Can you tell us about your role as an on-set VFX supervisor and what your responsibilities are during production?
My role as on-set VFX supervisor is to be sure that all planed visual effects in the project will be shooted properly, technically that shooted material is with need quality and artistically that the shots are covering the vision style of the project, to collaborate closely with a project’s director or producer and the client. Very important thing is to collect all needed data from the set.
How do you work with the director and other departments on set to ensure that the VFX shots are captured correctly?
First of all it is important to get the full idea of the vision of the director, what he needs as VFX in his project. That’s why it is very important to be part of the preproduction process at very early stages, to clarify the concept of the effects in any aspect. Thеn on set the work with the director is at least to keep this visual concept and if it’s possible to get more from the set. The main department which is important is Video control. If we have Qtake or similar system on the set it is very helpful to discuss with the director captured material when we shoot more complex scenes with different scales or matching compositions of different layers.
What are some common challenges that you face as an on-set VFX supervisor and how do you address them?
When you are on set the challenges are constant. You have to be ready for every situation at every moment. That’s why you need very good communication with all departments on the set.
How do you manage the communication between the on-set team and the post-production team to ensure a smooth workflow?
The connecting link between the set and the studio is the VFX supervisor. That’s why all the tasks have to be clarified and addressed to each side very precisely. With the post production studio all the time we are maintaining communication during shootings with various channels, sometimes even with remote live streaming from the set to post production crew. It could be very helpful at some moments.
Can you share with us any memorable experiences or challenges you faced while working on a film set as a VFX supervisor?
One of my really memorable moments was the movie Son of Sofia when I got to prepare the VFX of the movie. We had to shoot a child’s dream, a walk at night in an apartment where a child sees four animals in four rooms. The shooting was with a Steadicam, the duration was about 2000 frames. We had to shoot some of the animals on a green screen. The challenge was that for such a shot we needed Motion control. But we didn’t have that kind of budget and I had to shoot the two layers of the shot on two different locations, the dream in an apartment in Athens and animals on a green screen in a studio in Sofia. I had to find a technical way to capture such a shot. I did a lot of testing before the shootings, exactly how we would move the camera in the shot, turns, composition. During the filming of the main plate, the child walks in the apartment in Athens, I took all possible data and measurements, all dimensions of the apartment and furnitures, the main positions of the steadicam operator, the height of the camera, the marked positions of the animals, position and type of the light sources, hdrs, tracking markers, fur references . Later in Sofia with a completely different team, camera crew and light department, with all these notes I recreated in the studio the space of the rooms with tapes on the floor and arrangement of some basic furniture with boxes. The light was matched perfectly. The camera movement was also recreated. The plates matched almost perfectly. Of course, we had a lot of work to do in the studio to get the final compositing perfect, but the biggest challenge was on set. To replace Motion control is not an easy task at all.
What skills and qualities do you think are essential for an on-set VFX supervisor to possess?
To be an on-set supervisor, a lot of skills and knowledge are needed, comprehensive understanding of cinematography, very good technical knowledge for cameras and lenses, and knowing all CG processes of creating images from start to the screen.
How do you ensure that the VFX elements you are responsible for will integrate seamlessly into the final product?
Again the work before the shooting is very important and you have to stick to the plan. In cases when you have to check some shots on the set, one of your best friends is the Video control department and the DIT, they can help to ensure that the material is ok.
Can you tell us about a time when you had to make a quick decision on set regarding VFX and how you resolved the situation?
We had to shoot action scenes with running stuntmen on the roof of a trade center but it started to rain. The rain stopped but roof surfaces become slippery and it was too dangerous for the actors. We have to shoot a wide shot and the quick decision was to shoot the main plate without the stunts and use plates with running from different takes and add them in post.
How do you collaborate with the rest of the VFX team, including the artists, to ensure the on-set footage is integrated properly into the final product?
It’s again a question of communication with the post production studio. After the shootings I am preparing very detailed files with notes and description of all captured material, all plates with their purpose and why they were shooted and how to be implemented. Another very important moment is to create meetings with the CG supervisor and the crew in the studio to discuss with them captured material right after the shootings and sometimes after the first cuts. In that way it is much easier for the studio to dive in to the tasks without losing time and effort.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing a career as an on-set VFX supervisor?
I will always encourage artists who want to become on set supervisors, adding more knowledge of filmmaking process, cinematography, light, photography, cg pipelines, it will help on set for sure. It’s always a great feeling to be on the set!
Ritto prabu – Thank you Valentin Serafimov for sharing your journey with us our best wishes for success lot
Serafimov – Thank you ritto for inviting me