Interest Pieces

Could Travel “Substitutes” be found in VFX and CGI?

The exponential spread of COVID-19 has put the world on hold. What started with travel bans and public health warnings has evolved into over a billion people being confined to their homes. Businesses have shut down, pubs and restaurants have stopped serving customers, and international travel has become only a memory.

In this mire, many fields have had to adapt quickly and pivot like mad just to stay above the surface. The film industry for example has had to cancel major public events and many production companies are using local teams, when possible, to shoot on site. Production and performers have been told to avoid travel and the businesses have been reducing the size of crews to a safe minimum. But for big brands and leading companies, halting or minimising production is not an option. So, for the foreseeable future, many have turned to CGI, VFX and animation to deliver their unfinished campaigns or new projects in the pipeline. This includes advertising campaigns, big budget films, corporate marketing, travel and sport.


According to Isabelle du Plessis who is the Head of PR at The Mill, one of the world’s largest visual effects companies, there has been a reassessment about what is possible. And, to make certain ideas a reality, they have to turn to digital.

“The fact is that we have been solving this kind of problem for many years,” she says, highlighting how even the film industry is reliant on logistics, “We are often approached by clients with challenges because they cannot shoot in a certain location or can’t get a certain car; and so they ask us to create them in CGI or VFX.”

In recent days, with mounting pressure to progress projects worth millions, Isabelle says they have definitely noticed an influx of clients trying to see what digital effect producers are capable of at this time.


Travel has for many years been working within the digital realm to combine visual effects to enhance the experience of the traveller. This includes the use of 3D cameras, all angle videos and virtual reality however there has never been an opportunity for these developments to take the lead. The film industry is a powerful hub of development and according to Alexandros Konstantinou, Head of Post-Production at the global production house NEEDaFIXER, requests have been coming from their global clients for their footage libraries.

“We are being contacted by a growing number of clients who need to finish their commercials or films, and they need alternatives,” he says, “There’s no doubt that VFX, CGI and animation might be good solutions.”

He goes on to explain that what the companies in their network  have been saying is that they are already turning to creative alternatives to overcome the stay-at-home obstacle when it comes to advertising.

“3D can be extremely photorealistic, effective and quick without costing a fortune”, he says, “And, when clients come to us, we try to present them a number of new techniques and innovative solutions. And every time we liaise our clients with our VFX, CGI and animation partners, we realise that their business was not affected from a workload perspective because the industry is definitely turning to post-production to overcome the travel ban”.


Nothing replaces the real thing but until we are able to get out of our homes and see the sunshine again, this may be the avenue we all find ourselves taking. Not that the digital vistas of Skyrim will ever truly replace the open savannah of Africa or the ruins of a Scottish castle, but it does open up new opportunities. .

With gaming enjoying a popularity spike thanks to the pandemic and businesses like The Mill and NEEDaFixer are having to out-perform each other to stay competitive a lot of time, intelligence and money are being pumped into the goal of being the first to create something “amazing”. Immersive technology businesses have a great opportunity to wow us all with a substitute that may turn us into  well travelled-couch-potatoes.

For most travellers, the technology would have to be absolutely unreal to even remotely match up to the feel of the wind or the warmth of a new sunrise. The taste of foreign food or the sound of music coming from exotic instruments is worth more than any amount of substitutions.

But, when we’re faced with a challenge we’ve never had, we need a solution we may never have considered