Category Archives: VFX

The Foundry gives Jody Madden additional role, ups Phil Parsonage

The Foundry’s chief customer officer, Jody Madden, has been given the additional role of chief product officer (CPO). In another move, Phil Parsonage has been promoted to director of engineering.

As CPO, Madden — who had at one time held the title of COO at The Foundry — returns to her more technical roots, which includes stints at VFX studios such Digital Domain and Industrial Light & Magic. In this new role, Madden is responsible for managing The Foundry’s full product line.

“I’m really excited to be stepping into this new role as I continue my rewarding journey with The Foundry,” says Madden. “I started [in this industry] as a customer, so I’m intimately familiar with the challenges the market faces. Now as CPO, I’m truly excited to help our customers address their technical and business challenges by continuing to push the boundaries of visual effects and design software.”

Parsonage, who has been with The Foundry for over 10 years, will run The Foundry’s engineering efforts. As part of this job, he is responsible for conceiving and implementing the company’s technical strategy.

 

Rogue One/ILM

VES nominees announced, Rogue One gets most nods for features

The Visual Effects Society has announed the the nominees for the 15th Annual VES Awards, which recognizes outstanding visual effects artistry and innovation in film, animation, television, commercials and video games as well as the VFX supervisors, VFX producers and hands-on artists who work on the projects 

This year, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story received the most feature film nominations with seven; Doctor Strange and The Jungle Book follow with six each. Kubo and the Two Strings is the top animated film contender with six nominations. Game of Thrones leads the broadcast field and scores the most nominations overall with 11.

The nominees in the 24 categories are:

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A PHOTOREAL FEATURE

Doctor Strange

Stephane Ceretti, Susan Pickett, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli, Paul Corbould

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Christian Manz, Olly Young, Tim Burke, Pablo Grillo, David Watkins

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

Frazer Churchill, Hal Couzens, Andrew Lockley, Jelmer Boskma, Hayley Williams

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

John Knoll, Erin Dusseault, Hal Hickel, Nigel Sumner, Neil Corbould

The Jungle Book

Robert Legato, Joyce Cox, Andrew R. Jones, Adam Valdez, JD Schwalm

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature

Allied

Kevin Baillie, Sandra Scott, Brennan Doyle, Viktor Muller, Richard Van Den Bergh

Deepwater Horizon

Craig Hammack, Petra Holtorf-Stratton, Jason Snell, John Galloway, Burt Dalton

Jason Bourne

Charlie Noble, Dan Barrow, Julian Gnass, Huw Evans, Steve Warner

Silence

Pablo Helman, Brian Barlettani, Ivan Busquets, Juan Garcia, R. Bruce Steinheimer

Sully

MIchael Owens, Tyler Kehl, Mark Curtis, Bryan Litson, Steven Riley

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN AN ANIMATED FEATURE

Finding Dory

Angus MacLane, Lindsey Collins- p.g.a., John Halstead, Chris J. Chapman

Kubo and the Two Strings

Travis Knight, Arianne Sutner, Steve Emerson, Brad Schiff

Moana

Kyle Odermatt, Nicole P. Hearon, Hank Driskill, Ian Gooding

The Little Prince

Mark Osborne, Jinko Gotoh, Pascal Bertrand, Jamie Caliri

Zootopia

Scott Kersavage, Bradford S. Simonsen, David Goetz, Ernest J. Petti

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A PHOTOREAL EPISODE

Black Mirror: Playtest

Justin Hutchinson-Chatburn, Russell McLean, Grant Walker, Christopher Gray

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards

Joe Bauer, Steve Kullback, Glenn Melenhorst, Matthew Rouleau, Sam Conway

Stranger Things: Demogorgon

Marc Kolbe, Aaron Sims, Olcun Tan

The Expanse: Salvage

Robert Munroe, Clint Green, Kyle Menzies, Tom Turnbull

Westworld: The Bicameral Mind

Jay Worth, Elizabeth Castro, Bobo Skipper, Gustav  Ahrén 

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A PHOTOREAL EPISODE

Black Sails: XX

Erik Henry, Terron Pratt, Aladino Debert, Yafei Wu, Paul Stephenson

Penny Dreadful: The Day Tennyson Died

James Cooper, Bill Halliday, Sarah McMurdo, Mai-Ling Lee

Roots: Night One

Simon Hansen, Paul Kalil, Theo le Roux Preist, Wicus Labuschagne, Max Poolman

The Man in the High Castle: Volkshalle

Lawson Deming, Cory Jamieson, Casi Blume, Nick Chamberlain

Vikings: The Last Ship

Dominic Remane, Mike Borrett, Ovidiu Cinazan, Paul Wishart, Paul Byrne

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A REALTIME PROJECT

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Brian Horton, Keith Pope, David Johnson, Tobias Stromvall

Dishonored 2: Crack in the Slab

Sebastien Mitton, Guillaume Curt, Damien Laurent, Jean-Luc Monnet

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Virtual Reality

Andy Rowans-Robinson, Karen Czukerberg, John Montefusco, Corrina Wilson, Resh Sidhu

Gears of War 4

Kirk Gibbons, Zoe Curnoe, Aryan Hanbeck, Colin Penty

Quantum Break

Janne Pulkkinen, Elmeri Raitanen, Matti Hamalainen, Ville Assinen

Uncharted 4

Bruce Straley, Eben Cook, Iki Ikram

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A COMMERCIAL

Coke Mini; A Mini Marvel

Vincent Cirelli, Michael Perdew, Brendan Seals, Jared Simeth

For Honor

Maxime Luere, Leon Berelle, Dominique Boidin, Remi Kozyra

John Lewis; Buster the Boxer

Diarmid Harrison-Murray, Hannah Ruddleston, Fabian Frank, William Laban

Titanfall 2: Become One

Dan Akers, Tiffany Webber, Chris Bedrosian

Waitrose: Coming Home

Jonathan Westley -Wes-, Alex Fitzgerald, Jorge Montiel, Adam Droy

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A SPECIAL VENUE

Dream of Anhui

Chris Morley, Lee Hahn, Alex Hessler, Kent Matheson

Pirates of the Caribbean; Battle for the Sunken Treasure

Bill George, Amy Jupiter, Hayden Landis, David Lester

Soarin’ Over the Horizon

Marianne McLean, Bill George, Hayden Landis, Dorne Huebler, Thomas Tait

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

John Gibson, Arish Fyzee, Sachin Shrestha, Anshul Mathuria

Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience

Dan Glass, Brett Harding, Tom Debenham, Brian Delmonico, Matt Pulliam

OUTSTANDING ANIMATED PERFORMANCE IN A PHOTOREAL FEATURES

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Niffler

Laurent Laban, Gabriel Beauvais-Tremblay, Luc Girard, Romain Rico

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; Grand Moff Tarkin

Sven Jensen, Jee Young Park, Steve Walton, Cyrus Jam

The Jungle Book: King Louie

Paul Story, Dennis Yoo, Jack Tema, Andrei Coval

The Jungle Book: Shere Khan

Benjamin Jones. Julio Del Rio Hernandez, Jake Harrell, James Hood

Warcraft: Durotan

Sunny Wei, Brian Cantwell, Brian Paik, Jee Young Park

OUTSTANDING ANIMATED PERFORMANCE IN AN ANIMATED FEATURE

Finding Dory: Hank

Jonathan Hoffman, Steven Clay Hunter, Mark Piretti, Audrey Wong

Kubo and the Two Strings: Kubo

Jeff Riley, Ian Whitlock, Adam Lawthers, Jeremy Spake

Kubo and the Two Strings: Monkey

Andy Bailey, Dobrin Yanev, Kim Slate, Jessica Lynn

Moana: The Mighty Maui

Mack Kablan, Nikki Mull, Matthew Schiller, Marc Thyng

Outstanding Animated Performance in an Episode or Real-Time Project

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare; Omar

Bernardo Antoniazzi

Aaron Beck

Jason Greenberg

Chris Barnes

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

John Montefusco

Michael Cable

Shayne Ryan

Andy Rowan-Robinson

Game of Thrones; Battle of the Bastards: Drogon

James Kinnings, Michael Holzl, Matt Derksen, Joeseph Hoback

Game of Thrones; Home: Emaciated Dragon

Sebastian Lauer, Jonathan Symmonds, Thomas Kutschera, Anthony Sieben

OUTSTANDING ANIMATED PERFORMANCE IN A COMMERCIAL

John Lewis: Buster the Boxer

Tim van Hussen, David Bryan, Chloe Dawe, Maximillian Mallman

Opel Motorsport: Racing Faces; Lion

Jorge Montiel, Jacob Gonzales, Sauce Vilas, Alberto Lara

SSE: Neon House: Baby Pixel

Jorge Montiel, Daniel Kmet, Sauce Vilas, Peter Agg

Waitrose: Coming Home

Jorge Montiel, Nick Smalley, Andreas Graichen, Alberto Lara

Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature

Deadpool: Freeway Assault

Seth Hill, Jedediah Smith, Laurent Taillefer, Marc-Antoine Paquin

Doctor Strange: London

Brendan Seals, Raphael A. Pimentel, Andrew Zink, Gregory Ng

Doctor Strange: New York City

Adam Watkins, Martijn van Herk, Tim Belsher, Jon Mitchell

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Scarif Complex

Enrico Damm, Kevin George, Olivier Vernay-Kim, Yanick Dusseault

OUTSTANDING CREATED ENVIRONMENT IN AN ANIMATED FEATURE

Finding Dory: Open Ocean Exhibit

Stephen Gustafson, Jack Hattori, Jesse Hollander, Michael Rutter

Kubo and the Two Strings: Hanzo’s Fortress

Phil Brotherton, Nick Mariana, Emily Greene, Joe Strasser

Kubo and the Two Strings: Waves

David Horsley, Eric Wachtman, Daniel Leatherdale, Takashi Kuboto

Moana: Motonui Island

Rob Dressel, Andy Harkness, Brien Hindman, Larry Wu

OUTSTANDING CREATED ENVIRONMENT IN AN EPISODE, COMMERCIAL OR REALTIME PROJECT

Black Sails: XXVIII: Maroon Island

Thomas Montminy-Brodeur, Deak Ferrand, Pierre Rousseau, Mathieu Lapierre

Dishonored 2: Clockwork Mansion

Sebastien Mitton, Guillaume Curt, Damien Laurent, Jean-Luc Monnet

Game of Thrones; Battle of the Bastards; Meereen City

Deak Ferrand, Dominic Daigle, François Croteau , Alexandru Banuta

Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter: Citadel

Edmond Engelbrecht, Tomoka Matsumura, Edwin Holdsworth, Cheri Fojtik

The Man in the High Castle: Volkshalle

Casi Blume, David Andrade, Nick Chamberlain, Lawson Deming

OUTSTANDING VIRTUAL CINEMATOGRAPHY IN A PHOTOREAL PROJECT

Doctor Strange: New York Mirror Dimension

Landis Fields, Mathew Cowie, Frederic Medioni, Faraz Hameed

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards

Patrick Tiberius Gehlen, Michelle Blok, Christopher Baird, Drew Wood-Davies

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Space Battle

John Levin, Euisung Lee, Steve Ellis, Barry Howell

The Jungle Book

Bill Pope, Robert Legato, Gary Roberts, John Brennan

OUTSTANDING MODEL IN A PHOTOREAL OR ANIMATED PROJECT

Deepwater Horizon: Deepwater Horizon Rig

Kelvin Lau, Jean Bolte, Kevin Sprout, Kim Vongbunyong

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Princess Leia

Paul Giacoppo, Gareth Jensen, Todd Vaziri, James Tooley

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Star Destroyer

Jay Machado, Marko Chulev, Akira Orikasa, Steven Knipping

Star Trek Beyond: Enterprise

Daniel Nicholson, Rhys Salcombe, Chris Elmer, Andreas Maaninka

OUTSTANDING EFFECTS SIMULATIONS IN A PHOTOREAL FEATURE

Alice Through the Looking Glass; Rust

Klaus Seitschek, Joseph Pepper, Jacob Clark, Cosku Turhan

Doctor Strange; Hong Kong Reverse Destruction

Florian Witzel, Georges Nakhle, Azhul Mohamed, David Kirchner

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Jedha Destruction

Miguel Perez Senent, Matt Puchala, Ciaran Moloney, Luca Mignardi

The Jungle Book: Nature Effects

Oliver Winwood, Fabian Nowak, David Schneider, Ludovic Ramisandraina

OUTSTANDING EFFECTS SIMULATIONS IN AN ANIMATED FEATURE

Finding Dory

Stephen Gustafson, Allen Hemberger, Joshua Jenny, Matthew Kiyoshi Wong

Kubo and the Two Strings; Water

David Horsley, Peter Stuart, Timur Khodzhaev, Terrance Tornberg

Moana

Marc Henry Bryant, David Hutchins, John M. Kosnik, Dale Mayeda

Zootopia

Nicholas Burkard, Moe El-Ali, Claudia Chung Sanii, Thom Wickes

OUTSTANDING EFFECTS SIMULATIONS IN EPISODE, COMMERCIAL OR REALTIME PROJECT

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards

Kevin Blom, Sasmit Ranadive, Wanghua Huang, Ben Andersen

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards: Meereen City

Thomas Hullin, Dominik Kirouac, James Dong, Xavier Fourmond

John Lewis: Buster the Boxer

Diarmid Harrison-Murray, Tushar Kewlani, Radu Ciubotariu, Ben Thomas

Sky: Q

Michael Hunault, Gareth Bell, Paul Donnellan, Joshua Curtis

OUTSTANDING COMPOSITING IN A PHOTOREAL FEATURE

Doctor Strange: New York City

Matthew Lane, Jose Fernandez, Ziad Shureih, Amy Shepard

Independence Day: Resurgence: Under The Mothership

Mathew Giampa, Adrian Sutherland, Daniel Lee, Ed Wilkie

The Jungle Book

Christoph Salzmann, Masaki Mitchell, Matthew Adams, Max Stummer

X-Men: Apocalypse: Quicksilver Rescue

Jess Burnheim, Alana Newell, Andy Peel, Matthew Shaw

OUTSTANDING COMPOSITING IN A PHOTOREAL EPISODE

Black Sails: XX: Sailing Ships

Michael Melchiorre  , Kevin Bouchez, Heather Hoyland, John Brennick

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards: Meereen City

Thomas Montminy-Brodeur, Patrick David, Michael Crane, Joe Salazar

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards: Retaking Winterfell

Dominic Hellier, Morgan Jones, Thijs Noij, Caleb Thompson

Game of Thrones: The Door: Land of Always Winter

Eduardo Díaz, Aníbal Del Busto, Angel Rico, Sonsoles López-Aranguren

OUTSTANDING COMPOSITING IN A PHOTOREAL COMMERCIAL

Canal: Kitchen

Dominique Boidin, Leon Berelle, Maxime Luere, Remi Kozyra

John Lewis; Buster the Boxer

Tom Harding, Alex Snookes, David Filipe, Andreas Feix

Kenzo: Kenzo World

Evan LangleyBenjamin Nowak  , Rob Fitzsimmons, Phylicia Feldman

LG: World of Play

Jay Bandlish, Udesh Chetty, Carl Norton

Waitrose: Coming Home

Jonathan Westley -Wes, Gary Driver, Milo Paterson, Nina Mosand

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A STUDENT PROJECT

Breaking Point

Johannes Franz, Nicole Rothermel, Thomas Sali, Alexander Richter

Elemental

Adrian Meyer, Lena-Carolin Lohfink, Denis Krez, David Bellenbaum

Garden Party

Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon, Théophile Dufresne, Lucas Navarro

Shine

Mareike Keller, Dennis Mueller, Meike Mueller

G-Tech 6-15
Bill Hewes

Behind the Title: Click 3X executive producer Bill Hewes

NAME: Bill Hewes

COMPANY: Click 3X  (@Click3X) in New York City.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We are a digital creation studio that also provides post and animation services.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
I am an executive producer with a roster of animation and live-action directors.

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Overseeing everything from the initial creative pitch, working closely with directors, budgeting, approach to a given project, overseeing line producers for shooting, animation and post, client relations and problem solving.

PGIM Prudential

One recent project was this animated spot for a Prudential Global Investment Management campaign.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Probably that there is no limit to the job description — it involves business skills, a creative sensibility, communication and logistics. It is not about the big decisions, but more about the hundreds of small ones made moment to moment in a given day that add up.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Winning projects.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Losing projects

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Depends on the day and where I am.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
A park ranger at Gettysburg.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I didn’t choose it. I had been on another career path in the maritime transportation industry and did not want to get on another ship, so I took an entry-level job at a video production company. From day one, there was not a day I did not want to go to work. I was fortunate to have had great mentors that made it possible to learn and advance.

Click it or Ticket

‘Click it or Ticket’ for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Two animated spots for Prudential Global Investment Management, commercials and a social media campaign for Ford Trucks, and two humorous online animated spots for the NHTSA’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
A few years back, I took some time off and worked with a director for several months creating films for Amnesty International. Oh, and putting a Dodge Viper on a lava field on a mountain in Hawaii.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
The wheel, anesthesia and my iPhone.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
I share an office, so we take turns picking the music selections. Lately, we’ve been listening to a lot of Kamasi Washington, Telemann, J Mascis and My Bloody Valentine.

I also would highly recommend, “I Plan to Stay a Believer” by William Parker and the album, “The Inside Songs” by Curtis Mayfield.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Jeet Kune Do, boxing, Muy Thai, Kali/Escrima, knife sparring, and some grappling. But I do this outside of the office.


Wacom’s Intuos Pro Paper Edition lets artists sketch old-school

Do you miss the days of just pulling out your sketchpad and letting your creative energy flow? Well, Wacom has a new solution for you that bridges old-school paper-and-ink drawings with portable digital technology.

Wacom is at CES showing its new Intuos Pro and Intuos Pro Paper Edition pen and touch tablets. While the two products have similar functionality, the Intuos Pro Paper Edition gives artists the ability to incorporate paper into their workflow — and when not used with paper, this version will also function as a regular Intuos Pro.

The tablet allows ink-on-paper drawings to be captured and stored digitally on the Intuos Pro Paper Edition so they can be refined later on the tablet with any compatible layered raster or vector software application. This means no more scanning.

“The Paper Edition lets artists secure a paper on the device and sketch, draw or write with an real ink, analog pen, while it captures the information digitally because it is seated on our Electro-Magnetic Resonance board and stored for later use,” explains Wacom’s Doug Little.

Little also emphasizes that while the Paper Edition does function as a Intuos Pro when paper isn’t involved, the newest Intuos Pro is “thinner and lighter and features our new Pro Pen 2 (4x the pressure-sensitivity of our previous pen). It also features the same ExpressKeys for creating shortcuts and modifiers.”

Wacom Intuos ProThe new Intuos Pro is less than half an inch thick but offers the same sized active area in a smaller overall footprint. It comes equipped with anodized aluminum backing, a smaller pen stand with 10 nibs and a new pen case. Both sizes of the Intuos Pro, Medium and Large, use a TouchRing, Multi-Touch and eight ExpressKeys for the creation of customized shortcuts to speed up the creative workflow.

The Paper Edition adds a Paper Clip (to attach the artists favorite drawing paper), pressure-sensitive Finetip gel ink pen and the Wacom Inkspace App to convert drawings for use with leading creative software applications. The Inkspace App environment also allows users to easily store and share their artwork.

The new Wacom Pro Pen 2 comes with both the Intuos Pro and Intuos Pro Paper Edition. This new pen features 4X the pressure sensitivity than the former Pro Pen, delivering 8,192 levels of pressure to support a natural and intuitive creative process.

The recently released Wacom Finetip Pen, included with the Intuos Pro Paper Edition, provides smooth-gel ink. Designed for those who begin their creative process on paper, the Finetip lets users visually depict ideas that are automatically digitized. Users can also select a Ballpoint Pen as an optional purchase.

Available in medium and large models, Intuos Pro is Bluetooth-enabled and compatible with Macs and PCs. The Intuos Pro Medium ($349.95 USD) and Large ($499.95 USD) will be available this month.

Intuos Pro Paper Edition will contain added features as a bundled package to enable paper-to-digital creation. The Intuos Pro Paper Edition Medium ($399.95) and Large ($549.95) will be available this month as well.


Creating and tracking roaches for Hulu’s 11.22.63

By Randi Altman

Looking for something fun and compelling to watch while your broadcast shows are on winter break? You might want to try Hulu’s original eight-part miniseries 11.22.63, which the streaming channel released last February.

It comes with a pretty impressive pedigree — it’s based on a Stephen King novel, it’s executive produced by J.J. Abrams, it stars Oscar-nominee James Franco (127 Hours) and it’s about JFK’s assassination and includes time travel. C’mon!

The plot involves Franco’s character traveling back to 1960 in an effort to stop JFK’s assassination, but just as he makes headway, he feels the past pushing back in some dangerous, and sometimes gross, ways.

Bruce Branit

In the series pilot, Franco’s character, Jack Epping, is being chased by Kennedy’s security after he tries to sneak into a campaign rally. He ducks in a storage room to hide, but he’s already ticked off the past, which slowly serves him up a room filled with cockroaches that swarm him. The sequence is a slow build, with roaches crawling out, covering the floor and then crawling up him.

I’m not sure if Franco has a no-roach clause in his contract (I would), but in order to have control over these pests, it was best to create them digitally. This is where Bruce Branit, owner of BranitFX in Kansas City, Missouri came in. Yes, you read that right, Kansas City, and his resume is impressive. He is a frequent collaborator with Jay Worth, Bad Robot’s VFX supervisor.

So for this particular scene, BranitFX had one or two reference shots, which they used to create a roach brush via Photoshop. Once the exact look was determined regarding the amount of attacking roaches, they animated it in 3D and and composited. They then used 2D and 3D tracking tools to track Franco while the cockroaches swarmed all over him.

Let’s find out more from Bruce Branit.

How early did you get involved in that episode? How much input did you have in how it would play out?
For this show, there wasn’t a lot of lead time. I came on after shooting was done and there was a rough edit. I don’t think the edit changed a lot after we started.

What did the client want from the scene, and how did you go about accomplishing that?
VFX supervisor Jay Worth and I have worked together on a lot of shows. We’d done some roaches for an episode of Almost Human, and also I think for Fringe, so we had some similar assets and background with talking “roach.” The general description was tons of roaches crawling on James Franco.

Did you do previs?
Not really. I rendered about 10 angles of the roach we had previously worked with and made Adobe Photoshop brushes out of each frame. I used that to paint up a still of each shot to establish a baseline for size, population and general direction of the roaches in each of the 25 or so shots in the sequence.

Did you have to play with the movements a lot, or did it all just come together?
We developed a couple base roach walks and behaviors and then populated each scene with instances of that. This changed depending on whether we needed them crossing the floor, hanging on a light fixture or climbing on Franco’s suit. The roach we had used in the past was similar to what the producers on 11.22.63 had in mind. We made a few minor modifications with texture and modeling. Some of this affected the rig we’d built so a lot of the animations had to be rebuilt.

Can you talk about your process/workflow?
This sequence was shot in anamorphic and featured a constantly flashing light on the set going from dark emergency red lighting to brighter florescent lights. So I generated unsqueezed lens distortion, removed and light mitigated interim plates to pull all of our 2D and 3D tracking off of. The tracking was broken into 2D, 3D and 3D tracking by hand involving roaches on Franco’s body as he turns and swats at them in a panic. The production had taped large “Xs” on his jacket to help with this roto-tracking, but those two had to be painted out for many shots prior to the roaches reaching Franco.

The shots were tracked in Fusion Studio for 2D and SynthEyes for 3D. A few shots were also tracked in PFTrack.

The 3D roach assets were animated and rendered in NewTek LightWave. Passes for the red light and white light conditions were rendered as well as ambient show and specular passes. Although we were now using tracking plates with the 2:1 anamorphic stretch removed, a special camera was created in LightWave that was actually double the anamorphic squeeze to duplicate the vertical booked and DOF from an anamorphic lens. The final composite was completed in Blackmagic Fusion Studio using the original anamorphic plates.

What was the biggest challenge you faced working on this scene?
Understanding the anamorphic workflow was a new challenge. Luckily, I had just completed a short project of my own called Bully Mech that was shot with Lomo anamorphic lenses. So I had just recently developed some familiarity and techniques to deal with the unusual lens attributes of those lenses. Let’s just say they have a lot of character. I talked with a lot of cinematographer friends to try to understand how the lenses behaved and why they stretched the out-of-focus element vertically while the image was actually stretched the other way.

What are you working on now?
I‘ve wrapped up a small amount of work on Westworld and a handful of shots on Legends of Tomorrow. I’ve been directing some television commercials the last few months and just signed a development deal on the Bully Mech project I mentioned earlier.

We are making a sizzle reel of the short that expands the scope of the larger world and working with concept designers and a writer to flush out a feature film pitch. We should be going out with the project early next year.


Infinite Fiction

Republic Editorial launches design/VFX studio

Republic Editorial in Dallas has launched a design- and VFX-focused sister studio, Infinite Fiction, and leading the charge as executive producer is visual effects industry veteran Joey Cade. In her new role, she will focus on developing Infinite Fiction’s sales and marketing strategy, growing its client roster and expanding the creative team and its capabilities. More on her background in a bit.

Infinite Fiction, which is being managed by Republic partners Carrie Callaway, Chris Gipson and Keith James, focuses on high-end, narrative-driven motion design and visual effects work for all platforms, including virtual reality. Although it shares management with Republic Editorial, Infinite Fiction is a stand-alone creative shop and will service agencies, outside post houses and entertainment studios.

Infinite Fiction is housed separately, but located next door to Republic Editorial’s uptown Dallas headquarters. It adds nearly 2,000 square feet of creative space to Republic’s recently renovated 8,000 square feet and is already home to a team of motion designers, visual effects artists, CG generalists and producers.

Cade began her career in live-action production working with Hungry Man, Miramax and NBC. She gained expertise in visual effects and animation at Reel FX, which grew from a 30-person boutique to an over 300-person studio with several divisions during her tenure. As its first entertainment division executive producer, Cade won business with Sony TV, Universal, A&E Networks and ABC Family as well as produced Reel FX’s first theatrical VFX project for Disney. She broadened her skill set by launching and managing a web-based business and gained branding, marketing and advertising experience within small independent agencies, including Tractorbeam.

Infinite Fiction already has projects in its pipeline, including design-driven content pieces for TM Advertising, Dieste and Tracy Locke.


Paramount Pictures

The A-List: A conversation with Arrival director Denis Villeneuve

By Iain Blair

Dark and super-intense dramas are the specialty of acclaimed French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve. His 2010 feature film Incendies, a drama about the legacy of civil war in Lebanon for a Montreal immigrant family, earned a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination. Villeneuve made his Hollywood directorial debut with Prisoners, a suburban-vigilante drama starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. It too was nominated for an Oscar. He followed that with Enemy, an eerie thriller starring Gyllenhaal as a history lecturer who discovers an unexpected alter ego.

Director Denis Villeneuve and writer Iain Blair.

But it was his explosive 2015 hit Sicario — about an idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) whose hunt for justice thrusts her into the lawless US/Mexican border where drugs, terror, illegal immigration and corruption challenge her moral compass — that really got Hollywood’s attention. The film received three Academy Award nominations, including Best Achievement in Cinematography (Roger Deakins) and Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Alan Robert Murray) and paved the way for his latest film, the sci-fi drama Arrival.

When mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team, led by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers. But this Paramount release is not your usual alien invasion epic.

I spoke with Villeneuve, who’s currently in post production on his biggest project to date — the sequel to the cult classic Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling — about making Arrival, which has been nominated for eight Oscars, including best director in Villeneuve and best editor in Joe Walker. (Read out interview with Walker here.)

This is your first sci-fi film, but definitely not your usual kind. What was the appeal of doing it?
Yes, it’s my first but I was raised on sci-fi and was swimming in it as a kid. I read a lot of comic books out of Europe — those great graphic novels. I was dreaming of doing a sci-fi film for a very long time, but was looking for the right story, and then this came along. I was so excited because this was a chance to do something very different. It’s an alien invasion, but told from an intimate point of view, by this person who’s in mourning and dealing with strong emotions in her life, and who suddenly is thrust into this momentous ARRIVALevent. So it’s about aliens but also a mother-daughter story.

This is also your sixth film with a female protagonist. Why do you love having women at the center of your films?
The truth is, in my first two films I had two female leads and for me it was a way to get some critical distance from my subjects. I don’t know why. Then it just carried on from there. I’m in love with women and femininity and very interested in the female world, and I love to tell their stories. For me, being a man is about taking control, but being a woman is more about listening, and I love the tension between the two.

Is it true that with Sicario, there was some pressure to change the female lead to a man?
Yes, but it was telling this story of drug violence through a woman’s eyes that really interested me. That really interested me! I like strong women.

What did Amy Adams bring to this role?
A great sense of her character’s internal life, her inner world. She has this great capacity to play several layers at once, and is able to convey very strong emotion without words, which I don’t see too often.

What were the main technical challenges in pulling it all together?
By far the biggest was creating the aliens and figuring out this new life form — its way of thinking and behaving, its culture and its language. Creating something that’s never been seen before without it looking just like a visual effect was very hard and took a long time.

How early on did you start integrating post and all the VFX?ARRIVAL
From the very start, and you now have to prep for post. Even so, it still feels like the process is too fast. I like to have a lot of time in post and the edit to think about the film and change things, but all the VFX guys were very hungry to get started as soon as possible, and that caused some tension. It was a very complex cinematic structure, and I needed to be able to play with it in the editing room.

Do you like the post process?
I absolutely love post and editing — so much so that if I wasn’t a director I’d be an editor. It’s insane the amount of creativity you have in post, and you don’t have to deal with all the problems with weather and actors and equipment and time and money. You can just focus on the creative part of actually making the film, so I love post. We did the whole film in Montreal. We shot it there, and used VFX houses there, and there are so many good ones — Rodeo, Oblique FX, Alchemy 24, Raynault and Hybride.

Talk about editing with Joe Walker, who cut Sicario for you and was Oscar nominated for 12 Years a Slave. Was he on the set?
Joe never likes to visit sets, for a very specific reason — when he sees all the hard work and pain we go through to get a particular shot, it makes him afraid to cut. So he came to Montreal and we sent him dailies and he started. Then he worked with me on the director’s cut. It was a very long edit and we worked non stop for about eight months. It’s the longest edit I’ve ever done, first because it was a nonlinear structure, and second because we wanted to give clues to the audience without revealing too much.

So it was very tricky, especially since two of my main characters were completely digital. So it was a tough edit and it took time to work it all out. Joe was also very involved in all the sound design, as he began as a composer and then as a sound editor, so we did the sound together as we cut.

Denis Villeneuve and Amy Adams on set.

The VFX play a crucial role. Talk about working with VFX supervisor Louis Morin, who did Sicario for you, and whose credits include The Aviator and Brokeback Mountain.
I’m very grateful to him because he understood that the edit was very complicated, and I put his team under a lot of time pressure, as I took my time. The spaceships and aliens were designed, but all the scenes with them and everything else had to evolve in the edit. Then we had hundreds of computer screens in the military tents and we had to feed all those, which was a lot of work, and then all the military equipment. It was very complicated.

What was the hardest VFX sequence to do?
Definitely the aliens. If you have a machine-like alien, it’s a lot of work but not difficult to do. What is really hard, is creating a life form that looks real — not like a visual effect — and one the audience will accept and have an emotional experience with. Hybride did them, and while it was a huge challenge, they did a fantastic job. And I was very involved. I sat down with the artists to share ideas and that’s the only way you can get it right.

Where did you do the DI and how important is it to you?
In Montreal with Harbor Picture Company colorist Joe Gawler (who worked out of Mels, which used to be Vision Globale). It’s so important and dealing with the aliens was the main thing. But the rest was fairly simple as we did so much in camera.

What can you tell me about Blade Runner 2049?
(Laughs) Not much. I’m not allowed to say much, but it was the biggest, most ambitious and longest thing I’ve ever done, and we’re currently in the middle of post on the Sony lot. It’ll be out next October.

What’s next?
Nothing. I need a long break to recharge after doing the last three films back to back.

Check out the trailer:


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.


ILM’s Richard Bluff talks VFX for Marvel’s Doctor Strange

By Daniel Restuccio

Comic book fans have been waiting for over 30 years for Marvel’s Doctor Strange to come to the big screen, and dare I say it was worth the wait. This is in large part because of the technology now available to create the film’s stunning visual effects.

Fans have the option to see the film in traditional 2D, Dolby Cinema (worthy of an interstate or plane fare pilgrimage, in my opinion) and IMAX 3D. Doctor Strange, Marvel Studios’ 15th film offering, is also receiving good critical reviews and VFX Oscar buzz — it’s currently on the list of 20 films still in the running in the Visual Effects category for the 89th Academy Awards.

Marvel Doctor StrangeThe unapologetically dazzling VFX shots, in many cases directly inspired by the original comic visuals by Steve Dittko, were created by multiple visual effects houses, including Industrial Light & Magic, Luma Pictures, Lola VFX, Method Studios, Rise FX, Crafty Apes, Framestore, Perception and previs house The Third Floor. Check out our interview with the film’s VFX supervisor Stephane Ceretti.

Director Scott Derrickson said in in a recent Reddit chat that Doctor Strange is “a fantastical superhero movie.

“Watching the final cut of the film was deeply satisfying,” commented Derrickson. “A filmmaker cannot depend upon critical reviews or box office for satisfaction — even if they are good. The only true reward for any artist is to pick a worthy target and hit it. When you know you’ve hit your target that is everything. On this one, I hit my target.”

Since we got an overview of how the visual effects workflow went from Ceretti, we decided to talk to one of the studios that provided VFX for the film, specifically ILM and their VFX supervisor Richard Bluff.

Richard Bluff

According to Bluff, early in pre-production Marvel presented concept art, reference images and previsualization on “what were the boundaries of what the visuals could be.” After that, he says, they had the freedom to search within those bounds.

During VFX presentations with Marvel, they frequently showed three versions of the work. “They went with the craziest version to the point where the next time we would show three more versions and we continued to up the ante on the crazy,” recalls Bluff.

As master coordinator of this effort for ILM, Bluff encouraged his artists, “to own the visuals and try to work out how the company could raise the quality of the work or the designs on the show to another level. How could we introduce something new that remains within the fabric of the movie?”

As a result, says Bluff, they had some amazing ideas flow from individuals on the film. Jason Parks came up with the idea of traveling through the center of a subway train as it fractured. Matt Cowey invented the notion of continually rotating the camera to heighten the sense of vertigo. Andrew Graham designed the kaleidoscope-fighting arena “largely because his personal hobby is building and designing real kaleidoscopes.”

Unique to Doctor Strange is that the big VFX sequences are all very “self-contained.” For example, ILM did the New York and Hong Kong sequence, Luma did the Dark Dimension and Method did the multi-universe. ILM also designed and developed the original concept for the Eldridge Magic and provided all the shared “digital doubles” — CGI rigged and animatable versions of the actors — that tied sequences together. The digital doubles were customized to the needs of each VFX house.

Previs
In some movies previs material is generated and thrown away. Not so with Doctor Strange. What ILM did this time was develop a previs workflow where they could actually hang assets and continue to develop, so it became part of the shot from the earliest iteration.

There was extensive previs done for Marvel by The Third Floor as a creative and technical guide across the movie, and further iterations internal to ILM done by ILM’s lead visualization artist, Landis Fields.

Warning! Spoiler! Once Doctor Strange moves the New York fight scene into the mirror universe, the city starts coming apart in an M.C. Escher-meets-Chris Nolan-Inception kind of way. To make that sequence, ILM created a massive tool kit of New York set pieces and geometry, including subway cars, buildings, vehicles and fire escapes.

In the previs, Fields started breaking apart, duplicating and animating those objects, like the fire escapes, to tell the story of what a kaleidoscoping city would look like. The artists then fleshed out a sequence of shots, a.k.a. “mini beats.” They absorbed the previs into the pipeline by later switching out the gross geometry elements in Fields’ previs with the actual New York hero assets.

Strange Cam
Landis and the ILM team also designed and built what ILM dubbed the “strange cam,” a custom 3D printed 360 GoPro rig that had to withstand the rigors of being slung off the edge of skyscrapers. What ILM wanted to do was to be able to capture 360 degrees of rolling footage from that vantage point to be used as a moving background “plates” that could be reflected within the New York City glass buildings.

VFX, Sound Design and the Hong Kong
One of the big challenges with the Hong Kong sequence was that time was reversing and moving forward at the same time. “What we had to do was ensure the viewer understands that time is reversing throughout that entire sequence.” During the tight hand-to-hand action moments that are moving forward in time, there’s not really much screen space to show you time reversing in the background. So they designed the reversing destruction sequence to work in concert with the sound design. “We realized we had to move away from a continuous shower of debris toward rhythmic beats of debris being sucked out of frame.”

before-streetafter-street

Bluff says the VFX the shot count on the film — 1,450 VFX — was actually a lot less than Captain America: Civil War. From a VFX point of view, The Avengers movies lean on the assets generated in Iron Man and Captain America. The Thor movies help provide the context for what an Avengers movie would look and feel like. In Doctor Strange “almost everything in the movie had to be designed (from scratch) because they haven’t already existed in a previous Marvel film. It’s a brand-new character to the Marvel world.”

Bluff started development on the movie in October of 2014 and really started doing hands on work in February of 2016, frequently traveling between Vancouver, San Francisco and London. A typical day, working out of the ILM London office, would see him get in early and immediately deal with review requests from San Francisco. Then he would jump into “dailies” in London and work with them until the afternoon. After “nightlies” with London there was a “dailies” session with San Francisco and Vancouver, work with them until evening, hit the hotel, grab some dinner, come back around 11:30pm or midnight and do nightlies with San Francisco. “It just kept the team together, and we never missed a beat.”

2D vs. IMAX 3D vs. Dolby Cinema
Bluff saw the entire movie for the first time in IMAX 3D, and is looking forward to seeing it in 2D. Considering sequences in the movie are surreal in nature and Escher-like, there’s an argument that suggests that IMAX 3D is a better way to see it because it enhances the already bizarre version of that world. However, he believes the 2D and 3D versions are really “two different experiences.”

Dolby Cinema is the merging of Dolby Atmos — 128-channel surround sound — with the high dynamic range of Dolby Vision, plus really comfortable seats. It is, arguably, the best way to see a movie. Bluff says as far as VFX goes, high dynamic range information has been there for years. “I’m just thankful that exhibition technology is finally catching up with what’s always been there for us on the visual effects side.”

During that Reddit interview, Derrickson commented, “The EDR (Extended Dynamic Range) print is unbelievable — if you’re lucky enough to live where an EDR print is playing. As for 3D and/or IMAX, see it that way if you like that format. If you don’t, see it 2D.”

Doctor Strange is probably currently playing in a theater near you, but go see it in Dolby Cinema if you can.


In addition to being a West Coast correspondent for postPerspective, Daniel Restuccio is the multimedia department chair at California Lutheran University and former Walt Disney Imagineer.


The Famous Grouse

Putting The Famous Grouse into CG environs for holiday spots

By Randi Altman

Flaunt Productions in Glasgow teamed up with the Leith Agency on a two-spot campaign for the Scottish blended whisky brand, The Famous Grouse. Heading the effort was director Ben Craig and Flaunt’s head of lighting, Jon Neill — they were tasked with putting the iconic grouse into a CG version of his natural environment for these holiday-themed ads.

The first spot, Perfectly Balanced, was released earlier this month and takes the viewer on a flight through the Scottish Highlands to reveal the Grouse with his chest puffed out and feeling proud of his environment. The second commercial, called Smooth, which aired the week of Black Friday, starts as the camera spins through the snowy Scottish Highlands.

flauntTo create the cinematic photoreal landscape, Neill and some of the team shot drone footage in Glencoe, which allowed real-life textures to be applied to the CG world.

In order to create a realistic grouse, Flaunt applied a feather system based on a fur and procedural shader that gave on organic look to the model. When it came to movement of the body and wing feathers, specific movements had to be animated to give a sense of realistic movement and the personality that is associated with the Famous Grouse.

We reached out to executive producer Andrew Pearce about the project and its workflow…

Photo:Mike Scott

Andrew Pearce

How early did you get involved in the project? Was the agency up for suggestions, or did they already have a specific plan locked in?
Director Ben Craig worked with Flaunt on a creative treatment, based on scripts from The Leith Agency. Their central idea was to bring the much-loved Grouse into his home environment: the epic, sweeping Scottish Highlands. Previously, all ads had been set against an infinite white background. With that in mind, we worked collaboratively with the agency to bring the ads to life.

The first stage after treatment would normally be storyboard. However, because our camera move was so extreme, we felt a 2D animatic would be misleading, so we proceeded straight to previs.

You used drone footage for the Grouse’s environment. How did you go about turning it into CG?
We drove up to the Glencoe ski resort and jumped onto the ski lift to get as high as possible. After a 30-minute walk, we attached a camera to the drone and sent it up into the sky — 360 overlapping stills were taken at three different heights.

We merged the images together to create a 360-panorama and applied this to geometry in Autodesk Maya. From there we rendered out the shot with this background, making creative decisions on what to add or take away. Next, we made simple 3D hills on which to project the images, thus providing parallax and a three-dimensional feel.

Was Maya your main animation software? Did you write your own particle systems off of that? What other tools were used?
Maya was used for animation, Side Effects Houdini for FX, Houdini Mantra for lighting and Nuke for compositing. We also had to write a feather system for the Grouse, which worked inside Houdini.

Can you talk about giving the Grouse personality in the CG world? What about facial (or beak) expressions, and his eyes and movements?
For these adverts, the Grouse was in a real-world environment. With that in mind, we didn’t want to go over the top with cartoony animation. The realism of the Grouse asset wouldn’t support that style, but we needed to give the Grouse some character beyond that of a real one.

Real grouse faces don’t move that much, and we didn’t want to change the anatomy too much. So we used the eyebrows and eyes as much as we could. Our rig also enabled us to exaggerate the shape of the eyes and eyebrows beyond the norm. These subtle anatomical exaggerations were enough for us to push the facial animation enough to engage the viewer.

When it came to the motions of the Grouse, we had to tread a fine line between realistic and anthropomorphic — fans of this brand love how it has moved in previous campaigns. We created various versions of all the actions as we honed in on the motion we wanted. The Grouse’s wink at the end of one of the adverts was the product of many iterations, having explored head tilts, nods, lifts, raised eyebrows and so on.

Before we leave you, anything you would like to add?
We had to strike a balance between a look that was both realistic and magical. This was partly achieved by mashing up some of the most incredible landscapes in Scotland. To augment the magical feel, we added lens flares and camera lens aberrations in the compositing. Subtle pollen particles were also added to give a sense of space as we flew through the environment.

Check out the making of the video here.

Credit: Film Frame ©2016 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

Digging Deeper: Doctor Strange VFX supervisor Stephane Ceretti

By Daniel Restuccio

Marvel’s Doctor Strange — about an arrogant neurosurgeon who loses the use of his hands in an accident and sets off on a self-obsessed journey to find a cure — has been doing incredibly well in terms of box office. You’ve got the winning combination of Benedict Cumberbatch, Marvel, a compelling story and a ton of visual effects created by some of the biggest houses in the business, including ILM (London, San Francisco, Vancouver), Method (LA, Vancouver), Luma (LA, Melbourne) Framestore London, Lola, Animal Logic, Crafty Apes, Exceptional Minds and Technicolor VFX.

Stephane Ceretti

Leading the VFX charge was visual effects supervisor Stephane Ceretti, whose credit list reads like a Top 10 list for films based on Marvel comics, including Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The First Avenger and X-Men: First Class. His resume is long and impressive.

We recently reached out to Ceretti to find out more about Doctor Strange‘s VFX process…

When did you start on the project? When were all the shots turned in?
I started in September 2014 as Scott Derrickson, the director, was working on the script. Production got pushed a few months while we waited for Benedict Cumberbatch to be available, but we worked extensively on previz and visual development during all this time. Production moved to London in June 2015 and shooting began in November 2015 and went until March 2016. Shots and digital asset builds got turned over as we were shooting and in post, as the post production period was very short on the film. We only had 5.5 months to do the visual effects. We finished the film sometime in October, just a few weeks before the release.

What criteria did you use to distribute the shots among the different VFX companies?  For example, was it based on specialty areas?
It’s like a casting; you try to pick the best company and people for each style of effects. For example, ILM had done a lot of NYC work before, especially with Marvel on Avengers. Plus they are a VFX behemoth, so for us it made sense to have them on board the project for these two major sequences, especially with Richard Bluff as their supervisor. He worked with my VFX producer Susan Pickett on the New York battle sequence in Avengers and she knew he would totally be great for what we wanted to achieve.

What creative or technical breakthroughs were there on this project? For example, ILM talked about the 360 Dr. Strange Camera. What were some of the other things that had never been done before?
I think we pushed the envelope on a lot of visual things that had been touched before, but not to that level. We also made huge use of digital doubles extremely close to camera, both in the astral world and the magic mystery tour. It was a big ask for the vendors.

ILM said they did the VFX at IMAX 2K, were any of the VFX shots done at 4K? If yes, why?
No we couldn’t do a 4K version for the IMAX on this project. IMAX takes care, upresing the shots to IMAX resolution with their DMR process. The quality of the Alexa 65, which we used to shoot the movie, makes it a much smoother process. Images were much sharper and detailed to begin with.

It may be meaningless to talk about how many effects shots there were in the movie when it seems like every shot is a VFX shot.  Is there a more meaningful way to describe the scale of the VFX work? 
It is true that just looking at the numbers isn’t a good indication … we had 1,450 VFX shots in the film, and that’s about 900 less than Guardians of the Galaxy, but the shot complexity and design was way more involved because every shot was a bit of a puzzle, plus the R&D effort.

Some shots with the Mandelbrot 3D fractals required a lot of computing power, having a full bending CG NY required tons of assets and the destruction simulation in Hong Kong had to be extremely precise as we were really within the entire street being rebuilt in reversed time. All of these were extremely time and process consuming and needed to be choreographed and designed precisely.

Can you talk about the design references Marvel gave you for the VFX work done in this movie?
Well most of the references that Marvel gave us came from the comics, especially the ones from Steve Ditko, who created all the most iconic psychedelic moments in Doctor Strange in the ‘60s and ‘70s. We also looked at a Doctor Strange comic called “The Oath,” which inspired some of the astral projection work.

How did you draw the line stylistically and creatively between impressively mind-blowing and over-the-top psychedelic?
It was always our concern to push the limits but not break them. We want to take the audience to these new places but not lose them on the way. It was a joint effort between the VFX artists and the director, editors and producers to always keep in mind what the goal of the story was and to make sure that the VFX wouldn’t take over when it was not necessary. It’s important that the VFX don’t overtake the story and the characters at any time. Sometimes we allow ourselves to shine and show off but it’s always in the service of pushing the story further.

What review and submission technology did you use to coordinate all the VFX houses? Was there a central server?
We used CineSync to review all the submissions live with the vendors. Marvel has a very strong IT department and servers that allow the various vendors to send their submission securely and quickly. We used a system called Signiant that allows all submissions to be automatically sorted and put in a database for review. It’s very efficient and necessary when you get a huge amount of submissions daily as we did toward the end of the project. Our team of amazing coordinators made sure everything was reviewed and presented to the studio so we could give immediate feedback to our vendors, who worked 24/7 around the globe to finish the movie.

What project management software did you use?
Our database is customized and we use Filemaker. Our review sessions are a mixture of CineSync (QuickTime and interactive reviews) and Tweak RV for 2K viewing and finalizing.

In talking to ILM about the film, they mentioned previs, production and postvis. Can you talk a bit about that whole workflow?
We do extensive previz/techviz and stuntviz before production, but as soon as the shots are in the can editors cut them in the movie. They are then turned over to our postviz team so we can quickly check that everything works and the editors can cut in a version of the shot that represents the idea of what it will be in the end. It’s a fantastic tool that allows us to shape the film before we turn it over to the vendors, so we nail basic ideas and concepts before they get executed. Obviously, there is lots that the vendors will add on top of the postviz, but this process is necessary for a lot of reasons (editing, R&D, preview screening) and is very efficient and useful.

Collectively how many hundreds of people worked on the VFX on this movie?
I would say about 1,000 people in the VFX overall. That does not count the 3D conversion people.

What was the personal challenge for you? How did you survive and thrive while working on this one project?
I worked two years on it! It was really difficult, but also very exciting. Sometimes mentally draining and challenging, but always interesting. What makes you survive is the excitement of making something special and getting to see it put together by such a talented group of people across the board. When you work on this kind of film everybody does their best, so the outcome is worth it. I think we definitely tried to do our best, and the audience seems to respond to what we did. It’s incredibly rewarding and in the end, it’s the reason why we make these movies — so that people can enjoy the ride.


In addition to being a West Coast correspondent for postPerspective, Daniel Restuccio is the multimedia department chair at California Lutheran University and former Walt Disney Imagineer.