Master the art of the impossible with advice from VFX expert Shaina Holmes

This VFX master provides advice on post-production challenges.

For many, the world of VFX represents an infinite possibility, supported by a plethora of tools and technologies.

“Everyone tries to invent something new that is not possible in reality,” says VFX artist Shaina Holmes.

While the name of Holmes’ post-production company, Flying Turtle Post, suggests a penchant for inserting airborne reptiles into movies, the group delves into and fixes elements like tattoo removal, split screens, CGI baseballs, and more.

“Most of the work I do is invisible,” says Holmes. “If I’m doing my job, right, then you shouldn’t know that I’ve touched him.”

The work Holmes mentioned includes years in the industry, multiple roles, implementations, shifts and workflows, and even other worlds: Holmes was on the team that made the shift from. supervised Men in Black 3 from a film-to-tape workflow to a digital workflow, thanks to a tsunami. And she brings that knowledge into future VFX artists by teaching and creating a cyclical mentoring path for women in post production.

So when we had questions about workflows, we knew who to turn to. We came to Holmes with a key question: How can we ensure a successful process from preproduction to post-production in an area where “every single frame is touched by someone”, as Holmes defines it?

Fortunately for us, Holmes has some advice.

Always approach your project with industry-standard mindsets and tools

Whether you’re a bandstand for one person or you’re working in a post house with Hollywood blockbusters, using industry standard workflows, processes, and mindsets will only make your project better. Even in the classroom, where students may do all of the steps themselves, Holmes prepares students for the real world by going through the right industry-standard steps.

Budget? Check. Breakdown of the VFX script? Check. Lined script? Check. Are you using an appropriate naming convention for VFX recordings? Check. Export clips individually so that they can be edited by someone else in separate software, even if that person is you? Check.

“I train them like they do in the industry, even though they all take the steps themselves so that when they are outside they are not confused as to why they are taking certain steps,” says Holmes.

Your job starts in preproduction

While VFX work can end up in a so-called post house, the VFX team is in discussion right from the start.

“When you work in a post office, you are always involved in preproduction and production. Whether visual effects, whether color … have all the details of the finishing post production workflow that you have to decide on before you start filming, ”says Holmes.

These initial conversations, discussions, and storyboarding sessions can influence decisions about camera usage, codecs, processes, and workflows. Recording test scenes in different ways is also an ideal step in the pre-production phase, in which post-production is heavily involved. Potential problems can be identified at an early stage.

Additionally, the explosion in engineering tools and requests to create virtual worlds has helped accelerate the transition from viewing VFX only at the end of a production process to the beginning of the project.

“Now that the Unreal Engine is becoming such a big part of filmmaking, post-production has been moved to preproduction for many projects. With virtual production, you need to create your environments and assets before production begins. It brings visual effects to the table earlier and has really improved communication and efficiency between all departments, ”says Holmes.

And as for the “fix it in post / fix it in pre” debate that has been brought about in part by the endless corresponding memes? It really depends on the problem at hand.

Holmes believes that starting VFX conversations in preproduction can make production “more mindful” of what kinds of things need to be fixed in the post or on the set.

These outstanding scenes with incredible and irreplaceable acting? Go for that in the post. Don’t stop this flow.

But those glasses with really bad reflection? This is harder to fix in the mail.

“What we say about visual effects is that anything can be done … it’s all about the time, the budget, and the right artist,” says Holmes. “Sometimes you get the perfect storm and everything fits together. And often you don’t know until you get there. “

Don’t be afraid to learn more and remember people!

Part of Holmes’ journey involved developing an overview of the entire production process and working in different phases.

“As an artist at a small VFX company, I felt very disconnected from the whole pipeline. I knew which companies feed us [film] Scans to do the visual effects … but I had no idea where color was happening or where we were during the whole process, ”says Holmes. “So I decided to switch to visual effects production.”

That shift, and what Holmes learned from it, helped fit the VFX and its elements into a larger workflow.

As you learn more and tackle projects, especially in the technical field, it can be helpful to remember that you are an artist too … and a human one. As the tools develop, including the AI ​​integration into the VFX software, we can continue to train our creative eye to make an impact in the VFX world.

Holmes compares it to the apocalypse.

“I think when the apocalypse comes who can start the fire and know how to survive without electricity? And things like that, ”says Holmes. “I really like teaching the basics without AI technology to teach everyone. This is how you do it. Or how to fix it. That’s why you are called an artist, a visual effects artist. You have to be the right person for the job instead of being a push of a button. “

Unfortunately, Holmes had no suggestions for a zombie apocalypse or what might happen if turtles actually fly.

But we have to remove them from a scene, after our conversation with Holmes we feel a little more secure in our work processes.

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