The visual effects budget for Arrow surprisingly makes up one-tenth of the effects budget for The Flash. It's no secret that production budgets can reduce (or increase) the quality of movies -- and the same goes for TV shows. Some shows out there have suffered greatly from their elementary visual effects, which are largely due to those shows struggling to make ends meet with their low visual effects budgets. That's why some production crews like to emphasize practical effects over CGI.
When it comes to broadcast television, it's not always easy making fantasy worlds come to life on the small screen, but it's something that The CW has managed to do quite well with its superhero universe, colloquially-named the Arrowverse. It all began with the flagship series Arrow in 2012 and has since gone on to include The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and now Supergirl. The more shows the network tacks on, the more money they have to appropriate for visual effects, and that means not every series gets an equal amount.
Kevin Smith, who has directed episodes of both The Flash and Supergirl, addressed his directing style alongside franchise executive producer Andrew Kreisberg in the bonus featurette, "A Conversation with Andrew Kreisberg and Kevin Smith," that will accompany the home video releases of The Flash: The Complete Third Season and Supergirl: The Complete Second Season. EW managed to obtain a snippet of the bonus content, in which the duo reveals the stark difference in the visual effects budget between Arrow and The Flash. Kreisberg said:
“The visual effects budget of Arrow is literally a tenth [of Supergirl and The Flash]. It’s a lot of stunt work. It’s all practical by design.”
On the surface, it may seem strange that the network would devote the flagship series a fraction of the visual effects budget that is allotted to the other Arrowverse shows. However, it actually makes sense in the grand scheme of things. Kreisberg points out that Arrow uses lots of practical effects and stunt work, which Smith says is due to the fact that the show's main hero doesn't have any superpowers.
“Arrow seems of a different feather than Supergirl and The Flash, not the least of which is like, they’ve got superpowers and this guy has just got a bow and arrow."
It's worth noting that even though the Green Arrow doesn't have any superpowers, the production team adds in the actual arrows digitally, later on, as noted by Kreisberg elsewhere in the video. Although the visual effects budget doesn't necessarily guarantee quality, it does make a significant difference in how immersive the show can be, as well as how believable the world is, to audiences.
Arrow returns for Season 6, The Flash returns for Season 4, Supergirl returns for Season 3, and Legends of Tomorrow returns for Season 3 this fall on The CW.