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30 January 2014

Our first Q&A session with VFX Supervisor Will Reichelt

Last week we launched our new monthly Facebook Q&A session, in which we invite our followers to put forward any questions they may have for our supervisors, producers, editors and artists.

Kicking us off is VFX guru, dinosaur enthusiast and all-round nice guy Will Reichelt. 

Will Reichelt

Will joined Animal Logic’s TV Commercials team in 2002 as a 3D artist, leading a number of high profile projects as CG Lead or VFX Supervisor including Baz Luhrmann’s Chanel No. 5 – The Film starring Nicole Kidman, where he led a team of artists to build a mythical 3D ‘New York.’

Now in his role as Visual Effects Supervisor, Will has been involved with projects such as Alex Proyas' Knowing, Baz Luhrmann's Australia, where he spent 18 months supervising a team of up to 30 artists and leading a team of post-visualisation artists working directly with Production Designer Catherine Martin as well as the recently launched feature Walking With Dinosaurs 3D.


I'm interested in their rendering software and hardware specs! (Walking With Dinosaurs) - Ruth Jansen

We used Pixar's RenderMan software for rendering on Walking With Dinosaurs. Unfortunately I can't divulge the specs of our render farm, but we have a great many blade servers that run day and night to service all the productions in the building.

Hi Will, Love Animal's stuff! What film (or series of films) do you think had the best visual effects work? - Michael Stone

It's pretty hard to choose one. I'm a big fan of visual effects that are invisible and are there to support the story in films like Gravity or The Great Gatsby. But on the other hand I also really dig bigger, flashier visual effects that are there for spectacle like Star Trek for example. One of my favourite films though, is a combination of the two - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The effects are there to support the fantastical nature of the story, and are also very stylish, visually impressive and designed to be noticed. I also love the tactile, hand-made feeling that the effects in that film have.

Hey, there! Just curious as to what program you used for compositing in Walking with Dinosaurs? Why that program specifically? Thanks! - Dee Lee

We use the Foundry's Nuke for all the compositing on Walking With Dinosaurs. It's a full-featured industry standard compositing tool, and has fantastic support for working in stereo also.

Hey Will, really thought Walking with Dinosaurs looked amazing. Wondering if you encountered many issues shooting in stereo 3D? - Grant Bursell

Stereo is a really interesting filmmaking tool, and there's a lot to cover both technically and creatively when shooting, as the decisions you make can have a large effect on your perception of a scene. For instance, by changing the distance between the left and right cameras, you can make the enviornment feel bigger or smaller. Technically-speaking, you need to make sure that the two eyes are in alignment with each other, or it could give you a headache. One of the main things we had to take into account while shooting the stereo plates for Walking With Dinosaurs specifically though, was that we had to make sure we were setting the stereo to allow for when the dinosaurs would be put into the scenes later on. Luckily, we had fake plastic life-size models of the dinosaurs that we could put in front of the camera to test what effect would be like before filming each shot.

Hey Will. I managed to catch Walking With Dinosaurs last week and I thought the film's visuals and effects looked amazing. Quick question, which shot or scene in WWD proved to be the most challenging to film or create? - Sean Yap

The most challenging scenes were the full-CG sequences - from where the herd crosses the frozen lake, through to when Patchi is trapped in the ditch and is being attacked by the predators. The environment we created had to be as detailed as the real Alaskan and New Zealand landscapes we were capturing for the rest of the film, so a lot of work went into coming up with a creative ways to introduce naturalistic complexity, such as having multiple overlapping variations of ground texture, rocks, leaves, sticks, twigs etcetera.

Hey Will, nice one on Walking. Do you prefer dinosaurs or owls? - Alex Winston

Dinosaurs, of course.

Are there any Animation courses in Sydney you would recommend for some interested in the industry? - Jeremy Shum

Visual effects and animation is a large industry with many disciplines, and there are a number of courses in Sydney that you could investigate to see if they are the right one for you in terms of your area of interest.

The Academy of Interactive Entertainment, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Sydney Design Centre (Enmore) and UNSW College of Fine Arts (COFA) are just a few of the places to start looking.

Do you have to pick and choose which projects you can take on board? (or perhaps you have enough staff to manage every project)

There is always a choice, there are too many awesome projects out there.

How do you project manage all your work? (i.e. project management software packages or large boards and so on)

We have an extensive proprietary software system that we use for managing our projects. It's been revised and refined on every project since the first Happy Feet, and covers every aspect of our pipeline.

What would be your criteria for taking on work?

We always try and do the projects that excite us most, where we get to collaborate with amazing people, that will enable us to push our capabilities further or that we think are just too cool not to do.

Which industry area do you find to be the busiest? i.e. What makes up the bulk of your work? I see some amazing lists of work you (Animal Logic and Fuel VFX) have worked on and there's a mix of your own work and blockbuster films and so on. Just phenomenal!

We work in both live-action film visual effects and fully-animated features, and both areas have been particularly busy recently. At one point last year we had Walking With Dinosaurs, The Great Gatsby, Hunger Games 2: Catching Fire and The LEGO Movie all in the thick of production at the same time, so things got very hectic.


Stay tuned to our Facebook page for our next Q&A session, and click HERE if you're still thirsty for more behind the scenes Walking With Dinosaurs action!