It's one of the biggest shows in the world right now. So as a 3D artist, what are the chances you could get to work on a future series yourself? We spoke to Joe Bauer and Steve Kullback, the VFX supervisor and producer of Game of Thrones, to find out...
First they explain the set-up. "We have two person in-house concept team," begins VFX producer Steve Kullback. "We have five people who are working on pre-vis and they're all in house with us, generating pre-vis all under Joe's guidance."
When Joe and Steve are on set, they then employ a team of a visual effects key grip and data wranglers, who are responsible for making sure that all the on set requirements are in place and that all the data is gathered.
"Once we go into shot production, once the episodes are edited, Joe will sit down with our visual effects editor and work through temps of how the scenes should be and then those temps in consort with the pre-visualisations and the concepts will be turned over to our vendors and they will constitute the work at various stages with constant check ins from us."
And so this is where you guys have an 'in'.
With no visual effects facilities in-house (only two compositors who do some light composites, green/blue screen composites and paint fixes), Joe and Steve have a significant team of vendors all over the world who they turn in shots to, and then are in constant touch with from their headquarters from LA when in post production and shot production.
"We're always on the look out for talent and it tends to be an as-needed requirement," says Steve. "We have a team of very hardworking folks that we have a shorthand with, but that doesn't mean we aren't on the look out. We introduce new folks as we have new and exotic needs."
But how do you stand out from the crowd, and get the work? Here Steve and Joe offer seven top tips...
01. Hone your talent
Focusing your talent on a specific area, and becoming expert at one specific thing may help your prospects of getting on Steve and Joe's radar - appealing to their "exotic needs".
"Certain vendors like certain artists have certain areas of talent and expertise," explains Steve.
"So we do our best to refine a list of vendors that have the best collection of skills and abilities and then we look very closely at our work load and divvy up the assignment as it seems appropriate based on skill set, ability, volume of work and so forth."
02. Make yourself known
Steve says: "There are a number of vendors out there that we have worked with in the past (either Joe of myself) and so we were aware of them and their abilities.
"There are others we hear about, there are others who are working on films and television and commercial projects that we'll see their work and go 'Wow they look great who did that?' and then they will get on our radar.
"Sometimes the studio will have suggestions like 'Hey do you know these guys? Let me introduce you,' because they have worked with them on another show or project. Like any business there is a lot of networking going on!"
03. Think outside the box
"One of the interesting qualities about VFX these days is there are a lot of younger people who have come up with the advent of computer generated everything," says Steve. "They rely on it and some of the folks who are producing films look at that as being the cooler, hipper, more technological way to approach things.
"But if there's a challenge and an opportunity to do something that could be shot versus generating something in CG, our tendency is to do that. Part of that is because we think it's smarter because you end up having something that is more organic. But it’s really also more practical, it looks better, as an example - the dragons which appear in the 9th episode of season 5."
Joe got into the business the early 90's and there was still a lot of 'stage work' involved in the visual effects, "What I find, just because of our post production time constraints, we put a lot more onus on the production to shoot more than a lot more bigger budget films who have a lot more post production time.
"We shy away from things like CG fire which can take a while and be expensive to really dial in properly," Joe admits.
"We reach back into existing technologies which have, to some extent, gone out of favour. Like motion control, because it works for us in real time and we go into post production with a lot more work done because of it."
04. Be a great time keeper
“We are moving at a faster pace that we would be in a feature environment,” says Steve.
Joe adds, "We are generating as much VFX work as a major feature film and there’s ten hours of film that we are delivering annually, most features are delivering two, two and a half hours in a year and a half so yeah, we're busy!"
That means there are very speedy turnovers, and getting the best result in the shortest amount of time is essential. "Managing your time and managing your resources is critical," adds Steve.
05. Get experience
"Our show is a bit of a hybrid between feature film making and TV because on the one hand there are ten episodes and they are typically one hour in length," Steve explains.
"We look at it globally as you would a feature, a lot of us have worked in features in the past and have a sensibility about what we have seen and participated in and would like to deliver. In each department it's an exceptional amount of talent, each bringing a lot to the table."
06. Bring your own toolkit
Joe says don't worry about the software you use, as long as you came to it through trial and error and can produce the best work. "The software usage these days is interactive and almost intuitive: how do you go into this software programme and get what you need out of it and then take the results into another programme and refine them?
"I used to always ask various facilities what they were using but ultimately they've all come to their 'tool kit' by various means and it ultimately doesn't matter. The important thing for me is just to give them as much as I can out of our production process and then guide them toward what we want to see at the end."
07. Be the best you can be
Game of Thrones has undoubtedly inspired a whole generation of cinematic television – raising the bar so high, even Joe and Steve are finding it hard to keep up with themselves.
This means you need to be the best - have the drive, determination and passion in what you do to push your work to the extreme.
"Everybody wants to do their best work and people like to have bars to meet and cross so hopefully there will be a feeding frenzy of really cool work now, you know?" says Joe.
Steve adds, "It's also vitally important to manage people's expectations of what can and will be achieved, under promise and over deliver. That's what I've learned!"
Game of Thrones Season 5 is available now to digitally download via Amazon Instant Video, Blinkbox, Google Play, iTunes, Wuaki.tv, Xbox Video and BT TV.
Words: Alice Pattillo
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