Marshall Krasser began his career in the VFX at ILM in 1994, he worked on films such as THE MUMMY, PEARL HARBOR, AVATAR or BATTLESHIP. In 2014, he joined Scanline VFX in Vancouver and then Prime Focus World. He has now joined Psyop Film & Television.

What is your background?
I have a BFA in Graphic Design from Missouri State University and over 30 years experience in Computer Graphics, with the past 20 of them in creating Visual Effects for movies.

How did you get involved on this show?
Prime Focus World reached out and asked me to VFX Supervise on a couple of projects, and MORTDECAI was one of them.

How was your collaboration with director David Koepp?
There was no direct collaboration with David Koepp. We worked through the studio VFX Supervisor Paul Linden and followed his guidance.

What was his approach about the visual effects?
Good, clean and seamless work. Well integrated into and helping tell the story – and a few laughs when called upon.

The movie takes us to various places. How have you created these shots – especially Moscow and LA?
We worked on the Moscow sequence. It required us to create a Digital Matte Painting for the out of the window shots in the study, adding life and taking creative license with the view for aesthetic purposes. In fact, some of the distant city lights were shot from my balcony in Vancouver, Canada with a Canon 5D Mark III. Whenever you can augment a digital scene with reality, it helps breath life into the shot. We also added some Russian signage and a removed a few other non-Russian buildings that appeared in the original footage.

While travelling from one place to another one, we follow a plane. Which indications and references did you received from the director?
Our plane work in Vancouver only involved the one shot where we whip from the outside of the plane to the inside of the cargo/wheel area to reveal a frost covered Jock. We lit and rendered the plane model and for additional humour, added frozen breath being exhaled by Jock.

Jock is shot during a hunt session. How did you create this shot?
The shooting of Jock, was a pretty straight forward split screen and pull rig removal. We laughed every time it was projected in dailies.

How did you create the fall of Mortdecai and Vladimir outside the building?
The Mortdecai and Vladimir fall was one of our more complicated shots that required Digital Matte work, shattered glass simulations, 3d exterior environment, rig removal and good old fashioned Green Screen compositing.

One tricky aspect of this shot was the camera move. The actual set camera could not actually fall with them and their trajectory was false due to the harness rigging they were wearing. We had to do the initial camera move and their fall, and then do a second camera that closer obeyed the laws of physics to use with our glass simulation.

There are various car chases. How did you create the background for the compositing of these sequences?
It was pretty standard in that we used shot background footage and married the two moves with added post camera vibration. Oh, we did add digital projectile vomit to one of the shots. We found that a combination of three different and unique sims of texture and viscosity worked best. When we had to suppress our own gag reflexes, we knew we had it nailed.

Is there any other invisible effects you want to reveal to us?
We really embraced the UV painting reveal shots. We did extensive research in how black light reveals certain things. We added additional fingerprints and smudges, dirt, scratches, canvas texture and even some hints of prior art restoration attempts.

We also illuminated dust particles and other features in the room. Pretty much mimicking what one might actually see, but tailored for our story.

The 1/2 moustache was a fun sequence. We had to remove more of the practical moustache and add some skin irritation on all of the shots.

We also needed to create the slow motion flying half-stache shot. We had a humorous incident with that shot in dailies. We are a dog friendly work place and on two separate occasions, while reviewing it on the big screen my dog would growl as it flew across the room. We guessed either he didn’t like the shot, or simply had no sense of humour — the jury us still out on that.

We also had a few shots where we were called upon to help augment the make-up that was turning the clocks back for the actors’ youth of their University days. So we had to remove « knowledge lines » from their faces.

Was there a shot or a sequence that prevented you from sleep?
Not really. There were challenges to embrace and overcome, but we had a great team at Prime Focus World, so there was never a doubt.

What do you keep from this experience?
It’s still a lot of fun to do Visual Effects for comedy films. I first experienced it back on GALAXY QUEST while Composite Supervising that show at Industrial Light & Magic. It’s fun to be able to laugh with your work instead of at it (grin).

How long have you worked on this show?
Three months and some change.

How many shots have you done?
We delivered about 105 shots for MORTDECAI.

What are the four movies that gave you the passion for cinema?
Tricky, pure cinema would be:
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 70mm, CINEMA PARADISO, Hitchcock of course and last but not least, INDIANA JONES.

A big thanks for your time.


Prime Focus World: Dedicated page about MORTDECAI on Prime Focus World website.

© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2015


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