Discovering VFX: Virtual Explorations

Posted By Drew Turney on June 20, 2016 01:20 pm | Permalink
LOS ANGELES - On June 11th, a dedicated clutch of directors, producers, VFX engineers and artists made their way to Hurlbut Visuals studios in LA's San Fernando Valley for "Discovering VFX: Virtual Explorations," and Post was there to cover the event.

Kathryn Brillhart of the Visual Effects Society ( moderated the panel, and the assembled VFX users and industry watchers got some great advice about how to affordably incorporate VFX into future projects. Like the presentation itself, one of the major takeaways was that making it in VFX for movies, gaming or TV is about the conversation those in the industry have with each other.

As the Society believes, there's a strong desire in the filmmaking community to connect with VFX pros, learning who they are and what they do - often at the big end of town.

To represent that scale of VFX work, guests were thrilled to hear from VFX producer Joyce Cox (The Great Gatsby, The Dark Knight, Avatar) about her most recent work on Disney's The Jungle Book. Containing only one human actor and with every other character and environment created in CGI, Cox's work was cut out for her. She shared some amazing clips from the film that showed the previs and initial renders interspersed with the final product, complete with the lush color, incredible scope and real-looking surfaces we all know from the film.

Joining Cox on stage were Mat Beck and Brian Ali Harding of Entity FX (, an effects house that's highly regarded in the industry and used by studios and production companies all over the world. The show reel Beck and Harding shared with the crowd was like a who's who of big name TV and movie projects.

The Entity FX guys and Cox talked about the emerging crossover between VFX and other disciplines, like cinematography, and where Cox was used to the logistics of much bigger productions, Entity FX had seen the places where it's just as appropriate to call yourself a virtual cinematographer as much as a VFX producer or creator.

With a story about a legendary DP who refused to have anything to do with 'computer people,' Beck urged everyone present to adopt VFX as a partner early in the process rather than think of it as a post issue.

Waiting outside with the snacks and drinks was TNG Visual Effects, a VFX house with offices across North America that specializes in 3D scanning actors and objects for digital manipulation on screen. Using a handheld scanner that looked like a cross between a hair dryer and Swiffer pad, the guys from TNG offered quick scanning sessions to show what the technology can do.

It starts with a brief period moving the scanner around the face and upper torso, all the while with the bright exposure flash firing to take readings. Then, in almost realtime, a digital 3D representation of participants appeared on the laptop screen.

In all, it was a thoroughly entertaining and informative event.

Drew Turney is a Director with PSI Publishing and Design (