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Hollywood Visual Effects in ‘Look Development in Visual Effects Production’
Updated 2016-01-08

Subang Jaya, 30th September 2015 – Prior to launching the Diploma in Visual Effects programme at The One Academy, Tau Films’ (sister company of Rhythm and Hues) Creative Director & Visual Effects Supervisor Walt Jones conducted a master lecture titled ‘Look Development in Visual Effects Production’ with students.

The master lecture by Jones was to provide a comprehensive overview of visual effects’ role in modern day filmmaking, specifically in Hollywood blockbusters Hulk, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Golden Compass and Life of Pi. He explained many aspects involving idea development, production process and concept refining to a crowd of students and other professionals in the lecture.

According to Jones, design and look development are inseparable concepts. Both are crucial in communicating to the audience using visual cues and proper pacing. Artists also have to consider said aspects to imbue characters with believable qualities that help tell a story effectively.

One part of the process involves creating what the experts call ‘digital assets’ to be made presentable and put in film to help ‘sell’ the characters in the movies. He explained that inanimate objects can also be characters. In Life of Pi, Director Ang Lee treated the ocean as a character, which was essential in echoing the mood of the scenes.

“Just because they lack human attributes such as a mouth and eyes, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be a character,” said Walt Jones.

A lot of designs involve constructing entities that exist in the real world. However, the purpose of development could be geared towards storytelling rather than realism. In The Golden Compass, the golden monkey character was a combination of a few species of real monkeys to achieve the perfect look, yet still grounded on reality in terms of its physical capabilities.

Moreover, the movement of waves and texture of ocean in Life of Pi was also artificial and modified. “In filmmaking, it is not always about being technically correct, but being emotionally correct,” Jones explained. If it gets way too far off reality, the audience will still believe in it as long as it suits the context and follows established rules.

Jones also revealed that as a visual effects artist, one must be versatile and relentlessly diligent. In Life of Pi, for example, the Bengal tiger Richard Parker took 1 year to construct, with an average of 30 hours spent on a single frame.

Artists also need to be keen on doing massive hours of research to achieve perfection. Instead of worrying about deadlines, a priority in production is making sure the approach taken to solve a problem is the correct one as quality is of utmost importance in visual effects production.

Hulk, for instance, incorporated a lot of hand-painted details to accomplish a level of perfection. Richard Parker from Life of Pi, on the other hand, is comparable to normal tigers, making it more challenging to achieve a complete resemblance to an authentic tiger. Some of the obstacles include density of fur, reflection of light and layering of anatomy.

He ended the master lecture with an intimate Q&A session with the curious students of The One Academy.

Walt Jones explaining about the development of Richard Parker’s (Life of Pi) fur which ammounted to over 10 million hairs.

An intimate Q&A session between Walt Jones and students of The One Academy.

Walt Jones and the audience during the ‘Look Development in Visual Effects Production’ master lecture.