Using Special Effects to Steal the Hearts of your Audience

Short films can tell beautiful stories, make you think, and change the way you view the world.  But only if you actually watch them!  There’s a lot of content out there, and audiences need to be enticed to spend their time on yours.  One way to catch your audience and make your message pop is with smart use of visual effects! When used effectively, effects can provide visual continuity throughout your story, as well as provide the particular aesthetic look your story demands.

Consider how you will use visual effects in your pre-production plan, to ease off the burden when you are editing your raw material later.  We’ve put together a helpful list of the kinds of effects you might consider using, and the affect they will have on audiences.  Get ready to take your film to the next level! 


Bokeh is one of the easiest effects to accomplish, and gives your film that dreamy, whimsical look favoured by human interest filmmakers.  Check out the basics of bokeh here:  Like this heart shaped bokeh in the Korean Drama, Misaeng, you can play up with making different shapes to recreate that layered and soft cinematic look! 

First Impressions

'Light Flare'

Let’s talk about Director J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek for a minute.  When you think about the special effects in this blockbuster, you probably went straight to the spaceships (and fair enough!)  But one of its more prevalent effects was actually much simpler: light (otherwise known as “lens”) flare.  The film exhibited over hundreds of lens flare moments: so many that fans teased Abrams with a video count of the number of lens flares spotted in the film!  However, if you do it moderately, light flares can create a feeling of grand scope, and that “big Hollywood” feel favoured by sci-fi films.  Here’s an easy guide to help you can create this effect: 

Second Chances


Single your desired point of focus amidst a bird eye’s view to create visual impact in your short film! One great example of tilt shift is the opening shot in the BBC’s series Sherlock. Tilt shift  gives the shot a  “storytale” kind of look to make objects look miniature, which the Sherlock producers use throughout its opening scene. The result is that London looks like a toy set, or a stage – a chess board on which Sherlock and his various enemies play throughout the series.  This is a beautiful example of how your effects should support the story you are telling – in this case, London is Sherlock’s ‘playground’. You might have a story to tell that can use tilt-shift to the same effect, or modify the “miniature” effect to fit your own tone, overarching narrative, and desired emotional response.  Here’s how you can start using tilt-shift for your own storytelling:


Film burn is a great tool for adding an unreality to your film – useful for dream sequences, visions, memories, or fantasies.  An effect often used in music videos, it can pair well with a soundtrack, engaging the senses by heightening colour and blending with sound.  Get creative by experimenting with different combinations, depending on what kind of mood you want to convey. In Kelly Clarkson’s “Heartbeat Song,” music video  the effect  is used expressively to emphasize her powerful and beautiful voice. When used well – and sparingly -   film burn evokes a sense of drama and emotion, imbuing the scene with meaning.  Used selectively, it can signal to your audience that there is a message in this shot to be uncovered.  Learn more about how to use the technique here:

Blow your audiences away by incorporating any of these visual effects! Head over to to submit your short film now and showcase how you use visual effects to tell your 5 min story!