’re having a Black Friday Sale on our website Nov. 22 - Nov. 25. VFX are 55% off sitewide, and we’re offering two times the monthly credits on annual subscription plans. We also have great deals on unlimited subscriptions for studios and/or teams that need ActionVFX elements to elevate their post-production.
Meleah Maynard is a writer and editor in Minneapolis, Minnesota.