Spotlight – Korbinian Hopfner

by Graham Edwards

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

Korbinian HopfnerKorbinian Hopfner is a Houdini effects TD at RISE, and has worked on films including Avengers: Infinity War, Doctor Strange, Captain America: Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy and Exodus: Gods and Kings.

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

KORBINIAN HOPFNER: When I first watched the massive battle sequences in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, I thought that I would like to get involved in this line of work by helping to make these visual effects-heavy productions. I started by reviewing as many available tutorials as I could find. My research also included how effects were achieved throughout previous decades when digital technology was in its earlier years – particularly in understanding how exactly they got around the technical hurdles by developing their own tools and processes. It still motivates me to take my work further.

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

KORBINIAN HOPFNER: Those lucky shots where the first attempt gets to final – that’ll always make me smile.

CINEFEX: And what makes you sob uncontrollably?

KORBINIAN HOPFNER: The sad sight of a broken espresso machine and the chilling reality that the day has only begun.

RISE was part of the global visual effects team on Marvel Studios' "Doctor Strange."

RISE was part of the global visual effects team on Marvel Studios’ “Doctor Strange.”

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

KORBINIAN HOPFNER: Probably Captain America: Civil War, where we went through a lot of look development phases for a specific effect and needed to change it in a very short time.

CINEFEX: And what’s the weirdest task?

KORBINIAN HOPFNER: We had to create an effect for rocks that consume light. Conceptually, that was a strange task.

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

KORBINIAN HOPFNER: Effects work is always a very time-consuming process – at least, it can be when it comes to big simulations. Of course, every year it becomes easier as the software and hardware are continually improved upon. A positive aspect of these advancements is that becoming involved in this industry is easier now for beginners. The software has evolved to be more user-friendly, albeit still offering the tools that artists need to complete their tasks.

CINEFEX: And what changes would you like to see?

KORBINIAN HOPFNER: Real-time photorealistic physics and simulations – I would definitely like to see this more and more implemented.

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

KORBINIAN HOPFNER: Start with some simple tutorials, followed by an internship. If you’re still on board after that, I guess you’re good to go for the next level. Go step by step, and don’t ever give up after a hiccup. Keep practicing.

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

KORBINIAN HOPFNER: I would begin with the classics – Jurassic Park and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. They still have some of the most ground-breaking effects of all time. I mean, who doesn’t get goosebumps when the T-1000 melts through the iron bars? Seeing that in theaters for the first time is a memory that will be hard to top, if even. The third one would certainly be Mad Max: Fury Road. Every time I rewatch the sequence where they are racing through the encroaching mega-sandstorm, there are always previously unnoticed details I love discovering.

CINEFEX: What’s your favorite movie theater snack?

KORBINIAN HOPFNER: Movie time is popcorn time. I choose you, salty popcorn!

CINEFEX: Korbinian, thanks for your time!