View Full Version : Meet the Artist - Kevin Mack

02 February 2007, 12:26 AM

Kevin Mack
Visual Effects Supervisor

Academy Award winner Kevin Mack, visual effects supervisor at Sony Pictures Imageworks, recently completed work on the action adventure, ‘Ghost Rider’ based on the popular comic book and starring Nicolas Cage.

Mack joined Imageworks in 2002 to supervise the visual effects for Tim Burton’s ‘Big Fish (,’ which went on to be nominated for a BAFTA Award for Achievement in Visual Effects.

While at Digital Domain, Mack was visual effects supervisor on the Oscar-winning ‘A Beautiful Mind (,’ where he was intimately involved with director Ron Howard and writer Akiva Goldsman in pre-production conceptualization of the visual depiction of John Nash’s genius. This creative and collaborative relationship with Howard was formed when Mack supervised the effects on Dr. Seuss’ ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas.’

Mack also worked with director David Fincher on ‘Fight Club (’, supervising visual effects and collaborating with Fincher to design the seminal “brain fly-through” opening sequence of the film.

Mack won the Academy Award in 1999 for Achievement in Visual Effects for his work on ‘What Dreams May Come’ as visual effects supervisor.

Mack’s other visual effects supervisor credits include ‘Vanilla Sky’, ‘Red Corner’ and ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’. He also served as digital effects art director on the Academy Award-nominated ‘Apollo 13’.

Previously, Mack had an extensive career as a freelance visual effects artist creating matte paintings and miniatures for films ranging from Airplane 2 to the Oscar-winning ‘The Abyss’.

Feel free to read the CGSociety ‘Ghost Rider (’ article, now online, and also have a look at some of the other links as well, then ask Kevin Mack any industry question here, as we have him online in our February ‘Meet the Artist’.

Please make him welcome, Kevin Mack.

02 February 2007, 08:16 AM
Hi Kevin, welcome to meet the artists!

I'd like to know which film/project has been your biggest challenge so far and why. Also, could you name 3 big lessons you've learnt so far as an artist in the industry.

Thanks :)

02 February 2007, 08:17 AM
G'day Kevin, you've done some brilliant work there. Ok, got a few questions:

1. Does your professional career provide much time for personal projects?

2. What are the packages Imageworks uses, and is it "set in stone"?

3. What's the biggest challenge you've been given in your cg history?

02 February 2007, 09:07 AM
Hey Kev. nice of you to take some time for this. Just wanted to say congrats on all the awesome acheivements in your career. Taking part in creating so many awesome movies must be an awesome feeling man.

good luck with future projects and jobs.

02 February 2007, 09:18 AM
Hi Kevin....

Thanks for your time... What do you think is the biggest challenge nowdays in visual effects? Is it more technical such as CG water/fur or more managerial such as how to approach a project with resources available??

Thanks again


02 February 2007, 09:36 AM
hello kevin.

congratulations for your great carrer.

my first question.
what is the hardest challlenge you have faced in the past?

also what roll do you think is less important in the cg industry?

do you like ghost rider comic book ?

what is your favorite video game?

wich video game producer do you think is the best in the field of video games?

do you like mexican food?

what is your main goal in life?

thx in advance for share some of your time with us.

02 February 2007, 10:49 AM
Ghostrider looks amazing. Can you give us time periods on how long things in the pipeline took? what were the technical challenges and what commercial apps you use if any.

02 February 2007, 11:58 AM
Hi Kevin. Thanks for your time.

- How does look like a common day as a Visual Effects Supervisor at Imageworks?

- What is the usual background of a visual effects supervisor?

- Does he need to master everything about cg, from bluescreen shots to matchmoving, modelling, lightning, particles, render, composition, etc.?

- How did you start in the industry? What kind of background do you have?

Congratulations on your success! Thank you very much!

02 February 2007, 02:38 PM

What was your biggest chanllance in Ghost Rider when it come to special effect?

how much work do you put into GhostRider?

ok bye,

02 February 2007, 02:47 PM
Hello Kevin!
I have just one important question for you. What kind of music you prefer to listen while working? Thank you :)

02 February 2007, 03:21 PM
Hey there Kevin! Thanks for "What Dreams May Come"'s Visual effects, i still watch it occaisionally since i really do love the visuals in that movie.

if you don't mind me asking, for someone hoping to break into the industry what words of advise would you be willing to offer someone that has to juggle a 9-5 job and work on a reel? just patience and diligence or is there some other tips in there that you could spare?

and also, as it happens now and again, how do you usually deal with burnout? (something that i know happens to everyone eventually, but isn't often discussed.)

02 February 2007, 05:47 PM
Hey Kevin. Damn, your credit list reads like my DVD reference library! A couple of questions:

Being that you are the go-between between the set and VFX team, do you have any etiquette tips for artists that are present during shoots? (I've heard that if your cellphone goes off while they are filming, you are 'fined' and your cellphone is smashed on the spot.)

Do you find the film crew pretty knowledgeable about what goes on in post, and what will help/hurt us on our end?

And finally, if you can answer this; With all the credits and experience you have behind you, do you have any interest in your own personal projects or even starting your own studio?

02 February 2007, 06:37 PM
Hello Kevin, first of all wow! that's a very cool list of movies you've worked on ( I loved A Beautiful Mind..).

Ok, what I want to ask is: we have seen many many movies lately which are visual effects heavy, we have almost seen all the tricks, so are you worried about creating new CG tricks for upcoming projects? Is there anything left?

Thank you very much for your time.


02 February 2007, 08:04 PM
Hi Kevin, welcome to meet the artists!

I'd like to know which film/project has been your biggest challenge so far and why. Also, could you name 3 big lessons you've learnt so far as an artist in the industry.

Thanks :)

Hey Shane/Sphere,

Good questions! The biggest challenge question seems to be a popular one with many variations. I'm not sure why but it kind of stumped me right off. I think maybe because every challenge seems like the biggest one when you're facing it. And also challenges come in so many flavors. There are the technical challenges of “how are we going to do this really hard thing?”, the creative challenges of designing shots, look development and so on - and there are the social/political challenges of working with artists, directors, producers, film crews, etc. The biggest challenges are often not what you expect. Usually, for me, the most challenging shots on a movie are not the biggest, hardest or coolest shots. It's some minor little comp that wasn't shot right and you don't have the time or resources to fix it properly and you have to get really clever to make it work with the time and resources available.

As far as the movie that was the biggest challenge... Every one is so different I can't seem to pick one. Ghost Rider? Fight Club? The Grinch? What Dreams?

The three big lessons... There are actually 9,874 big lessons, but... Here's three...

No matter what anybody says, they don't want something bad. So you have to figure out how to make the good version of what they are asking for. So often I've seen bad work - and the person who made it says “I know it's bad, but this is what they asked for”. Baloney. They just failed to get what was being asked for. You have to get inside the director/client's head and see what they see in the coolest possible way.
Never lose your cool. No matter what happens. No matter how dire the situation seems, it will work itself out. Not always the way you want. But the more you resist an inevitable situation, the worse it gets. Surf the flow. Be calm and reasonable. Freaking out is never the right response.
Always be yourself. Be honest and straightforward. My motto is - Relax. Breathe. Do your best. And be nice.

02 February 2007, 08:11 PM
Hi Kev, love your work & congratulations on Ghostrider, hot stuff!..
I just want to ask one question, what kind of preparation that you usually need to do before start working on the computer?

Thank you!

02 February 2007, 10:31 PM
G'day Kevin, you've done some brilliant work there. Ok, got a few questions:

1. Does your professional career provide much time for personal projects?

2. What are the packages Imageworks uses, and is it "set in stone"?

3. What's the biggest challenge you've been given in your cg history?

Hi Sean/Cowtrix,

Thanks for the kind words. As far as my career allowing time for personal projects - I'd say yes overall because I definitely maintain personal projects and activities whenever possible. I have always managed to keep making my own weird art... ( (shameless plug) and I play guitar. I write and record music and I have a family too. There are periods on any movie when it can be all consuming and I'm lucky to sleep a few hours a night or go to the bathroom without interruption. But there are also periods when things are ramping up or between projects when it's pretty easy going. I wouldn't say I have as much time as I'd like for all my interests but I keep at 'em.

As far as Imageworks software is concerned. We use a lot of stuff, much of it proprietary. I'm sure there are tools being used here that I don't even know about. But in general. Houdini, Maya, Inferno, Photoshop. The usual suspects. And it's not set in stone. If someone finds something cool and wants to use it, it will be investigated by a panel of experts and if deemed worthwhile, we'll get it.

The biggest challenge question - I went into this on the last post but couldn't really name one project. Ghost rider was a huge and really fun challenge but it's new so it stands out in my memory but there have been lots of other fun challenging projects in the past... I'm sorry, what was the question again? ;-)




02 February 2007, 10:42 PM
Hey Kev. nice of you to take some time for this. Just wanted to say congrats on all the awesome acheivements in your career. Taking part in creating so many awesome movies must be an awesome feeling man.

good luck with future projects and jobs.

Thank you very much! Working on cool movies can be an awesome feeling, but it's like anything else, it has all the components of life - good and bad. I find that it's best to try to find that "awesome feeling" in the present - regardless of where I am or what I'm doing. That way the awesome feeling is independent of anything circumstantial. In fact I'm having that awesome feeling right now.
Can you dig it?
I knew that you could.
Zan qua,
Kevin Mack

02 February 2007, 10:56 PM
Hi Kevin....

Thanks for your time... What do you think is the biggest challenge nowdays in visual effects? Is it more technical such as CG water/fur or more managerial such as how to approach a project with resources available??

Thanks again


The biggest challenge is figuring out what the biggest challenge is. ;-)
Both the technical and managerial aspects are big challenges. I think maybe I don't really think in terms of challenges. I see tasks and processes for completing tasks. Challenges sounds kind of intimidating, like there's a chance you might lose or not make it. I try to live in a dream world where anything is possible and the process is fun. They say if you don't look ahead and you don't look back and just focus on the task at hand, you can do anything.
Thanks for the question,
Wiggle well,
Kevin Mack

02 February 2007, 11:34 PM
hello kevin.

congratulations for your great carrer.

my first question.
what is the hardest challlenge you have faced in the past?

also what roll do you think is less important in the cg industry?

do you like ghost rider comic book ?

what is your favorite video game?

wich video game producer do you think is the best in the field of video games?

do you like mexican food?

what is your main goal in life?

thx in advance for share some of your time with us.

Thanks for your questions Tokaru,

Okay - hardest challenge... Is that related to biggest challenge? ;-)
The hardest and biggest challenge for me is to continually deny that there is any challenge. I like to believe that every challenge simply requires that I apply a problem solving process to it. And with concentrated effort and practice that becomes effortless mastery. I've always thought it was cooler to do something well easily rather than to suffer and struggle to achieve it. I definitely do my share of struggling. I'm just not that into it.

Everything is important in the CG industry.

I bought the first issues of Ghost Rider when they came out in the 70's. I totally dug them.

I almost never play video games of any kind. It's not that I don't think they're cool. I actually love racing games. My sons keep me up on what's new in games. I just find that I like to apply my effort and time to activities that produce something - art - music - learning - I watch TV though so... hmm. I don't know. I've seen people so consumed by games, it kind of scares me. Also, I'm not that big on any competitive games or sports - unless I can win every time. ;-)

I love mexican food!

My main goal in life is the loss of goals through perfection of means. I'm not quite sure what that even means but it feels right somehow.

Thanks for the questions!
Veda Beta,
Kevin Mack

02 February 2007, 12:20 AM
Working with you on GhostRider was an amazing experience...

Any chance you can share what you'll be working on next?

Any chance I can work on it too? ;)

As far as your personal artwork goes, how long does a piece usually take you to do and how many iterations does it go through before you finally call it finished?

What is your favorite type of art to look at, and what setting do you prefer - a muesem, a gallery, a book, online? Please do tell...

Do you have a favorite artist, gallery or collection that you are usually inspired by? Anyone in particular you like?

Who do you look up to?

You're a swell guy for taking the time to do this Q&A with everyone.


02 February 2007, 05:05 AM
damn -dc- those were good questions.

Whats the best steps I can take to build my reputation as a professional artist? How do I solidify my identity in the cg industry?

Thanks dude, you rock!

02 February 2007, 12:51 PM
Hello Kevin.
I am 17 years old , and i am very interested in studying the 3d graphic .
Could you give me some tips how to became professional CG artist ?
What schools whould you recomend ?
But i am not sure what exactly i want to learn :) I just want make amazing effects , since i was a kid i loved MATRIX , probably of my favourite movie ... The Matrix bullet effect and fighting sences is my goal :) i want to learn how to make movies like that . What would you recommend me to do ?

Thank you,
Best regards Dimon.

02 February 2007, 01:33 PM
Greetings and Salutations Kevin.

Congratulations on your accomplishments.

You do fine work and I look forward to seeing more from you.


02 February 2007, 02:55 PM
Dear Kevin,
it´s Florian from Germany. I seems to me, that improving and training skills and technics are one of the top demands in the whole 3D-Industry. So I started to eat books and tutorials and other artwork of people, who are better than me in the areas I want to improve in.
So my Questions are the following:
1. When you reflect your carreer: What of your training-methods seem most effiecient to you?
2. Which methods do you prefer? Are you more the autodedactic one or do you prefer "teachers around" you?
3. Would you name the best 3 books concerning 3D, that came into your mind?
4. It´s very personally and you don´t have to answer it, but in the fact that I am thinking about studying "into" 3D-Industry: Does your family sometimes feel neglected or "uncared" in any way?

Thanks for taking the time!
greetings, Florian

02 February 2007, 08:30 PM
Hi Kevin!

First of all I'm happy to see you over here, and I'm feeling honored to be talking to an Oscar-winner! :bowdown::) Congratulations on that, and of course congratulations on you amazing career!

I saw you were VFX-supervisor on Big Fish, which is in fact one of my favorite movies! Everytime I watch it I enjoy the vfx more. ;) I've one quite detailed question about the "time stands still" sequence (in the circus, when Edward walks to Sandra in 'bullettime' - such an amazing, lovely, romantic shot!). I've been watching the making-off and reading an interview, which tells me that you shot it with people standing still, and doing adjustments and roto afterwards. I've been thinking about it, and to me it seemed just as effective to shoot different layers with actors on bluescreen, and projecting them on planes in the (tracked) 3D scene.
(similar to described in the new vfx-world article about 'The Number 23': "'Jim Carrey's character at about eight sits with his classmates. Except for a live-action young Carrey, all the kids are still images and IC uses a motion blur effect to make it seem as if time had stopped." Link ( )
So now I wonder why you did do it this way, and if it was as effective as you have planned?

Can you tell something about the relationship with the director, when you're working on set. For instance: what way did you work with mr Burton? I can imagine that he's only the creative 'dictator', and you just have to come up with a technique to make his vision visible on celloid? And: do you have much interaction with the actors?

I wonder how you rolled into the industry? As I think making your own vfx-films -at an age of 18- wasn't as common as it is these days? :shrug: Have you made short-films with friends those days?

Do you often watch back movies you worked on? As I red about some directors who haven't seen there own movies since the premiere!

At the moment I'm studying 'Industrial Design' and I've planned to try getting into the film/vfx industry with my education (while it's not 100% related, but I red about alot vfx and cg-people who were industrial designer once). Can you tell me of a hitpoint between being a vfx-supervisor, and being industrial designer? If I get a good one, I can do a vfx-internship, which would be cool! :beer:

Do you brush your teeth before a making-off interview is recorded? :scream:

Thanks for your time (sorry for the amount of text :blush: ), and all the best on your future projects! I'll be looking out for them! :)
-Gijs (Holland)

02 February 2007, 03:49 AM
Hey Kevin...

This is Chris Nichols. I just got a copy of Post magazine. The cover has the image of Ghostie on the top of the Bridge that you and I worked on for so long, and so long ago. I have to say that with the passage of time, the image looks really great and is something I am proud of. Thanks for being such a great mentor to me. Hope to work with you again.


02 February 2007, 05:16 PM
hi there Kevin!

What Dreams May Come and Fight Club are in my top-5 movies of all time.

Every time I watch Dreams, even now I am still inspired by the richness of the worlds that you and the other artists created. From the arches over the water in heaven to the upside-down gothic cathedral in hell, they still stir up images in my mind that make me say "wow" even when not watching the film.

I remember trying to re-create the feeling of the movies in my drawings when I was 15 and had just seen the movie for the first time with my dad.

Anway, what I'm getting at here is, you've inspired me, is there anything or anyone that inspired you?

Boy I hope noone else asked this already!

The visual effects were the best thing about Ghost Rider to me! Great job!

02 February 2007, 06:30 PM
Hey i have 2 simple questions to ask if its not big trouble
With wich programm or programms did u made the flames at the Ghost Rider
and How long can take someone to become good at VFX like you by starting now? :)

02 February 2007, 03:08 AM
Hey thanks everybody for all the great questions and kind words. Here's a few more responses to your posts...

To thedoc – I'm not much of record keeper but I know the fire pipeline took about nine months. CG fire was definitely a technical and creative challenge.

Hey Ralph – My work day is quite different depending on what part of the schedule we're in. Pre-production is all big meetings and planning. When we're shooting. I'm on set all day (or all night) consulting with the director and crew regarding VFX photography. Once we're in post. I do what we call turnovers, where I sit with the artists and supervisors and give them the download of what needs to happen on a per shot basis. Then, I spend most of my time in a “sweatbox”, a small screening room where we review all of the work being done constantly. The artists come in and I look at their work and give them direction. Then with greater frequency as the schedule progresses, I meet with the director and show the work and get any notes or changes.

As far as the usual background of a VFX supervisor, I don't really know. They're all different. They usually come from and excel at some aspect of the VFX world like compositing, lighting, matte painting, animation, miniature photography, motion control, etc.

There are certainly supervisors that aren't masters of all aspects of the work. In fact, there are a lot of supervisors that have never worked on computers at all but have experience with traditional VFX, like miniatures and blue screen opticals. Personally, I think the better you are at all the tasks, the better equipped you are to supervise those tasks. You should at least understand the process and what it takes to do each task. But most important of all are visual problem solving skills. It's a weird marriage of artistic and technical.

My background is unusual. I was born into the film industry. My parents were both film artists. I was a child actor. I drew and painted, sculpted and animated all my life. I've worked as a storyboard artist, matte painter, sculptor, scenic artist, model maker, animator, set designer and art director. I've done about every art job they have in the film business and some they don't. I went to Art Center college of design and studied fine art illustration and film. I had a psychedelic rock band. I got into computers for music in the eighties and started making visual art with them. I was doing traditional VFX (matte paintings, miniatures) for a living and started pushing to use computers for VFX. When it finally broke in the early nineties, I was in the right place at the right time. I had traditional VFX art skills AND computer skills. When I first started doing CG stuff, we did everything. They didn't have specialists as much as now. I did modeling, animation, wrote shaders, did the painting, the lighting and the comp. And it was fun because it was all new. Somewhere along the line someone tricked me into supervising.

Hey Jan,

I was on Ghost Rider for about two years. The biggest challenge was... umm... uhh...

Just let me think a minute...


I listen to all kinds of music when I'm working at the computer, but I don't get to be on the box at work much anymore. I'm big on Frank Black and all kinds of guitar-centric music when I'm working on my own stuff. I like a lot of chill out and ambient stuff for working to as well.


As for juggling the 9 to 5 and making your reel. Persist. A little progress every day adds up to a lot over time. As for burn out – I find it essential to have multiple creative outlets. That way, when I get fried at one, I get refreshed by doing something else. I play guitar and make my own art and that keeps me busy and inspired. Meditation is good too.

Mike Rhone,

Set etiquette is complicated. Someone should write a book. But it's different for everyone on the crew. In general, pay attention, be cool, quiet and WATCH YOUR STEP. Visitors to a set often trip on cables or bump into crucial lighting equipment. Or worse walk into the shot. It's really just common sense stuff mostly. And the looks you will get if your cell phone rings are far worse than having it smashed or paying any fine.

As far as film crew knowledge of what we do. It varies. In general they're pretty sophisticated and really helpful and cooperative. You've got to earn their respect though.

As for personal projects – I have many interests and not enough time for them all. I keep playing a bit of guitar and record something every so often. I make my abstract 3D art and animation which I've been working on a lot lately. I wrote a script and I'd like to direct (who wouldn't?). I have no interest in starting a VFX company. As a Supervisor, I only have to do the stuff I'm good at and enjoy. The business and organizational stuff is someone else's job.


With all the amazing VFX out there, it may seem like we've seen and done it all. We've certainly passed through the salad days when it was front page news. However, “New CG tricks” isn't why we go to movies. What it comes down to is the imagination of the filmmakers. As long as they keep coming up with original cool ideas, we will continue to develop new and better VFX techniques to bring them to life. I'm not worried. Besides, I'm working on a new CG trick that will cause anyone who sees it to explode in ecstasy as they are forcibly merged with the infinite ;-)

Okay. That's my deal for today. I'll be back for more tomorrow!

Thanks again to everyone, I appreciate the opportunity to pontificate!

Clouds and shiny things for everyone,

Kevin Mack

02 February 2007, 01:36 AM
Here's a couple more ranting responses to posts...

Johannes -

Thanks for your post. I can see a few different ways to interpret your question...

But I think the answer is the same either way...

I don't think you need any special preparation before working on the computer. I like to read the software manuals but in general I don't do any preparation.

Weather you're just learning, or have done it for years, I'm a big fan of diving right in and experimenting and learning by doing. I like the tools the computer provides for all kinds of visual creations and it has become my favored medium from design to finish.

Hey Joe Harkins!

Thanks for all your great work on Ghost Rider! and for the great questions here!

I don't know what's next yet, but I'd be thrilled to have you work on whatever it is.

As for my personal work, the time each piece takes varies quite a bit. Sometimes I stumble onto something cool right off and other times I search for quite a while in “weird shader space” to find something that excites me. I'd say on average it takes a day or two to create a source image and then another day or two to find a cool shader space. Sometimes I'll make a whole new shader from scratch and that can take a day or two extra. Then I usually go through 5 to 50 iterations to get a final image. Much of that process is searching through the resultant 3D universe for the best view of the space. I will often generate several unique perspectives of the same function as final images. If I could work full time at it, I think I could make a new universe every week. A universe per week. That sounds good.

I like to look at all kinds of art. I lurk here at Cg society and other cg art sites to get inspired sometimes. I love sci-fi illustration type stuff. Frank Frazetta was a huge inspiration to me when I was a kid. Comic book artists – Richard Corbin, Barry Smith, Al Williamson. I was way into DaVinci, Michaelangelo, Rembrandt, Jackson Pollack. I've always dug Dali and the surrealists. Robert Williams is a contemporary fave as is the glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. My wife, Snow Mack has always been a huge inspiration ( and my sons, Jon and Ray are always inspiring me. We are regulars at the Cannibal flower monthly art shows. ( I enjoy going to museums and galleries and nature is an endless source. But my biggest source of inspiration is the visions I see in my mind – in dreams – in meditation – in the internal state of imagination and thought.

Thanks for the great questions!

Pie and cake,


03 March 2007, 07:02 AM
Hey Kevin,

i like that you come from an art background, many artists out there know buttons to push but have no idea what looks good or real. Dennis Murren is writing a book about "seeing reality" and the art in it thats a great idea. I would love to know if artists apply how often can and do you go with someone who has an "eye" rathern then just technical skills?

I am an experienced compositor but am terrible ba at drawing, my school called my writing art though ;) so i studied how reality and lighting work in the world out there and became a compositor.

another question: it was very hard for me when i came to the states (I am german) to get a company to "dare" to hire me. It came down to this, i did not do feature film yet in america, so all my music videos, shorts, etc from germany did not count. do you think vfx houses seldom dare to hire an artist if he has not been tested on the us market?

last question would be what you would advise as to beeing persistent on applying at your dream company. i had many teachers at filmschool from places like ilm and they tell these nice stories to keep your mood up that they applied 1000 times, stood in from of the building every day and startet as janitor, animated at nite and finally got their shot!
nowerdays you get arrested and blacklisted it seems.
i think passion should bevalued more, if a guy wants to work, if he would do it for free, give him a shot, let him intern or pa or something! this industry was based on spirit and dreams to make "hollywood magic" and i think the HR never felt that.

Andreas out, nice to have you Kevin!

03 March 2007, 10:20 AM
hi kevin!

Just wanted to know if you have any tips and triks on breaking in to the industri, wheiter you're a character designer or an animator.

Can you tell us how you did it?

good luck to ya!

03 March 2007, 02:02 PM
hi kevin, my name is ashley,first i would like to say congratulations on ur work. the visual effects on moves like big fish and ghost rider totally rock. First i would like to ask

1) which is the most challenging of visual effects for u?, trying to make real looking and natural elements like the fire in ghost rider or an imaginative effect like lets say something like for example, mystique transforming to other ppl in xmen?.

2) what background does one need to have to be in the visual effect industry?

3) being a visual effect supervisor, do u also look into compositing on the movie where the graphics is combined with live action or u just take care of the graphic side?

4) which was the most challenging of all movies u worked on?

5) Do visual artists also use video references for working on particles effect like fire or water?

thank u for taking ur time to read my question.and i hope to seeing more of ur works in the future.

03 March 2007, 01:02 AM
Okay folks, Here's a bunch more responses to your posts!

Hey Andrew/depleteD,

I'm pretty sure the best step you can take to build your reputation and solidify your identity in the cg industry is to do excellent work. I suppose networking is a good idea too, so people get to know you. I checked out your portfolio – Nice work. You should do fine.

Good luck!

Hi Dmitri/Dimon3D,

When I was a student, they didn't have CG, so they didn't have schools for CG either. There are lots of them now but I don't know which ones are the best. Be sure to get good art training as well as learning software. I think the best thing you can do to learn is to DO. Access to the tools is important, but you can always make art of some kind. Cinefex and other CG magazines and sites like this one are great to learn how things are done. The real trick to getting good at anything is practice, practice, practice. I think the “secret” to doing any task well is to keep at it until it's great.

Good luck!

Hello Benjamin/thewave,

Thanks for writing. I saw your pictures. That miniature lab set looked cool. I used to do stop motion animation years ago. There's not that much being done anymore. So if you're looking to do that kind of thing for a living, I don't know where you find work. Even the makeup fx guys are having a tougher time these days. CG seems to take over more and more. But people get all kinds of opportunities when they've made a cool short, regardless of the technique. If you love what you're doing, keep at it.

Best of luck!

Hey Florian/PenthousePauper,

For me the best training method has been diving in, reading the manuals, doing the tutorials, lots of experimenting and pestering tech support and others to help me when I'm stuck. So while I am, as you say, an Autodidact or self taught, I have learned a great deal from others by not being shy about asking questions.

I always got a lot from reading the Siggraph papers which are compiled in a book each year. A recent book I really loved is “The Magic of Houdini” by Will Cunningham. It's fantastic if you want to learn Houdini or learn MORE about Houdini, which is my favorite 3D software.

As far as my family feeling neglected – I don't know. I hate having to be away from them for long periods when I'm shooting on location, but I've got to make a living and we manage to spend a lot of quality time together. It's a demanding job for sure, but it's what I do.

Thanks and good luck!

Hi Gijs/Dutchman,

Thanks for the warm reception! Regarding your Big Fish, “frozen moment” question – The answer is a little complicated, but here goes... Because the camera and Ewan are moving through the group of people, and I knew the people wouldn't be perfectly still, I needed to have the background, the group and Ewan as separate passes, but for various reasons we did not want to shoot motion control. I shot the passes separate and we matched the camera move each time as best we could using a video mixer to see a blend of the live image with the previous pass. This way we get everyone in the scene with the proper lighting and perspective changes on them. In post we had to fix some slight wobbles and blinks here and there and reconcile bits of the three passes together, and it was far from trivial, but we were starting with real people who were actually in the space, so it looks natural to begin with. If we had done as you suggest and shot the people on blue screen, then mapped them on planes and tracked them in, they would look flat and cutout because without the camera move in the element they would have no complex perspective change on them. If we had shot them in layers on blue screen WITH the camera move, then we would really need the motion control to get the same camera move on each pass. We would also have to deal with matching the lighting of the set, blue spill, matte lines, and the million other blue screen problems. This would have taken way longer to do on set as well as in post and the end result would likely look a bit fake. Whew. I hope that helps.

Regarding working with directors on set – Every director is different, but I've found most directors very collaborative. They welcome creative input. Generally, their creative plate is pretty full so they are happy to trust competent folks to take on various aspects of the process. Tim Burton was no different in this way. I designed characters and sequences and he gave me feedback when needed. He usually just liked the stuff. Fun. Film making is a team sport.

To your question about actor interaction - Depending on the project, I do often work with the actors. And yes, it's true. Eva Mendes totally dug me. ;-)

I talk about how I got into the industry in other posts, but I did make stop motion films on super8 when I was a kid and on 16mm when in college.

I don't usually watch the films I've worked on later. I don't avoid it or anything. I just don't repeat-view movies that often. And the movies I work on – I've usually seen parts of them millions of times while working on them. So I've seen them enough.

I know a few industrial designers who've moved into VFX and done very well. It seems like there are many crossover skills. But they all spent time mastering VFX specific skills too.

And for your last question – Before interviews, I clean my teeth to a sparkle with extremely high frequency thought waves.

Thanks for the questions. Good luck!

Hello Chris Nichols!

Happy to hear that you saw your work on the cover of Post. It's featured in a lot of press. It's a really cool image! You should be very proud. Thanks for all your great work on Ghost Rider. I hope to work with you again as well!

Stay in touch.

Hey Amanda/ThePatches,

Thank you so much for your very nice words. I'm thrilled to have had a part in inspiring you! And yes, many people and things have inspired me. Inspiration is everywhere if you look. I get inspired by art, music, people and nature. I gave some specific examples in an earlier post, but I think inspiration is ultimately a state of mind to be cultivated, like a good attitude.

All the best.

Hi Scott/sOnkitE,

The tools to make the fire in Ghost Rider were developed here at Sony Imageworks. We used Houdini and Maya and a lot of custom development.

Depending on what experience and skills you already have, the time it takes to get good at anything varies greatly. My advice is to dive in and focus on doing the best you can on each thing you do. "Loss of goals through perfection of means" is a phrase worth pondering.


Howdy Andreas/Jabbaworks,

Regarding art vs. technical skills – Ideally you want to have both. Naturally, everyone is different and has different strengths. And the different jobs/tasks in VFX vary greatly in the skills required. Some are very technical and some are more artistic. But the best people at either - are the ones who are good at both.

As for your questions on getting work in VFX. There are so many factors involved. I don't think it comes down to weather you've done film work before (although it helps).
The biggest factor is weather the company needs someone with your skills at that particular moment. Everything else is secondary to that. Yes. You should have a reel of impressive and relevant work. And it's great if you know someone who works there, but trust me, you could be the bosse's favorite nephew and have the greatest reel in the world - but if the company isn't busy right then, you aren't getting the job. Conversely, when they're desperate for CG artists to make a deadline, you could be delivering a pizza or parking cars in the lot, if they find out you have any skill whatsoever in this area, you've got the job. My advice is to make a great reel, apply to different places and check back regularly. There's no need to be a pest about it, but don't disappear after the first rejection. And always remember that secretaries and assistants control the world, so be nice to them. Hope that helps.

Good luck to you.

Hello Brage,

Take a look at my previous posts for tips on breaking into the industry and how I got in.

All the best.

Hi Ashley/hellop,

Thanks for the compliments! I'll take your questions in order...

1. Which is more challenging – Natural effects or imaginative effects? Honestly I'm not trying to avoid the question, but for me there is no clear boundary between these categories. Natural effects should be imaginative and imaginative effects should look natural. See what I mean? Whatever the effect, from demon guts to heaven itself, I'm always after aesthetic beauty, natural realism and clear storytelling.

I talked a little about the backgrounds of people in CG in earlier posts but I should add that people in this industry come from extremely diverse backgrounds.

As visual effects supervisor, I'm responsible for every aspect of the visual effects from initial design to final composite. But of course, it's an army of people that do all the actual work!

Okay! I've thought about it, and after much deliberation, I've decided that I can't decide which movie was the most challenging. Wait... I've got it! The next one!

For your last question - Good artists all know, regardless of the style or medium - ALWAYS GET GOOD REFERENCE!

I want to thank Paul Hellard of CG Society, and all of you for your comments and questions. I've really enjoyed this! Thanks so much!

Best wishes to everyone!

Love is Groovy – Be positive!


03 March 2007, 05:23 AM
hi kevin,,

if possible,, can u please mention whats your secrets in getting to a very high position ,,, would like hear some of your replies to feel ourself happy and inspire from that...

03 March 2007, 05:17 PM
Hello Kevin,

I saw ghost rider and i was amazed at the effect used to bring life to the flaming guy. I was impressed even the way that is was done while having to play with the clothing and seeing inside (where the neck was).

Just to tell you i love the work you do, since i do 3D in a hobby i was like seeing the new way we see effect in movies.


hope to see your new work soon.

03 March 2007, 09:35 PM
Hi Harish/Harikatt,

In answer to your question, the secrets to becoming a VFX supervisor are the same as for becoming anything else. There are as many different paths as there are people on them. So my path may or may not be relevant to your own. But here are the top eleven factors I believe led to me becoming a VFX supervisor. ;-)

11. My psychedelic rock band didn't make it big and I had to support my family.

10. My parents and their friends were all film artists and always encouraged my art.

9. I was a child actor and grew up on stages surrounded by film people.

8. I've obsessively made art of all kinds since I was a small child.

7. I freelanced for twenty years doing art jobs for the film industry.

6. I love creative and technical problem solving and I'm good at both.

5. I have a confident aesthetic point of view.

4. I work well with others and cultivate a positive attitude.

3. I'm relentless at whatever I do.

2. I started making art with computers before VFX went digital.

1. I was in the right place at the right time.

Hello Denis/Spaceland,

Thanks for the nice compliments! I really appreciate them! Folks in the VFX industry work real hard on these movies and it's nice to be recognized!

Thanks to everyone for all your kind words and great questions.

I'll leave you all with my top three tips...

Contemplate the infinite to realize that anything is possible.

Reality is manifest by our thoughts and deeds.

Love is Groovy – Be positive!

All the best!


03 March 2007, 10:09 PM
Its Time, gentlemen.

Thanks Kevin for your valued comments and for bringing your trememndous personality to the thread. Your encouraging words will stay here for everyone who passes by in search of career inspirations.

Thanks to everyone who posted their questions.