View Full Version : Meet the Artist: Grant Freckelton, Animal Logic

03 March 2007, 12:38 PM
CGTalk – Meet the Artist

Grant Freckelton
Visual Effects Art Director
Animal Logic

When Grant Freckelton had joined Animal Logic in 1997, he’d already done time in the West as a university student at Curtin University in Perth.

At school, he had majored in film and screenwriting, with a minor in illustration. He was winning art prizes, but while living in Perth, there wasn’t much call for visual effects. His is another ‘web site saved my career’ story.

His first job was drawing bug creatures for a game developer in Perth creating a role-playing game based on ideas in ‘Starship Troopers.’ Freckelton put the creatures on his website and emailed the URL to places he wanted to work. Two months later, Animal Logic contacted him.

At Animal, his work has ranged from redesigning the network ID for the Cartoon Network to working as a visual effects art director for ‘The Matrix Reloaded.’ He was a matte painter for ‘Rabbit-Proof Fence,’ a concept artist and matte painter for ‘Moulin Rouge!’, and a visual effects designer for ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,’ among other films.

When filming for ‘300’ moved from Australia to Canada, the producers tried but failed to replace Freckelton but couldn’t, so he stayed in North America for the next 18 months. “They kept me on and on,” he says. “Animal Logic loaned me out to production. Even though they were working on only one battle sequence out of the 1,500 shots, I was overseeing the design of all the visual effects.”

CGSociety has posted a feature story about Grant's work on '300'. Click on the image below to go there and read the story if you havent already. And remember, his career is more than one feature, so gather your questions ready and post them, as he is available to reply through this week, until Wednesday of next. (

So please make Grant Freckelton welcome to this month's CGTalk Meet the Artist.

03 March 2007, 01:29 PM
Great to see an ex-colleague move on to such big things, congrats Grant!
I'm hanging out to see the film.

-Greg Petchkovsky

03 March 2007, 02:06 PM
Hey Grant amazing work on 300 , I just watched it two nights ago.

I was wondering if you had any advise for someone like me who is getting their Matte Painting portfolio together. What will get me noticed and stand out in the crowd? whats the best way to find a job? Is freelance a better ruit to start off? What will impress a future employer? Right now I am working at a gas station while getting my portfolio together so this advise would be huge for me :D

Thanks a million for taking the time to share your experience with all of us.


03 March 2007, 02:21 PM
Hi Grant, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

Great flick. I loved every minute of it. Visually captivating and you should be proud.

This question comes from my fiancé more than me. She was asking me how the eyes of the characters in some scenes looked so glossy, almost as if they were drawn comic book eyes. I had speculated about ways it could have been done but couldn't give her a solid answer. Would you please explain the technique that was used?

03 March 2007, 02:23 PM
Great to have you here....

I cant wait to see the movie....and to share your experience working on it!

03 March 2007, 03:03 PM
iev just seen the trailer and i must say it us simply amazing. keep up the gr8 work!

no questions though!

03 March 2007, 03:06 PM
Thanks for coming to our forums, great movie and I cant wait to see it again.

I have a question about the size relation between Xerxes and Leonidas. I'm guessing Xerxes wasnt actually that big and he was somehow scaled up to seem larger than life. Did the actors perform their scenes together or seperate and how was the size relation kept consistant in post? could you please speak a little bit about that effect?

03 March 2007, 03:08 PM
Grant, the visual effects in 300 were nothing short of stunning! The movie itself was shit, but it was enjoyable to watch just for the visual effects. You could take almost any individual frame out of this movie and it would stand as a good still photograph.

My question to you, is how did you guys achieve that unique look and feel consistently throughout the flick?

03 March 2007, 04:05 PM
Wow, Grant I gotta hand it to you, the movie 300 is amazing. Could you tell me how you delt with the workload of this film? There seemed to be a lot of different effects, like blood in battle scenes etc. Was this movie a challenge compared to anything you've worked on befor?

03 March 2007, 04:37 PM
Hiya Grant,

Welcome and thank you for taking the time to share some things. Your insights will be much appreciated!

I need time to think up a grass roots, theory question, but in the meantime, what post video editing software was used mostly in 300? After Effects?

I'm looking forward to your feature story and good call on 300's colour palette!

take care

03 March 2007, 04:57 PM
Wow I've been waiting for this CGtalk featured artist since the day the movie came out (Which isnt long ago I gotta admit) ;)

My question is, in the slow motion/ fast forward scene where we see king leonidas charge, how was that done? Parts filmed and other parts where leonidas is replaced by a CG character? Or is it All CG / no CG at all?

Also, how much work time did it require to make the very impressive shot of the boats stuck in the huge storm? The effects in that particular shot really blew my mind for their realism and their visual style. Although I always hear water effects are really hard to accomplish, they seem to get better and better every time I see them used in movies. Do you have any thoughts about that?

Thanks a lot for your time and congratulations for this very impressive piece of art. I havent enjoyed a movie so much in a damn while! :thumbsup:

03 March 2007, 07:08 PM
My question is, in the slow motion/ fast forward scene where we see king leonidas charge, how was that done? Parts filmed and other parts where leonidas is replaced by a CG character? Or is it All CG / no CG at all?

I am also asking about that shot. At WonderCon, if I remember correctly, Gerard Butler said he trained a lot for that shot (I guess because of how it was choreographed) and it was filmed a whole day. I'm assuming that shot is all Gerard in front of a blue screen and no digital-replacement, is that true? I too would like to know exactly how much of that long shot is CG or not. And is it true the only real sets were built for the Queen's scenes?

I was very impressed with how the movie translated from the graphic novel. In terms of colors and composition, it very much felt like the book to me. If something wasn't in the book, what decisions were made to "fill-in" any missing details, for example the Oracle's dance? It seems like you had the book with you the whole time.

BTW someone posted up a nice comic-to-screen comparison:

03 March 2007, 08:37 PM
you guys need to check your sources. As far as I know, and I'm pretty sure I'm far from being wrong, the whole movie is TOTALLY based on the comic book "300" from Frank Miller. It's a comic book, so it's normal that it doesn't represent the real story, it wasn't the goal.

This is simply a movie about action and lengendary stuff, so I guess he just did his job and made into special effects what was drawing in a cartoon. And he made an awesome job for that!

03 March 2007, 08:51 PM
Hello, i wanted to say that you and all the crew involved on the film did a wonderfull job. The movie is almost perfect, i only have a few questions that would be great to if you could answer.
Why you guys added too some monters to the story? Was that Franks idea? i dont remenber giants and ogres in the comic ( and i dont really think it worked well, remenbers too much of LOTR )? Why have you guys decided to make the fight with the wolf with an adult man instead of the child ( any legal thing involved ? )? What was the most difficult shot you worked on, and why?
Amazing job you guys did in post production, every frame of the movie is a pice of art... i liked the end result better than sin city ( and sin city was amazing ). Amazing job, congrats.
Andre Kling David

03 March 2007, 08:54 PM
sigh..I really hope this thread doesn't spiral out of control like every other thread on any site regarding "300". Back to the issue. For the Oracle scene was the actress filmed in a tank or was that dry for wet? Dry for wet never managed to get hair right (at least to me). Thank you again for taking the time to come to the forum.


03 March 2007, 10:39 PM
Hi Grant, much respect for your talent.

Can you explain a bit further how you go about colour grading the film? I read over at fxguide about the concept of "crushing the blacks" etc. But can you take us through a typical shot and how it is done?

How do you find After Effects compared to other compositing packages in terms of performance and workflow? I'm learning a great deal about AE recently and i'm always interested to hear people's thoughts on this.

Oh and great idea using balsamic vinegar as a test shot. Did any of that end up in the actual film? :D

03 March 2007, 10:46 PM
Hey Grant i wanted to say great movie,

I also had a couple of quick questions,

1) What if any degree do most of the artists that work at your study have(just wondering cause i am going to study computer science in the next year but i would like to get involved at a studio and work on projects like yours)?

2) How did you get involved in doing films?

03 March 2007, 10:51 PM
Guys, keep the politics off this thread. I think people already "get" that it's not based on reality.

Grant, congratulation on that tremendous job. It must have been great to have such influence on the look of this movie. I wish we still had you on CNet ;)

PS: I was bummed to see me and anyone who'd left AL before the movie was released not getting a credit.


03 March 2007, 11:08 PM
PS: I was bummed to see me and anyone who'd left AL before the movie was released not getting a credit.


That is a bit sucky. I'm always looking for your name in the credits! :D

03 March 2007, 01:19 AM
Hi guys,

I've posted the '300' feature story from a great interview done by Barbara Robertson with Grant. This should whet your appetite.

If you dont want to go back to the top, here is the link to the page. Right here (

03 March 2007, 02:42 AM
Guys, keep the politics off this thread. I think people already "get" that it's not based on reality.

Grant, congratulation on that tremendous job. It must have been great to have such influence on the look of this movie. I wish we still had you on CNet ;)

PS: I was bummed to see me and anyone who'd left AL before the movie was released not getting a credit.


Man, I really hope my name is there, especially after missing out on Happy Feet modeling.

Congrates Grant very proud of you!


03 March 2007, 03:23 AM
Hey Grant

Great to see someone from Perth aswell doing so well. Gives us all hope. Keep up the awesome work!


03 March 2007, 04:22 AM
Hey man, a couple questions for you:

How does it feel making the movie of the year (it will be for sure :P )

and also im begging in all this stuff VFX and modeling and I was wondering is it better to go to schools or to just learn by yourself at home, and if you know of any schools around LA or newport beach (assuming you know southern california). Last question, it's scary getting into this CG stuff because there are no set jobs, your either good or your not... were you ever scared of not being good enough to get a job?

03 March 2007, 06:12 AM
I thought the movie rocked. Great Job!!!

03 March 2007, 07:55 AM
What up!

Is it anyway possible to get interviews with the talented professionals who actually created the elements of 300? You know whoever animated, modeled, and lit the gigantic cg animals? Or the INSANE spurts of blood and appendages coming out of and off the persians?

I just think it would be interesting to see the work flow and "proprietary" software used to tackle such a badass movie in so LITTLE time!

I had a question! Why do the elephants that are actually in the movie look nothing like the concepts displayed on page one. It would have been awesome if the elephants could have stabbed a bunch of spartans with a foot spike! Narly.

03 March 2007, 08:27 AM
Hi Grant,

I have a general question. Is it possible that you could tell me how many artists were working on concepts? I assume they used concept artists. Did they work throughout production? Any chance to name those individuals?

Thanks, and not really seen 300, but will do soon!

03 March 2007, 09:41 AM
Were you ever on set for the filming, or did you just use the material they provided?

03 March 2007, 10:58 AM
OK guys.

Please remember, this is the CGSociety. This is a forum for discussion about the artist's work. Go read the feature we have all worked hard on please, go see the film they have all worked hard on, and come back with positive, constructive questions for Grant.

The film is an immense depiction of Frank Miller's comic, '300'. Think CG.

03 March 2007, 01:47 PM
hi i havent seen the movie yet (hasent come out in sweden yet) and i was just wondering roughly how many mattepaintings were there throughout the movie? and how many painters were there?

never worked on a big movie before only commercials so far and i was thinking how does it feel to spend so much time and energy on one single Shot/project?

thanks for your time! love to see more from you.

03 March 2007, 01:52 PM
I rarely post threats, but come on guys, please be civil here. This is a Q&A session with an art director. If you have beef with the story and characters, write to Frank Miller (the author of the graphic novel on which the film is based) and complain.

If you're going to post in here, please make your post a constructive, relevant question pertaining to Grant's work on the film.

Any posts that do not fit the above description may be removed, and the author may find himself/herself unable to post again. Ever.


03 March 2007, 02:02 PM
Hi Grant,

This was a visually stunning film and unlike one I've seen before. The scene I felt was most beautiful was the one with the Oracle. I read a bit about the making of that scene but wondered if you could describe how you conceptualized the scene, and how you approached its realization - were there other visual solutions you considered? How much trial and error was involved in its creation?

Also, is it your personal preference to see more films crafted in this way, almost like moving illustrations? Many of the scenes looked like paintings, as I'm sure was the intention. In your opinion, is this direction / style a vast unexplored territory, or one with limited range?

Finally, amongst visual artists and illustrators, who are your greatest inspirations and why?

Thank you for your time. :)

03 March 2007, 03:13 PM
This was a visually stunning film and unlike one I've seen before. The scene I felt was most beautiful was the one with the Oracle.

I agree with you! It looks like it was filmed underwater to me

03 March 2007, 04:02 PM
off topic, but have you guys by any chance seen the kate moss projection that alexander mcqueen had during his a/w 06 show? very impressive... the oracle scene reminded me of that as well as the portishead video cunningham did.

03 March 2007, 08:14 PM
One quick question:

Given the success of 300, are you going to be (or do would you like to be) involved in Zack Snyder's next project: The Watchmen?

The first still he released as a teaser seemed to use a similar visual style and process.

Edit - I mean this pic:

03 March 2007, 09:17 PM
Greetings Grant! As far I have seen fromt the trailers the movie is flawless good work there!
Did you added some sort of a personal touch to the movie (ex. some visual easter eggs?) :)

03 March 2007, 09:39 PM
Hi and many thanks for taking the time out to answer our question.

It's not been released here yet but I have seen the trailors and it looks like a piece of art, can't wait to see the film although I wished they would have asked you after everybody had a chance to see the movie:

A question: I use Vue Infinite for my art, did you use it for any scenes and do you intend to include it in future films like ILM.

03 March 2007, 11:16 PM
Great article, Great Film, Great Work

I was just wondering if you could go into a little bit more detail regarding the "crushing" process you talked about as I am assuming this is the key factor that establishes the look with regards to the live motion!

03 March 2007, 11:33 PM
Hi guys,

Grant is, as you imagine, very busy with all kinds of business and Animal has assured me he is cool, and will begin replies and answers this afternoon.

All is in hand.

03 March 2007, 12:29 AM
Hi to everyone,

Firstly, thanks for all the questions, I'll do my best to answer some of them.

Secondly, hi and thanks to all the ex Animals posting here.

Thirdly, credit where it's due... WB supplied CGSociety with a bunch of imagery from a bunch of different sources, which were published with the article on myself. Included were some lovely sketches of elephant concepts. These sketches were produced by a super-talented concept artist named Ben Kovar back in early pre production here at Animal Logic. So all credit to him for those drawings, he drew them. There were a lot of artists who contributed to the look of the film and they all deserve tonnes of praise.

Which brings me to answer the question from Fl3wk.

Fl3wk, regarding other concept artists.... the answer is a big YES, there were a several concept artists in several departments and vendors. In pre-production, before the film was greenlit, Animal Logic had myself, Ben Kovar, Marco Nero and Michael Halford producing concepts. I know Zack had Dan Milligan do some colour concepts as well, not to mention his frick'n awesome storyboards. The makeup dept has several guys doing cool creature concepts, I don't know their names, sorry! In the Art Department, I shared an office with Meinert Hansen, who worked under Jim Bissell, producing illustrations. There was also set designer Brent Lambert, who does the most amazingly intriciate diagrams for props and sets. (and there were a whole heap more in the art department, as well). In post production, I was left to my own devices because the art department had wrapped, however all the VFX vendors had their internal art departments as well. I know that Hydraulx had Alp Altiner doing some stuff, Animal Logic had Evan Shipard, and I'm sure there are a whole lot more whom I never got to meet. So all credit to every artist that worked on the film, in every department.

se7enthcin, regarding eye treatments:
To your fiance: Well spotted! Early on we experimented with colour treating the eyes to make them brighter and comic-bookier... but mostly the result seemed kind of strange... think 'The Mandarin' from the Thunderbirds. HOWEVER, we did treat the eyes in a few, but not all, of the shots. We found that the natural shadowing from the brow, combined with crushing the footage, meant sometimes the eyes would go too dark. To counteract this, some of the artists roto'd the eyes and bumped them up a bit to compensate. In other circumstances, the eyes looked different simply because of the work of the makeup department.

If your portfolio is good, and you shop it around like crazy, then eventually you'll get a job. Just make sure you cover a wide variety of subjects.

Titan: regarding 8 ft tall Historically Inaccurate Xerxes:
Generally they were shot seperately and comped back together, there were a few 'forced perspective' in camera moments too. VFX Supervisor Chris Watts did a lot of math to figure out correct camera angles, size relationships, eye lines etc. Chris is a math genius. Refer to the latest Cinefex for more info!

Regarding achieving a constant look, we had a pretty good blueprint in terms of the comic book. Beyond that it comes down to Zack giving a lot of direction, and artists like myself turning that direction into visual material (whether it be style guide, concept art etc) which is then spread amongst the crew. One cool thing that Chris Watts set up was a web based database called 'Leo' that allowed everyone on the crew to access the imagery we were creating, which meant every vendor saw what every scene in the film looked like. That was instrumental in bringing the look of the film together.

Regarding the workload, we had a lot of time to do the post work. Pre, and actual production, were insanely tight deadlines but much of the work I needed to do was focused on the last 10 months. As for being a challenge, every project is a challenge in its own way, but 300 was definitely a project where I learnt a hell of a lot.

Regarding the Leonidas 'Freelance' or 'Crazy Horse Shot', it's all 100% pure Gerry. Refer to Cinefex or for in depth breakdowns of how that sequence was achieved.

And the boat FX? Full credit to Scanline in Germany. Those guys are CG fluid geniuses. The bulk of the time of those shots were spent tweaking the comping end of things, because their CG water looked pretty much perfect from very early on. Again, refer to Cinefex for more in depth technical details.

Regarding sets, and 'filling in' bits of the comic. There were a few sets, namely Sparta, and the ground plane for Thermopylae. Like myself, production designer Jim Bissell and his art department, studied the comic like crazy to try and match the look. As for filling in the missing bits of the comic, Zack was the man that filled in the blanks. He knew that for the oracle scene, he wanted to extend it into a mystical and sexy dance routine, with the smoke interacting with the dancer. He boarded everything himself, and Screaming Death Monkey produced the FX.

Regarding colour grading and 'The Crush'. Larry Fong and Zack developed the 'crush', which isn't anything technically complicated, but it was a clever aesthetic choice in terms of trying to relfect the contrasty, inked feeling of the comic. You can pretty much do it in photoshop on a still frame, you just bring up the Levels, grab the black and white points and 'crush' them towards the mid point. Then you may want to gamma down a bit. This results in a lot of constast, but it also ups the saturation, so to compensate you desaturate a little bit. Then you futz with the colour balance. A lot of the FX vendors applied this to their shots, but because we knew Zack would want to play with things in the DI, (ie the final pass at grading the film), so all the vendors 'half crushed' their shots. During the DI, colourist Stefan Sonnenfeld, Larry and Zack tweaked the shots, adding more crush, clipping, and balancing the colours on a shot to shot basis.

Re: After Effects, I'm not really a hard core film compositor, but I find it ideal for the sort of moving conceptual work that I occasionally do. And yes, some of that vinegar ended up in the final film. Particularly in Hybride's batte 2 (vs the immortals) and when young Leonidas beats the snot out of that older Spartan kid.

You can get into the VFX industry through a variety of routes, from a heavy technical to a heavy artistic background. The best thing is to try and marry the two together somehow. As for how I got into the industry? I made a portfolio and shopped it around, eventually Animal Logic gave me a job.

Thanks. 300 was a fun film to work on. I know nothing about SoCal schools, sorry. As for being nervous when I first started? Definitely. If I wasn't worried about failing, I wouldn't of worked so hard to try and get my break.

Was I ever on set for filming? I was at the studio while they were shooting, but my office was upstairs. I would be down there occasionally but this was mostly to show Zack or Chris Watts stuff. Once production had started I generally worked on dailies footage which was provided as HD quicktimes.

03 March 2007, 02:03 AM
Cooool thanks for the answers Grant!

03 March 2007, 08:40 AM
Hello Grant,

I am Greek my self and I must say I am really honored by the film. Frank miller is a god and Animal logic is a perfect tool.
I've seen the film and I am going to see it 2-3 times again. I am most amazed by the color you achieve and the choreography, those battle "dances" was just incredible and the way you play with slow/normal motion, Oo man those shots..., and the ending seq was just outstanding. Needle to say about the oracle seq- are you serious out there, I almost stand up in the theater and yelling.
Anyway you can see I loved the movie (hehe).

Can you please tell me after receiving the HD quick times as you've said, how much time you spend to make the final shots and what was your pipeline?

All the respect to the artists who worked on this film and thank you for make it look the way it looks.

03 March 2007, 10:34 AM
Hi, Grant Freckelton

This is Walid from Libya working in this field (CGI) since 1994, trying my best to learn from the best.

Its wonderfull work very nice movie just one Quz whats the Applications and the platforms that uesed in this film ( plz dont till me its a top secret)

thanx and i am so glad that i am asking you.

Walid Al Zayani
3d-2d Graphics Designer, Animator & VFX Maker

03 March 2007, 10:40 AM
Thanks for the answers. I saw the movie yesterday in the pre-premiére. I didnt know what I was going to see in the cinema, just knew the headline "300". Just after 10 minutes of the film I told my friend that:" Hey, it's all about the special effects! Just my intrest". About the movie, the story was weak and too much action can be tiresome for some audience...anyway thats not the case. The artwork in this movie was great! I loved the glossy eyes and scene with oracle - truly beautiful how magic comes real! :) And those colours! Inspirational. One thing disturbed me tho. How the blood erupted from the bodies, slow motion or not, it more felt like some mush not liquid...I havn't seen the comics tho, maybe it was a must be. Could have been different solutions maybe, this and that and maybe even ON the camera like in "Braveheart". Good work, the worlds next step in quality.

03 March 2007, 01:18 PM
Hi Mr.Grant, first of all great job on the visuals! I haven't seen the movie yet, but I will as soon as it's out in the theaters here in Jordan.

my Q:
I really liked the story of how you got imployed... by the net I mean. Is it a usual path for artists or is it just a gamble?
And another thing, is it possible for someone who didn't study visual effects or art in a school ( say a computer student ) to work as an artist for a big studio if he had the talent? and self taught?


03 March 2007, 06:03 PM
I want to watch "300", great work ! :bounce:
I love many works by Animal Logic

Congra Grant Freckelton !

03 March 2007, 09:53 PM
Thanks Mr. Freckelton for your answers and insight! One day I hope my portfolio will be good enough to meet industry standards and, like you suggested to us here, shop it around like crazy.

I did more searches on the VFX of 300 and found this article and video. Mods, if these links don't belong in this thread feel free to move them wherever necessary:

03 March 2007, 05:48 AM
Great insights....ive tried 'The Crush'.....very interesting.


03 March 2007, 10:30 AM
Thank you Grant, this helps a lot. Never knew so many Artists worked on visualising the film before the scenes were created.

03 March 2007, 12:36 PM
Hi Grant i dont want to ask you something i want to tell you that the VFX in the film where Great, and i would love to see you making more VFX for films, a tiny question would be:
what year you started making vfx not for films, i mean your very beggining when was it, thanks.

03 March 2007, 05:35 PM
Hi Grant, Excelent work! just saw the movie... seeing a movie like that is really inspiring me as an artist.
Thanks Grant for a really great work, i hope it will give many artists desire to do more excelent works or at least it gives me one..:)
Just one quick question, can you tell us a bit the process for the fighting scenes, especially the first one when leonidas showing off his fighting skills and changing weapon from spear to sword(this scene is not from the comic). The scene is sureal but realistic at the same time. Thanks

03 March 2007, 08:01 PM
I think 300 is so well done it will become a barometer for judging other cgi pieces...Good job Grant! This film will win every possible award, no doubt.

I had a couple of questions regarding the production cycle.

1) How did the CGI needs affect directing the actors? Were there times where things had to be reshot to accomodate these needs, or was compositing in this case more of a reaction to the recieved footage?

2) I was also curious about the post-process in terms of discovery. Were there things you stumbled upon, or found out new looks/concepts in post that you hadn't planned for? If so, how did they come about?

Thanks again for creating such a work of art that also happens to be a film!

03 March 2007, 07:22 AM
Hi Grant,
It was nice to read that you've gone on to bigger and better things after leaving Perth it gives hope to rest of us living here in the VFX/Animation desert. Channel 10 had an expose on 300 a couple of weeks ago and it looks absolutely stunning so congrats to you and the rest of the team.

03 March 2007, 01:21 AM
Hey Grant,

my questions -

are there any easter eggs in the film?

do you think one day, with the help of special effects, that people with physical disabilities will be able to play roles in films like this? Do you see this as a possible emerging market?

and do you have any favourite old films, with great examples of art direction? Things by Ford, etc...


03 March 2007, 03:47 PM
Hey, thanks for answering my question Grant!! Here's another more interesting question if you have time: what's the most outside-of-the-box (or memorable) technique you guys used?

03 March 2007, 04:02 PM
Hi Grant, I have another question if you don't mind. I just saw 300 again for the second time, this time in IMAX. Both times I saw it with friends who are non-CGers and both times they all said they did not believe one bit that those were all the actors' abs. They say "Those must be CG abs, even the old guys". Now I told them that idea was impractical but also I was not 100% sure. They did not believe me because they said "you can do anything in CGI". So my question to you about this is: are all those abs real?

Thanks in advance!

03 March 2007, 05:15 PM
Hello Grant, I have a question about the amount of creative license applied to the way the cg creatures were modeled and animated.

What sorts of challenges arise when trying to blend these very stylized, illustration-based creatures into a live-action scene, in terms of trying to keep the overall scene consistent enough so that the cg creatures don't stick out like a sore thumb? (I haven't seen the graphic novel, so I'm assuming the cg animals were based more on the illustrations than they were on real life anatomy)

When I'm trying to get at is...even though the creatures(specifically the wolf, elephants, and rhino) aren't meant to be exact versions of the real thing, the fact that they're being inserted into a scene with live action requires that their bodies are still subject to certain physical constraints like gravity, range/angles of limb movement, and responding to other physical impacts and barriers. How do you and/or the director decide how to guide the creative staff in striking the right balance between fantasy and reality?

There were some shots that I think were more successful at this than others. The charging rhino made me wince a bit because I just couldn't accept the way its front legs looked and moved. Then again, I am extremely OCD about these types of things so maybe it's not really an issue for anyone else, hehe..

03 March 2007, 05:42 PM
Grant, I must like every artist wants to make a mark, be applauded loud and turn the block least expected. Many thing, that kind of an achievement is hard and very rare. The movie 300 just shattered another such myth. Long did we all await for this movie. We have been keeping a close watch on the production diaries and Zack Snyder's daily dose of bloodshed. It all looked so very amazing. You all made film making process look so simple, yet strikingly vibrant with that style and adaptation. But wait... the most important thing was to see the impact on the big screen. And there was the answer at the BO. I watched the first show on IMAX, and it was a killer. Liked every bit of it. With such a simple and dull hue palette, the story had its feel and life. This is my salutation to the work, to the idea, to the presentation and to the entire workforce behind it. Kudos to you all. I assume, we have a lot more to look at in the coming future.

The release must have been a big day for you too. How was your feeling? :)


03 March 2007, 01:02 PM
I saw the trailer and the Images , and wants to congratulation about the sharp and memorable illusion and images that try to makes this movie take the promise to continue the ways of the last master pieces of it's kind, like " Lord of the Rings " and shame on that such a good responsibility take a worst path to make a deal with it. I think one the most critial cuase to make us prove our talents is to please the other eyes that are thirsty to find a way to the Home of humanity which bulit upon the hill of beauty,kindness and truth.
this Film is out of this way !

03 March 2007, 06:47 PM
FIrst of all a great thanks to you doing this. These "meet the artist" threads are always a great way to learn something and post special questions!

I wasn´t able to watch the movie yet because it´s not out here in germany. But from what i´ve seen in trailers and on pages it´s a real great piece of art and i think anyone will agree that this is because of you.

Now to my question, it´s more general and personal than about the movie but maybe you do still have the time to answer it.
So i´m from Germany and i´m already 25 years old, i never studied art or anything else and made no apprenticeship in any kind of technical or creativ industry. When i was 14 i guess i started drawing little comics, made a few portraits and so on,with 20 i made first steps in 3d i know a few about lightwave and maya but had a real slow learning curve (did typical mistakes like getting meshes from the net rather than learning modeling), i wanted to get a job in this industry at that time but it was too small in germany there wasn´t even a name for the jobs at all so i didn´t know what to do (i was real naiv too). Then i started doing 2d stuff again and 2 years ago i even started making photography, so in a way i may did things backwards by doing 3d first and then got to 2d and photography. It´s somethign i think i got a real advantage from anyways. I visit a photo club meeting every friday and from all photographers i´m the only one with a high level of knowledge about blending photographs and 2d or 3d material.

The thing is my job i make for the living is simple and i really hate doing it. But i really like to have a home and somethign to eat so i need it *lol*
I try to learn every minute i can, i spend a lot time reading about photography 3d and conventional art, i use my handy to read websites at work, in my break i read a book, and even at the toilet i got magazines. I really learn a lot but have only so few hours in a week to try these things!
I can say that i know a lot of graphic programms and that are things like layout designs, photography and postwork i´m really familiar with, but i don´t know how to get a foot in the industry, because of my regular job i don´t even have time to do a good portfolio or something like that, i don´t have the money to start my own business or an apprenticeship (in germany an apprenticeship is very poor paid, but without a piece of paper that proofs what you supposed to be able to do it´s very very hard to get a job here)

I´m playing with the thought of just getting in the water. To take a rather big credit and to start my own Photo and design studio ,and with time try to get in other parts of the industry too. But i´m a little afraid because i have no experience. But i really want to do something in the industry.

Well not really a question and i´m getting confused again. Well, maybe you still have a few ideas or something for me now that you know my circumstances.

Thanks, and keep on the good work, it´s really impressive and inspiring!!

03 March 2007, 11:14 PM
Here is another batch of answers. Some of the replies are a bit short, because I'm pretty busy right now. Sorry if they're not as in depth as a last batch:

re: the elephants. Those elephant images were produced by Ben Kovar, when we were exploring different ideas. Ultimately Zack wanted the elephants to look pretty similar to how they do in the graphic novel, so Meinert Hansen produced some concept sketches based on the comic. Those were then adapted/improved upon by 3D guys Hydraulx.

re: number of matte paintings and matte painters. I don't have an exact figure for either, but given there was 60 something scenes, and 1200+ vfx shots, all I can say is there were a LOT of matte paintings, although a lot of scenes relied on only a few matte paintings that were reused over multiple shots.

re: working on a single project for a long time. Given 300 had a lot of different scenes and challenges, the 2 years I spent working on the film didn't seem like a long time at all. I think the more time you spend on a project the more rewarding it is when it turns out to be a success.

re: the Oracle. She was shot underwater. There was definite inspiration from the Cunningham Portishead music video. The FX house Screaming Death Monkey then spent a long time developing the techniques to produce the smoke, as well as painting out lots of bubbles!

re: moving illustrations as a style. My preference is to ensure that the style of the film reflects the story and the director's intentions. Although making a film that looks like 300 is 'cool', I'd hate to think that it'll result in dozens of films that adopt the style simply based on 300's financial success.

re: inspirations. When I was younger I had a lot of 'Art of..' books, so I was always looking at Ron Cobbs and Ralph Macquaries. These days I'm less into concept art so much as just looking at movies, photography, design and art in general for inspiration.

re: Watchmen . I produced the (now everywhere) Rorschach frame while working on 300. It was based on a photo that Zack took of his producer, Wes Coller, in costume. I played around with backgrounds, lighting, etc for fun. I don't believe Zack is planning on creating it in the same style as 300, it'll be a lot more location/set based. At this stage I'm not working on Watchmen, but that might change later on.

re: easter eggs. Sadly no, I didn't produce any specific easter eggs. I can't vouch for other artists working on the film though.

re: Vue infinite. I haven't used Vue, but I wouldn't rule it (or any other piece of software) out for use in the future.

re: the Crush - I hope your question was answered in the last batch of answers.

mikepol |3D|
re: the pipeline. Please refer to the Cinefex article on 300. Explaining pipelines is a long process that I sadly don't have time for right now! As for timeframe, some shots take a few days, some took 12 months to produce.

re: software platforms used. Given the number of different vendors working on the films, pretty much every major bit of 3D and 2D software was utilised on the movie.

re: getting employed. Obviously having a degree/education relating to an film/art/vfx field is a bonus, but they're not anywhere near as important as having a great portfolio or showreel. So if you're self taught, and your portfolio has some amazing work in it, then there's no reason you can't get a job in the field.

re: when I started - I started working professionally in 1998

re: fight scenes - A lot of the genius behind the fights scenes came from Zack working with stunt coordinators Damon Caro and Chad Stahelski. If you're interested in how that relates to the VFX side of things, refer to the Cinefex article on 300.

re: CGI and actors, working on set, etc - I wasn't personally involved with much on set work, that was mostly VFX Supe Chris Watts and his team. Part of the art of being a VFX supervisor on set is knowing when to prioritize the needs of the VFX department versus the needs of the director, the actors, and the other departments. On 300 we had a VERY tight shoot, 60 days to shoot a film like 300 is insanely tight. So in that situation, the approach to VFX on set is like triage. If it's an important, technically difficult VFX shot, then we'd have time to prepare, get the bluescreens and tracking markers perfect, etc. But there were dozens of shots where conditions weren't ideal, and rather than making the whole crew stop while VFX sets up another blue screen, or rather than asking Zack to shoot it another way, it was better to just shoot in and sort it out in post. To the VFX artists in post, this sounds horrible, because to them it's like 'Why didn't they get it right on set??', but if you consider the bigger picture, 1 VFX artist spending a while to rotoscope a shot is often a better option than holding up 100 crew and cast for an hour while you set up another bluescreen. So...yeah...there were a lot of shots where it was a matter of reacting to the footage, but for the most part these sorts of issues are planned for, and sorted out in hours and hours of pre production meetings.

re: post production discovery - There's always 'happy accidents' in post production. I can't think of any specific examples right now...but all I can say to that is...yes!

re: what's the most outside-of-the-box (or memorable) technique you guys used? I think Zack's use of the 'crazy horse rig', which he'd done in a few tv commercials, was pretty cool. You can read about that on or in Cinefex.

re: are all those abs real? Yes, all the abs are real, the cast worked out like crazy. There was some makeup 'enhancement' by way of airbrushing. Funnily enough, there was a sequence shot in the rain, where all this airbrushing got washed off. The cast still looked awesome without it.

re: creatures. I'm not really an expert on creature fx, but I get what you're trying to say ;) I think we achieved varying degrees of success with the creatures. I think you can integrate any fantasy creature into a film assuming you get the lighting, shading and animation/physics correct... and to get all of these elements correct is the real challenge. I'd suggest researching the various articles you can find on films like Pirates of the Caribbean:DMC or King Kong, where they really nailed CG creature FX, if you're looking for all the things you need to do to get CG creatures looking perfect.

re: The release must have been a big day for you too. How was your feeling? It was exciting and rewarding, we all knew 300 was going to be a success, but I never imagined it was going to open the way it did.

03 March 2007, 12:12 AM
Alot of questions come to mind but everyone asked most of them already. So my question is.....hmmm. What are you doing right now that makes you so busy? I have always wondered what a director of a film does after his movie is released. lol I'll ask another question here in a few days when I can think of a good one that deals more on the VFX side of it lol.

03 March 2007, 09:59 PM
Question about the spearheads. I noticed several CU shots where a full frame spearhead would lunge at camera covered in blood, nice soft focus in background. were those shots practical or cg?

i kept going back and forth in my head about how they were done, because it would be pretty easy to do them cg since they were already modeled and textured for other shots, but it would also be easy to have an insert unit get a nice tight shot of a practical spear covered in stage blood. that brings up another question, was there an insert/2nd unit on the film picking up shots like that?

thanks, and loved the film.

03 March 2007, 10:38 PM
Thank you everyone for the questions you have posted on this Meet the Artist with Grant Freckelton.

And a very great thanks for Grant Freckelton for bringing the ideas and answers across so well.