Interview with – Nick Hurst-VFX Supervisor

can you introduce yourself?

My name is Nick Hurst. I’m a VFX supervisor, currently working for a superb studio in East London called Dupe VFX. 


What inspired you to step into VFX?

Growing up there was probably no early tell tale signs that I was destined to have such a creative career. I grew up in a tiny village in Wales and I never took an interest in art at school.

However, one thing which set me on my path in VFX was my love of film and cinema. After a few years working various jobs after leaving school (Car Salesman, Builder, Window Cleaner, Restaurant Manager) I decided it was now or never, as I knew I had to pursue the career I had always wanted.

At that time, living in Wales I had no contacts or connections into the industry, so I knew education was my only way in. After countless rejections from various colleges and universities (My GCSE’s were less than desirable), there was one multimedia/3D design course which was willing to take me on and I jumped at the chance. 

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Challenges and experiences in your early years, and would you like to share some of your memories of your favorite shows?

I have been fortunate enough to have some great experiences along the way from supervising shoots which have gone on to be VFX Emmy nominated shows to supervising some amazing teams where lifelong friendships have been made.
However, I would say one of the pinch-me moments early on, was supervising a shoot in New York with Clive Owen, Joel Kinnamon, and Rosamund Pike. I remember on one of the shoot days, I was standing with the Director and DOP as were trying to get an establishing shot of a helicopter circling over the New York bridges and I was intently looking at the monitor doing my day to day but suddenly the magnitude of where I was standing and what I was doing hit me. As I looked over the New York skyline…….well let’s just say it was a proud moment.

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What’s it like to be a Visual Effects Supervisor with a compositing background and how it helps you in your decision making?

Having a background in compositing is hugely advantageous. From having the experience to formulate accurate bids to be able to quickly problem-solve onset. After working on a whole host of different shows as a compositor before becoming a VFX Sup, I know the typical annoyances of what really slows a comper down, if shots aren’t shot correctly or the information gathered from the shoot isn’t up to scratch. 


Usually, the thought process that goes into planning a sequence or a particularly tricky hero shot is if I was the comper putting this shot/shots together what elements or reference would I need to reach the expectations the client is after. Also unless you’re working on a Marvel show, films generally don’t have an infinite budget especially when it comes to VFX, so having a compers eye onset is crucial for spotting big expensive red flags.

 

What are the responsibilities for a visual effects supervisor on-set and off-set?

VFX Supervisors generally work from script to screen. My day to day includes working with VFX Producers bidding on new work for prospective clients, setting out schedules and budgets. Plus ensuring the creative is aligning with the vision the director has set out for the show. 

Onset for Outpost VFX and HBO’s Watchmen


Once we have the green light, we will go straight into prep. This usually consists of early VFX tests for the bigger set pieces, so the director can get an idea of what they need to capture in camera on the day and what will be covered by VFX. From there a VFX Sup is required to attend the tech recce.

This is a location and sets walkthrough with the Director, DOP, HOD’s (Heads of Department), which usually takes place a few days before the shoot. Whilst exploring each location, this is the time for various departments to discuss with one another, any queries or questions they may have.

A tech recce is a vital element to accompany the shoot, as all unanswered questions should be answered then, to ensure the smooth running of the shoot.

Watchmen -HBO


Then we come to the shoot, usually, a typical shoot day will be a very early start. There are no accidental lie-ins or getting stuck in traffic, it is vital to be prompt on set each day to check in with the Director, DOP, and 1st AD before cameras start rolling.

Shoots can sometimes be a stressful time for the Director and DOP, so if you can unload that pressure by always being on hand to answer questions or be quick on your feet to offer up cost-effective solutions, the producers and director will always be singing your praises. 


Once the shoot is over, it’s back to the studio for the post. Now, this is where communication, communication, communication is essential. To ensure you come away from the show with happy artists/production team/clients, communication is everything.

I could compare the VFX Sup’s role in the post, to spinning plates. You should spend plenty of time with your artists ensuring they are 100% clear on the director’s vision, production needs regular updates on the schedule and the client should never be left in the dark on shots/sequences. You have to keep those plates spinning, all the way up until the show is on the big or small screen. 

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Dupe VFX with Director Gareth Evans (Gangs of London).


How do you plan for a shoot?

Making sure you have a great working relationship with your data wrangler and vfx coordinator is a great start.

Getting organised ahead of the shoot is hugely important. After having meetings with the Director and DOP, I usually hold a few meetings before the shoot with my VFX on-set team.

This is normally a run through of all the VFX required for the show and what elements, measurements and reference is likely needed to be obtained when we are on-set. From those meetings, lists are compiled for us to check off each day, to ensure all the vital data is being collected as the shoot progresses.

Shoot days can be extremely busy and if you can minimize the tasks that you have on the day by being organized, it’s another way to ensure the shoot goes smoothly.


Aside from data collection, pre-shoot I always draw up either diagrams, collect photographic references, previz or even have some basic virtual production on an ipad for some of the larger effects.

Bringing these types of reference on-set for the 1st AD, DOP and Director to look at, helps them to visualize what they need to achieve in camera and ensures those tricky set pieces are executed correctly.

For example, it can get awfully confusing for the camera team, when they are surrounded by greenscreen or shooting purely digital creatures. 

Gangs of London (Sky Atlantic)

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What does it take to be an efficient visual effects supervisor?

Good planning, excellent communication and always be approachable. Enjoy the process + collaboration with great artists and clients. 
Also keeping a level head is supervising 101. If you’re stressed it will only trickle down to the rest of your team. 

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Any tips to those are breaking into the industry with a dream of being a visual effects supervisor?


Firstly, if you want to clamber onto that first rung of the ladder and stay there, expect to work hard.

Hard work gets noticed and if you push yourself to be proactive it will pay off in spades. Secondly ‘don’t be a dick’ is a quote from one the lecturers I had at university and amen to that.

If you are not a good collaborator and not willing to work with others, I can assure you that you will easily be missed off the contract extension list. 

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Any tips for artists who are working their way to be a visual effects supervisor?

I probably have two top tips. 
     1) Enjoy the process of working your way up to be a VFX Supervisor, it’s a fantastic career. Although becoming a Supervisor may be your end goal, enjoy the projects you are involved with along the way as an artist and don’t solely focus on titles, especially when first starting out.      

2) Get any VFX on-set experience you can, so when the time is right potential employers can viably consider you for a VFX Sup position. No budget short films, music videos, corporate commercials, it all counts.

By approaching it this way, it will add those all-important credits to your CV but more importantly, it will give you the time to work out if VFX supervising is for you.

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Would you like to end with some general tips, quotes, resources where artists can refer to setup in their game?

“Go Confidently in the Direction of your Dreams Live the Life you’ve Imagined” Henry David Thoreau. 


vfxexpress- prabu – Thank you Nick Hurst

Nick Hurst-VFX supervisor -Thank you vfxexpress


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