Founded in 2006 by Josh Comen, Comen VFX has participated in many projects including TV series like THE SOPRANOS or WEEDS and on movies such as A PERFECT GETAWAY, NEXT, RISE or THE SPY NEXT DOOR.

In the following interview, they talk about their work on THE CRAZIES.

JC= Josh Comen, VFX Producer // TC= Tim Carras, VFX Supervisor

What is your background?
JC: For the past eights years I have worked as a visual effects producer on feature films, television, music videos, and commercials. Comen VFX was founded in 2006. It is part of Picture Lock Media, parent company to Comen VFX and Picture Lock Post.

TC: I first became involved in visual effects at the University of Southern California, where a group of us organized a student-run VFX studio. I subsequently worked as a freelance compositor, designer and effects supervisor before joining Comen VFX as visual effect supervisor in 2007.

Can you explain to us the creation of Comen VFX?
JC: I created Comen VFX for the sole purpose of having a company that could quickly adapt to the needs of both the director and the production. Visual Effects and the methods to complete them on budget and on time are always changing. I thrive on navigating those waves, and charting our course!

What kind of effects have you made on this movie?
TC: We did a range of shots on THE CRAZIES, including compositing, set extensions, bullet hits, and paint work. In addition, we designed and composited a graphical user interface for the Sheriff’s computer.

What were the challenges on this show?
TC: Designing the computer user interface was the biggest creative challenge we faced on THE CRAZIES. It had to be visually simple, but efficient at conveying specific information to the audience at a glance. It had to feel organic, but we couldn’t borrow any design elements from familiar Mac or PC systems. It’s amazing how much of the visual language of computing comes from the two main operating systems in use today, and how much R&D is required to generate original artwork that feels natural. And of course, we had to create all that on a tight schedule and with finite resources.

How was your collaboration with the director?
JC: We would receive feedback from the director directly and via editorial.

TC: Breck Eisner has a keen sense of what he wants in his movie, but he also understands the utility of visual reference material. Even for shots that might be taken for granted in another context, Breck was always in interested in seeing sample images we’d prepare to help communicate the look of the shot, or sending samples of his own. Having pictures to look at allowed us to communicate in a much more visual way than words alone.

What is your software pipeline?
TC: This show occurred while we were in the middle of transitioning from Shake to Nuke, so the compositing was split about half and half between those platforms. We also used Photoshop for computer UI design, and Motion for particle systems.

What did you keep from this experience?
TC: Good communication is everything. When everyone involved is working toward the same goal, things tend to fall into place organically.

What is your next project?

What are the 4 movies that gave you the passion for cinema?

JC: There are certainly many movies that have given me a passion for cinema. At the top of that list for me would be RISKY BUSINESS because I am all for the messages it gives: Life is about taking risks, you gotta risk big to win big. I thrive on taking risks!

TC: I think THE MATRIX and DARK CITY were the first films in the digital age that really got me thinking about visual effects as a tool that could really change the way we tell stories. Peter Jackson’s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy extended that concept into bigger and brighter environments and characters. But setting VFX aside, what grabs my attention is films like THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, where a fascinating story is told in a way that is unique to cinema.

Thanks for your time.

Comen VFX: Official website of Comen VFX.

© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2010


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