Meet the Artist :: Volker Engel

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  02 February 2010
Meet the Artist :: Volker Engel

Volker Engel
Co-Producer and VFX Supervisor - '2012'
Uncharted Territory

Read his Artist Profile on CGSociety, by clicking the image below, and come on back to ask Volker questions about his career.

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

Please make a warm welcome to CGSociety’s Meet the Artist, Volker Engel.
Fmr Editor and features writer, CGSociety; Global Artist Liaison, Ballistic Publishing. Freelance writer, media consultant & digital producer.

Last edited by PaulHellard : 02 February 2010 at 08:28 AM.
  02 February 2010
Very cool guy. Thanks for the share.
  02 February 2010
"He said, 'I watched you cutting apart those 500 pieces and knew you were insane enough to work with us.'"

Excellent stuff :-)
  02 February 2010
OK I'll start.

Firstly, thank you Volker for being a part of CGSociety's revamped 'Meet the Artist' threads, from your home in Berlin I understand.

What are a few of your cherished sequences in films from your past. I understand '2012' stands out, but what still brings a smile to your face when you sit down to watch back? Please describe and tell us a the story behind one favorite sequence from your past films.
Fmr Editor and features writer, CGSociety; Global Artist Liaison, Ballistic Publishing. Freelance writer, media consultant & digital producer.
  02 February 2010
Hello Volker

Without a doubt you have an amazing portfolio and well done on your achievement.

With that said, I have a some questions on your producing role. What's the toughest part of being a producer and how was it like the first time you took the producing job? how would you advice someone who wants to get into the producing role?

Thanks and God bless.
This message DOES reflect the opinions of the extraterrestrials
  02 February 2010

I have grown up being inspired by your work in films, but until now, have never had a name and face to put as a source of the inspiration. Thank you!

My question: To someone whom has had a passion from childhood of building miniatures for film, should that passion be set aside as just a hobby and turn completely to CG modeling? Or will there still be a need for miniature artists in the industry?
  02 February 2010
Hello Mr. Engel,

very nice story and an impressive career you have there. As a matter of fact it is so impressive that it leads me to my questions about your career.

What would you concider to be your most valuable skill that lead to your VFX supervisor role instead of an artist down the line and what would your recommendation be to anyone who wants to achieve a similar role in VFX for feature films?

  02 February 2010
Hello Volker,

You mentioned that once the door to the industry was opened a bit you took full advantage of that opportunity and proved your skill set and talent. However, the opportunity you took on was it based off of pure talent or do you believe Emmerich was interviewing your personality in the four hour conversation you had with him?

What brought on this question for me was that I consistently hear it is who you know in the industry which then starts an opportunity to success. Compared to a person's talent opening the door for them without knowing a person in the industry. Over all, I am student trying to figure out the best method towards entering the vfx/3D animation industry.

Thank you for sharing your story, it was very entertaining and informative.

-Greg Oppman
  02 February 2010
Whoa is so awesome! but.. havent happen to you that one day u say "yeah.. shoot.. I can do anything" because lookin back to the things u done u start to think u really can do anything?
  02 February 2010

Hallo Herr Engel,

vielen Dank erst einmal für Ihre "Biografie", ich fande es sehr interessant, sie zu lesen.

Jetzt mal zu meiner Frage: =)

Ich selbst bin zurzeit noch Schüler (16) und mache mir meine ersten Gedanken zu meinem Werdegang im "3D-Business".
Hätten sie Vorschläge für bestimmte Universitäten ?
Mein Favorit wäre im Moment noch die FH in Kaiserslautern, da ich ansonsten keine Universitäten in Deutschland mit einem vergleichbaren Thema zu "Virtual Design" gefunden habe.
Würden Sie überhaupt einen so speziellen Studiengang belegen, weil es in naher Zukunft evtl. keine Arbeitsplätze in dieser Branche mehr geben wird ?

Sorry, für die, für Sie, wahrscheinlich komplizierten Fragen, aber ich wollte die Möglichkeit einfach mal ergreifen

Vielen Dank im Vorraus und viel Glück für Ihr weiteres Leben,

Christian M. - Frankfurt - Germany =)

PS.: Sorry that i didn´t write this text in english, but because i´m still a pupil now (16) my english isn´t good enough
  02 February 2010
This was an excellent read and an inspiring story!

  02 February 2010


tough one to answer - it's always the previous one I like the most... Ok, there is one that stands out in today's CG world. The establishing shot of Airforce One against a sunset in "ID4". The background is a blown-up print (4x6 ft) archive photo of a sunset, the plane a 747 model kit painted like Airforce One by Mike Joyce's incredible model shop. The two accompanying F18s are 4-inch metal toys I bought at toys`r`us. All hung on 0.07mm fishing wire. We smoked in the stage and the camera was hand-operated via a zero-gravity arm. I had done my homework reading the Cinefex article on "The Right Stuff". When they shot a model it needed to appear as if shot from another plane flying next to it. When the sun peaks into frame behind the plane we dimmed up a small light bulb attached to the camera's matte box just off frame - to shoot a flare right into the lens. Courtesy of my brilliant DPs Anna Foerster and Phillip Timme. That's a true "in-camera" shot. There's a nice behind-the-scenes pic in the Making-of book... Yes - that shot makes me smile when I see it. :-)


Last edited by VolkerEngel : 02 February 2010 at 11:15 PM.
  02 February 2010


thank you.

Being a producer is a blessing and a curse. You can only take on that additional role if you are ready to take on a lot of responsibilities. Some people need this comfort zone of having someone else being responsible. Marc Weigert and I produced this small adventure film called "Coronado" in 2002 - and it felt like jumping off a plane with a dozen other people after each person was responsible for packing the other's parachute... Real teamwork and trust. You have to have a sense of leadership, fiscal responsibility and you have to LOVE moviemaking (that love that helps you survive the 2-year journey of financing, casting, shooting and post production). You can't be a one-man-band. As weird as it may sound, you have to like other people and understand that you can only learn by taking the risk of making mistakes. A great mentor helps, too - like I met Roland Emmerich, who is one of the nicest and most generous people I know. Before "2012" Marc and I had produced or co-produced (and VFX supervised) three projects with our own company - and that's why Roland accepted us as co-producers on a $200 million project. Talk about trust.

  02 February 2010


there will still be the need for miniature artists for several years to come, and it will probably have it's niche for several more - but it's a good idea to check out alternatives and learn how to sculpt and model using the computer as a tool. In "2012" out of 1315 VFX shots we had 4 shots using miniatures - but then again look at Weta's amazing miniature work for King Kong.


Last edited by VolkerEngel : 02 February 2010 at 11:55 PM.
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