Martin Lipmann began his career in visual effects more than 10 years ago as a Flame assistant. He has worked in many studios around the world and has participated on projects such as HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, 300, SNAKES ON A PLANE or MR. NOBODY.
What is your background?
My entire family works in the film industry and in fine arts, from director to first assistant director to line producer, plus my mother is a painter and sculptor. So I’ve always been in touch with these mediums.
I graduated in Art History and Photography in Paris and started my career as a freelance web designer.
One day, 12 years ago, I got to meet a Visual Effect Supervisor (David Danesi at Digital District in Paris) and basically told him I wanted to do what he did. He hired me as his Flame assistant. I started in roto, and made my way in compositing on feature films and commercials. I got to travel pretty early chasing contracts and challenges in London (Crea Collective), Melbourne (Iloura), Adelaide (Kojo Group), Istanbul (ABT Agency) and finally in Montreal (Hybride, Mokko Studio, ObliqueFX, Shed and then Vision Globale). I’ve been settled for the last 7 years in Montreal.
I started supervising commercials and then features films pretty early, probably because of my understanding of the production process and the realities of a film set, which made my involvement pretty natural.
How did Vision Globale get involved on this show?
Trans Films (the Canadian Producers) has had a standing relationship with Vision Globale, so we were their obvious choice for this project.
It’s the first feature film of director Camille Delamarre. What was his approach for the VFX?
Camille is very precise in the way he wanted his film to look, especially in the way he wanted the wall separating BRICK MANSIONS from the rest of Detroit. We started with some references he sent us and we worked on a few concepts based on the locations he had chosen pretty early on in the process. The great thing working with Camille is that he always stuck to the very first ideas he had about how the matte paintings should look – he has a very stable vision and doesn’t second guess himself.
Can you tell us more about your collaboration with him?
Using the storyboard, we talked a lot about the different techniques required, and Camille always gave us all the room necessary on set to get what we needed. And also, with his editing background, Camille knew pretty much how he would cut his scenes when he was shooting them, wish made the process easier.
What are the sequences done by Vision Globale?
Our collaboration was two fold as we covered most of the shoot in terms of on set supervision and also delivered specific shots. We worked mainly on the last sequence, on the ‘Bomb Roof’, where we can see the rocket pointing at downtown Detroit. Our mandate was to recreate the wall separating ‘Brick Mansions’, ‘The Poor City’ and downtown Detroit ‘The Rich City’. We also worked on all the helicopter shots showing that wall.
What are the references and indications you received from production for the Wall?
Camille always talked about something military, huge, something you can’t climb over. We always had to see some kind of dead zone on each side of the wall, before the buildings. He wanted to see graffiti, and it had to look harsh, something built for safety reasons and not esthetic at all.
Can you tell us more about the Wall design?
The production designer built a fair part of the wall on-set as well as a gate for people to drive through.
So we starting designing different versions of the wall based on the production designer’s sketches, with different lengths and scales for our needs.
Can you explain step by step about its creation?
We took a lot of pictures of textures, graffiti, all kinds of elements we could use to build that wall. We had access to a lot of roof tops and other locations for us to grab as much information as we needed. From there our concept artists started to build different looks of the wall, we modeled it in 3D and projected the textures for our final renders.
How did you created the various textures and materials for the Wall?
The locations chosen by the production team were great for us in terms of material we could use to achieve our goals. We scheduled a lot of photo shoots to get as much information as we could. Broken cars, concrete textures, graffiti. We had access to a lot of roof tops to take pictures from the precise angle needed for our shots which simplified the process a lot later on. We used triangulation methods for projections. Every detailed was addressed so we could get the most of every element.
How did you approach and created the difference between the poor and the rich?
Camille had a precise idea about how this difference should look, the main aspect was the vegetation. Camille didn’t want to see any leaves in Brick Mansions. Overall the main visual difference resides in concrete and red brick environments versus modern ‘Downtown Look’ buildings, parks and well-kept streets. The final color grading contributed a lot to show that difference : Warm vs cold.
Where was filmed the Bomb Roof sequence?
Montreal is a very surprising place for its variety of locations in such close proximity. We shot in the South West of Montreal in an area called ‘Verdun’. The particularity of this area is all these old factories that are being rehabilitated.
For the set extensions, did you used green screens or did you rely on roto?
We didn’t use any green screens for those set extensions, mainly for lighting reasons. It’s a bit more work in prep but definitely pays off with the realism of the integration ! I try to only use green screens when it’s absolutely necessary.
Can you tell us more about the matchmoving challenge especially for the aerial shots?
I have to say our tracking team at Vision Globale is amazing. Frederic Breault and his gang are up to any challenge, and are capable of miracles !
The movie was shot in Red Epic 4k anamorphic, and we can proudly say we didn’t encounter any problems regarding the tracking.
We took a full day to shoot distortion grids for all 14 lenses (primes and zooms) using the 2 main camera bodies.
Have you collaborated with the other VFX studios?
We shared the work with Digital Factory in Paris, We exchanged a few assets during the process for more efficiency.
What was the main challenge and how did you achieve it?
Europacorp is well known for spectacular action packed movies, and expectations are very high. Shooting this movie in 7 weeks with 4 Red epic, 14 lenses, a Drone, several cranes and a Russian Arm, covering car chasing, stunts, fights, gun fights and parkour is a massive challenge!
Timing was our main challenge, so we started very early in the process, and I would often go on the set to show some concepts to Camille while he was shooting. And with the editing team assembling the show as they were shooting, we were able to deliver our first shot very early after the wrap.
Was there a shot or a sequence that has prevented you from sleeping?
After 12 years working in post I learned to sleep well even under the pressure. The most challenging work was the Helicopter shots for us. The movie takes place in the near future. So we couldn’t modify Detroit that much, no modern items or else. The wall had to be integrated into the city as it is.
What did you keep from this experience?
The Europacorp production machine is pretty impressive as well as efficient. The creative process to create the wall was definitely a thrill for us. And I had the chance to spend a bit of time with Paul Walker on set.
How long have you worked on this film?
I had my first pre production meetings early April 2013 and delivered the last shot in December the same year.
How many shots have you done?
In addition to covering most of the on set supervision, we worked on 18 set extension shots.
What is your next project?
What I can tell you for now is that I’m working on a very interesting US feature, involving massive set extensions and a very surprising cast!!
What are the four movies that gave you the passion for cinema?
THE GOLD RUSH, E.T, FIGHT CLUB and THELMA & LOUISE.
A big thanks for your time.
// WANT TO KNOW MORE?
– Vision Globale: Official website of Vision Globale.
© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2014