What does it really take to create high end VFX at a low budget?  VFX supervisor Christian Lett of Bait Studio demonstrates the inventive ways in which he and Director Caradog James created a high-budget look for award-winning low-budget feature The Machine.

This VFX case study will give you a taste of the kind of expert sessions we have been sharing.

SPOILER ALERT: this presentation contains spoilers, so watch The Machine first!


The Machine: A Case Study

Presented by VFX supervisor Christian Lett of Bait Studio, also featuring a interview with director Caradog James.

VFX supervisor Christian Lett talks us through the history of Bait Studio and the role of a VFX supervisor on feature films (from Hollywood-sized budgets to micro budgets) before sharing some of the VFX highlights of working on 240 shots for sci-fi thriller The Machine.

Along with fantastic visual examples, Christian describes the benefit of first-hand creative access to the director – something that rarely happens on a big-budget production.  And the challenges of going up against Iron Man 3

Christian explains that Bait initially created a promo with director Caradog James to explore how the VFX might look – which also helped to raise funding for the feature.  Working closely with the director at an early stage of development (echoing the mission of CCFL Training 2015), Bait collaborated with other VFX studios to produce the final shots – from eye glows and bionic arms to computer interfaces, gore, explosions – and best of all, ingenious solutions to making basic shots look high tech without spending a fortune.

Christian’s top tips:

– Make your money shots count

– It’s not easy being green (screen)

– Use VFX to help tell your story

– You can’t plan for everything

– Simple things take a lot longer than you think

– Don’t reinvent the wheel

Director Caradog James then joins the discussion to describe how an early VFX collaboration impacted on his story development process.

Caradog designed the lead “machine” character to embody all the ideas he wanted to explore in the narrative – and consequently, the VFX elements needed to reflect this.  But he quickly realised that his initial hundred million dollar concept wasn’t achievable, (recently brought to fruition in Alex Garland’s Ex Machina by sheer coincidence …) and so worked with a concept designer to refine his ideas into a more achievable version that stayed true to the core narrative and thematic ideas.  Together, they explored a visual style that would cost less but still intermittently remind the audience of the character’s “otherness”.

With Christian’s help, Caradog was initially able to demonstrate in the trailer that the “glowing” concept worked beautifully;  and ultimately captured a visual aesthetic that encapsulated all they hoped to achieve.

Caradog’s top tips:

– Budget constraints force you to be more imaginative and come up with better concepts

– To attract top talent to a low-budget movie, create a great character that offers them a chance to do something different

– To keep VFX costs down, be prepared and ensure that everyone knows what you want at the start

– Push the boundaries of what’s possible, but always respect your VFX team: don’t make last minute changes that waste everyone’s time.

Tell me more about CCFL Training 2016

Visual effects and Stereo 3D are more commonly associated with high-budget films – but there’s potential to do so much more, and we want to help you get there.

So our new training programme, CCFL Training,  is designed to help filmmakers working with visual effects and Stereo 3D transform their projects using cutting-edge technology.  Supported by Creative Europe, CCFL Training focuses on the development of low to medium budget feature films utilising VFX and Stereo 3D technologies to enhance storytelling and reach new audiences.

CCFL Training core programme 2016 is closed for applications.

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