Stuttgart, Germany
April 24 - 27

Elemental Trailer – Denis Krez: VFX Supervisor & Colorist

Denis Krez is a VFX student at Animationsinstitut of the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg and loves to trick the eye of the beholder. The greatest challenge for him is to create believable images and therefore explore the relationship between us and the world we live in. Keep reading to learn more about how he created the stunning visuals for Elemental.

FMX: Can you tell us more about your job regarding the Elemental trailer?

D: I took on the role as the visual effects supervisor and colorist for the production of the trailer. Furthermore, I was in charge of the compositing of around 50 shots and concepts of the full cg shots. After the shoot I organized the project timeline and was responsible to keep the edit up to date. I set up a pre-grade in DaVinci to ensure a consistent look regarding the compositing. During this step, the shots were being harmonized and adjusted to the desired style. In addition to that, I updated the edited shots, exported the entire material and took care of the VFX breakdown. Lastly, I gave the finishing paint to the images through color grading. 

FMX: How did you proceed regarding the creation of the visual?

D: My first step is always an intensive photo and video research. To start off, I used the researched material to create mood boards. Those were helpful, since they worked as a guideline to check our current production status and adjust it if necessary. Keeping those boards in mind, I conceptualized the dancing elements in Photoshop. The aim was to create an energetic yet readable form. This concept phase was useful regarding the setting of the dancers. Every element received its own setting, based on the dancers. Since the shapes of the elements were generated from the dancers’ actual movements, I didn’t pay too much attention to the degree of realism of the dancing routine during the concept phase. It was more important to acquire knowledge about what components achieved the most interesting look. For example, the visual effect of the earth was achieved by means of different sizes and consistencies: The plan was to create the dancer through a combination of fine sand, chunky clumps and stones.

FMX: What challenged you the most during the project and how did you master that challenge?

D: My biggest challenge was the project management. The producer, CG supervisor and I had to consistently review our ideas, from the conception to the finalization, in regard to the short production time to ensure that everything was viable. The VFX breakdown was particularly useful for that task. To begin with, we discussed the actual workload of each task within the team and defined how much time we should invest on each aspect at the most. By doing that, we were able to identify a realizable number of shots during pre-production. Since we were planning a high number of shots it was vital to create the necessary tool sets in Nuke ahead of time for repetitive tasks like lens effects and grain. 

FMX: What was the most valuable learning that you received from the project?

D: If I learned one thing from the project, it is the insight that the combination of computer generated images and actually shot elements is still essential for the authenticity. Realistic computer simulations remain a big challenge. It takes time, expert knowledge and many turnarounds to achieve a realistic look. In front of a camera, reality is a given. Moreover, the work on Elemental taught me that through learning coding languages – in this case Python – you can make certain working steps more efficient. Furthermore, I gained a deeper understanding of Houdini and its specific particle system through the cooperation with the 3D team.

FMX: What are you currently working on and what are your plans for the future?

D: After finishing the trailer, I worked for MPC Commercials in London and Amsterdam during my vacation semester.
The advertising industry offers a broad creative range – from simple retouching through pack shots to elaborate sequences in movie quality. Among other things, we created surreal worlds for a paint manufacturer, let thisty men cross oceans and remote galaxies or taught an ambitious ostrich to fly with the help of a VR goggle. In the near future I am looking forward to resuming my studies. The Filmakademie produces a variety of projects and offers a lot of freedom to experiment. In early 2019 I will finish my studies at Animationsinstitut and I am hoping to gain more experience abroad, especially in the movie industry. Furthermore, it is very tempting to engage in museum installations and awareness-raising commercials. Those fascinate me because they offer the opportunity to dive deeply into various topics. 

Photo credits (top): Denis Krez
Photo credits (bottom): Manuel Meinhardt

FMX is funded by the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour and Housing of the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg, the City of Stuttgart and the MFG Film Funding, taking place in cooperation with VES Visual Effects Society, ACM SIGGRAPH and the World Building Institute, supported by Animation Media Cluster Region Stuttgart (AMCRS), AMD, AutodeskBackstage, Epic Games and Mackevision. FMX is an event by the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, organized by the Animationsinstitut, hosting the Animation Production Day (APD), a joint venture with the Festival of Animated Film Stuttgart (ITFS).