Can you explain your background?
A start in architecture studies gave me the taste for CG. After that, I started studying special effects in London.
Back in Brussels, I spent nearly a decade as a freelance compositor and supervisor in Belgium and in France. Since 3 years, I am in charge of supervising the visual effects in Benuts.
How did Benuts got involved on this film?
Our French partner Digital District and VFX producer at Benuts were approached by the French and Belgian production to take in charge the visual effects. Digital District had already created the visual effects of Florent Emilio Siri previous films, so we were at the forefront in participating in this project. In addition, funding was brought in Tax Shelter via GoWest, which is a Tax Shelter fund which includes Benuts. Spending should therefore be mandatory in Belgium.
How was the collaboration with Florent-Emilio Siri?
This was not the easiest, given the tight deadlines!
Florent is someone, rightly, very demanding. In general, he knows what he wants and he is not someone who lets go! You should know that we move to 250 shots at the start of production to nearly 750 at the end… All this in a deadline shortening of 30 days compared to what was originally planned.
What was his approach to visual effects?
Florent was post-producer in his « youth » and his projects (music, movies and some commercials) are all projects with effects. He is a filmmaker who loves to innovate and look for things that were never made.
What did you do on this film?
We created all kinds of visual effects, from simple shots to some very difficult shots! There was of course a lot of « cleaning », anachronisms removal, green key, the creation and compositing of 3D objects, a big job to match the archives footages, etc.
One impressive shot of the Suez Canal sequence shows the young Claude Francois on a dock watching a passing freighter. How did you create this shot?
The shot was filmed in Egypt with the young Cloclo. We created the freighter that was added behind rotoscoped young Cloclo. Much hesitation in pre-production about the way to create the eddies, CG or live? Finally we went for the live way. Passes of eddies and scum comes from a shooting pleasure boats on the Seine! I find the result pretty convincing.
The film features many continuous shots. How have you collaborated with Florent-Emilio Siri to design these shots?
We made lots of previz before the shooting mainly on the Olympia sequence and the Exelmans Boulevard sequence. Once the previz validated by Florent, each head of departments (cinematography, machinery, etc.) saw this previz and knew what they had to do.
Can you tell us more about the continuous shot for the party at the Moulin de Dannemois?
Finally this long shot wasn’t so difficult.
Some removals of film crew and camera crane in the reflections, the background (behind the garden wall) has been reworked. This is the only continuous shot of the film with a invisible join between two takes. I’ll let you find it!
Can you tell us more in detail about the impressive continuous shot that follows Claude Francois leaving his house to go to his office by car and surrounded by fans?
On the other side, this shot was a nightmare! One of the first shot started and one of the last completed. Once again a lot of crew removal, and a lot of anachronisms and people in the street to clean out.
Two major difficulties in this shot, first, the transition from « live » shooting inside the car to the shooting on a greenscreen placed on the street. And second, the camera movement inside the car when we turn to 90 degrees near the head of Cloclo. For reasons of timing problems during the filming, we had shot only the sideways plate. All the plates when the camera rotates have to be recreated in postproduction. A mixture of matte painting, 3D projection and CG moving vehicles in the street. We also had to replace most of the vinyl discs that were hold by the groupies at the beginning and the end of the shots. 2 of the discs they held were not from the good period!
At one moment, Claude Francois plays at the Royal Albert Hall in London. What was the real set for this sequence?
This sequence was filmed at the Theatre Royal in Brussels. The stage and the stalls were filmed live, everything else has been recreated in matte painting and CG. One difficulty with these shots is the tracking. A bright environment very dark and very fast camera movements, all this did not facilitate the work!
How did you populated and recreates the Royal Albert Hall?
The audience in the pit was rotoscoped and then duplicated. All the rest are CG avatars.
Is there any other invisible effects that you want to reveal to us?
Usually, we avoid saying too much! This is not Robert Knepper who was filmed in the scene where Cloclo sees Sinatra in the lobby of the Metropole Hotel in Brussels. We replaced the head of the actor by that of Robert filmed on a greenscreen.
The film mix true and false archive footages. How did you find the particular aspects of these images?
A research work and testing in collaboration with the DI team. What we liked about this exercise was the extreme resemblance of Jérémie Renier with Claude Francois. It was therefore imperative that the false archive footages blend perfectly with the real ones. During the dailies, we were able to reach this goal.
Is there a shot or a sequence that prevented you from sleeping?
Yes, one, the continuous shot of Cloclo going from home to his office.
What did you keep this project?
A very good experience.
How long have you worked on this film?
3 months without supervision on the set.
How big was your team?
We climbed to nearly 20 2D artists, 5 CG artists and the team was supervised as usual with a VFX coordinator, a VFX producer and myself for the supervision.
How many shots have you made?
We worked on nearly 750 shots. Which is a considerable volume for European cinema, apart from England and a few very large French productions.
What are your softwares in Benuts?
Maya and Nuke.
What is your next project?
Right now, we have four films in progress such as UN PLAN PARFAIT directed by Pascal Chaumeil, and PARADE’S END, a English TV serie about the 14-18 war produced by the BBC and HBO, directed by Susanna White.
What are the four movies that have given you a passion for cinema?
There are so many! The 70’s and 80’s have given some great movies which I have often nostalgia. And more recently on the job side, I was very impressed by GLADIATOR for its invisible effects.
A big thanks for your time.
// WANT TO KNOW MORE?
– Benuts: Official website of Benuts.
//CLOCLO (MY WAY) – TRAILER
© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2012