Episode 89 – Valerian’s VFX Supervisor Scott Stokdyk
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Episode 89 — Interview with Scott Stokdyk, Oscar-Winning VFX Supervisor
This is Allan McKay. Welcome to Episode 89!
I’m speaking with Scott Stokdyk. I’m really excited about this Episode. Scott is a VFX Supervisor who’s worked on so many things: Titanic, Contact, Godzilla, all the Spider-Man movies. We are going to talk about Scott’s past experiences, a lot of aha moments and realizations — and also talk about Valerian and its production process as well!
Let’s dive in!
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
[-[1:07:39] I’m excited because our FXTD Mentorship is starting this week. We’ve been doing the Fireball Training the last three weeks, which was really intense. It’s been a crazy couple of months.
Also coming up:
– Industry Mixers,
– A Portfolio Review,
– And a lot of other cool stuff!
INTERVIEW WITH SCOTT STOKDYK
Scott Stokdyk is an Academy Award winning Visual Effects Supervisor. During his two decades of experience in visual effects, he has worked for big studios like Digital Domain and Sony Pictures ImageWorks. Some of the groundbreaking films on his resume are: Titanic, Contact, Starship Troopers, Hollow Man, Fifth Element and three of the Spider-Man movies. Scott’s work on Spider-Man 2 won him and his team an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Visual Effects.
Most recently, Scott worked as a Visual Effect Supervisor on Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
Scott Stokdyk’s Website: http://www.stokdyk.com
Scott Stokdyk on IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0831282/
Scott Stokdyk’s Interview at FMX 2017: https://www.awn.com/vfxworld/watch-scott-stokdyk-talks-valerian-and-city-thousand-planets-fmx-2017
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Official Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BszXhUjJz00
[-[1:06:32] Scott: I’m Scott Stokdyk, a freelance Visual Effects Supervisor working out of Los Angeles. I most recently worked on Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
[-[1:06:16] Allan: How did you start out? Obviously, you’ve got a pretty epic history of working in the industry. Did you always want to be an artist? What did you aspire to, in the beginning?
Scott: I started out just trying to figure out how to get into the industry (and this was about 20 years ago). Everything was starting to explode then. I was just looking to get my feet in the door. I managed to get a job at a place called Motionworks, and they were doing digital ink paintwork. They had a couple of animators leave, so I got in as a programer because I had a technical background and an assistant administrator. What I did was I basically taught myself the Prism Software at night.
[-[1:05:14] Allan: Oh, man!
Scott: Yeah, it’s kind of a throwback! But it was the predecessor to Houdini. Basically, at the time, you had to have 50-thousand dollar machines, and the licenses were thousands of dollars too. For me it was a way to get on the box and start teaching myself animation and visual effects.
[-[1:04]:5] Allan: When you first started out, was it a bit of a struggle to get your foot in the door or was it pretty much: The first resume in the door — and you’re working?
Scott: The path at that time was you start to go to SIGGRAPH meetings. I took classes at the American Film Institute and UCLA Extension. I was basically exposing myself to everything and getting to know who the players were. I definitely sent out batches and batches of resumes within the first year or so. I felt really lucky if I got to a meeting where they would reject me. I got to Rhythm and Hues and at the time they were working on Babe. I didn’t really know it. I’ve done this really crappy dog mouth replacement animation. In hindsight, looking back at that interview, I’m sure they were so horrified. What they were doing was at such a high level!
[-[1:03:39] Allan: I think it’s interesting though: Sometimes all it takes is doing something at the right time, when somebody needs that specific thing. Even if it isn’t at that level, you’re heading in the right direction. That’s really cool! I find a lot of artists have their own struggles to go through. Getting a rejection letter is a step closer to where you want to be.
Scott: I think at the beginning, you don’t even know how far you have to go. I think sometimes getting into that room — with those people and hearing those questions — helps you to know where your level is at. It’s a good experience to go through that rejection.
[-[1:02:13] Allan: Absolutely! I’ve got a buddy of mine who was never really good at job interviews. So he would go to these job fairs on purpose, [to put] himself through the interview process and learn.
Scott: It’s hard when you’re at the point where you rely on the interview to get the job. I wasn’t good at interviewing either; and I think what my biggest break was: After having learned Prisms, I was the right place, at the right time with Digital Domain. They were hiring for Fifth Element and they needed an artist who knew Prisms. I’m sure I didn’t get that job because of the interview. I got it because of my software knowledge. Just the right pieces clicked together.
[-[1:00:48] Allan: I think in our industry, [depending] on which studio you go to, a lot of places don’t care about the interview. It’s just a flag to see if you’re insane or not. Looking at your IMDb, you’ve worked with Motionworks on Mortal Combat.
Scott: Yes. At that point, it wasn’t even the feature film, it was the video animated version. I was happy to be working [and] making a living, doing something that involved computer graphics.
[-[1:00:03] Allan: I think that’s true for all of us. Even if you’re working on a spinning logo, it’s one step closer to whatever our goals are.
Scott: And you know, it was a good introduction to kind of the grind (it’s a hard word!). You’re trying to hit the deadline to get something out of the door. The technology was different but you still had to get the renders out, in some format.
[-[59:28] Allan: That’s really cool! Was it what you expected?
Scott: I don’t think it was what I expected, but I knew from the start that this was what I loved to do and didn’t want to do anything else. I felt the energy of it, from 20 years ago. Something was changing.
[-[59:00] Allan: It’s kind of scary looking back that far. I started out in about ’97. Looking at the tools then and now, you tell people these day, “You don’t know what it’s like not having shaded viewports!” and all the basics we take for granted! Where did you go from there, from Motionworks?
Scott: One of the first cool projects of which I’m really proud was: I got to work for John Woo on Broken Arrow. It was actually 3-4 shots, but I got to meet him in the screening room and be in the director’s review. He was one of my director heroes, so I felt, “If nothing else comes up, I’ve done it, this is it!” I feel I tried to get into Digital Domain to work on Apollo 13. I knew it was going to be a special project but there was no opportunity there. Digital Domain was an eye-opener for me: Seeing the quality of people at that time and since then — it’s astounding! I’ve definitely learned so much by being exposed to someone like Mark Stetson.
[-[57:31] Allan: Yes, I’ve worked with Mark.
Scott: He’s amazing! And their compositing people: I’ve learned some much about super deep fundamentals of compositing in the film world from some of the people at Digital Domain — which I still refer back to, 20 years later!
[-[57:08] Allan: It’s one of those place with so much talent, it’s pretty inspiring. DD has retained some of its original talent.
Scott: Oh, and by the way, I was using Nuke there. I fell in love with Nuke. After I went to ImageWorks, I missed Nuke so much, for years and year I was in mourning!
[-[56:27] Allan: I guess back then there was nothing to compare it too. I loved Shake before Apple butchered it. Prior to that, there wasn’t anything out there doing what Nuke was doing.
Scott: It was really elegantly written. What’s funny is one of its authors is Bill Spitzak with whom I’ve worked with at Digital Domain. (He’d been a programer at Motionworks where I started.) So I saw a lot of his code. It’s one of those thing: I’m a mediocre coder, and I was blown away. I had “code envy”. I knew I was using something special, even back in the day.
[-[55:44] Allan: That’s cool! With Fifth Element, it was one of big feature you did at DD?
[-[55:35] Allan: What sequence was that? Half the studios that worked on that movie don’t exist anymore.
Scott: I know. I did a lot of weird things on Fifth Element:
– I did a bit of compositing of the ship model, kind of a wide thing.
– The biggest thing I did — because I was a big Prism guy — were all the glowing embers that were in the Element itself, at the end of the movie.
– And then, I did the water. I bounced back and forth between Titanic and Fifth Element because I’d learned the Arete Software.
[-[54:46] Allan: The Digital Nature Tools?
Scott: That’s what it was! I was doing weird things, like building Prism tools to outpour data, to go back and forth between the softwares. I ended up doing some water shots for Fifth Element; and then I did some water stuff for Titanic as well.
[-[54:18] Allan: I remember seeing some cool Matte Painting from Fifth Element that were pretty amazing! I was really jealous because I was based in Australia and the idea of working in LA was a pipe dream, at that point. For you, in your earlier career, what were some of the big challenges with getting your foot in the door; going from feature film to feature film and working on these big projects?
Scott: You know, I don’t know if there were any big challenges in hindsight. I feel like I had an advantage of starting in the business when I did. There was enough work support and this type of artists working in LA. Being both at Digital Domain and ImageWorks, I was at a place where there was enough work to support those companies, to have a large number of artists. There weren’t the same challenges that LA-based artists have now. I’m grateful for that! It was more about the day-to-day: How do you get the shot out, etc. For the first many years, I was loving being in the flow at my desk or at some dark cubicle, staring at my monitor, making images look good.
[-[52:20] Allan: In a lot of ways, it’s exactly why we’re able to put up with the crazy hours and the stress. It’s because we’re creating something cool and creative. We’d happily bleed out a little bit, in exchange for the work.
Scott: And I’ve definitely experienced what they call the flow. I’d sit down after lunch, and 4, 5, 6 hours would pass and I wouldn’t notice. There is something amazing about that! You’re excited to go to work every day. I love that period in visual effects.
[-[51:26] Allan: I’m trying to remember how it was back then. “Okay, I’ll sleep on the couch around the corner and set my alarm to approximately when my rendering would finish.” Especially the late 90’s were an exciting time in terms of CG. It was becoming more mainstream and everyone wanted it. It was a new ground to cover.
Scott: As I started to grow in my career and become more of a Sequence Supervisor and CG Supervisor and VFX Supervisor; the stress of “Are you going to be able to deliver?” and the implications if you don’t, a lot of your energy is spent managing that and how to best deliver. In some ways, you get away from the pure, artistic part. I feel that in the last couple of years, I’m on the other side of the hump. It’s on the backs of other artists and supervisors [to whom] I’m giving the work. On Valerian, I had so much confidence in the artists at Weta, ILM and Rodeo, I’m a bit less stressed out. I know there is an army of amazing artists. Then I feel like my brain is free to step back and see the bigger picture.
[-[49:19] Allan: At that point, you’re the fall guy in case everything goes to shit. It’s always the tricky part when you switch from being an artist to being a Supervisor: You’re less in the trenches. You’re trying to foresee any issues before they come up. It’s hard to step back. You cant’s change anything. It can be pretty strenuous.
Scott: Along the way, you kind of manage that in different ways. After 20 years, my takeaway is: It’s a really about the people you’re working with! Working with a good group of people, you support and balance each other. I’ve been in harder situation when I don’t have the support network.
[-[47:59] Allan: Yeah. I’ve got to ask you about the Starship Troopers. What and where did you work on, at the time?
Scott: I was at ImageWorks at the time. ImageWorks did a lot of the ships. Scott E. Anderson worked on that and it was my first introduction to him as a Supervisor. I didn’t do that much. I did more of the thruster elements in compositing, kind of an artist on the box trying to get some decent shots out. I did some lighting there. At that point in my career, I was dabbling with some RenderMan shaders. I probably was in and out of those. I was a bit of generalist who filled in the gaps.
[-[47:08] Allan: That’s awesome! From there you, you switch to more of a Supervisor role on Godzilla, is that right? (I’m totally nerding out on your IMDb, by the way!)
Scott: It was a really fun path, and you never know what’s going to change. That was a big turning point because it was the first time I made that bump. It was because of Karen Goulekas, with whom I’ve worked at Digital Domain. When she ended up brining some work to ImageWorks, she said, “Okay, but I want Scott to be the Supervisor.” So she definitely gave me a boost in my career.
[-[46:20] Allan: That’s cool! What’s Karen like? I’ve never met her in person but I’ve attended a few of her talks.
Scott: She’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if I’ve met anyone like her in visual effects. She always has energy and enthusiasm that’s infectious. The thing I’ve learned from her was being thorough and prepared for anything. I remember even seeing her on set. I was blown away by how prepared she was for everything. It was a whole other level! And she was also so organized, had her own database for tracking everything. I guess you’d say she’s this force of nature in visual effects!
[-[45:20] Allan: I think that was Volker [Engle’s] first film as a Supervisor. What was it like to work with him?
Scott: It was really cool. I’ve admired his work for many years after Godzilla. I think what’s good for me is that I always try to learn a little bit from every Supervisor I’m exposed to. I feel that he has this unique background in terms of the practical and the camera world that I hadn’t been exposed to, and a good big picture capability. I regret not working with him more because I could learn a lot more. When I was at FMX this year (https://www.awn.com/vfxworld/watch-scott-stokdyk-talks-valerian-and-city-thousand-planets-fmx-2017), I got a bit of his retrospective on Independence Day 1 vs. the recent Independence Day. And I was really bummed I had to leave in the middle of that for another obligation. He is a really interesting Supervisor I could still learn a lot from!
[-[43:56] Allan: He is definitely down to earth and has a vast amount of knowledge.
Scott: I think that all the big names that came from the 80s and early 90s visual effects, they all have something special that [helped them] make the transition to CG from practical. Every opportunity I’ve had to work with John Dykstra I thought was amazing because he is definitely one of those “big picture” guys and he knows what’s important and what’s not. I’ve seen him think on his feet on a stage a lot. I always admired his ability to roll with bad situations, pivot and twist into something. There was one shot on Spider-Man. We’ve done this massive privas for it and it just wasn’t interesting. He reprogramed the whole thing on the fly, redesigned the shot, helped shoot all the elements for it. It was a master class on how to do visual effects.
[-[41:57] Allan: That’s cool! What was it like working for him? He is someone who came from the genesis of visual effects. Is there something you took from working around him?
Scott: Yeah, I think what he does really well: A lot of the time you make plans for something, even in post. And then you see it — and it doesn’t work. So you have a choice to pound it into the ground or you go to Plan B. I thought he always had a really good intuition at making a choice between those two. I’ve seen other Supervisors who, given that choice, would continue pounding on something. He had a good knack to not be stuck on one angle.
[-[40:35] Allan: I’ve watched other artists, mostly junior; when they hit a wall and start looking for another solution. Thirty solutions later, it’s hard to see things through. For you, going to Sony, that had to have been a huge lifestyle switch.
Scott: It was a chance to be exposed to a whole new, interesting group of people. I think I went there after the ILM contingency joined. It was a bit of a different mentality. I felt like I had to see Ken Ralston, [VFX Supervisor and Creative Head at Sony Pictures ImageWorks] in action. It was the perfect move at that time in my career.
[-[39:20] Allan: What were some of the differences you would find between DD and Sony, in terms of the way their work or their mindset?
Scott: I think that at that time, (I don’t want to generalize now), Digital Domain was truly the technical innovator. Aside from Nuke, their 3D tracking system was 10 years ahead of anybody else’s. Their technical understanding of film — and all its processes — was phenomenal! There were a bunch of great artists there, but they were also grounded in really solid tech.
I went to ImageWorks and it was more about the artistry. People did great work in spite of their technical tools — not because of them. Talk about brute force! I remember doing Starship Troopers. People were using Alias to animate. Nobody was using that software, but people were still getting things out of it. Ken Ralston worked well in that environment. His notes were all artistic and creative movement based. It was interesting to see the shift of people coming at something from a mindset: It doesn’t matter how it happens, we’re going to be more artistic about it! At DD, there was a super tech correct foundation to build upon and then we put the art on top of it. ImageWorks was more like the Wild West.
[-[36:31] Allan: I’ve worked with Mark Stetson in 2006 on Superman, both on set and in post. I remember all the work Sony was doing on that. Most studios started using particle renders and fluids. All the work — which was beautiful! — that came out of Sony was still sprite based. A lot of dinosaur approaches. All the tech took the time to grow.
Scott: I think the culture change happened when Rob Bredow (he’s at ILM now) took over in development and pushed so many things through! By the time he left, even with developing something like Arnold — ImageWorks was a big part of it. The culture changed for the better in the last 10 years. But there was definitely a time when ImageWorks was finding its footing, doing good work instead of the tools.
[-[35:02] Allan: I have to ask you about Hollow Man. It must’ve been a cool project to be tied to.
Scott: It was actually an amazing experience but the hardest show I’ve worked on in my entire life. I was going on so little sleep, I had to make sure I was getting into work safely. I got thrown into it midway through the process. Under Scott E. Anderson’s direction, they’ve hired a bunch of phenomenally technical people who’d written systems, things way ahead of their time. For some reason, Scott was able to gather all of these achievers. But it was so complicated! How are all of these pieces going to come together on time?
I came on as a bit of a cleaner. Part of my job was to pull of these talented people together and cut things that were over-engineered. I had to help wrangle it over the finish line. Super key moment for me: There was a notion of Kevin Bacon’s character disappearing, which muscles, etc. Everyone, from the top down, was getting upset why can’t we track this? In one meeting, I came with this 200-page printout: This is the list of geometry we have to keep track of stuff, so we are going to cheat this but make sure it doesn’t look bad. I think only 4-5 people understood how complicated it was. I still think if we had to redo the movie now, it would be easier. Yes, we can handle more geometry now. It would be quicker now. It was too much to tackle at the time.
[-[30:54] Allan: What were some of the biggest challenges on that job?
Scott: I think I ended up dealing mostly with transformations. What’s still hard in visual effects are these things that have many different layers that are attached to each other. The minute you have effects animation intertwined with character animation, and they feed off each other, you kind of have this loop: You do character animation and you pile secondary animation on top of that, and it doesn’t work, or something is wrong. You have to go back to character animation and redo all the extra effects animation, you get caught in this loop. I had this issue on Spider-Man 3 and the Sandman. It was on a similar level of difficulty. Once you get caught in this loop of character animation and effects animation, there is no good exit out of that loop.
[-[29:14] Allan: Did you get to work with Daniel Ferreira? I think he was one of the Leads on that sequence.
[-[29:05] Allan: With Spider-Man, being a big shift for the industry, what kind of stuff were you doing on the first one?
Scott: The first one was about being able to render the city. I think the animation part and the Spider-Man part, we were beginning to realize the language there. But I think in building the city, at the time we had to build an Assembly Component System (we called it, [at ImageWorks]), to be able to handle the city data and pull it in at render time effectively. And one of guys was Steve LaVietes. (He is at Pixar now.) He was involved with a lot of big technical innovations at ImageWorks. That was a case of technology being able to handle building geometry. And the creative part was: How do you assemble it to look like a street in New York? I definitely learned some hard lessons about what it takes to make a city block look real.
I was exposed to the challenges of Spider-Man animation that are universal challenges. I think it’s hard to make that character look real, and all the superhuman things he does in the real world. All the Spider-Man movies, I see the artists fighting those same challenges. I can relate to them. Every time, a franchise switches over, I hear, “We’re going to do a lot more stunts”, “We’re going to motion capture gymnasts”. Those are things we talked about on the first movie. He is a really hard character to do all the animation for! You want him to look real, but by definition he can do things nobody really could do.
[-[25:56] Allan: Was the your first VFX Sup gig?
Scott: It was. It was my first credit as a VFX Sup.
[-[25:45] Allan: When you did transition into Supervising, was it a pretty natural transition or was it a mindset shift?
Scott: I think I stumbled into it a bit. When I was an artist, I never had this burning desire to be a Supervisor. I didn’t see myself as a role model. Every Supervisor I knew came with a different set of talents and background. I really just loved doing visual effects. What happened was I got more and more responsibility. I always felt that to be a successful artist, you had to be self critiquing. I don’t think you can sit back and wait for someone above to tell you what to do with your work. You have to go to that review session armed with your own critique. I just developed and developed, and developed that skill until I was giving people suggestions, and people in positions above me kept asking me to do it more. It just happened organically.
[-[24:05] Allan: What about about working on set? Was it a different shift for you as well?
Scott: I think I got tastes of that on a lot of different pieces, even in the early days. There was a guy called Charlie Cloudacher who was a match mover, from the days of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when they were doing optical match moves (projecting things on the floor, etc). He knew so much about cameras and prospectives. At ImageWorks, he came with this ILM group, and he wrote these whole treaties on how you act on set. I must’ve read that thing a 100 times! It’s mostly about knowing your place on set. More and more, as visual effects artists, we’re a part of the process. But there is a history and you have to respect that and find your place within it. I think I always approach: How do I integrate with other departments?
[-[22:11] Allan: These days, do you find more acceptance as a VFX Supervisor? Are people more accepting now?
Scott: I think I still have to respect the rules and positions. The hierarchy. But I think there is still a time and place to do your action. You have to feel the flow and tempo of what’s going on. I remember a story of Scott E. Anderson on a James Cameron film. Nobody is allowed to yell cut but the director. Supposedly, he yelled, “Cut!” on a James Cameron movie. I can just picture staring at this young visual effects artist. I would never do that. [I would] clean up the mess afterwards. Even if there is something you need, you have to figure out a political way to get it.
[-[20:34] Allan: I can picture it happening on a James Cameron movie. There was one incident on Avatar where someone’s cellphone went off and he nailed it to the wall with nail gun.
Scott: I think that people working at a high level like that, they’re firing on all cylinders. They’re 110 in it. Those kind of people don’t appreciate someone who’s not all in. If you’re doing something authentically and you’re not stupid, it’s okay to make mistakes. I think it’s careless mistakes that someone like James Cameron won’t appreciate.
[-[19:38] Allan: I’m with you on that! For you, the latest film you’ve worked on was Valerian — which looks frigging amazing! What was it like coming onto that project?
Scott: I got really lucky to be on the project in the first place! I was taking over from another Supervisor. The first meeting with Luc, he overwhelmed me a bit, and I think it may have been by design. He kept showing me these crazy concept drawings and all of these different story boards. And as soon as I sort of absorbed one, he’d show me another one. So he sort of hit me over the head with the scope of the work. My last movie was Oz the Great and Powerful which was 1,600-1,800 shots. [Luc] was presenting something with a scale of 2,500 shots, with all these creatures, all these aliens. My first thought was, “I don’t want to do this alone. I want to be a co-Supervisor.” I walked away from it reeling for a few days. I wrote him a letter thanking him for the meeting. I really wanted to see the movie he presented. From the start, I was a fan of the universe he was prepared to create.
I definitely have been in situation in my career where someone doesn’t know what they want and they say, “Just show me something I haven’t seen before”. As an artist, you hate to hear that because you know you’ll just have to keep throwing stuff out. It gives you leeway to be creative, in some way. I walked away from that meeting thinking, “Wow! He’s showed me something I’ve never seen before!” With my job as a Supervisor, I try to keep up with everything everyone else is doing. I try to see every visual effects movie that’s out. I see a lot of movies a year! I hadn’t seen stuff he’d shown me. It a combination was overwhelmed by it and super excited.
[-16:06] Allan: Yeah, it looks amazing! We were talking earlier about Mark Simonetti doing all the concept stuff [allanmckay.com/45]. He’s been telling me about this for a long time. I had no idea. I finally see a trailer and think, “Holy shit!” With Luc Besson, [I expected] lots of bright colors and visuals, but not to this degree! What were some of the challenges going into it?
Scott: By the way, with a lot of movies, the trailer kind of gives it away a bit. For me, the Valerian trailer is the tip of the iceberg. I came to it and partnered with Sophie Leclerc who was the Visual Effects Producer. First thing to nail down was: Which visual effects vendors to work with? We kind of decided to postpone the idea of a co-Supervisor.
We had ILM do a big chunk of this movie, over 500 shots. Sophie and I knew they’d embrace a section there. Luc and ILM and Rodeo had worked together on Lucy, so we had a good relationship with them. With Rodeo, I’ve been following for the last couple of years and they’re so artistic! They have such good concept artists, and they do such great environmental stuff that it made perfect sense for them to do environmental stuff and a sky jet chase. We felt really good about that. And then: We had a lot of discussions with Luc about his relation to Avatar: James Cameron pushed visual effects to such a high level, we always thought Weta had to be a major part of this movie. So the bulk of the film is Weta. We got such a good team at Weta, Supervisors and artists. We visited there with Luc a few times and we were blown away. A couple of months after bringing Weta on, we thought, “We’re in great shape!”
[-[12:42] Allan: Who were some of the artists that you were working with there?
Scott: Martin Hill was the main guy. Joe Letteri has his fingers in a lot of things, over there. But he is going from dailies to dailies and making sure everything was going great. Also, Eric Reynolds was our main Animation Supervisor. He worked with Sophie before. Paul Story was another Animation Supervisor. I think I’m going to forget people’s names.
[-[11:30] Allan: That place is insane. Pretty amazing, they’re definitely have their shit together!
Scott: And I think it’s a different vibe there that I haven’t seen at other VFX companies. I think Joe has done a really great job getting deep into the philosophy of things. It’s hard for me to put a finger on it. On set, they’re so professional!
[-[10:23] Allan: I’m pretty blown away by mo-cap. Nowadays, you can have multiple people running around.
Scott: Somedays, I feel like that. Somedays, I feel like there is an army of people making our luck easy. What’s interesting is we have more advancements, there are no big paradigm shifts. Going to on-set mo-cap, yes. But I thought by 2017, we would go to RF sensors or something weirdly different embedded in costumes, and we will. I think it’s happening a bit slower than I thought.
[-[08:44] Allan: Do you get exposed to different technology as it’s coming out? What intrigues you at the moment?
Scott: I definitely pay attention at the SIGGRAPH’s. I’m always interested in what Paul Debevec is doing. (He is now at Google.) I think he is a big forward thinking guy. A lot of these things I thought would be developing faster: VR or motion capture. I think, it bumps up against some physics. Sometimes, technology does hit some roadblocks. I’m super excited about the Lytro Professional Camera. You can capture depth and image at the same time. I’ve wanted it for at least 10 years.
[-[05:59] Allan: I think we’re talking about capturing stereo without crazy rigs. There are still limitations to make it viable. To make it mainstream enough, it’s an uphill battle.
Scott: And sometimes I think the bandwidth and storage capability needs to go a couple of generations later. I worked on just a test for Polar Express. They were deciding if they would use mo-cap or just shoot actors over blue and process actors to look painting-like. Part of me wishes he’d done that! People need to push boundaries so I don’t blame them. We used this camera caption. My point was: Store the data from that test. There was this huge drive that revved up like an airplane engine. Sometimes, the support for the tech needs to be there.
[-[04:08] Allan: Are there any big sequences in Valerian we should keep an eye out for?
Scott: My personal preference… I guess the part I feel the most connected to is the opening scene after the credits where you’re on this planet with these pearl creatures. We shot it with motion capture people, and it’s a really emotional scene. When I watched the first cut, I was emotional. My hope was that when we did the CG version, we would keep that emotional impact. I want to watch the first audiences and see their reaction.
[-[02:33] Allan: I can’t wait to check it out! I appreciate your being available for this interview. Are there any websites or social media you’re on, if someone wants to find you?
Scott: Sure. I have a very basic one, just http://www.stokdyk.com. I love photography. It’s a hobby that goes hand-in-hand with visual effects.
[-[01:26] Allan: Thanks for everything! I’ll leave your links in the show notes.
Thank you again, Scott, for taking your time out of your busy schedule to talk about your career!
I will be back next Episode with the team at Image Engine who is responsible for Game of Thrones, District 9, Jurassic Park — so much stuff! They do amazing work! I will be working with their creature team, with their supervisors. I’m excited about that one!
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“If only there was more time in the day”
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Money, negotiating, probably two words that build the most tension just at the thought of, other than public speaking.
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