AVATAR: Hassan El Youbi – TD Lighting – Weta Digital

Evolving for more than 10 years in the French and European postproduction, Hassan El Youbi worked in the most part of the Parisian studios as Mac Guff, Sparx or Duboi. He joins the teams of Weta Digital in summer 2008 for AVATAR.

– Hi Hassan, can you explain us your course?
I’m a self-educated person in artistic domain. I headed for CNBDI Angoulême to have CG specialization in 1994.
My experience, I acquired it in different Parisian and European companies such as MacGuff or Duboi…

– How did you arrived on one of the most expected movie of these last years?
Between two productions in Paris, I decided to fill the recruitment page of Weta Digital.
I was definitely far from suspecting that I went working on such quickly AVATAR, at this moment THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and LOVELY BONES were under way.

– What was your job position on AVATAR?
I worked as Lighting Technical Director.

– Can you explain us of what consisted your job?
At my arrival to Weta, I joined the SHOTS department of AVATAR.
We were in the center of the others departments: animation, living beings, « Clothdynamic », compositing, with daily updatings of information.
It was not rare to make some proposals of design, clothing or lighting.

– On which sequences did you work?
I in most cases worked on night sequences:
– the sequence of battle with kinds of wolves Viperwolf, it was the first meeting between Jake and Neytiri.
– « Zen » sequence with the WoodSprites when Jake is encircled by small luminescent jellyfishes and accept them in his hand under the look of Neytiri.
– the Na’vis ride in the forest to the Hometree.
– the sequence of the Jake’s introduction, prisoner, to the leader of the village.
– the sequence of life inside Hometree.
I also worked on the sequence of the Hometree’s destruction.

– Night scenes are absolutely beautiful! Did you encounters some problems before arriving at this result?
Not really, it was a true pleasure!
The workflow of Weta is ground well! On the basis of reference scenes, we had a broad field of research and covering which presented itself to us.
It was a true pleasure to light the characters in this world and the bioluminescence helped us to take down the depths of the jungle.
And what a surprise to see again these scenes in stereoscopy during projections daily!

– What was the size of your team?
Hmm… when we took a sequence, we were no more than 2 artists and a lead at the beginning, this helped to prepare a workflow.
Once this task finished, the rest of the team joined us to finalize the job. Anyway, it depended on sequences, some of them asked many more artists than for others.

– How was a typical day on AVATAR?
We prepared plans for meetings  » dailies  » in general in the morning to see if everything works; animation renders and compositing.
Then preparation of dispatches in the evening for conferences-call with James Cameron.

– The number of artists on the film is impressive. Did james Cameron explain you directly his ideas or did he pass by the VFX supervisors?
It became impressing the last 6 months (NDR: almost 900 artists only to Weta!!).
And concerning ideas and comments of James Cameron everything crossed by the supervisors what simplified task.

– For this film, Weta recruited some of the best artists in the world, how was the working ambience? I imagine that there had to be a true dynamics between all these artists?
I keep on it a very good memory!
What most marked me, it is the number of artist different nationalities which all speak the same language. To give you an example in my room: there was German two, an American, an Italian, an Japanese, an Egyptian and an Australian!

– What was the most complicated thing on this show for you?
The huge amount of data to be managed! And this kept growing till the end.

– The movie is now released, what look do you have on this experience?
On the human side, it was grandiose!

– You worked more than year on this film. What is your best memory?
The country, people and job when the comments of the director was passionate.

– Apart from vacation, what is your next project?
This is going to become clear in February

– Thank you Hassan for the time which you dedicated us.
Thank you Vincent.

© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2010

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Vincent Frei

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

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