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PaulHellard
05-14-2008, 08:14 AM
http://features.cgsociety.org/cgtalk/meettheartists/ben_snow/bsnow_mta.jpg



Ben Snow
VFX Supervisor
Industrial Light & Magic

It’s a long way from a goat farm near Burra Creek outside Queanbeyan outside Canberra in the Capital Territory of Australia, to San Francisco, California USA.

From Canberra, to Star Trek: Generations, Casper, Twister, Mars Attacks!, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Deep Impact, The Mummy, Galaxy Quest, Pearl Harbor, Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, Van Helsing, King Kong, The Spiderwick Chronicles and now Iron Man.

For a extended version of this incredible journey, go to the Feature story on CGSociety (http://features.cgsociety.org/story_custom.php?story_id=4514).

To talk to the man himself, please feel free to post your questions and comments

Please make welcome to CGTalk’s Meet the Artist, Ben Snow.

felicitymoore
05-14-2008, 08:59 AM
Hello Ben,

First off, thanks for taking the time to do this :)

I'd like to ask, how early on do you tend to get involved with a project, especially where the vfx plays a huge role interacting with live actors?

I saw 'The Spiderwick Chronicles' last week, could you talk about that a bit please?

How often were you able to review the vfx as they were developing?

As a vfx supervisor, how much direct contact would you expect to have with a matte painter or concept artist, for example? Or would you pass instruction through the lead?

Do you advise and define the pipeline to be used, or is that a decision reached according to the whole team?



Thank you!

Felicity

TheMiyamotoMusashi
05-14-2008, 09:26 AM
1. How old are you and how long in this industry?
2. How much do you work per day, and per week?
3. Which books have influenced you the most and you have learned the most from ? Recomend any art related or programming ,whatever CG book that influenced you?

Asta la vista baby, keep rocking , we love you ILM :cool:

XminusOne
05-14-2008, 04:23 PM
Thanks for taking the time to answer these!!!

What do you enjoy most about your position at ILM and what do you dislike the most?

Thanks for doing this. Look forward to seeing some of your answers.

Furiaceka
05-14-2008, 04:25 PM
Hi Ben ! Greetings from Italy !

I hope you'll read these questions, because I'm really affascinated of computer graphic's world, and I love all works by ILM.

1) What makes a company like ILM great ?
2) Which are the first problems making IRON MAN ?
3) What the Computer Graphic's Industry needs today ?
4) Which is the thing that you prefer, in IRON MAN character ?

So, thank you again and more greetings from Italy !
Mark from Rome.

hakanpersson
05-14-2008, 05:10 PM
Thanks for taking your time! I hope you have time to answer my 2 questions regarding working as a VFX supervisor.


What would you say is your main skill/talent. The one that allows you to do the work you do so well and make you feel comfortable in that position (which I assume you do). I guess that, at the level you work, it just got to be more than just experience?

What is the most common (or perhaps preferred) way to get to work as a vfx supervisor. Example, would you say that a CG background ranks higher than film background? I am trying to understand if this is more of a producer role or a visual effects artist role.


Thanks again,
Håkan Persson

Jassar
05-14-2008, 07:06 PM
Hello Ben!
In your opinion, what would you personaly prefer to see in a vfx-heavy movie: graphics that are more artistic or more realistic?

Maxim
05-14-2008, 07:30 PM
Hi Ben,

Thanks for the opportunity to ask a few questions. Here are mine:

1) After transitioning from artist to supervisor did you miss actually doing shots?
2) What are the big differences between ILM and Weta in terms of digital pipeline?
3) Does ILM ramp up and down with every project or is the number of people working there quite constant?

cheers!

BColbourn
05-14-2008, 09:23 PM
Hi Ben,

A quick question, prior to leaving australia did you have any artistic interests besides being a film fan? Did you do any kind of traditional art or were you simply a fan trying to break into the industry that you love?

Also, how does one talk their way into an ILM party? haha

thatoneguy
05-14-2008, 09:57 PM
Ben my question would be related to the final point in the article and that is specialization.

There seems to be a catch 22 of FX supervision in our industry and that is:
1) It seems like most FX Supervisors are hired internally
but
2) The really big studios have a huge emphasis on specialization.

So what are your recommendations on how to stay generalized but also stand a chance of being employable. There isn't exactly a "help wanted: VFX Supervisor" ad in the paper. Do companies such as ILM have positions which are more open to generalists to further develop towards supervision competancy almost like a pre-production team who experiment on a small scale?

dmoreno
05-15-2008, 12:07 AM
Hi Ben

My name's Daniel, i'm from Venezuela and i'm currently training myself to be a proffesional animator in the near future.

2 things:

How did it felt the first time you went to SIGGRAPH?

Was it difficult for you to make the decision of traveling to another country to find and get a possition in this industry?

I am working very hard for being able to answer those questions myself,.. but it would mean a lot to hear it from you, after knowing a bit of your professional life reading the article on CGSociety

thanks in advance!

bensnow
05-15-2008, 05:56 PM
I'd like to ask, how early on do you tend to get involved with a project, especially where the vfx plays a huge role interacting with live actors?



It varies. Sometimes film-makers will approach us very early in the process before the script is final just to consult on the sort of things that are possible. We usually get involved in the projects before photography commences because its important to have someone supervising the plates on set to make sure we get what we need. In terms of the initial leads, for some projects a director or studio will approach the VFX company wanting to work with them. Other projects will come in through personal contacts. Most VFX companies have someone out there looking for projects – talking to the studios and film-makers trying to get work. Usually we’ll start with a round of bidding the project – working out how we’ll do it and how much the VFX will cost. It’s a very competitive business so everyone does a whole lot of upfront bidding these days. Sometimes we may try to do some artwork or test to help show our interest.

I saw 'The Spiderwick Chronicles' last week, could you talk about that a bit please?



I was only involved in the project during pre-production. The supervisor who started the show, Pablo Helman, was on set in Canada doing plate photography while the development of the various creatures was starting back here at ILM, and I supervised some of that early development for a few months. When Pablo returned I moved on to something else and in the end Tim Alexander joined the show when Pablo started Indy 4. During the time I was aboard we started the modeling, painting and look development of Thimbletack, the Sprites, the Boggart and Mulgarath. We some experimentation on skin. It was an interesting project because ILM contributed some of the creature designs including some rapid prototyping of the models (3D prototyping) and it was the first show to use a new facial animation tool I’d led some of the development on as an “overhead” technical project.


How often were you able to review the vfx as they were developing?



During shot production constantly. We look at shots every morning in dailies, and artists send me IMs with new versions pretty much constantly during the day. We visit each others desks and usually have a later afternoon check-in for stuff we think we’re ready to finish. We usually do a remote video hookup with the director (or he visits us) at least a couple of times a week to review and animation and shots in progress.


As a vfx supervisor, how much direct contact would you expect to have with a matte painter or concept artist, for example? Or would you pass instruction through the lead?




I’d expect to have direct contact at all times, but its great to have a lead you can trust and rely on to help share the load when you’re busy, contribute different ideas, and help out with technical issues one matte paintings etc. We’ve set up the systems here at ILM to try and make sure we have direct one-on-one contact with the artists as much as possible – its very important to me.



Do you advise and define the pipeline to be used, or is that a decision reached according to the whole team?

It’s a team effort but I have input. At ILM nowadays we have a fairly standard pipeline that we tweak per-show but generally work is focused on making the pipeline as good as it can be across the company.



Cheers



Ben.

bensnow
05-15-2008, 05:57 PM
How old are you and how long in this industry?

I’m 44 and I got into the industry around 1989



How much do you work per day, and per week?

This varies, but to give a general answer, a 10 hour day during post is pretty standard. When you’re on-set filming with the crew and also attending dailies (which ideally you do as a VFX supe) and planning the next day that can pretty usually run to a 14 hour day. During crunch time you can end up working really long days, and sometimes 7 day weeks. ILM is pretty good at managing that stuff but really it depends on the artist and project. This is not a business with a 9-5 day, that’s for sure.


Which books have influenced you the most and you have learned the most from ? Recomend any art related or programming ,whatever CG book that influenced you?

Hmm. The renderman companion was my favourite CG text, but biggest influences were probably more film-fan VFX centered books: Ray Harrhausen’s Film Fantasy Scrapbook, John Brosnan’s “Movie Magic”, “The Making of 2001” paperback. And then I read American Cinematographer, Cinefex, Cinefantastique and other magazines for every nugget on FX films and FX lore. “Film Art” by Bordwell and Thompson was a big influence, and I first off was a horror fan and had my initial interest in film piqued by a book called “Monsters of the Movies” and a glossy book called “Horror Movies” by Alan Frank. Of course that was back in the late 70s, early 80s – I’m sure there are some very good more dedicated books now. Although there seems to be a fair bit of dross as well. I was a big fan of Will Eisner’s Spirit comics, Carl Bark’s Uncle Scrooge, and the art of Dore.

bensnow
05-15-2008, 05:58 PM
What do you enjoy most about your position at ILM and what do you dislike the most?



It’s a great job. I work with some of the most talented people in the business. The artists have terrific support from the various departments, particularly production and a strong R&D team, and you never hear the words “It can’t be done”. We have over 30 years of experience and a surprising number of artists that have been here for all that time and whom you can get input and great stories from. We have a very nice campus here at the Presidio in San Francisco. The only real pain is the hours and the aggressive bidding we need to do to get the work – but that’s standard for the VFX business (see my answer to Felicity, above)

bensnow
05-15-2008, 06:00 PM
What makes a company like ILM great ?

The people who work here, artists, R&D and support people. Our history and experience are good to be able to draw on, we have some great tools and the ability to create more, but it is the ideas and artistic vision that are important, and I think we’ve got a lot of really good creative and technical minds here. Importantly, ‘though, we try to never lose the desire to make things better and make our shots more cool and spectacular.


Which are the first problems making IRON MAN ?

Making the suits look real and blend seamlessly with the real thing; working out how to make his flying and all his movements look very believable and still reflect the character of Robert Downey junior.


Which is the thing that you prefer, in IRON MAN character.

I like Iron Man himself – because Robert Downey is inside him and brings so much to the role. My favourite suit is the Mark III red and gold.

bensnow
05-15-2008, 06:02 PM
What would you say is your main skill/talent. The one that allows you to do the work you do so well and make you feel comfortable in that position (which I assume you do). I guess that, at the level you work, it just got to be more than just experience?



Difficult to answer a question like this without feeling like a poseur. Probably my enthusiasm for the project and for making the work as good as it can be. Also constantly trying to improve my artistic eye and help the artists lift the artistry of their work. Trying to keep hands-on and know the tools. Organisational skills help.

What is the most common (or perhaps preferred) way to get to work as a vfx supervisor. Example, would you say that a CG background ranks higher than film background? I am trying to understand if this is more of a producer role or a visual effects artist role.



It’s more of a visual effects artist role. These days CG background ranks highly but many of the leading VFX supes have a good deal of film experience, and it is something you definitely need to make sure you get. You have to be able to talk technically as well as artistically with directors, D.P.s and editors to name a few so you definitely want to try and have as much knowledge of those areas as you can as well as what makes a digital shot look good.

bensnow
05-15-2008, 06:03 PM
In your opinion, what would you personaly prefer to see in a vfx-heavy movie: graphics that are more artistic or more realistic?



Great question, Al Haitham! My ultimate goal is to make artistically strong, but still photo-real images. In the past, on many of the projects I’ve worked on its so hard to get the Twister or the Water or the creature looking real that it feels like there’s sometimes not enough time to work on the lighting and look to make it artistically as good as it can be. But you do your best. However, as tools improve and if you put enough work into look development up front, its getting easier to make a real looking first or second take. Then you can spend the time on making the shot cooler and more beautiful, although always, always in service of the story and the vision of the film-maker. We’re pushing our tools to get that first take quicker and better and then making sure we can have the ability to take them where we want to artistically. Either way, artistic or realistic, I like it to be in service of a story (although I’ll give Abstract film and the works of Peter Greenaway a pass on that score).

chris-mac
05-15-2008, 06:33 PM
Hi Ben,

thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.

This is a little self indulgent, so I'll try and be as brief as possible.

At the moment (and for the last 8 years) I am working in the field of architectural visualisation. I am completely self taught, and over the years I have become well versed in many 3d and compositing applications (mainly cinema 4d, after effects and shake).

Having been obsessed with films from a very young age I have always wanted to work in film, but always thought it was out of my reach. However, I now think that I would have something to offer the VFX industry in the creation of digital environments.

Having gone through the ILM employment FAQ, I have decided to go back to University for a year, to gain a Masters in Digital Effects form Bournemouth University (it is the only UK based education establishment that ILM reccommends) with the hope of eventually gaining employment in the VFX industry... hopefully, specializing in digital environments.

To attain entry to Bournemouth University, I have created a showreel of my most recent work which hopefully displays my skills in CG...

It can be viewed at:

http://www.vimeo.com/1018478

(I'd be absolutely thrilled at the idea that a VFX supervisor at ILM had seen my work, but I realise you are very busy, so it's not really necessary to view the video to answer my question)

Anyway, my question to you would be...

Should I go back to University to attain a qualification in Visual Effects in the hope of gaining emplyment in the industry, or would I be better served trying to get an internship in one of the VFX studios at the moment, in the hope that I will be able to develop my skills while working?

I'd be interested in hearing your opinion on this... thanks for taking the time to read this.

Chris McLaughlin

bensnow
05-15-2008, 08:41 PM
After transitioning from artist to supervisor did you miss actually doing shots?



Absolutely, but these days I try and do at least one shot on every show I do. On Ironman I lit a shot and created the BGs and TD’d many of the shots for test we did early on. I also did a couple of shots on Pirates 2 as a guest TD – its always good to keep your hand in as long as you maintain focus on the big picture that your first job is to supervise the other artists and help them.


What are the big differences between ILM and Weta in terms of digital pipeline?



Both can change year to year and even sometimes show to show but basically ILM’s is centred around the proprietary zeno software which is used for a lot of our tasks including Matchmoving, Roto, lighting and creature work (muscles, skinning etc), and simulation. Weta’s pipeline, at least when I was working on Kong, is built in and around more off-the-shelf tools – so for example the lighting was in Maya but used special plugins to call the rendering.


Does ILM ramp up and down with every project or is the number of people working there quite constant?

We do a lot more ramping up and down and use more project-based people than we did during the 90s, but we try and keep a large core group constantly employed, so the ramping up and down is less marked than other facilities.

bensnow
05-15-2008, 08:43 PM
A quick question, prior to leaving australia did you have any artistic interests besides being a film fan? Did you do any kind of traditional art or were you simply a fan trying to break into the industry that you love?



I was basically a film fan, as well as a big reader, and a lot of my interests in other media grew out of a love of film. For example I mentioned liking Will Eisner’s Spirit comics in an earlier reply. That interest was stimulated by a splash page reprinted in a book on violence in the cinema where they cited Eisner as a comic artist with a great noir sensibility. When Kitchen Sink started reprinting his stuff in the 70’s and 80’s I felt like I’d hit the mother lode! As a medium film really embraces other artistic forms – design, painting, sculpture, writing, and Visual effects gives you a chance to employ each of those.

Also, how does one talk their way into an ILM party? Haha



If it’s a big party co-sponsored by a software or systems vendor, tackle the sales rep you deal with and beg/bully/cajole/hit them up for tickets. Worked for me.

bensnow
05-15-2008, 08:49 PM
Question:
What are your recommendations on how to stay generalized but also stand a chance of being employable. Do companies such as ILM have positions which are more open to generalists to further develop towards supervision competancy almost like a pre-production team who experiment on a small scale?


I think the best approach is to start your career in a smaller facility where you have to be a generalist, building your skills in areas that interest you. You may end up getting VFX supervision opportunities with that small company as work is farmed out all over these days. The big things are a good eye and getting a feel for film-making, as much as being a technical honcho. When and if you start to specialize, keep working on those creative skills and knowledge of the film-making process – look for opportunities to do that. The good thing about specialization is that you can be in demand, then you can pick projects that exploit your specialization but perhaps give you opportunities to grow as an artist or in other ways beyond just your speciality. We don't have specific setups for generalists on a path towards supervison but our current supervisors include people with backgrounds in model-making, miniature photography, art direction, compositing, technical direction (lighting and FX) and of course animation. So there are multiple paths. One friend of mine outside ILM started as a plate co-ordinator (gathering data for the VFX shots during the shoot, working with the VFX supe during planning etc.), worked in previz, and parlayed that experience and his talent into VFX supervision.

cheers

Ben.

bensnow
05-15-2008, 08:51 PM
How did it felt the first time you went to SIGGRAPH?



My first time at Siggraph was my first time in America. It 1994 and in Annaheim which is quite a culture shock for someone from outside the USA. Plus it was the year Jurassic Park was released and there was a big retrospective panel on ILM’s work and a lot of studios (DD, R&D, ILM) were recruiting aggressively. So all in all it blew my mind. I did as many of the courses and papers as I could.

Was it difficult for you to make the decision of traveling to another country to find and get a position in this industry?



I and my wife love travel and I guess we didn’t go anywhere expecting to be there for ever but we definitely considered things like that your spouse may not be able to work, we won’t be close to family etc. Certainly there are opportunities in other places, but increasingly there are great opportunities at home – and you get a chance to be on the ground. So if you can make the opportunities its worth looking at home as a first step. That said, I like being able to work with experienced people and have a lot of people to learn from as I work with so I love working at somewhere like ILM. Those sort of facilities tend to be clustered in fewer parts of the world.

TheMiyamotoMusashi
05-15-2008, 09:17 PM
Wow thanks a lot, know that this is apreciated a loot,we don't have ILM guys around everyday :)

Just one last question from me , i can't get answer on forums

1. I have some reels i use as reference to work on my reel for character setup, but i haven't found a character rigging reel yet, from a guy in pixar or ILM.I need to see what kind of a reel it takes for a guy to get in pixar or ILM as Character rigging td?It will help me tremendesly if you can give me direct links for download or links to some of ILM's people web sites with rigging reels.And any advices from you to get in ILM as creature TD?

Take care and thanks again

Xharthok
05-15-2008, 10:14 PM
I have a technical questions: At what Resolution/shadingrate/pixelsamples ILM renders when they use Renderman? Yes I know this differ greatly from shot to shot but if you can give me the numbers for one or two particular shots i can extrapolate it for most of the others. I'm interested in the demands of Picturequality you guys have (technically).

raylistic
05-16-2008, 01:15 AM
Hi Ben,
What would u suggest someone who is interested to become a vfx artist to study in college? Computer science or a BFA related major?

Cheers,
Ray

exStatic1
05-16-2008, 06:40 AM
Wow sir, no questions, just a quick comment;


Fantastic resume you've got, it must be a dream come true to be you! lol

About every movie you've worked on is in my top personal favorites list.

bensnow
05-16-2008, 06:59 AM
Hi Chris

Your question: Should I go back to University to attain a qualification in Visual Effects in the hope of gaining emplyment in the industry, or would I be better served trying to get an internship in one of the VFX studios at the moment, in the hope that I will be able to develop my skills while working?

That's a big question and is something you really have to sort out for yourself. Since I don't know your situation, take this as pretty general advice. If it was me, and I could afford it, I'd go back to University. Its true you'll probably have to still pay your dues somewhat in an entry job in the industry, maybe even an internship but the skills you'll pick up in Unversity will help you shine when you get the opportunity - and that's what it is all about. Also, you can use the time to help build a reel of work. And you'll make connections with other artists that can be helpful later on.

All the best either way.

bensnow
05-16-2008, 07:02 AM
Wow, I don't think I've seen a reel dedicated to rigging or creature TD stuff. Many of the specialists in that field have a fairly technical background combined with an eye for motion. So you'd want creature work and/or simulation on the reel, and also to display some experience/ability for scripting/programming.

cheers

Keilious
05-16-2008, 07:39 AM
Hi Ben,

I'm studying Digital Arts at Australian National University here in Canberra (which somehow made reading about your career very inspiring for me!).

I'm nowhere near certain as to which specific field I'd want to go into yet (just soaking up every bit of CG information I can!), but when I look at the wonderful works being created out there in the industry, I feel the skills I've gained so far in my studies are really insignificant!

My question is, what's the best way for a student such as myself to gain useful experience, or to learn more about how the industry works, and how to function within it?


Regards,
Alexander

lars_50
05-16-2008, 05:11 PM
Hi Ben,

We have a bet going here at work regarding if two certain shots of iron man are cg or not. One of them is the trailer shot of downey in the suit with the visor up (then coming down). The other bet is regarding a press photo. I've attached still frames of both of them. Are they cg or the winston practical suit?

http://niklasstrom.com/misc/ironManBet/ironMan_pressStill.jpghttp://niklasstrom.com/misc/ironManBet/ironman_trailerShot.jpg


Thanks a lot for your help!

XminusOne
05-16-2008, 08:44 PM
Thanks for answering my question Ben, it's much appreciated!!!

bensnow
05-17-2008, 01:05 AM
Rayalistic's Question: What would u suggest someone who is interested to become a vfx artist to study in college? Computer science or a BFA related major?


We look for a blend of artistic and technical skills at ILM. For entry level positions we definitely require some demonstrated technical abilities and simple programming. If you have a fine arts type background it would be good to show some evidence of having some knowledge of programming or some sort of computer scripting. Or you can take the approach of a CS degree with some elective work in arts. I had a computing degree with a major in film and found my technical training always valuable, indeed I sometimes wish I'd studied math a little harder. For animation jobs we prefer either a lot of experience or formal animation training. We have artists at ILM with all sorts of backgrounds. For the higher end jobs we look for several years film industry experience, but things change depending on supply and demand of course.

For getting into the business I'd say build the skills and have them in your back pocket but start entry level somewhere, maybe in a small facility where you can get rounded experience. Your skills and talent will help you move ahead and ensure you make the most of any opportunity.

I wish you the best.

bensnow
05-17-2008, 01:12 AM
My question is, what's the best way for a student such as myself to gain useful experience, or to learn more about how the industry works, and how to function within it?


Read sites like this one, plus cinfex, cg world magazine and cinefex. Look at DVD supplements. But like any industry job you want experience and a reel - so try and make animations and renderings as much as you can a Uni. Look for internships in the industry and even consider trying for a summer job at a post house or FX facility. Some people even start out by volunteering. I firmly believe it makes sense to start with a smaller place and get experience before trying to join a larger FX house. If you have a home computer you can download many major software packages for self-training and others have good deals for students. And its a noble art to try and weasle render time or indeed any media resource out of your institute. I actually ran the ANU film group for several years so of course I'd suggest making sure you join them and see as many movies as possible. And put some of that film-making equipment to use if they still have it!

All the best.

Ben.

bensnow
05-17-2008, 01:21 AM
Hi

Both the suits you show are the practical suit, and they're beautiful, aren't they? Shane Mahan and the Winston folks did a great job on them. The top one has been touched up a little - most obviously in the glows, and on the bottom one we did some repair work on the neck and made the helmet close a little faster (in 2D). The most obvious give-aways that they're practical are the shoulder pads which are plastic rather than the more metallic finish on the rest of the suit, and thus have a different specular highlight, and also there's no way we'd be allowed to get away with having the faceplate so clean for one of our shots. Funny story about the second image. The shot that appears after it in the movie is also a shot of the practical suit as he readies for take-off. One day I got a call from Favreau asking if we could do something the shot, saying it was the sort of horrible CG look he was afraid of having in the film, and the studio was also concerned. After working out which shot it was I had to inform him it was the practical suit. We tried to sharpen the highlights and do some other stuff in compositing to make it a little less plastic for the final to avoid adding a CG shot.

bensnow
05-17-2008, 01:25 AM
I have a technical questions: At what Resolution/shadingrate/pixelsamples ILM renders when they use Renderman? Yes I know this differ greatly from shot to shot but if you can give me the numbers for one or two particular shots i can extrapolate it for most of the others. I'm interested in the demands of Picturequality you guys have (technically).

Reply:
Its something we don't like to get too specific on, but we generally render at 2k which is frankly a little high and soften the Cg in the comp to blend it better. Pixel samples might be around 10 and shading rate 0.5 but on some shots we tried some crazy shading rates to try and get the brushed metal to work (we got around this with some cool shader tricks Doug Smythe and the shader guys came up with). We also vary render resolution sometimes to get extra detail and get around mip-mapping sampling issues - it really does vary greatly shot to shot.

TheMiyamotoMusashi
05-17-2008, 02:28 AM
One last question from me

Would you accept a guy in ILM without a degree and no work experience but a really really great reel in his field?

JacobsenAugenstein
05-17-2008, 03:15 AM
Hey Ben! I got two questions, if it has been answered just tell me which post. Thanks in advance!

Where did you go to college to study and what degree did you get?

And how did you get the job you have now, what were some ofthe steps taken?

Thanks again!!

Xharthok
05-17-2008, 04:57 AM
Thank you VERY much, for your answer about Shadingrate/Resolution/Pixelsamples this helped me a lot.

So thank you for hanging around here at good old CGTalk.

ZacS
05-17-2008, 02:30 PM
Hi Ben,

Its great to read about an Aussie that has become so successful in the Visual Effects field. I saw Iron Man the other week and though the CG, compositing and overall the whole movie was great, really enjoyed it and will watch it again when it is out on DVD.

I am in Sydney Australia and currently in my 2nd Year of a Computer Science/Digital Media Double degree. I have just started learning Maya and so far am quite enjoying working in 3D/CG and is certainly one of the fields I am interested in looking at a career in.

Do you feel that if one wants to become very successful in the Visual Effects/CG industry that they need to leave Australia and move to the US?

Is Australia a reasonable place to get started in the industry?

Is having the degrees that I am studying enough to get a reasonable starting position or are there any course/books/learning you would recommend?

Regards,
Zac

felicitymoore
05-17-2008, 10:39 PM
Hello Ben

Thanks for your reply on pipeline, Spiderwick and contact with matte painters! Really helpful for me, thank you.

If you get time, I have another question about the role of planning and pre-vizualisation on action scenes. As an example, Jeff Bridges and Robert Downey's fights in Iron Man:

I'm keen to understand, how tightly are the shots pre-vizualised - effectively a fine cut of the finished scene? (apologies if this displays my ignorance of the process here!), but I would like to understand, how much can the director alter shot length by a few frames in the cut?

For fight scenes for instance, how much freedom would you get with the actual content of the scene, once the outcome and general feeling is established in planning?

Thanks again!

Felicity

d-brooks
05-18-2008, 01:41 AM
Hi Ben,

Two questions for you if you'd be so kind,

Looking retrospectively now back on your career so far, what have been the highlights for you in terms of areas that interest you most?

I am most interested in character/creature setup, where do you see this area of specialisation moving in the next decade or so, and what interests you most about this particular field?

Kind Regards,

David

bensnow
05-19-2008, 06:40 AM
Question: Would you accept a guy in ILM without a degree and no work experience but a really really great reel in his field?

It would be a long shot - but you'd have to check with recruiting. You can find them on the web. If its a really great reel and the work you display on it is in a discipline they're looking for at the time, I'm sure they'd love to see it!

All the best.

Ben.

bensnow
05-19-2008, 06:42 AM
Where did you go to college to study and what degree did you get?

And how did you get the job you have now, what were some ofthe steps taken?

Hi Dudebot13

The answers you seek are all in the profile on the CG Society site - pretty much in the first few paragraphs, so check it out.

cheers.

bensnow
05-19-2008, 06:51 AM
Zac's question: Do you feel that if one wants to become very successful in the Visual Effects/CG industry that they need to leave Australia and move to the US?

Certainly not - there are a bunch of great companies in Australia now working at every level in the industry. Rising Sun, Animal Logic, The Lab, Photon and several others have been doing good work on big FX movies for several years now, and there a bunch of shops doing commercials, graphics for TV etc. as well. There are some very talented VFX supervisors working in Australia and as they gain more experience they'll be lead FX supe on bigger and bigger films. I think its pretty exciting there.


Question: Is Australia a reasonable place to get started in the industry?

Yes it is - and don't forget its not a bad thing to start at a small company, although there are some big VFX houses in Australia. Its great to have the varied experience a small facility can give you.


Is having the degrees that I am studying enough to get a reasonable starting position or are there any course/books/learning you would recommend?

Without knowing the specifics of the courses I'd say they sound fine. But you'll definitely want to put those Maya skills together and do some projects at Uni for a reel of your work, make sure you can demonstrate some coding/scripting ability, and get some experience at a smaller facility before going after a job in one of the big houses.

all the best.

bensnow
05-19-2008, 06:59 AM
How tightly we hold to the Previz depends very much on the client and how much they like the previz they have. Iron Man was somewhat unique because the director was clearly inviting us to bring ideas and not be too slavish to the previz - a position that was reinforced by the previz lead telling us the same thing! That doesn't always happen but it means that there are some big differences between our final versions of the scene and the previz. Of course its an evolutionary thing, so sometimes the previz gets updated as we go along, incorperating new ideas.

On other projects you do run into a problem where the director loves the previz or boards and doesn't like you to vary from them in the slightest. This can be a problem where the previz or boards haven't been done with reality in mind - ie there are 2D cheats or impossible to shoot angles. The previz I've been lucky enough to work with on my past few projects didn't suffer from that. I've also been lucky in that the directors I've worked with are very clear about what they like and don't like about the previz - especially when asked. A big part of commercial art is about communication, understanding the client's wishes and what they need for a project. Previz can help in that process immensely and is very valuable, but I believe its only as valuable as much as the director is involved in the process and clearly offers their comments on it.

cheers

Daegu
05-19-2008, 08:43 AM
1. What modeling software do you use for your personal work? Or do you just leech ILM's proprietary software? lol

2. What project (professional or personal) are you most proud of?

3. Do you have a favorite CG artist besides yourself?

bensnow
05-19-2008, 03:53 PM
Question: Looking retrospectively now back on your career so far, what have been the highlights for you in terms of areas that interest you most?
- I used to feel that photo-realistic natural phenomena and realistic effects were the peak of visual effects achievement, but like most people I probably enjoy the fantasy stuff more. For realistic effects I loved working on Iron Man (which also had a satsifying fantasy quotient) and Pearl Harbor. For the challenges and experience and also the work King Kong and Attack of the Clones are highlights. And I love Galaxy Quest as a movie and had great fun exploding Martian Brains and sticking a chihauhau's head on Sarah Jessica Parker's body for Mars Attacks! so they're favourites as well. Looking back all of the projects had highlights so those are just a few examples. Each project has its own great memories and challenges.

Question: I am most interested in character/creature setup, where do you see this area of specialisation moving in the next decade or so, and what interests you most about this particular field?
I think we still have challenges in skin, hair and particularly secondary motions, fine wrinkling etc. I think shapes and muscles are still an area of infinite complexity that we're still exploring. Good creature work is hard to do and we're lucky to have a good team of creature TDs with some great tools which are ever-evolving. It's a great area to be interested in since while the needs for different artist groups fluctuate a lot, good creature TDs, who tend to do rigid simulations and so on as well, seem to be often in demand.

bensnow
05-19-2008, 03:59 PM
1. What modeling software do you use for your personal work? Or do you just leech ILM's proprietary software? lol
I hardly have time for personal work - film keeps me pretty busy. But Maya is ILM's main modelling tool and that's what I use when I need to model (but yes, sometimes dive in to the proprietary tools for things that can't be done otherwise).

2. What project (professional or personal) are you most proud of?
Probably see my previous answer - but I love Iron Man because it was a fun experience with creative and technical challenges, and I really liked the movie itself. Also it was the last thing I did, so I'm kindly disposed towards it.

3. Do you have a favorite CG artist besides yourself?
I'm not sure I'd be in my favourites list! I've been lucky enough to work with some amazingly talented artists who have avrious strengths and reason's I like them that I can't really pick a favourite. I have many whom I greatly admire and love working with.

cheers

Xharthok
05-20-2008, 01:48 AM
I have another question. My speciality is old school lighting. I always get a kick when I light a scene with Shadowmapped Spots only or when I fake indirect light. Maybe I'm a little bit nostalgic :).

So here is my question: is there a way to get some detailed Informations or HiRes Pictures for example about the T-Rex Night scene in Jurassic Park 1 OR OTHER OLD SHOTS? All I can read in books, magazines and internet is sooooooooooo vague and sometimes obviously wrong. And the CMYK Raster in print products hinder my pedantic analyses. So why not just ask directly the Source.

If this is not possible no problem (I'm always a little bit upfront :) ).

And by the way you mentioned Dennis Muren in the article. All I can say about him: he is the reason why I'm began working with CGI.

So keep up the extremely cool and hard work and sorry for my funny germanized English.

bensnow
05-22-2008, 08:50 PM
In terms of looking at hires images, probably blue-ray is your best bet (or HIDEF trailers). Harder with JP1 I should imagine. In terms of lighting breakdowns on those older shows cinefex and CGW are probably the best sources - and the DVD supplements often have some good info.

felicitymoore
05-22-2008, 09:45 PM
Hi Ben, thank you very much for your reply on previz.

Wondering if I can squeeze in another question please?!

In your reply to David Brooks below, you mention the challenges in skin, fur, wrinkles etc:
if you had some free time (!) to do anything....would you personally have a favourite area of R&D?

Thank you!

Felicity

PaulHellard
05-23-2008, 12:18 AM
Hi there,

I know a lot of people have further questions, but I am here to say it is time to close.
I would like to thank Ben Snow for taking part in this (extended) 'Meet the Artist' here in CGTalk. Everyone is real happy you came along.