Chris Waegner began his career in visual effects in 1992 at Boss Film. He then worked at Warner Digital and Pacific Title before joining Sony Pictures Imageworks in 1999. He worked on a number of films such as WATERWORLD, MARS ATTACKS!, SUICIDE SQUAD, SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING and JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE.

How did you get involved on this show?
The Production VFX Supervisor Jerome Chen asked me to join the team very early in pre-production. Having enjoyed the previous Men in Black films, I jumped at such an opportunity.

What was your feeling to be part of the Men in Black universe?
It was such a great experience being part of the Men in Black Universe. The movies have always been fun for audiences and this one is no exception.

Did you use many practical effects for the creatures?
Most of the much needed effects work for our creatures was done digitally by the team here at Imageworks.

Which one was the most complicated to create and why?
Both our main alien characters had their own specific challenges. « Pawny » was short in stature having almost amphibian like features yet needed to be charming and charismatic with our Agents. The « Hive » alien was designed to be grotesque due to the mixture of many difference alien races it had consumed and its size was quite large when compared to our Agents.

How did you work with the SFX and stunt teams?
It’s very important early on to have good communication with the SFX and stunt teams. Having a team on location while the film is being shot is essential for movies like this when we get into post production.

Can you explain in detail about the design and creation of Pawny?
After reviewing the early concept artwork for the proposed Pawny character the Imageworks team got right to work bringing this little alien to life. During the process there were many digital iterations of Pawny but once Kumail Nanjiani had been cast, things fell right into place and the process became even more exciting. Kumail’s comedic style combined with our digital character gave us a wonderful opportunity to give Pawny the personality and screen presence needed for such a film.

How was simulate the CG characters on-set?
Kumail Nanjiani was on set for portions of the shoot, he was off camera but sharing dialog with the other actors (Agents). We captured his performance using a head mounted camera rig so the animation team would have detailed dialog reference. A true to scale 3D printed models of Pawny was also used for eye line stand-in work and lighting reference.

How does the tiny size of Pawny affects your work?
The small size of the Pawny definitely created some challenges for our animation team and filmmakers. Thanks to early character development, we had a chance to explore creative solutions before going to film. For example, instead of having Pawny run beside the Agents, very comical due to his size, instead he would ride on their shoulders or a pocket.

Which sequence or shot was the most challenging?
The Portal Room sequence at the end of the film was quite challenging. The MIB Agents are confronted by the « Hive » alien. This creature is a conglomerate of many different alien species which the « Hive » has absorbed as it travels though galaxies consuming all life. The Imageworks team designed the « Hive » to have many different physical attributes most of which can be found within the cast of friendly aliens seen throughout the film.

What is your favorite shot or sequence?
They’re all my favorite, but I would have to say our shots with Pawny. He was such a fun character to bring to life on the big screen.

What is your best memory on this show?
I have fond memories of being on location in London working with the entire team. The craftsmanship used to build our practical sets was second to none – those details really worked well with our CG.

How long have you worked on this show?
We started early pre-production and character design in 8/18 and completed our last shot 6/19.

What’s the VFX shots count?
We completed just over 400 shots for the show.

What was the size of your team?
The size of our team throughout the production was 130 shared between both our LA and Vancouver location.

A big thanks for your time.

Sony Pictures Imageworks: Dedicated page about MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL on Sony Pictures Imageworks website.

© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2019


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