THE BURMA CONSPIRACY: Guillaume Pondard – VFX Supervisor – Mikros Image Liège

Guillaume Pondard joined Mikros Image in 1998. For almost 10 years he worked there as Flame artist and 2D supervisor on commercials and music videos. In 2009, he participated in the installation of Mikros Image Liege and worked on films such as COCO BEFORE CHANEL, DON’T LOOK BACK and THE OTHER WORLD.

What is your background?
I joined the Mikros Image Group in Paris in October 1998.
After a period as Flame assistant and then Flame artist in the group, I gradually started to supervise projects in 2D. My field of activity was then turned mainly to commercials and music videos. During this period and depending on projects, I sometimes join the VFX teams for movies as well as on Flame and Nuke.

In February 2009, under the direction of Maurice Prost, I went to Liege to develop and oversee the VFX department of the studio Mikros Image Liege (ex WFX). Assisted in this at the time by Nicolas Rey (3D and Pipeline), Malica Benjemia (VFX producer) and Alexis Perlot (Lead Tech).

How did Mikros Image Liege get involved on this show?
The more naturally possible. Pan Européenne has asked us to do the VFX in Liege: those one and the DI part had to be done in Belgium.

How was the collaboration with director Jerome Salle?
It was a real pleasure to work with Jerome Hall with the demanding nature sharpens the desire for excellence. Our collaboration was punctuated by regular meetings organized around two distinct modes to suit the dense schedule of anyone.
Almost every 2 days, our VFX shots were sent jointly to the edit and to Jerome Salle, so that he can follow in real time the progress of our work. Fast and accurate returns from Jerome Salle and the edit team (Stan Collet, Karine Prido), allowed us to adjust daily their intentions.
Finally, we find ourselves in projection to do the final adjustments.

Can you tell us what Mikros Image Liege did on this film?
We worked on 400 shots, it was a compositing work on a very differens kind of shots. This goes from different restore, retiming to small matte painting.
Multipass compositing (stunt). Adding gun shot, sparks, particles.

Greenscreen keying:
Car at night at the beginning of the film and yacht Interior (Sharon Stone, Tomer).
3D Matte Painting for the factory behind the glass in the conference sequence (at the beginning of the film).

Search Graphics:
All the ‘technical design’ computer screens. A « Winch Skype ». A player « Spectrum Sound Analyzer », etc..
Finally, a research was done with a few typographical with lots of back and forth with Jerome on all texts of location. The director wanted to have texts to locate very quickly the different places encountered for the viewer. We offered to work on both the presence of an iconographic and sober element, but major that allow an cultural identification with a continent and typography that installs the country immediately. It also creates a bridge with the comics universe.

Can you talk more about the car chase?
This was the first sequence worked at the studio because of the teaser that had to be released early.
Lot’s of retime and cropping among the shots.
The stunt shot consists of:
– Muti-pass including the shot where a car jumps over the truck,
– Cars and wires removal, addition of explosions on several shots or expanding the existing ones.

For additions of explosion and light interactions, we remodeled the scenes to project the interactive lights. During this sequence, we also worked on the presence of GPS.

What were your references for animations of TV screens?
It’s pure creation for most of them: the player spectrum analyzer, the geopolitics slide show.
For the Winch Skype, we started on the idea of a Linux-based Skype, which was developed by Winch Corporation. Finally, a purely Skype audio in Windows. We took the typical graphics of Windows (window, etc..) and followed our imagination.
All this should be interpreted and accepted by the viewer at the first frame.

When sequences in Burma, did you create the matte painting?
Only one was done. And I must say it is more compositing.
For the arrival of Simon in the village: the car was stopped. We redid the background and animated the car.

Are you involved on the sequence of the attack on the army camp?
Yes, we added more military guys (crowd multiplication) on a sequence of 6 shots. One where the car explodes. This shot is indeed a multipass shot with multiple takes.
After researching the extras dressed as soldiers shot into other takes (other axes, focal lengths and locations). We rotoscope and composite those that allowed us an optimal integration.

Have you created digital doubles for the free fall sequence?
No, there is no digital doubles.
But many shots were filmed in a wind tunnel on a green background. Footages of sky were shot with a 5D for our background. Our VFX shots are among live action shot into the sky by a team of experienced skydivers. So we had to try to find the light and ensure that our compositing fit with the real shots.
In the final sequence, the landing was shooted with the actors supported by wires… that we removed in post-prod.

How was done the shot of Young’s fall?
A stuntman / a wire: for the shooting.
Background alone, lot’s of restore and compositing.

What was the biggest challenge on this project?
Accept 400 VFX shots sounds like a good challenge in itself.

Was there been a shot or a sequence that prevented you from sleeping?
Not a shot or a specific sequence. But I admit I had some sleepless nights.

What are your pipeline and your software at Mikros Image Liege?
We are organized on a Linux platform, we use Maya for 3D.
For the 2D department, i’ll remember that Mikros Image is the first French studio and one of the first in Europe to have imposed Nuke as compositing software in his pipeline for over 8 years.
Around these basic tools we use internally developed asset management: Mikado for the VFX management (database and GUI allowing exchanges between all the teams) and Mikser for nodal management on render farm.

How long have you worked on this film?
A month of preparation and 3 ½ months of production.

How many shots have you made and what was the size of your team?
400 shots. 19 people. With a very efficient compositing supervisor: Lucie Bories.
And magical help of Hugues Namur.

What do you keep from this experience?
A rare team spirit, a wonderful team and an alter ego: Lucie Bories.

What is your next project?
VALPARAISO by Jean-Christophe Delpias.
THE CONGRESS by Ari Folman. (WALTZ WITH BASHIR).

What are the 4 movies that gave you the passion of cinema?
It’s always very simplistic to answer to this question, but those ones have contributed to the growth of that passion.
CHILDREN OF PARADISE, Marcel Carné.
WINGS OF DESIRE, Wim Wenders.
TIME OF THE GYPSIES, Emir Kusturica.
THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

A big thanks for your time.

// WANT TO KNOW MORE?

Mikros Image: Dedicated page about THE BURMA CONSPIRACY on Mikros Image website.

// THE BURMA CONSPIRACY – TRAILER

© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2011

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Vincent Frei

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

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