Spotlight – Jonathan Weber

by Graham Edwards

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

Jonathan WeberJonathan Weber is a visual effects supervisor at RISE, and lists his career highlights as Black Panther, Cloud Atlas, Captain America: Civil War and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

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

JONATHAN WEBER: Loving movies, I started getting to know the industry by working for a short period at Markenfilm, Hamburg, in advertising. After I decided to move on, I was very lucky meeting the right people who started RISE a few months later and took me under their wings. I love the visual effects people in the industry, I love images and I’m good with computers – that’s a good combination for working in visual effects. Our big breakthrough was Cloud Atlas, I guess, and then Iron Man 3 started off the whole Marvel wave for us.

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

JONATHAN WEBER: When new plates begin arriving and the artists start jumping around like happy little drug addicts, getting their next shot!

CINEFEX: And what makes you sob uncontrollably?

JONATHAN WEBER: When it’s beautiful and sunny outside, but the crunch is asking for overtime.

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

JONATHAN WEBER: Let´s say Captain America: Civil War, because of the spectrum of different tasks combined with the amount of shots for the show. This signaled we had reached the next level for RISE. Close-up CG characters, lots of effects elements, seamless integration of CG elements with real-life characters, many, many set extensions, and over 300 shots. Still makes me dizzy thinking about it all!

CINEFEX: And what’s the weirdest task?

JONATHAN WEBER: So many of them, especially on when on set. One in particular was when the entire crew was on standby for this trained cat to jump into frame in front of the greenscreen. The animal trainer told the cat ‘jump’ over a thousand times. As you would expect from a cat, nothing happened at all.

RISE created a CG Jabariland environment for "Black Panther."

RISE created a CG Jabariland environment for “Black Panther.”

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

JONATHAN WEBER: From PAL 720×576 to high res 4K HDR and source material of 8K. From tape measure and set drawings to extreme precise lidar scanners.

CINEFEX: And what changes would you like to see?

JONATHAN WEBER: Overall speed improvements in every department, so we can focus more on the creative aspects of the job. Faster and more reliable machines for working and rendering.

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

JONATHAN WEBER: Watch a lot of movies and get an eye for what is seen through the camera lens. This is not only important for matte painters and compositors, but for everyone. Even the most tech-savvy effects artist becomes a better visual effects artist by knowing what the final image should look like – and it saves a lot of iterations, for sure. Also, check the internet for resources. In whatever field you want to get involved with, there are plenty of online materials available – YouTube, web tutorials and blogs. The internet is pure gold for visual effects artists and an invaluable resource for continually building up your own capabilities.

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

JONATHAN WEBER: Jurassic Park, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Star Wars. Going for these classics, you simply can´t go wrong. All of them have spectacular imagery combined with amazing music and sound. Terminator 2 in particular still gives me shivers whenever the T-1000 appears.

CINEFEX: What’s your favorite movie theater snack?

JONATHAN WEBER: Beer, Coke, nachos with cheese dip, ice cream confectionery, and sweet and salty popcorn – just the right combination of them all!

CINEFEX: Jonathan, thanks for your time!