Tag Archives: VFX

Sci-Tech Award winners named

The 2018 Sci-Tech Awards (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) have been bestowed to 34 individuals and one company representing 10 scientific and technical achievements. Each recipient will be honored at the annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation on February 10 at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills.

“This year we are happy to honor a very international group of technologists for their innovative and outstanding accomplishments,” says Ray Feeney, Academy Award recipient and chair of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee. “These individuals have significantly contributed to the ongoing evolution of motion pictures and their efforts continue to empower the creativity of our industry.”

Technical Achievement Award Winners (Academy Certificates)

Honorees: Jason Smith and Jeff White for the original design, and to Rachel Rose and Mike Jutan for the architecture and engineering of the BlockParty procedural rigging system at Industrial Light & Magic.

BlockParty streamlines the rigging process through a comprehensive connection framework, a unique graphical user interface and volumetric rig transfer. This has enabled ILM to build richly detailed and unique creatures while greatly improving artist productivity.

Honorees: Joe Mancewicz, Matt Derksen and Hans Rijpkema for the design, architecture and implementation of the Rhythm & Hues Construction Kit rigging system.

This toolset provides a new approach to character rigging that features topological independence, continuously editable rigs and deformation workflows with shape-preserving surface relaxation, enabling 15 years of improvements to production efficiency and animation quality.

Honorees: Alex Powell for the design and engineering and to Jason Reisig for the interaction design, and to Martin Watt and Alex Wells for the high-performance execution engine of the Premo character animation system at DreamWorks Animation.

Premo enables animators to pose full-resolution characters in representative shot context, significantly increasing their productivity.

Honorees: Rob Jensen for the foundational design and continued development and to Thomas Hahn for the animation toolset and to George ElKoura, Adam Woodbury and Dirk Van Gelder for the high-performance execution engine of the Presto Animation System at Pixar Animation Studios.

Presto allows artists to work interactively in scene context with full-resolution geometric models and sophisticated rig controls, and has significantly increased the productivity of character animators at Pixar.

Scientific and Engineering Award Winners (Academy Plaques)

Honorees: John Coyle, Brad Hurndell, Vikas Sathaye and Shane Buckham for the concept, design, engineering and implementation of the Shotover K1 camera system.

This six-axis stabilized aerial camera mount, with its enhanced ability to frame shots while looking straight down, enables greater creativity while allowing pilots to fly more effectively and safely.

Honorees: Jeff Lait, Mark Tucker, Cristin Barghiel and John Lynch for their contributions to the design and architecture of Side Effects Software’s Houdini visual effects and animation system.

Houdini’s dynamics framework and workflow management tools have helped it become the industry standard for bringing natural phenomena, destruction and other digital effects to the screen.

Honorees: Bill Spitzak and Jonathan Egstad for the visionary design, development and stewardship of Foundry’s Nuke compositing system.

Built for production at Digital Domain, Nuke is used across the motion picture industry, enabling novel and sophisticated workflows at an unprecedented scale.

Honorees: Abigail Brady, Jon Wadelton and Jerry Huxtable for their significant contributions to the architecture and extensibility of Foundry’s Nuke compositing system.

Expanded as a commercial product at The Foundry, Nuke is a comprehensive, versatile and stable system that has established itself as the backbone of compositing and image processing pipelines across the motion picture industry.

Honorees: Leonard Chapman for the overall concept, design and development, to Stanislav Gorbatov for the electronic system design, and to David Gasparian and Souhail Issa for the mechanical design and integration of the Hydrascope telescoping camera crane systems.

With its fully waterproof construction, the Hydrascope has advanced crane technology and versatility by enabling precise long-travel multi-axis camera movement in, out of and through fresh or salt water.

Academy Award of Merit (Oscar statuette)

Honorees: Mark Elendt and Side Effects Software for the creation and development of the Houdini visual effects and animation system.

With more than twenty years of continual innovation, Houdini has delivered the power of procedural methods to visual effects artists, making it the industry standard for bringing natural phenomena, destruction and other digital effects to the screen.

Gordon E. Sawyer Award (Oscar statuette)

Honoree: Jonathan Erland, visual effects technologist

Presented to an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry.

All images courtesy of A.M.P.A.S.

Jogger moves CD Andy Brown from London to LA

Creative director Andy Brown has moved from Jogger’s London office to its Los Angeles studio. Brown led the development of boutique VFX house Jogger London, including credits for the ADOT PSA Homeless Lights via Ogilvy & Mather, as well as projects for Adidas, Cadbury, Valentino, Glenmorangie, Northwestern Mutual, La-Z-Boy and more. He’s also been involved in post and VFX for short films such as Foot in Mouth, Containment and Daisy as well as movie title sequences (via The Morrison Studio), including Jupiter Ascending, Collide, The Ones Below and Ronaldo.

Brown got his start in the industry at MPC, where he worked for six years, eventually assuming the role of digital online editor. He then went on to work in senior VFX roles at some of London’s post houses, before assuming head of VFX at One Post. Following One Post’s merger with Rushes, Brown founded his own company Four Walls, establishing the company’s reputation for creative visual effects and finishing.

Brown oversaw Four Walls’ merger with LA’s Jogger Studios in 2016. Andy has since helped form interconnections with Jogger’s teams in London, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Austin, with high-end VFX, motion graphics and color grading carried out on projects globally.

VFX house Jogger is a sister company of editing house Cut + Run.

Creating CG wildlife for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

If you are familiar with the original Jumanji film from 1995 — about a board game that brings its game jungle, complete with animals and the boy it trapped decades earlier, into the present day — you know how important creatures are to the story. In this new version of the film, the game traps four teens inside its video game jungle, where they struggle to survive among the many creatures, while trying to beat the game.

For Columbia Pictures’ current sequel, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Montreal-based visual effects house Rodeo FX was called on to create 96 shots, including some of the film’s wildlife. The film stars Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and Kevin Hart.

“Director Jake Kasdan wanted the creatures to feel cursed, so our team held back from making them too realistic,” explains Rodeo FX VFX supervisor Alexandre Lafortune. “The hippo is a great example of a creature that would have appeared scary if we had made it look real, so we made it bigger and faster and changed the pink flesh in its mouth to black. These changes make the hippo fit in with the comedy.”

The studio’s shots for the film feature a range of creatures, as well as matte paintings and environments. Rodeo FX worked alongside the film’s VFX supervisor, Jerome Chen, to deliver the director’s vision for the star-studded film.

“It was a pleasure to collaborate with Rodeo FX on this film,” says Chen. “I relied on Alexandre Lafortune and his team to help us with sequences requiring full conceptualization and execution from start to finish.”

Chen entrusted Rodeo FX with the hippo and other key creatures, including the black mamba snake that engages Bethany, played by Jack Black, in a staring contest. The snake was created by Rodeo FX based on a puppet used on set by the actors. Rodeo FX used a 3D scan of the prop and brought it to life in CG, making key adjustments to its appearance, including coloring and mouth shape. The VFX studio also delivered shots of a scorpion, crocodile, a tarantula and a centipede that complement the tone of the film’s villain.

In terms of tools, “We used Maya and Houdini — mainly for water effects — as 3D tools, Zbrush for modeling and Nuke for compositing,” reports Lafortune. “Arnold renderer was used for 3D renders, such as lighting and shading shaders.”

Additional Rodeo FX’s creature work can be seen in IT, The Legend of Tarzan and Paddington 2.

London’s Lola provides VFX for three holiday shows

London’s Lola Post Production has been busy leading up to the holidays, working on three shows scheduled to air over the Christmas period: Little Women (BBC One), Grandpa’s Great Escape (BBC One) and Ratburger (Sky One).

The team created over 50 shots for Grandpa’s Great Escape. Based on the book by David Walliams and produced by King Bert, it’s the story of Grandpa, a World War II flying ace, who now suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and is moved to an old peoples’ home called Twilight Towers, run by Miss Dandy.

Grandpa’s Great Escape

Lola’s Tim Zaccheo created an entirely CG landscape, sky and planes (and avatars of the characters) in Side Effects Houdini and PlanetSide Software’s Terragen. Chris Glew and Desi Valcheva comped the greenscreen cockpit shots of Grandpa and Jack as they’re pursued by RAF jet fighters.

Another King Bert production and David Walliams adaptation is Ratburger (our main image). Lola completed more than 100 shots for this gruesome yet funny story. Ratburger follows a young girl named Zoe, who befriends a baby rat and names him Armitage. He’s no ordinary rat — he can dance and that’s where Lola came in. They built a photoreal CG dancing rat to take over from the on-set Armitage and to perform the more dangerous stunts.

Lola’s animation team (headed by Helen Bucknall) produced the dancing rat action for this Sky One Christmas Eve offering.

For Playground TV’s three-part adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Lola created around 80 VFX shots.

VFX house Kevin adds three industry veterans

Venice, California-based visual effects house Kevin, founded by Tim Davies, Sue Troyan and Darcy Parsons, has beefed up its team even further with the hiring of head of CG Mike Dalzell, VFX supervisor Theo Maniatis and head of technology Carl Loeffler. This three-month-old studio has already worked on spots for Jaguar, Land Rover, Target and Old Spice, and is currently working on a series of commercials for the Super Bowl.

Dalzell brings years of experience as a CG supervisor and lead artist — he started as a 3D generalist before focusing on look development and lighting — at top creative studios including Digital Domain, MPC and Psyop, The Mill, Sony Imageworks and Method. He was instrumental in look development for VFX Gold Clio and British Arrow-winner Call of Duty Seize Glory and GE’s Childlike Imagination. He has also worked on commercials for Nissan, BMW, Lexus, Visa, Cars.com, Air Force and others. Early on, Dalzell honed his skills on music videos in Toronto, and then on feature films such as Iron Man 3 and The Matrix movies, as well as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Maniatis, a Flame artist and on-set VFX supervisor, has a wide breadth of experience in the US, London and his native Sydney. “Tim [Davies] and I used to work together back in Australia, so reconnecting with him and moving to LA has been a blast.”

Maniatis’s work includes spots for Apple Watch 3 + Apple Music’s Roll (directed by Sam Brown), TAG Heuer’s To Jack (directed by and featuring Patrick Dempsey), Destiny 2’s Rally the Troops and Titanfall 2’s Become One (via Blur Studios), and PlayStation VR’s Batman Arkham and Axe’s Office Love, both directed by Filip Engstrom. Prior to joining Kevin, Maniatis worked with Blur Studios, Psyop, The Mill, Art Jail and Framestore.

Loeffler is creating the studio’s production model using the latest Autodesk Flame systems, high-end 3D workstations and render nodes and putting new networking and storage systems into place. Kevin’s new Culver City studio will open its doors in Q1, 2018 and Loeffler will guide the current growth in both hardware and software, plan for the future and make sure Kevin’s studio is optimized for the needs of production. He has over two decades of experience building out and expanding the technologies for facilities including MPC and Technicolor.

Image: (L-R) Mike Dalzell, Carl Loeffler and Theo Maniatis.

Shotgun 7.6 adds analytics feature set for VFX and animation

Shotgun Software has released Shotgun 7.6, the latest version of its cloud-based review and production tracking software, featuring a new set of analytics and reporting tools that give studios the ability to visualize key production information, keep a close eye on the progress of their projects and make business-critical decisions quickly.

The new normal is shorter turnaround, tighter budgets and growing creative demands, so studios need to be efficient, identify business issues quickly and adjust where and how resources are being used during production. Production Insights in Shotgun provides studios with an overview of the health of projects as well as the ability to dive into the details to see where time and resources are used, so operations can be streamlined and better decisions can be made.

“Our new Production Insights features help Shotgun customers answer urgent and costly production questions such as: Are we going to hit our deadline? How much work is there left to do? Where are we struggling?” explains James Pycock, head of product management for Shotgun. “Having access to these tools out of the box gives everyone instant at-a-glance visualizations of how and where they are spending time and resources.”

Shotgun Production Insights include:

– Analytics: The ability to apply production data in Shotgun to optimize how resources are used, plan ahead for tight deadlines and budgets, and accurately compile bids for upcoming projects.
– Data Visualization: In addition to the existing horizontal bar chart in Shotgun, there are now new graph types, including pie charts, vertical bar charts and line charts.
– Data Grouping: Display data is now available as stacked (see picture) or un-stacked bar charts to visualize in even greater at-a-glance detail.
– Presets: Users can drag and drop from a number of pre-configured presets to build reports instantly, with flexible customization options.

Shotgun pricing starts at $30 per account/per month with what they call “Awesome” support, or $50 per account/per month for “Super Awesome” support. They are offering free trials here.

Abbe Daniel joins NYC’s Eight VFX as EP

Eight VFX, a New York- and Los Angeles-based visual effects, design and production studio, has named Abbe Daniel executive producer for its New York studio.

Daniel joins Eight VFX (www.eightvfx.com) from Leroy & Clarkson, a brand design and identity boutique in New York. She’s held key positions at production companies and agencies, specializing in the production of digital ad campaigns, visual effects work and experiential installations. Prior to Leroy & Clarkson, she was an EP at the experiential studio Fake Love and has held EP/MD or senior producer posts at such studios as Digital Kitchen, Curious Pictures, Click3x and R/GA.

Daniel says she was drawn to the company largely based on the level of creative work. “It’s an impressive portfolio, coming from a boutique company such as this, and that’s what first caught my eye. Once the leadership team and I discussed the goals and strategy, we knew we were all on the same page about how to expand the New York office. The cultural fit just felt right, almost immediately.”

In her new position, she’ll play several key roles in the New York office; in addition to acting as both EP and GM, she’ll oversee sales and marketing and is in the process of recruiting and hiring an experienced creative team, with plans to add additional VFX supervisors, CG supervisors, 2D and 3D lead compositors, designers and other key contributors.

Currently Eight handles a range of work, including commercials for such brands as Target, Pandora, Puma, Ram Trucks, New York Lottery, Call of Duty, Honda, Perrier and others. The studio has partnered with such directors as Craig Gillespie, Michel Gondry, Noam Murro, Tom Kuntz and Michael Gracey.

The studio also has extensive feature credits, and provided VFX for the new film I, Tonya, directed by Gillespie. Eight’s New York office was the sole effects studio on this picture, completing over 200 shots and delivering in under four months. They’ve also worked on films like Beasts of No Nation for Cary Fukunaga, Knight & Day for James Mangold, Mother! for Darren Aronofsky, Hostage for Florent Emilio Siri and Gillespie’s 2014 sports drama, Million Dollar Arm.

Eight VFX has branched into episodic television as well, working on the hit Netflix series Stranger Things 2 and the Fox series The Orville, a the sci-fi comedy from Seth MacFarlane. For the latter, the studio turned around over 120 shots in under four weeks. “They tapped into our strengths for large digital matte paintings, set extensions and photoreal CG,” Daniel says about their work.

The main focus of growing Eight VFX’s presence in New York, says Daniel, will be to continue to build on their current relations, both with directors and production houses, as well as with agencies and brands. “We’re also expanding our design and development and mixed media services for all of our clients across the board. Our goal is to help clients achieve their visions and meet their objectives, so all touchpoints across all platforms will be important.”

HPA celebrates creatives at annual awards ceremony

The Hollywood Professional Association‘s 2017 HPA Awards, held on November 16, recognize individuals and companies for outstanding post production contributions made in the creation of feature films, television, commercials and entertainment content.

Awards were given out in 12 creative categories honoring color grading, sound, editing and visual effects for commercials, television and feature film. Larry Chernoff of MTI received the Lifetime Achievement Award, and special awards were presented for Engineering Excellence and Creativity and Innovation.

The winners of the 2017 HPA Awards are:

Outstanding Color Grading
Outstanding Color Grading – Feature Film

“Ghost in the Shell”
Michael Hatzer // Technicolor – Hollywood

“The Birth of a Nation”
Steven J. Scott // Technicolor – Hollywood

“Hidden Figures”
Natasha Leonnet // Efilm

“Doctor Strange”
Steven J. Scott // Technicolor – Hollywood

“Beauty and the Beast”
Stefan Sonnenfeld // Company 3

Michael Hatzer // Technicolor – Hollywood

Outstanding Color Grading – Television

“The Crown – Smoke and Mirrors”
Asa Shoul // Molinare

“The Last Tycoon – Burying the Boy Genius”
Timothy Vincent // Technicolor – Hollywood

“Game of Thrones – Dragonstone”
Joe Finley // Chainsaw

“Genius – Einstein: Chapter 1”
Pankaj Bajpai // Encore Hollywood

“The Man in the High Castle – Detonation”
Roy Vasich // Technicolor

Outstanding Color Grading – Commercial

Jose Cuervo – “Last Days”
Tom Poole // Company 3

Land O’ Lakes – “The Farmer”
Billy Gabor // Company 3

Pennzoil – “Joyride Tundra”
Dave Hussey // Company 3

Nedbank – “A Tale of a Note”
Sofie Borup // Company 3

Squarespace – “John’s Journey”
Tom Poole // Company 3

Outstanding Editing
Outstanding Editing – Feature Film   

Lee Smith, ACE

“Hidden Figures”
Peter Teschner

“The Ivory Game”
Verena Schönauer

“Get Out”
Gregory Plotkin, ACE

Alexandre de Franceschi

Outstanding Editing – Television

“Stranger Things – Chapter 1: The Vanishing of Will Byers”
Dean Zimmerman

Outstanding Editing – Commercial

Nespresso – “Comin’ Home”
Chris Franklin // Big Sky Edit 

Bonafont – “Choices”
Doobie White // Therapy Studios

Optum – “Heroes”
Chris Franklin // Big Sky Edit

SEAT – “Moments”
Doobie White // Therapy Studios

Outstanding Sound
Outstanding Sound – Feature Film

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”
Addison Teague, Dave Acord, Chris Boyes, Lora Hirschberg // Skywalker Sound

“The Fate of the Furious”
Peter Brown, Mark Stoeckinger, Paul Aulicino, Steve Robinson, Bobbi Banks // Formosa Group

Alan Murray, Bub Asman, John Reitz, Tom Ozanich // Warner Bros. Post Production Creative Services

“John Wick: Chapter 2”
Mark Stoeckinger, Alan Rankin, Andy Koyama, Martyn Zub, Gabe Serrano // Formosa Group

“Doctor Strange”
Shannon Mills, Tom Johnson, Juan Peralta, Dan Laurie // Skywalker Sound

Stranger Things

Stranger Things

Outstanding Sound – Television

“Stranger Things – Chapter 8: The Upside Down”
Craig Henighan // FOX
Bradley North, Joe Barnett, Adam Jenkins, Jordan Wilby, Tiffany S. Griffith // Technicolor – Hollywood

“American Gods – The Bone Orchard”
Bradley North, Joseph DeAngelis, Kenneth Kobett, David Werntz, Tiffany S. Griffith // Technicolor – Hollywood

“Underground – Soldier”
Larry Goeb, Mark Linden, Tara Paul // Sony Pictures Post

“Game of Thrones – The Spoils of War”
Tim Kimmel, MPSE, Paula Fairfield, Mathew Waters, CAS, Onnalee Blank, CAS, Bradley C. Katona, Paul Bercovitch // Formosa Group

“The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble”
Pete Horner // Skywalker Sound
Dimitri Tisseyre // Envelope Music + Sound
Dennis Hamlin // Hamlin Sound

Outstanding Sound – Commercial 

Rio 2016 Paralympic Games – “We’re The Superhumans”
Anthony Moore // Factory

Honda – “Up”
Anthony Moore, Neil Johnson, Jack Hallett // Factory
Sian Rogers // Siren

Virgin Media – “This Is Virgin Fibre”
Anthony Moore // Factory

Kia – “Hero’s Journey”
Nathan Dubin // Margarita Mix Santa Monica

SEAT – “Moments”
Doobie White // Therapy Studios

War for the Planet of the Apes

Outstanding Visual Effects
Outstanding Visual Effects – Feature Film

“War for the Planet of the Apes”
Dan Lemmon, Anders Langlands, Luke Millar, Erik Winquist, Daniel Barrett // Weta Digital

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”
Gary Brozenich, Sheldon Stopsack, Patrick Ledda, Richard Clegg, Richard Little // MPC

“Beauty and the Beast”
Kyle McCulloch, Glen Pratt, Richard Hoover, Dale Newton, Neil Weatherley // Framestore

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”
Guy Williams, Kevin Andrew Smith, Charles  Tait, Daniel Macarin, David Clayton // Weta Digital

“Ghost in the Shell”
Guillaume Rocheron, Axel Bonami, Arundi Asregadoo, Pier Lefebvre, Ruslan Borysov // MPC

Outstanding Visual Effects – Television

“Black Sails – XXIX”
Erik Henry
Yafei Wu, Nicklas Andersson, David Wahlberg // Important Looking Pirates
Martin Lippman // Rodeo

“The Crown – Windsor”
Ben Turner, Tom Debenham, Oliver Cubbage, Lionel Heath, Charlie Bennett // One of Us

“Taboo – Episode One”
Henry Badgett, Nic Birmingham, Simon Rowe, Alexander Kirichenko, Finlay Duncan // BlueBolt VFX

“Ripper Street – Occurrence Reports”
Ed Bruce, Nicholas Murphy, Denny Cahill, Piotr Swigut, Mark Pinheiro // Screen Scene

“Westworld – The Bicameral Mind”
Jay Worth // Deep Water FX
Bobo Skipper, Gustav Ahren, Jens Tenland // Important Looking Pirates
Paul Ghezzo // COSA VFX

Outstanding Visual Effects – Commercial

Kia – “Hero’s Journey”
Robert Sethi, Chris Knight, Tom Graham, Jason Bergman // The Mill

Walmart – “Lost & Found”
Morgan MacCuish, Michael Ralla, Aron Hjartarson, Todd Herman // Framestore

Honda – “Keep the Peace”
Laurent Ledru, Georgia Tribuiani, Justin Booth-Clibborn, Ellen Turner // Psyop

Nespresso – “Comin’ Home”
Matt Pascuzzi, Martin Lazaro, Murray Butler, Nick Fraser, Callum McKeveny // Framestore

Walmart – “The Gift”
Mike Warner, Kurt Lawson, Charles Trippe, Robby  Geis // ZERO VFX

The following special awards, which were previously announced, were also presented this evening:

2017 Winners:
-Colorfront // Colorfront Engine
-Dolby // Dolby Vision Post-Production Tools
-Red Digital Cinema // Weapon 8K Vista Vision
-SGO // Mistika VR

Honorable Mentions were awarded to Canon USA for Critical Viewing Reference Displays and to Eizo for ColorEdge CG318-4K.


2017 Winner
NASA, Amazon Web Services, and AWS Elemental, an Amazon Web Services Company // The First Live 4K Stream from the International Space Station

2017 Honoree: Larry Chernoff

Dementia 13: Helping enhance the horror with VFX

By Randi Altman

As scary movies are making a comeback and putting butts in seats, as they say, the timing couldn’t be better for NBC Universal’s remake of Dementia 13, a 1963 horror film directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The 2017 version, directed by Richard LeMay, can be streamed on all major VOD platforms. It focuses on a vengeful ghost, a mysterious murderer and a family with a secret. Jeremy Wanek was the lead VFX artist on Dementia 13, and Wayne Harry Johnson Jr. was the VFX producer. They are from Black Space VFX. We reached out to them with some questions.

Jeremy Wanek

How early did you get involved in Dementia 13?
Johnson: We were involved from the second or third draft of the script. Dan De Filippo, who wrote and produced the film, wanted our feedback immediately in terms of what was possible for VFX in the film. We worked with them through pre-production and even fielded a few questions during production. It is extremely important to start thinking about VFX immediately in any production. That way you can write for it and plan your shoot for it. There is nothing worse than a production hoping it can be fixed by VFX work. So getting us involved right away saves everyone a lot of time and money.

Wanek: During preproduction it seems incredibly common for filmmakers to underestimate how many effect shots there will be on their films. They forget about the simple/invisible effects, while concentrating on the bigger and flashier stuff. I don’t blame them; it’s nearly impossible to figure everything out ahead of time. There are always unexpected things that come up during production as well. Always.

For example, on Dementia 13 they shot in this really cool castle location, but they found out while on production that they couldn’t use as many of the practical blood effects as they intended. They didn’t want a bloody mess! So, we were asked to do more digital blood effects and enhancements.

Wayne Harry Johnson, Jr.

Were they open to suggestions from you or did they have a very specific idea of what they wanted?
Johnson: As in every production, there are always elements that are very specifically asked for, but director Richard LeMay is very collaborative. We discussed in great detail the look of all the important effects. And he was very open to suggestions and ideas. This was our second film with Rich. We also did the VFX work on his new film Blood Bound, and it has been a great creative relationship. We can’t wait to work with him again.

Wanek: Yeah, Rich has a vision for sure, but he always gives us creative freedom to explore options and see what we can come up with. I think that’s the best of both worlds.

How many shots did you provide?
Johnson: We did roughly 60 VFX shots for the film, and hopefully the audience won’t notice all of them. If we do our jobs correctly, most VFX work is invisible. As in all films there are little things that get cleaned up or straightened out. VFX isn’t just about robots and explosions. It has a lot to do with keeping the film looking the best it can be by hiding the blemishes that could not be avoided during production.

So again it is important for the filmmakers to consult on their film as they go and ask questions as they go. We all want the same thing for the film, and that is to make it the best it can be and sometimes that means painting out a light switch or removing a sign on that beautiful shot of a road.

Wanek: It’s interesting to note how many shots were intended during preproduction and how many we ended up doing in post. I’d say we ended up doing at least twice as many shots, which is not uncommon. There are elements like the smoke on Kathleen, the ghost girl, when it’s hard to know exactly how many times you’re going to cut to a shot of her. Half of the effect shots for the movie involved creating her ghostly appearance.

Ghost girl Kathleen.

Can you describe the type of effects you provided on the show?
Wanek: We did muzzle flashes, wire removal, visible breath from characters in a cold environment, frost that encapsulates windows, digital hands that pull a character off a dock and into water (that included a digital water splash), the Kathleen ghost effect and an assortment of blood effects.

You created a lot of element effects, such as smoke, water, blood, etc. What was the hardest one to create and why?
Wanek: Creating the smoke that blankets Kathleen was the most challenging and time consuming effect. There were about 30 shots of her in total, and I tackled them myself. With the quick turnaround on the film, it made for some long nights. Every action she performed, and each new camera angle, presented unique challenges. Thankfully, she doesn’t move much in most of the shots. But for shots where she picks a gun up from the ground, or walks across the room, I had to play around with the physics to make it play more realistically, which takes time.

What tools did you use on this project?
Wanek: We composited in Adobe After Effects, tracked in Mocha AE, used Photoshop to assist in painting out objects/wire removal, and I relied heavily on Red Giant’s Trapcode Particular to create the particle effects — ghostly smoke, some of the blood effects and a digital water splash.

Our artists work remotely, so we stored the shots on Dropbox to easily send them out to other artists on the team, who would then download them to their own hard drives. To review shots it was a similar process, using Dropbox and emailing the director a link to stream/download. We kept shot names and the progress info on all shots organized using a Google spreadsheet. This was great because we could update it live, and everyone was on the same page at all times.

CG hands.

Turnarounds are typically tight? Was that the case with Dementia 13? If so, how did you make it work?
Johnson: Yes, we had roughly 30 days to complete the VFX work on the film. Tight deadlines can be hard but we were aware of that when we went into it. What really helps with managing tight deadlines is all the upfront communication between us and the director. By the time we started we knew exactly what Rich was looking for so dialing it in was a much easier and faster process. We also previewed early cuts of the film so we could see and anticipate any potential problems ahead of time. Planning and preparing solves most problems even when time is tight.

So as I said, having VFX involved from the very beginning is essential. Bring us in early, even when it’s just a treatment. We can get a sense of what needs to be done, how long it will take and start estimating budgets. The thing that makes tight deadlines hard is that lots of filmmakers think about VFX last, or very late in the process. Then when they want it done fast they have to compromise because the effect may not have been planned right. So as you can see we have a theme, call us early on.

Wanek: And as I mentioned earlier, unexpected things happen. The dreaded, “we’ll fix it in post,” is a real thing, unfortunately. Filmmakers need to make sure they have additional VFX budget for those surprises.

What was the most challenging part of the process?
Johnson: Each area can have its own challenges. But making anything move like liquid and look convincing is hard. We worked on some ghostly blood effects in the title sequence of the film that were difficult, but in the end we think it looks great. It is a subtle plant for the audience to know there is a bit of supernatural action in this film. Our company is also a virtual company, meaning all of us work remotely. So sometimes communication internally and with clients can be a challenge, but in the end a quick phone call usually solves most problems. Again, more communication and earlier involvement helps alleviate a lot of issues.

CG blood spurts.

What’s next for you and your studio, and where are you based?
Wanek: We are based in Minneapolis, and just opened a second office in New York City. Wayne, myself and Adam Natrop are partners in the company. We’re currently in post production on a horror comedy zombie/hockey movie, Ahockalypse. It’s wackier than it sounds. It’s a lot of fun and pretty bold!

Wayne wrote and directed the film, and I edited it. We just handed it off to our sound designer, to our composer, and are starting work on the VFX. We’re hoping to finish before the year is up. We have several projects on the horizon that we can’t say anything about yet, but we’re excited!

Behind the Title: Framestore director of production & ops Sarah Hiddlestone

NAME: Sarah Hiddlestone

COMPANY: Framestore

Framestore is a BAFTA-and Oscar-winning visual effects studio. We produce visual content for any screen from films and TV programs to theme park rides to large-scale installations and virtual/augmented/mixed realities.

Director of Production & Operations

My role oversees daily negotiation and communication, and ensures that the New York office runs smoothly. I focus on creating an environment, studio culture and working process that allows teams to produce high-quality work on time and on budget. My role looks at the bigger picture, ensuring projects are run as efficiently as possible. I’m constantly problem-solving and pushing to create the best working environment for our clients and creative talent.


Choosing soap.

My talented production team and our talented artists — they are the life and soul of all the work we produce at Framestore.


The morning. I’m usually one of the first in, and I get a lot done as the office wakes up.

Living as a beach bum in Bali.

I fell into this profession. I always loved animation, but studied hospitality management — thought I wanted to be a chef but hated the hours. Oh, the irony. I worked my way up from a PA, learning everything I know on the job. Along the way I’ve developed vital, in-depth knowledge of the production, VFX, VR and emerging technology processes, and the ability to see Framestore as a global whole rather than at individual office or project level.

Working in VFX has allowed me to travel the world, live in different cities (Sydney, New York, London) and meet a network of firm friends that span the globe. My VFX family. I am lucky to have worked at Framestore in both the London and NY offices.

Fantastic Beasts experience

I am behind the scenes on most of the jobs that come out of the NY office. A stand out for our New York office would include last year’s virtual school bus experience Field Trip to Mars with Lockheed Martin and McCann. It’s gone on to win over 100 awards and truly showed the strength and diversity of our staff. More recently we worked with multiple Academy Award-winner Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki to visualize One Night for Absolut and BBH. Our New York office collaborated with Framestore’s film teams in London and Montreal to produce the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them experience.

My personal all-time favorite is Chemical Brothers’ Salmon Dance, which I produced when working in the London office of Framestore for Dom & Nic at Outsider. I also love The Tale of Three Brothers (an animated storybook within Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1). It is a stunning piece of work.

There’s just one: my iPhone.

Pilates, boxing, sitting in silence, lots of slow breathing. Thinking “calm blue ocean.”