Ollin VFX Delivers Mank Shots During Lockdown

March 22, 2021
postPerspective

Mexico City-based Ollin VFX specializes in creating computer-generated imagery for television and film. Run by co-founder/president Alejandro Diego, the company works with clients worldwide to provide concept design, previz and postviz, 2D compositing, 3D/CG effects and animation.

Work is spread out between Ollin’s headquarters in Mexico City and artists in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, India and Hollywood. Their visual effects work can be seen in films like JumanjiGodzillaDeadpool and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

When COVID-19 necessitated a lockdown that required their artists work from home, they were faced with how to meet fast-approaching deadlines for two major projects: an Amazon-original zombie TV series called Operation 8888 and David Fincher’s Mank, a movie about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz’s development of the 1941 classic Citizen Kane.

Mank was shot black and white in 6K resolution — much higher quality than the usual 2K or 4K — which made the creation of visual effects creatively challenging due to the variations in shades of gray.

“Immediately, all of our artists started working from home and connecting via VPN to their workstation at the office,” explains Diego. When the lockdown happened in March, the studio needed to figure out a reliable and fast way for everyone to easily access and work on files ranging in size from a few MB to several GB from multiple remote locations.

Ollin had just started using DEI’s ExpeDat, accelerated file transport software, a few months before COVID-19 hit. When the shutdown happened, Diego accepted an offer from DEI to increase capacity to their existing ExpeDat license, from four to eight and at no additional cost, to help accommodate their increased demand for ingest and other file transfer activities. Having this kind of workflow setup helped Ollin as they created and delivered VFX for Mank. We reached out to Diego to find out more about his studio’s workflow.

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Mank’s Monochrome Effects

Mike Seymour
March 14, 2021
fxguide

Mank is nominated for 10 Academy awards in this year’s 93rd Oscars in categories such as Best Picture, Lead Actor, and Best Director. It is also nominated for the VES award for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature. The film follows screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz’s tumultuous development of Orson Welles’ iconic masterpiece Citizen Kane (1941).

There were several VFX supervisors nominated, Simon Carr (Territory Studio), Wei Zheng (Artemple), James Pastorius (Savage VFX), along with Peter Mavromates. In many respects, director David Fincher could have also been nominated for VFX. The director is himself an expert in visual effects and was a very active contributor to the film’s effect work. Peter Mavromates is a long-time collaborator with David Fincher and was officially the Co-producer, Post Supervisor and VFX Producer on the film. Additionally, Pablo Helman at ILM was key in creating the CG animals at the San Simeon zoo.

The film had its roots going back over 20 years. “We had a false start about 20 years ago, around 1999. The script had been written at that time but it never happened for a number of reasons,” Mavromates comments. “Probably a contributing factor was that it was black and white and if you weren’t Woody Allen in the 90s, you couldn’t shoot black and white. Even Mel Brooks had to change producers for Young Frankenstein because the studio wouldn’t let him shoot black and white and he had to find another studio.”

The movie finished filming about 2 weeks before the W.H.O. declared the COVID pandemic in Feb 2020. This meant nearly all the VFX was done using remote protocols at each of the VFX vendors.

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Mank Co-Producer Peter Mavromates on the Film’s VFX and Post

Edward Douglas
February 8, 2021
Below the Line

There are many reasons why there’s a general wave of excitement whenever there’s a new David Fincher movie. That’s particularly been the case with Mank considering the six-year gap since Fincher’s last film Gone Girl, roughly half that time in which Fincher was making the series Mindhunter for Netflix.

Most of Fincher’s fans within and outside the industry see the filmmaker as a modern master of the visual medium, and Mank offers further proof of this with stunning shots recreating Hollywood in the ‘30s and ‘40s, fully realized background environments in which well-known icons from the era discuss the political climate of the times, both in the country and in Tinsel Town itself. At the center of it all is Gary Oldman’s Herman Mankiewicz, the illustrious screenwriter who would win a shared Oscar for co-writing Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.

One person who has been along for the ride watching Fincher’s rise as a visionary filmmaker is Peter Mavromates, whose first film with Fincher was 1997’s The Game, but who first met the director on a Michael Jackson video and a commercial he directed. Mavromates has worked in post for over 35 years, as one of the first to champion the benefits of combining analog film with digital post, producing his first DI (Digital Intermediary) for Fincher’s 2002 movie, Panic Room, which was shot on analog. Five years later, he did the same for Zodiac, Fincher’s first digitally-shot film.

As Fincher’s Post-Production Supervisor, Mavromates’ duties continued to expand and evolve, his duties involving all the budgeting and hiring when it comes to the post process. “I like to describe it as once the image is captured, it becomes my problem,” he told Below the Line over a Zoom call a few weeks back.

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Going with the Grain to Capture the 1930s Black-and-White-Film World of Mank

Trevor Hogg
February 2, 2021
VFX Voice Magazine (VES)

A consistent entry on the greatest of all-time films is Citizen Kane, which is famous for innovative filmmaking, having been inspired by the life of American media mogul William Randolph Hearst and serving as the Hollywood debut of wunderkind Orson Welles. Just as legendary is the behind-the-scenes turmoil, in particularly Hearst attempting to derail the project and the careers of those involved. There were also accusations that Welles did not deserve a screenwriting credit as the true author was Herman J. Mankiewicz.

The script controversy captured the attention of journalist Jack Fincher who wrote an initial draft 30 years ago that was furthered developed by his son, David Fincher, best known for directing SevenFight ClubZodiac and The Social Network. The Netflix production of Mank stars Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tuppence Middleton and Charles Dance.

Over the course of his career, Mank co-producer and VFX Producer Peter Mavromates (Mindhunter) has frequently collaborated with Fincher as a post-production supervisor. “There is a high level of consistency in our post team, so we get to have that conversation about how we can do it better the next time.”

Visual effects and DI are done in-house. “When we’re doing tests during pre-production,” Mavromates says, “a lot of the time they are shot in the parking lot and we bring the files right into the DI in the building. How awesome is that kind of feedback for Erik Messerschmidt [Raised by Wolves], our DP, and David Fincher to be able to play with something, see it, test it, bend it, and then go back out and try an alternative version right away? That’s valuable. That’s also the advantage to having in-house visual effects, which is having the ability not to be on the clock. I can call David upstairs where our visual effects are and say, ‘I want you to look at these three shots.’ I can give feedback to the artist right there, and maybe the artist can immediately do his note and get him to sign off. I think of David as the visual effects supervisor and I am the supervisor on some of the more technical stuff, like retouches.”

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Recreating the Mindhunter Reel-to-Reel titles (minus the corpses)

Techmoan (YouTube)
May 5, 2018

A ‘joyously nerdy’ video in which I attempt to assemble all the components to recreate the reel-to-reel title sequence from the Netflix Show Mindhunter.

hifiengine: the Portable Stereo Reel-to-Reel Tape Recorder Sony TC-510-2 (or Sony TC-5550-2 in Japan)

The Tapeheads forums: “Looking for the sony tc-510

The RPF forums: “The Tape Recorder from Netflix MINDHUNTER” (“David wants perfect”)

New Mindhunter style metal 5″ reels can be bought from Righteous Reels.

Special thanks to Jason Moore (on Patreon) for the tip regarding The Professionals episode.

The music used in my recreation of the title sequence is ‘Spirit Of the Dead‘ – by Aakash Ghandi and is from the youtube audio library (Download link).

NOTE: The TDK tape leader was created specifically for the sequence with CGI to hide the original Sony one:

Ollin VFX 2018 Demo reel

Ollin VFX (vimeo)
December 12, 2017