Careers: VFX supervisor Tuomo Hintikka
Issue: May/June 2020

Careers: VFX supervisor Tuomo Hintikka

Post Control Helsinki’s ( top visual effects supervisor Tuomo Hintikka is a highly talented force to be reckoned with in the VFX world in Finland, known for his work on Dark Floors (2008), Faust (2011) and The Girl King (2015).

Photo: Tuomo Hintikka, credit: Timo Luomanen

Tuomo is also an accomplished film editor with extensive on-set experience and more than 25 years of digital post production knowledge. Over his vast career, Tuomo has also worked at Generator Post, The Chimney Pot and Fame Post in Bangkok. He’s been passionate about films ever since his art and media student days in the ‘80s and ‘90s. 

Beyond visual effects, he happily engages, in true nord-man spirit, with forests, fishing and of course "lavatanssit", and happens to be an Elvis fan too. He recently took some time to provide insight into his career.

What does your role as VFX supervisor involve?

“My role as VFX supervisor, means I am responsible for a smooth-running, cost-effective, storytelling-oriented VFX production throughout the entire feature or TV series’ production and overall post production processes. My job starts from script analysis and runs right through to production (filming) until VFX shot production and color grading approval sessions in the post production phase before then mastering the final piece. The VFX supervisor’s most important task is to also guide VFX artists to do their best and deliver the most creative, meticulous, accurate material to work with.”

How long have you been working in VFX and what inspired you to step into the world of VFX? 

“I have worked at Post Control Helsinki for over six years now, which is a high-end post production house specializing in commercials, features, documentaries, music videos and TV. However, I have been working in the film industry since graduating from art and media school back in 1995. But my interest in the industry all started as far back as 1987, when I took a video course and started to create my own short action films with my friends. My best friend wanted to be a stuntman and all our films were full of stunts and fighting. At that time, they were all practical, in-camera effects, which nowadays is still a valid way to do things in filmmaking. We soon figured out though how to make stunts look even more nasty in the editing stage by using smart editing and sound effects.

“Right from my childhood days, I have been inspired by the wonders of magic. I have even performed as a magician for audiences a couple of times. It’s hard to use an ‘undo’ key or test different approaches when performing in front of people. From that point of view, I find VFX is much easier to handle. 

Photo: An in-camera effect sequence from the 1990 film Maalainen represents some of Tuomo’s early work.

“Sometimes I am able to use ‘hocus-pocus’- knowledge. VFX helps remove elements and also reveals the unseen too, to a certain degree. VFX is like magic in this regard. I find that usually the most effective trick in my book is the simplest one — both in the world of magic and in the world of VFX.”

What’s your favorite and least favorite part of the post production process?

“After I graduated, I was an editor for many years before jumping into VFX production. My favourite part of post production is editing: working together with editors and the director is extremely rewarding. VFX can also help to tell the story. The editing stage is very much to do with storytelling. I also think there is aesthetic pleasure involved with creating pictures, and VFX can help to achieve that and make the vision become reality.

“I also find it rewarding when I see VFX artists combine all these various elements in their work, from what we have produced, to the planning and shooting stages of VFX shot production, and when combined, it can make a stunning shot come together.

“Obviously, there are also a lot of technical challenges involved with the post production process. After working in post for many years, I have learned that you don’t want to spend too much time on any unnecessary issues or problems that arise, but to rather concentrate on the content and on being creative. I feel incredibly lucky to have very experienced colleagues around me. I am armed with the best tools and I get support quickly when I need it. This whole process is definitely down to team work.”

Photo: The WhiteWall; Credit: Alvi Pakarinen

What are you working on at the moment?

“I have just finished working on a couple of feature films as well as eight episodes of the Swedish and Finnish TV drama series The White Wall for SVT/YLE/DRG, directed by A. Salmenperä and A. Zackrisson, where I used DejaSoft’s DejaEdit film tool.

“I am now currently in the pre-production phase of feature film Luokkakokous 3 and TV series Deadwind Season 3. The pre-production stage includes conducting VFX breakdowns, recce trips, meetings with production crews, directors and testing. 

Tell us about your work on The White Wall and how DejaEdit was used in the production?

“The White Wall is marked as one of the most exciting scripted series to come out of Scandinavia in recent years, with its unique storyline, high production value and superb cast, with international appeal. It was primarily shot in a remote village in northern Finland and set in the present time with sci-fi elements. The story was set around an unusual white wall discovered deep underground at a mining site of one of the world’s largest nuclear waste depositories. 

“The VFX, DI and color grading, online and mastering all took place at Post Control Helsinki, where DejaEdit was used. DejaEdit was used extensively throughout the production. As a media file synchronizer, it helped to streamline the production process by giving editors and operators the ability to collaborate between multiple remote Avid editing platforms. DejaEdit is a film tool made by DejaSoft in Sweden that ensures all created or imported media files and timelines in one connected system can then be automatically shared to the local or network storage of other connected systems, fast and securely in the background.

“Avid Editor Samu Heikkilä worked remotely on the project outside Helsinki, alongside another Avid editor Kristofer Nordin, based in Stockholm. They were also able to exchange media files across their remote locations while using DejaEdit.

“VFX supervising requires working closely with the production team, therefore I was engaged with the project right from the start, which meant that cuts and layered scenes during the offline could easily be shared, and I was able to pass media files back and forth effortlessly as slab comps in Avid.”

What are some of the advantages of DejaEdit from your VFX supervisor viewpoint?

“Filmmaking, as in directing and VFX productions, are intricately connected. Having access to the latest edits shared between the assistant editor and the other Avid editors across Sweden and Finland, was a key advantage to me on The White Wall project. I was also able to share VFX temp comps and often first versions completed with Avid effects via DejaEdit to all my counterparts. It worked out really well using DejaEdit as it ensured that there were never any misunderstandings as to which edit or VFX temp versions were the latest or most recent.

“Being an Avid instructor and editor back in the ‘90s has given me an understanding of how various editing program features work and how DejaEdit fits into the workflow. In The White Wall,  I was able to share VFX temp comps using Avid soft effects via DejaEdit. This meant that I could leave VFX shots open or ‘floating’ for editors to access. They could then re-time and tweak individual layers as much as they wanted to. I think this was a great benefit that DejaEdit brought to my VFX side in this scenario, compared to the other traditional methods, such as getting the pull list from the edit, followed by the online DI in-house, briefing VFX artists, sending versions of flattened VFX temp comps to editing suites via cloud/FTP and so forth. Using DejaEdit on this project meant that nobody needed to upload or import any shots because we all had access to the same footage that was created by the DIT.”

Has DejaEdit changed how you now approach projects?

“In previous projects, I have experience of having used AAF lists that are sent back and forth in the editing suite. Although this is basically the same type of workflow that DejaEdit exerts, it can be problematic when media sharing has to be done manually when working with a larger production team. This is not an issue with DejaEdit, and it excels when dealing with any complexities that could arise using other methods, as it demonstrated in The White Wall project – the DIT, AE, two editors both working in different countries with myself as VFX supervisor were all using the same database and media via DejaEdit which resulted in a successful outcome.”

What is the most significant change you’ve witnessed in the film industry since you started working in VFX – in Finland and/or globally? Has the COVID-19 situation affected things in Finland?

“I have witnessed a growing requirement for VFX, and a much more professional attitude towards VFX overall in the film industry. Although, it is still pretty new and there are people in the industry who are still not yet aware of its powerful potential, it is rewarding to see that director Renny Harlin, who was quoted in a Hollywood Reporter article stating that he plans to utilize VFX to create more physical distance between cast and extras in various group scenes during the COVID situation. So, you see, the advantages of VFX are vast!

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected a lot of people in the industry. After I finished The White Wall VFX production at the end of March this year, many productions were cancelled, and a lot of people were either laid off or were unemployed. It looks like productions are starting up again now. I feel very fortunate to be involved in one of the first feature films to begin production in Northern Europe amid the coronavirus pandemic called Luokkakokous 3, directed by Hollywood filmmaker Renny Harlin, with filming commencing at the end of June 2020, with stringent safety measures taken into account of course.”

What do you normally enjoy doing in your free time when you aren’t tied up in VFX work? 

“I try to head to my summer cottage whenever I can to enjoy some fishing. I also like to stay in shape physically by playing badminton and cycling. I guess I should try to find more time to spend with friends though too.”