INTERVIEW: Allan McKay, Catastrophic FX
Posted January 22nd, 2008 – Bill Dawes, Digita
Now working on Daybreakers, a $A20 million dollar film for the Spierig Brothers, we asked Allan McKay, the director of Brisbane post-production facility Catastrophic, what the future holds.
DMW: Allan, you are back on home soil after spending the last few years jetting around the world to work on some major film VFX and game cinematics projects. What can you tell us about your specific role in Daybreakers?
AM: I’m a sequence supervisor as well as senior technical director, responsible for a large portion of the effects and all of the fire simulations we’re developing for the film. For this project I am working with Kanuka, another Brisbane studio which I’ve assisted with developing and executing the fluids simulations pipeline for the film as well as assisting in developing various tools and overseeing one of the sequences for the film.
DMW: What are some of Catastrophic FX’s recent productions?
AM: The last five months I’ve been on Day Breakers throughout the initial R&D through to post-production. Prior to that I was co-directing a TV commercial in New York city for the game Bioshock (Catastrophic also assisted with helping Plastic Wax with their cinematics for the game, and I also worked with Blur studio on their original trailer for the game in 2006, which won game trailer of the year).
During that time Catastrophic also completed several commercials for Subaru and McDonalds, as well as several high profile game cinematics. We’ve also been consulting with several large game and film studios in the US and Canada, as well as various effects houses in Australia, helping expand their pipeline and hold their hand on some bigger more ambitious jobs etc.
We also have another big feature film coming up which, although early days looks to be quite exciting. Lastly we’re contributing a lot of time to our developers in building new tools to help with our visual effects work.
DMW: What is the current staff and technology resources at Catastrophic?
AM: We’re currently a boutique sized studio assembled primarily of a lot of veteran staff with over a decade of experience, most of us have worked primarily overseas in London or LA in feature film work, which is where we source a lot of our pipeline and infrastructure.
Working on large Hollywood productions can be both very technically demanding but also resource and schedule wise sometimes impossible. So this is where we are able to apply our strengths to turn around large FX or animation sequences in weeks instead of months and usually under budget.
Catastrophic’s main focus is primarily as a post-production facility, specializing in visual effects and creature work. So as you can imagine we do a lot of digital pyrotechnics and fluids work, so lots of water and fire simulations, clouds, magical effects etc. and plenty of character animation and realistic humans/animals and monsters for TV, game and film.
The other half of our team is focused on a lot of visual effects outsourcing and consultation. We’re also currently developing a lot of our own software, which sets us aside from other studios as we’re able to really customize our technology and toolset to not only achieve ‘exactly’ what our clients are after, but also go beyond that and create new technology that isn’t necessarily already available.
I always stand by bridging creativity and technology together, and the more we’re able to fine tune things, the less we and our clients are limited by technical restrictions. Freeing up our clients to get exactly what they want, rather than what the software can handle.
DMW: How do you see the company evolving in the Australian post & VFX landscape?
AM: Currently Catastrophic feeds primarily from the international pool, however we’re starting to now look into what’s available locally and see what kind of an impact we can make back here. We’ve already completed a few local productions ranging from computer game cinematics, as well as a few bigger budget TV Commercials both for Brisbane and Sydney agencies.
One unique advantage we have is that we’re able to consult with other studios and help expand their pipelines and services through our specialized backgrounds. These are exciting times, and there are a lot more productions popping up now than there was 10 years ago, and as more and more focus gets put on Australia, the technical requirements bar is rising significantly. We see this as a great opportunity not only to build our own strengths as a post-production facility, but to also work with other studios collaboratively assisting them with strengthening their pipelines and technical abilities whilst also being able to handle some of the more technically demanding visual effects or creature work etc. that may fall into a grey area that their team or facilities aren’t able to accommodate.
l Media World Magazine