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.

VIEW Conference 2018 – Interview Roundup

VIEW Conference 2018 - Hans Zimmer, Dennis Muren, Rob Bredow, Geoffrey Baumann, John Gaeta, Dadi Einarsson

From 22-26 October, 2018, the Italian city of Turin hosted the 19th international VIEW Conference, celebrating visual effects, computer graphics, interactive techniques, digital cinema, animation, virtual and augmented reality, and gaming. Cinefex was there through the week, enjoying a host of presentations on some of the latest achievements and trends in visual effects and other disciplines.

The event took place in the heart of Turin at OGR (Officine Grandi Riparazioni), a spectacularly refurbished 19th century industrial complex. The former railroad workshops, with their high steel-framed ceilings, were the perfect backdrop for a stellar series of talks, workshops and masterclasses delivered by top talent, including keynote speeches by industry legends Hans Zimmer and Dennis Muren.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll have seen some of the interviews we conducted at VIEW Conference popping up online through the week. In case you missed them, here are all the articles we’ve posted so far:

If you’re hungry for more, fear not. We’ll be posting more articles through this week, catching up with some more of the people we spoke to at VIEW Conference. Look out for interviews with:

  • David Vickery, visual effects supervisor, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  • Matt Aitken, visual effects supervisor, Weta Digital
  • Florian Gellinger, co-founder and executive visual effects producer, Rise
  • Jay Worth – visual effects supervisor, Westworld

David Vickery, Matt Aitken, Florian Gellinger, Jay Worth

We’d like to say a huge “thank you” to everyone at VIEW Conference who made us so welcome, especially Maria Elena Gutierrez, Steven Argula and Rick Rhoades. If you have a space in your 2019 calendar, make sure you save the date for next year’s event, scheduled for 21-25 October, 2019.

John Gaeta – Entering the Magicverse Age

John Gaeta - Magicverse

John Gaeta is an Academy Award-winning innovator known for his visual effects work on The Matrix trilogy. Having co-founded ILMxLAB, he is now senior vice president of creative strategy at Magic Leap. On Friday 26 October, the final day of VIEW Conference 2018, he will deliver the event’s penultimate address: a keynote presentation on nothing less than the future of immersive media, entitled What is the Magicverse? Cinefex sat down with John before his presentation to discuss what this question means, and why he’s asking it.

CINEFEX: So, John, what exactly is the Magicverse?

JOHN GAETA: First, what we’re talking about is an emerging, mixed reality platform. That means being able to walk around in the real world, and have any form of experience you can imagine existing right there with you in the real world. This is the conversation we want to have – when, and in what way, will we be able to do that?

Now, I’m not a computer graphics engineer. I’m closer to the creative side, a person who thinks about form and moments. But I’ve always got along well with the engineers because they can get you to a certain place that expresses a moment powerfully. This has always been the nature of computer graphics in relation to cinema – getting us to places we haven’t been to before. But, the language of engineers tends to be a little bit antiseptic. We have terms like “spatial computing,” which really means interactive applications that exist in space. Another term that’s being thrown around is “AR cloud,” because if you have a room filled with visual effects that are dynamically changing all the time, you have to hold all that somewhere, and the place where we hold it is in the cloud.

CINEFEX: So you want to call it something different?

JOHN GAETA: Right, because if you say “spatial computing” or “AR cloud” to the everyday person, they’ll be like, “I don’t know what that is, and I don’t really care.” What makes this compelling for people is that it’s an experience. So we’re calling it the “Magicverse,” which is a really simple way of making it human. The term describes this new, hybrid between the real and digital worlds, where wondrous things can be found.

CINEFEX: Are you talking primarily about entertainment?

JOHN GAETA: Absolutely not. We have to decouple from the idea that this is about games and entertainment, because it’s about all things. These interactive applications can be about anything – education, transportation, healthcare, government, economics and, yes, entertainment as well. We’re talking about applications in every form of business, not just on a device, but overlaid like visual effects on top of real things, and involving groups of people interacting together, some of them not necessarily physically there.

CINEFEX: When you apply the word “Magicverse” to that concept, it brings to mind the famous quote by Arthur C. Clarke, that goes something like: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

JOHN GAETA: Yes, and that’s important, because what this does is it sparks human imagination. But there’s a reason why we’re posing this as a question: “What is the Magicverse?” It’s because we don’t have the answer, entirely. There’s no one company that can monolithically make such a thing, just like no one company made the internet. The term is a focusing tool. We can have a conversation around it, so that people can try to describe what they think are the right attributes, both conceptually and architecturally.

CINEFEX: The terminology is critical, isn’t it? You say “virtual reality” and everybody immediately thinks of great big headsets. Or you say “mixed reality” and people say, “What’s that?”

JOHN GAETA: Right, because it’s the destination and the experience that people care about, in all cases. And again, forget entertainment. Let’s say I was able to perform an open heart surgery because the world’s greatest expert was able to join me via this application that allowed some level of participation from afar. That co-presence has enabled someone’s life to be saved.

CINEFEX: Historians love to label eras. You’ve got the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the Digital Age … do you think that this world you’re describing is the next age in history?

JOHN GAETA: Yeah, I do, for sure. There’s already evidence of it happening everywhere. You can train with it, design with it, you can show a simulation of your new building in situ. It’s technically challenged in certain ways right now, but that will improve when we can wirelessly broadcast high bandwidth. The turning point in that respect will be 5G, I think.

CINEFEX: They say you can’t tell the time by looking at the second hand. Well, you’re looking at the whole clock here. Looking at the big picture.

JOHN GAETA: Yeah, that’s where I’m at now. You just have to get old! Look, I started working in film with stop-motion, did motion control programming, figured out how miniatures could be rapid-prototyped with machines, worked with the people who were figuring out how computer graphics could be used to visualize, and to control cameras. At that point we suddenly had to work out how to align computer graphics with real world things, understand light, track people … all these things that were seminal bits of understanding. When you do that enough years in a row, and see it become this amazing innovation in cinema, well, then you want to do all of those same things in real time, in the real world.

CINEFEX: So all these things that we’re going to see in the Magicverse, they’ll be at the same quality level as cinema visual effects?

JOHN GAETA: Yes, that’s going to happen, and it won’t be too long. If we were to do a service to the visual effects industry, we would make them aware that their work is going to start spilling out into the real world. Except we’ll be making those visual effects dynamic and adaptive to the places where we’re positioning them. We’re going to be adding virtual components to the real world, and it will be flawlessly real. The artisans who create these expressive, compelling things are going to be vital to make that a joyful, wondrous thing. Or a crazy, dark, insane adventure!

CINEFEX: When you talk about the artisans who are going to make these visions possible, you’re talking about visual effects artists, right?

JOHN GAETA: Well, the tech industry is getting ready for high fidelity graphics, and there are brilliant people in the visual effects industry who can cross over. In the last four or five years, I’ve seen computer graphics people who have adapted to real-time. I’ve seen visual effects being plucked. The studio system had better get wise to the fact that their core talent for visual effects is getting drawn away by these groups that are going to not only make it more difficult to make these big movies, they’re probably going to buy the studios themselves!

CINEFEX: So, the Magicverse is coming. Where will it materialize first?

JOHN GAETA: The cities are going to get this first, because that’s where you’ll get 5G. Cities are going to start getting populated with cinematic worlds. The thing that always slows down the pace is markets, but certain markets exist already, like theme parks. Imagine turning a castle in Edinburgh into a Harry Potter immersive experience. You could adjust the appearance of the real physical spaces with the fantasy elements, with the magic. People would love that, and it would work as a business concept. If Walt Disney were alive today, do you think he would take the components of his films and transfer them over to his physical lands? Absolutely he would.

View Conference 2018

VIEW Conference 2018 takes place  at the Officine Grandi Riparazioni (OGR) in Torino, Italy, October 22 to 26, 2018. Check out the full program of talks, workshops, panels, and masterclasses at the VIEW Conference website.

Geoffrey Baumann – Collaboration and the Making of “Black Panther”

Geoffrey Baumann - VFX supervisor of Black Panther

With nearly 20 years under his belt as a visual effects supervisor, Geoffrey Baumann has worked on films ranging from The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 to Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. Cinefex caught up with Geoffrey at VIEW Conference 2018, where he gave an in-depth presentation about his experiences as visual effects supervisor on Black Panther.

CINEFEX: Geoffrey, in your talk at VIEW Conference you stressed the importance of collaboration. How did that feature in the making of Black Panther?

GEOFFREY BAUMANN: Well, it was a collaboration between all the different departments. In preproduction, Ryan Meinerding at Marvel might hand off one of his design concepts to Ruth Carter in costume, and then our production designer Hannah Beachler would also put it on the walls in one of the sets. Hannah came up with the Wakandan alphabet, and that alphabet ended up on the Black Panther suit. All of that tied together the story that Ryan Coogler wanted to tell, subliminally and without any words.

CINEFEX: And the same thing carried through to postproduction?

GEOFFREY BAUMANN: Yes, another part of the collaboration was about sharing things with the visual effects houses. We gave them Hannah’s Wakandan design bible, plus a similar wealth of imagery for the costumes from Ruth, and Rachel Morrison, the DOP, had a look book too. Those things gave us all a common ground to start with. We had the guys at Perception guide the overall look of the tech in the film; Ryan responded well to their ideas, so we fed those in little packets to all the vendors.

CINEFEX: How did a typical day unfold for you as production visual effects supervisor during principal photography? Let’s take the waterfall fight as an example sequence.

GEOFFREY BAUMANN: We were shooting the waterfall, I think, around the middle of March 2017, in Atlanta. Our call times were between 7:00-8:00am, because we were shooting exterior and trying to maximize the sun. I would generally try to get to set between an hour and an hour and a half before call; not all the department heads were there at that time, so I would see them arriving, and as soon as Ryan arrived or Lisa Satriano, our first assistant director, we would have a walkthrough of what was expected for that day.

CINEFEX: Were you looking at specific technical issues at this stage?

GEOFFREY BAUMANN: I would look at where the bluescreens were set up, knowing where we had ended the day before, just to catch anything that needed shifting. Because once the machine starts moving, with all that heavy equipment involved, if I wanted to lift a bluescreen to the other side of the set, that could take up to 30 minutes. But really, the first thing I’d be thinking about is, “What looks wrong?”

CINEFEX: So how long before you were ready to start shooting?

GEOFFREY BAUMANN: Well, on that waterfall set, it took a while to get all of the background in. We had extras up on the cliff, and the camera department had to make all their gear safe because we were shooting in water. Eventually, everyone would start converging on that pool of water, and I would start working with Lisa to get people off the set.

CINEFEX: Were you shooting continuous days?

GEOFFREY BAUMANN: Yeah, 10-hour days with a walking lunch, so the day was pretty much non-stop. There would be a pause every now and then for people to take a restroom break – that took a little time, because they were all attached for safety. Otherwise we would go until the light just wasn’t working any more. In the morning we were shooting towards the east, because Rachel was going for this backlit look, and we would slowly work our way around so by the end of the day we would be looking west.

CINEFEX: You said you started out looking for what was wrong on the set. Was that your focus through the whole of the day?

GEOFFREY BAUMANN: Yes – sort of unfortunately, because I also wanted to help Ryan push the creative story, to make things beautiful and right. But, nowadays, the visual effects department has somehow become the police for continuity on set, whether it’s wardrobe, or how wet someone is, or all the things you don’t want to see like parking cones and water bottles. Go back 20 years and if someone left their water bottle in the shot there’d be an announcement to the whole crew to clean up after yourselves. Now, I think there’s a perception that visual effects can clean things up easily, so that responsibility can get shirked a little bit.

CINEFEX: Is that also to do with the pace at which the shoot moves?

GEOFFREY BAUMANN: Yes, there’s a number of other factors, but the thing is I’m the last person in the train. Regardless of whether it’s wardrobe or props that made a mistake, it’s visual effects that has to fix it. So, I’d rather be watching on the day and flag things up, because it’s in my interest in a few months time when I’d really rather be focusing on waterfalls and set extensions, not cleaning up water bottles.

CINEFEX: What’s caused this shift in responsibility, do you think?

GEOFFREY BAUMANN: It’s not that people don’t care any more, or departments don’t want ownership. I think it’s because the machine of moviemaking has become a little unwieldy at times. I think people want to help, but they don’t always know how. So I’ll keep running around picking up water bottles until the assistant directors start yelling at me, and I find that once people see me doing that, they start to pay attention and help as well. And that’s collaboration too, because if the grips see me out there straightening out the bluescreen, next time they’ll maybe think to do it themselves. And then, I get the key grip coming to me and saying things like, “Hey, I remember on tech-scout you said you’d need a 30×30 blue. Well, I’ve got that set up on the side for you.” People start being proactive, and that’s when the collaboration really is working. That’s what I enjoy, when it’s a crazy day and I didn’t have the time to look ahead, but I turn around and there’s someone with what I need already set up. There’s a partnership and a camaraderie that comes with that.

CINEFEX: At the other end of the schedule, when you’re in the last couple of weeks before delivery, are you basically up all day bouncing around the world from one cineSync review to another?

GEOFFREY BAUMANN: That’s pretty much how it is! I mean, the Marvel team chase the best story, until the film is almost pulled out of their hands. I think it shows, and people appreciate that, but it can make my life kind of crazy, because the pieces are always shifting. I know it’s always for the better, so I always try to stay positive, and to keep the vendors positive too. During the last week on Black Panther, there were a handful of days where I would spend the night at the office, but in general we would get in around 8:00am and stay until 11:00pm, spending that whole time in the screening room doing cineSyncs.

CINEFEX: Which vendors were first on the list?

GEOFFREY BAUMANN: We had vendors all over the world, so we would usually start at 8:00am with Germany. Actually, at this point I was working a lot with Method Studios up in Vancouver, so I would get things from them in the evening, look at their shots and give them notes which they would try to turn around by 1:00am or 2:00am the next day, so I could look at them again by 4:00am. Towards the end, we were also having two studio reviews a day with Kevin Feige, Victoria Alonso and Lou D’Esposito – one mid or late morning, then another one at say 3:00pm. If things were really moving, we’d maybe have a third meeting at around 8:00-9:00pm.

CINEFEX: Because this is crunch time not just for you, but for the entire Marvel Studios team, right?

GEOFFREY BAUMANN: Right, and you’ve got to remember that at this point it wasn’t just Black Panther. They were also working on Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp was still going … they had all of these other projects that they were focusing on. We also had digital intermediate sessions going on at the same time. After the studio review we would often go straight to a DI session. I would generally try to get stuff updated for that at 6:00am, hopefully leaving enough time to get it to Technicolor so that we had all the latest and greatest in the DI. Otherwise you’re looking at visual effects that are one version up from what’s in the DI, which isn’t ideal.

CINEFEX: By now, you’re looking at shots that you’ve seen about a zillion times, and that you probably dream about. How do you keep your eyes fresh?

GEOFFREY BAUMANN: Well, at the very end it really becomes more about logistical management, and also about getting everything to be consistent, managing the quality as best I can, and making sure everything looks the same. I had a great supervisor and mentor who I worked with for years, Erik Nash, who always said that he’d rather have all the visual effects in his film at 80 percent than have most at 95 percent and then some much lower that just jump out at you. So, I would always push to get things as consistent as we could, and at the end of the day make sure that we tell the story. Because that’s what we need to do. And that’s all collaboration again, keeping all the lines of communication open between everyone. It’s stressful, but you just have to be up-front and honest, and then it works, because you’re finding solutions together.

View Conference 2018

VIEW Conference 2018 takes place  at the Officine Grandi Riparazioni (OGR) in Torino, Italy, October 22 to 26, 2018. Check out the full program of talks, workshops, panels and masterclasses at the VIEW Conference website.

“Black Panther” image copyright © 2018 by MARVEL.

Dadi Einarsson Makes Waves at VIEW Conference

Dadi Einarsson - VFX supervisor of Adrift

After building his career working at The Mill and Framestore, Dadi Einarsson co-founded Reykjavik-based RVX in 2008. At VIEW Conference 2018, Dadi presented his work as visual effects supervisor for STX on Baltasar Kormákur’s ocean-going survival film Adrift. Cinefex met up with Dadi after the presentation to talk about what it took to create a shot that balances intimate character moments with the awesome power of a gigantic ocean wave.

CINEFEX: In your VIEW Conference presentation, you talked in detail about a centerpiece two-minute shot from Adrift, where a yacht capsizes in a tremendous storm. It’s an epic shot – how did it come about?

DADI EINARSSON: Well, the film as a whole is a survival story, and it’s a love story, but the key drama point of this sequence is the 100-foot wave that smashes the boat. The go-to image for this sort of thing is the small boat on the huge wave, but that’s been done before, so Baltasar challenged me to come up with something different. We have a good working relationship, and a shorthand, and he trusts me to sleep on an idea, play with it, and suggest stuff.

CINEFEX: How was the action presented in the script?

DADI EINARSSON: It was actually written as eight or nine scenes, which was three or four script pages. Shailene Woodley’s character, Tammy, is at the wheel, then a wave crashes against the boat and nearly throws her off. Richard, played by Sam Claflin, pulls her back in, and they have dialog where we go in tight, then there was a cut to the big wave. There was another cut when Tammy goes inside the boat, then we were back outside for when the boat does what they call a pitchpole – it capsizes stern over bow – and Richard gets flung from the boat. There were lots of points in the script that were very visual, like the image of Richard sinking down with the red light flashing on his jacket, but there was a lot of room for interpretation.

CINEFEX: You saw all that happening in a single shot, without cuts?

DADI EINARSSON: Yeah. I read the script several times, and it became clear to me that it wasn’t just about that beat of the boat capsizing. It was all about the precursor to that, staying with the characters and following their gaze up to the wave, somehow going into the cabin with her, then back out underwater. A lot of that came from having worked on Gravity with Alfonso Cuarón, where we spent a lot of time forming this kind of language; I was very influenced by that experience. That was my pitch to Baltasar and he was really into it.

Watch an Adrift breakdown reel by Milk VFX:

CINEFEX: In executing a long shot like this, some filmmakers might have gone to town with a crazy camera move. But you were actually very restrained. There’s just a long, slow push-in behind the boat, with the big move only happening at the critical moment, and very much driven by what the characters are doing.

DADI EINARSSON: Absolutely. I hate physically incorrect, bullshit camera moves that don’t feel like any other camera move in the film. That really breaks everything for me. This shot is all about us finding those characters and being drawn into their experience of the storm.

CINEFEX: To execute the concept, you broke the shot into four separate beats. Then you had to break those into their component parts. You shot some live-action with a boat on a gimbal, some on a rotating “green cube” cabin interior, and then there’s all the CG ocean.

DADI EINARSSON: Yeah, as I was designing the shot, I was also thinking technically about where we could do the beat stitches.

CINEFEX: As you were capturing or creating all those different components, how important was it to keep the original vision in mind?

DADI EINARSSON: Oh, you have to constantly refer back to the concept. And it’s a leap of faith, you know? Adrift wasn’t a $200 million movie. We didn’t have months of prep where we could program motion control moves. I’m happy that we used a hand-operated crane for the gimbal shots, because it gave us the freedom to follow the action, but the flipside was that you just didn’t know whether it was going to work. So there was great anxiety there. Baltasar totally had my back, but the studio would still look me in the eye and say, “This is the moment of the film. It’s going to work, isn’t it?” And I’d be like, “Yeah, it’s going to work.”

CINEFEX: You’ve worked with Baltasar on many films now. What are the benefits of that ongoing relationship?

DADI EINARSSON: I think Baltasar knows that if he needs someone to come up with an idea, he can leave it with me. Then he’ll develop it, of course, or come up with his own ideas as well. For me, it’s magical to read a script and come up with something, knowing that my idea will be supported by the director. By the end of it, I’m sitting in the theater and people are going “ooh” and “aah.” It’s super-inspiring.

Watch an Adrift breakdown reel by Cinesite:

CINEFEX: The visual effects on Adrift were done by Milk VFX and Cinesite. Your own company, RVX, recently shifted away from visual effects to take on virtual reality projects. Why the change?

DADI EINARSSON: About two years ago, there was a lot of hype about virtual reality being huge, with big projections about all these headsets being sold, so RVX redirected its energies to start working on real-time projects, using Unreal Engine. The projected sales weren’t as big as everyone expected, but business has still been pretty good, and it’s been an enjoyable experience. But that doesn’t mean we’ll never do visual effects again!

CINEFEX: What’s RVX working on now?

DADI EINARSSON: We’re just finishing a location-based virtual reality project. It’s a 10-minute experience that takes you to the biggest Viking battle in Icelandic history, for a museum in the north of Iceland. It opens early 2019, and we anticipate 99 percent of users will be tourists who have never used virtual reality before. It’s a linear story, but there’s some interaction so you can walk around and try out weapons before you get taken into the middle of this huge battle. It’s room-scale – the user has full control within this 10-foot by 10-foot square space – and we’re looking at leading the eye to a specific place so we can teleport them to the next location, and they arrive facing in the right direction. I’m not sure if that’s been done before in this kind of virtual reality experience.

CINEFEX: For you personally, what’s the appeal of virtual and augmented reality?

DADI EINARSSON: It takes me back to 25 years ago, when I was just starting out. Things weren’t easier back then, but there wasn’t the volume of work that’s required now in delivering a visual effects film. For a project like our Viking battle, we have a small team and it feels more nimble and light and fun. It feels like we’re trailblazing.

CINEFEX: So are you done with production visual effects supervisor roles?

DADI EINARSSON: Well, there’s always something being dangled in my direction, but it’s a tricky thing to find a work-life balance as a visual effects supervisor. Baltasar is currently looking at something that would be shot in Iceland, which would make it easier for me in that respect. So you never know!

View Conference 2018

VIEW Conference 2018 takes place  at the Officine Grandi Riparazioni (OGR) in Torino, Italy, October 22 to 26, 2018. Check out the full program of talks, workshops, panels and masterclasses at the VIEW Conference website.

“Adrift” image copyright © 2018 by STX Entertainment.

Dennis Muren – Still Playing it Unsafe

Dennis Muren - Still Playing it Unsafe

Dennis Muren, senior visual effects supervisor and creative director at Industrial Light & Magic, will close VIEW Conference 2018 on Friday 26 October with an hour-long keynote presentation entitled Visual Effects: Defining that Critical, Elusive and Final 5%. During his career, Muren has collected nine Academy Awards honoring his contribution to films including Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jurassic Park. A key member of the ILM leadership team, he now collaborates with ILM’s supervisors on every film handled by the company. During the conference, Cinefex chatted with Dennis about the past, present and future of visual effects.

CINEFEX: So, Dennis, what do you mean when you talk about the “critical, elusive and final five percent” in visual effects?

DENNIS MUREN: Here’s what the five percent is. It’s when you spend so much time working on something, and you think it’s done, but there’s still something wrong. In the past, you might have had a matte painting, and it just looked like a painting. Then someone would get the idea of putting the silhouette of a tree in the foreground with the leaves blowing, and that was a solution. Or take the T-rex from Jurassic Park. It steps in the puddle and we added a splash of water. Well, that wasn’t planned. Later on, we said, “It’s raining, so let’s put a splash there.”

Now, my theory is that all that has basically become obsolete, because everyone’s work has come up to a level of being pretty close to real. There’s nothing to fix any more, not like there used to be.

CINEFEX: So where does the five percent fit in now?

DENNIS MUREN: I think that now the five percent has to happen at the beginning, and not at the end. The production people might say, “They’re running through a forest, but we only have room to build 12 trees. So we’re gonna do this whole scene greenscreen and you can put the rest in, right?” Now, we can do that – there’s phenomenal work like that being done all the time – but doing it that way affects the acting, the photography, the drama, the whole story, because the forest is too sparse, and nature is just incredibly complicated. It’s like having a bad actor. You’re getting the lines and you know how the plot’s moving forward, but you’re not getting any inflexion. So why not take that one little extra step to shoot as much for real as you can, like we used to do it?

Look at the Hoth scene in The Empire Strikes Back, which was shot in Norway. They had a snowstorm, so they had to shoot most of it in two days, but they were really out there in the cold, and you can really feel it. Imagine if that had been a greenscreen sequence. Nowadays it would be, I guarantee. But isn’t it better to have a cinematographer actually out there who knows how to light it, and how to find the angle that’s appropriate, instead of having to put it together layer by layer? That way, you only see everything together at the end, when you’ve already used up all your time.

CINEFEX: And yet that way of doing things has become the norm.

DENNIS MUREN: But I think it’s hurting effects, because the studios are relying on the effects people to tell the story, but when you look at it on the big screen there’s all this missing detail. Environments have become just stage backgrounds with actors in front of them, or it’s just actors in costumes and you’re not getting anything from the background.

CINEFEX: You’re talking ultimately about a sense of realism, and that’s always been the goal, hasn’t it? Right back to the days of the original Star Wars.

DENNIS MUREN: Well, that’s the reason that Star Wars was what it was, because George Lucas said, “I want to pan the cameras with the spaceships and not get into locked-off shots.” He wanted to feel like it was a real world, like in the World War II footage he referenced, because the audiences that grew up on television recognised that as real.

CINEFEX: So he brought in John Dykstra, who developed the motion control camera system to shoot all that stuff, and John found you to operate it. Didn’t he hire you because he was impressed by the stop-motion films you’d made as a youngster?

DENNIS MUREN: Yeah, I didn’t know John, but he wanted me because the motion control motors would move real slow, and I knew about non-real-time performance. But you didn’t want the ships to just go in straight lines. You wanted them to swoop.

CINEFEX: So you were coaxing an organic performance out of this pile of nuts and bolts.

DENNIS MUREN: Right, and I added a lot to it that even John didn’t know we could do. Things like having the ships skid when they bank, like airplanes, or motorcycles. But you know, on Star Wars, we actually started out flying the TIE fighters like those lightcycles in Tron, all these sharp turns – although this was before Tron, of course. The shots were for background plates that George was going to use in the gunport sequence, which he was originally going to do with rear projection. I think maybe Richard Edlund did the shots, and he went for these abrupt angle changes. Now, you could argue that you can do anything in space, but in the end you just couldn’t relate to them; the shots just looked uncomfortable. That’s when we went to more direct copying of the World War II stuff.

CINEFEX: The way that all those ships move has just become so iconic. Especially the Millennium Falcon.

DENNIS MUREN: We actually did a test on this very thing for The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson started out wanting to use models, because he thought the motion looked so much better. I said, “I love models, but there’s reasons why we don’t do them.” And he still wasn’t sure. So, I took three or four shots from Empire that had the Falcon in them, like that shot where it dives down low over the asteroid, and we put a CG Falcon right next to it. I told the animator to copy that original movement exactly. At first he had it zooming all over the place, but then he kept scaling it back and back, until finally you couldn’t tell the difference. It looked exactly like we had shot two identical models of the Falcon in 1980. Some people couldn’t understand why we had done this; they said it was just a way to duplicate nostalgia. Well, I wasn’t doing it for nostalgia reasons at all. I was doing it because the movement just looks better.

Cinefex 65CINEFEX: Looking back into our archive, we dug out a copy of Cinefex 65 from March 1996, celebrating 20 years of ILM. Don Shay interviewed you for that issue, Dennis, and one the things you told him was, “Some day we’ll probably hit a wall. People will be able to accept absolutely anything on film, and it won’t seem as wonderful to them any more.” Is that where we are now?

DENNIS MUREN: I think so. Absolutely.

CINEFEX: Do you think that tackling this “five percent” problem is the solution?

DENNIS MUREN: Yes. Jurassic Park was easy, because it was the shock of the new. Well, the shock’s worn off.

CINEFEX: Here’s another quote of yours from that 1996 article: “You can either play it safe and stay put, or you can go someplace new.” Are you still playing it unsafe?

DENNIS MUREN: Oh, yeah! We’ve got a big thing at ILM at the moment that’s looking amazing. It’s on a Star Wars show, and it’s pretty neat, but I can’t say anything about it right now.

CINEFEX: Well, it’s clearly got you excited, which is great to hear. We may have hit the wall, but there’s something waiting on the other side, right?

DENNIS MUREN: Yes, because things don’t stay the same. They change, but in a technical field change is really hard, because the tools are so hard to learn. So, when you see something that you really like, be exuberant about it. Keep your mind open, and your heart and soul open to those feelings that got you into the business in the first place. Movies are all about feelings. That’s what it’s all about.

View Conference 2018

VIEW Conference 2018 takes place  at the Officine Grandi Riparazioni (OGR) in Torino, Italy, October 22 to 26, 2018. Check out the full program and register for talks, workshops, panels, and masterclasses at the VIEW Conference website.

“Return of the Jedi” photograph copyright © 1983 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

Hans Zimmer – Making a Big Noise

Hans Zimmer

Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer, the maestro behind the music for over 150 projects across all media, delivered yesterday’s keynote presentation at VIEW Conference 2018, entitled Welcome to my Music. Zimmer’s address was followed by a tribute to his music, performed by an ensemble of 10 year-old Italian students. Addressing a packed house of visual effects, animation, game, VR and film devotees, the composer shared wit and wisdom on the subjects of life, artistry, and the job of making the world a noisier and more colorful place.

Hans Zimmer has a muse. Her name is Doris. She’s a single mother who lives in the poor part of the post-industrial town of Bradford, UK, and ever since her husband left her she’s struggled to raise her two kids and make ends meet. Every weekend, Doris faces a choice. She can either go to the pub, or take in a movie. If she chooses the cinema, what she wants more than anything is a film that will transport her out of her humdrum life and into a world of wonder.

Doris is fictitious. To Zimmer however, what she represents is utterly real. Even more than that, she is the reason he does what he does, the person he has in mind whenever he sits down to write a score. “If Doris is going to see a film,” he said during his keynote presentation at VIEW Conference 2018, “we’d better make it worth it. That’s the job – to make her life better.”

Zimmer also asserted his belief that music expresses what cannot be expressed through mere words or pictures. That’s why it’s such a vital piece of the filmmaking puzzle, and why Zimmer always starts composing before the film is made – sometimes before he’s even read the script.

To illustrate this, he related the story of how he came to work on Christopher Nolan’s space epic Interstellar. Out of the blue, Nolan called Zimmer to say he was going to send write a letter, and invited the composer to put down whatever came into his head when he read it. When the letter arrived, Zimmer did just that, and played the result to the director later that same day. “The first time I play a piece of music, it’s very personal,” Zimmer revealed. “So I couldn’t even look him in the eye.”

The brand new composition – which Zimmer described as a “fragile fragment of music” – expressed the composer’s feelings about his relationship with his son. Having played it to Nolan, Zimmer asked the director what he thought. Nodding his approval, Nolan said, “I guess I’ll have to make the movie now.”

Delving deeper into his process, Zimmer confessed that, while he always aims to begin work early on a project, he is also a terrible procrastinator, and tends to leave the final scoring until very late in the game. For the animated feature Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, he even wrote one of the cues on the stage during the recording session. “Composing is like cooking,” he commented. “You need fresh ingredients, and lots of preparation, but it all comes down to that crazy final ten minutes!”

Closing his address, Zimmer invited budding creators in all fields to challenge themselves constantly. “Ask yourself how can you be cantankerous, creative and revolutionary,” he said. “Be reckless. Be inventive. Make a big noise!”

I don’t know about you, but I reckon those words would be music to Doris’ ears.

View Conference 2018

VIEW Conference 2018 takes place  at the Officine Grandi Riparazioni (OGR) in Torino, Italy, October 22 to 26, 2018. Check out the full program and register for talks, workshops, panels, and masterclasses at the VIEW Conference website.

“Solo” – A Fusion of Creativity and Technology

Rob Bredow behind the controls of the Millennium Falcon

As senior vice president, executive creative director and head of Industrial Light & Magic, Rob Bredow gets involved with every project that passes through ILM’s doors. During his keynote presentation at VIEW Conference 2018 today, he shared his experiences as visual effects supervisor and co-producer of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Cinefex sat down with Rob in the Turin sunshine after his presentation to talk more about his adventure in a galaxy far, far away.

CINEFEX: Rob, in your presentation on Solo, you explained that creative solutions are driven by theme. In the case of Solo, the theme was “let’s imagine we’re making this movie in the early ‘70s.”

ROB BREDOW: Exactly. We wanted to make it feel organic and grounded, and tried to apply that to everything we did from the very beginning, to make things feel as believable as possible.

CINEFEX: So where did that theme come from in the first place?

ROB BREDOW: That was an aesthetic choice that Chris Miller and Phil Lord wanted to make from the very beginning. They felt like the movie belonged in that era. Of course, we wanted to achieve things that wouldn’t have been achievable if we had done it in, say, 1968 or 1971, but we wanted it to feel as if we could have. With the train heist, for example, the idea of constraining the camera only to places a camera could really belong on a train that was going 60 miles per hour on the side of a mountain – that was really important to me. I wanted us to religiously obey that rule, and we pretty much did. We did the same thing throughout the whole movie, using methods that honored the methods of the past, even if they couldn’t literally be the same methods. I actually think that, in a world where you can do anything, constraining yourself helps to pull the thing together.

CINEFEX: And constraints can actually encourage creativity, right?

ROB BREDOW: Yes, totally. In fact, I had a whole other section of the talk I did today that I didn’t have time for, about how the creativity really is born out of the constraints. One of my favourite stories on the subject was told to me by the director Ash Brannon, who I worked with on Surf’s Up. Ash was an animator on Toy Story, and he told me they didn’t have enough money to finish rigging the green army men, and they were ready to cut them out of the film. So they pitched the idea that they didn’t have to be fully articulated characters. Those guys basically bark orders, so they just needed the ability to do a simple “eeh” and and “ooh” shape, and they could just move around with their feet tied together. That walk they do is one of the most memorable things in the film, and it may not have happened if it wasn’t for the restrictions.

CINEFEX: Thinking back over the history of movie effects, creativity has always gone hand in hand with technology. If you’re going to excel in this craft, do you need those two sides of the brain working together, the right and the left?

ROB BREDOW: Yeah. I think the more you have them both in one person, or across everybody on the team, the better. You can certainly have people who have strengths of one side over the other, but I think the most fun thing about this industry is getting to combine the very technical and the very artistic together. Especially being able to figure out things on the spot, where you’ve got to figure out some way to achieve this illusion.

CINEFEX: In Solo, your solution to the Millennium Falcon cockpit shots was a highly technical one – wraparound rear projections screens running prerendered final backgrounds. But the end result was super-organic, like the shot where the camera pans from the hyperspace jump onto Han’s face. You said was captured by the first camera operator, Sylvaine Dufaux, kind of on instinct?

ROB BREDOW: Right. One of the great things about real-time effects is that they are much more in the moment than what we can do in postproduction. There’s a place for both, but there really was something great to those shooting days on the Falcon. For the Kessel Run sequence, we had around 125 cues – lighting changes on the walls, or different media clips on the screen, or different blaster fire. I would stand next to Ron Howard as he was directing the actors, and sometimes he would take them back to redo a moment, or sometimes he would take them forward. I’d try to read his mind and work out where he was going next, so the screens would be ready and cued up. And then, sometimes, our DOP Bradford Young would catch my eye and give me a hand signal to add some more blaster fire, because he wanted to amp up the lighting. We were making changes in kind of a dance, live on the set.

CINEFEX: Solo certainly seems to be a great example of how the role of production visual effects supervisor has changed over, say, the last 10 years – you’re more creatively enmeshed than ever with the rest of the production.

ROB BREDOW: That’s been my experience, yeah. Our supervisors at ILM who work production-side find themselves very integrated, not only in how they’re going to achieve something, but also in why and what the creative storytelling opportunity is. That varies in its methodology from show to show. Sometimes you’re answering a lot of questions in previs. Sometimes you’re collaborating directly with either the writers or the director. On Solo, I got a co-producer credit in large part because I was working things out with Ron Howard and Jon Kasdan every day on set. There are lines that Han Solo says in this movie that I pitched to Jon, and he would say, “That’s a great idea, we’re going to have him do that right now!” If Ron liked it, he put it in the film. It was just a huge honour and a big opportunity to be involved creatively in the whole movie from beginning to end.

CINEFEX: Industrial Light & Magic has been doing Star Wars for over 40 years now, and earlier this year you took on the role of senior vice president, executive creative director and head of ILM. When you walk through the door each morning, do you sense the presence of that lineage?

ROB BREDOW: Yeah, definitely. Walking into ILM, you’ll see one of the original optical printers in the hallway, there’s original stormtrooper costumes around. You really do get a sense of the history of the place.

CINEFEX: Is that exciting, or intimidating?

ROB BREDOW: Well, it’s a bit like when I started on Solo. I first thought, “Okay, I have to be really careful. I’m walking on hallowed ground.” Then, a few months into the show, I realised it’s a movie, I’m going to break stuff along the way, I’m not going to make every decision perfectly, and I’ve got to figure out how to make it better and better as we go along. I’m actually having that same experience again in this role as head of ILM. My original thought was, “This is ILM! It’s the company that I’ve looked up to for my entire career. So getting to lead it is an incredible honour.” Then you dive in and realise you have this amazing place with fantastic people but – like anything – it’s not perfect. It’s a great honour, and then at the same time I have a responsibility to say, “Oh, this part’s messy, we’ve got to go in and get our hands dirty.” And that’s the culture of a great company that is reinventing itself, which I really like being a part of.

CINEFEX: How does the ILM lineage come to bear on the films you’re working on now, like Solo?

ROB BREDOW: Well, we’re lucky at ILM to still have some of the people who worked on the original Star Wars films. Dennis Muren was at the office every day looking at previs and dailies, weighing in on the sequences. I can attribute the design of a number of shots to his notes. On some early versions of the train heist sequence, for example, we had very few down-shots, or else the down-shots had gotten cut for various story reasons. Dennis would say, “Where’s that sense of peril?” and we would add those down-shots back in. It’s great having people like that, who aren’t working on the show every single day but are looking at the big picture.

CINEFEX: Do you enjoy that kind of overview yourself now, in your new role?

ROB BREDOW: You know, we have incredibly experienced supervisors in all the departments at ILM, and they certainly don’t need me to tell them how to do their jobs. But I do find that, because I am seeing all the projects going on, and looking at things from a different perspective, once in a while I’ll be able to provide support in some way, or make a suggestion that somebody might find useful. That’s a really nice place to be, for sure.

CINEFEX: Let’s round up with a quick peek into your crystal ball. What do you personally see as the next frontier in visual effects?

ROB BREDOW: One of the things that I’m excited about right now is the use of real-time visual effects on set. We did a lot of that with projection surfaces on Solo, and we’re working on new projects right now where we’re taking that to the next level, doing a lot more real-time and a much higher degree of interactivity. We’re creating in-camera visual effects that I think are going to be pretty surprising to people. The number of cases where we can leverage this has surprised even me – and I’m an optimist about these things. The real-time world of videogames and the postprocessing world of visual effects haven’t completely converged, but we are starting to see some of the best of both worlds come together, and we’re getting a lot of real benefit from that. We’re also doing a bunch of new things in the area of face work. Of course, that’s an area where, if you get it one percent wrong, it’s 99 percent wrong! But we did some really interesting work on Rogue One, and working on some projects that are very encouraging.

CINEFEX: Rob, thanks for your time!

View Conference 2018

Read our 22-page Solo: A Star Wars Story article in Cinefex 160, available from our online store. VIEW Conference 2018 takes place  at the Officine Grandi Riparazioni (OGR) in Torino, Italy, October 22 to 26, 2018. Check out the full program and register for talks, workshops, panels, and masterclasses at the VIEW Conference website.

Photograph copyright © 2018 by Industrial Light & Magic.

Rob Bredow to Deliver “Solo” Keynote at VIEW Conference

Rob Bredow behind the controls of the Millennium Falcon

Visual effects supervisor Rob Bredow behind the controls of the “Millennium Falcon.” Photograph courtesy of ILM.

One of the highlights of VIEW Conference 2018 is sure to be Creatively Driven – The VFX for “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” a keynote presentation by the film’s visual effects supervisor Rob Bredow, who is also senior vice president, executive creative director and head of Industrial Light & Magic.

I’ll be at VIEW this year, covering the conference for Cinefex, and in anticipation of the event I thought I’d dig out an interview I did with Rob earlier this year, while I was researching my own behind-the-scenes article on Solo. I spent a full hour talking with Rob, and a further ten hours chatting with other members of the effects, creature and costume teams – plus the film’s director, Ron Howard – which meant there was a lot of material that had to hit the cutting room floor!

So, here are a few outtakes from my interview with Rob Bredow that didn’t make into the Cinefex article.

Solo: A Star Wars Story in Cinefex 160

CINEFEX: The Millennium Falcon looks a little different in Solo, right?

ROB BREDOW: Right. The concept behind it was that Lando’s kind of a flossy guy! He would add a couple of racing stripes to his ship. It’s got a really well-kept interior, and he would really care about its appearance – there actually used to be some lines about that in the script that didn’t make the final cut. If you look in the background of some of the shots, there’s even a trophy case with a model of the Falcon inside. Our idea was to honor the original design, but during the story to do things that reveal more and more of the Falcon that we all know and love from A New Hope.

CINEFEX: Did you tweak any of the other vehicle designs to fit in with the time period of Solo?

ROB BREDOW: We did a slight earlier generation AT-ST, sort of World War I-inspired. It has operators up in the top of it, so it is similar to the AT-ST that we saw in Return of the Jedi, but it has a big cannon mounted on the front for ground-to-ground combat. That was kind of consistent for everything we did in the film. The Star Destroyers are the ships we know from A New Hope, but there is one new version that has some radar dishes. That only made the final cut in the form of a hologram, but it is in the movie for a second or two!

CINEFEX: Han flies the Falcon through the notorious Kessel Run – what does he encounter along the way?

ROB BREDOW: Well, the environment evolves as we go through the Kessel Run. The Maelstrom is made up of giant space storm clouds – we theorized maybe it’s nitrogen – and there are these giant blocks called carbonbergs, that crash into each other and you have to avoid as you’re flying through the uncharted maw. The things you’re really looking to avoid are the gravity well and the multi-tentacled space monster! It literally is the ‘there be monsters’ section of our movie, harking back to some of those old classic stories.

CINEFEX: You used front projection to provide views out through the Falcon’s cockpit. Did you do that anywhere else in the film?

ROB BREDOW: Yes, for the scenes inside Dryden’s ship, there’s a 360-degree front projection screen wrapped around the windows. Everything you see out those windows was completely finaled in camera. Dryden visits two different locations in the film – Vandor and Savareen – and at a moment’s notice we could flip between the two. Our director of photography Bradford Young used the front projection as one of the main components of his lighting, and all the reflections on the set were captured in camera. I would say the result is better than if we had done a bluescreen or greenscreen composite – and certainly much more efficient for postproduction.

View Conference 2018

Read the complete 22-page Solo article in Cinefex 160, available from our online store. Rob Bredow’s presentation on Solo: A Star Wars Story is scheduled for Tuesday 23 October at VIEW Conference 2018, which takes place  at the Officine Grandi Riparazioni (OGR) in Torino, Italy, October 22 to 26, 2018. Check out the full program and register for talks, workshops, panels, and masterclasses at the VIEW Conference website.

Now Showing – Cinefex 161

Cinefex 161

Cinefex 161 has landed — not in the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility, but on newsstands and in mailboxes all around planet Earth. With NASA’s iconic Apollo 11 lunar module planted firmly on the cover, our October issue is packed with stellar images and out-of-this-world content — including Joe Fordham’s feature story on First Man, directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, the young aviator from Ohio who flew his way to a moon landing during the summer of ’69.

Dig deeper into Cinefex 161 and you’ll find in-depth articles on director Ruben Fleischer’s gritty superhero tale Venom, Oliver Daly’s tale of a boy and his robot dog, A.X.L., Albert Hughes’ Ice Age drama Alpha, and Jon Turteltaub’s yarn centered around a ravenous Charadon megaladon, The Meg.

Watch a video preview of Cinefex 161:

Here’s Cinefex editor-in-chief Jody Duncan to update you with her official mission report on Cinefex 161:

Jody Duncan – From the Editor’s Desk

In every generation, there are a few world events so significant that we remember where we were when they happened – often in excruciating, sensory detail. I am a Baby Boomer, so mention the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and I vividly recall the smell of Ajax cleaner the school custodian used to scrub our desks at night. I remember that same custodian coming into my third-grade classroom to whisper in Mrs. Trask’s ear, her eyes welling with tears, the uncomfortable hush that came over the class, and her announcement, in quivering voice, that the President had been shot.
Six years later, the whole world watched the moon landing that had been promised by that felled President. I was a 14-year-old that late July 1969, stuck in the family station wagon for a trip to visit my grandparents in northern California. Not content to follow the news reports on the radio – although we did that, all the way up the old 99 highway – my father broke all speed records to get us to our destination and in front of a television screen in time for Neil Armstrong’s first step onto the lunar surface. It was thrilling, a moment of both promise and pride.
Those feelings and memories came rushing back when I saw our First Man cover for Cinefex 161. Joe Fordham outdid himself with his coverage of Damien Chazelle’s stunning film. If you’ve never read a Cinefex article before, read this one.
And while you’re at it, read Graham Edwards’ story about an incredible Czechoslovakian Wolfdog named Chuck who was such a great performer, fewer than expected computer animated wolf shots were required to bring Alpha to the screen. Read my account of writer/director Oliver Daly’s finding inspiration in the world of desert motocross racing, resulting in his A.X.L. feature film, and about the puppetry – both practical and digital – that put the ‘dog’ in a boy and his dog story. Finally, if you’re in the mood for hardcore bad-assery, check out our coverage of The Meg and Venom.
Cinefex issue 161: No tricks. Just treats.

Cinefex 161 is on newsstands now, and available to order at our online store. If you’re a subscriber, your copy is already making its final approach to your mailbox. And don’t forget our iPad edition, which features tons more photographs and exclusive video content.

Spotlight – Armen Kevorkian

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

Armen Kevorkian is executive creative director and visual effects supervisor at Encore VFX, and includes in his career highlights Love, Simon, Titans, The Flash, Supergirl and Black Lightning.

Armen Kevorkian

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

ARMEN KEVORKIAN: I’ve always been interested in filmmaking and directing, but more or less fell into visual effects. I went to film school and got an internship working on Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise. Then, an entry level position opened up in the visual effects/post department and I jumped at the opportunity. I spent several years learning the ins and outs of visual effects, and I’m constantly expanding that knowledge with each new project.

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

ARMEN KEVORKIAN: It’s rewarding when you’re able to visualize something in your head and bring that image to life for everyone to see.

CINEFEX: And what makes you sob uncontrollably?

ARMEN KEVORKIAN: I hate when shots don’t turn out the way I imagined. That, and running out of time, which is always an issue in visual effects.

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

ARMEN KEVORKIAN: One of my first visual effects supervisor jobs was for a series that had fairly significant visual effects needs – including CG creatures and set extensions – and a limited budget. Also, visual effects tools weren’t as advanced then, so creating the work was more challenging. It was nerve-racking, and a make-or-break moment for me, but I worked around the clock to make sure everyone got what they wanted. At the end of the day, we pulled it off.

CINEFEX: And what’s the weirdest task?

ARMEN KEVORKIAN: I encounter a lot of strange situations and requests as a visual effects supervisor. One moment that stands out is when a very low budget sci-fi television movie that I worked on was nominated for an Emmy. The film was about a zombie mammoth that came to life in a museum – not your typical awards fare! We cut together a great reel and were nominated alongside some incredible projects, including one produced by Steven Spielberg.

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

ARMEN KEVORKIAN: Almost every film and television series has visual effects now, in part thanks to advanced software and hardware that allow us to create better work faster. Productions are relying on visual effects more, since it’s sometimes easier – and more economical – to achieve certain shots in the back-end. A lot of time it ends up looking better, too. Also, the distinction between content formats is falling away. Audiences expect a certain level of quality, regardless of whether they’re viewing in a theater, on television, or on a mobile device. With social media, you get immediate feedback via online comments and reaction videos, so you learn pretty quickly how your work is received by the audience. This was unheard of 20 years ago.

CINEFEX: And what changes would you like to see?

ARMEN KEVORKIAN: This is already underway, but I think that when visual effects is fully integrated within production, it enables more successful results. When artists and storytellers are on the same page, projects run more smoothly and with better collaboration.

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

ARMEN KEVORKIAN: Be passionate. It’s advice that applies to any job,  but the visual effects industry can be stressful and frustrating, and enjoying what you do makes it easier to get through the tough spots.

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

ARMEN KEVORKIAN: District 9 is so well done, especially the way the CG alien is perfectly integrated throughout the film. You really feel the emotion.

Star Wars: A New Hope remains one of the greats. It was ground-breaking at the time and really holds up.

My final spot is a tie between Transformers and Iron Man. Growing up with those cartoons and toys, I found it entertaining and fascinating to see these characters come to life. The visual effects don’t take you out of the story, but rather bring it to life. The films mark a shift for the superhero/action genre, and the people behind them deserve credit for trying things that had never been done before. That takes guts.

CINEFEX: What’s your favorite movie theater snack?

ARMEN KEVORKIAN: Popcorn! I can’t watch a movie without popcorn, even if I only have a few pieces. And a cherry ICEE.

CINEFEX: Armen, thanks for your time!