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Networking And Visual Imagery Hightlights Of 2014 VES Summit

(L-R) Dion Beebe, Bo Welch, Ben Grossmann and Bill Taylor discuss improvements needed in on-set Visual Imagery workflow at the 2014 VES Summit

BY: Marjorie Galas

The Visual Effects Society’s sixth annual VES Summit was chose the theme “Networking and Visual Imagery Evolution” for the day-long gathering at the W Hotel on October 18th, 2014. Tightly packed around round tables, VFX and post professionals attentively listened to opening keynote speaker Victoria Alonso, EVP, Visual Effects and post production, Marvel Studios, who encouraged them to take the session into their own hands.

“I’m missing my kid’s soccer match and a pumpkin patch visit, so the last thing I want to do is waste time by telling you all the things you already know,” said Alonso. “Please, ask me the questions you want answers to so we can make this time valuable.”

Moderator and VES Planning Committee member Randy Starr kicked off the internationally simulcast panel by asking Alonso to explain why she chose to get into film over politics – a long standing passion of the key note speaker. A native of Argentina, Alonso became aware the political crowd she was involved with at an early age would lead her down a deadly path. Seeking a different crowd to participate with, she joined a youth theater group and fell in love with the creative process of producing theatrical production. Determination allowed her to climb the production ladder to her current title.

“The lack of control leads to control. We’d discuss the process and choosing imagery was key to the development,” said Alonso. “In some cases, the visuals were developed before the written words.”

When asked why she’s become devoted to the comic universe, Alonso noted both the visual challenges and collaborative qualities involved in translating the comic world to film as a source of inspiration. Highlighting recent Marvel hit “Guardians of the Galaxy”, she described the joy she receives from bringing unlikely role models to life.

“The mixture of misfits won my heart. A tree never before has ben given such a human life, and generally if I see a raccoon I run away, but here he’s a hero,” said Alonso. “In the VFX world we find a way as artists to make it work. Time may not be on your side but with the tools and inventiveness we process, we always can do anything.”

Before concluding her session, Alonso pleaded with the VES members to increase their female ration ion projects. Noting she was inspired by Kathleen Kennedy (“I know she processed E.T. and Schindler’s List” and this gave me motivation to keep going”) Alonso encouraged the attendees to mentor young women and get them more involved in production.

“This is why I go to these things, there are no women on the panels. Where are the girls at? It is better when there are a few of us in the room, “ said Alonso.

The bulk of the day allowed for plenty of one on one connections compliments of round table sessions . All panelists were interspersed amongst the event’s round tables. Two break out groups occurred, including a review of the VFX on “Game of Thrones” moderated by HBO VP, Media and Technology Operations, Group Stephen Beres, and an in-depth look at VFX in innovative settings such as theme parks, museums and attractions by Super78 principle and creative director Brett Young.

The “Visual Imagery Panel” concluded the Summit by bringing together cinematographers, production designers and VFX supervisors to discuss the issues behind poor visual creation. Production designer Bo Welch, cinematographer Dion Beebe, FVX supervisor Ben Grossmann and moderator Bill Taylor, ASC – a cinematographer and VFX supervisor – discussed mis-managed budgets and lack of cohesion between the departments that was the rook of the visual imagery problem.

“We come on like archeologists, trying to figure out what the DP was creating or why the DP made a specific shot,” said Grossmann. “(the VFX department is)given a budget and told to figure it out, so we compartmentalize by sequence. We compartmentalize by sequence. We’re requesting to budget more like the other departments.”

Welch used the film “The Cat in the Hat” as an example of the effect having VFX treated as a separate entity applied at the end of a film can have on a film’s entirety.

“In post, the cut was broken down and the director lost control,” said Welch.

“Hugo” was reviewed as a model that worked for all departments. The VFX team was working in concert with the camera and art departments. Asset builders were creating design directly related to the production design and camera angles instead of relying on previs renders. The result was a cohesive world that was integrated in post.

“Noted Beebe,” In an ideal world, everyone would start at the same time.”

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