Like many industries in the 21st century, visual effects is a worldwide operation. Pick any populated spot on the globe and chances are you’ll find a visual effects facility somewhere in the same latitude. The biggest companies of all maintain offices right across the planet.
But while crossing timezones delivers some amazing efficiencies – and allows productions to access lucrative subsidies – the distances involved are daunting. How do directors critique shots with visual effects supervisors when they’re on opposite sides of the world? And how do the supervisors then communicate notes to multiple vendors scattered across many continents?
At its simplest, the answer is video conferencing. But the very specific demands of motion picture visual effects mean that it’s not enough just to dial up your colleagues on Skype. High on the list of preferred alternatives is Cospective cineSync, which allows remote participants to watch high resolution video in perfect sync, and includes a range of drawing tools that allow notes to be drawn directly onto individual film frames. Robust encryption ensures the whole process conforms to strict studio security rules.
Recent multi-vendor productions that used cineSync include Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and The Fate of the Furious, both of which are covered in-depth in our June issue, Cinefex 153. The same software facilitated the visual effects work on Warner Brothers Pictures’ King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Directed by Guy Ritchie, the film stars the young Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) as a streetwise monarch-on-the-rise, fighting to save Dark Ages Britain from the evil Vortigern (Jude Law) and a host of fantastical foes.
“I came onto King Arthur in 2014, working with visual effects producer Alex Bicknell and visual effects supervisor Nick Davis, who I’d worked with on Edge of Tomorrow,” said visual effects production supervisor Gavin Round. “Thanks to that experience, we had an established, effective workflow in place. My duties involved managing vendors, and making sure that the shots came in on time and that the vendors had everything they need. cineSync enabled us to review the material constantly, so we were always aware of the status of any given shot. We could see it in real-time to discuss with the vendors.”
The London and Montreal teams at Framestore led the visual effects charge on King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, supported by a horde of vendors that included MPC, Method Studios, Scanline VFX, Nvizible and One of Us. For sequences that required Framestore and MPC to share shots portraying a particularly menacing digital character, access to a global roundtable proved essential.
“It was a delicate process, as we had to maintain continuity between the two vendors, who were essentially building different parts of the same being,” Round noted. “We needed to constantly review and check the material back-to-back to ensure everything transitioned correctly, no matter which vendor it came from. Nick liked to do cineSync sessions because he could pull up a shot, make marks on it, draw on it and tell the artists exactly where he wanted a creature to walk.”
Watch the trailer for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword:
Adelaide-based Cospective – originally known as Rising Sun Research – was founded in 2000 as a spin-off from visual effects studio Rising Sun Pictures. Developers Tony Clark, Alan Rogers, Neil Wilson and Rory McGregor received a Technical Achievement Award for cineSync at the 2010 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences SciTech Awards.