Tag Archives: Union VFX

Behind the Title: Union VFX supervisor James Roberts

NAME: James Roberts

COMPANY: London-based Union (@unionvfx)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Union is an independent VFX company founded on a culture of originality, innovation and collaboration.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
VFX Supervisor

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Overseeing the VFX for feature films from concept to delivery. This includes concept development, on-set photography and supervision of artists.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I sometimes get to be an actor.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Working with creative artists both on set and in the studio to develop original artwork.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Answering emails.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
1am

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Professional dog walker

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION?
My mother was an artist and my father was a computer programmer… I didn’t have many other options.

My Cousin Rachel

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS?
T2 Trainspotting and My Cousin Rachel.

WHAT PROJECT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
’71 and The Theory of Everything.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Headphones, Side Effects Houdini and light bulbs.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Instagram — I’m @jjjjjjames

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
Yes…… anything and everything.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I spend time away from work with nice people.

Union VFX’s Simon Hughes talks Suffragette’s seamless VFX

London-based Union VFX provided a number of visual effects shots for the film Suffragette, Sarah Gavron’s drama about the early feminist movement and the fight for equality and the right to vote.

As you can imagine, this type of film doesn’t scream VFX, so Union’s work on Suffragette was in the “blending-in” category, such as building extensions, CG crowd multiplication and the addition of vehicles and props — all of which needed to behave seamlessly with the real environments and set dressings.

track beforetrack after

One of the bigger sequences that Union provided shots for was the climactic scene at Epsom race course, which sees suffragette Emily Davison step out in front of King George V’s horse — you can imagine how that turned out. Union’s creatives were called on to help swell the huge crowd who witnessed the tragedy, and to help paint an historically accurate picture of an Edwardian sporting event. This required complex VFX work, involving a compositing plate and tiled elements, and the creation of CG characters, buildings, vehicles and contemporary props, such as betting signs, and even a circus.

“Epsom was easily the largest sequence in the film for us,” reports Simon Hughes, Union’s VFX supervisor on Suffragette, who said this included a series of significant crowd extensions and architectural augmentations.

Simon Hughes

Simon Hughes

“The crowd was built using a combination of Golaem crowd simulations and characters built in Maya from “t-poses” of large groups of extras photographed on set during the shoot. “They are called t-poses because the arms and legs aren’t connected to the sides of the body,” he explains. “These are shot 360 degrees around the body and then used as texture and anatomy for the character builds in Maya. Once built, the characters were rigged with a skeleton to enable animation, using a combination of walk cycle animations and custom animations, such as waving and gesturing. These animations were then imported into Golaem along with the characters and multiplied and randomized to build an enormous crowd.”

All shots were composited in Foundry Nuke. CG was rendered in Arnold, and props, buildings and vehicles were built in Maya. They called on PFTrack and Nuke for tracking.

In addition to Epsom, there was a riot sequence on London’s Oxford Street, a series of explosions, the re-building of Holloway prison and an expanded crowd of MPs and protestors at the Houses of Parliament (which was used as a set for a commercial film for the first time in its history).

“For all of these there was a special effects explosion that visual effects expanded on using effects simulations in Side Effects Houdini. These included rebuilding the post boxes so we could blow the lid and doors off, and expanding the explosion with additional rubble and debris and dust along with the obvious fire and smoke elements that were required,” concludes Hughes.