Job of the Week: Visual Effects Supervisor

Job of the Week: Visual Effects Supervisor

22/10/12

Hasraf ‘HaZ’ Dulull is a Freelance Visual Effects Supervisor/Producer whose credits include The Dark Knight, Hellboy II and Storage 24. HaZ tells us how he got started and how important networking is to success…

Full name/age/job title:

My name is Hasraf Dulull, but I’m known as HaZ in the industry and to friends. I’m 33 years old and my job title is Freelance Visual Effects Supervisor/Producer. I’m also a filmmaker – my short Fubar Redux was screened at Cannes and other festivals. 

Please give us an overview of your average day…

Each studio or facility is different. When I’m brought in, at the pre-production stage, I’m involved with script breakdowns and figuring out how to make the visual effects from my interpretation of the script. I talk a lot to the director of the project to get a good sense of the film, and work with the producers to budget it. When the film is shooting and in production I’m on set supervising and taking as much reference material, camera data etc., to help make the visual effects of the shots later. In post-production, I look after the team (artists, compositors, animators) and brief them with VFX direction and review the shots before the director sees it.

What is the most common misconception about your job?

The ‘supervising’ bit – a lot of people think the supervisor just oversees and bosses people about and that’s it… but there's so much more involved. For example, I’m a very hands-on visual effects supervisor, so this means I get my hands dirty with the work and do a lot of the look-development and compositing, too. The level of responsibility on every decision a VFX supervisor makes, whether it’s creative or technical, impacts the budget and schedule. A visual effects supervisor is usually the first one in the studio and the last one to leave in the evening every day.

What is the hardest thing about your role? 

Trying to please everyone in the client side (director, producers etc.) to make it work for the often-tight budgets. Although it’s the hardest thing, it's also the most rewarding thing, too.

When did you decide what you wanted to do with your life and how did you set out to achieve it?

I remember watching Aliens and Blade Runner and being totally blown away and knowing that one day I wanted to make films that took audiences into another world. At that time, videogames were becoming more popular and telling stories in a different way, allowing the audience to interact with the stories. Like many artists, I knew that one day the line would blur between games and films. My route into CGI (computer graphics imagery) was via videogames – I created cinematic ‘cut scenes’. Back then it wasn’t as easy as it is now to move from games CGI to feature-film VFX, so I got several rejections saying my work needed more integration of CG with live action and I needed to specialize rather than do it all. I took those criticisms very seriously and a few months later I went back to the same studios and showed them my new reel and I ended up working as a Rotoscope artist. Over the years I moved up to Senior Compositor, Lead Compositor, Compositing Supervisor and VFX Supervisor at various studios worldwide. 

What can you do to get a head start?

Get inspired by the Making Of extras on special editions of The Matrix, Avatar etc. These days it’s so much easier to get access to visual effects with training facilities like Escape Studios and VFX blog sites. Software is much more accessible, too – you can get training or trial editions of e.g. Nuke and Maya – and you don’t need specialised hardware any more, you can do visual effects on your laptop! When doing a show reel look at the current requirements in film and offer that in your reel; if you want to be a compositor, do shots involving green screen, rig removals and replacing things in a shot, and always show ‘before’ and ‘after’. If you’re a CG artist, decide if its creatures you like doing – FX like fluid simulations, explosions, destruction, etc. – or environments, like digital set builds.

Could you describe the creative element to your job?

Coming up with clever ways to achieve the visual effects requested within the budget and schedule. What I love is getting as much 'in-camera' as possible – if the scene needs lots of blood effects I would go with the approach of shooting liquid elements at high speed on black then composite them in, rather than run expensive CG fluid simulations.

What’s the one thing you wish you had known at the start of your career that you know now?

You can be the most talented artist in the world but if you don’t put yourself out there and network then it’s not worth anything. Doing great work is one thing but doing great work that everyone gets to see and know you from is more rewarding and leads to future work and career development. This is extremely important for freelancers – I advise everyone to do that.

Which organisations/websites/resources do you think would be useful for people entering your industry?

FX Guide for news; for people wanting to do create shots while learning a tool and learn at home with VPN licenses of the software then I recommend sister site FXPhD. VFX Talk is an online forum for visual effects discussions, VFXG is a dedicated social network and Escape Studios offer training courses.

 

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