Previs boutique Halon Entertainment ("The Hunger Games," "Prometheus," "Life of Pi") has formed a partnership with Minimo Vfx of Barcelona that will usher in a new "build it once" philosophy for CG creatures during pre-production. This will avoid the duplication of making them again later on during VFX. The two companies are currently working together on "Dome," directed by VFXer Brandon Fayette.
Through this partnership, Halon is looking to bid the final creature creation part of the Vfx process during previs, long before VFX vendors are usually decided on. Creatures will be fully modeled, rigged, surfaced, and performance tested for any VFX pipeline. Typically, characters are conceived by an art department, built by a company such as Halon for previs and then built again by a VFX studio for final shots.
Daniel Gregoire, CEO and previsualization director of Halon, explained that many of the decisions made in previs are done while designs are still maturing: "We wonder what the final CG performer will be capable of and if it can truly deliver a directed, specific performance over the course of a film. This uncertainty often causes pain for all involved as shots move to final animation."
"The more accurately we can represent CG creatures in previs, the easier it will be for VFX houses to accomplish the final shots," Gregoire added. "We run into this fix it in post mantra all the time. That's expensive! Why not fix it in previs? Also, if the actual assets we use to do our job can be literally transferred through to the on-set and VFX houses, everything becomes more cost effective. Mistakes can be avoided and rogue re-interpretations can be eliminated. The design will maintain continuity no matter what VFX house is doing the work."
"The purpose of this partnership is to achieve the final look of a creature," suggested Felix Balbas, CEO of Minimo, formed this year with Dani Buhigas and Maurizio Giglioli. All three are VFX vets who have worked on "John Carter," "Avatar," "Harry Potter," and "Lord of the Rings." "Working with the best VFX houses and on the biggest productions of the past decade has helped us understand how painful certain mistakes can be when they happen at the wrong time of VFX production. Our partnership with Halon is ideal because it will allow both of us to offer a more complete product."
Meanwhile, distance won't be an issue for the two companies when it comes to sharing assets. Halon, which is based in Santa Monica, has remote teams worldwide and assets are always encrypted. Additionally, Minimo can be working when everyone at Halon is asleep and vise versa.