After graduating from Supinfocom, Damien Stumpf joined BUF and work on projects such as ARTHUR AND THE INVISIBLES, ENTER THE VOID or SOLOMON KANE. In 2009, he founded L’Atelier VFX with Antoine Marbach and Christophe Beaucarne.

What is your background?
Damien has been a graphic artists and supervisor for the past 10 years (SupInfocom degree), Antoine post-producer for 5 years (French and German Management degree). They both met at BUF. Christophe Beaucarne is DoP, he joined us to found L’Atelier VFX at the end of 2009.

How did Atelier VFX got involved on this project?
We met Marjane and Vincent through Christophe. They were expecting from the post-production team to be very attentive and detail-oriented. Also, they wanted not more than 1 or 2 people to talk to, as they wanted to avoid the big studio way of production. As soon as we met we got along together very well.

Can you tell us about your collaboration with directors Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Parronaud?
M&V are actually one of our best experience in terms of collaboration. They knew from the beginning what they wanted, but were also sensible to any advise that we could give to them. We think that their comic artists (cartoonist) background was very helpful because they could judge better than anyone else how good was a work in progress: they were never freaking out because a review was not presenting something done/finished, as it sometimes happen with directors watching some WIP.

What was their approach about the visual effects?
First way: for example for the set extension, they wanted something very graphic, but not photorealistic as we composited plates from the shooting with paintings done by a russian painter. The same was for the snow flake. They wanted to have something that looks like a piece of cotton, because the snow on set was very thick already. It was more charming to have this unrealistic cotton flake than to have a microscopic realistic snowflake. Otherwise, like for the smoke, the texture had to be photorealistic even if the volume was not (Parvine’s soul).

How did you create this environment and the other in this film?
Environment was made according to the 50’s film look they wanted to have. The story had to be graphic as a tale. It was not important to be realistic but more relevant to transport the audience into another world.

What were your instructions and references for the different environments?
For the night shots: THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER.
For the extension: Hitchcock movies, for example.

Can you explain the creation of animated sequences?
There was one decorator (environment designer) and one animator on After Effect.
It was done at the end of the post-production. Marjane and Stéphane, the editor, dubbed the voice of the characters.

How were shot the shots with Jamel Debbouze?
For Houshang (Jamel) when he appears in the café behind Nasser-Ali and his brother, Jamel was shot on green screen. In his shop and as the beggar in the cemetery, he was shot in real set on the normal background.

What was the real size of the sets?
Like two huge hangars/warehouse. Very impressive. The streets were built inside, as well as the house’s garden, cemetery, etc. Each shot of the film has been shot inside, not outdoor. It was meant to be this way as we wanted a « 50’s » look.

How did you create the different scenes including the small plane or the shot in which Mathieu Amalric jumps into the void?
Actors were shot on green screen. Then, we had to adopt the look of a polaroid with short depth of field, small models and real sized elements were mix together. Mathieu jumping for suicide was actually made by a stunt, and shot on green screen as the background was a painting. Foreground elements such as the cliff were models in real set decoration, like old time optical effects.

Are you involved on the winged creature?
It was not made with fur or anything complicated but it was several painted layers composited digitally.

How did you create the different smoke and especially the one of Mathieu Amalric?
Several invisible transitions were made out of smoke plates (smoke shot on black background).
Also, when Nasser smokes in bed and is supposed to make rings out of the smoke, Mathieu did know how to do this, so it was also shot multi-passe and composited.

And the other one over the tomb?
This one is entire full CG particles. We tried several shapes (flat, round, cloudy) before picking this one.

Can you explain in detail the creation of the beautiful smoke that moves through several sets?
This smoke was also full CG (no smoke shot for real). It took more than 2 months of particles simulation to find the right shape and animation. At the beginning, we did not start this way, it was more the shape of a stream, but it did not work out and Marjane preferred to have more like a ball symbolizing the soul/spirit of Parvine. Then this soul was supposed to travel around on its own axis and fly to its grave. Simulation was very long to calculate on computers because it could not be divided into several workstations: you just have one and only one fluid container file for the whole scene. The container file was the size of the whole garden… It took ages to render/calculate between each test, some shot were longer than a 1000 frames.
The aspect was easier to find as we proposed different alternative: diffuse smoke, heavy smoke, etc. M&V chose the heavy smoke that almost looks like a mix of smoke and milk.

What was the biggest challenge on this project and how did you achieved it?
The smoke in the garden. We made it by being patient (laugh).

Was there was a shot or a sequence that has prevented you from sleeping?
We made sure that everyone got 8 hours of sleep each night (laugh).

What are your softwares at Atelier VFX?
Mayan, Nuke, Smedge to dispatch rendering. Shotgun to manage the whole bunch of shots.

What do you keep from this experience?
Very positive experience. As a VFX studio, we are often asked to create something that has already been done. Not this time. It was very particular both at an artistic level as at a human relationship level.

How long have you worked on this show?
4 months pre production.
2 months shooting.
4 months of VFX post production.

What was the size of your crew?
Up to 10 people: VFX and animation.

How many shots have you done?
Altogether were 100 VFX shots done.

What is your next project?
We are working on a commercial right now were the decoration is totally transforming from an urban environment into a nature environment.
Also, we are preparing the post-production of next Anne Fassio’s film L’AMERIQUE.

What are the four films that have given you the passion for movies?
Not 4 films to name, but more directors: Kubrick, Hitchcock, Polanski, Tarantino, Cohen’s Brothers, Woody Allen. In Visual effects category, the first digital effects on JURASSIC PARK’s T-rex was very impressive.

A big thanks for your time.


Atelier VFX: Dedicated Page about POULET AUX PRUNES on Atelier VFX website.


© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2011


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