Can you explain your background?
An art school in Belgium in the 90s (until I was 17 years old). And traditional illustrator for 2 years in advertising. I then made a quick training on tools and 3D video games for a year to finally join BUF in 1995.
How did BUF got involved on this film?
We have always worked with Warner on a historical way: THE MATRIX RELOADED and THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS, HARRY POTTER, the different BATMAN. So it’s naturally that they thought of us to participate for the DARK SHADOWS adventure.
How was the collaboration with Tim Burton?
It was all right. Primarily through the Supervisor Angus Bickerton who regularly presented our shots according to their progress. We were fortunate to have Tim Burton one day in Paris for a review in our office.
How have you worked with Production VFX Supervisor Angus Bickerton?
We presented once a week and on every week the progress of our work by video conferencing and cineSync. Angus gave us his feedbacks online, then the next day or the day after we have the Tim’s feedback.
Can you tell us what BUF did on this film?
BUF has delivered fifty shots on DARK SHADOWS.
A good half is for the rejuvenation of Alice Cooper. We also worked on the sex scene between Barnabas and Angelique: we made a shot in which Eva Green has several arms and rips the Johnny Depp shirt. There is the shot with the extra long tongue, all the shots of glass breaking and addition of destruction in the room. Finally, BUF has made a dozen shots with the disco ball falls and that almost crushes David.
How did you create the destruction of the disco ball?
We can start by saying that this action of the ball falls was filmed live: a true ball was dropped on the floor. Unfortunately the effect obtained was not sufficiently impressive. It was therefore decided to completely redo the ball in CG.
Tim took this opportunity to ask us to be more spectacular by exaggerating the rebound of small pieces of mirror. This is a result of a real solid simulation.
What was the challenge with this destruction?
Do better than what was filmed: more energetic and dynamic.
Have a photorealistic rendering with thousands of tiny mirrors that fly around the room.
Can you explain in detail your work on the sex sequence between Barnabas and Angelique?
We can talk in more detail about the shot of multiple arms of Angelique. This was by far the most complicated shot for us: firstly because it was decided during the filming to not put trackers on the shirt of Barnabas. This greatly complicated the work of rotoscoping. And secondly because we need to completely rebuilt the shirt in CG to tear it on the passage of the Angelique’s nail. We also need to rebuilt the Johnny Depp back. We also had to add more detail to make these tears credible: multiple small wires of fabric have been added for example.
As for the arm that was a clever mix of different passes filmed, retimed and distorted, then back on lights in 2D. This shot has mobilized three people during two months.
How did you create the evil tongue of Angelique?
We modeled a ordinary tongue initially. Then over the animatics, Tim shifted the tongue to something more reptilian. So we modified our model to add a fork like that found in snakes, for example.
We need to made detailed rotoscopies of the heads of the two actors, then we offered different versions of the animation: from the slowest and languid to something more energetic. Finally the render was first matches on the real Eva’s tongue for the light and the material was match with a snake material.
Can you explain in detail the rejuvenation of Alice Cooper?
These shots need a perfect rotoscoping of Alice Cooper’s character on a 3D model whose the face perfectly matched the actual singer.
From there, we build a second set up of a 30 years younger Alice Cooper based on period pictures. In other words, we could compare that to a surgical facelift in 3D.
The size of the nose, ears and abdomen was reduced. The flesh relaxed by the weight of ages (neck, arms …) have also been specially treated to give a tone more in keeping with the Alice in the 70s.
The brief was not to exactly stick as closely, but to reach to get a sense of youth on the screen.
Can you tell us about the work of BUF on the Manor paintings?
Ultimately and unfortunately there is only one shot (at the beginning, the sequence should have more shots). We have to bring life into three paintings in which there was a character who had come alive and giggling. The work was to recreate the characters in 3D, then put them back on a 2D plane, animate them, and finally composite them. Angus filmed and gave us references animation
Have you developed specific tools for this project?
For the shirt shot, a system of dynamic CG folds was established.
An additional system for regaining control of these folds was also added.
Was there a shot or a sequence that prevented you from sleeping?
Not really, everything went really smoothly from beginning to end.
We can take this issue to thank Angus for his kindness, his willingness and goodwill.
What do you keep from this experience?
The meeting with Tim Burton.
How long have you worked on this film?
How big was your team?
As always we start with a small team which is growing progressively.
At the maximum, we were 14 on the project (during 2 months).
How many shots have you made?
What is your next project?
A very big commercial for Coke Zero. All in CG with fluids in space!
A first directing experience.
What are the four films that gave you the passion for film?
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
And to name a few others: TOTAL RECALL, E.T. and the INDIANA JONES.
A big thanks for your time.
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– Buf: Official website of Buf.
© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2012