Q&A : David Vickery, VFX Supervisor
Double Negative’s David Vickery, along with Chas Jarrett, Dan Barrow, and Jonathan Fawkner were honoured with the award for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture for their work on Sherlock Holmes at the VES Awards in late February. Fired By Design caught up with Vickery for a Q&A session.
Having completed a Degree in Industrial Design and Engineering at De-Montfort Univerity, David Vickery indulged his enthusiasm for movies with an MA in Digital Moving Image at London Metropolitan University. Throughout his masters degree, he saw experience with Solid State Industries and in 2001 moved to Hibbert Ralph 3D, where he worked on the modeling and texturing on a children’s CG animated TV series. Vickery joined Double Negative in 2002 as a junior modeler. He soon worked his way up to the role of CG Supervisor on films such as Batman Begins, Cloverfield, The Dark Knight and of course, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. Vickery is currently (Double Negative’s) VFX Supervisor on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
FBD: What does your role at Dneg entail?
David Vickery : As a VFX supervisor at Dneg I am in charge of the companies creative and technical output for a particular show – in this case Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt1 and 2. The work is incredibly varied. The show’s overall VFX supervisor is employed by Warner Brothers and during the course of a project my main job is to liaise with them to plan out the visual effects requirements of the show. These discussions will often involve other members of the films production – the director, producers and DOP and are a great forum for ideas and creative suggestions. It’s a very exciting point in the project and you often feel like you have real creative influence on a production.
During filming I am often required to go on set. My primary concern is to observe and collect information for use in post production: Camera lenses and movement, set details, lighting information, last minute changes to cuts and creative briefs all need to be recorded and then relayed to the artists back in the office. Using experience from previous films (both good and bad!) I can advise on the good technical approaches to filming FX work; the idea being to make post-production easier and more importantly result in a better looking shot!
Back at Dneg I am responsible for realising the initial descriptive brief of the director and VFX supervisor. I lead a team of 3D and 2D artists, giving them creative feedback and direction on their work. Taking the material generated during principle photography and turning it into a finished shot. It’s an amazing process to watch unfold, the principle photography can change so much in post production that it is often unrecognisable when we have finished with it.
FBD: What’s been your proudest achievement in post/vfx?
David Vickery : Cloverfield still remains one of the things I am proudest to be a part of. It was such an exciting project to work on. We filmed in LA and New York and the shoot was shrouded in all the mystery that J J Abrams brings to a production.
In an effort to maintain secrecy, the production changed its shooting name on a weekly basis – the names on the top of our call sheets ranged from ‘Cheese’, to ‘Slusho’ and even ‘Chocolate Outrage’. We would still have hundreds of onlookers and stalkers who followed the shoot round the city, trying to get a glimpse of the action.
The post work was challenging but great fun; we got to destroy New York with a huge monster – smashing buildings and bridges. In one particularly iconic moment the head of The Statue of Liberty is hurled down the street smashing cars and tearing up the road. I watch that scene now and have an incredibly vivid memory of hiding behind a wall on set whilst they filmed it. The Liberty Head was a completely digital creation so on set it was represented by green and orange pyramid, as a point of reference for the actors. A couple of weeks before the premiere of Cloverfield the PR dept. for the movie were making enquiries to get hold of the physical prop for the Liberty head that was used during filming. They wanted to place it outside the cinema on premiere night and the fact that it never existed hadn’t even occurred to them. In my mind we couldn’t have had a bigger compliment!
FBD: What have you worked on recently that’s been particularly challenging?
David Vickery : The latest incarnations of the Batman franchise have been incredibly technically and creatively challenging films to work on. Christopher Nolan is a very exacting director and has a very little tolerance for CGI and visual effects that telegraph themselves to the viewer.
As a CG supervisor on ‘The Dark Knight’ my main concern was making our work disappear! If you could tell it was CG, or even that we worked on it at all, it wasn’t going to pass muster. It’s not always obvious what makes something look fake or real. Sometimes the most photo-real fully CG shot is betrayed by a single bad piece of animation or even a clumsy camera move.
FBD: Who/what taught you most about your profession? To what do you think you owe your success?
David Vickery : The industry has such a wealth of creative talent and I can still find it incredibly daunting to be a part of it; to pick any one person or event would be impossible.
Working with architects, engineers, designers and artists has given me a constantly different perspective on my work… so I owe a lot to all the people I have worked with over the years.
Perhaps my success has been accelerated by a slightly unhealthy competitive streak – but I have found you can learn just as much from the people who do a really bad job as you do the shining stars. I still think the single most important thing is to continue to be passionate about the work I do and the people I do it with.
Congratulations to David and all the team at winning the award.
See more about the VES Awards on Fired By Design
DAVID VICKERY – VISUAL EFFECTS BIOGRAPHY
AS VFX SUPERVISOR
Currently: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt1 and pt2.
Sherlock Holmes 2009
AS CG SUPERVISOR:
The Green Zone 2008
The Dark Knight 2008
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 2006/2007
Children of Men 2006
AS LEAD 3D ARTIST
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire -(Lead Digital Double TD) 2005
Batman Begins – (Cloth Supervisor) 2005
AS VISUAL EFFECTS T.D.
The Chronicles of Riddick 2004
DreamKeeper (TV) 2003
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 2003
Johnny English 2003
Die Another Day 2002