LOST RIVER: Vincent Papaix – Lead Compositor – Digital Domain

Vincent Papaix started his career in the VFX in 2009 at Mikros Image. He then worked for several studios such as Method Studios, MPC or Digital Domain. He worked on many projects as THOR, IRON MAN 3, MALEFICENT or FURIOUS 7.

What is your background?
I grew up in the South of France. I first used Photoshop, 3dsmax and After Effects in my teens, when I was playing at creating my own animations and motion graphics. I did a degree in France in audiovisual and editing and it is there that I developed a passion for films and invisible visual effects. I decided to get specialized in that field and went to the CGI trainer in Belgium, where I learnt visual effects. It was a fantastic school and I learnt a wide range of technique there. I remember going home and continuing working and learning to develop my skills further. When I finished by studies, I first worked in Paris and then, work brought me to Liege, London and Montreal and lastly Vancouver. I’ve now been here for over four years.

What was your role on this show?
I was the lead compositor on LOST RIVER.

Can you describe one of your typical day?
Usually my day starts at 9am. I first check my emails and go through the schedule. We usually have morning dailies before lunch and afternoon dailies around 5pm. We were a small crew on LOST RIVER so I was very involved on the look development and not just managing the team. We had a really small crew, so I was focusing more on the look development rather than managing the team.

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How did you approach the underwater sequence?
We were on a tight schedule, so most of the look development was done in Nuke. I started to do some tests with Nuke particles. For the seaweeds animation, I created a setup based on several image on a card displaced by custom gradient to give the illusion of movement underwater. A simple technique that gave a great result. We then added a lot of particles and floating branches to make the water murkier through the production.

Did you received any indications and references from director Ryan Gosling?
Ryan was very specific with what he wanted and provided reference from movies from the 50s. He told us he really liked the underwater sequence in THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER and that became our starting point. Something really dark, will all movement to be smooth and slow.

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How was filmed the plates with the actors?
Initially, the actor was in a big swimming pool with a dinosaur sculpture. We replaced the sculpture with a CG dinosaur. We also did a couple of full CG shots.

Can you explain step by step the creation of one of your shots?
The biggest shot was a POV of the actor swimming underneath the sign where he discovers the dinosaur’s head. This was a full CG shot. I used my seaweed and particles setup. The lighting and enviro department gave me a CG dinosaur and CG sign and I then populated them with the seaweeds.

The great thing of doing the layout in Nuke is that it is really easy to make a change of the seaweed placement. Then, we run into a tricky part of lighting the seaweed with the flashlight – all that was done in Nuke so I had to use some old school techniques to manage to light and cast shadows using only 2D tools. It was based on a couple of Emboss and GodRays tracked/animated in a way that it will give the illusion of a 3D lighting.

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What was the main challenge about the underwater shots?
The tight schedule was the biggest challenge. We had a small crew, so we tried to be as efficient as we could. For the wide shots, it was an insane amount of particles for Nuke. Rendering the seaweeds were also tricky but Nuke is pretty robust and all worked out pretty well at the end.

As comp lead, how did you organize the work amongst your team?
I mostly worked on the look development, then I handed off my main script to the compositors who worked on the underwater sequence. It was pretty straight forward, working in layers. BG will the distant particles, MG will be the actor with roto, and FG will be more particles to create depth.

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Can you tell us more about the other shots made by Digital Domain?
We did the shots above the water at night where we added fog and did some grading to help telling the story of this mysterious lake. Those shots were done by Pau Rocher. We had some daylight underwater shots, (this was actually plate filmed by a drone) where we added an underwater treatment to the plate. We also worked on a full CG shot when Bully (aka Matt Smith) is driving, trying to kill Bones (aka Iain De Caestecker). Ryan wanted a more violent accident on that accident shot. We also added a bunch of fire enhancement, CG dinosaur head to this sequence. There is also a shot where the bank manager is stabbed in the ear – we started with a plate but at the end we recreated everything in CG to get the timing right.

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Was there a shot that prevented you from sleep?
Nope, everything went really smoothly.

What do you keep from this experience?
It has been a great experience, working with a small and talented crew. The size and the duration of the show made it different to what I’m typically used to work on on movies. We had a lot of freedom in the creative process and it is always fantastic to have this opportunity.

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How long have you worked on this show?
I worked on it for about 8 weeks.

How many shots have you done?
Digital Domain did 119.

What was the size of your team?
14 in total. 4 based in L.A and 10 based in Vancouver.

What is your next project?
I’m about to start working on DEADPOOL.

What are the four movies that gave you the passion for cinema?
BACK TO THE FUTURE 2, FORREST GUMP, JURASSIC PARK and THE FIFTH ELEMENT.

A big thanks for your time.

// WANT TO KNOW MORE?

Digital Domain: Official website of Digital Domain.





© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2015

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Vincent Frei

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

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