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Episode 143 — Scanline VFX Sup Ivo Klaus — PART II: Industry Advice
This is Allan McKay. Welcome to Episode 143! I’m speaking with Ivo Klaus, one of the FX Supervisors at Scanline VFX. This is part two of an Episode I’ve done with Ivo before (www.allanmckay.com/136/). Ivo and I talk about a lot of great stuff: his background, behind-the-scenes on some of the movies he’s worked on. He’s worked on so many films!
Please check out the previous Episode with Ivo Klaus: www.allanmckay.com/136/. I wanted for these Episodes to be specific! In this one, we talked about Ivo’s experience at Scanline FX.
Let’s dive in!
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
[-1:36:44] I have some new training out: www.allanmckay.com/energyball/. It will be out for only a couple of days. You need to get it right now — or it will be gone forever.
This is a high-value visual effects training. Taking a complete VFX shot from start to finish. Please check it out at: www.allanmckay.com/energyball/. After the free training expires, there will be other stuff there for you.
INTERVIEW WITH IVO KLAUS
Ivo Klaus is a VFX Supervisor who has been working at Scanline VFX in Munich, Germany for over 13 years. He has worked on and supervised such large budget feature films like Tomb Raider, Transformers: The Last Knight, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Snowpiercer, Looper, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, 300 — and many, many more.
In this portion of his interview with Allan McKay, Ivo talks about the importance of having a generalist background, scripting experience, problem solving and other skills essential for a successful VFX Artist.
Allan McKay’s Podcast with Ivo Klaus, PART I: www.allanmckay.com/136/
Ivo Klaus on IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2181121/
Scanline VFX: http://scanlinevfx.com/index.html
Scanline VFX on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/scanlinevfx/
Scanline VFX on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/scanlinevfx
Scanline on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/scanline-vfx/
[-1:35:48] Allan: Hi, Ivo! Thank you for taking the time to chat! Do you want to quickly introduce yourself?
Ivo: Yes, sure, hi! My name is Ivo Klaus. I am working at Scanline VFX in Munich. I’ve been there for 13 years now — which is quite about — taking up multiple roles depending on the project. Currently, I’m a Supervisor and a Department Lead there. I’m happy to be here and chat with you.
[-1:39:19] Allan: How did you get started? Did you always want to be an artist or did you fall into that along the way?
Ivo: Like many people, from early on I liked to create things. I was always drawing things and playing computer games. I was more into the world creation, not fine art. When I finished school, I thought, “I have one life so I might as well go into the direction I’d like to take — and I think I could do for the rest of my life.” I had a choice to go to a university in Germany or a university that I found: University of Teesside, in England. They were offering a computer games design course. I did go there in the end. I’ve never left Germany on my own before. I packed up all my belongings, drove over and studied there for 3 years.
[-1:33:39] Allan: How old were you at the time?
Ivo: I was 18-19.
[-1:33:30] Allan: Wow, that’s a big deal! To pack up and move countries!
Ivo: Yes, it’s pretty exciting. Taking that opportunity to go abroad and experience another culture like that really broadens your horizon. Those studies were pretty game centered which didn’t do a lot for my later career. But I got accustomed to 3D Max and it was really helpful, in a CG Generalist sort of way. Then I ended up working for 1-2 years for different game companies, even during the course. After the course, I went back to Germany. That’s when I discovered this company in Munich, more by accident, and got my attention. That was Scanline!
[-1:32:15] Allan: It’s so different there! There are people who love to jump from project to project. And then there are people who want to invest themselves and become part of the family.
Ivo: Our industry consists of people who jump around a lot — and they love it. And some people want a more stable environment. And they get so involved, they stay and grow with a company. It was on a brink decision. I was pestering Scanline for a couple of months for an interview. In the end, I was really annoying, I guess. On the day before I would have taken another job offer, they did give me a callback. I started out as a CG Generalist. By working on a couple of projects, I got introduced to FX, especially Flowline. It got me hooked and now I’m still doing similar things. A lot of changes happened along the way, but my career was pretty straight forward.
[-1:29:39] Allan: Let me jump in for a minute. Initially when you were 18, you were in Munich at the time?
Ivo: In Bavaria, in Southern part of Germany.
[-1:29:24] Allan: When you decided to go study abroad, what were your friends doing? Were they doing things out of the box or did they want to stay in the area? I’m just curious about the mindset.
Ivo: All of my friends at the time were pretty conservative. I don’t recall a single one who didn’t end up doing something mundane. I’m kind of an exception. I didn’t choose it because of comparing myself to others. I really wanted to do something in the industry and make a living doing something creative. I think everybody needs to create something. I think it’s an integral part of every human being. In some, it’s just stronger than in others.
[-1:27:59] Allan: I think it has more to do with fear. That’s why I’m asking if your friends were the same. You could’ve gotten a more mundane job. We all have that bigger idea of what we want to do. Somewhere along the way, we learn that it’s not normal, or our parents have other plans for us.
Ivo: That’s true. But the response I mostly got was a bit of a surprise and then, “Oh, that’s good for you! Good luck!” There are people who are more and less emotional. When you grow up, you’re confronted with a lot of uncertainty. And part of growing up is facing some of that, seeing behind the curtain and realizing that every person has the same ideas. There is nothing to be afraid of! There is always a way back.
[-1:26:05] Allan: Most people think that when something bad happens, it’s the end of the world. The rationale isn’t there. They aren’t thinking if their fear is real — and all the feelings that come with it — are what they heard. Even if you lose everything, you can come back from it. Most of the time, it’s not even that bad.
Ivo: The main takeaway is that if you encounter a situation you haven’t been in before, usually, you don’t need to jump into it right away. You can feel it out. For example, if you aren’t sure about a job, you can learn more about the company and what they do. Maybe you get a gut feeling on how to approach them. Some people think if they don’t confront things head on, it’s not right. In most situations you can be reactive at first, if you’re uncertain. First, get the feeling on what the situation is before you choose your course of action.
[-1:23:29] Allan: You really nailed it on the head! You can research them on LinkedIn and front load the work. Maybe your buddy works there. So to segue into FX, it’s about problem solving. The more junior, the more you want to get in there and make complicated tools. You can sit down with a pen and paper and have a plan — and you can see if you are focusing on the right thing, in the first place. A lot of people don’t think about a better way of doing it.
Ivo: I think there is a big allure to FX. But at the same time, every big effect comes from teamwork. You can’t do that on one machine. Even if you are a Generalist, the investment you need to make to turn out a private Hollywood shot, that would be an incredible one! That’s something to keep in mind. I think people try to jump in and do a big effect immediately. If you’re just starting out, get to know the tools and have a plan or idea on what steps you need to take.
[-1:20:06] Allan: I agree about people having a misunderstanding of what goes into an effect. I will say, Martin Mirola, a student of mine who went on to work at Scanline, was a freak of nature: He had a computer with 16 gigs of RAM, yet he was doing some really impressive stuff.
Ivo: There is always that one guy! I can’t imagine it. Just a few years back, we had 4 GB of RAM. I can’t imagine how we made due! It baffles me.
[-1:18:31] Allan: I feel like it’s always relative, no matter how slow your computer is.
Ivo: That’s a definitely takeaway! With every new iteration of computers, artists would complain about how slow their machines were. And when they would finally have a better machine, it would only take 1-2 weeks to complain again. The benefit is that in the movies, we’re able to work on scales we weren’t able to do back in the day. We don’t notice it as much most of the time because it happened so gradually. The effects are becoming bigger and we’re able to do more now within one scene than we did before.
[-1:16:53] Allan: It blows my mind! The level of detail you manage to go to at Scanline: Suddenly there are these miniature effects! You, guys, are masters of doing that.
Ivo: Well, thank you very much! On the recent show, we were working on the latest Transformers movie. The team was awesome! Besides it being cool to work on a franchise or the ability to work with these amazing artists, talking about big effects, our task was to raise a 1.6 mile long alien spaceship from the ocean. One you get the brief, you get a mixed bag of feelings. It happens on every projects: “Oh, we actually are doing this!” You get conflicted feelings. You really want to run away but at the same time, you really want to dive into it. We have a massive infrastructure built around our proprietary tools and 3DS Max. That’s going a long way. I think a lot of big effects need [that] massive infrastructure. I recently tried rendering something on my machine and it took over a week. (And it’s not the slowest of machines.) And working with that kind of scale requires for everyone to be disciplined about what they’re sending and how they’re managing it. Calling someone an FX artist is half-way wrong: You need to be a creative person and to create something beautiful. At the same time, if you can’t manage yourself or have the grasp of the tools that you have to use — and if you aren’t into a bureaucracy like that — then you’re having a hard time at this job.
[-1:13:13] Allan: Yeah, I think most people forget. They come in thinking it’s cool and exciting but not thinking about the other aspects: You’re a team, you have to be humble, you have to be able to work fast, make sure you’re considerate of others, that your stuff is presentable to others. All the practices we need to do to better ourselves aren’t thought about at the beginning. You have to understand your role and what you need to give to the artist.
Ivo: You need to fulfill a certain position in the company.
If you’re an FX artist, most of the time you won’t be doing lighting or shading.
But at a medium-size company, you need that Generalist knowledge.
Knowing the pipeline, knowing the workflow is ultimately important because you will be working and ultimately taking work from other people. So oftentimes, it’s in the nature of things: When people come to us, we go out of our way and give them as much information as possible and teach them our in-house software. In a production environment, no one is going to hold your hand. You need to do your task as self-sufficiently as possible and on time. There is no black and white. You have to involve people to help you along or expedite what you’re doing, but you also have to know when to do that. I’m always on a lookout for people who are everything: programmers, artists, great team workers, people that are disciplined. The best person has all of those qualities at a high level. I think the pinnacle of an FX artist has all of it.
[-1:08:50] Allan: I agree! In your opinion, how important do you think it is for artists to start out as Generalists, before they start to specialize?
Ivo: Well, since I’m a Department Lead, I get to see a lot of reels from people who apply at Scanline. I always like it when I see a successful integration into live action plates. The reason is: There are a lot of skills that play into a successful integration in live action, and it’s not easy to see when something is rendered in black, for example. I would definitely say it’s really necessary for people to grasp how workflow works and what the steps are until you have a finished product. I don’t particularly think you need to dive deep into each of these aspects. It can definitely help you. If you’re a CG Generalist, you can cross over into being an FX Artist and that background will help you. At the same time, if you’re an amazing FX Artist — and you can demonstrate it — but you have little knowledge about other parts, the FX quality will have to be better.
[-1:06:50] Allan: I think you’re right about people submitting stuff rendered on black. People forget the perspective of the people doing the hiring. These days, it’s easy to make something look cool. But going and finishing a shot — and showing that you can do the work tomorrow — and explaining what you did on a shot, that’s really a no-brainer for the person hiring you! How do I know you can actually deliver?
Ivo: There is a lot of solutions that are non-CG that happen in compositing nowadays. But if you aren’t aware of this, you can end up turning out iteration after iteration [and] run late on things because you don’t know that compositing is a 3D space. There is so much to learn and problems to encounter when you want to integrate something into live action; so much problem solving. That’s the meat and bone of what we’re doing. We do have full CG shots but at the end, we work in live action movie industry. And it helps everyone grow when you go through the whole process. I find that I still go home and go over new developments and do my own projects that give me insight into new aspects of developments or workflow. It’s just that you never stop learning — and it’s more true in our industry.
[-1:03:45] Allan: Definitely! Going back to the scripting or programming ability, do you want to elaborate on that?
Ivo: Yes, when I go back a couple of years, there was a time when pipeline work wasn’t present. So at some point, me and my colleagues started scripting out our own programs to create pipeline tools because we found that commercial tools weren’t ideally suited for iterations or managing those. We were able to create some tools that took away some of the tedious tasks of management for us, because we saw that it was necessary to move forward. Luckily for us, a year later, the company made great efforts to build up a pipeline that was well integrated. I remember several times in our projects where being able to script or have programming knowledge saved us a lot of time.
For example, for the film Snowpiercer, we built Max scripted tool to create railway tracks for the snow train. We had somebody create a connection to V-Ray. There are all these little things. They don’t exist right now and maybe it’s possible to create something that helps you along quite well — but you need someone who knows how to do that. If you’re an artist with great knowledge of how to use tools provided to you, without knowing how to script, you will still be an asset to any company. But if something hits the fan, and you’re in a position to come up with a solution, what are you going to do? In this industry, in every project, every good director will want something that has never been seen before. He will come to you with that idea and you need to come up with [a plan]. Especially, in this industry, you need to be inventive and be able to come up with creative solutions. If you’re only using the commercial tools, you’re going to be limited.
[-59:50] Allan: Everything you’ve said is so vital. For anyone listening, what are the three things / areas they need to learn for VFX? So that they know they’re ticking all the right boxes to be an effective FX person?
Ivo: So the basis of what we do:
I. You need to demonstrate that you can integrate into live action footage. That is the basis.
II. Once you’ve covered that, there is more to know. You need to know to work quickly and have speedy turnarounds because our industry is about showing things to your Sup as quickly as possible. You need to know how to manage yourself according to deadlines; or at least communicate your ability to reach certain deadlines.
III. You need to be able to work in a team and pipeline constraints. Each company will have different people around you. You need to have technical skills as well. You need to be a problem solver: You need to know the tools you’re working with and come up with unusual solutions by using scripting or programming.
[-57:11] Allan: I love it! Early in my career, I was interested in the subject of the best pipeline out there. There was a studio Digital Dimension and they were 100% automated. Then, at Blur, if you needed something, you’d pop on a skateboard and roll over to the person’s desk and [ask them for a file]. That was totally different! Frantic Films had a team of developers who built tools. If you hit a wall, by having the support, you would be able to build over the wall. I thought it was the perfect combination of creatives and technical people. [These days,] I know character animators who can build intelligent solutions for a shot.
Ivo: I mean, even if you are not a programmer, you can pinpoint a problem much sooner and communicate it to someone who can solve it. That’s what I think works really well at Scanline: We have this proprietary software package from Flowline and we can contact the developers to fix something or [develop] a certain feature. Depending on how strong the need for a certain thing is, they can make it happen. It’s awesome to work in an environment that changes with each project. That’s really important to have! It can work if people can come up to each other’s desks, but if something goes bad — or people decide to leave — then nobody knows how they did it. And that’s really dangerous. It can mean a delay of 2 weeks, and usually, no project can afford that these days.
[-53:12] Allan: Obviously, Scanline has a lot of proprietary tools. What other software solutions do you like to use?
Ivo: I like to think of Scanline as a company that’s a 3DS Max user. We’ve been using it for such a long time! The tools available for it have also improved over time. We use plug-ins for 3DS Max:
We use Thinking Particles for destruction work.
We use Fume for additional smoke effects. We have artists working with Flowline which can do a lot of these effects but we also have artist who have a background in these effects.
We use Krakatoa.
V-Ray is really important for us.
More recently, we’ve started using Maya for certain things, definitely for animation or asset buildings.
For compositing, you’re only left with Nuke. I don’t know a lot of companies that use anything else.
[-51:19] Allan: I don’t see a lot of Marvel movies that were comped After Effects.
Ivo: Well, Andy Kramer might object!
[-51:08] Allan: True! There isn’t one solution for everything. But compositing for really large effects, if you composite everything in Deep, you don’t ever have to go back to 3D. At the same time, there will always be specific solutions. There is always room for other tools. The whole point of a pipeline is that you go down the same path over and over again.
Ivo: Depending on a project, we use other tools like: Forest Pack. The thing with the compositing department, however, I know Nuke can do a lot of things. I’ve seen simulations running in Nuke. Sometimes, I feel like they’re trying to put it into a situation where rendering in comp will require as much as rendering in a 3D renderer. I’m not sure, but in my opinion, compositing needs to react really quickly. It’s at the end of the workflow. They need to be able to do a reiteration in an hour. Or, that would be really dangerous.
[-48:51] Allan: I feel like effects and compositing are reanimating or relighting a shot on a final day. You aren’t planning to render these extensive comps. You don’t want to risk an hour to knock out a comp.
Ivo: That’s also really valuable to have that foresight which oftentimes can be achieved by experience. You need to look ahead: Once you finish this task, what happens then. What if the client says, “I want the light to come from the left.” If you know that might happen, you can accommodate accordingly. If you’re prepared for it, everything is fine. But if you have these long simulations, then that’s really a bad position to be in.
[-46:37] Allan: I think earlier, you were talking about artists needing to manage themselves and think ahead. That’s a critical thing. I think so many productions, I managed to pull off something great. But the simulation is going to take so long, the edits come in on the 11th hour. In the beginning, whether I’m supervising or on the box, I try to foresee how long it takes. It’s always the case. The more that you give yourself these caps, your effects may not look as cool, but you can get the rapid turnaround — to accommodate changes.
Ivo: You need to be able to adapt to what happens every day. You will receive feedback at every turn. And you need to be honest about it. Although that’s particularly part of the production team’s [job] — to give every artist the right time frame — every artist needs to be aware of when a project finishes. Everyday, you need to look at this stuff and think about if you need to assign more people or rethink what you’re doing. So it has to be a flowing process. Everything happens really fast, but you need to be able to adapt.
[-43:01] Allan: You get some people who don’t want to show you anything until the deadline.
Ivo: I know there are people who think strongly about their work and they work on it until it’s perfect. They don’t mean it in a bad way. They want to work on a masterpiece and be proud of it when they show it. They realize, the vision doesn’t match with the vision of the Sup and take it as a personal insult. It’s also critical that you can take feedback and transform it into something positive again. It doesn’t help to create something beautiful, if no one else confirms it. The Supervisors need to look at it as often as possible.
[-41:29] Allan: At the end of the day, we’re service providers. We’re their to fulfill someone else’s vision.
Ivo: Exactly! But some people would see it as a negative thing. It’s really a beautiful kind of work we get to do. There are restrictions to a shot and those restrictions tell a certain story. But most of the time, FX artist has a large impact on what a shot would look like — and transform it into something beautiful within the context of it. If you look at the previs or even just a description of the shot, it’s not a lot of information. Everyone in our part of work creates this and it enhances the movies. I think people don’t realize how much creative control they have.
[-39:51] Allan: You don’t realize if you work on something on your own, you don’t get to tap into all that talent of other people.
Ivo: To be honest, I can perfectly understand that artists who are starting — or people who are already in the industry — are thrilled to work on something like The Transformers. These are names that informed your decision to join the industry. Everybody dreams of something like this happening! But you will have a lot of projects where the movie may not fulfill what you want it to be. But at the same time, there is a lot of stuff that’s a lot of fun: To me, the fun is still more than the negative stuff. Even on shows where you have to grind effects into several shots, you can get into developing a way to get a certain effect automatized. There is so much fun in this industry! For myself, I decided a long time ago that the positive things outweigh the negative.
[-37:30] Allan: I think you’re right. There’s been a bit of a buzz that there is an unbalance in the industry. There is always going to be some struggle. At the same time, we get to do some amazing stuff. We’re all really fortunate to be in a position to create, work with so many talented people. The more experience you get, the more you get to decide what decision get to be yours. It really bothers me when people complain about money, while they accept the paycheck.
Ivo: Exactly! That’s a tricky line to walk as well. I’ve been in a situation once or twice where there is one negative person in the room — and it really affects everybody. When I’m a Supervisor, I always feel that artists can’t be fully creative if they’re under too much pressure. At the same time, nobody is lying what it’s like to work in our industry. It can’t be helped sometimes. Partially, it’s the creative nature of our work: We try to push the boundaries of what hasn’t been done before. If you do that, you can’t always put that into FX schedule.
[-33:53] Allan: Exactly! That’s my rule of thumb: If it’s 3D — shit’s going to go wrong!
Ivo: Yeah, that just happens. You can plan for it, but it will happen now and then. It’s strange to have people complain about it when they clearly signed on for it. It’s Scanline’s nature: We have Flowline and it’s trying to evolve. At the same time, we have to teach it to newcomers, completely. We’re always trying to have people stay with us for a little bit longer. That’s what I also like about Scanline. You get to work on several projects together. This industry is relatively small. It’s likely you’d meet people in different places. But if you get an opportunity to work on projects for longer time, you know what to expect, especially as a Supervisor. That always baffled me at first that every person wants to be treated completely differently. You have to translate what the vision of each shot is. As a Sup, with new people, you’re struggling to talk in their language for a while. You may need to mention the same things several times. But it’s also part of the charm: You get to know how each person works. If you work with them for longer time, they grow on you.
[-30:15] Allan: I freelance a lot but it’s typically with the same clients. I’ve mentioned working on Flight. We were trying to figure out where a shot was supposed to go. Once we figured it out, it was easier to restart a shot. I love that a year later, we could commemorate working on The Transformers the same way. It’s easier and faster when you’re working with the same people. Everyone has a different way of working. The critical thing is to figure out how everyone works. Sometimes, you work at places with the magic team and that’s the strength that’s going to make it.
Ivo: Ideally, that’s the case. We do have fluctuations although I’m very lucky we have a team that stays for a while. Usually, a gap isn’t easy to replace. There is a dynamic that changes when people leave. But we are consistent with people. We also have people return and work with us again. A company’s heart is in the people who are there. We are working on several projects at the same time. If you have a client who returns but cannot be given the same team, that’s not ideal. We try to listen to artists who don’t feel at home with us. At the end of the day, we do have a good rate, but some people aren’t really compatible. It’s something natural.
[-25:07] Allan: Especially with creatives!
Ivo: Exactly! Sometimes, it can’t be helped sometimes. It’s sad to see that. If you notice it early on, it’s not that bad. But if you notice it later in the process, it’s psychologically hard. You don’t want anything bad to happen to anybody. But on the upside, all the people that come to us, I’m happy with. Even if they leave, they come back. That’s why I’ve stayed with Scanline for all this time.
[-23:51] Allan: To stay at a studio for such a long time, it’s a testament of them doing it right. Sometimes, you leave a studio because things are so hectic.
Ivo: Unfortunately, since I don’t have a glimpse into other companies, I have to admit that I get information from other people who come to use, especially from London and Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Overall, I’m kind of happy to know that everyone is still cooking with water. Sometimes, you need to realize that although sometimes it’s hard work — and you’re pushing the boundaries of technology and people — sometimes you’re left wondering maybe there is this another place where everything is great. But then you hear some stories and realize they’re fighting with the same things.
[-21:55] Allan: That’s right! It’s all polygons and pixels.
Ivo: So we’re all good. We’re in the same ballpark.
[-21:51] Allan: For you, what are some of your favorite projects to have worked on?
Ivo: Obviously, there are some big names. We didn’t get to work on as much of Rogue One as I would have liked to, but it was a great experience. That will stick in my memory. That project went so smoothly. I have to say it was an amazing team, too! And the name of course fulfilled part of the dream of why I wanted to do FX.
It was an amazing experience to work on 2012. The very first turning point was working on 300. That was when Scanline managed to get more and more feature film work.
[-20:19] Allan: Yes, that was definitely a turning point for you, guys!
Ivo: That was awesome to work on this kind of movie! I really dove into the comics and looked at every piece of artwork that existed. It was intense, but we invented tools of our own to manage it.
[-19:59] Allan: I love that movie! I know a friend of mine who got hospitalized from it. He was working on a slow motion shot. The compositor on that shot ended up in a hospital. That show was a turning point for CG, in many ways. There weren’t that many films that could prove to be all CG.
Ivo: I think I can go chronologically. One of the most intense projects was Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. I’ve never worked as much on a project in my life. I think I’ve lost a few years of my life — it was so intense. When we so the previs of this river god, I felt shivers going down my spine. That was pretty amazing!
2012: I think you know that movie as well.
[-17:27] Allan: I definitely had an interesting experience on it, not as positive as yours!
Ivo: That was the first time I was working on a Roland Emmerich movie. We had the opportunity to flood the Himalayas. There was this giant wave that flooded the Himalayan valley with an airport with lots of airplanes. We started with a previs and we’d get the feedback, “It looks better at 18 frames per second.” Okay! We have a lot of simulations, so we have to do it over again. It would become a running gag. We’d have iterations of iterations. The audience is now used to seeing something that’s not real. It’s not about being accurate, but visually it can still work.
[-15:33] Allan: Hollywood is hyperreal. Jason Crosby, a VFS Sup at Pixomondo, they just finished up Final Destination 2 in 2003. I thought it’s really interesting. Jason had a point that initially he showed simulations of logs falling off the truck, to the director. The director thought it was boring. It needn’t be physically accurate. It’s so critical to have the same understanding.
Ivo: But at the same time, over the years I realized you need to have a common ground. It’s beneficial to show the first version that’s based in reality, and then go ahead and agree that you’re going to take it away from reality. If you start with unreal, you’re going to go back and forth. Maybe you’ve done the realistic version and the client makes you go back and show it to him. You don’t always end up with a realistic result, but you both need to have a common ground.
We also had an opportunity to work on The Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. There was one little thing: An effect that required droplets running against gravity. In the end, it was about taking a step back and animating a droplet. It was a humbling experience. In the end, you have to go in there with your hands. With something some granular as a droplet, there is no real solution.
[-11:10] Allan: You can’t expect a computer to do it all! I’ve had those projects too. In the end, you want to have that control in there.
Ivo: As soon as the client says, “This is going to be a hero object”, you need to have absolute control over it. If you’re doing a simulation, you know you’re giving away some of the control. If it’s the hero of the shot, it needs to be precisely controlled.
One of the funnest projects I’ve ever worked on was Looper. I really enjoyed that movie. It was a bit of a break because we did some particle work on that.
[-09:53] Allan: What did you do? I’ve worked on that as well, but at a different studio.
Ivo: There is this small kid with psychic powers. There is this field and he’s unleashing his powers. We did the rising debris and shock waves. That was the ideal place to do particles. It was also a break from what we usually do. On this project, it worked so well with the client. The shots were quite beautiful. Going into TP, and going into simulations that don’t need to collide into anything, it felt really smooth. It’s a bonus that I like that film.
There was a bit of a tough time. Two of those projects were a lot of work: White House Down and Snowpiercer. White House Down we had a lot of shots plus a few heavy ones. Snowpiercer was an interesting experience and had to do a lot of icy landscapes, avalanches and snow effects. It was so much work together with White House Down. It was difficult to go through a lot of the tech and pictures in Snowpiercer still holds up. We tried new approaches: We tried FEM simulations.
[-06:35] Allan: Oh, cool! How did that work out?
Ivo: It was really difficult but it was really nice looking. With FEM, you can do something you can’t do otherwise. If you want to rip something apart and it hasn’t been pre-fractured — or it needs that organic feel — there aren’t many solutions around. That was the technical thing that was quite nice. We managed to build some things with Flowline.
[-05:24] Allan: What would you consider — out of your recent projects — the ones where you had a lot of growth?
Ivo: I think that last year, we completed The Meg. That was a new landmark for us. The Munich and Vancouver offices worked closely together a lot. There were so many simulations, heavy FX work involved. It was massive, without giving away too much about it. You can see it on our website the film is wrapped.
Luckily, the year before that, we did another shark movie The Shallows. It wasn’t really a big production, but it had this animated shark character and it had these fluid interactions. It had hero characters that were precisely directed and you need simulations to follow that. That’s really difficult. The animator needs to be aware the shark is moving in the water. Kudos to the animators!
[-03:27] Allan: I loved the work on that! Afterwards, I had to take a look at the credits to see who did the work on.
Ivo: The time period was pretty short. The client worked closely with us to work in that tight schedule.
[-02:26] Allan: This is great! These are such iconic films! Scanline doesn’t do the small stuff.
Ivo: I have to object a little bit: We are offering the whole gambit of post-production. It’s just when you’re in that particular draw, you tend to get certain work than other work. That’s also something to remember for someone going into the industry: If you’re good at one thing and you demonstrate it, expect to do it more often.
I hope you enjoyed this Episode. I want to thank Ivo for taking the time to chat. Please check out the other Episode with him: www.allanmckay.com/136/.
Next Episode, I will be speaking with one of the Founders of SOHO VFX Berj Bannayan. We get into a lot of great stuff!
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