View Full Version : VFXTalk.com Interviews Framestore CFC VFX Supervisors & Compositors for 'Doom'

March 23rd, 2006, 05:56 AM
http://www.vfxtalk.com/forum/showthread.php?threadid=5183VFXTalk reveals a host of stunning visuals from the Universal Pictures blockbuster Doom and the secrets to how they were created in a new, in-depth interview with the film's visual effects team. Visual effects supervisor Jon Farhat joins several artists from Framestore CFC, lead visual effects provider for Doom, in providing detailed answers to questions submitted by VFXTalk members about their work in creating the film's amazing imagery! Based on the popular video game, Doom has become an international hit and features some of the most complex and daring visual effects work of any recent film release.

For more information on the movie see http://www.doommovie.com

March 23rd, 2006, 05:58 AM

VFXTalk.com Interviews the Framestore CFC Supervisors & Compositors on "Doom"

http://www.vfxtalk.com/feature/framestore/doom/farhat_j.jpgJon Farhat (external) VFX Supervisor for Doom

It is said around Hollywood that Jon Farhat makes the hard stuff look easy. One of the industry's top Visual Effects Supervisors and Effects Directors, Jon brings nearly two decades of experience and tremendous talent to all of his projects, whether he is working on digital animation or effects, fine art conception and creation or software development.

His work on BLUE CRUSH demonstrated his affinity for 'performance effects', a term he uses to describe effects done on actors. The face and body replacements he designed, shot and completed for the film are revolutionary. Jon's first foray into 'performance effects' was on THE MASK, which garnered him a Visual Effects Supervisor Academy Award nomination. Jon is best known for is the intricate digital effects he created for both THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, which earned him a BAFTA nomination, and NUTTY PROFESSOR II: THE KLUMPS. Other notable credits include GRAND CANYON, DEAD MAN (1995), MY FELLOW AMERICANS, LIAR LIAR, DOCTOR DOLITTLE and DRAGONFLY.

http://www.vfxtalk.com/feature/framestore/doom/mnelmes_photo3.jpgMark Nelmes, VFX Supervisor, Framestore CFC:

Mark has a background in Graphic Design, and worked for two years as a Harry artist at the Moving Picture Company before joining The Computer Film Company in 1991. He has worked on Discreet Logic's Flame and is a senior operator of Framestore CFC's proprietary compositing system. Mark is a seasoned on-set veteran, experienced in all stages of film preparation, shooting and post-production.

Laurent Hugueniot, CG Supervisor, Framestore CFC:

Laurent began his career in 1988, in France. He has worked as a freelance CG Artist for a number of companies mostly London, and also in Europe and the US. After a brief stint with Weta, he joined Mill Film in 1996, where he worked as a Senior TD and CG Supervisor until he joined Framestore CFC in 2002. His Film credit includes Gladiator which won an Oscar for best VFX, and he was nominated for an Emmy for the Visual Effects of "Band Of Brothers" part II.

http://www.vfxtalk.com/feature/framestore/doom/David_Shere.jpgDavid Shere, Compositing Artist at Framestore CFC:

I started at Framestore CFC in 2003 as a compositor on Thunderbirds and prior to that worked in Toronto, Canada for four years on Shake and Quantel Editbox. Before that I was in the Media Arts Program at Sheridan College. I am currently working on X-Men 3.

Jonathan Fawkner, Senior Compositing Artist, Framestore CFC:
I started in the industry in 1998 and am now Senior Compositing Artist at Framestore CFC. Before Framestore CFC I was at MPC where I cut my teeth with Tape to Film, editorial, data management, colour management, you name it!

Courtesy of Framestore CFC

Framestore CFC is one of the world's leading visual effects and computer animation studios. The company has won numerous international awards including two Technical Academy Awards® from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, three BAFTA Awards, eleven Primetime Emmy Awards and ten VES Awards.

Recent film credits include Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Nanny McPhee, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Constant Gardener. Our television highlights include Walking With Monsters, and The Last Dragon. Notable commercial credits are Guinness noitulovE, Renault Espace Hector's Life, Audi Illusions, and Johnnie Walker Tree.


Can you give us a brief run-down on what you did on Doom and what previous experience you've had?

Mark Nelmes: I was the in-house Supervisor for Framestore CFC, a role which I have had on many other productions. We worked on the Pinky wheelchair / CG Pinky, Imp tongues and heads, Baron / Destroyer fight, Baron transformation and the First-Person shooter - around 130 shots in all, involving some 50 artists.

Laurent Hugueniot: I was CG supervisor for Framestore CFC. I normally end up doing this, or Senior TD.

David Shere: I comped some of the electricity sequences and some of the human Pinky's wheelchair shots. Plus, I comped the Pinky Demon part of the FPS sequence.

Jonathan Fawkner: 2005 was the year of the long sequences for me. On doom I looked after the first person shooter sequence, working closely with Jon Farhat. All 6000 odd frames. Before that I had been looking after the opening shot for Sahara. Another 2000 frames!

What was by the far the biggest challenge in term of visual effects in this movie, and how did you overcome them? Was there a different treatment? A new technique? Which sequence was the hardest to work on, and why?

Jonathan Fawkner: For me it was the sheer length of the first person sequence, the fact that we had to sell multiply shot elements as being in the same environment and get away with it for 4 minutes! It was also split into so many sections and they were being retimed all over the place to improve pacing. Every time the cut changed it threw out anything that came after it, whether it be effects work on other shots to the animation of the foreground gun.

Laurent Hugueniot: Doing a 2200 frames continuous full CG shot was somehow... different. It was not only technically challenging, but also artistically, as we had to come up with most things seen on screen, animation, lighting props. We managed to do it by breaking down the shot into smaller, distinct problems - the "divide and conquer" strategy.


Can you give us details on how the First Person sequence was created? How much time was involved in planning the logistics of a 7000 frame FPS sequence, and how many artists worked on that one shot?

Jon Farhat: The Doom production planned the full 7000 frame sequence over 6 months with the Production designer, sequence director and production VFX team. At the same time the Sequence director and VFX team worked with Kevin Spruce at Framestore CFC, the Lead 3D Animator on the sequence for nearly 3 months creating and approving the CG animatic for the Pinky portion of the FPS Sequence.

On a job like this where you have to do a lot of 3D and 2D in house, how do you manage the interaction between the different teams?

Mark Nelmes: The whole show is housed in one area, so all the separate teams can talk to each other.

When your team is faced with the challenge of creating a certain effects shot/scene...what are the typical work patterns you follow? And is the final result always as you originally envisioned it, or does the process often change and adapt as new ideas or challenges arise?

Laurent Hugueniot: Our normal pattern would be - in chronological order - previs, anim, lighting + comp. This helps to set a direction early on. But the process is always full of surprises. The reality of the shoot and editing will change, sometimes drastically, what we end up doing. Also, as we progress some new ideas will come and divert us from the original plan!

How do you tackle a sequence where you need to grade the shots to match those around it? If this is done by other people, how would you do it?

Mark Nelmes: We receive grading trims from production and run a technical grade on Baselight.


Feature Specific

During the Baron Transformation, how much of the electrical arcing was procedural, and how much of it was keyframed?

Mark Nelmes: It was all procedural, using the proximity of a rough 3D roto character to the walls to create the arching. This produced many matte passes, from which the compositors selected the best results.

Do you ever use 2D Relighting tools for those times when you need small tweaks that 3D don't have time for? If so, how do you find them?

Laurent Hugueniot: We always provide the compositors the means (various mattes) to tweak the CG. But the CG is lit in 3D for the backplate.

Did the team contact ID for model or texture reference for the various CG creations in the movie?

Mark Nelmes: We did receive model reference material from ID, but mostly we used scans and textures from Stan Winston. The Pinky Demon was created from our own concept work.

Jonathan Fawkner: The Doom VFX department made scans of the Stan Winston characters, and also provided the creature suits and heads to Framestore CFC. Reference textures where shot by the production and delivered to Framestore CFC.

Pinky's upper body was a creation of ID software's Pinky character from the game and was quite close to that character. Except that in the game he had mechanical legs. The script called for the lower body to be a Wheelchair. This wheelchair was designed by the production's art department and FPS sequence director. Framestore CFC did concept art that put these two elements together.

When you were building Pinky's wheelchair did you use any motion control systems or was it all 3D tracking?

Jonathan Fawkner: It was all done with 3D tracking on multiple levels! Kit West's special effects department and the VFX team on the film, built a full-size, "remote controlled" tracking chair and provided plans for the tracking chair and fully designed chair. The tracking chair was shot with the actor in it and then Framestore CFC tracked the CG chair to it.


Tools and Workflow

Were there any unexpected hurdles that you encountered, and did you ever find any interesting 2D solutions to get around them?

Laurent Hugueniot: Unexpected hurdles are ... part of the plan. Quite often we would change the shot well after the shoot, and this usually involves a combination of both 2d and 3d elements.

What software was used for compositing and how many artists were involved on an average shot? What was the average time spent on a composite?

Mark Nelmes: For a normal 5 sec. Shot we would use one compositor using Shake and one paint/roto artist using Commotion.

How much RnD did you have to do? Did you use mainly off-the-shelf tools or did you have to develop a lot of your own (in terms of both 2D and 3D)?

Laurent Hugueniot: We developed some tools for dynamic CG blood and goo simulation, which we used a lot. We had to develop a very efficient skin / flesh shader. In general, all of our shaders were custom made. We did a number of tools to deal with the Pinky sequence, to deal with animation updates and lighting/shader changes seamlessly, and also to manage the props.

How does high-resolution/bit depth work affect you r rendering and pre-visualization speeds and what rendering pipeline did you use?

Laurent Hugueniot: The resolution has a direct effect on rendering time. Double the number of pixels and the rendering time will double too. The bit depth has marginal effects as all of the rendering is internally done using floating point, and then reduced to the required bit depth. We use Maya / Houdini / Renderman, with proprietary tools.


Lead Compositors

What sort of freedom were you given in creating the looks for the sequences you were in charge of?

Jonathan Fawkner: For most of the project we had Jon Farhat with us in the building. Most of the first person shooter existed in his head. He sat with me at a Shake work station as we tried to piece together his rough avid comp and work out what was working and what wasn't. Where we were able to make him really excited was with the animation of the foreground gun, which was all cg. This was something he had never seen even in previs.

David Shere: Obviously, some sequences like the Human Pinky wheelchair just had to look right. But for others like the electricity sequence we were given quite a bit of freedom to develop the look. Ben Schrijvers, one of our effects TDs wrote this great system based on proximity that gave the compositors the flexibility we needed make each shot work but also be able to get it out quickly.

As lead compositors, how closely do you work with the lighting and render people?

David Shere: I've never worked quite as closely with lighting TDs as I did for the Pinky Demon battle sequence. With so many passes and having to have each part be visually consistent for the whole duration - plus all the little tweaks and fixes - there was a lot of back and forth.

Jonathan Fawkner: Well it's impossible not to really. More and more we are becoming the lighting render people, completing so much of the render in comp.

As lead compositors, how many shots did you do yourselves, and do you get to assign the shots out to other compositors?

Jonathan Fawkner: On this show we were able to break the first person shooter down into individual assignments. The Baron on fire, the Imp squibs, the chainsaw etc., and these were handled by a small team of compers. I looked after the overall shot dropping in versions as they came in and hoping they still fit!

When starting work on a really meaty shot, do you approach it as just another shot, or do you prefer to really understand the context and emotional state of it first?

Jonathan Fawkner: Yeah, the emotional state was pretty integral to Doom. You couldn't really work on a show like that without somehow getting involved with the characters, trying to hear their internal monologue. "If it moves, kill it!"

David Shere: Well, it's pretty hard to miss the emotional state of a shot when you're searching for reference material of severed limbs, crime scenes and accident victims.

How often have you busted a gut putting nice subtleties into a shot only to see them disappear in a heavily graded print and how do you go about managing this aspect in your work i.e. when do say "hold on a minute why am I wasting my time doing this, it'll never be seen in the print'?

Jonathan Fawkner: Yup. A lot. But you know, it doesn't bother me really. I know that the integrity is there when I finish with it. It's not my movie in the end so they can do what they like with it.

What's the "accuracy" of the TD renders compared to what the shot should look like? What do you guys get in production? How far do they dare to go?

David Shere: Generally the cg we got was very close to the final. We would get a beauty pass and then the major arb passes - spec, diffuse, shadow, etc. But Ben White and his team did an excellent job of giving us renders that needed minimal tweaking.

How much has the line between comping and 3D blurred for you? As a lead do you have more control on what the 3d department gives you?

Jonathan Fawkner: I think that is definitely driven by the show and the people but most of the time we work in a collaborative team. Sometimes more of the burden falls on different departments and it becomes obvious who is calling the shots. Even for different shots. For the FPS it was a comp driven thing in terms of most of the work even though we used a lot of 3d to cover seams and for emphasis, but the hero was the first person and his gun which was a 3d thing, the lighting driven by the finished background. What comes first? You figure it out. It's doing my head in just thinking about it now.


Pinky before and after shots!


Closing Statements!

Can you let us know which fx shot you felt ended up looking better than you had ever anticipated, and why?

Laurent Hugueniot: I thought the Pinky sequence always looked great. But it was only once we started to turn down the lights, suggesting what was there, rather than show it, that it became fantastic.

Can you also let us know what you felt was unique about working on this picture that set it aside from other film work you have done?

Mark Nelmes: The first-person shooter sequence. I don't think that anything quite like it had ever been attempted before!

Laurent Hugueniot: The variety of the work. Lots of different creatures, problem solving, lots of one off shots.

And finally, Red Bull, coffee, or something else?

Jonathan Fawkner: Regular hours, plenty of water and five portions of fruit and veg a day. Hmmm.

Mark Nelmes: Coffee.

Laurent Hugueniot: Steak Tartare?

David Shere: Snickers bars. The bar of compositors everywhere.

From everyone here at VFXtalk.com thanks again for your time guys, I hope we will speak again soon. Cheers !!
Karsten Becker

A Natural Progression!

Original Wireframe

Shaded View


Shaded View

Textured and Rendered!

The Real Deal!


March 23rd, 2006, 11:35 AM
thanks guys! this really answered my questions on the compositing side of things.




March 23rd, 2006, 04:29 PM
Hi all,

Please feel free to discuss the interview openly here in this thread! Please also let us know what you liked about the interview and what you didn't like so we can make shure that they get better over time and that we are getting the best information about what happens behind the scenes back to you!

If you liked this interview then feel free to get involved in the process and head over to our upcoming 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' interview with Framestore and ask any questions that you think are relevant!

Its located here:

Press Forum Invitation: VFXTalk interviews Framestore-CFC Lead Compositors for HP4 (http://www.vfxtalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4912)

If you also know of any facilities that are working on any cool projects that you would like us to do a interview on then please email us on [email protected]



March 25th, 2006, 09:38 AM
great stuff! i especially like the 'before and after' shots and the breakdown on pinky - it shows just how much work goes into one small part of a feature and how much of a difference it makes!

May 11th, 2006, 10:24 AM
This is so cool. Things like this really make me want to get good.......MORE, MORE, MORE :niceone: