Our December meeting saw the welcome return of visual effects supervisor and animation director Ken Turner.
Ken works on on high-end drama ( Poldark, Downton Abbey and The Paradise ) and low budget horror features films. Both forms have similar budgets suitable for a small high-end studio such as Lexhag where he works as head of CG.
Ken’s latest work on the TV series Dickensian is set to start broadcasting on BBC One in December 2015.
He started the evening by running two of his show reels and discussing some of sequences in detail. For the sequence of the boy growing angel’s wings Ken said “this blend of visual and physical effects to create the boy in bed and wings emerging was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. I spent two months working on the feathers. Each one individually modelled and animated”.
Ken talked of the ‘smoke and mirrors’ effect required to cause distraction and focus the audience on the action required by the director; “With and understanding of the brain and artist composition we can direct the eye where we want it to go. Stuff that feels real will hide the stuff that isn’t because the brain doesn’t have time to process everything before we move onto the next shot”
Visual effects require extremely large amounts of computing power. Minutes to process each frame can become hours to complete each shot. But the technology behind VFX becomes faster and cheaper every year. Improvements in cloud computing mean that Ken can being to compete with the capabilities of studios with large in-house computing power.
During the evening Ken talked of the process of observation and iterative creation as depicted in this image; commenting on the fact that this applied to all creative processes not just animation or visual effects. “the key is to approve the broad strokes first before adding the finer detail. There’s no point in painting wrinkles on skin if the director can’t decide on the shape of the monster.”
By way of illustration of this Ken described his starting point as creating mood-boards and showing how he created menacing wasps for the film Dementamania. He started with much research about wasps, acquiring lots of images and comparing them. Lots of repeat images and patterns emerged as he created the threatening wasps.
Ken used 3dsMax to create working 3D physical models, and Allegorithmic Substance Designer for look development. “realtime tools such as Substance Designer are the future of VFX. Iterating surface qualities without waiting minutes for the screen to refresh is amazing.”
Finally Ken demonstrated compositing in Blackmagic Design Fusion . He showed how to create a video sequence sunset scene with moving clouds and a flock of birds flying across the sky. The background was created from a photograph and the birds from just one basic bird shape repeated multiple times. [YouTube tutorial of the composite]. Fusion has free to download and professional versions.
This evening was hosted by Modern Art Oxford as part of the Film Oxford Residency month.