Best of 2016 and the expectations for 2017

This month of February marks a new year for The Art of VFX and is also the Awards season.
The last year was rich of beautiful VFX work.

I asked to the interviewees of 2016 to tell us what were their highlights of last year and what are their expectations for 2017.

I invite you to read their answers below (in alphabetical order):

// Matt Aitken – VFX Supervisor – Weta Digital

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
We were given the opportunity to have a lot of creative input into the look and action beats of the bus chase at the end of INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE and I was very pleased with how that all turned out, the team did great work on that sequence.

What was the most unusual or interesting comment or feedback you received in 2016?
Working with Roland Emmerich and Volker Engel on INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE we had some great calls where Roland and Volker would go back over the work on the original INDEPENDENCE DAY movie to help explain the direction on the new film. We got to hear some great stories about the early days of digital visual effects on those calls.

What are your expectations for 2017?
I’m going to be working on set with a great team of people for part of 2017 as the first stage of a very exciting new project we have lined up. 2017 is going to be a big one for us!

What will be your ‘dream project’ to work on?
TINTIN 2. I’m not sure that it’s ever going to happen, but working with Steven Spielberg on the first TINTIN film was an amazing experience. And a Peter Jackson-directed Tintin movie would be so much fun!

Read my interview of Matt Aitken about INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE.

// Wayne Brinton – VFX Supervisor – Atomic Fiction

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
The Mustafar sequence in ROGUE ONE because, Vader!

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
I actually can’t tell you that. It could get me into a lot of trouble. 😉

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
I really enjoyed working on DEADPOOL. One of those projects that was a blast from start to finish.

What are your expectations for 2017?
To help build the best studio in Montreal and work with the most talented artist we can find.

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
As a comic geek I’d have to say anything superhero related.

Read my interview of Wayne Brinton about DEADPOOL.

// Arnaud Brisebois – VFX Supervisor – Rodeo FX

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
I’d say my heart would swing between ARRIVAL’s “Gravity shift” sequence and FANTASTIC BEASTS’s “Newt’s Case” sequence.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
On our last delivery week on FANTASTIC BEASTS, when we finally delivered our 1500 frames, almost full CG shot for “Newt’s Case” our client almost instantly asked for a review call and requested we add the last post-viz version, our latest animation render as well as our final comp. I got anxious since we were then only a few days from final drop date, and I was dreading animation or even layout notes which would have ensued considerable extra work for the team and myself, who at the time had already spent many weeks sleeping at the studio. So I moonwalked my way into the theater for the call, fearing the worst. Christian Manz opened up the conversation, said hello with a contained tone and started going back and forth between the post-vis QT and our final comp, and then said -”I just wanted to point out how formidable it is that you went from this (animation render) to that (final comp) in just a few weeks” and then laughed cruelly. I was literally numb from tiredness and wasn’t realizing that this whole scheme was Christian’s way of saying “thank you” and “ your shot is studio final.” I remained stoical and said -”That’s not funny Christian, not funny at all.” 🙂

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
2016 was a real dream year for me as a VFX supervisor having worked with Frazer Churchill on MISS PEREGRINE’s, then moving on to ARRIVAL with Louis Morin and then attacking the challenging timeline of FANTASTIC BEASTS with Christian Manz. An unforgettable year of memorable collaborating with these great people. I’m very grateful for these acquaintances.

What are your expectations for 2017?
I want to keep building my relationship with my team at Rodeo. I love their enthusiasm, their knowledgeability, their stamina and courage to face new challenges. I know we can achieve anything as a unit. Thank you to my beloved team of heroes.

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
Maybe this will sound boring for an answer, but I said once it’s not the projects that make the experience of film making special or not, it’s the people with whom you live it. I can only wish to keep working with my crew for as long as possible.

Read my interview of Arnaud Brisebois about FANTASTIC BEASTS.

// Mark Breakspear – VFX Supervisor – Sony Pictures Imageworks

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
I was a big fan of the explosion and fire scenes in DEEPWATER HORIZON. Knowing all too well how tricky large fire systems are, I was truly impressed with the work done on that movie. I’m also a sucker for invisible effects work, and it’s great yet again, that the academy has recognised a movie like this for consideration in the best vfx category.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
Honestly, I don’t find any of the comments unusual anymore, though I was working on a show where the director said “I don’t totally hate it.” in reference to something we had done. Out of context, that sounds pretty brutal, in context, that was high praise indeed from that particular director.

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
During reshoots on SUICIDE SQUAD in LA, I was on a stage shooting a sequence full of rain and jetting water… that was cool, if you like being soaked to the core. But having been on the set all day, I nipped outside to get warm for a minute or two and found myself wandering around a 1920s backlot set. The sun was going down, my clothes were dripping wet, and I was stood outside on a deserted street from the 1920s. Time travel! Amazing.

What are your expectations for 2017?
We are delivering some great work on KINGSMAN 2, so I’m looking forward to when that comes out. We have worked alongside Angus Bickerton and Barrie Hemsley who I’ve worked with before on THE DA VINCI CODE and ANGELS & DEMONS, as well as DARK SHADOWS. It’s been a great vfx experience for us and it’s one of those shows, that the whole team doesn’t want to end. Other than that… I try not to predict the vfx industry… seems like when people try to do that they always get it wrong!

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
Anything where I feel like I am exploring new ground, either visually or creatively. The great thing about the moment of discovery is that when you develop something that didn’t exist 5 minutes ago, you look back and realise that it was so obvious now you know how to do it. It makes you realise that around you at all times are great possibilities shrouded only by a force opposite to that needed to create.

Read my interview of Mark Breakspear about SUICIDE SQUAD.

// Tim Burke – VFX Supervisor

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
There are several moments in FANTASTIC BEASTS that I love, my favourite sequence is probably the Erumpent chasing Jacob, because it is so ridiculous yet charming and funny, and even though it is incredibly complex work involving a combination of full CG shots, digital doubles, set extensions and actors on partial sets and green screens, it all flows seamlessly together with a balletic quality allowing you to be totally immersed in the action without ever questioning the authenticity of what’s happening. My other favourite shot from the film is when the room rebuilds itself around Newt, it is a relatively simple idea but is so well executed and there is so much love and care in the detail of how all of the pieces go back together to reform the room, it is magical yet very real.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
I find some of the most unusual comments these days come from members of the general public in online posts, or by film critics and journalists, who all seem to be experts in our industry without ever having worked in the business themselves, and don’t have the slightest idea of how much effort and personal sacrifice goes into making a film, especially by the often unsung and dedicated visual effects teams.

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
Probably the collaborative effort of everybody involved in making BEASTS. From the great film crew who battled together in all weathers through the cold winter days and nights in January and February, to our in house team of 50 artists who post-vised the whole film, to the fantastic artists and production teams at all of the facilities who helped us complete the film, it was one great big fantastic effort by everyone involved.

What are your expectations for 2017?
My hope is for another exciting and enjoyable year working on the latest Fantastic Beasts film.

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
I am very happy at the moment working on the current projects I have, right now I do not feel the need to look any further.

Read my interview of Tim Burke about FANTASTIC BEASTS.

// Stephane Ceretti – VFX Supervisor

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
I am going to be biased… I really like the Magical Mystery Tour in DOCTOR STRANGE because it is unexpected and fun and different right in the middle of a Marvel film, and it was both exciting and very difficult to achieve.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
That’s a difficult one because DOCTOR STRANGE was so bizarre that we did get a lot of unusual comments…

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
When I finally saw DOCTOR STRANGE in 3D Imax at the Imax headquarters, it actually blew my mind!

What are your expectations for 2017?
Have some fun on my next film, and I think it will be very very fun !!!

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
I have a few ideas … but I’ll keep them for me. Don’t want anybody to do it before I do it 🙂

Read my interview of Stephane Ceretti about DOCTOR STRANGE.

// Frazer Churchill – VFX Supervisor

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
My favourite films of last year were all animated films.
My favourite sequences were “We Know The Way” from MOANA and Paper Fight from KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS. I love the inventiveness of Animation Directors.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
Tim Burton thought we’d made the Squirrels head too big in MISS PEREGRINE’s, so he gave us this….

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
The MISS PEREGRINE Reshoots: Flying to LA to build & Shoot a Tokyo Street in the basketball court of a Halfway House in Long Beach. Driving out to Joshua Tree to shoot a Gas Station and Shooting on the deck of the USS IOWA. Crazy but Fun.

What are your expectations for 2017?
I see Super Heroes somewhere in my future.

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
A big budget Gaspar Noe movie. ENTER THE VOID 2?

Read my interview of Frazer Churchill about MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN.

// Nicolas Chevalier – VFX Supervisor – Cinesite

What’s your favourite shot or sequence of 2016?
Cinesite did an amazing work on the Wagon chase sequence for ASSASSIN’S CREED. Looking at the past year I pick The New York sequence designed for DOCTOR STRANGE. I think it has a great artistic feeling and a tremendous complexity technically and visually.

What was the most unusual comment or feedback you received in 2016?
“We f***ng love it! Please proceed.”

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
I really liked working for John Dykstra who (to me) is one of the famous VFX supervisor’s.

What are your expectations for 2017?
I can’t talk about the next projects but overall I’m sure we will have fun working on the big shows with a great team!

What would be your dream project to work on?
This is a difficult question, I’ll be bipolar on this one! The child in me would love to work on a STAR WARS movie, the grown up me would love to do another THE REVENANT!

Read my interview of Nicolas Chevallier about THE REVENANT.

// Sean Devereaux – VFX Supervisor – Zero VFX

What is your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
This isn’t one I worked on, but I loved the DOCTOR STRANGE distorted city scene. It brought photorealism to a very magical level and manipulated large amounts of space in ways I had never seen before.

What was the most unusual comment or feedback you received in 2016?
After spending some time in our Boston office, a CBS producer on PATRIOTS DAY said to me, “Why is everyone so nice here? It’s really freaking me out.”

What is your best professional memory or professional experience from 2016?
The best experience would have to be opening an already flourishing Los Angeles branch of Zero that has become a crucial part of our growth and is already a seamless part of the Zero family.

What are your expectations for 2017?
Explosive growth!

What would be your dream project to work on?
I have an idea for a narrative film I would love to work on – it’s called Next Year. It’s about the 2004 Boston Red Sox, but it starts with the 2003 Red Sox as they lose the ALCS after Bucky Dent hits a homerun over the Green Monster.

Read my interview of Sean Devereaux about THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.

// François Dumoulin – VFX Supervisor – Rodeo FX

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
To be honest, I’m totally behind, haven’t seen any of the awards contenders for this year.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
Unusual feedback is pretty much the routine when you’re trying to craft something original. And since I don’t want to embarrass anyone, I won’t give you any specific answer to that question, sorry !

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
Everything VALERIAN: the previz, being on set, designing and building the assets, producing entire sequences of full CG shots… What an amazing ride ! Without a doubt one of my best professional experience ever.

What are your expectations for 2017?
Tackle more complex tasks while maintaining the artistic and technical standards at super high levels.
Benefit from the lessons learned. Improve the pipeline, make it smarter. More and more sharing work between vendors, make that painless. Explore new form of narrative content.
Keep the human factor front and center in the everyday. Make sure every single artist can feel proud of the work he is accomplishing.

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
A project that use visual effects as a vessel for the narrative, and not as a pointless and expensive gimmick. Being offered to work on an original visual universe where you can write your own set of rules, with clients that entrust you into doing things you’ve never done before.
Icing on the cake ? A long and well balanced schedule, a thoughtful preparation, being involved with on set decisions, getting the perfect cast of artists to deliver the shots.

Read my interview of François Dumoulin about THE LEGEND OF TARZAN.

// Pauline Duvall – VFX Supervisor – Kelvin Optical

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
In THE JUNGLE BOOK, the sequence when Mowgli meets King Louie in the temple was just beautiful.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
Nothing surprises me anymore!

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
We had the opportunity to work on a series of parody sketches for the 2016 Oscars.
For so many different reasons, it was the most proud I’ve been of my team and simply to be a part of.

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
Anything directed by Christopher Nolan. He had me at MEMENTO.

Read my interview of Pauline Duvall about DEADPOOL.

// Steve Emerson – VFX Supervisor – Laika

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
For KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS, it’s a fairly simple shot of Kubo and his mother sitting together at the mouth of their cave watching the sunrise together. It’s a very sweet moment and the animation, though subtle, is very effective. I love the design of the skies and how we found that balance between realism and Japanese woodblock art. It was an early shot in the production. When we got that one, I remember feeling that we were on to something really special.

Outside of LAIKA, I really enjoyed DEEPWATER HORIZON. Especially the sequence when Mark Wahlberg’s character leapt from the rig. I was completely engrossed in the story and felt as though I was right alongside him. The realism was incredible and I never felt as though I was watching a visual effect.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
There’s a shot in Kubo where Grandfather transforms into the Moonbeast. The idea was that he would dry up, like a reptile, then a husk would form around him and after a few beats of struggle, he would burst from the chrysalis in an explosion of light. – We wanted to try an in-camera solution, so the animation and rigging team developed a paper effigy of Grandfather and rigged it from the inside.

The animator got a great performance. You could feel a presence inside the effigy as it contorted, expanded and finally burst apart. – When the raw element was delivered to the vfx team, we reviewed it and discussed post-treatment to intensify the event and make it more dynamic. Someone mentioned that the raw plate reminded him or her of a Jiffy Pop popcorn bag inflating on a stove top. That was a first.

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
Being invited by Academy’s Visual Effects Branch Executive Committee to present KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS at the bake-off. That was a big one. Prior to that invitation, when we had made the top twenty, I’d read many comments by people that didn’t understand why an animated film was being recognized. I wanted to explain to them that our workflow is very much based in live-action visual effects. — We have sets, they just happen to be very small sets. We have actors that are oftentimes shot on greenscreens, they just happen to be very small actors on very small greenscreens that are brought to life one frame at a time. On top of that, there are elements of realism, design and scale that make the work incredibly complex. We use the same software that a Marvel movie would use to create a water system, but we have to make the water system look like it was created using garbage bags and animated using motion control rigging or human hands. — Every frame of a LAIKA film is a visual effect. It’s a daunting and oftentimes overwhelming effort. So when the visual effects community expressed that they not only understood the process, but also felt that it was worthwhile of yet another level of recognition; that was incredibly gratifying. We have a small crew of extremely dedicated vfx artists. I was very happy for them.

What are your expectations for 2017?
We’ll be working on our fifth film, so I expect to be very busy collaborating with the LAIKA team to surpass what we’ve accomplished with our past efforts. As far as the visual effects industry as a whole, I’m hoping the trend of merging digital effects with in-camera solutions continues. I feel that this approach not only honors the special effects pioneers that showed us the way, but challenges our industry to innovate on top of time-tested techniques, rather than leaving them behind for the world of boundless virtual cameras and purely synthetic visuals.

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS 2. I don’t think it will ever happen, but working on KUBO was such a rewarding experience, I’d love to spend a couple more years in that universe.

Read my interview of Steve Emerson about KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS.

// Jerome Escobar – CG Supervisor – MPC

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
New York fight of DOCTOR STRANGE, amazing work.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
We need less “psssssh” but more “whooosssh”, but in the context it actually make sense.

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
Complete X-MEN APOCALYPSE, was a real journey.

What are your expectations for 2017?
Travel more.

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
I don t have any really , as long as the work is challenging and interesting I m in!

Read my interview of Jerome Escobar about X-MEN APOCALYPSE.

// Jonathan Fawkner – VFX Supervisor – Framestore

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
My favourite sequence of 2016 is the battle sequence we did for KING ARTHUR. Fantastic work by our Montreal team, the environment was a faithful but fully CG recreation of a Welsh Valley and allowed some realistic weather systems and lighting, with fantastical creatures, and battling armies and complete freedom of virtual cameras.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
My strangest request was to conceal the face of a character and have him perform dialogue away from camera during a director attended facial capture session with a very well known actor.
We were also sent the official Victoria Alonso voodoo doll but I guess she sends a lot of them out.

What are your expectations for 2017?
2017 will consist of delivering and recovering from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2.

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
I’m still waiting for a James Bond credit!

Read my interview of Jonathan FAWKNER about DOCTOR STRANGE.

// Florian Gellinger – VFX Supervisor – Rise

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
If you’re asking for my favorite work that we did at RISE: It’s the Lagos Heist sequence from CAPTAIN AMERICA – CIVIL WAR. Apart from the obvious visual effects of things that can’t be shot in the real world – here is so much stuff in there that goes completely unnoticed.
If you mean in general: I think that Stef Ceretti and Method did an amazing job with the Magical Mystery Tour in DOCTOR STRANGE. It’s almost as if someone empties a bucket of ideas over your head. Overwhelmingly brilliant.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
Gore Verbinski told us that we “stepped on his plate” – meaning we should try harder preserving more of what he had shot. Gore sees everything (literally everything!), is very demanding and the nicest guy you can think of.

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
This whole year was great, we just kept on working on one great movie after the next. So I’d say it was all of 2016, all of CAPTAIN AMERICA – CIVIL WAR, A CURE FOR WELLNESS, DOCTOR STRANGE and the stuff that we’re currently still working on. In one word: Yay!

What are your expectations for 2017?
We have a very solid booking well into 2018 and 2017 has just begun. Our permanent staff has just more than doubled. Our new office in Munich will open in February, run by an old friend. We just managed to petition for a German section of the Visual Effects Society. 2017 marks RISE’s 10th anniversary and it’s going to be the most amazing year that we’ve ever had, working with a lot of people we love on films that we’d want to watch. You can’t ask for more.

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
AKIRA. If they ever decide to make it with a decent budget, sticking a bit more to the Manga than the Anime did and a great cast. It’s one of the live-action adaptations you can’t do halfhearted, you’d have to take a gigantic risk.

Read my interview of Florian Gellinger about DOCTOR STRANGE.

// Robin Graham – VFX Supervisor / Producer – Crafty Apes

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
The 5 and a half minute long opening shot to LA LA LAND. An intense amount of work!

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
“Make this suck less”. From a friend, but still.

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
Buying and moving in to our new building in Atlanta. In the middle of 5 shows we moved the entire Atlanta office (all servers and hardware) on a Saturday and were 100% up and running Monday morning. Extremely stressful but rewarding at the same time.

What are your expectations for 2017?
Expanding the LA and Atlanta office even more, its hard to keep up!

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
Honestly with DOCTOR STRANGE, LA LA LAND, and HIDDEN FIGURES happening in 2016 I couldn’t imagine better projects. I feel like I am already living the dream.

Read my interview of Robin Graham about DOCTOR STRANGE.

// Roger Guyett – VFX Supervisor & 2nd Unit Director – Industrial Light & Magic

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
I didn’t have a project released in 2016 so I’ve enjoyed watching everyone else’s hard work hit the screen. There’s too much great work to name only one project! ILM did some really amazing work in 2016, with ROGUE ONE getting the recognition it rightly deserves but also less known films like DEEPWATER HORIZON. That had some fabulous blends of practical and digital work. Of course, there was also some really spectacular work in THE JUNGLE BOOK by Rob Legato and his team. I really liked the work in A MONSTER CALLS, which was rather overlooked – some very nicely executed work with a creativity you don’t often see.

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
At the beginning of the year we were still enjoying the amazing reaction to THE FORCE AWAKENS – we worked so hard on that project, so it felt very fulfilling for the film to do that well.
In the summer we had a lot of fun shooting READY PLAYER ONE at Leavesden in England (which brought back a lot of great HARRY POTTER memories). Of course it really is an honor working with Steven Spielberg, who’s energy, creativity and enthusiasm for the process is truly inspiring.

What are your expectations for 2017?
We have a lot to get done for READY PLAYER ONE – so it will be a busy year – but its extremely gratifying. Seeing the project come together, with such a diverse and talented group of people is always challenging but a lot of fun!

Read my interview of Roger Guyett about STAR WARS: THE FORC AWAKENS.

// Pablo Helman – VFX Supervisor – Industrial Light & Magic

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
For my best professional experience of 2016 I’ll dive into the state of things for staying creative and doing business in VFX: the world has just become very SMALL!

A project comes in and everybody in the world gets to work on it. We live in a time when we can communicate with each other at the drop of a click. Things move at the speed of light. We benefit from an eclectic and bigger pool of artists, and the speed at which things move has pushed us into being more eloquent. But sometimes I miss the time we used to have to think about things. Guess what? Much more of that coming in 2017!

Read my interview of Pablo Helman about TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES – OUT OF THE SHADOWS.

// Hal Hickel – Animation Supervisor – Industrial Light & Magic

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
From my own work: The first closeup shot of Durotan in WARCRAFT, and the space battle in ROGUE ONE. From other films, I really enjoyed the “folding reality” stuff from DOCTOR STRANGE.

What was the most unusual comments or feedback you received in 2016?
Most unusual comment I saw was someone on twitter saying that our Star Destroyer in ROGUE ONE looked “too much like a miniature”. After years of hearing people complain that miniatures are better than CG, that comment was a real head scratcher.

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
Best professional experience was working on ROGUE ONE. Such a great project, with a terrific outcome.

What are your expectations for 2017?
Honestly, I don’t know what to expect for 2017. I don’t know what my next project is yet.

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
My dream project would be something small-ish, and idea driven, with a CG character plays a central role. Finding a project like that is like finding a unicorn.

Read my interview of Hal Hickel about WARCRAFT.

// Tim LeDoux – VFX Supervisor – Crafty Apes

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
LA LA LAND Observatory sequence.

What was the most unusual comments or feedback you received in 2016?
We were told to “get lost” zero times this year. 🙂 At least as far as I know.

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
Wrapping up work on CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR. Seeing LA LA LAND in theaters. Finishing is the best feeling. It’s the antidote.

What are your expectations for 2017?
I have only hopes to be safe 🙂 I hope we get great opportunities to do the job we love and to do it well. I know we will give it our best to meet and exceed expectations if we do. Practically, I expect an increasing demand for visual effects. The stories demand it!

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
My dream projects are our own projects, where we use our skills as visual effects artists to provide for our own creative designs. Still, it’s a blast working on everything else.

Read my interview of Tim LeDoux about DOCTOR STRANGE.

// Ajoy Mani – Senior VFX Supervisor

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
For me the most impressive sequence I have seen for all the VFX contenders for 2016 has to be the work on the “Mirror Dimension” sequences in DOCTOR STRANGE. Extraordinary execution.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
Have to say, having been in VFX for two decades, I rarely get surprised by “unusual” comments. Nothing out of the ordinary in 2016 thankfully. I worked one feature the whole year and it has been astonishingly civil and smooth in spite of the feature being shot in China with its own unique barriers. I also worked on numerous commercials shot in Canada and the US in 2016, and they too have been smooth and without any issues.

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
2016 was very interesting, in that I had to move out of my comfort zone working in a Western production environment. I worked on a coproduction feature in China called MY OTHER HOME. It is a movie based on a true-story of NBA star, Stephon Marbury, who washed out in the US and was signed on with the Beijing Ducks in the Chinese CBA league. He went on to take the team to three championship wins and he is now a much loved celebrity in China. It’s a story about a man who hit rock bottom and found himself in a foreign country. The vast majority of the effects in the movie was crowd solutions to populate stadiums.

The Chinese production was extremely gracious and got me all the crew and requirements I needed for the shoot as best as they could. They surrounded me with a bilingual crew, which made the work so much easier. I was able to adapt the rest of the procedures around the Chinese way of doing things. The result was that we had flawless data and plates. The show had close to 800 shots, and due to complications in censor approval, we only had 2 months to finish all the shots. None of the VFX companies in China had capacity to do the whole show in that time frame. I bid out the job outside China to overseas vendors, and was successfully able to manage the show from outside and come in substantially cheaper than finishing the show in China. I am currently back in Beijing with the finished shots and cutting them in. It is always an immense relief to come in on a show on time and on budget and successfully deal with eventualities, especially in a foreign country.

I was in China over three trips for a total of almost six months. In spite of the hurdles of working in the new burgeoning film universe in China, I have had a pleasant experience with an unblemished turnaround. I found the Chinese crew inquisitive, eager, hard working and I look forward to more projects in China.

What are your expectations for 2017?
I have a very optimistic expectation of 2017. Having dealt with a feature in seemingly difficult circumstance, I look forward to more challenging projects shot overseas. I am not intimidated by travel or language barriers and found my experience in China extremely enriching. My next feature is scheduled to be shot in India, Kazakhstan and Eastern Europe. It is a coproduction with a major Hollywood studio. I am looking forward to the challenges and adventure it brings.

Once you have solid data management, protocols and patience, it doesn’t matter where you work, the backbone is solid enough to handle the eventualities. I am used to bidding work on shows worldwide over the last six years. I have shot and bid to vendors on five continents and geography is no longer an impediment thanks to high speed internet connections, and unified data protocols. We are a time in VFX, where it truly is a global market.

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
For me, a “dream project” is one where I have a great rapport with the director and production team. Once I feel that bond, it’s not about the size of the project, it’s looking forward to the splendid results that synergy brings.

Read my interview of Ajoy Mani about MECHANIC:RESURRECTION.

// Christian Manz – VFX Supervisor & Creative Director – Framestore

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
That’s a hard one… For me I think that has to be the New York sequence in DOCTOR STRANGE – the sheer amount of content and ideas compounded into this thrilling chase elevated it into the ‘you haven’t seen it before’ category.

If I had my Framestore and FANTASTIC BEASTS hat on I would say the Niffler Diamond District scene – it’s combination of great animation and seamless environment work contributed to a fun, stand out sequence.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
I think anything connected to the magically cooked Apple Studel in FANTASTIC BEASTS was pretty unusual – we don’t usually get to make culinary notes in VFX…

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
Working with an amazing teams in London, Montreal and Vancouver on FANTASTIC BEASTS and getting some very nice feedback from our piers for our work in the film.

What are your expectations for 2017?
I’m just starting work on FANTASTIC BEASTS 2 and my exceptions are that we will build on the last film, using all of the talent and tools available to us to create even more spectacular and innovative sequences.

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
The dream project for me is where our work absolutely supports the story and collaborating with talented people in telling it. So I guess I might be doing it now…

Read my interview of Christian Manz about FANTASTIC BEASTS.

// Sven Martin – VFX Supervisor – Pixomondo

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
I really enjoyed the space battle in ROUGE ONE. The moment the fleet appeared from hyperspace jump put me a big smile on my face – the guys really nailed bridging the classic feel with modern film making.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
One thing which always surprises me is, how serious the GAME OF THRONES fans analyze our work. How much they care about every dragon detail in comparison to the books makes me sometimes feel like being in an interrogation 😉

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
Visual effects people normally don’t get often a direct feedback from the audience, as we’re working
very much behind the curtain. In November I got invited to Brazil by VFXRio to give a keynote about the GAME ON THRONES dragons at ComicCon Sao Paulo – in front of 3500 fans! It was amazing to see their cheering reactions! It gave me a big push for the next season, a very rewarding experience.

What are your expectations for 2017?
Actually I started to have no big expectations concerning projects over the years. The current situation in the vfx business makes projects come and go on such a short notice, that I can only stay prepared
to what might come.

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
This is a tough question… hmmm – a new adaption of Swedish children’s book author Astrid Lindgren’s ‘Brothers Lionheart’ would be a project I’d really like to contribute too. Beside this, doing a cool creature for STAR WARS and supporting 007 on a mission.

Read my interview of Sven Martin about GAME OF THRONES – Season 6.

Read my interview of Sven Martin about BRIDGE OF SPIES.

// Tim Miller – Director & VFX Supervisor – Blur Studio

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
CIVIL WAR airport fight. So great to see Spiderman unleashed in the way he deserves!

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
”Why would you put that in there? It must be really uncomfortable!”

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
DEADPOOL opening weekend! The relief that comes with knowing somebody would probably let me direct another film was overwhelming.

What are your expectations for 2017?
Blur has some groundbreaking projects in the works that are so VERY FUCKING exciting for the animation industry that I can’t wait to show them. And the the opportunity to tell even bigger stories.

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
There’s quite a few of them—for animation, something R-Rated and edgy. In live action– Joe Abercrombie’s FIRST LAW series!

Read my interview of Tim Miller about DEADPOOL.

// Ivan Moran – VFX Supervisor – Framestore

What’s your favourite shot or sequence of 2016?
My favourite moment in visual effects this year is the shot from DOCTOR STRANGE where Kaecilius is wrapped and trapped in the strange cage-like harness thrown by Strange. I’m not sure if it is the famed Crimson Bands of Cyttorak from the comics but regardless what an incredibly cool shot! Equal parts shocking, amusing, intriguing and surprising. A brilliant idea, expertly excecuted. I loved it!

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
“It’s a bit too beautiful”.

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
Oh that’s easy: ARRIVAL. Inventing and crafting the ships’ disappearance methodology at the end of the movie was up there with the most exciting experiences of my career. Working with Denis Villeneuve, Louis Morin & Joe Walker on such a superlative film was a true honour.

What are your expectations for 2017?
I love cinema and I can’t wait to see two projects in particular: BLADE RUNNER 2049 and LOGAN. The former directed by Denis Villeneuve is the continuation of one of my all time favourite movies and the latter is such a cool wrap up to that franchise. Oh and T2: TRAINSPOTTING, just cos I love Irvine Welsh.

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
DUNE. Seriously Cool.

Read my interview of Ivan Moran about ARRIVAL.

// Andy Morley – VFX Supervisor – Cinesite

What’s your favourite shot or sequence of 2016?
My favourite Cinesite sequence is of course the delicious looking apple strudel that we ‘baked’ for FANTASTIC BEASTS. After watching ROGUE ONE, the star destroyer collision sequence looked truly majestic and stunning – probably one of my favourites, although far too many to list here.

What was the most unusual comment or feedback you received in 2016?
“You need to wedge him in the suitcase more!”

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
Too many to mention, but best ‘professional’ experience – playing Star Wars Battlefront with a VR headset on the PS4…. it’s kinda work related! 😉

What are your expectations for 2017?
I am very excited about the project that might be coming in the door in the next few weeks here at Cinesite – of course, I am not allowed to say what it is right now – but it will be glorious fun, and of course will look amazing! London also remains very busy right now, which is good news for everyone who doesn’t wish to relocate to places far away – I for one have done my traveling!

What would be your dream project to work on?
I have been lucky enough to work on some amazing projects in my career, and so it is a little tricky to pin point a specific – however, my dream project would be an animated feature that I’m conjuring up.

Read my interview of Andrew Morley about FANTASTIC BEASTS.

// Jonathan Rothbart – VFX Supervisor

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
From a personal standpoint, I was really proud of the work we did in DEADPOOL in the Colossus/Angel Dustfight. It’s a sequence that incorporated serious on set design to create the interactive sensibilities of the practical fight blended with great digital artistry by Digital Domain to make Colossus feel seamless and believable. It was such a compliment when people would tell me how cool the fight was, knowing they didn’t even think about or realize that one of the combatants was completely digital.

As a movie goer, I would have to say the assault on Scarif was amazing: it was the type of battle that I envisioned while I played with my Star Wars toys asa kid. The execution was incredible and ILM did such a fantastic job giving the VFX that retro-model feel that is so iconic from the original films.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
Holy Crap. This is a tough one. I worked on DEADPOOL, which was pretty insane, to say the least. The experience was filled with a wealth of awkward conversations and bizarre notes. There would be days when discussions would range from: how much blood should splatter against a wall, to how much digital nipple to reveal to whether our digital penis needed to be circumcised or not. Other important decisions to be made included if Deadpool’s eyes should raise up when he said “Fuck” or when he said “Suck it”. There were very serious conversations to be had. All that said, I don’t think I can even write the worst of it here.

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
Being on DEADPOOL was an amazing experience overall. It was one of those shows where everything clicked. I loved working on every phase of the film, (though, to be honest, a large part of that was in 2015). When we were in production, the team was great. Everyone was in it together and it felt like a true team effort. While we were in post I had the opportunity to work with a number of facilities and friends I have not had the chance to collaborate with for some time. It is always a special experience when you work with people you know and trust. Shows like that are very rare and only happen a few times in your career, if you’re lucky.

What are your expectations for 2017?
Well, I’m on THE PREDATOR now. It has been great working with Shane Black. He’s an amazing guy to be around and I have learned so much from him. We are about to start principal photography, which is always a bit of a gamble. It’s funny, in prep you work like crazy to make sure everything is set up to go smoothly and then you just inevitably end up watching it all fall apart once you start shooting. That’s just the nature of making movies. The trick is hoping you have enough of a plan so that on days when it all goes to hell, you can adapt and make it work. ?

What will be your dream project to work on?
That’s a tough question. At this stage in my career, my criteria has changed in terms of the types of shows I’m interested in. I look for a show that has some challenging work where we have to come up with something that has a unique effect. I love an opportunity to figure out how to create something that hasn’t been seen before. After that, it’s all about the people. I have found that working with good people in a great environment ends up being the most important aspect of a show. So while there are lots of projects that are exciting to me, it’s never the title alone that is the determining factor. My decision is also heavily dependent on who is involved.

Read my interview of Jonathan Rothbart about DEADPOOL.

// Charlie Tait – VFX Supervisor – Weta Digital

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
King Louie’s scene in THE JUNGLE BOOK. I didn’t work on it, but I thought it looked stunning; beautifully lit and composited.

What was the most unusual or interesting comment or feed back you received in 2016?
Probably the most unexpected thing, was the incredibly positive reaction that our facial animation on DEADPOOL received, particularly from the writers.

What is your best professional memory or experience of 2016?
Working with Fox and Jonathan Rothbart on DEADPOOL was a real pleasure.

What are your expectations for 2017?
At the moment I have my eyes firmly fixed on finishing GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2. Fingers crossed for some work on DEADPOOL 2 obviously.

What will be your ‘dream project’ to work on?
I would love to work on a film of Eon – a novel by Greg Bear. Oh – and did I mention DEADPOOL 2?

Read my interview of Charlie Tait about DEADPOOL.

// Ryan Tudhope – VFX Supervisor – Atomic Fiction

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
I think the work in all of the Visual Effects Academy-nominated films is amazing. It’s impossible to single out a particular sequence, but I’m particularly impressed by the work in both THE JUNGLE BOOK and ROGUE ONE. It’s great to see KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS on the list as well. My hat goes off to the teams involved in all of those projects. It’s amazing to see the dedication to quality that our industry is capable of, and I love that the Academy is highlighting diversity in both tone and genre.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
I love this question, and I wish I had an amusing answer! Thankfully, though, I don’t recall any comments that came out of left field. Perhaps it’s because, along with our client-side colleagues, we are trying very hard to anticipate fundamental issues before they surprise us. That tends to reduce the probability that a request or change will come from somewhere totally unexpected. In some cases, it might be us that is suggesting something unusual, if we think it’ll make the shot or sequence work better.

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
Atomic Fiction made some significant strides in 2016, but my best memories surround the people at our studio who made it all possible. At our holiday parties, I spoke about how the projects we are involved in are a testament to our collective talents and passion. When a studio like ours is trusted with projects like BLADE RUNNER 2049, GHOST IN THE SHELL, Alien: Covenant, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, ALLIED, and STAR TREK BEYOND, I can’t help but be humbled by our “Atomic Family” that made that all possible. Those opportunities are dedicated to them 1000%.

What are your expectations for 2017?
I’m looking forward to continued collaborations with our favorite filmmakers and studios, but also our efforts to innovate and remain nimble, and help our teams be even more happy and efficient. We are focused on wiping out anything that is hindering the creative process. On that list might be pipeline related, how we provide feedback, the way our teams communicate desk-to-desk, or any number of things that allow us more time to be creative. I like to think of Atomic Fiction as being in our formative “teenage” years—still young, exuberant, and a bit messy (in a good way), but are also growing into ourselves!

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
It’s so great to see so many of the films I watched growing up getting rebooted for a new generation! Any opportunity to work on a franchise that recalls my childhood love of movies and special/visual effects is a “dream project” for me. Now that I have a son of my own, I look forward to sharing those experiences with him too!

Read my interview of Ryan Tudhope about DEADPOOL.

// Alexis Wajsbrot – VFX Supervisor – Framestore

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
Hard to choose :

Sequence would be the “magic mystery tour” from DOCTOR STRANGE, I was very impressed. Congrats Stephane Cerretti and the whole team at Method to pull it of .

My background coming from FX, I’ve got a special mention to the Jedha destruction in ROGUE ONE, it looked fantastic, congrats ILM!

And regarding the shots I supervised it would be Strange wearing the cloak in the corridor. Such an iconic moment of DOCTOR STRANGE.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
On this shot The space vortex would have no effect in the mirror dimension but we will need to mix the Mandelbrot within the mirror dimension.
Working on DOCTOR STRANGE, we had to learn some vocabulary 😉

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
Watching the final version of DOCTOR STRANGE in the cinema, I was really proud of the work we did at Framestore. And of course the première of my movie DON’T HANG UP at the Los Angeles film Festival.

What are your expectations for 2017?
A wide release for the movie I directed DON’T HANG UP! And Helping the team making THOR RAGNAROK being fun and impressive !

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
For a long time it would have been working on a JURASSIC PARK movie, now it would be working close to a director I admire such as David Fincher / Martin Scorcese / Denis Villeneuve and more recently Damien Chazelle.

Read my interview of Alexis Wajsbrot about DOCTOR STRANGE.

// Alex Wang – VFX Supervisor – Double Negative

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
One of my favorite films of the 2016 was DEEPWATER HORIZON. The visual effects were invisible and served the story well. You definitely take it for granted when you understand just how much was actually CG. Some of my favorite shots in the film were the underwater shots that told the story about the Blow Out Preventer.

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
Working on DEADPOOL, I definitely got my fair share of inappropriate vulgar feedback. Everything from “Make it bloody when he’s cutting his arm off, like rated-R bloody and on the cusp of NC-17”, to “…her boob looks a bit saggy…make them look more round and perky…I’ll find you some reference.” Sadly I never got any reference.

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
I would have to say delivering my first show as a VFX Supervisor was special, and I was close to my team and the client VFX supervisor, so it felt like huge collective accomplishment for all of us. I also shot on rooftops in NYC last summer for the current project I am on and it was an unforgettable experience.

What are your expectations for 2017?
I think 2017 is going to be a really exciting and busy year. I just hope I can finally fit a vacation in there this year!

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
I would love to work on a Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Alfonso Cauron, or Denis Villeneuve film.

Read my interview of Alex Wang about DEADPOOL.

// Chad Wiebe – VFX Supervisor – Industrial Light & Magic

What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?
Personally the most rewarding shot I was involved in was the first shot of the “Magical Mystery Tour” in DOCTOR STRANGE, where Stephen Strange gets jettisoned into outer space, has a moment with a space butterfly, and is then thrust into a wormhole (thats just something you don’t get to see every day!). In terms of films I didn’t work on…..Vader kicking major Storm Trooper butt in ROGUE ONE. It just doesn’t get much better than that!!

What was the most unusual comments or feedbacks you received in 2016?
Without getting too graphic, while developing the Mirror Portal on DOCTOR STRANGE, it was mentioned that the convergence of points towards the centre of a kaleidoscopic portal resembled a part of the human anatomy which was definitely not the desired aesthetic…..I’ll leave it at that.

What is your best professional memory or professional experience of 2016?
Without a doubt the opportunity to travel to Nepal for DOCTOR STRANGE. Being able to experience the culture and interact with the local residents who were kind enough to invite us into their homes was an experience I’ll never forget.

What are your expectations for 2017?
Continuing to expand on the Marvel Universe!! I think we’re going to see some very exciting things this year and fans are going to be very excited when they start to get a taste of things to come!

What will be your « dream project » to work on?
I gotta admit that I’d be lying if I didn’t say the “kid in me” would be a little crushed to be working at ILM and not have a chance to get my hands dirty on a Star Wars film.

Read my interview of Chad Wiebe about DOCTOR STRANGE.
Thanks a lot to all these interviewees for their time!

Dear readers, don’t hesitate to participate to this thread by answering to this: What’s your favorite shot or sequence of 2016?

And send your answers in the comments section.


© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2017

Share this post

Vincent Frei

Founder & Editor-in-Chief // VES Member // Former comp artist

No comments

Add yours