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How to Make VFX for Big-Budget Films - 80 Level Podcast

January 11, 2023 Kirill Tokarev / Greg Teegarden Season 2 Episode 18
How to Make VFX for Big-Budget Films - 80 Level Podcast
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80 Level Podcast
How to Make VFX for Big-Budget Films - 80 Level Podcast
Jan 11, 2023 Season 2 Episode 18
Kirill Tokarev / Greg Teegarden

Greg Teegarden, Emmy-nominated VFX Artist from Digital Domain takes us behind the scene of producing high-quality visual effects for DC’s Black Adam and other big-budget movies. Greg also talks about the future of VFX and the place of AI & real-time rendering tools in it.

Greg Teegarden is a Digital Effects Supervisor for Black Adam movie
Visit Digital Domain’s website:
https://digitaldomain.com/
Check out other Greg’s works: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0853811/?ref_=fn_al_nm_0

Follow 80 LEVEL on social media:
https://www.facebook.com/LevelEighty
https://www.instagram.com/eighty_level/
https://twitter.com/80Level

We are looking for more artists!
Publish your portfolio on 80 Level Talent for free: https://80lv.pro/join-80lvTalent
Get your work noticed by some of the biggest and best developers, publishers, and studios in video games today.

The Gaming Blender
Could you design a video game?

Listen on: Apple Podcasts   Spotify

This video is sponsored by Xsolla, a global video game commerce company with a robust and powerful set of tools and services designed specifically for the video game industry: http://xsolla.pro/8023

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Greg Teegarden, Emmy-nominated VFX Artist from Digital Domain takes us behind the scene of producing high-quality visual effects for DC’s Black Adam and other big-budget movies. Greg also talks about the future of VFX and the place of AI & real-time rendering tools in it.

Greg Teegarden is a Digital Effects Supervisor for Black Adam movie
Visit Digital Domain’s website:
https://digitaldomain.com/
Check out other Greg’s works: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0853811/?ref_=fn_al_nm_0

Follow 80 LEVEL on social media:
https://www.facebook.com/LevelEighty
https://www.instagram.com/eighty_level/
https://twitter.com/80Level

We are looking for more artists!
Publish your portfolio on 80 Level Talent for free: https://80lv.pro/join-80lvTalent
Get your work noticed by some of the biggest and best developers, publishers, and studios in video games today.

The Gaming Blender
Could you design a video game?

Listen on: Apple Podcasts   Spotify

This video is sponsored by Xsolla, a global video game commerce company with a robust and powerful set of tools and services designed specifically for the video game industry: http://xsolla.pro/8023

0:22

my name is Greg Teegarden I am a digital effects supervisor at digital domain uh


0:28

we just delivered Black Adam and uh I guess we can we can go from


0:34

there Greg so for someone who's been living under a


0:41

rock for the for the last you know years introduce us to digital domain what do


0:48

you guys do um maybe some of the projects that you worked on uh what kind of services do


0:55

you guys provide because this is this is like a very large company with a lot of branches and all over the world it would


1:03

be nice if you could give us a little bit of kind of a background and that kind of thing yeah okay so digital


1:09

domain um was originally founded by uh back in


1:14

1993 I believe it was by Scott Ross Jim Cameron and Stan Winston


1:20

and uh one of the first uh big shows that they did was True Lies


1:26

uh uh and Titanic um they've done a lot of big movies over the years


1:32

um we have a number of Divisions we have a we have our feature film division of course we also have a commercials and


1:38

games division um we also do what they refer to as real time which is


1:44

um usually uh um projects that are you used on real


1:51

engine uh as the as the as the way that the imagery is presented and uh we also do


1:58

motion capture volume capture um uh we do episodic television work


2:06

and we have locations in Playa Vista in Los Angeles we have a a location in


2:14

Vancouver British Columbia also in Montreal and we have locations in


2:20

Beijing and in Hyderabad India so I I guess most of the people kind of


2:28

know your work from feature films and you've done you know like a lot of stuff


2:35

through throughout the years uh but let's concentrate on the stuff that you've been currently doing and


2:40

your collaboration with uh Werner and DC um how did you start working on Black


2:47

Adam what were like the main things that you wanted to you were tasked to do there like how does these kind of


2:55

projects of that scale usually start well generally it starts with a bid so


3:03

um we were approached by uh Warner Brothers and uh


3:10

um I myself personally did not bid on this job um that's usually the role of the visual effect supervisor and our bidding uh


3:17

producer and they had bid that thing for a while um it had been it had been something


3:22

that had been spinning around for some time and if it wasn't for


3:27

you know the pandemic it would have this movie would have come out much sooner and the pandemic kind of you know


3:34

basically shut everything down for a period of time and so we actually wound up then bidding the movie again


3:41

uh and by the time that I came on the show it had already been bid and awarded


3:49

so my role as a digital effect supervisor would would I'm usually the second one to come on a show after it's


3:55

awarded because my job is to uh help get the show set up look at Staffing look at


4:02

schedules um kind of like uh it's it's been said that that my role is kind of like the


4:09

architect of the show so I I am the one who who tries to figure out how many


4:15

people we're going to need and what roles and


4:20

then yes that's once all that happens then sort of you know basically it's


4:25

like building an airplane would be a good way to describe it um you know every show


4:31

kind of starts off the same way but every airplane in every Show's a little different and so what you're doing is you're kind


4:38

of you're you know you're going out and you're getting the the wings and you're getting the fuselage and you're getting the engines and you're and you're


4:43

putting all this stuff on and then your job is to basically get the airplane in the air and get it flying and then once


4:50

that happens then you can kind of take a little bit of a step back and your job at that point is just to kind of make


4:55

sure the airplane stays flying and then when the when we're when we're getting ready to deliver the show uh your job is


5:02

to is to help facilitate the landing of the plane I I think if you if if I were


5:07

to build a little bit on your metaphor is like if you've built a very good plane you don't really have to do


5:14

much work when it kind of lift off and maybe you help a little bit when it's


5:19

landed but if uh the job is not really well done you have to kind of fix the


5:26

plane as it's as it's flying and the things are falling out and like if it


5:32

happens sometimes is like sometimes some shows are very rushed and it's like you're building the plane and trying to


5:38

fly it at the same time and and those are the ones that are always the trickiest to work on but the good news


5:45

with this show is that we didn't have to do that we we pretty much had a pretty well functioning plane in the air by the


5:50

time that uh we needed to start producing shots and so it was a smooth


5:56

ride that's uh it's so first of all thank you for kind of telling it uh a


6:01

little bit about the bid in and all that stuff because that's some of the things like that are kind of


6:06

you know they're usually behind the lines people don't really see what's going on there


6:12

um but I have another question for you so uh we had a lot of guests from


6:17

companies that are doing CGI kind of like these heavy lifting Productions and


6:24

um doing this work is always very challenging because like you mentioned you need to figure out the capacity that


6:32

you need in order to you know we serve all the needs that the customer might have and um I'm trying to


6:40

understand how do you guys do it like do you have like a creative brief coming in


6:45

with breakdown all the scenes and they're gonna tell you in this scene we need like a hurricane in this scene we


6:53

need uh a little bit of a spoiler and the guy melting or stuff like that or


7:00

um maybe you kind of go forward and say hey we can do this and that or our


7:05

director maybe helps out and says he kind of gives you a little bit more work to do and then you need to figure out


7:12

like you need to hire more people like how does this because it's a very kind


7:17

of fragile balancing act that you're trying to do when you're trying to figure out


7:22

exactly how many people do you need to kind of build something as vast as you know like


7:28

a DC movie absolutely and you know what it's both it honestly is and and I'll go back to


7:34

the bid again it starts with the bid so when we're bidding the shots we're bidding the show we have a pretty good


7:41

idea of of what the scope of work is going to be partly based on experience that we've had with other kinds of


7:47

movies of the genre and then partly just because or or because we're provided material from the client and we


7:53

understand what the what what what it is they're they're they're trying to do and


7:58

so during the bidding process um you know we have a lot of experience


8:04

in that department and because like if if there's a shot for example we'll take like the melting


8:10

guy as an example um when we're bidding that we we're we're already


8:16

starting to slot artist resources into what we think it's what do we think it


8:22

will take to get that done and so by the time that a bid's done we have a pretty good idea of what kind of crew we're


8:28

going to need we may not have the individual names associated with it yet of who's going to do what but we know


8:33

kind of roughly how many artists we're going to need and what departments and when we need to bring them on and Etc so that right there


8:42

is what happens before the show's even awarded or excuse me after it's awarded but before the before the uh uh the work


8:49

actually starts to come in then to answer the other side of your question if we get if the director says


8:56

like okay well this is what I really want um then that's where we have to improvise and sometimes move things


9:02

around move resources around uh maybe pull artists that we didn't think we were going to need onto the show


9:09

um or or maybe artists that we thought we were going to need now maybe we don't need now and so we can re-tash them to


9:14

other shows um Greg so you mentioned input from from


9:20

director I think there was a lot of conversation especially uh if you go to like YouTube


9:28

or somewhere where people are doing VFX they're saying okay there are these guys who are


9:35

directing these high budget high profile movies and a lot of them are coming from especially if it's like their second or


9:43

third film they're coming from smaller Productions they don't really know what people are capable of and sometimes it's


9:50

hard to for VFX teams to kind of communicate and for directors themselves to communicate what what what do they


9:57

can do what's achievable what is not achievable and stuff like that how does this process work especially since you


10:04

guys have so much experience you probably have a lot of know-how and you understand this process very well how do


10:10

you communicate with the director create other stakeholders of what can be achieved you know how this guy's gonna


10:17

melt what are the ways that you can kind of show this so you don't waste a lot of


10:24

people's time and resources and ever since kind of like running smoothly um a lot of that probably comes from


10:30

just experience really I can't say it any other way with a company like digital domain we've


10:37

been doing this kind of work for decades now and a lot of the people at the company myself included have been here


10:43

for considerable amounts of time and so we have a pretty good understanding or pretty good idea of


10:49

what we need to do to achieve what it is the the I'll just refer to as our client it can


10:55

be the director or it can be the the show side visual effect supervisor um


11:02

they basically communicate to us what it is they want and then it's really our job at that


11:08

point to figure out what the execution looks like like you know what what are the what are the technical things that


11:15

we're going to have to do to do this so like the melting thing for example


11:20

um we had a pretty good idea what we were going to have or what we would need to do to realize that that those sequence


11:27

of shots but you never really know for sure until you get into it um and then of course you get notes and


11:33

and so then you have to basically whatever whatever the notes you get are you're going to have to improvise then


11:39

on that to to to give them what it is they're looking for um but it really comes down to


11:45

experience at the end of the day because if if uh and and it's not just it it's the experience of the company as a whole


11:51

there's there's a lot of different uh disciplines there's a lot of different artists in the company and supervisors


11:57

who have been doing this kind of work for a long time and so we all sit down


12:02

in a meeting together and we say okay this is what we've got to do um what's the best path to getting there


12:09

and people throw out ideas and we discuss it and someone will say I've got an idea and they go run off on their


12:15

computer and they come back the next day they say hey I got this thing I want to show you and we look at them and go like hey that just might work and then we we


12:22

but we develop something at that will eventually start to look like that something that looks halfway decent and


12:28

at that point then we share it with the client and say hey what do you think is this kind of Direction you guys want to go and if they say yeah that's great


12:33

then we keep running with her if they say no no no we want something different then we have to switch gears and restart


12:39

that process this is a super interesting point so basically


12:44

[Music] um let's take my experience so I probably had this meeting with this guy


12:51

like five years ago or something and he said okay so I I was a VFX artist I


12:57

worked on I'm not going to mention the movie but I worked in a movie and like it was


13:02

like three years or five years production and I was working on like smoke somewhere like a little bit and I


13:09

I was just doing that right so it's like not a lot of other things that have been kind of contributing to and you can


13:16

maybe see it for like second here a second there when when the production is going on and the the film is in the


13:22

cinema and my question is like that was a long time ago like he so he moved from


13:27

films to other areas and so on when you are in this kind of iterative process


13:32

when this guy is kind of running out of the meeting and he's trying to build something on his computers uh what are


13:41

the tools the ways that you are approaching this are you doing more like


13:46

a storyboard approach where you just kind of do a Batman pencil and kind of color something out or do you use


13:53

something like unreal where you want a very quick you know scene built up or Maya where you want to do some


13:59

animations kind of do very Bare Bones where do you do with like some simulations like Houdini or like effects


14:07

or like what are the kind of traditional ways of kind of starting iterating


14:12

thinking about it but not going like full scale you know dedicating five years to building that smoke


14:18

I again I'll take our our uh our melting guide as an example


14:24

um for something like that because we kind of keep coming back to it um it starts off with a concept


14:32

um and it might be something like we just go on the internet and we look for examples of what like you know burned


14:40

flesh looks like what does that look like um and we'll just go and we'll just


14:45

we'll just like download examples of it and study it and we might even present that to the


14:52

client at that point and just say hey is is this a direction that we should go in and if they say yeah that's that that


14:58

looks pretty good let's go in that direction then at that point now we have to think to ourselves okay how do we take this reference that we that we


15:04

found and and bring it into an asset that we can actually manipulate and and


15:10

and and iterate on and so it might start with in the instance of this guy again we just start with our generic human


15:17

head that we have in our in our as part of our DD asset Library


15:22

and we'll just have artists start painting textures that kind of look like this material and we will start with


15:30

that and then we will maybe do some renders of that we'll share that with the client hey what do you think it looks great okay now we've got to make


15:37

it move now we've got to make it um we got to turn it from uh something that looks non burned to something that


15:44

is burned and so now maybe what we'll start doing is will rely on our Houdini department and


15:51

our effects artists and they're going to start going in and coming up with some ideas on how to do uh maybe some kind of


15:57

reveal mats that do that do different uh uh stages of reveal we will discover


16:04

that we need more than just uh top surface topology we also need muscles


16:09

underneath and we need fat in the skin and we need a bone structure and we need a vascular system because all that stuff


16:15

is is being revealed and being illuminated as as as as the shot progresses and so we incorporate more


16:22

and more of that stuff in um while and then once we're kind of happy with


16:28

how it looks we then share it with the client and by this point they already sort of know the direction we're going


16:33

and so it's highly unlikely unless there's a change in in the actual storyline itself or if the shot gets


16:39

changed for whatever reason that they're going to decide that that's not what they want to go off in a different direction


16:45

um so we've already sort of laid a foundation in the beginning um using reference photography and then


16:52

building basic uh um what do you want to call it just


16:57

simple not invest too much time into it a base asset


17:02

and then and then once that's approved then we sort of like build on that and that's we really start spending a lot of


17:07

our time then is in the later iterating and going along this is fascinating basically what


17:14

you're describing is that uh it's a very collaborative uh process it's not


17:19

something that you know like the director or the art director they come to you and say hey I want it this way


17:25

it's like it's a lot of back and forth it's a lot of iterations um you're kind of like presenting your


17:31

vision so basically you are one of the like a big cogs in this machine that


17:37

kind of moves this Hollywood production yes we are definitely a creative partner in this for sure


17:44

so um it's it's it it's my experience over the years


17:50

that when uh you know our job is to give the client the the


17:59

vision of what it is that they need to tell their story in the way that the director


18:05

finds compelling and exciting and in order to do that there we have to


18:10

there's a lot of back and forth that goes in there is that where they usually I I haven't really been in an experience


18:16

where it's just dictated to us um and that's what you do it does happen


18:22

sometimes like depending on directors some directors know exactly what they want they just say this is what I want and as long as you give them what you


18:28

get as long as you give them that you're it's great um but oftentimes what happens is that


18:34

they have an idea what they want um but they haven't quite wrapped their


18:39

heads around it themselves because they're still trying to figure it out and for for their own film and so that's


18:44

where the collaborative part comes in and we spend a lot of time and we'll like maybe show them things that they hadn't considered they're like oh I


18:50

hadn't thought about that and they'll and if they love it then we'll just continue off in that


18:56

direction or sometimes they don't like which something I should do sometimes you'll you'll show them something they're like no no you know that looks


19:01

great but it's it's not what I'm looking for for X Y and Z reasons let's go back to what we originally were talking about


19:07

and so at that point then we just go okay then we we switch gears and we go back to that


19:12

so um to kind of build up on that and uh we can't we keep coming back to that uh


19:18

if one effect but I just want to mention that you did a lot a lot of other elements in that film you like the the


19:25

high speed movement and when the winds are opening up and one of the characters and how they infer and all of that and I


19:33

want to switch gears a little bit and talk a little about the technology that


19:38

um is currently being used and the first step there is to talk a little bit about the procedural tools and how are they


19:47

kind of different from what we've had before and maybe you can share some of


19:54

your thoughts like what is going on wisdom currently in the future so procedural tools I'm I'm talking about


20:01

stuff like uh side effects Houdini or substance designer kind of like where


20:06

you have this non-destructive workflow and you can play around with a lot of parameters and kind of change them up


20:13

and kind of get more and more interesting results


20:18

how do you use them do you find benefit in them what are like the advantages


20:25

disadvantages what you like about them what you don't like about them well I I mean I think you you sort of


20:32

answered the question a little bit when you said they're non-destructive um it allows you to


20:40

quickly try a lot of different things on a base asset


20:45

um and present a lot of options very quickly so that's one of the things that's and like first like substance designer for


20:52

example um you know if if we want to keep coming back to the same thing because it's applicable


20:59

um you know the burn the burn Flesh on our on our character I I mean you can just because of the procedural nature of


21:06

the way substance designer works and the way you can reroute inputs and output nodes and masks and this and that you


21:12

can come up with a lot of iterations in a very short period of time and and we did do that


21:18

and so something that would like maybe if it was a more traditional approach where somebody was just painting in in


21:24

Mari or uh or even going back to her to like Photoshop or something like that


21:29

um it would take somebody a long time to do that whereas like if you're using these more procedural tools you can you can generate a lot of iterations or a


21:36

lot of variations I guess I should say um in a in a very quick amount of time the same thing with Houdini


21:42

um if you don't like the way something is you know the if you don't like the random seed that the things spit out


21:47

you can just change it and maybe tweak a few other parameters and come up with something that's a variation of it


21:53

it doesn't change the overall um theme of what you're doing but it


21:58

adds a little extra twist to it somewhere that creates something that may be unexpected and that's when that


22:04

that can lead to a whole other than Avenue of inspiration to uh try new things or or present more


22:11

options to the client because the more things you present them the more the the


22:17

quicker they're going to respond and also what they tend to do is that if you present them with with like three or


22:22

four options they will usually pick one um and which is great because then it's


22:28

like you you you 've cut through a problem of them trying


22:33

to decide what it is that maybe they're looking for if they're not even sure themselves or if they're having difficulty if you present one thing to


22:40

them they might give you a whole bunch of notes for if you present four things to them they'll pick one


22:45

and then you can run with that one and then it's generally um a a fairly smooth ride to getting it


22:51

to completion uh thank you for that answer and you mentioned uh Mario I smiled a little bit


22:58

because this is the kind of software that only movie guides are mentioning on our on our podcast and then everyone


23:05

else is kind of like using some other stuff but that's Mario is great just for


23:10

everyone who's listening but uh talking about that kind of


23:16

um kind of ability to generate a lot of stuff to choose from I I have to ask


23:22

that question as well this year in particular there's been this explosion of tools that are using


23:30

neural networks to generate some kind of image right mostly they're using for you


23:37

know creating some kind of a sketch in in a style of a certain guy or a certain painting uh do you guys use that at all


23:45

or at least play around with it or was it something not on that level yet I mean if you're like talking about the


23:51

the uh um you know we made mid-journey yeah like


23:57

I've been playing a lot with mid-journey lately um and what's nice about something like


24:03

that is that you can you can create extremely compelling uh


24:10

concept art in very very short amounts of time


24:17

um we have not or at least I have not I don't know if I don't think even DD has at this point I don't think that we've


24:23

used a tool like that for concepting because it's still very it's still relatively new


24:30

um I mean it's been around for a while but it's it but the level of sophistication at these images or these


24:35

things can pop out right now in just a matter of minutes um is what it's been without the last


24:42

six eight months Maybe something like that it's very fresh very fresh very fresh yeah and so for example


24:49

on Black Adam I mean I was on that show for 18 months so um but um I can see on shows that are


24:58

spooling up right now that are especially this kind of genre or science fiction genre or fantasy genre


25:04

um I could definitely see how tools like that um would you know assuming that you know how to


25:12

properly syntax The Prompt that you're that you're that you're giving the algorithm you know if you're looking for a Dragon


25:18

for example or something you know you can just keep tweaking the prompt to kind of give you


25:25

something that you want and then okay give me five variations of that and it'll spit out five variations and you pick maybe the three or four you like


25:31

best and present to the client say hey what do you think and they'll probably pick one


25:37

and if they do you now you've got a great Foundation it's like okay let's acetize this thing now let's actually build it for real in 3D let's texture it


25:44

let's light it um let's rig it if we want to if we want movement so yeah it's extremely valid I


25:49

see it being a very valuable tool in the future I actually get this reaction a lot from


25:55

producers like both both and film and in games they they love this tool because


26:00

uh from their experience they have like before you have to go to like a concept


26:06

artist you have to wait for him to finish and like you know one guy usually means one style so you probably have to


26:13

go to a couple of guys and then they just you know mix and match and wait for them and so on and right now it's kind


26:20

of like you figure out the syntax like you said you have a look at the prompts you come up with you know 10 or whatever


26:27

different variations and there maybe they're not like 100 but


26:33

at least the mood is there the shapes are there and you can figure figure out along the lines but that kind of poses


26:41

another question and that is is this um are these tools kind of like


26:47

complements to your process or um do you feel like these could be


26:55

um they can basically push out the profession of a concept artist out of the out of production you know there's


27:02

been a lot of I have been debating that with some of my my fellow yeah I I could


27:09

see that yeah and all of us are kind of of the same opinion um and that is that


27:16

it's a great time to be a concept artist or it might be a terrible time to be a concept artist depending on


27:24

um depending on how depending on how comfortable you are


27:31

with using this new tool I kind of liken it to um


27:37

you know back in the days when computer Graphics replaced models physical models


27:43

and you know the the best model or some of the really great


27:48

or even animation for that example let's take that let's take like 2D animation


27:54

um you know there were there were guys out there who were really great at at drawing characters on on on paper


28:03

you know for doing a performance and then when all of a sudden CG came along it's like oh those people are gonna be


28:09

out of a job and a lot of them were but the really great computer animators in the early days and I'm talking like


28:17

back in going back to Jurassic Park um where guys who came from animation


28:22

traditional 2D animation because they understood what it took to breathe life into a character and how they're


28:28

supposed to move so 3D was just a was just taking the next step and I think the same thing is


28:34

going to happen with these with these uh tools like mid-journey I think that good concept artists who actually know how to


28:40

concept and know what they're looking for or have an understanding of what it is that their client is looking for will


28:46

use tools like this to get 80 of the way there on a concept and


28:52

then they can use their own innate skills that they've developed over the years to take that that image and now


29:00

switch it up or paint over it or add stuff to it that would be difficult for the algorithm to figure out no matter


29:05

what you type in the prompt and that will just make them in again better conceptors


29:11

yeah and I I also wanted to add on that point that these things that the


29:16

technology shifts they happen in this industry all the time like substance designer Houdini's the


29:24

Houdini's may be a little bit older but the new stuff comes up almost all the time every year something new and people


29:31

just kind of learn it try to work with it think about like photogrammetry and procedural tools and even Photoshop that


29:38

that was kind of like new a a certain period of time the only question I think when we think about these


29:45

AI generated images is kind of how unique they are right


29:51

because a lot of them are kind of trained on existing art and when you


29:56

truly need something like you know out of the box never seen before then I mean


30:01

human imagination I feel it's still a big a big advantage and people shouldn't be a super work


30:08

um so I have another question for you and this is something that we see a lot in video game industry in


30:16

particular right so um the um let's say I mean just as as


30:23

movies uh games are freely Capital heavy uh right you need to invest a lot of


30:29

money into just the production like the assets the textures the models themselves it's a lot of time a lot of


30:36

people involved and then what happens is like if it's not if there's no sequel or


30:42

there's no no you know part two part three a lot of that stuff is just being kind of thrown out right so you


30:49

generated a lot of stuff and it's not used anymore so what


30:55

happens with effects kind of assets


31:01

maybe Tech in in film like do you reuse some of it or is it just like so Niche


31:09

so kind of per project that you kind of build all that stuff and it just kind of stays there and never to be used again


31:16

it depends on the asset really to be honest with you um so let's take uh


31:22

[Music] um I'll take an example of an asset we spend a lot of time developing and that was Thanos


31:28

for uh for the Avenger series um we were the lead house on developing


31:34

Thanos they gave us a whole year uh to develop Thanos as a as a believable


31:40

breathing talking emoting character


31:45

um and we used him in a couple of films if Marvel doesn't make another movie


31:50

with Thanos in it we're never going to use Thanos again because that that's a marble uh property


31:58

they own Thanos but there was a lot of other assets that we


32:05

that we've developed for for Avengers that we could use and and they're more


32:11

like generic type things like maybe we built a mountain range for uh you know that's in the background of a planet


32:17

somewhere and we could certainly use that as inspiration we could change it


32:23

up because of the procedural way that these things are usually made we could start with a base asset like that and


32:28

then and then make modifications to it if we need it for something else or more generic things like trees


32:34

um Vehicles get reused all the time especially like when I say vehicles I mean things like cars you know we have a


32:41

library of with hundreds of cars in them and uh there's often times in films where we have to have cars driving down


32:47

the street that's not you know it's a CG street with CG building CG cars and we


32:53

just you know we need to populate a street with cars or generic people for that for that matter we have a library


32:59

of generic people and they're non-descript I mean we have to change their wardrobe up a little bit


33:05

but um but we do that kind of stuff all the time so proprietary assets that are usually


33:10

um that are that are specifically designed for a show like Thanos for example


33:16

um we would not use them Thanos again unless marble hired us to use Thanos again but other things that we developed


33:22

for these films that are more generic in nature that aren't specific to the Marvel universe or any or the DC


33:28

Universe or whatever then yeah we we tend to reuse that stuff a lot


33:34

um so kind of maybe jumping from that question to a little bit of a in a different area


33:43

um I want to talk a little bit about real-time uh rendering technology and a


33:48

little bit more about unreal because I think when we first started 80 level which was uh you know not probably


33:56

obviously not as old as like digital domain but we had a like we saw this


34:03

Clash where kind of like this real-time Tech was kind of going into films and


34:08

people were kind of playing around was it not really trusting it that much and kind of using it for here and there and


34:14

so on but now that we've seen unreal in particular doing this incredible work


34:21

and getting super high detailed like Reflections and


34:26

rendering and everything's like looking super nice and crisp do you see kind of like real-time Tech


34:34

slowly pushing away like the older rendering technology or is it still kind


34:40

of not there yet and we still need to rely to kind of like you know like a a


34:45

nice processing station you know doing a lot of rendering you know in a different kind of like old school way I I think


34:53

that what so like we we have what we've we're I mean we have a real-time division within digital domain


34:59

and uh there's a real-time project that we did which was uh


35:04

it was a it was Martin Luther King given giving his I Have a Dream speech and that was a real time we we they we


35:12

it was I don't know how long the speech goes for it goes for it's it's got some minutes behind it and so we developed


35:19

his asset in unreal and that's how that was realized was in


35:24

was was through a real-time render um but I think that probably what real


35:29

time is more I don't think it's at least at digital


35:35

domain we're not using it so much for um as a replacement of say redshift or


35:41

v-ray or uh Mantra or any of the other renders that we might be using I think


35:47

what what real time is in in the industry seems to be going more is is doing real


35:54

time backgrounds like the kind of thing they did with the Mandalorian that type of stuff these led walls where


36:02

you create an environment and it and it's on a stage a big stage now with the


36:09

these gigantic LED screens behind you and you immerse the character into that


36:15

environment and so what you get is a character now that looks like they actually are in that environment as


36:20

opposed to shooting them on process screen and then after the fact


36:26

compositing them into that environment and then trying to make sure that your lighting and Reflections look correct on


36:31

the character because that's and that that to me is where more I I feel that


36:37

um that that's more where real time is going right now that's not to say that that's where it's going to go but just


36:43

in my experience um at digital domain that's mostly how we've been I think looking at it at


36:48

least as far as how it's used in feature films not for real-time projects which would be a separate thing yeah and I


36:55

feel like it's um like you mentioned like the like the green screen and the


37:00

current video walls kind of um thing that's going on the video


37:05

evolves they do seem like a better kind of more immersive technology where


37:11

like if you put an actor or someone it's it's not that just he has to imagine everything right so he can actually see


37:17

what's going on and it's seems like a better way to do it right because we've seen


37:23

hundreds of those videos where there's nothing there like they're they're just


37:29

kind of acting in this Pavilion when there's just green screen and maybe some light guys and some guys and everything


37:35

else is kind of like in their heads right and here you do have some images you do have some uh information that you


37:42

can process and maybe improve your performance or tell a better story it seems like a a better fit for this


37:48

industry yes yeah it's it definitely helps with the actors understand the world that they're


37:54

supposed to be in and it can react to it for sure so


38:00

um I want to go a little bit into maybe some pinpoints that the industry has


38:07

current land we mentioned a lot of software uh during our our brief what is


38:14

like 40 minutes um do you have enough people to kind of work with this software is there a need


38:21

for more people who know like the effects or more people who know a substance designer how do you recruit


38:28

more Talent like do you go into schools do you find that talent in other Studios


38:33

like how does that work uh we do go to schools um you know some of some of our some of


38:40

the best artists we have on staff right now are people that we've hired out of um schools


38:45

can you can you name some so people know where to go uh sure I mean we've hired


38:51

from uh Noman we've hired from from uh from them uh there's another school


38:56

called the Dave school which I believe is in Florida um we've hired from there


39:03

um those are the two those are the two like CG Centric schools that we've that we you know we hire from and usually


39:10

when when those schools like nomen for example when they when you know when


39:15

when their students are all graduating uh oftentimes those schools will invite us


39:22

to come to the school and I was invited one time to do that um go to the school and all the


39:28

graduates or the people of the kids who are getting ready to graduate they're all sitting at their workstations and they're just showing us


39:35

their work and I remember there was a guy who's whose work I I looked at it and he was he was really good at


39:42

concepting I noticed his he he had he had examples of all of his con like like and this was several years ago so he was


39:49

concepting in in Photoshop and then he had examples of his concept


39:55

that he had done in 2D and he had built it in 3D and he had made a little short out of it and that really impressed me


40:01

and I thought we got to hire this guy and we end up hiring him and uh and he worked on Avengers uh with with me and


40:07

he wound up being a great artist and we had him there for years and we've got to do a little shout out


40:14

to nomon because uh if anyone is in LA area and they can they can go there they


40:21

do tours over there um all of their areas all of the classrooms and they show kind of


40:28

everything that's going on there this is such an amazing place like you you go there and you you just kind of like in


40:33

that frame of mind immediately there are like sculptures and there's all they have a


40:39

gallery where you can see the students work it's it's a fantastic I've been there like several times they invited me


40:44

to do to different events and stuff and they also do these lectures where they


40:49

invite people who did Avengers or they invite people who did like games and stuff and they talk and a lot of people


40:56

like you mentioned they get high from normal they get hired to do very high level stuff out of the school which is


41:03

kind of amazing so uh Greg we have like this last bit in the interview where we


41:11

do kind of like flash questions inflation meaning that you don't have to undress or anything like that but you


41:19

have to answer like very quickly you don't you really need to think about it and it's just kind of like fun bit where


41:26

we try to end up the interview I'm gonna read them from the screen um so


41:31

um what's your favorite movie of all time oh


41:38

uh wow I think probably aliens alien that's that's probably on my list


41:45

as well so what is the most underrated or little-known film that you can


41:50

recommend oh underrated or little-known film


42:01

maybe underrated uh is it does it have to be a visual


42:06

effects movie or no if it can be anything any movie um


42:12

there's a movie called Margin Call comes to mind oh man this is such a nice film I love it I love it I think in the


42:20

United States people should really watch this on repeats all the time


42:25

so um one more questions so if if you if you could do any other uh any job like


42:32

for the rest of your life what would you choose uh you know what I would keep doing the


42:37

same thing I'm doing right now honestly um it's it's I'm I've been doing this now since the early 1990s and I and


42:45

every day is still like Christmas when I go into work to look at the renders and the the final thing so if you have


42:51

the power to kind of change one thing in this industry but currently like what


42:57

would you change or improve or whatever um


43:02

gosh I think it it you know what at this point in time I would love it if we could all go back to work actually to


43:09

the office um because working from home has its benefits but I missed the camaraderie of


43:14

being with my friends and like and my fellow artists all in the same place all


43:19

right well Greg once again thank you so much it was a wonderful conversation I would love to continue talking for one


43:26

more hour but I want to be cautious of your time uh thank you for your work and we'll leave the links to digital domain


43:32

website in the description to the video so people can enjoy it you know maybe you have some open positions so people


43:39

can check it out great all right thank you so much thanks for


43:44

enjoying another episode of the 80 level Roundtable podcast upcoming episodes on the 80 level


43:50

website at 80. LV join our career site at 80. LV RFP


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44:04

[Music]

(Cont.) How to Make VFX for Big-Budget Films - 80 Level Podcast