Creators on the Rise: ChelseaVFX makes impossible things

By 03/20/2024
Creators on the Rise: ChelseaVFX makes impossible things

Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth. You can check out previous installments here.


ChelseaVFX loves to make impossible things.

If you’ve been anywhere on TikTokYouTube, or Instagram over the past few months, you’ve probably seen one of her videos. She’s racked up hundreds of millions of views across these platforms since going full-time on content just six months ago, and that’s by using her visual effects skills to produce videos that defy reality (and usually physics).

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There’s this one where she pours out water that appears to instantly freeze, The Day After Tomorrow-style, in Toronto’s icy conditions. Or this one that follows an apparent mountain climber whose world is upended when whoever’s holding the camera decides to turn it horizontal–and then turn it again, sending her plummeting off the cliff. Or how about this one for Pi Day, where Chelsea plucks a mini pie off a calendar, only to drop it and watch it shatter into pie-crust numbers on the floor.

All of these shots are hand-built by Chelsea in programs like Adobe After Effects and Blender. It’s an intensely creative process, one that she’s been building toward since she was a kid.

Originally from Hamilton, Ontario, Chelsea lived briefly in the U.S. during middle school, and that’s when she first got into video. “I had one of those really old flip video cameras where it’s just a tiny rectangle with camera on one side and a tiny screen on the other, and I made really awful things,” she says. “I loved being both in front of and behind the camera.”

That love took her to a degree in film & TV production at NYU, and then, post-graduation and mid-COVID, to a job working in pre-production animation. It was a good fit for her, but she didn’t have a lot of creative control. So, on the side, she began working on her own projects, building off the VFX hobby she’d picked up in college. She started a TikTok account and began making little short videos, not really expecting anything to come of it. Two years later, she had a video hit over a million views. This coincided with the end of the contract for the show she’d been working on, and she decided: Why not give full-time content a shot?

Now, six months later, she’s got 555,000 followers on TikTok, 846,000 on Instagram, and 340,000 on YouTube, where she’s gone from 65,000 monthly views in November 2023 to a whopping 107 million in February 2024.

She plans to keep growing her channels, is getting into 3D (you can expect to see more of that in her upcoming videos), and is designing a course to help teach other people how to make impossible things, just like she does.

Check out our chat with her below.

@queenchelsea Jumping into my morning coffee ☕️☀️ #vfx ♬ original sound – chelsea vfx

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tubefilter: Nice to meet you! Just to give you a little intro, this series is where we speak to a creator each week who’s growing their content, audience, and often their business in really interesting ways. I’d love to start with, imagine somebody is reading this and they’re not familiar with you. Give me a little bit of an introduction to you and where you’re from, and what led you to making content.

ChelseaVFX: All right. I’m ChelseaVFX. I’m from Hamilton, Ontario. I was born and raised in Canada, except for a brief period of time in middle school when I lived in Indiana, just for my dad’s job. That’s actually where I first started doing video stuff. I had a best friend Alison, who was also interested in video. I had one of those really old flip video cameras where it’s just a tiny rectangle with camera on one side and a tiny screen on the other, and I made really awful things. I loved being both in front of and behind the camera. Then moved back to Hamilton.

I went to NYU for university and got my bachelor’s in film and television production, which is where I started really honing my skills in the video industry. Then I graduated during COVID, peak of 2020. My original plan was to stay in New York, but then of course the pandemic derailed that and I wanted to be closer to family. I ended up moving back to Canada and have lived in Toronto ever since. I started creating content online in November of 2021.

I was working in the film industry, just in editorial, and I really liked it, but being lower on the totem pole, you don’t really have any creative control. I decided to start an account as both a way to have my own creative outlet and to practice my visual effects skills, which was a hobby I’d picked up in university but decided not to pursue. That’s how my account got started and it all went from there.

Tubefilter: When you were working in film, what were you doing?

ChelseaVFX: Specifically editorial for animation on the pre-production side. When it’s all storyboards and everything, putting those together, timing it out, adding sound effects, that sort of stuff. It’s funny, it’s one of those niches that I didn’t even know existed until I found the job.

Tubefilter: It tends to be that way.

ChelseaVFX: It’s cool. It was a lot of fun.

Tubefilter: How did you pick up VFX? I know you said during college, but how did you pick it up as a hobby originally?

ChelseaVFX: During university, it was a very hands-on program where we were making a lot of short films, and all of my ideas involved weird sci-fi elements or magical stuff happening. Because I had the tools and the software provided by the school, I decided to start watching tutorials and just learn some basic visual effects on my own so that I could use them in my stories. That’s where I learned it to begin with.

Tubefilter: Then how long did it take you to have a video that went viral? What was your first big video that really took off?

ChelseaVFX: My first one that hit over a million, which is I think what I, to me, what viral means, was my dancing shoes video. I want to say a good six or seven months in. It took a while for the first one to do well like that. It was the shoes dance to the song and then I jump in them and do a little dance around. It was a TikTok trend at the time.

@queenchelsea A bit of a rocky journey 🧗‍♀️ #vfx ♬ original sound – chelsea vfx

Tubefilter: Are you full-time on this now?

ChelseaVFX: I am, yes.

Tubefilter: When did you go full-time?

ChelseaVFX: I think five months ago.

Tubefilter: What was your catalyst for going full-time?

ChelseaVFX: It was actually a pretty seamless transition, because the animation studio that I was working at, I worked there full-time, but it was technically contract basis. I’d work on one show and then on to another one. My contract in October ended and they didn’t have another show lined up for me to hop onto. I figured I was thinking about doing content full-time anyways. I figured that was the perfect time to just give it a shot. If it failed catastrophically, I would just pick up another contract. But it kept going well.

Tubefilter: Behind the scenes, how long does the average video take you? For example, you just had the one that went incredibly viral where you’re pouring water in snow. How long did that take you to make from start to finish?

ChelseaVFX: It’s so hard to guess because I do it sporadically. I’ll work at random hours of night and then throughout the day and stuff. I’d say probably three days of editing. Maybe eight-hour days, 24 or 25 hours, plus a half hour for filming.

Tubefilter: Oh, wow, half hour for filming. Then you feel like that’s pretty typical for one of your videos?

ChelseaVFX: I’d say so, yes. I’d say that’s in the middle. Probably anywhere from 10 to 40 hours is my typical.

Tubefilter: Got you. How often do you aim to put out a video?

ChelseaVFX: I try to put them out one video a week. Lately, it’s been more of, before I was trying to do a video and the behind-the-scenes of it in the same week, I’ve started spacing those out so that it’s just a video a week. Doesn’t have to be both with behind-the-scenes included, because I’ve started branching off into more complex–for me–visual effects, stuff that’s taking me longer. I’m trying to keep realistic in my actual output. One a week.

Tubefilter: One a week. Yes. Which is a lot for the effects you’re doing.

ChelseaVFX: Yes, definitely time-consuming.

@queenchelsea Breaking the laws of physics 🤯😈 #vfx ♬ original sound – chelsea vfx

Tubefilter: I know you’re working with Viral Nation, so aside from them, do you have anybody working with you, or is it you doing everything?

ChelseaVFX: I do all of the editing myself. I have my boyfriend, my partner, Dillan, he helps me film everything and helps me with a lot of the brainstorming and storyboarding. I also have a manager as well, Brittny, who helps on the business end of things.

Tubefilter: You storyboard all your videos?

ChelseaVFX: No, I should. I definitely should. Some of them, all of the ones for brands, I’ll typically do storyboards for, or if I’m trying to explain it to Dillan for filming purposes and I cannot clearly state what was happening in my head, then we’ll try and board it out. A lot of the times though, it’s just, I keep it in my head.

Tubefilter: That seems like a very natural transition from what you used to do for work. Now it’s going straight over to this for you. That’s very cool.

ChelseaVFX: Yes, it definitely was a natural transition. I think a lot of the things I was doing before still apply and have been helpful as well. Adding sound effects and music and stuff like that, as well as looking at things as stories, even when it’s just a 10-second video, I still try and find a story in it, in the beginning, middle, end, which I think has really helped me create such viral videos.

Tubefilter: I’m really curious about the programs you use.

ChelseaVFX: Mostly Adobe After Effects is my biggest one for visual effects. It is more expensive. If you use it every day, though, it’s worth it. Then editing behind the scenes, I use Adobe Premiere Pro. That’s all paired together. For 3D, I’ve started learning Blender, which is actually free. It’s just very confusing to start with, but it’s a really cool software and the fact that it’s free is just incredible.

Tubefilter: How’s it been like moving into 3D for you?

ChelseaVFX: Harder than I expected. Of course, it’s still similar to visual effects in a lot of ways using keyframes and things, but it really is its own skill set. It’s felt like learning a new skill from scratch, which is fun, but hard. It’s not the most intuitive. But it’s cool! [laughs]

Tubefilter: Do you see yourself integrating that into your videos in the future or into other creative pursuits?

ChelseaVFX: Yes. I think it’s really opened a lot of doors in terms of what I can do in my videos. I’ve been using it for the last few that I’ve done and there’s so many more options in terms of expanding my ideas and things that I’m actually capable of making now. I’m definitely going to keep trying to learn it. Even though it’s hard, it’s worth it in the end because I can do so much more.

Tubefilter: You mentioned working with brands. I’d like to hear about, do you remember your first brand partner that you worked with on TikTok or was that too long ago?

ChelseaVFX: Well, my first one was probably, I think just a gifted campaign. It was with Lunafide, which is a clothing brand. They sent me this matching set of a workout shirt and leggings that were very dragon-esque. That was the first one.

Tubefilter: Do you remember when that was? I’m just curious because it seems like you grew pretty quickly, so I’m curious when you started getting sponsorship offers.

ChelseaVFX: I want to guess maybe six months in. I can find an actual date for you, if that’s helpful.

Tubefilter: No, that’s fine. No, no, no, I don’t need you to be super scientific about it. I’m just curious. Now, has it graduated to you making full-fledged videos for these brands?

ChelseaVFX: Yes, still in the short-form world. I definitely think my branded videos are a lot better quality than I was doing before. Now I really try and put out ads that still match my content, which is its own skill set as well. It’s difficult because you’re trying to make it seem not like an in-your-face ad while still being transparent about the fact that you’re advertising products.

Tubefilter: Yes, absolutely. Since you went full-time, how have things changed for you? Has anything been different?

ChelseaVFX: I really liked my job before. Not working a 9-to-5 has been interesting. I love it. There’s so much more freedom and the fact that I can travel and, have days off whenever I need it has been really cool. It’s been interesting in terms of finding my own self-motivation and making sure that I’m actually working every day. I think that hasn’t been an issue. It’s just been an adjustment. The freedom to travel, though, has been a big one for me. That’s one thing that I always wanted to do and I’ve always loved doing. The fact that I can do that on my own time and with brands is the dream.

Tubefilter: What’s your favorite place you’ve been to and why?

ChelseaVFX: Switzerland, definitely. It was beautiful. I went, I think, a year and a half ago. If you ever go, you should stay in Interlaken. It’s right in between all the mountains. It was the craziest view.

Tubefilter: Very interesting. I’ve never been to Switzerland.

ChelseaVFX: It’s just as picturesque as it looks.

Tubefilter: You’re planning to stay in Toronto for the foreseeable future?

ChelseaVFX: For now, not forever. I don’t love Toronto. I like being in a walking city. I think my heart is still in New York. I would love to go back there someday or even just trying out somewhere in another country just for the experience of it.

Tubefilter: New York is definitely much more walkable.

ChelseaVFX: Yes, you can’t not love New York. There’s a reason there’s so many songs about it.

@queenchelsea There must be a universe where I can do this #drstrange #marvel #vfx ♬ Doctor Strange Theme (Marvel Studios: What If…? Soundtrack) – Sh4d0wStrider

Tubefilter: It’s true. What are you looking forward to over the next year or so in terms of developing yourself and your art?

ChelseaVFX: I just definitely want to keep growing my channel. My big thing right now is that I’m working on a visual effects course. I get asked that all the time, if I have a course or if I can teach people, stuff like that. I’m working on actually building a beginner visual effects course that’s super comprehensive. I’m excited to work on it and then finish that.

Tubefilter: Are you working with like Skillshare or MasterClass or is it an independent course?

ChelseaVFX: As of right now, independent. I’m still exploring my options for where to put it. I’ll probably end up going with a website. I think it might be a little too much to just do all by myself, but I haven’t decided yet.

Tubefilter: Got you. I did want to ask too, I know you’ve got a presence across multiple platforms, but do you feel like TikTok is still your main focus or are you trying to diversify? What’s your approach to your platforms?

ChelseaVFX: I’d say my main platform is Instagram.

Tubefilter: Oh, Instagram, okay.

ChelseaVFX: Yes, that’s where I have the largest following currently, but I post everything on all platforms, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube Shorts, even Snapchat, actually. Instagram, I just feel like I have the most connection with my followers because of Instagram Stories and the DM system and everything. I think I interact with people the most on there, so that feels like my home hub.

Tubefilter: Really interesting. I feel like a lot of creators these days really struggle to figure out how to get Instagram to work for them, so that’s really interesting to hear.

ChelseaVFX: Yes, I don’t know. Instagram was slower to start with and then once it took off, it became my leading platform for over the last year now at least. I wish I had a secret reason, but I like it because it is so easy to socialize with, to build a community, and to actually talk to your followers and stuff. I really like that part of it.

Tubefilter: Yes, the DMs part. How frequently are you speaking to people in DMs and comments and that kind of thing?

ChelseaVFX: I try to respond to as many comments as possible on all my videos. Unless they go crazy viral, because that’s just impossible. DMs, I somewhat keep up with. It just depends. Mostly, if people ask me specific questions, I always try to answer that about editing. Then yes, in Stories, I like doing the Story post where you ask people a question. You put a question box for your followers to engage, stuff like that. I really love.

Tubefilter: What has been your favorite part of this whole being online thing?

ChelseaVFX: The community. I’ve realized doing this, how small the visual effects content creator community is, in the best possible way. Every time I discover someone new who does VFX, I go to their follow list and we have all of the same mutuals, the people we follow, the people who follow us. It really feels like an actual community. It’s cool too, because a few of the brand trips I’ve been on, I’ve been able to meet up with other visual effects creators and VFX creators who I followed for a long time. It’s just a neat thing to be a part of.

Tubefilter: What’s favorite video that you’ve made so far?

ChelseaVFX: Oh, that’s a hard one. I like a lot of them, to be honest.

Tubefilter: That’s a good thing!

ChelseaVFX: I think one of my most underrated–but I also understand because it was very early days–is I did a Dr. Strange video where it’s winter time and then I jumped through the portal into the spring. I actually filmed that in the exact same location four months apart.

Tubefilter: Very, very cool.

ChelseaVFX: My dad helped me film that one too. It’s sentimental. My parents have been insanely supportive with this whole thing, which is so nice. They supported me going to film school, so they know what they signed up for. [laughs]

 

ChelseaVFX is repped by Viral Nation.

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