Imagine a Tetris game in which colorful blocks fall not from the top of the screen, but from the sky onto Hong Kong’s iconic rainbow-hued Choi Hung Estate.
Fantasy scenes like this are Ben Mok Wang-hin’s specialty. The 24-year-old visual effects artist is known for gamifying the cityscape, reinventing its popular streets and attractions.
“I spent over 30 hours in post-production…but before that I needed to brainstorm ideas and come up with a workable plan to execute it,” Mok said of his Tetris video. , which has garnered over 15 million views on Instagram. when it was featured by popular meme account, 9gag, in June.
For Mok, his job is not just about showing special effects to impress an audience. It’s also about turning Hong Kong’s unique features into spectacles that people outside the city can also enjoy.
“I want to feature Hong Kong elements in all of my videos…I want people to know there’s someone from Hong Kong doing these special effects,” Mok said.
Hong Kong is where the magic happens
Visual effects artists work magic on a screen – they use digital art software to make everything from explosions to superpowers look real.
Some of Mok’s most popular works are short clips featuring Marvel comic book characters. One shows the Creator’s hand taking Thor’s hammer, causing a storm to swirl across the port of Tsim Sha Tsui.
In another clip, a famous Hong Kong calligrapher, whose shop was in danger of closing, is reduced to ashes, highlighting how government redevelopment plans have forced legendary businesses to close or relocate.
The artist draws his inspiration from his daily life and popular trends. For example, the Tetris video pays homage to his love for the classic arcade game.
From filming to adding effects, Mok creates these videos himself, but the post-production process is arduous. His videos take between 20 and 100 hours to make. Besides his collaborations with brands, the artist creates most of his videos for fun.
“I haven’t seen anyone else do it for free because it’s very time-consuming and laborious work,” Mok said, adding that he considers YouTube his “teacher.”
“I learn everything I need from social media platforms, and I make those skills my own.”
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The pandemic gave a new beginning
Mok only started working on special effects a year and a half ago – although he has been making videos for eight years, since high school.
He recalled his enthusiasm during computer class at school, as he proactively offered to help classmates who were struggling to learn video editing. In 2017, the young artist started producing short films and travel vlogs to post on YouTube.
But due to travel restrictions during the pandemic, Mok was forced to stop. “Since I couldn’t travel anymore, the limitations pushed me to do other things,” he explained.
During his days off at home, he would watch all kinds of YouTube tutorials to learn new skills. “Video editing is my interest, I don’t like to sit idly by,” he pointed out. “I could watch video tutorials all day… studying how certain effects are created.”
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Two years ago, he uploaded his first special effects video to YouTube, in which he added classic game elements to landscapes from old travel footage. It was a way to present his new vision of his profession.
“There was no income at first,” Mok said, adding that he had only found work as a visual effects artist in the last six months.
But the positive feedback he received for his Choi Hung Estate breakout video gave him the confidence to continue building a career from those skills.
Today, Mok is an in-demand video creator who has collaborated with popular brands such as Discover Hong Kong, Times Square, and 9gag. “Collaborating with brands to work on special effects videos and posts has always been what I’ve wanted to do,” he said.
Grow in the right direction
On his YouTube channel, Mok includes tutorials that unveil his magic tricks by explaining complex editing steps for those who want to learn more about visual effects.
He said he wasn’t afraid to teach others his techniques and style, adding, “In fact, I hope the visual effects artist scene in Hong Kong can grow.”
For those looking to develop these skills, Mok advised starting with special effects from Marvel Studios movies, as the internet has plenty of tutorials and guides for scenes from these popular films.
While social media algorithms help creators’ short videos gain exposure, Mok isn’t just interested in garnering views.
“Some might take advantage of it and copy other people’s work just to go viral. It’s not healthy,” he said, adding that he preferred to spend time creating quality videos.
Although life as a freelancer can be “very unstable,” Mok said, he never thought of giving up his creative freedom to join a production company.
“My ultimate goal is to be able to make a living creating the content I love, which doesn’t require me to compromise my ideas,” he said. “So far, I consider myself living in a dream.”
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