Pete Travers is in the visual effects industry for over 20 years. He joined Sony Pictures Imageworks 15 years ago and worked on projects such as HOLLOW MAN, THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS, THE AVIATOR or WATCHMEN.

What is your background?
I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering. I have worked on about twenty or so movies over the years and I have been at Imageworks for 15 years.

How did you got involved on this show?
We (Imageworks) did some late-in-the-game work on CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER and it went well enough that I guessed they called back.

How was the collaboration with director James Gunn?
Fantastic. It was limited because we were latecomers so there wasn’t too much time for that, but what did occur was great.

What was his approach about the visual effects?
Very open and collaborative. He liked hearing new ideas. It made it very easy to work for him.

How did you work with Production VFX Supervisor Stephane Ceretti?
I worked more closely with Stephane, almost every day. It was great. He always made it enjoyable and rewarding.

What have you done on this show?
We did a relatively small chunk of the work on the show, mostly centered around the engine room of the Dark Aster spaceship.

How did you approach the design of the Dark Aster?
The Dark Aster was designed well before we were on the show. We only did some minor changes to the design for our shots.

Did you received specific references and indications from the director?
Always and plenty of it.

How did you created the set extension for the interior of the ship?
We received the post-viz from Marvel along with set reference and concept art. We did a big kickoff from the material with marvel and just started building in 3d. We had every shot quickly matchmoved so that every time we wanted to show the engine model to Marvel we showed it rendered, in context, in every shot in the sequence. We repeated that process a few times. Once we had signoff on the model from certain hero camera angles, we proceeded to final.

Can you tell us more about its entrance in the Xandar atmosphere?
Just a big fully 3D environment. Most of the work came from the effects work roiling off of the Dark Aster as it hit the atmosphere.

How did you created the deep space environment?
It was mostly just a pretty matte painting. We had to get from Marvel some examples of the look of space in their universe and matched that.

Can you tell us more about the design and the creation for Howard the Duck?
It was a very quick schedule, about two weeks from concept art to shot final. Its very challenging to move that quickly, rolling different skilled artists on and off the character, but the talent at Imageworks pulled it off with surgical precision.

How did you manage his animation?
I let our Animation Supervisor Steve Nichols just run with it. He did a great job.

What was the biggest challenge on this project and how did you achieve it?
Probably the engine room sequence. CG Supervisor Craig Wentworth had to push the development of the fully 3d environment pretty hard. So much overlapping tasks that you ideally don’t want to overlap. But that was the task at hand and Craig was up for it.

Was there a shot or a sequence that prevented you from sleep?
Nah. It was a lot of work but not that stressful.

What do you keep from this experience?
That you can do a tremendous amount of 3d work when you have the right talent around you and just as important, a very clear vision from the client.

How long have you worked on this film?
Just two months.

How many shots have you done?
About 90.

What was the size of your team?
The team, all told, was about 50 artists.

What is your next project?
I don’t know yet. Hopefully another project with Marvel. They’re great.

What are the four movies that gave you the passion for cinema?
JURASSIC PARK – the movie that got me into this business.
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK – the best movie of all time.
VALDEZ IS COMING – how good storytelling can define a hero.
ZULU – a great movie that shows how nothing can replace live action.

A big thanks for your time.


Sony Pictures Imageworks: Official website of Sony Pictures Imageworks.

© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2014



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