IMMORTALS: Vincent Poitras – Lead Compositor – Rodeo FX

Vincent Poitras began in the visual effects on the movie 300 at Buzz Image Group in 2006. He then worked on films such as FLOOD or DOOMSDAY. In 2008 he joined the team of Rodeo FX. He will participate in all major projects of the studio such as MR NOBODY, REPO MEN, DEATH RACE or recently THE THREE MUSKETEERS.

What is your background?
I started doing compositing a couple of years ago. I did not really learned anything at school in that particular field. I mainly learned by my self and with the many mentors I was lucky to have. I was fortunate enough to have an internship at a visual effect company and they hired me right after starting on a Flame system. So I comped on Flame a couple of years and switch to Nuke.

How did Rodeo FX got involved on this show?
Rodeo did get involve since the start doing concept to help develop the look of the movie and the environment. We send a small team to LA. It was before the show was green lit. They work closely with the director and production designer to help create the environment. We even give a little hand for some 911 emergency for the DI.

How was the collaboration with director Tarsem Singh?
It went pretty well. Watching his old flick, we knew Tarsem had a certain style and we tried our best to reflect that in what we did. Also, one thing that rarely happens here in Montreal, he did came by at our studio to design on the fly some camera move. It really helps to have a direct access to the director sometimes.

What was his approach about VFX?
He does not really have that super picky technical approach. And, for our shot, there was no crazy camera move but instead a lot of shot had no camera move at all. He mainly wanted good composition without caring to much about continuity. It was all about creating beautiful « tableau », more about being graphic than accurate. It was perfect for a matte painting/comp approach.

How was the collaboration with Production VFX Supervisor Raymond Gieringer?
It went pretty well. I think Raymond did a great job at understanding what the clients wanted. When Raymond said a shot was ok, it was almost certain the client would like it as well. I think that is in big part why internally the process went well. We did not feel like we had a multi level of decision making happening.

What have you done on this show?
We started doing concept, I think it was almost a year before they actually shoot the movie. Then when the real shot came our way, we did the dam environment with the army camp and the red shrine. We also did shots around the quarry environment, some shot of the village (where Theseus was born). The last package was a bunch of shots we had to finish from other vendor so there was a couple of different locations as well. It was mainly a matte painting and comp approach.

What was your approach to design so many different environments and aspects of the movie?
They shot the movie with a MoSys system, which allowed them to preview in realtime where that talent and set would be in CG environment. We always had those as a reference with the Lidar scan from the set. For the rare shot that had movement we started match moving the camera. We did that also on some static shot that required more complex set extension.

For the dam, we had a CG asset to have a good start for matte painters, and Lidar scan from the production that really made our job much easier, but most of the environment were matte painting asset projected that we brought to live in comp. Especially for mount Tartarus and mount Grillus, it was easier to give a sense of scale in painting. Even the army shot from above the dam was a matte painting that we animate in comp and added some particles. We also did sometime a rough passes of lighting in cg. We had a cg army for a close up of all the army when Hyperion walks in front of his soldiers. All water shots we did was practical water.

What references and indications did you received for the different environments?
Well the concept part was really important for this and since we were involve in the concept we already had a good idea where we were going. So we knew pretty much where we were heading for the the environment. As for the look there was the paint Odd Nerdrum that was given as a reference. And as I was saying earlier we had the MoSys as reference for the 3d environment and the Lidar scan for the sets.

Can you tell us more about the Dam and the huge environment around it?
The Dam protect a city in a valley surrounded by mountain. On top of that Dam is a red shrine, that lead the way into Mount Tartarus where the Titans are imprison. So the only way to get into Mont Tartarus is to open through the bug Dam. This had to be enormous in scale, band we had to feel the height of those mountains but without really have some other elements to help feel the scale as those mountains were surrounded by a desert.

Can you explain to us the creation of the beautiful shot in which Hyperion is throwing the arrow against the Dam?
Hyperion was shot live. Because of the fast pan, the army extension was a matte painting animated in comp with small warps, glint flickers. We also had some small cg flag to bring life to the army. The shot was all matte painting and projection.

How did you create the huge army of Hyperion?
For the close up, we hag a cg extension of the army and matte painting for the soldier really far. As for all shots from above the dam, it was matte painting mix with live element and some particles done in nuke. The army was animated using warps and distortion receipt.


Did you share assets with the different vendors?
Yes, with Scanline. They did the destruction of Mount Tartarus.

What was the biggest challenge on this project and how did you achieve it?
There was one shot that Tarsem did not like the camera move they shot. There was a lot of live action so in order the redo the camera, we had to re-project all the scan with different layers for the parallax. Which meant cleaning and adding all the info that was not there, painting soldier walking in front of other soldier. For that shot, all the painting and projection was done directly in nuke (except for the matte painting). Also the length of the plate was not long enough, so we had to morph soldier into 3d soldier, extending the fires. It was a complex puzzle with lots of roto and paint work. The camera revealed the army camp in the quarry at night. I think that shot was around for a long time and ended up at Rodeo. We basically restarted it form scratch and we did not had that much time to do it. Raymond told us that when Tarsem approved it, he just stood up and clap!

Was there a shot or a sequence that prevented you from sleep?
Nothing prevent me from sleep! But you can copy/paste the answer above!

What do you keep from this experience?
You can do a lot with a kick ass matte painting!

How long have you worked on this film?
Almost a year and a half. With some time of here and there jumping on another project to help for deliveries, but yeah one year and a half.

How many shots have you done?
We did 123 shots.

What was the size of your team?
Around 45 persons.

What is your next project?
Rodeo has 2 movies that we worked on coming out in January – RED TAILS and UNDERWORLD AWAKENING. We are working at the moment on MIRROR, MIRROR (the next Tarsem Singh movie), JACK THE GIANT KILLER, an undisclosed project with Sony Picture Imageworks and another undisclosed project with Industrial Light & Magic. We also just finish a print advertising for an agency in New York for the NHL.

What are the four movies that gave you the passion for cinema?
That is a hard question. When I was a kid I watched things like SPACEBALLS, THE BLUES BROTHERS, SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT. But to be honest I do not have a ultimate favorite movies. I just like when it’s stand out a little like when I first saw MEMENTO. I always loved old classic movie though. I just wanted to hear or tell a good story. I was even making small movies with friend when I was 15. But really what pushed me into VFX is when I started playing with a 3d software showed to me by my older brother in law in the time and realizing I could create anything from scratch.

A big thanks for your time.

// WANT TO KNOW MORE?

Rodeo FX: Official website of Rodeo FX.

© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2012

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Vincent Frei

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

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