About Graham Edwards

I'm senior staff writer at Cinefex magazine. I also write novels. In a former life, I produced animated films for theme park rides and science centres. If you offer me a cold beer, I won't say no.

Spotlight – Dan Bethell

To create cinematic illusions, you need conjurors. In this series of spotlight interviews, we ask movie magicians what makes them tick.

Dan Bethell works as a visual effects supervisor at Rising Sun Pictures. His personal filmography highlights include Batman Begins, Mad Max: Fury Road, Thor: Ragnarok and Outlaw King.

Dan Bethell

CINEFEX: How did you get started in the business, Dan?

DAN BETHELL: I was lucky enough to find a University course for Computer Animation and Visualisation when I left secondary school. As a student I really wanted to be a graphic designer, but I’d spent (nearly) my whole life programming computers, so this seemed like a perfect way to combine what I loved with a craft I understood.

CINEFEX: What aspect of your job makes you grin from ear to ear?

DAN BETHELL: Happy accidents! Having spent a few years doing effects simulations, I love nothing more than opening up a render to something unexpected and random but beautiful. If the client likes it too, then that’s even better!

CINEFEX: And what makes you sob uncontrollably?

DAN BETHELL: I rarely sob any more but when I have in the past it’s been over having to let a shot go. It happens all the time; sometimes for editorial reasons and sometimes for aesthetic reasons. Regardless, seeing a shot that you’ve become attached to cut from a project is hard. But you get used to it over time and it’s a good reminder that we’re part of something much larger than visual effects; we’re a small, but significant, part in the story-telling process.

CINEFEX: What’s the most challenging task you’ve ever faced?

DAN BETHELL: Fury Road was the most challenging but also most rewarding project of my career. I ended up spending eight months in the Namibian desert supervising the visual effects for the ‘Action Unit’ – which is like a normal second unit but on steroids. Every day saw multiple stunts, bigger than anything I’d seen before, captured with upwards of six cameras. It was logistically challenging to say the least! It was a great lesson in how important visual effects can be as a supporting craft. Some of the visual effects work was done so that stunts could be performed safely; some was to enhance special effects; and some was simply to make the environments look more awesome than they already did. The whole project was really something special, and an opportunity I’ll always be grateful for.

CINEFEX: And what’s the weirdest task?

DAN BETHELL: There are plenty, but shooting elements is always fun and often an “am-I-really-doing-this?” moment! I have witnessed a lot of crazy – from crew sat on stepladders shooting flamethrowers into the African sky, to poking tin cans with small blue hands attached to long blue sticks, all in the name of visual effects.

CINEFEX: What changes have you observed in your field over the years?

DAN BETHELL: The convergence of rendering towards raytracing and physically based approaches has been a game changer for me, especially in a supervision role. Whereas we used to rely on cheats and hacks, we can now spend our time moving and shaping lights in a way that is intuitive to us as humans. It’s moved the whole aspect of lighting a scene away from a laborious technical exercise to a more interactive, creative process. As a supervisor, it means lighting a scene has finally become cinematic. I can ask an artist to increase exposure or flag a light, and everyone understands what to do. Hopefully we never have to use shadow maps again!

CINEFEX: And what changes would you like to see?

DAN BETHELL: Not so much a change as a continuation – I’d love to see visual effects continue to collaborate with other film departments early in the process. When visual effects is considered a last resort, or simply a post-process, then the whole project suffers. Often if we’re involved in a project earlier, not only can we bring the visual effects shot-count down, but the shots that do have to be visual effects can be planned and executed more efficiently, which means better results in a more cost-effective manner. Everyone appreciates that.

CINEFEX: What advice would you give to someone starting out in the business?

DAN BETHELL: Focus on some things that might not be immediately related to the day-to-day work we do. Mental and physical well-being is so important, especially when working long hours in a stressful environment. Also, I find a good work ethic, a disciplined approach to your day, and a pragmatic, stoic attitude to what we do is really valuable. There will always be problems to solve and hard challenges that come up; rather than worrying about them, or trying to avoid them, your time will be much better spent preparing for them.

CINEFEX: If you were to host a mini-festival of your three favorite effects movies, what would you put on the bill, and why?

DAN BETHELL: It’d be a 80’s family affair featuring Labyrinth, Ghostbusters and The Goonies. These are three great movies that show that visual effects can be a spectacle whilst still serving a story. All the visual effects work here is well-considered and beautifully executed. On a personal level, these are movies that inspired so much awe and imagination in me as a child, and I love to see that same emotion evoked in other young people. I’ve no doubt that it’s that magic and inspiration that got me where I am today!

CINEFEX: What’s your favorite movie theater snack?

DAN BETHELL: Popcorn of course. No butter though – that’s weird.

CINEFEX: Dan, thanks for your time!

Cinefex – Adapting to the New Normal

Cinefex

A message to our readers from Cinefex publisher Gregg Shay

In ways large and small, barely a soul on the planet has been left unaffected by the coronavirus crisis, and the uncertainty of future developments amidst the accelerating speed of the virus’ worldwide spread, is worrisome to all, to say the least.

Almost every company I do business with has reached out in the last two weeks, offering words of support and sympathy to their customers and clients, and advising them of what’s going on in their corner of the business world.  A growing number of states in the U.S. — including ours — are in lockdown, with countless businesses, large and small, shuttered for the duration, and the populace advised or directed to stay at home.

I am happy to report to you that Cinefex has adapted to this new — and hopefully temporary — normal.  All of our team members are working at home and, subject to unforeseen events, we expect to continue publishing on our regular schedule.  Our April issue is on the presses now, and our writers are already deep into their coverage for the following issue.

For our many subscribers who receive their issues at work and, like us, are now laboring from home for an indefinite period of time, may we suggest that you consider changing your Cinefex delivery to your home address?  We’d like to think our magazine will give you an enjoyable respite from the ceaseless bad news of the day.

And for those of you who typically purchase Cinefex from bookstores and other retail outlets, may we further suggest that this would be a good time to preorder the coming issue or, better yet, subscribe to the magazine.  With people confined at home and many of our retail outlets now closed for who knows how long, arranging for receipt of your issues by mail will insure that they reliably find a way into your hands.  We’d hate for you to miss an issue. In closing, I wish you and yours the very best.  Be attentive, be cautious, and stay well.  All this shall pass.

The Illusionists — Eric Brevig

Open up our 40th anniversary celebration issue, Cinefex 169, and you’ll find The Illusionists, a giant roundtable discussion in which 21 Oscar-winning visual effects supervisors debate the past, present and future of cinematic illusions. We recorded over 14 hours of interview material for the article, and inevitably some of it ended up on the cutting room floor. In this series of short blogs, we’re pleased to share a few of our favorite outtakes. To read the full roundtable, pick up your copy of Cinefex 169.

The Cinefex Illusionists - Eric Brevig

CINEFEX — You were visual effects supervisor on the original Total Recall back in 1990. Would it be easier to make that film today?

ERIC BREVIG — Yes, because now we have far more control, especially with all those things we had to create with physical effects, like the volcano explosion. In the old barnstorming days of pyrotechnics, you were at the mercy of physics and luck. Now, using dynamic simulations and so forth, you have precise control. It’s not easy, but it’s completely achievable.

CINEFEX — The effects in Total Recall were mostly traditional, but a little bit of digital work did creep in — like those animated skeletons on the X-ray scanner.

ERIC BREVIG — Exactly. They were digitally created but photochemically composited. I do remember the first time we used a computer to composite an image, on The Abyss. Prior to that it was brute force with photochemical processes and optically copied images, working blind until you saw the processed film. It was revolutionary, the ability to watch in real time when you were assembling images. That was the first milestone, and the second was creating images without having to use a camera. The two of those together is what revolutionized visual effects.

CINEFEX — Since then, we’ve progressed from animated skeletons to complete animated humans that are practically indistinguishable from the real thing.

ERIC BREVIG — Well, the digital human has been the Holy Grail for a long time. There’s an almost infinite number of subtleties in a human face. I think we’re right at the cusp of being able to do that. The Irishman is probably the best recent example of taking digital doubles of actors and putting them on camera without making any effort to hide the trickery. Some shots are better than others but, given enough time and money, we can now make something that’s indistinguishable from the real thing.

CINEFEX — And if you don’t have time and money?

ERIC BREVIG — Use trickery. Don’t let the audience get a good look at something that you can’t do perfectly. That’s what filmmaking has always been about, anyway — selectively showing the audience pieces of something that’s not really complete, but convincing them it is.

CINEFEX — And telling a great story.

ERIC BREVIG — Of course. Think about E.T., which only moved people to tears because of what the filmmakers and actors were doing around the effects. I think that still holds. No matter how we get the fantastic images on the screen, we feel the power from the story that’s being told. When the two are working hand in hand, it’s amazing. It’s why I got into the industry.

Cinefex is a bimonthly magazine devoted to motion picture visual effects. Since 1980, it has been the bible for effects professionals and enthusiasts, covering the field like no other publication. Profusely illustrated in color, with in-depth articles and interviews, Cinefex offers a captivating look at the technologies and techniques behind many of our most popular and enduring movies.

Cinefex 169 - The Illusionists

The Illusionists — Stephen Rosenbaum

Open up our 40th anniversary celebration issue, Cinefex 169, and you’ll find The Illusionists, a giant roundtable discussion in which 21 Oscar-winning visual effects supervisors debate the past, present and future of cinematic illusions. We recorded over 14 hours of interview material for the article, and inevitably some of it ended up on the cutting room floor. In this series of short blogs, we’re pleased to share a few of our favorite outtakes. To read the full roundtable, pick up your copy of Cinefex 169.

The Cinefex Illusionists - Stephen Rosenbaum

CINEFEX — What inspired you to get into the visual effects business?

STEPHEN ROSENBAUM — For me, it all started with Star Wars. I was teenager in Los Angeles and I waited in line probably a dozen times to see that movie — I just couldn’t get enough of it. By the time I was going into university, I knew I wanted to get into that field. I was really into computers, but in that era there were no universities doing visual effects with computers. I found a small school in Berkeley that offered some computer graphics, and somehow ended up developing my own curriculum combining computer science, design and film to create a degree.

CINEFEX — You reached Industrial Light & Magic just in time to start working on The Abyss. How did that come about?

STEPHEN ROSENBAUM — It was really just timing. As I came out of university, George Lucas had just sold off the original ILM computer graphics department. They moved to the next building and formed Pixar, and a new computer department was formed at ILM. I was one of the early members there, a technical assistant. I was very much that geek-artist combo, hooked on the idea of making imagery using computers. It was like a drug to me.

CINEFEX — Back then the buzzword was ‘digital.’ Now, there’s a lot of people throwing around the term ‘virtual production.’ Do you see visual effects and virtual production working hand in hand?

STEPHEN ROSENBAUM — I do. In fact, my role on Avatar was to straddle that fence. Up to that point, the director was always directing animated performances in postproduction, often with great frustration. You typically had characters being animated by an army of maybe 50 animators, which meant you often ended up with inconsistent or diluted performances. Here, we suddenly had a chance to flip it on its head and let the director direct the performances in camera. I spent two years on a mocap stage with Jim Cameron doing just that and it was huge, not only for Jim but for us, because we didn’t have to second-guess on what performances he wanted in postproduction, and we didn’t have the inefficiencies of the back-and-forth exchange during reviews. Avatar was the first time we’d been able to do that.

Cinefex is a bimonthly magazine devoted to motion picture visual effects. Since 1980, it has been the bible for effects professionals and enthusiasts, covering the field like no other publication. Profusely illustrated in color, with in-depth articles and interviews, Cinefex offers a captivating look at the technologies and techniques behind many of our most popular and enduring movies.

Cinefex 169 - The Illusionists

The Illusionists — John Nelson

Open up our 40th anniversary celebration issue, Cinefex 169, and you’ll find The Illusionists, a giant roundtable discussion in which 21 Oscar-winning visual effects supervisors debate the past, present and future of cinematic illusions. We recorded over 14 hours of interview material for the article, and inevitably some of it ended up on the cutting room floor. In this series of short blogs, we’re pleased to share a few of our favorite outtakes. To read the full roundtable, pick up your copy of Cinefex 169.

The Cinefex Illusionists - John Nelson

CINEFEX — What’s your approach when you start a new visual effects project? Do you have an overall philosophy that you always tap into?

JOHN NELSON — I always ask the question: “What’s the big idea that visual effects is bringing to this movie?” When we did Gladiator, we wanted the audience to feel the overwhelming technological and sociological superiority of Rome. With Iron Man, the audience had to believe a 1,000-pound suit could fly. Then, what really excites me is making something visually beautiful, that looks real, and which supports the story.

CINEFEX — The opening sequence of Gladiator certainly does all that. Those epic shots of the Roman army pounding the barbarians.

JOHN NELSON — You know, we did that big panning shot with locked-off Vistavision plates stitched together. We took the lens distortion out, then added all the effects. Because it was locked off, it was a lot easier to sync everything. Then we did the camera move afterwards, and put the lens distortion back in.

CINEFEX — That’s the part that makes it look real. But it’s also beautiful, like you said.

JOHN NELSON — That’s Ridley Scott. He’s a master painter. I remember in our first meeting, he said, “I want it all to be a world of blue, and the only thing that’s warm is the fire they’re shooting out.” Denis Villeneuve, who I worked with on Blade Runner 2049, is another painter.

CINEFEX — What creative direction did you get from Denis on Blade Runner 2049?

JOHN NELSON — The ethos for that whole movie was restraining everything so the story could come forward. Denis did not want anything to look like a visual effects shot. He didn’t want anything to smell like a visual effects shot! Everything had to look like Roger Deakins had shot it. Then, whenever we found something that really worked, we would get incredibly excited. When we saw the two women’s eyes line up to form the third woman in the apartment scene, Denis and I were like, “Wow, that’s really something.” We’d created a picture that reverberates the storyline and looks really cool at the same time.

Cinefex is a bimonthly magazine devoted to motion picture visual effects. Since 1980, it has been the bible for effects professionals and enthusiasts, covering the field like no other publication. Profusely illustrated in color, with in-depth articles and interviews, Cinefex offers a captivating look at the technologies and techniques behind many of our most popular and enduring movies.

Cinefex 169 - The Illusionists

The Illusionists — Eric Barba

Open up our 40th anniversary celebration issue, Cinefex 169, and you’ll find The Illusionists, a giant roundtable discussion in which 21 Oscar-winning visual effects supervisors debate the past, present and future of cinematic illusions. We recorded over 14 hours of interview material for the article, and inevitably some of it ended up on the cutting room floor. In this series of short blogs, we’re pleased to share a few of our favorite outtakes. To read the full roundtable, pick up your copy of Cinefex 169.

The Cinefex Illusionists - Eric Barba

CINEFEX — Lots of people in visual effects talk about the impact Star Wars had on them at a young age. Are you one of those people?

ERIC BARBA – Absolutely. As a ten year-old, I had my mind blown when I saw the first trailer for Star Wars on television. It literally blew my mind. I’d never seen anything like it. Close Encounters of the Third Kind was also memorable, but Star Wars reallyopened my eyes up to a whole new world.

CINEFEX — Has that sense of wonder stayed with you through your career?

ERIC BARBA — It’s what drives me. I love working with artists and sharing the excitement they have in pushing the envelope to create some cool thing that looks amazing.

CINEFEX — You’ve worked consistently with some directors who also like to push the envelope — like David Fincher.

ERIC BARBA — Certainly. I worked on many commercials and a music video with David prior to doing Zodiac and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

CINEFEX — What’s he like to work with?

ERIC BARBA — David is a non-compromising filmmaker. He has a vision of how he wants to tell a story, and it’s going to be told his way or he’s not going to do it. For Benjamin Button, he had gotten a bid from this other company and they’d told him to pick a dozen or so shots to focus on and do the rest over the shoulder, or with stand-ins. His response was, “No, that’s not how I want to shoot my movie.” He wanted to shoot little Benjamin the way he shot every other actor.

CINEFEX — Which meant going all-in with a digital character.

ERIC BARBA — It became the only way. David pushed Digital Domain to develop the techniques he needed to shoot it the way he wanted, and tell the story he wanted to tell. He was supportive and gave me and my team everything we needed to succeed. By sheer will, he made sure it happened.

CINEFEX — You’ve worked with David on many films since. How important is it to have that kind of ongoing relationship, creatively speaking?

ERIC BARBA — I think it’s crucial. There’s nothing in the world like having the trust of your director, the belief that you and your team can get something done. I’ve worked a lot with David, and also Joe Kosinski, and they’re both visionaries in their own ways. They work very differently, but they’re alike in that they trust the people they hire and give them the room to run. David only has to give me a look and I’m like, “Yeah, I know, I’m on it!”

Cinefex is a bimonthly magazine devoted to motion picture visual effects. Since 1980, it has been the bible for effects professionals and enthusiasts, covering the field like no other publication. Profusely illustrated in color, with in-depth articles and interviews, Cinefex offers a captivating look at the technologies and techniques behind many of our most popular and enduring movies.

Cinefex 169 - The Illusionists

The Illusionists — Scott E. Anderson

Open up our 40th anniversary celebration issue, Cinefex 169, and you’ll find The Illusionists, a giant roundtable discussion in which 21 Oscar-winning visual effects supervisors debate the past, present and future of cinematic illusions. We recorded over 14 hours of interview material for the article, and inevitably some of it ended up on the cutting room floor. In this series of short blogs, we’re pleased to share a few of our favorite outtakes. To read the full roundtable, pick up your copy of Cinefex 169.

The Cinefex Illusionists - Scott E. Anderson

CINEFEX — Give us some memorable moments from your early career.

SCOTT E. ANDERSON — I remember being at Industrial Light & Magic when the script for Terminator 2 came in. I read it and thought, “I have no idea how we’re going to do this, but I believe it can be done.” What really impressed me was how Jim Cameron took what he had learned from what we’d done on The Abyss, and pushed it in the direction of both spectacle and story. He knew where we were, and put out a challenge that was a giant step beyond that line.

CINEFEX —Did each step you took feel like a new a milestone?

SCOTT E. ANDERSON — Oh, the milestones would fall regularly. I remember the first time at ILM when we got a hard drive big enough that we could fit a whole shot on. Later, I did Hollow Man, which was the first show that ran over a terabyte of storage at Sony Pictures Imageworks. That terabyte of storage was distributed along a whole city block, all the way along the building!

CINEFEX — Everything just gets bigger, year by year. Drive capacity, the number of shots in a show, the size of the team you need to get the work done.

SCOTT E. ANDERSON — Yeah, you flash back to just 12 of us in the ILM computer graphics group doing The Abyss, and now on a big show you’ve got 2,400 people scattered across the globe. What was magic when I started is now a commodity. People are shopping based on price and location and rebates. That’s worrying, but on the other hand you now have interesting independent films that have visual effects. That’s an interesting place to be as a filmmaker.

CINEFEX — So the small films can be as rewarding as the big ones, perhaps even more so?

SCOTT E. ANDERSON — Yes. In the current world of filmmaking, when almost everything is affected by visual effects, we have a much wider range of projects to work on and filmmakers to collaborate with. The early days of visual effects were more rarefied. You had only high end companies dealing with only spectacularly talented filmmakers. Of course, you won’t make the same money if you choose to work on low-budget films, but you will get to help the filmmakers you want to help. That is a great thing.

Cinefex is a bimonthly magazine devoted to motion picture visual effects. Since 1980, it has been the bible for effects professionals and enthusiasts, covering the field like no other publication. Profusely illustrated in color, with in-depth articles and interviews, Cinefex offers a captivating look at the technologies and techniques behind many of our most popular and enduring movies.

Cinefex 169 - The Illusionists

The Illusionists — Andrew Whitehurst

Open up our 40th anniversary celebration issue, Cinefex 169, and you’ll find The Illusionists, a giant roundtable discussion in which 21 Oscar-winning visual effects supervisors debate the past, present and future of cinematic illusions. We recorded over 14 hours of interview material for the article, and inevitably some of it ended up on the cutting room floor. In this series of short blogs, we’re pleased to share a few of our favorite outtakes. To read the full roundtable, pick up your copy of Cinefex 169.

The Cinefex Illusionists - Andrew Whitehurst

CINEFEX — Where did your visual effects journey begin?

ANDREW WHITEHURST — There was a science documentary series on the BBC called Horizon. They had one episode which must have been broadcast just after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom came out, because that was mostly what it covered — although it did have some Star Wars stuff in it. It was a 40-50 minute documentary about how all these visual effects were done.

CINEFEX — Was that the one titled How to Film the Impossible?

ANDREW WHITEHURST — That’s the one. I watched it again a couple of years ago on YouTube. I was still astonished at the work, and the magic of it, because it’s just beautiful. Watching it again, I still had that feeling of, “Wow, this is just amazing.”

CINEFEX — So that documentary sowed the seed?

ANDREW WHITEHURST — Yes. Until that point, it had never really crossed my mind that what I was seeing on a screen was a creation of anything. I don’t believe I’d ever even thought about movies being shot on sets, let alone something as specific as visual effects. But I’d always liked making models, so the idea of those people at ILM making models that looked like tiny versions of larger-scale things and shooting them with converted Nikon SLRs, or the idea that you could create an entire vista by having an incredibly skilled artist paint something on glass — all of that was just magical to me. From then on, I just started to get obsessed. When I was ten or eleven I started reading ‘making of’ books, particularly anything related to Star Wars. I was still doing that when I started going to art college.

CINEFEX — You said you used to like making models, but your visual effects career has played out mostly in the digital realm, most recently with films like Ex Machina and Annihilation.

ANDREW WHITEHURST — Professionally, I built one model and did one matte painting, both for a pilot for something that never happened. That was just as I was graduating. That’s the only hands-on practical work I’ve ever done personally, although I’ve worked on projects that have used miniatures.

CINEFEX — Do the practical skills inform your approach when working digitally?

ANDREW WHITEHURST — They do, but only in as much as I’m interested in trying to make beautiful imagery using non-standard techniques — in other words, not making a full-size set and shooting it. I like doing that as well, but I also like the magic of constructing something that, when you look at it, you think it’s something else.

CINEFEX — So you’re more interested in the final illusion, rather than the means of producing it?

ANDREW WHITEHURST — For me, it’s all about the final image. At college, whether I was doing a painting with a brush on a piece of board, or with a mouse on an Amiga, it didn’t really matter. I was more interested in how that image made me feel. What that image did to other people when they looked at it. The actual technology, in and of itself, has just never been that important to me.

Cinefex is a bimonthly magazine devoted to motion picture visual effects. Since 1980, it has been the bible for effects professionals and enthusiasts, covering the field like no other publication. Profusely illustrated in color, with in-depth articles and interviews, Cinefex offers a captivating look at the technologies and techniques behind many of our most popular and enduring movies.

Cinefex 169 - The Illusionists

The Illusionists — Tim Webber

Open up our 40th anniversary celebration issue, Cinefex 169, and you’ll find The Illusionists, a giant roundtable discussion in which 21 Oscar-winning visual effects supervisors debate the past, present and future of cinematic illusions. We recorded over 14 hours of interview material for the article, and inevitably some of it ended up on the cutting room floor. In this series of short blogs, we’re pleased to share a few of our favorite outtakes. To read the full roundtable, pick up your copy of Cinefex 169.

The Cinefex Illusionists - Tim Webber

CINEFEX — What route did you take into the visual effects business?

TIM WEBBER — Well, I actually got into the digital side of the industry working on adverts and pop promos, before feature film visual effects were being done digitally. As the digital work moved into film, I moved with it. I started at Framestore when it was just 15 people, and we weren’t working on films at all. Framestore and I sort of grew into the industry as it developed.

CINEFEX — You picked up a Oscar for visual effects on Gravity, but what was your first job as visual effects supervisor on a feature-length project?

TIM WEBBER — That would be the mini-series Gulliver’s Travels with Ted Danson. We had hundreds of visual effects shots, back in a time when a movie would have been lucky to have 20 shots. I’d started out using an early Quantel Harry, one of the first one or two in the world. The storage on it was something like 90 seconds! By the time I did Gulliver’s Travels we were using a Quantel Henry. At the time, that was a massive step forwards.

CINEFEX — Did your experience on ads and music videos help you make the transition to features?

TIM WEBBER — Yes, it did. One advantage was that, on those short form promos, the whole visual effects department would be me! I would see everything through from beginning to end over a period of a few months, and be very involved in the whole process of filmmaking and everything to do with it. That flowed quite well into visual effects supervising on films, even though the technology was quite different. I was still about deciding what to shoot, what to do in post, what worked and what didn’t, how to distract the eye. There was a lot more sleight-of-hand in those days, because you couldn’t just do everything.

Cinefex is a bimonthly magazine devoted to motion picture visual effects. Since 1980, it has been the bible for effects professionals and enthusiasts, covering the field like no other publication. Profusely illustrated in color, with in-depth articles and interviews, Cinefex offers a captivating look at the technologies and techniques behind many of our most popular and enduring movies.

Cinefex 169 - The Illusionists

The Illusionists — Paul Lambert

Open up our 40th anniversary celebration issue, Cinefex 169, and you’ll find The Illusionists, a giant roundtable discussion in which 21 Oscar-winning visual effects supervisors debate the past, present and future of cinematic illusions. We recorded over 14 hours of interview material for the article, and inevitably some of it ended up on the cutting room floor. In this series of short blogs, we’re pleased to share a few of our favorite outtakes. To read the full roundtable, pick up your copy of Cinefex 169.

The Cinefex Illusionists - Paul Lambert

CINEFEX — What films inspired you as a kid?

PAUL LAMBERT — I spent my youth watching and rewatching Star Wars. That and The Sound of Music were the only films I had on home video, and I watched them hundreds of times. They’re both very close to my heart. At that time, it didn’t register that these fantastic worlds were actually being created by people. Later on, I went to college and did aerospace — I was actually on my way to making rockets. But it wasn’t really for me and I got a bit lost. I went to art school because I had a deep urge to be creative, then got a job servicing Steinbecks and Moviolas. That’s how I found the film industry.

CINEFEX — No doubt your interest in aerospace paid off while you were working on First Man. How did you make the switch from servicing the equipment to using it?

PAUL LAMBERT — I started off as a runner at Cinesite, where I spent all my nights learning how to use the Flame and Inferno setups. It was a different time back then. The Flame suites would be unlocked and you could go in there and learn in your own time. Nowadays you go to school for all that stuff.

CINEFEX — Visual effects facilities are much more structured now, in so many ways.

PAUL LAMBERT — That’s true, and it’s partly because they have to protect themselves from client changes for this, that and the other. You know, I think the key to managing all that is having an independent team close to the director to do quickfire test and visuals. Then you can leave the photoreal part to the bigger facilities who have that kind of infrastructure.

CINEFEX — You’re talking about the in-house team, which has become increasingly important in recent years. As overall visual effects supervisor on a show, you’re working cheek-by-jowl with that team during post. Does that give you the chance to get hands-on yourself?

PAUL LAMBERT — Well, I’m working on Dune at the moment, and just the other day I got on my laptop and turned around a quick temp shot of an ornithopter taking off. I was actually quite proud of myself — it’s been a while!

Cinefex is a bimonthly magazine devoted to motion picture visual effects. Since 1980, it has been the bible for effects professionals and enthusiasts, covering the field like no other publication. Profusely illustrated in color, with in-depth articles and interviews, Cinefex offers a captivating look at the technologies and techniques behind many of our most popular and enduring movies.

Cinefex 169 - The Illusionists