Category Archives: VFX

Black Panther editors Debbie Berman and Michael Shawver

By Amy Leland

Black Panther was a highly anticipated film that became a massive hit with audiences and critics alike. Just the fact that it’s a Marvel film would have been enough to create both anticipation and success, but this movie went beyond that, breaking barriers as well as box office records. The film was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture.

Instead of being referred to as a great superhero film, it was simply called a great film. It’s also the kind of high-quality offering you would expect from director Ryan Coogler, whose prior credits include Fruitvale Station and Creed, both of which feature Michael B. Jordon, who is also in Black Panther.

Michael Shawver

I had a chance to talk with the Black Panther editing team — Debbie Berman and Michael Shawver — about the film and their process co-editing such a huge project.

How did you both end up on this project?
Michael Shawver: I’ve known Ryan since our days in film school at the University of Southern California. We met back in 2009 in a directing class, and he was making short films that were just above and beyond everybody else. They were about society, race, culture, everything, and they really made you feel and think. That’s the kind of thing that I always wanted to do, the whole reason I wanted to make movies.

One day after class I went up to him and said, “I’d love to work with you. I can edit a little bit.” Things then fell into place, and I was able to work on a short film we did in school. From there he fought to keep me and the rest of the short film team involved in Fruitvale Station. Then we worked on Creed and then Black Panther.

Debbie Berman: For me it was kind of a serendipitous backstory. I was awarded an editing fellowship to the Sundance Institute in 2012, and as part of the fellowship I went to the Sundance Film Festival and went to the awards ceremony for the first time. That was the year that Fruitvale won Sundance. So I was actually there watching Ryan’s career begin, and I remember absolutely loving the movie and really being drawn to him as a filmmaker. I thought Creed was absolutely brilliant. I ugly cried through most of Creed. I think it’s phenomenal.

Debbie Berman

When I was working on Spider-Man: Homecoming, I kept talking about Black Panther. As a South African, it was a film that really spoke to me, and really felt like it was going to be important to me. So Marvel connected us.

Shawver: When we met with Debbie, we just kind of knew. Ryan and I both knew a few minutes in that she was the right choice and that this was going to be the right fit. Between her work ethic, her worldview, her passion and what she focuses on to tell a story and to bring characters alive, I think it all just rang true with how we felt and our process.
And you never know. It’s tough when you co-edit with somebody because you kind of just go on one date and then you’re married. You never know how it’s going to work out. And there’s always creative discussion; there’s always, “What if this is better? What if that’s better?” But everybody left their egos at the door. We’re all “movies first.” We don’t take anything personally, and we help each other not take anything personally, and we support each other. It couldn’t have worked out better.

Berman: I totally agree. It’s like one day you’re married, but you’re married during a world war. You’re going through a very stressful time together. I did feel an instant kinship with Mike and Ryan the second we all met. It just felt like meeting old family. I’ve been passionate about filmmaking my entire life, and they have the same amount of passion. And as Mike said, we always put the film first, and with having that shared love of this movie in particular, it really just got us through everything.

I got to meet Ryan at a screening of Fruitvale Station, and I was struck by how humble he is. As a leader of a project, he must bring that to the environment. Did you all feel that when you were working with him?
Shawver: Oh yeah. That’s what he’s really like. I tell people that he’s a great director, but he’s a hundred times better person. He believes that people who make the movies are more important than the movie itself. That humility that he has allows him to learn. He’ll be the first one to say that he’s not the smartest person in the room, even though everybody would disagree with him. He understands that when you can admit that you don’t know everything, you can start to learn.

I think that, much like T’Challa does in the movie, Ryan feeds off of the people around him. There’s a reason we have certain members of the team that have stayed with Ryan for so long, and he would fight for us. When he brought Debbie into the fold, it was the same way. We all feel like we have so much to learn, and we’re so grateful to be in the position that we’re in. We can’t see operating any other way.

Berman: Ryan insists on honesty from his crew, and never feels that anything you say is a critique of him or his work. He understands that everything you say is just trying to make the film better. There is an open environment where it’s okay to say anything you want. It’s a safe environment to fail because out of a hundred ideas, if you get three that are great then it was worth the other 97 that maybe weren’t so great, because it’s all for the greater good of the film.

Were you both on the project from the beginning, and how did that process work with the two of you cutting the film together?
Berman: Mike started a bit before me, but the film as you see today is something we built from scratch together. We mostly worked on separate scenes. A film this big, it’s good to take ownership of certain sections, because there’s so much to track in terms of the visual effects load. But we collaborated on everything, we always watched each other’s work and we always gave input, suggestions and feedback. There were a couple of scenes we handed back and forth. If someone had an idea for something, then they would take over that scene and do a pass on it. It was basically a good mixture of complete ownership and collaboration all at the same time.

Shawver: I think the key for us was to work as organically as possible and never let anybody’s creative idea or creative juices go to waste. If Debbie came in one day just raring to go on a scene and had a dream about it, an epiphany about it or something, and wanted to dig in and explore more and see if she could elevate a moment, we would be dumb to get in the way of her doing that.

I think we understood that we had to find a balance of feeling of ownership over the scenes, the moments and the movie as a whole, but also understand that this is a story that needs to speak to everybody. We had a very diverse post team, and that’s not by accident. It’s because diversity can bring about the greatest art. Even down to some of our production assistants, who we would bring in to watch certain things just to give us thoughts, and that would always be filtered to Ryan. With a beast of a movie as big as Black Panther — what was it, like, 500 hours of footage.

As the editors, we’re the first audience. We’re the gatekeepers for everything else. So we have to focus on the details, and the movie as a whole. And with a thing that size and with that many people on a team, it helps to break it down but never be hard and fast with those boundaries.

Berman: One thing that was really important to me was all of the strong female characters in the film. I really focused on the ladies, and just making sure they were the most spectacular, powerful representations they could be. And, of course, we both worked on everything, but I think Mike probably took a bit more of T’Challa. It was such a difficult mix to have our central character surrounded by all of these other strong characters, but still make him feel like the strong and central presence. We both worked quite a lot on Killmonger, because we had to try creating an empathetic villain. It would have been easy to veer in either direction too far. We just had to keep the balance of, you can empathize with the point he’s making, but he’s going about it in the wrong way.

Shawver: With anything you do as an editor, these things are hard. I’m not going to lie. You’re second-guessing yourself. We all need to find our story in it, but also how we can share ourselves in each of these characters. What we focused on a lot, in our own ways, were the relationships in the movie. Because if you boil it down, the relationships make that world go upwards, downwards, leftward, rightwards. My son had just turned one at the time, so the theme of fathers and sons that’s achieved in the movie really resonated with me. Just like Debbie with the female characters. Female characters often don’t get what they deserve on screen, but we made sure that they did. Debbie really took guardianship of that, shepherding it through. I think those are some of the strongest points in the movie.

Berman: Mike was really incredible at putting emotion into scenes. The fight scenes, for example. There are these amazing Warrior Falls scenes, which are action scenes, but they’re so emotional. Most of that is the work Mike put in, like folding it around the characters watching the action, and how you’re filtering your own audience reaction through what they’re experiencing.

I remember there was a lot of talk in the press when the movie came out about representation and inclusion in the film, especially for an action or superhero film. As a woman, I really felt like, “Wow this is an action movie that’s showing people I can relate to on screen.”
Berman: Every time I watched a scene, I would do a pass where I would try to watch it through the female gaze. One of the examples of that editorially is right at the end, when the Dora Milaje are surrounded and the Jabari save them. Originally the Jabari warriors were all male. So I had a conversation with Ryan and I said, “You know, we go through this entire movie with these absolutely spectacular female warriors and then at the end of the film the men save them. I think that it undercuts a lot of what we have built up with them over the course of the film.” But I didn’t know what the solution was.

Ryan, in his brilliance, was like, “Well, what if we make some of the Jabari warriors female?” Which I thought was amazing. But, of course, they’d already shot this massive, complicated action sequence. Luckily, in additional photography, Marvel supported that idea, and they created Jabari female warriors. The very first warrior to break through the force field and save them is this absolutely kick-ass Jabari female warrior. It really made such a difference, not only to that moment, which is one of the coolest moments in the film to me, but just throughout the entire film with what we’re trying to say.

When you first started working, was there any sense of, “Okay, Michael, you’ve been working on the indie film side, so you start with some of the dialogue scenes. Debbie you just came from another Marvel film, so work on the action scenes”? How did you decide who was working on what scenes?

Shawver: We didn’t want to keep it separate in that way. I know for myself, and Debbie as well, if there’s something that we’re not as strong at as an editor, we use the opportunity to be able to edit and get better at those things.

Debbie was on Spider-Man, and I went to Atlanta a little early to start on Panther because I’d never done one of these before, and I was terrified. Every morning I woke up having to pinch myself that I was working on a movie like this. But then the whole rest of the day was, “Don’t screw this up. Don’t screw this up.” Then, when Debbie came in, and said, “This would be a good idea if we did it this way. Here’s what you can do to help this process move along faster. Here’s what you can do to have more specific discussions with the effects teams.” Just those in and outs of having gone through a process like that with Spider-Man helped us immensely. Debbie and I are strong editors. We have our strengths and we have a couple of weaknesses, but I feel like we’re both pretty well rounded. In certain ways, Debbie is stronger than I am, and she would critique certain things and give me notes.

We had a discussion early on. Ryan said he felt better when both of his editors touched a scene, because that way both of our stories could be told. He’d also say that if both of us agreed on something and he didn’t, he’d go with our idea because, “You guys are smart. If you guys say this is better and you both agree on it, then we’re going to do it.”

Berman: We actually pushed each other to go further, because there might be a point where you’re like, “Yeah, I’m happy with the scene” and then someone comes in and prompts you and questions things, and it forces you to re-evaluate and see if you can make every single moment just a little bit better.

I had just done Spider-Man, but I’d also done some indie films. I wasn’t too far removed from understanding what the knowledge gaps would be, ‘because I’d only filled those knowledge gaps myself about five seconds earlier. So I felt like I came from the same world, and I understood what they needed to know based on what I had just learned from my past experience.

Were you in edit rooms next to each other?
Berman: We had separate edit suites. But every time someone was finished with a scene we would sit together, either just the two of us or if Ryan was around sometimes the three of us together. We were on the same floor, a few doors away from each other, but we’re working on our own systems pretty much most of the day, and then checking in with each other. We also sat in the effects reviews together, making sure that the visual effects were serving the story and serving the way we created the scenes. We were also in the sound mix together.

Shawver: One of the things that I learned from Ryan, and about Ryan, is you just have to trust him. There are times as an editor, especially when you have a team of dozens and dozens of people, when they are looking at you and needing a scene to be done or a decision to be made, but we haven’t fully gotten it there yet. Ryan said to me, I think it was an Abraham Lincoln quote, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the ax.” He told me that right after I was getting very nervous about a deadline we had, because he had to go to a bunch of other meetings and stuff like that, and that really put things into perspective.

There were times that we’d just sit and talk for an hour or two. The days are long — 10-, 12-hour days, sometimes longer. But we would have conversations; they’d be conversations about specific scenes, current events, our daily lives, how we feel, if one of us is going through something. First of all, if someone’s not having a good day, Ryan’s going to notice as soon as they step foot in the building, and he’s going to drop everything to make sure that that person is okay and find out if they need to go home. Whether it’s a personal tragedy, national tragedy, anything like that.

Berman: Whether it’s one of his key crew, or one of the PAs, he’ll notice.

Shawver: Yeah, it doesn’t matter who you are. The movie is a political movie. T’Challa’s a politician, and it has to do with world events and current events, and I think we’d be mistaken to not discuss those and see how we feel. But not just discuss, because the three of us probably agree on a lot of things that maybe a good amount of viewers in the world wouldn’t agree on. We talked from all different sides. That’s where that diversity comes in, and that love for making this movie that really is about bringing people together.

Berman: Yeah, that was very interesting to me, because I’m not used to sitting and talking so much. I’m used to like, “Editing! Editing! Editing!” It worked its way into the film. You spend a few hours chatting and you get to know each other, but it’s all working its way into the film. You’re connecting to each other as human beings and making this piece of art together, so it all works its way in… and it all makes the film better.

What’s up next for both of you?
Shawver: I’m working on a movie called Honest Thief. It’s starring Liam Neeson. It’s about a bank robber looking for redemption. It’s nice to be back on a movie just about relationships and small interpersonal drama to help sharpen those skills. It’s directed by Mark Williams, a really talented director.

Berman: I’m working on Captain Marvel, at the moment, sort of the final sprint to the finish line right now.


Amy Leland is a film director and editor. Her short film, “Echoes”, is now available on Amazon Video. She also has a feature documentary in post, a feature screenplay in development, and a new doc in pre-production. She is an editor for CBS Sports Network and recently edited the feature “Sundown.” You can follow Amy on social media on Twitter at @amy-leland and Instagram at @la_directora.

Behind the Title: Carousel’s Head of VFX/CD Jeff Spangler

This creative has been an artist for as long as he could remember. “I’ve always loved the process of creation and can’t imagine any career where I’m not making something,” he says.

Name: Jeff Spangler

Company: NYC’s Carousel

Can you describe your company?
Carousel is a “creative collective” that was a response to this rapidly changing industry we all know and love. Our offerings range from agency creative services to editorial, design, animation (including both motion design and CGI), retouching, color correction, compositing, music licensing, content creation, and pretty much everything that falls between.

We have created a flexible workflow that covers everything from concept to execution (and delivery), while also allowing for clients whose needs are less all-encompassing to step on or off at any point in the process. That’s just one of the reasons we called ourselves Carousel — our clients have the freedom to climb on board for as much of the ride as they desire. And with the different disciplines all living under the same roof, we find that a lot of the inefficiencies and miscommunications that can get in the way of achieving the best possible result are eliminated.

What’s your job title?
Head of VFX/Creative Director

What does that entail?
That’s a really good question. There is the industry standard definition of that title as it applies to most companies. But it’s quite different if you are talking about a collective that combines creative with post production, animation and design. So for me, the dual role of CD and head of VFX works in a couple of ways. Where we have the opportunity to work with agencies, I am able to bring my experience and talents as a VFX lead to bear, communicating with the agency creatives and ensuring that the different Carousel artist involved are all able to collaborate and communicate effectively to get the work done.

Alternatively, when we work direct-to-client, I get involved much earlier in the process, collaborating with the Carousel creative directors to conceptualize and pitch new ideas, design brand elements, visualize concept art, storyboard and write copy or even work with stargeists to help hone the direction and target of a campaign.

That’s the true strength of Carousel — getting creatives from different backgrounds involved early on in the process where their experience and talent can make a much bigger impact in the long run. Most importantly, my role is not about dictating direction as much as it is about guiding and allowing for people’s talents to shine. You have to give artists the room to flourish if you really want to serve your clients and are serious about getting them something more than what they expected.

What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
I think that there is this misconception that it’s one creative sitting in a room that comes up with the “Big Idea” and he or she just dictates that idea to everyone. My experience is that any good idea started out as a lot of different ideas that were merged, pruned, refined and polished until they began to resemble something truly great.

Then after 24 hours, you look at that idea again and tear it apart because all of the flaws have started to show and you realize it still needs to be pummeled into shape. That process is generally a collaboration within a group of talented people who all look at the world very differently.

What tools do you use?
Anything that I can get my hands on (and my brain wrapped around). My foundation is as a traditional artist and animator and I find that those core skills are really the strength behind what I do everyday. I started out after college as a broadcast designer and later transitioned into a Flame artist where I spent many years working as a beauty retouch artist and motion designer.

These days, I primarily use Adobe Creative Suite as my role has become more creative in nature. I use Photoshop for digital painting and concept art , Illustrator for design and InDesign for layouts and decks. I also have a lot of experience in After Effects and Autodesk Maya and will use those tools for any animation or CGI that requires me to be hands-on, even if just to communicate the initial concept or design.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
Coming up with new ideas at the very start. At that point, the gloves are off and everything is possible.

What’s your least favorite?
Navigating politics within the industry that can sometimes get in the way of people doing their best work.

What is your favorite time of the day?
I’m definitely more of a night person. But if I had to choose a favorite time of day, it would be early morning — before everything has really started and there’s still a ton of anticipation and potential.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
Working as a full-time concept artist. Or a logo designer. While I frequently have the opportunity to do both of those things in my role at Carousel, they are, for me, the most rewarding expression of being creative.

A&E’s Scraps

How early on did you know this would be your path?
I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember and never really had any desire (or ability) to set it aside. I’ve always loved the process of creation and can’t imagine any career where I’m not “making” something.

Can you name some recents projects you have worked on?
We are wrapping up Season 2 of an A&E food show titled Scraps that has allowed us to flex our animation muscles. We’ve also been doing some in-store work with Victoria’s Secret for some of their flagship stores that has been amazing in terms of collaboration and results.

What is the project that you are most proud of?
It’s always hard to pick a favorite and my answer would probably change if you asked me more than once. But I recently had the opportunity to work with an up-and-coming eSports company to develop their logo. Collaborating with their CD, we landed on a design and aesthetic that makes me smile every time I see it out there. The client has taken that initial work and continues to surprise me with the way they use it across print, social media, swag, etc. Seeing their ability to be creative and flexible with what I designed is just validation that I did a good job. That makes me proud.

Name pieces of technology you can’t live without.
My iPad Pro. It’s my portable sketch tablet and presentation device that also makes for a damn good movie player during long commutes.

What do you do to de-stress from it all?
Muay Thai. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no serious martial artist and have never had the time to dedicate myself properly. But working out by punching and kicking a heavy bag can be very cathartic.

DigitalGlue 2.5

Method Studios adds Bill Tlusty joins as global head of production

Method Studios has brought on veteran production executive and features VFX Producer Bill Tlusty on board in the new role of global head of production. Reporting to EVP of global features VFX, Erika Burton, Tlusty will oversee Method’s global feature film and episodics production operation, leading teams worldwide.

Tlusty’s career as both a VFX producer and executive spans two decades. Most recently, as an executive with Universal Pictures, he managed more than 30 features, including First Man and The Huntsman: Winter’s War. His new role marks a return to Method Studios, as he served as head of studio in Vancouver prior to his gig at Universal. Tlusty also spent eight years as a VFX producer and executive producer at Rhythm & Hues.

In this capacity he was lead executive on Snow White and the Huntsman and the VFX Oscar-winning Life of Pi. His other VFX producer credits include Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, The Mummy: Tomb of the Emperor Dragon and Yogi Bear, and he served as production manager on Hulk and Peter Pan and coordinator on A.I Artificial Intelligence. Early in his career Tlusty worked as a production aAssistant at American Zoetrope, working for its iconic filmmaker founders, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas. His VFX career began at Industrial Light & Magic where he worked in several capacities on the Star Wars prequel trilogy, first as a VFX coordinator and later, production  manager on the series. He is a member of the Producers Guild of America.

“Method has pursued intelligent growth, leveraging the strength across all of its studios, gaining presence in key regions and building on that to deliver high quality work on a massive scale,” Tlusty. “Coming from the client side, I understand how important it is to have the flexibility to grow as needed for projects.”

Tlusty is based in Los Angeles and will travel extensively among Method’s global studios.


Mortal Engines: Weta creates hell on wheels

By Karen Moltenbrey

Over the years, Weta Digital has made a name for itself, creating vast imaginative worlds for highly acclaimed feature film franchises such as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. However, for the recently released Mortal Engines, not only did the studio have to construct wide swaths of land the size of countries, but the crew also had to build supercities that move at head-spinning speed.

Mortal Engines, produced by Universal Pictures and MRC, takes place centuries after a cataclysmic event known as the Sixty Minute War destroys civilization as we know it, leaving behind few resources. Eventually, survivors learn to adapt, and a deadly, mobile society emerges whereby gigantic moving cities roam the earth, preying on smaller towns they hunt down across a landscape called the Great Hunting Ground, basically the size of Europe. It is now a period of pre-revival, as the earth begins to renew itself, and the survivors become nomads on wheels.

Eventually, London, a traction city, emerges at the top of this vicious food chain, consuming resources from other cities and towns it devours, including fuel, food and human labor. It’s a dog-eat-dog world. But there are those who want to end this vicious cycle; they are members of the Anti-Traction League, who advocate for static, self-sustaining homelands.

Based on a book by Philip Reeve, the film is directed by Oscar-winning visual effects artist Christian Rivers (King Kong). Simon Raby (Elysium, District 9) served as cinematographer, while Weta created the visual effects, led by Ken McGaugh, Kevin Andrew Smith and Luke Millar, with Dennis Yoo as animation supervisor.

Ken McGaugh

A New World Order
In all, Weta delivered 1,682 VFX shots for the feature film, most of which pertained to the environments.

How did this work compare to some of Weta’s other world builds? “I can’t speak as to The Hobbit because I didn’t work on that. But on The Lord of the Rings, New Zealand’s landscape was used for Middle-earth, so there was a lot of location work, and most of the world building was all in camera,” says McGaugh. “On Mortal Engines, because earth has been destroyed and manipulated by these giant cities moving over it, there’s nothing left that resembles the earth that we know. So, there was no location for us to shoot; we had to build it from scratch.”

How does one go about building such a world — and then setting it in motion? “In a book there is a lot of metaphor, but film has to be fully literal,” says Rivers. Fortunately, he and the crew had the vast experience as well as the technological genius to get it done.

Such a goal, however, required new rules and workflows, even for a veteran studio like Weta, which has a history of breaking new ground, especially when it comes to animated characters and amazing landscapes. Here, those diverse elements would converge like never before.

“We have quite a bit of experience doing computer-generated vehicles as well as digital environments, but most of our workflows assume that an environment is not a vehicle, that it doesn’t move. So trying to bridge that gap was a challenge. We had nothing that would allow us to do that until we first started,” says McGaugh. “So, we had to invent some new workflows and technology internally to allow us to bridge that gap so the animators could animate the city as if it were a vehicle, but we could build the city and dress it as if it were an environment.”

The Land
The environments in Mortal Engines are CG — built and animated using Autodesk’s Maya and composited in Foundry’s Nuke — with practical set pieces used for filming embedded into them.

In addition to the unique cities, there are some large tracts of land, including the Great Hunting Ground, scarred with massive tread marks left by traction cities over the centuries. Here, the once-organic environment had been reshaped and now appears man-made, but life is establishing a foothold in this once-barren landscape.

“It has all these layered plateaus with hard edges and embedded track shapes that we placed everywhere,” says McGaugh. “Our rule of thumb was that the higher the level of the plain, the more foliage there was, since it had been a long time since it had been driven over. However, on the lower level, at the bottom of the trenches, it was also green, but more marshy and full of reeds, since that is where water accumulates.”

Some survivors of the war pushed into the mountains and founded settlements there, rather than living a nomadic existence. One such settlement is Shan Guo in the East on the Asian Steppes, protected from the mobile cities by mountain ranges. In addition, there is a massive two-kilometer shield wall (6,561 feet high) situated between two of the mountains that protects Shan Guo and the static cities in the Himalayas. This environment alone was daunting to create, as it covers 5,000 square kilometers (over 3,000 square miles).

On one side of the shield wall, the environment is very lush, fertile and green, and the buildings influenced by Bhutan monasteries. On the other side of the wall, there is a lack of foliage, with the landscape strewn with decayed ruins of traction cities that have unsuccessfully attacked the wall. And while the shield wall is massive, it had to appear smaller in comparison to the mountains surrounding it.

While constructing these mountains, the Weta artists used available geographical data, increasing the resolution through erosion simulations that would shape the mountains more naturally. “That gave us extra detail that we could use to make it look more organic,” McGaugh says. The simulation also was used to embed the ruined traction cities into the crater environment as well as situate the crater environment into the surrounding landscape.

Cities on the Move
The moving cities can cover a great deal of ground in very little time, gouging and scarring the earth in their wake with deep crevices; above, airships dot the skies. The relentless ploughing of the traction cities over the landscape has driven layers and layers of mud, debris and waste into the ground. Weta re-created this effect by starting with a precisely coupled fluid simulation with multiple viscosities; this could accurately simulate the combination of solid and liquid layers of the mud. They then began laying tracks and eroding them, then laying more tracks and eroding, repeating the process until the desired result was achieved.

In the film, there are numerous homelands, including Airhaven, a fantastical city in the clouds with a jellyfish look that is home to the Anti-Tractionists.

“Airhaven didn’t have a lot of movement, so we didn’t have to use our new layout puppet technology. But when it crashes, that had to be animation-driven, so we built a lightweight puppet with a large section of the city on each piece of the puppet, so animators could choreograph the crash,” explains McGaugh. “Then they handed that off to our effects department, and they would simulate all the individual pieces breaking apart and exploding, and then add the explosions, fire and all the dynamics on the balloons and the cloth.”

So many of the traction cities have multiple moving parts that it was impractical to animate them by hand. Alternatively, Weta developed a tool called Gumby, which is a vehicle-ground interaction toolset that allows animators to move a city from point A to point B over uneven terrain along a curve. The Gumby system then made sure that all the wheels stuck to the ground, thereby driving the suspension system that causes the infrastructure to move appropriately.

A dynamic caching system allowed for secondary bounce and wobble to occur on various pieces of a city in response to the motion from the Gumby system. “It wasn’t perfect, but it allowed for very complex animation in the blocking stage and made the motion more believable and closer to what the final version would look like,” explains McGaugh. Once blocking was approved, then the animators would refine the motion as needed.

London Lives!
According to McGaugh, the single biggest challenge was constructing London and executing it in a way that maintains its enormous size while keeping it in the realm of believability. “Concept artist Nick Keller came up with a design for London that looked like it could be self-supporting and was scalable, so we could make it as big as it needed to be in order to house 200,000 people, and when it moved, we could sell that as believable, too,” he explains.

London is the largest of the traction cities. It incorporated approximately 17 live-action sets and is a mile wide and a mile and a half long, and over a half-mile high. It is divided into seven tiers, with life aboard London progressively more desirable farther up each tier.

“This is a place where the glass is gone but stone statues have survived,” Rivers says. “We decided to make anything we see in our world today archaeological and then skew and twist things from there.” As a result, some iconic landmarks are recognizable but have an altered appearance.

“The design had to lend itself to believability for being so large and moving, but it also had to evoke a sense of contemporary London through recognizable features, such as the Trafalgar Square lions acting as sentinels on top of the outriggers, so they’re visible from a distance,” McGaugh points out. London was then crowned with a reconstructed St. Paul’s Cathedral.

A contemporary feel was evoked through the architectural style. As McGaugh notes, London is known for its diverse and contrasting architectural styles juxtaposed against each other. So, the designers followed that style when laying out the buildings atop the digital London. “That was also carried out through the front façade of London and at a much larger scale, so that from a distance, you could still feel that diversity where it’s kind of rusty and brutalist at the bottom with a layer of architecture that is reminiscent of the houses of Parliament, and then is topped with chrome and steel construction shaped like a coat of arms,” he adds.

Because of this diversity of architectural styles, the group was able to source from its library of existing buildings — whether Victorian, Georgian, contemporary office buildings, tower blocks, row houses, Buckingham Palace — and mix them together without having to maintain uniformity from building to building.

But with so much detail, it became prohibitively difficult to render, and that’s where Weta’s Cake technology came into play — which used an intelligent way of breaking down geometric and material detail into a format that could be streamed into the renderer, using just the level of detail required. “Before that, it wasn’t viable to render London,” says McGaugh. “But Cake allowed us to process all the data into a format that enabled us to render it, and render it quite efficiently.” Rendering was done within Weta’s proprietary Manuka renderer.

Lighting was also tricky, as the team was following the lighting direction from Raby, who used backlighting — which is not easy to do in CGI when using hard edges, especially when there is shiny glass and metal involved. As a result, the CG lighters, using the studio’s Foundry Katana-based pipeline, had to do tests on almost every shot to find the appropriate angle that sold the backlighting and kept the visuals interesting and not too flat, while maintaining continuity with the camera shots.

London on the Move
A city constantly on the move, London can travel at approximately 300 kilometers (186 miles) per hour, bolstered by massive engines. While that speed sounds ridiculously fast according to real-world physics, it was necessary to hold audiences’ attention, as physics and cinema were often at odds on the film. “There was a lot of testing, and we tried 100 kilometers per hour when London is chasing down [the mining traction city of] Salthook across a vast landscape, but it looked like a couple of snails racing. It was too boring,” says McGaugh. “Indeed, 300 kilometers sounds ludicrous, and if you think about it, it is. But that is what allowed us to keep the chase exciting while constantly selling that there is movement.”

Indeed, London had to move faster than physics would allow, yet just how fast depended on the camera shot. Nevertheless, this wreaked havoc on the effects that simulated natural phenomenon, such as dust. The key, however, was to use visual cues to make sure the cities felt massive and other cues to make sure audiences were not distracted by the fact that the cities are moving so fast.

When constructing the massive city of London, Weta devised the concept of so-called “lily pads,” representing 113 sections of London. Each was rigged and animated independently and contained millions of components that had to be tracked and moved. Each lily pad was constructed modularly, enabling artists to add clusters of buildings, parks, shops and so forth on each platform. More and more detail was then added to areas as needed.

These lily pads were supported by complex suspension systems for individual movement; at times there was some inter-movement among them, as well. “[The movement] was pretty subliminal at times, but if it wasn’t there, you’d have noticed it and everything would have felt static and locked,” McGaugh says.

Shrike
While Weta’s work on the film was heavily focused on environments, Mortal Engines does contain one digital character, Shrike, who had raised the movie’s heroine, Hester Shaw, after her mother’s murder. Half-man/half-machine, Shrike was a dead soldier resurrected by technology. He stands at seven feet tall and weighs close to 1,000 pounds.

Shrike’s anatomy is not human — he has extra appendages and extra mechanical bits that had to be rigged to move differently from that of a typical human. “It was determined early on that we could not use motion capture because we needed him to be inhuman, so we had to invest quite a bit of effort into finding his motion through keyframe techniques,” McGaugh notes.

Shrike’s face comprises metal parts and human skin. To achieve a realistic tug and stretch of the skin against the metal, Weta developed a custom facial-muscle rig so animators could use the visible muscles and skin to allow him to emote in some particularly dramatic moments in the movie, inspired by the performance from actor Stephen Lang.

A New Day
While the scale of the world building for Mortal Engines was not at the level of The Hobbit, it was not without big challenges for the VFX veterans at Weta. Initially, the concept of massive cities on the move was difficult to wrap one’s head around. But, as always, Weta’s artists and animators were able to bring that unique visual to life in a realistic way.

Now with Mortal Engines in theaters, the studio remains on the move with a number of other mega projects in the works, including the Avatar sequels and more on the big screen as well as the final season of Game of Thrones for the small screen. All resulting in more expansive, unique worlds brought to cinematic life.


Karen Moltenbrey is a veteran VFX and post writer.


Behind the Title: We Are Royale CD Chad Howitt

NAME: Chad Howitt

COMPANY: We Are Royale in Los Angeles

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We Are Royale is a creative and digital agency looking to partner with brands to create unique experiences across platforms. In the end, we make pretty things for lots of different applications, depending on the creative problem our clients are looking to solve. We’re a full-service production studio that directs live-action commercials, creates full 3D worlds, designs 2D character spots, and develops immersive AR and VR experiences.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Creative Director

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Anything and everything needed to get the job done. On the service side, I’ll work directly with clients and agencies to address their wide variety of needs. So whether that’s creating an idea from scratch or curating a look around an already developed script, I try to figure out how we can help.

Then in-house, I’ll work with our talented team of art directors, CG supervisors and producers to help execute those ideas.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
While the title stays the same, the responsibilities vary by location, person and company culture. So don’t think there’s a hard-and-fast rule about what a creative director is and does.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Seeing a finished project out in the world knowing the hard work the team put in to get it there. Whether it’s on TV, in a space as a part of an installation or online as a part of a pre-roll… it’s a proud moment whenever I see it in the wild.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Seeing the results of a job we lost or had to pass on knowing that the creative we were planning will never see the light of day.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I’d probably be in the video game industry, but that wasn’t really a feasible career path back then.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
As a little kid, I was obsessed with drawing and computers. So merging those into a profession always seemed like the most natural course. That said, as an LA native, working on film sets just seemed like what out-of-towners wanted to do. So I never saw that coming.

Under Armour spot for its UA HOVR running line

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
I’ve wrapped a few projects with Under Armour, a trio of spots for NASDAQ, and a promo for Billy Bob Thornton’s series on Amazon called Goliath.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
It’d probably be the first project I worked on at We Are Royale, which was an Under Armour spot for its UA HOVR running shoe line. It allowed me to work with merging live-action, CG and beautiful type design.

NAME THREE THINGS YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Fire, indoor plumbing and animal husbandry

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
The last social media I had was MySpace, unless you count LinkedIn…which you really shouldn’t.

CARE TO SHARE YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC TO WORK TO?
Some of my current go-to tracks are “We Were So Young” by Hammock, “Galang” by Vijay Iyer Trio, “Enormous” by Llgl Tndr, “Almost Had to Start a Fight” by Parquet Courts and “Pray” by Jungle.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I stress eat. Cake, cookies and pizza make most problems go away. Although diabetes could become a new problem, but that’s tomorrow.


Artifex provides VFX for Jordan Peele’s Weird City

Vancouver-based VFX house Artifex Studios was the primary visual effects vendor for Weird City, Oscar-winner Jordan Peele’s first foray into scripted OTT content. The dystopian sci-fi/comedy Weird City — from Peele and Charlie Sanders — premieres on YouTube Premium on  February 13. They have released a first trailer and it features a variety of Artifex’s visual effects work.

Artifex’s CG team created the trailer’s opening aerial shots of the futuristic city. Additionally, video/holographic screens, user interfaces, graphics, icons and other interactive surfaces that the characters interact with were tasked to Artifex.

Artifex’s team, led by VFX supervisor Rob Geddes, provided 250 visual effects shots in all, including Awkwafina’s and Yvette Nicole Brown’s outfit swapping (our main image), LeVar Burton’s tube traveling and a number of additional environment shots.

Artifex called on Autodesk Maya, V-ray, Foundry’s Nuke and Adobe Photoshop, along with a mix of Dell, HP, generic PC workstations and Dell and HP render nodes. They also used Side Effects Houdini for procedural generation of the “below the line” buildings in the opening city shot. Qumulo was called on for storage.

 


Avengers: Infinity War leads VES Awards with six noms

The Visual Effects Society (VES) has announced the nominees for the 17th Annual VES Awards, which recognize 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 bring this work to life.

Avengers: Infinity War garners the most feature film nomination with six. Incredibles 2 is the top animated film contender with five nominations and Lost in Space leads the broadcast field with six nominations.

Nominees in 24 categories were selected by VES members via events hosted by 11 of the organizations Sections, including Australia, the Bay Area, Germany, London, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, New Zealand, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington.

The VES Awards will be held on February 5th at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. As previously announced, the VES Visionary Award will be presented to writer/director/producer and co-creator of Westworld Jonathan Nolan. The VES Award for Creative Excellence will be given to award-winning creators/executive producers/writers/directors David Benioff and D.B. Weiss of Game of Thrones fame. Actor-comedian-author Patton Oswalt will once again host the VES Awards.

Here are the nominees:

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature

Avengers: Infinity War

Daniel DeLeeuw

Jen Underdahl

Kelly Port

Matt Aitken

Daniel Sudick

 

Christopher Robin

Christopher Robin

Chris Lawrence

Steve Gaub

Michael Eames

Glenn Melenhorst

Chris Corbould

 

Ready Player One

Roger Guyett

Jennifer Meislohn

David Shirk

Matthew Butler

Neil Corbould

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Rob Bredow

Erin Dusseault

Matt Shumway

Patrick Tubach

Dominic Tuohy

 

Welcome to Marwen

Kevin Baillie

Sandra Scott

Seth Hill

Marc Chu

James Paradis

 

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature 

12 Strong

Roger Nall

Robert Weaver

Mike Meinardus

 

Bird Box

Marcus Taormina

David Robinson

Mark Bakowski

Sophie Dawes

Mike Meinardus

 

Bohemian Rhapsody

Paul Norris

Tim Field

May Leung

Andrew Simmonds

 

First Man

Paul Lambert

Kevin Elam

Tristan Myles

Ian Hunter

JD Schwalm

 

Outlaw King

Alex Bicknell

Dan Bethell

Greg O’Connor

Stefano Pepin

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch

Pierre Leduc

Janet Healy

Bruno Chauffard

Milo Riccarand

 

Incredibles 2

Brad Bird

John Walker

Rick Sayre

Bill Watral

 

Isle of Dogs

Mark Waring

Jeremy Dawson

Tim Ledbury

Lev Kolobov

 

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Scott Kersavage

Bradford Simonsen

Ernest J. Petti

Cory Loftis

 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Joshua Beveridge

Christian Hejnal

Danny Dimian

Bret St. Clair

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode

Altered Carbon; Out of the Past

Everett Burrell

Tony Meagher

Steve Moncur

Christine Lemon

Joel Whist

 

Krypton; The Phantom Zone

Ian Markiewicz

Jennifer Wessner

Niklas Jacobson

Martin Pelletier

 

LOST IN SPACE

Lost in Space; Danger, Will Robinson

Jabbar Raisani

Terron Pratt

Niklas Jacobson

Joao Sita

 

The Terror; Go For Broke

Frank Petzold

Lenka Líkařová

Viktor Muller

Pedro Sabrosa

 

Westworld; The Passenger

Jay Worth

Elizabeth Castro

Bruce Branit

Joe Wehmeyer

Michael Lantieri

 

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan; Pilot

Erik Henry

Matt Robken

Bobo Skipper

Deak Ferrand

Pau Costa

 

The Alienist; The Boy on the Bridge

Kent Houston

Wendy Garfinkle

Steve Murgatroyd

Drew Jones

Paul Stephenson

 

The Deuce; We’re All Beasts

Jim Rider

Steven Weigle

John Bair

Aaron Raff

 

The First; Near and Far

Karen Goulekas

Eddie Bonin

Roland Langschwert

Bryan Godwin

Matthew James Kutcher

 

The Handmaid’s Tale; June

Brendan Taylor

Stephen Lebed

Winston Lee

Leo Bovell

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Realtime Project

Age of Sail

John Kahrs

Kevin Dart

Cassidy Curtis

Theresa Latzko

 

Cycles

Jeff Gipson

Nicholas Russell

Lauren Nicole Brown

Jorge E. Ruiz Cano

 

Dr Grordbort’s Invaders

Greg Broadmore

Mhairead Connor

Steve Lambert

Simon Baker

 

God of War

Maximilian Vaughn Ancar

Corey Teblum

Kevin Huynh

Paolo Surricchio

 

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Grant Hollis

Daniel Wang

Seth Faske

Abdul Bezrati

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial 

Beyond Good & Evil 2

Maxime Luere

Leon Berelle

Remi Kozyra

Dominique Boidin

 

John Lewis; The Boy and the Piano

Kamen Markov

Philip Whalley

Anthony Bloor

Andy Steele

 

McDonald’s; #ReindeerReady

Ben Cronin

Josh King

Gez Wright

Suzanne Jandu

 

U.S. Marine Corps; A Nation’s Call

Steve Drew

Nick Fraser

Murray Butler

Greg White

Dave Peterson

 

Volkswagen; Born Confident

Carsten Keller

Anandi Peiris

Dan Sanders

Fabian Frank

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project

Beautiful Hunan; Flight of the Phoenix

R. Rajeev

Suhit Saha

Arish Fyzee

Unmesh Nimbalkar

 

Childish Gambino’s Pharos

Keith Miller

Alejandro Crawford

Thelvin Cabezas

Jeremy Thompson

 

DreamWorks Theatre Presents Kung Fu Panda

Marc Scott

Doug Cooper

Michael Losure

Alex Timchenko

 

Osheaga Music and Arts Festival

Andre Montambeault

Marie-Josee Paradis

Alyson Lamontagne

David Bishop Noriega

 

Pearl Quest

Eugénie von Tunzelmann

Liz Oliver

Ian Spendloff

Ross Burgess

 

Outstanding Animated Character in a Photoreal Feature

Avengers: Infinity War; Thanos

Jan Philip Cramer

Darren Hendler

Paul Story

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo

 

Christopher Robin; Tigger

Arslan Elver

Kayn Garcia

Laurent Laban

Mariano Mendiburu

 

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; Indoraptor

Jance Rubinchik

Ted Lister

Yannick Gillain

Keith Ribbons

 

Ready Player One; Art3mis

David Shirk

Brian Cantwell

Jung-Seung Hong

Kim Ooi

 

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch; The Grinch

David Galante

Francois Boudaille

Olivier Luffin

Yarrow Cheney

 

Incredibles 2; Helen Parr

Michal Makarewicz

Ben Porter

Edgar Rodriguez

Kevin Singleton

 

Ralph Breaks the Internet; Ralphzilla

Dong Joo Byun

Dave K. Komorowski

Justin Sklar

Le Joyce Tong

 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse; Miles Morales

Marcos Kang

Chad Belteau

Humberto Rosa

Julie Bernier Gosselin

 

Outstanding Animated Character in an Episode or Realtime Project

Cycles; Rae

Jose Luis Gomez Diaz

Edward Everett Robbins III

Jorge E. Ruiz Cano

Jose Luis -Weecho- Velasquez

 

Lost in Space; Humanoid

Chad Shattuck

Paul Zeke

Julia Flanagan

Andrew McCartney

 

Nightflyers; All That We Have Found; Eris

Peter Giliberti

James Chretien

Ryan Cromie

Cesar Dacol Jr.

 

Spider-Man; Doc Ock

Brian Wyser

Henrique Naspolini

Sophie Brennan

William Salyers

 

Outstanding Animated Character in a Commercial

McDonald’s; Bobbi the Reindeer

Gabriela Ruch Salmeron

Joe Henson

Andrew Butler

Joel Best

 

Overkill’s The Walking Dead; Maya

Jonas Ekman

Goran Milic

Jonas Skoog

Henrik Eklundh

 

Peta; Best Friend; Lucky

Bernd Nalbach

Emanuel Fuchs

Sebastian Plank

Christian Leitner

 

Volkswagen; Born Confident; Bam

David Bryan

Chris Welsby

Fabian Frank

Chloe Dawe

 

Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature

Ant-Man and the Wasp; Journey to the Quantum Realm

Florian Witzel

Harsh Mistri

Yuri Serizawa

Can Yuksel

 

Aquaman; Atlantis

Quentin Marmier

Aaron Barr

Jeffrey De Guzman

Ziad Shureih

 

Ready Player One; The Shining, Overlook Hotel

Mert Yamak

Stanley Wong

Joana Garrido

Daniel Gagiu

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story; Vandor Planet

Julian Foddy

Christoph Ammann

Clement Gerard

Pontus Albrecht

 

Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch; Whoville

Loic Rastout

Ludovic Ramiere

Henri Deruer

Nicolas Brack

 

Incredibles 2; Parr House

Christopher M. Burrows

Philip Metschan

Michael Rutter

Joshua West

 

Ralph Breaks the Internet; Social Media District

Benjamin Min Huang

Jon Kim Krummel II

Gina Warr Lawes

Matthias Lechner

 

Spider-Man; Into the Spider-Verse; Graphic New York City

Terry Park

Bret St. Clair

Kimberly Liptrap

Dave Morehead

 

Outstanding Created Environment in an Episode, Commercial, or Realtime Project

Cycles; The House

Michael R.W. Anderson

Jeff Gipson

Jose Luis Gomez Diaz

Edward Everett Robbins III

 

Lost in Space; Pilot; Impact Area

Philip Engström

Kenny Vähäkari

Jason Martin

Martin Bergquist

 

The Deuce; 42nd St

John Bair

Vance Miller

Jose Marin

Steve Sullivan

 

The Handmaid’s Tale; June; Fenway Park

Patrick Zentis

Kevin McGeagh

Leo Bovell

Zachary Dembinski

 

The Man in the High Castle; Reichsmarschall Ceremony

Casi Blume

Michael Eng

Ben McDougal

Sean Myers

 

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Photoreal Project

Aquaman; Third Act Battle

Claus Pedersen

Mohammad Rastkar

Cedric Lo

Ryan McCoy

 

Echo; Time Displacement

Victor Perez

Tomas Tjernberg

Tomas Wall

Marcus Dineen

 

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; Gyrosphere Escape

Pawl Fulker

Matt Perrin

Oscar Faura

David Vickery

 

Ready Player One; New York Race

Daniele Bigi

Edmund Kolloen

Mathieu Vig

Jean-Baptiste Noyau

 

Welcome to Marwen; Town of Marwen

Kim Miles

Matthew Ward

Ryan Beagan

Marc Chu

 

Outstanding Model in a Photoreal or Animated Project 

Avengers: Infinity War; Nidavellir Forge Megastructure

Chad Roen

Ryan Rogers

Jeff Tetzlaff

Ming Pan

 

Incredibles 2; Underminer Vehicle

Neil Blevins

Philip Metschan

Kevin Singleton

 

Mortal Engines; London

Matthew Sandoval

James Ogle

Nick Keller

Sam Tack

 

Ready Player One; DeLorean DMC-12

Giuseppe Laterza

Kim Lindqvist

Mauro Giacomazzo

William Gallyot

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story; Millennium Falcon

Masa Narita

Steve Walton

David Meny

James Clyne

 

Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature

Avengers: Infinity War; Titan

Gerardo Aguilera

Ashraf Ghoniem

Vasilis Pazionis

Hartwell Durfor

 

Avengers: Infinity War; Wakanda

Florian Witzel

Adam Lee

Miguel Perez Senent

Francisco Rodriguez

 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Dominik Kirouac

Chloe Ostiguy

Christian Gaumond

 

Venom

Aharon Bourland

Jordan Walsh

Aleksandar Chalyovski

Federico Frassinelli

 

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Animated Feature

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch; Snow, Clouds and Smoke

Eric Carme

Nicolas Brice

Milo Riccarand

 

Incredibles 2

Paul Kanyuk

Tiffany Erickson Klohn

Vincent Serritella

Matthew Kiyoshi Wong

 

Ralph Breaks the Internet; Virus Infection & Destruction

Paul Carman

Henrik Fält

Christopher Hendryx

David Hutchins

 

Smallfoot

Henrik Karlsson

Theo Vandernoot

Martin Furness

Dmitriy Kolesnik

 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Ian Farnsworth

Pav Grochola

Simon Corbaux

Brian D. Casper

 

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Episode, Commercial, or Realtime Project

Altered Carbon

Philipp Kratzer

Daniel Fernandez

Xavier Lestourneaud

Andrea Rosa

 

Lost in Space; Jupiter is Falling

Denys Shchukin

Heribert Raab

Michael Billette

Jaclyn Stauber

 

Lost in Space; The Get Away

Juri Bryan

Will Elsdale

Hugo Medda

Maxime Marline

 

The Man in the High Castle; Statue of Liberty Destruction

Saber Jlassi

Igor Zanic

Nick Chamberlain

Chris Parks

 

Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal Feature

Avengers: Infinity War; Titan

Sabine Laimer

Tim Walker

Tobias Wiesner

Massimo Pasquetti

 

First Man

Joel Delle-Vergin

Peter Farkas

Miles Lauridsen

Francesco Dell’Anna

 

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

John Galloway

Enrik Pavdeja

David Nolan

Juan Espigares Enriquez

 

Welcome to Marwen

Woei Lee

Saul Galbiati

Max Besner

Thai-Son Doan

 

Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal Episode

Altered Carbon

Jean-François Leroux

Reece Sanders

Stephen Bennett

Laraib Atta

 

Handmaids Tale; June

Winston Lee

Gwen Zhang

Xi Luo

Kevin Quatman

 

Lost in Space; Impact; Crash Site Rescue

David Wahlberg

Douglas Roshamn

Sofie Ljunggren

Fredrik Lönn

 

Silicon Valley; Artificial Emotional Intelligence; Fiona

Tim Carras

Michael Eng

Shiying Li

Bill Parker

 

Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal Commercial

Apple; Unlock

Morten Vinther

Michael Gregory

Gustavo Bellon

Rodrigo Jimenez

 

Apple; Welcome Home

Michael Ralla

Steve Drew

Alejandro Villabon

Peter Timberlake

 

Genesis; G90 Facelift

Neil Alford

Jose Caballero

Joseph Dymond

Greg Spencer

 

John Lewis; The Boy and the Piano

Kamen Markov

Pratyush Paruchuri

Kalle Kohlstrom

Daniel Benjamin

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project

Chocolate Man

David Bellenbaum

Aleksandra Todorovic

Jörg Schmidt

Martin Boué

 

Proxima-b

Denis Krez

Tina Vest

Elias Kremer

Lukas Löffler

 

Ratatoskr

Meike Müller

Lena-Carolin Lohfink

Anno Schachner

Lisa Schachner

 

Terra Nova

Thomas Battistetti

Mélanie Geley

Mickael Le Mezo

Guillaume Hoarau


VFX studio Electric Theatre Collective adds three to London team

London visual effects studio Electric Theatre Collective has added three to its production team: Elle Lockhart, Polly Durrance and Antonia Vlasto.

Lockhart brings with her extensive CG experience, joining from Touch Surgery where she ran the Johnson & Johnson account. Prior to that she worked at Analog as a VFX producer where she delivered three global campaigns for Nike. At Electric, she will serve as producer on Martini and Toyota.

Vlasto joins Electric working on clients such Mercedes, Tourism Ireland and Tui. She joins from 750MPH where, over a four-year period, she served as producer on Nike, Great Western Railway, VW and Amazon to name but a few.

At Electric, Polly Durrance will serve as producer on H&M, TK Maxx and Carphone Warehouse. She joins from Unit where she helped launched their in-house Design Collective, worked with clients such as Lush, Pepsi and Thatchers Cider. Prior to Unit Polly was at Big Buoy where she produced work for Jaguar Land Rover, giffgaff and Redbull.

Recent projects at the studio, which also has an office in Santa Monica, California, include Tourism Ireland Capture Your Heart and Honda Palindrome.

Main Image: (L-R) Elle Lockhart, Antonia Vlasto and Polly Durrance.


Rodeo VFX supe Arnaud Brisebois on the Fantastic Beasts sequel

By Randi Altman

Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald, directed by David Yates and written by J.K. Rowling, is a sequel to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) as they attempt to take down the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp).

Arnaud_Brisebois

As you can imagine, the film features a load of visual effects, and once again the team at Rodeo FX was called on to help. Their work included establishing the period in which the film is set and helping with the history of the Obscurus, Credence Barebone, and more.

Rodeo FX visual effects supervisor Arnaud Brisebois and team worked with the film’s VFX supervisors — Tim Burke and Christian Manz — to create digital environments, including detailed recreations of Paris in the 1920s and iconic wizarding locations like the Ministry of Magic.

Beyond these settings, the Montreal-based Brisebois was also in charge of creating the set pieces of the Obscurus’ destructive powers and a scene depicting its backstory. In all, they produced approximately 200 shots over a dozen sequences. While Brisebois visited the film’s set in Leavesden to get a better feel of the practical environments, he was not involved in principal photography.

Let’s find out more…

How early did you get involved, and how much input did you have?
Rodeo got involved in May 2017, at the time mainly working on pre-production creatures, design and concept art. I had a few calls with the film’s VFX supervisors, Tim Burke and Christian Manz, to discuss creatures and main directive lines for us to play with. From there we tried various ideas.
At that moment in pre-production, the essence of what the creatures were was clear, but their visual representation could really swing between extremes. That was the time to invent, study and propose directions for design.

Can you talk about creating the Ministry of Magic, which was partially practical, yes?
Correct, the London Ministry of Magic was indeed partially practically built. The partial set in this case meant a simple incurved corridor with a ceramic tiled wall. We still had to build the whole environment in CG in order to directly extend that practical set, but, most importantly, we extended the environment itself, with its immense circular atrium filled with thousands of busy offices.

For this build, we were provided with original Harry Potter set plans from production designer Stuart Craig, as well as plan revisions meant specifically for Crimes of Grindelwald. We also had access to LIDAR scans and cross-polarized photography from areas of the Harry Potter tour in Leavesden, which was extremely useful.

Every single architectural element was precisely built as individual units, and each unit composed of individual pieces. The single office variants were procedurally laid out on a flat grid over the set plan elevations and then wrapped as a cylinder using an expression.

The use of a procedural approach for this asset allowed for faster turnarounds and for changes to be made, even in the 11th hour. A crowd library was built to populate the offices and various areas of the Ministry, helping give it life and support the sense of scale.

So you were able to use assets from previous films?
What really links these movies together is production designer Stuart Craig. This is definitely his world, at least in visual terms. Also, as with all the Potter films, there are a large number of references and guidelines available for inspiration. This world has its own mythology, history and visual language. One does not need to look for long before finding a hint, something to link or ground a new effect in the wizarding world.

What about the scenes involving the Obscurus? Was any of the destruction it caused practical?
Apart from a few fans blowing a bit of wind on the actors, all destruction was full-frontal CG. A complex model of Irma’s house was built with precise architectural details required for its destruction. We also built a wide library of high-resolution hero debris, which was scattered on points and simulated for the very close-up shots. In the end, only the actors were preserved from live photography.

What was the most challenging sequence you worked on?
It was definitely Irma’s death. This sequence involved such a wide variety of effects — ranging from cloth and RBD levitation, tearing cloth, huge RBD simulations and, of course, the Obscurus itself, which is a very abstract and complex cloth setup driving flip simulations. The challenge also came from shot values, which meant everything we built or simulated had to hold up for tight close-ups, as well as wide shots.

Can you talk about the tools you used for VFX, management and review and approval?
All our tracking and review is done in Autodesk Shotgun. Artists worked up versions that they would then submit for dailies. All these submissions got in front of me at one point or another, and I then reviewed them and entered notes and directives to guide artists in the right direction.
For a project the size of Crimes of Grindelwald, over the course of 10 months, I reviewed and commented on approximately 6,000 versions for about 500 assets and 200 shots.

We are working on a Maya-based pipeline mainly, using it for modeling, rigging and shading. Zbrush is of course our main tool for organic modeling. We mostly use Mari and Substance Designer for textures. FX and CFX is handled in Houdini and our lighting pipeline is Katana based using Arnold as renderer. Our compositing pipeline is Nuke with a little use of Flame/Flare for very specific cases. We obviously have proprietary tools which help us boost these great softwares potential and offer custom solutions.

How did the workflow differ on this film from previous films?
It didn’t really differ. Working with the same team and the same crew, it really just felt like a continuation of our collaboration. These films are great to work on, not only because of their subject matter, but also thanks to the terrific people involved.

Behind the Title: FuseFX VFX supervisor Marshall Krasser

Over the years, this visual effects veteran has worked with both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, whose films helped inspire his career path.

NAME: Marshall Krasser

COMPANY: FuseFX 

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
FuseFX offers visual effects services for episodic television, feature films, commercials and VR productions. Founded in 2006, the company employs over 300 people across three studio locations in LA, NYC and Vancouver

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Visual Effects Supervisor

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
In general, a VFX supervisor is responsible for leading the creative team that brings the director’s vision to life. The role does vary from show to show depending on whether or not there is an on-set or studio-side VFX supervisor.

Here is a list of responsibilities across the board:
– Read and flag the required VFX shots in the script.
– Work with the producer and team to bid the VFX work.
– Attend the creative meetings and location scouts.
– Work with the studio creative team to determine what they want and what we need to achieve it.
– Be the on-set presence for VFX work — making sure the required data and information we need is shot, gathered and catalogued.
– Work with our in-house team to start developing assets and any pre-production concept art that will be needed.
– Once the VFX work is in post production, the VFX supervisor guides the team of in-house artists and technicians through the shot creation/completion phase, while working with the producer to keep the show within the budgets constraints.
– Keep the client happy!

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
That the job is much more than pointing at the computer screen and making pretty images. Team management is critical. Since you are working with very talented and creative people, it takes a special skill set and understanding. Having worked up through the VFX ranks, it helps you understand the mind set since you have been in their shoes.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING IN VFX?
My first job was creating computer graphic images for speaker support presentations on a Genigraphics workstation in 1984. I then transitioned into feature film in 1994.

HOW HAS THE VFX INDUSTRY CHANGED IN THE TIME YOU’VE BEEN WORKING? WHAT’S BEEN GOOD, WHAT’S BEEN BAD?
It’s changed a lot. In the early days at ILM, we were breaking ground by being asked to create imagery that had never been seen before. This involved creating new tools and approaches that had not been previously possible.

Today, VFX has less of the “man behind the curtain” mystique and has become more mainstream and familiar to most. The tools and computer power have evolved so there is less of the “heavy lifting” that was required in the past. This is all good, but the “bad” part is the fact that “tricking” people’s eyes is more difficult these days.

DID A PARTICULAR FILM INSPIRE YOU ALONG THIS PATH IN ENTERTAINMENT?
A couple really focused my attention toward VFX. There is a whole generation that was enthralled with the first Star Wars movie. I will never forget the feeling I had upon first viewing it — it was magical.

The other was E.T., since it was more grounded on Earth and more plausible. I was blessed to be able to work directly with both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg [and the artisans who created the VFX for these films] during the course of my career.

DID YOU GO TO FILM SCHOOL?
I did not. At the time, there was virtually no opportunity to attend a film school, or any school, that taught VFX. I took the route that made the most sense for me at the time — art major. I am a classically trained artist who focused on graphic design and illustration, but I also took computer programming.

On a typical Saturday, I would spend the morning in the computer lab programming and the afternoon on the potter’s wheel throwing pots. Always found that ironic – primitive to modern in the same day!

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Working with the team and bringing the creative to life.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Numbers, no one told me there would be math! Re: bidding.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Maybe a fishing or outdoor adventure guide. Something far away from computers and an office.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
– the Vice movie
– the Waco miniseries
–  the Life Sentence TV series
– the Needle in a Timestack film
The 100 TV series

WHAT IS THE PROJECT/S THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
A few stand out, in no particular order. Pearl Harbor, Harry Potter, Galaxy Quest, Titanic, War of the Worlds and the last Indiana Jones movie.

WHAT TOOLS DO YOU USE DAY TO DAY?
I would have to say Nuke. I use it for shot and concept work when needed.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION NOW?
Everything around me. I am heavily into photography these days, and am always looking at putting a new spin on ordinary things and capturing the unique.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Head into the great British Columbian outdoors for camping and other outdoor activities.