Actually I haven't seen a lot of changes in the last couple of years in terms of software or technologies. The compositing arena is still dominated by the Discreet products [Inferno, Flame], and I think that's because they are still offering the most interactive package out there. The most talked about tech news at the moment is related to Apple and the willful move they are currently making in the visual effects compositing market, after their acquisition of the software Shake and a couple of others. Rumor is that they will be the next big news. In general, I believe the trend goes toward cheaper platforms, mostly software based.
Here at Method the biggest change has been the development of our 3-D department to a nice sized team of five 3-D artists staff, with a powerful render farm, using primarily Maya. Thanks to them and their ability to create photoreal elements, more and more of the projects I work on involve 3-D at one stage or another. We always try to shoot as many real elements as possible but when we run out of solutions our 3-D department comes to save the day many times, boosting our ability to pull off shots that would have been impossible without their contribution.
Talk about your craft and how it has facilitated new areas of creativity. Discuss this in the context of a cutting-edge project you've worked on recently.
For one example, we recently completed over 30 shots for the upcoming movie The Ring, a Dreamworks production directed by Gore Verbinski. One of the shots that we refer to as "the face" shot involved the transformation of the face of a little girl into a skeleton. The shot lasts about five seconds and turned out to be tremendously complicated. The elements that were originally shot were based on prosthetics and traditional makeup technology, shot on 35mm. Unfortunately, their motion and appearance were not realistic enough to bring the shot to the level of quality Gore needed. After a long internal brainstorming, we decided to go ahead and create more than 60 different elements in 3-D that once put together, look real, but also brought the level of emotion right where Gore wanted it to be. The ability of our 3-D team [Gil Baron, Laurent Ledru, Yann Mallard, Hatem Benabdallah and James Lebloch] to create very specific and precise elements was integral in the saving of this shot, which appeared impossible at one time. What I really liked about this process was the ability to refine the elements as we progressed into the making of the shot, allowing us to make changes as we were going along. The creative was never locked until the very end.
What is the most significant, groundbreaking project (whether you did it or not) of the past few years and why?
Probably The Lord of the Rings, because of the scale of the project and the success they had in bringing to life what seemed an impossible task at first. The visual effects crew has been groundbreaking on many levels, but the 3-D work was astounding.
What are the latest trends, good or bad?
The biggest trend I see recently is the "organic" one. Definitely a used and abused word. What I get from it is there's a need for invisible effects more than ever. The trend is, yes we want effects because it is the smart way to do it, but we want it to look as if it was shot - which is one the most difficult things to do.
What are the most significant technological developments of the past year or so? What has the impact of these developments been?
On the technology side, Boujou is an amazing 3-D tracking software. For the first time, I saw a software able to come up with an accurate camera solution on all kind of shots, exactly as they come in day-to-day production. What it does is it really enables us to add 3-D generated elements on a live action plate with a perfectly matching camera move. Overall, the advertising market seems a little depressed at the moment. The big, "crazy" campaigns are hard to come by, turnaround and budgets are on a down slope. So more than ever we rely on the creativity of our team to come up with interesting solutions for an always more demanding client.