VFX Notes: The Art of Matte Painting and Invisible VFX with Craig Barron

Hugo Guerra (Twitter) & Ian Failes (Twitter)
November 24, 2021
Hugo’s Desk (YouTube, Patreon, Twitter, Facebook) / befores & afters

On this episode of VFX Notes, Hugo Guerra from Hugo’s Desk and Ian Failes from befores & afters are joined by Craig Barron. Barron is creative director at Magnopus, and previously worked as a matte painter at ILM and co-founder and visual effects supervisor at Matte World Digital. Barron won a VFX Oscar for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and was also nominated for a VFX Oscar for Batman Returns.

They talk about his amazing career and his work in Zodiac, Casino, Empire Strikes Back, Batman Returns, and so much more, what those original days of matte painting in the optical era were like, and how the transition to digital happened. Matte World Digital’s work on Zodiac, amongst other films, was also discussed in a previous episode.

This episode is sponsored by ActionVFX Black Friday sale. It begins November 25th at 8 PM EST and will end on December 3rd at 11:59 PM EST. All VFX elements in the library will be 55% off the first 24 hours, & 50% off the remaining days of the sale. All Annual Subscription Plans (Individual & Studio Plans) purchased during the sale will receive 2x the amount of monthly elements. Learn more here.

Chapters:
00:00:00 – Intro
00:04:30David Fincher and DVD extras
00:05:35 – Craig’s career
00:08:16Ray Harryhausen and influences
00:12:08 – Matte paintings in Empire Strikes Back
00:18:13 – Physical correct vs artistic direction
00:32:07 – Matte paintings in Batman Returns
00:34:12Casino and the first radiosity render
00:43:37 – 3D projections in Zodiac
00:55:02Blade Runner VR
00:59:48The Criterion Collection and history
01:07:05Patreon, Twitch Subs and YouTube members credits

Listen to the podcast:

befores & afters
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VFX Notes: David Fincher and the rise of invisible VFX

Hugo Guerra (Twitter) & Ian Failes (Twitter)
October 2, 2021
Hugo’s Desk (YouTube, Patreon, Twitter, Facebook) / befores & afters

On this episode of VFX Notes, Hugo Guerra from Hugo’s Desk and Ian Failes from befores & afters dive deep into the visual effects in David Fincher films. We take an especially close look at Digital Domain‘s work for Zodiac and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Chapters:
00:00:00 – Intro
00:04:20Zodiac and the rise of invisible VFX
00:09:09 – The rise of D2 and Foundry‘s Nuke
00:18:31 – David Fincher’s methods and Zodiac‘s murder scenes
00:30:03 – Environments by DD and Matte World
00:43:41 – The VFX of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
00:57:27 – The VFX of The Social Network
01:03:15 – The VFX of Mindhunter
01:09:51 – Wrap up
01:12:45Patreon, YouTube members and Twitch Subs Credits

Listen to the podcast:

befores & afters
Apple Podcasts

Spotify
Google Podcasts

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.

Read the full profile

ILM: Mank VFX Breakdown

Mar 17, 2021
Industrial Light & Magic

Behind the Magic: The Visual Effects of MANK

ILMVFX (YouTube)

Take a look behind the invisible visual effects of ‘Mank’. ILM contributed a series of shots to the film including the various animals housed at the Hearst Castle private zoo. We created a host of photo-real CG animals to complete the scenes featuring capuchin monkeys, giraffe, elephants, and their environs such as the ornate wrought-iron victorian-era monkey’s enclosure and the gated grass area housing the roaming elephants and giraffe.

Director: David Fincher
ILM Visual Effects Supervisor: Pablo Helman
ILM Animation Supervisor: Mathew Cowie
ILM Associate Visual Effects Supervisor: Sherry Hitch
ILM Executive Visual Effects Producer: Erin Dusseault
ILM Visual Effects Producer: Flannery Huntley
ILM Associate Vfx Producer: Andrew Poole
ILM Studios: San Francisco, Vancouver

In Place

Queue gets behind the scenes with a look at Mank’s defining locations.

March 9, 2021
Netflix Queue

Shot in black and white, David Fincher’s Mank transports audiences through the sights and scenery of Golden Age Hollywood and 1930s and 40s California. With the help of soundstages, matte paintings, and a lot of research, the team behind Mank’s locations communicates the glamour and history of an epic era of moviemaking. 

Queue explores some favorites.

Territory Studio: The LED Rear Projection VFX for Mank

Territory Studio travels back to the golden era of 1930s Hollywood, delving into the development of ‘Citizen Kane’ in David Fincher’s ‘Mank‘.

December 9, 2020
Territory Studio

The brief was to recreate a section of 1930s Wilshire Boulevard to play on an LED rear projection behind Mank and his wife Sara. Authenticity was key, we wanted to ensure this recreation blended into the background seamlessly and convincingly. The final sequence feels very much as David described in our initial brief: “We’re making a 1930s style film with rear projection, but with the very latest digital technology we’ve been able to improve upon it and transport the audience back to Hollywood’s golden era.”

Simon Carr, VFX Supervisor at Territory Studio:

“It was a great privilege to work on such a visually stunning movie for an eminent director, and to be able to dive into recreating the period details of 1930’s Wilshire Boulevard. To see the sequence come together in-camera as a perfect blend of old style and new technique is the essence of how VFX should be used.”

Read the full case study

‘Mank’: Inside the World of a Synthetic LA and LED Screens

Ian Failes
December 10, 2020
befores & afters

Territory recreates Wilshire Boulevard for Mank

Jon Creamer
December 11, 2020
Televisual

A Drive Down Wilshire Blvd., ca. 1935