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The Visual Effects Producer

Book Description

Go behind the scene of the behind the scenes to learn how the business of producing the dazzling visual effects we see in movies and on TV works.

With decades of combined VFX production and supervisory experience in Hollywood, the authors share their experience with you, illuminating standard industry practices and tips on:

* preproduction planning

* scheduling

* budgeting

* evaluating vendors and the bidding process

* effective data management

* working on-set, off-set, or overseas

* dealing with changes in post-production

* legal issues (contracts, insurance, business ethics), and more

Also included are interviews with established, successful Hollywood VFX Producers about their career paths and how they got to where they are now.

From pre-production to final delivery, this is your complete guide to visual effects production, providing insight on VFX budgeting and scheduling (with actual forms for your own use) and common production techniques such as motion control, miniatures, and pre-visualization. Also included is a companion website with forms and documents for you to incorporate into your own VFX production workflows.

Table of Contents

  1. Copyright
  2. Introduction
  3. 1. Visual Effects in Review
    1. 1. The “Good” Old Days: Visual Effects Before Computers
      1. Stop-Motion Animation
      2. Puppets and Animatronics
      3. Matte Paintings
      4. Miniatures
        1. In-Camera Miniatures
        2. Hanging Miniatures with Live Action
        3. Miniatures with Composited Elements
      5. Front and Rear Projection
      6. Forced Perspective with Live Action
      7. Blue- or Greenscreen Composites
      8. Motion Control
      9. In-Camera Practical Effects
      10. Special (Mechanical) Effects and Visual Effects
    2. 2. Digital Effects: The 15-Minute Version
      1. Two-Dimensional (2D) vs. Three-Dimensional (3D) CGI
        1. 2D CGI
        2. 3D CGI
      2. Creating a Digital Image
        1. Building Digital Models
        2. Texturing, Painting, and Lighting
      3. CG Characters
      4. Animation
      5. Rendering
      6. Compositing
      7. Miniatures vs. Digital Models
  4. 2. Preproduction and Prep
    1. 3. Who You Gonna Call? The VFX Team
      1. The Visual Effects Supervisor
      2. The Visual Effects Producer
        1. First In—Last Out
        2. What Does the VFX Producer Do?
        3. VFX Producer’s Abilities and Personal Qualities
        4. VFX Producers and Guild Membership
        5. The VFX Producer and Marketing
      3. Visual Effects Production Coordinator
      4. Visual Effects Data Coordinator
      5. Visual Effects PA, Runner, and Similar Support Positions
      6. Freelance Visual Effects Crew
        1. First Assistant Director (AD)
        2. Visual Effects DP
        3. Blue or Green Screen DP
        4. Motion Control Technician
        5. Miniature Pyrotechnicians
      7. Other Special VFX Crew
    2. 4. Basic VFX Technologies and Equipment
      1. Blue and Green Screens
      2. Lighting for Blue- or Greenscreen Photography
      3. Motion Control
        1. When to Use Motion Control
      4. EncodaCam
      5. VistaVision Cameras
      6. High-Speed Photography
      7. Digital Video Assist with Compositing Capability
      8. Motion Capture
      9. SpaceCam, Wescam, Flying-Cam
      10. Cyberscanning and Structured Light Scanning
      11. Set Surveys
      12. Lighting References and HDRI (High Dynamic Range Imaging)
      13. LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging)
      14. Renting Equipment
    3. 5. Breakdowns
      1. Production Breakdowns
      2. The First Go-Around: Generating a VFX Breakdown
        1. Getting Started
        2. Marking up the Script
        3. Numbering Visual Effects Shots
        4. Constructing a Digital Cost Breakdown Spreadsheet
          1. Keyboard Shortcuts and Tricks
        5. Estimating Digital Shot Costs
        6. A Sampling of Ancillary Digital Costs
          1. Negative Scanning Costs
          2. Recording of Final Shots
          3. Additional Workprints
          4. Research and Development
          5. Modeling and Texturing
      3. Facility Visual Effects Supervision and Management
        1. Preliminary Bids: Getting a Handle on the Digital Shot Costs
        2. Budget Guidelines for Digital Work
        3. Casting and Evaluating Potential Vendors
        4. Practical Steps in Checking out a Vendor
        5. The Importance of Artists
        6. Bidding Guidelines: Comparing Apples to Apples
        7. Following Up
      4. Budgeting Miniatures
    4. 6. Scheduling and Budgeting Production Support
      1. The Production Support Breakdown Sheet
        1. Using Movie Magic Scheduling
        2. VFX Breakdown Sheets
        3. Preparing the VFX Breakdown
        4. Stand-Alone VFX Elements
        5. Scheduling the Shooting of Your Effects
        6. Collaborating with the 1st Unit
        7. Communication—Key to Smooth Sailing
        8. Scheduling 1st Unit Shooting
        9. Working with a Strip Board
        10. Separating 1st Unit and VFX Unit Shooting
        11. Designating Different Types of VFX Plates
        12. Modifying the Strip Board Design
        13. Keeping Up with Changes
        14. Scheduling the VFX Unit
        15. Refining the Schedule
        16. Reports... and More Reports
        17. Modified Day-out-of-Days Report
        18. Modified One-Liner
    5. 7. Budgeting the Effects
      1. The Chart of Accounts
      2. How to Approach a Budget
      3. Some General Guidelines
        1. Negotiating Who Will Pay for Things
        2. Constructing a Visual Effects Budget
        3. Setting up the VFX Budget
        4. Globals: Set Them and Forget Them
        5. Fringes
        6. Getting the Budget into the “Ballpark”
          1. A Checklist of Budget Items
        7. Discussion of Accounts
          1. Accounts 5201, 5202, and 5203
            1. Calculating Overtime Hours
          2. Account 5204—VFX Editors
          3. Account 5205—Research and Development (R&D)
          4. Account 5206—Animatics/Storyboards
          5. Account 5207—Previsualization
          6. Account 5208—Cyberscanning
          7. Account 5209—Set Survey/LIDAR
          8. Account 5210—Motion Capture
          9. Account 5211—Miniature Build
          10. Account 5212—Miniature Expenses
          11. Account 5213—Miniature Shoot
          12. Account 5214—Motion Control Crew
          13. Account 5215—Motion Control Equipment
          14. Account 5216—Plate Unit
          15. Account 5217—Digital Video Assist
          16. Account 5218—Set Construction
          17. Account 5219—Grip/Set Operations
          18. Account 5220—Camera Equipment
          19. Account 5221—Blue Screen or Green Screen
          20. Account 5222—Projection
          21. Account 5223—Matte Shots
          22. Account 5224—Digital EFX/Composites
          23. Account 5225–Scanning and Recording
          24. Account 5226—Video Temp Composites
          25. Account 5227—Film and Lab
          26. Account 5228—Rentals
          27. Account 5229—Purchases
          28. Account 5230—Stills/Publicity
          29. Account 5231—Box Rentals
          30. Account 5232—Stock Footage
          31. Account 5233—Tests
          32. Account 5234—Travel and Living Expenses
          33. Accounts 5235 through 5298—Mileage/ Transportation, Miscellaneous Expenses, Loss and Damage
        8. Fringes
        9. The Contingency: Now You See It, Now You Don’t
    6. 8. The VFX Bible and Database
      1. What Is a VFX Bible?
        1. Examples of Reports from a FileMaker Pro Database
        2. Database Maintenance
      2. Visual Aids
        1. Storyboards
        2. Animatics
        3. Previs
        4. A Case Study—Previs for The Guardian
        5. Generating a Previs
  5. 3. Production
    1. 9. On-Set Operations: The care and feeding of the 1st Unit
      1. Production Meetings
        1. The Visual Effects Review
        2. ... and More Meetings
        3. Tech Scouts
        4. Extended Location Scouts
      2. Key to Success: Keep the ADs Informed
      3. Influencing the 1st Unit Shooting Schedule
        1. But What About the Director?
      4. Motion Control: A Special Situation on Set
      5. Production Calendars
      6. Production Reports
      7. When the Schedule Changes
      8. Physical Support/1st Unit Support
        1. Working on Sets
        2. Laying the Groundwork
        3. Support from Camera Assistants
        4. Grips
        5. Electrical
        6. Paint and Construction
        7. Digital Video Assist
        8. Transportation
    2. 10. On-Set References
      1. Reference Photos; Art Department References
      2. Element Data Sheets
      3. Reference and Clean Background Plates
      4. Performance References
      5. Video References
      6. Lighting Reference Tools
      7. Tracking Markers
      8. Tests
    3. 11. Operating Independently: The Visual Effects Unit on its Own
      1. Matte Painting Plate Unit
      2. Visual Effects Plate Unit
      3. Miniature Unit
      4. Traveling Matte (i.e., Blue- or Greenscreen) Unit
      5. Motion Control Unit
      6. Animatronics Unit
      7. Motion and Performance Capture Units
      8. Stage and Visual Effects Photography Procedures
      9. VFX Crews
      10. Assembling a Crew
      11. On-Set Safety
    4. 12. Models and Miniatures
      1. Miniatures or CG Models?
      2. Early Estimates
      3. Defining the Task
      4. Miniatures on Contract
      5. The Bidding Package
      6. Monitoring Progress
      7. Getting Things to Match
      8. Filming Miniatures
  6. 4. Postproduction of Visual Effects
    1. 13. The New Digital Workflow
      1. Digital Workflow on the Set
        1. S.two System
        2. Codex Digital System
      2. Digital Workflow in Post
        1. Uncompressed Data for VFX
        2. Equipment Needed for a Digital Capture System on Set
        3. A Note about Digital Video Assist Costs
    2. 14. Getting a Handle on VFX Editorial
      1. The VFX Producer’s Role During Post
      2. Visual Effects Editorial
        1. The VFX Editor’s Tasks
        2. Attributes of a Good VFX Editor
      3. Budgeting for Editorial Staff and Equipment
        1. Budget Guidelines for VFX Editorial
      4. Pros and Cons of Digital Dailies
        1. Advantages of Digital Dailies
        2. Drawbacks of Digital Dailies
      5. High-Definition Digital Dailies from Film
        1. Lab Transfer Costs from Film to HD
    3. 15. Integrating VFX shots with the Postproduction Schedule
      1. Parceling Out the Work
      2. How Many Eggs in One Basket?
      3. Getting Facilities to Talk to Each Other
      4. Monitoring Vendor Performance
    4. 16. Postproduction Scheduling Issues
      1. Practical Steps in Devising a Postproduction Schedule
      2. Handing Off Shots to VFX Facilities
      3. The Shot Delivery Schedule
      4. Visual Effects by the Reel
      5. Milestones
      6. Interaction with 1st Unit Editorial
        1. Matching the VFX to the Live Action
        2. Grading in the Digital Age
        3. Two for the Price of One?
        4. Negative Scanning; Handling Negative
        5. Count Sheets
        6. Scanning Sheets
        7. A Word about Counts and Time Codes
        8. Scanning the Negative
        9. Recording the Final Image
        10. Keeping up with Editorial Changes
        11. First Line of Defense
        12. Temps
        13. VFX and the Marketing Department
        14. Status Reports
          1. External Status Reports
          2. Internal Status Reports
    5. 17. Changes and Approvals
      1. Changes and Approvals
        1. Change Orders
        2. Approvals
        3. Who Does the Approving?
        4. Turn-Around Time
        5. Clarifying the Term “Submitted”
          1. The Importance of Written Approvals
        6. Approval Forms
        7. When the Job Goes South
    6. 18. Crossing the Finish Line
      1. Finishing on Film
      2. Finishing on Digital Intermediate
  7. 5. Business Affairs—Operating the Visual Effects Department
    1. 19. Legal Matters
      1. Contracts
      2. Letter of Engagement
      3. Contract Details
        1. The Scope of the Work
        2. Quality Assurance
        3. Shot Breakdowns
        4. Budget
        5. Delivery Schedules and Interim Milestones
        6. Payment Schedules
        7. Key Personnel Guarantee
        8. Exclusivity of Vendor’s Services
        9. Vendor Reporting Requirement
        10. Right of Approval
        11. Revisions and Change Orders
        12. Rights of Cancellation and Rebates for Cancelled Work
        13. Technical Considerations
        14. Screen Credits
        15. “What If” Clauses
        16. Force Majeure
      4. Purchase Orders
      5. Contractor Status
      6. Deal Memos
      7. Work for Hire
      8. Insurance
      9. Cash Flow
      10. Cost Reports
      11. Controlling the Budget
      12. Monitoring Payrolls
      13. The Virtual Production Office
      14. Visual Effects and Film Guarantor Companies
      15. Negotiating and Bidding
        1. The Bidding Dance
        2. “May I Cut In?”—The Uninvited Bidder
      16. Cutting Your Losses
      17. Couldn’t You Just...?
    2. 20. Working Overseas
      1. The Challenges of Operating on Distant Locations
      2. The Lure of Working Overseas
      3. Encountering Cultural Differences
      4. The Language Challenge
      5. Physical Production
      6. Working with Digital Facilities Overseas
      7. The Foreign Factor
      8. Effect on Your Personal Affairs
      9. Taxes
      10. Travel
      11. Health Issues
      12. In Sum
  8. Acknowledgments
    1. Thank You
    2. Special Thanks
    3. VFX Producers
  9. A. Movie Magic VFX Budget
  10. B. Crew Deal Memo
  11. C. Technical Information
    1. NTSC Format
    2. High-Definition (HD) Format
    3. Resolution
    4. Common formats and their pixel counts
  12. D. Glossary
  13. E. Bibliography/References
    1. Books
    2. Periodicals
    3. Selected Websites
  14. Appendix