A Western VFX guy in China


VFX Talk Thread about the Chinese VFX Scene

Hi there,
i just want to recap forum activities on VFX Talk especially my thread about the Chinese VFX scene (Window into the Chinese VFX Scene) which caused a lot of turmoil but also attracted many interested readers since there was no real information available before this entry, at least it seems so. Especially in times where outsourcing is a ‘buzz’ word and many fear that their jobs in the West will be replaced with the ones in low labor countries like India or China.
If you have time please feel free to read through my really long blog entries to shed some light on the domestic scene here in China and also understand the obstacles to overcome if someone is willing to do their first steps in China. Until now i have seen many western setups failing and unless founders and operational executives have gone through rigorous management training in how to deal with Asian counterparts and how to cope with randomly and ever changing regulatory frameworks, failure is most likely.

Nuke 5.2

OK, so now that i have got Nuke 5.2 and just finished my first comp, where i was using the 3D environment to displace a camera-mapped image to simulate footsteps of a guano, i must say that i really like Nuke’s channel architecture even though i think i am still much faster in Shake to these comps with a lot of separately rendered passes. Maybe because of the clarity of piping just in the mask layer for certain operations, which can be done of course in Nuke as well, but in the moment we rendered OpenEXR’s files it was sometimes confusing to choose the right control layer, you always have to switch back and forth to see what the actual layer was, whereas in Shake it was much faster to see which layer is used to restrict a certain operation. I think it is just a workflow thing and i have to get used to, BUT the rest i pretty much liked especially the 3D environment. 

We will also soon open a NUKE course here at IDD (www.iddcg.cn) which i will teach besides my successful Shake course and also help Base FX (www.base-fx.com) to make a smooth transition from Shake to NUKE.

The BEST will win…

So here we go, what should i say: a cool loft in Chaoyang district, i am their VFX Supe and Lead Comper with another 120 !! folks, doing tests for Rainmaker, The Orphanage and others, pretty impressive what kind of transformation company XXX went through in the last year, nobody probably expected to see that kind of work from China, at least not from Chinese guys, BUT if their US clients are already afraid of loosing their core business to China than they must be on the right track to gain international recognition and i am somehow one of the reasons to give them a more competitive edge.

Here are screenshots from my tests i have done for Rainmaker:                                                                                                                              


                   1. original live plate                                                            2. jaw removed                                                     3. CG jaw (face) replacement

I did the jaw removal and comp in Shake, facial tracking with rough gemometry in PFTrack and the animation and fur was done by company XXX (Shave and a Haircut) in Maya.

>> intelligent post << demoreel

Ohh, i forgot to mention that our collaboration named "intelligent post" will be pleased to kick out our first demoreel after the Chinese new year, lots of exciting stuff, a kick ass Houdini shop here in Beijing with own R&D site and constant input from coders of Side Effects itself and the rest of us, some DD, some ILM guys long time involved in local training of Chinese folks to demonstrate the world what can be done. But this later…just to give you some ideas…you have seen ‘Perfect Storm’…we have the ocean code.. and it looks fantastic…just to kick some asses here in Beijing and to prove some disbelievers wrong…but more later…stay tuned !!
PS: 4 RED’s are underway with Cook S4/i lens set and will lead the revolution in China, desktop 4K workflow included, Scratch for Conform and Sony’s SXRD 4K
projector with 10000 Ansi lumen, where ?? Ha, this is a secret  !!

fxphd – the online doctorate for VFX people

This is just a entry to praise the work of the founders of fxphd,  probably better known from their popular website fxguide and their ingenious online training concept of fxphd. Production oriented training for beginners as well as seasoned pro’s (like me ) who want keep up with recent developments and want to further extend their knowledge base. I highly recommend those guys and the variety of different courses which are well thought out and reflect the most commonly used practices and applications in the TV and film arena. I have tried them and was pleased, a real “Bang for the Buck” and professionally presented. Five ***** stars from me…give them a try, you will not regret it !!
Here is my certificate of completion:

Autodesk Certified Instructor for Flame/Inferno

I am available for doing 5 days (Level 1, Level2) instruction sessions for Autodesk’s advanced product line Flame/Inferno. I’ll try to closely work with Autodesk Beijing to shape up the next generation of Flame artists and also to develop the “Train-the-Trainer’s” program for training centers who want become Autodesk certified. I’ve tried that with Beijing University before to open up a training center, but failed because of its rigid regulatory framework and lack of financial support. It was probably too early for them…
please see following entry on Autodesk’s webpage.
Note: I am certified for its latest version FLAME 2008, but haven’t
received my new diploma.

Technicolor Beijing

So here we go: I was the GM (General Manager) of the newly setup JV between Technicolor (by Thomson) and a well known Chinese television commercial post-house. Needless to say, without being too sarcastic, that this was a ‘difficult’ one, but that’s why i’ve got the job, because not many people actually have the endurance, experience and connections in the Chinese film industry like me, bullet proof in dealing with officials and their decendents, knowing all the hickups and difficulties of the West in dealing with the East. The usual reluctance in accepting each other’s common practices and without pointing fingers are some of our North American friends obviously not really educated enough in handling different cultural perspectives. Hollywood as well as Chinawood faces a steep learning curve…time will tell…it’s not my objective to judge here in this blog, i (“we” as a community of foreigners with many years in leading European and US VFX facilities and knowing the common pitfalls are just watching and wishing them ‘good luck’ in their future business endeavors. But having an expensive shop in Beijing is at least a nice ‘try’ to push the envelope as a international player… But see for yourself… BTW the first picture represents me with long hairs !!