The Illusionists — Tim Webber

by Graham Edwards

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