Yannix Thailand - Keeping Hollywood VFX on Track
Yannix Thailand provides engineering- based visual effects prep services to mainstream Hollywood film and television projects including over 200 motion pictures such as Life of Pi, Hugo, Argo, Suicide Squad, Alice in Wonderland, Guardians of the Galaxy, D
Not everyone has “cinema appreciation” classes in their junior high school. But growing up in Los Angeles, I took advantage of the opportunities I had. While I enjoyed the classes, I had no idea I would end up in the movie business. Being more of a math and science guy, I always knew I would do something more technology- related. Back then, I never realized how heavily the movie business relies on technology, math and science.
Now, having spent more than twenty years in the Hollywood visual effects ( VFX) business, I’ve been focused on math and science throughout my career. Hollywood is full of talented artists and these artists are supported by some very talented engineers who build the tools that the artists use. While VFX films require amazing artistry, the foundations that make it all work are built with math and science.
In the 1990s, an interesting problem confronting filmmakers was how to insert computer generated ( CG) elements into live action footage and make it look like the CG was filmed as part of the “real” world from the beginning. In order to do this, the CG object must be “filmed” with a virtual camera that is identical to the real camera in every way possible. This involves a process called “matchmoving”, which back then was a painstaking process where an artist would go through the shot frame- by- frame and move a virtual CG camera around in a virtual CG environment and try to match everything to the live- action plates.
This required not only matching the 3D motion of the real camera on ev- ery frame, but the 3D rotation of the camera too, in addition to other lens properties like zoom and distortion. In addition, many shots require a model of the environment to be built simultaneously. Often, these models need to be built without any reference information other than what is available in the shots themselves. The level of precision is so intricate that a slip of even a fraction of a pixel can ruin the overall effect.
Back in the mid- 1990s, I developed a computer vision system that would digitally analyze shots frame- by- frame to determine how objects were moving inside the images. The system needed to reconstruct where objects had been and replicate exactly how the camera had moved and rotated to have produced the real images. Once the virtual world was created to exactly match the real world, then CG objects could be “rendered” inside this virtual world and placed onto the real images to look like the CG had been there all along. This is just one of a growing trend of technologies in the movie industry whereby advanced technologies can be used to extend the abilities of an artist to achieve ever more sophisticated effects.
As Yannix has grown its business in Thailand, we not only hire engineers and scientists to continue to advance the tools and technologies that these matchmoving services are based on, we have also made a conscious decision to hire engineers and scientists as the operators who perform the bulk of these services.
Given our approach, we have found ourselves in a great business position. Rather than offering the same VFX services that our global clients see as their own specialty, Yannix provides an engineering service that naturally complements our clients’ artistic expertise. By letting Yannix handle the technical minutiae our clients can focus on creat-
ing the amazing effects that they were hired to do.
In recent years, Yannix has extended its matchmoving services to perform the more subtle technical effects that, while necessary, often go unnoticed in blockbuster Hollywood films.
While most VFX companies establish their reputation on the marquis effects like CG dinosaurs, elaborate exploding spaceships, and magical creatures, we are focused on the “bread- and- butter” effects that seamlessly change the movie set into a fictional world.
These can include removing billboards or road signs in period dramas for historical accuracy, adding mountains in the distance to make one airport appear to be in a different city, or adding digital fog and rain to enhance an outdoor scene.
By hiring Thai- based digital artists to work in tandem with our engineers, Yannix is able to take on many of these more “engineering based” effects shots so our clients can focus their attentions on creating the jaw dropping experiences audiences have come to expect from modern Hollywood blockbusters.
And as we have grown as a company to a staff of over 250 people, we have developed technologies for business management that go well beyond our VFX services. We have developed a “corporate operating system” that combines all aspects of our business into an integrated workflow.
By integrating data from timesheets, performance reviews, resource management, cost analysis, different recruiting options and more, the kinds of technology applied to tracking motion analysis in shots can also be retooled to track costs and performance of services provided across the organization.
As Yannix ( Thailand) Co. Ltd., enters its twelfth year, it is interesting to think back about how we got here. We’ve come a long way from the days when filmmakers were told they couldn’t move the camera because it would make the CG too difficult. Math and science have played a huge role in the development of Yannix, but I can’t help but wonder what I’d be doing now if it weren’t for those cinema appreciation classes.
Yannix Founder and Managing Director, Xye