Technology has made it easier to construct images that have an aesthetic of some kind, but while the tools change, the level of craft has not. My experience provided a really good grounding in the techniques and the technologies of video and of film - in particular, film and film rostrum - and that technology still exists. Today, design often means learning a great deal about a piece of computer software, but it should be more than that. In the end it's about passion, it's about telling stories and it's about connecting to an audience. It's not just about the technology of the moment.
Now more than ever, creativity is about living life and expressing something of yourself in your work. It's about drawing, it's about training your eye to see, it's about combining other techniques whether they be traditional imagemaking techniques or new ones. I'm not sure that the craft has changed but it is maturing and becoming entrenched as a legitimate and effective part of the creative process. I hope that each year we become a little bit better - bolder ideas, clever interpretations executed in a seamless, invisible whole certainly each year adds to the collective experience. This occurs in many ways: By working with a new director, by learning a little more about a particular technique, by making more (but different) mistakes and learning from them. We're still trying to make each new project better than the last and ensure that the images we make connect with an audience. We're still trying to stay slightly ahead of the freight train that has become the digital express. We're also better at tailoring solutions to meet the needs of our clients' budget or schedule. Our understanding of and participation in the total production process has made for far better results This early involvement has now become the norm for us, as opposed to being restricted to a postproduction role.
Discuss new achievements in what you were able to put on the screen; a change in the gear or changes in how you use the gear, a change in the process, in the way you work at your facility or the way you work with creative/production people.
The basic tool set has been the same for a few years now. The search for images that are more and more compelling leads to innovation. This has been illustrated this year in a couple of ways. Manipulating actors to enable them to do fantastic physical feats that look natural within the context of the film or to take the camera into places that are physically impossible for a real camera to go. The challenge is to distort the universal laws of physics and have those distortions appear as if they have been photographed and be believable within the context of the film or commercial.
What has changed is our understanding of ourselves and how we like to work to get the best from both the people and the technology. The creative process is different for each individual and company. Articulating that and linking it to a unique vision, allowing it to remain flexible and collaborative requires constant discussion and effort.
There is an acceptance now that visual effects or digital production has become mainstream - not an expensive luxury extra reserved for large Hollywood projects. Nearly every film or commercial now has some form of digital imaging process applied to it. This has meant that the digital artists involved in the process participate more in the total production process, from prepro through to post. In turn, this has enabled contribution by those artists to be made at an early stage. This usually makes for far better results.
What is the most significant, ground breaking project of the past few years and why?
I don't think there is necessarily one. I believe that there is a synchronicity at work where ideas come into their own as a result of coincidental forces. Usually there are several projects that take aspects of an idea and further develop it. Individual projects explore these themes and we all get carried along. CGI characters, hair and cloth simulation, digital imaging and lighting techniques have all been advanced significantly. From martial arts films to fully animated features there have been breakthrough projects.
How are skill sets for effects artists changing?
As artists are involved throughout the production process, they need to become familiar with a broad range of filmmaking techniques. They must also know how and where the work they do fits into the total production process. They need to be aware of the needs of other departments within the production process, how their work might effect the decisions made in preproduction or on set and vice versa. The best artists will be developing ideas that utilize the skills of their colleagues and be able to collaborate with them so that all the techniques used are integrated into an effective whole.