The Changing Role of VFX

The Changing Role of VFX

The rapidly evolving world of VFX opens up new possibilities, allowing audiences to enter expansive narratives and navigate imaginative landscapes. Ahead of a masterclass at ASFF 2019, Ruairidh MacNeill, Modeller at Academy Award-winning studio Framestore (Blade Runner 2049, Avengers: Infinity War, Gravity) speaks about the increasing role of VFX.

ASFF: What does your role as modeller at Framestore involve?
Taking everything from a brilliantly thought-out concept idea, to an idea drawn on a napkin, to a full body scan of an actor in their underwear and turning them into a film-ready asset that has everything that ever other department requires for them to be able to do their work. With constant edits and feedback to get everything in shape for the ever looming deadlines.

ASFF: There is a growing demand for digital landscapes. How has this come about, and what does it mean for VFX companies?
RM: I find it slightly bittersweet. The cost of VFX has drastically dropped, which has made the career a much harder option to break into. It has also allowed the rise of the lazy filmmaker, in which “Don’t worry it can all be fixed in post” has become much more common. It has, however, provided a massive boom in the creation of VFX advertising products as it is now the buzzword in a successful campaign. Rather than sitting on one project for a year, you could be on to something new every month – it’s a very fresh way to work. It has also allowed for the influx of other software packages such as Modo, which is allowing more access outside of the dominance of Maya – just through sheer demand for output.

ASFF: What are your career highlights – any favourite projects?
RM: The first time I sat in a cinema driving the poor cleaning folks mad as I wouldn’t leave camera in hand to grab a snap of the first time my name appeared on screen. That was one of those defining moments when it became a reality. Getting to work on Avengers was a big highlight as well. I had been watching all the build up films whilst I was learning, to then work on the conclusions was like the closing of a circle.

Still from Avengers: Infinity War.

ASFF: The world of VFX is rapidly evolving. What does the future look like? 
RM: Invisible VFX will be prominent. The desire for the “robot smash” is giving way to the subtleties of reality – where we strive to make things so good you don’t even see them (but us nerds will always know they are there!). There will be a lot more optimisation for real time / GPU rendering.

ASFF: What projects are you currently working on?
RM: I have just finished up a few months on Kingsman (book your tickets it will be bonkers) and have now moved onto The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, which is day-by-day picking up more shots. I think will have some incredible VFX, even if I am now a little biasedI also run a YouTube channel in my spare time where I review students’ portfolios or provide a detailed breakdown of their model to show them quickly and efficiently where the gaps are in between the bedroom and the officeFrom feedback this has been a much easier and accelerated way to progress. Most of all though I’m working particularly hard on finding some time to sleep! 

ASFF: What are you most looking forward to attending at this year’s ASFF?
RM: I have heard great things from people I know who have previously attended, so I’m mostly looking forward to the opportunity to completely submerge myself into the incredible pool of talent that will be present to gain inspiration and expand the ever important LinkedIn contact list. I really hope through talking I can in some way help inspire people to give VFX a shot or if they are already on the path to stop walking and start running.

The Changing Role of VFX Production takes place 8 November as part of ASFF 2019’s masterclass programme. Book your place.

Lead image: Still from Blade Runner: 2049.