Jeff ol­son

The ILM and Dig­i­tal Do­main pro­ducer talks to Hina Pandya about the com­plex­i­ties of work­ing for big bud­get movies

3D Artist - - CONTENTS -

Pro­ducer Jeff Ol­son chats to Hina Pandya about his work at ILM and Dig­i­tal Do­main

Com­pany ILM and

Dig­i­tal Do­main

Lo­ca­tion San Fran­cisco, Cal­i­for­nia USA

Web­site

Ilm.com

Biog­ra­phy Jeff Ol­son started at In­dus­trial Light and Magic in 1982 in the model shop work­ing with his hands and us­ing his skills in movies like Bat­ter­ies Not In­cluded, Wil­low, Ghost­busters 2 and Star Trek: Gen­er­a­tions. Hav­ing worked on 13 movies Ol­son moved into pro­duc­ing VFX in 1986, and later onto Dig­i­tal Do­main work­ing on En­der’s Game. At ILM he be­gan work on Star Trek: First Con­tact as his first role as a pro­ducer, which was, “very chal­leng­ing, lots of com­puter graph­ics, lots of mod­els too a good tran­si­tion for me be­fore I went to work on Star Wars.”

Port­fo­lio high­lights

• En­der’s Game, 2013

• Star Trek, 2009

• Pi­rates Of The Caribbean: At

Worlds End, 2007

• Eragon, 2006

• Po­sei­don, 2006

• Master and Com­man­der: The

Far Side Of The World, 2003 • Star Wars: Episode 1 – The

Phan­tom Menace, 1999

• Bat­ter­ies Not In­cluded, 1987

• ET The Ex­tra Ter­res­trial, 1982

the com­plex­i­ties of shoot­ing and pro­duc­ing vis­ual ef­fects are wide and var­ied says Ol­son.

“On a typ­i­cal live ac­tion shot there might be days, weeks and some­times months of prep work,” in many cases a model would be in­volved in a shoot and its prepa­ra­tion, cre­ation and paint­ing can take weeks or months be­fore it is ready for the stage shoot.

Or­gan­is­ing sched­ul­ing alone is ar­du­ous as it in­volves en­sur­ing all the com­po­nents come to­gether, keep­ing track of what’s ready, when it will be ready and sched­ul­ing it so that when the model comes onto the stage the stage crew have time to get it lit cor­rectly, pho­tographed and ap­proved again, “Be­cause there’s so many el­e­ments to shoot in a typ­i­cal VFX movie the stage is in high de­mand [and] you’re un­der pres­sure to get the whole project done in three to four months or maybe a much tighter sched­ule than that to pro­duce hun­dreds of shots.”

With all this work go­ing into the com­po­nents of a model, the shoot­ing el­e­ment of a shot may only take a day or three and re­sult in seven sec­onds of screen time.

Master And Com­man­der, di­rected by Peter Weir was a favourite of Ol­son’s due to a mu­tual love with the di­rec­tor of the great sea­far­ing nov­els the film was based on. the two had a con­nec­tion and would “of­ten talk about how we can pull this off” in the film, which of­ten com­prised of a com­plex and var­ied list of VFX shots. A re­al­is­tic can­non ball fight, for ex­am­ple, needed to be cre­ated be­tween French and Bri­tish ships.

Py­rotech­nics, back­ground wa­ter for wide shots, and in­cor­po­rat­ing shots of the model made at Weta as well as some shots of the model at ILM were all el­e­ments care­fully pre­pared, planned and con­structed for a seam­lessly re­al­is­tic re­sult. Ol­son was at ILM in san Fran­cisco whilst Weir was work­ing with Fox in Los An­ge­les, “He’d come up twice a week and would meet with my crew of 60 com­puter graphic artists as well as the stage crew work­ing to make el­e­ments.”

to­gether they en­er­gised each other to pro­duce some very re­al­is­tic dra­matic shots, not just in this scene but in the many scenes Fox had asked ILM to pro­duce.

de­spite all the metic­u­lous plan­ning, not all of it comes off smoothly but as Ol­son says pro­duc­ing is about solv­ing prob­lems and team work, “there are al­ways go­ing to be prob­lems you didn’t ex­pect; count on the peo­ple around you for their ex­per­tise to help you solve prob­lems, you can’t come up with it all your­self, but you’ll know who to go to.” Which he cer­tainly ex­celled at, hav­ing pro­duced some amazing vis­ual ef­fects through­out his ca­reer.

there are al­ways go­ing to be prob­lems you didn’t ex­pect, count on the peo­ple around you for their ex­per­tise

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