Paul Franklin : Visual Effects

Paul J. Franklin is an English visual effects supervisor who is known for his long-running working relationship with the director Christopher Nolan, which dates back to Batman Begins (2005). Recently, he won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for Interstellar (2014), and he shares about his team’s visual effects works of the film.

While working on the film set, Paul’s visual effects team had to work on creating the film’s wormhole, its supermassive black hole (Gargantua), the Tesseract (a four-dimensional space allowing time to be seen as a physical dimension), digital space vistas for projection, on-set robots’ TARS and CASE and alien worlds with gigantic waves of epic proportions and the landscapes of frozen cloud & ice.

Whilst Paul has given specific insights into his practice in the aspect of visual effects in filmmaking, I think that there are significant parallels which I could relate to in my photographic practice. One aspect that I could take away, would be the consideration between reality and digitally composed.

As a visual effects supervisor to Christopher Nolan, Paul describes the director as someone who prefers to adopt old film projections & techniques over complicated computer generated image (CGI) works, so as to portray the realism of the film as much as possible. Much of the scene sequences were built upon what was already on film.

“We wanted to ground Reality whenever we could.” – Paul Franklin

Paul challenged us about the idea of the making the scenes Realistic versus Digitally composed. For the film to be scientifically accurate, the team had to understand about space-time, general relativity, and quantum physics. It became apparent that he had to work closely with Science Advisor and Executive Producer Professor Kip Thorne on the complex equations of Singularity, as well as other various department teams, to ensure the work was grounded in actual science.

“The Equation that you need are rather complicated”  – Professor Kip Thorne 

Having studied film productions during my college years, it is absolutely fascinating to learn the breakdown of the visual effects for each of the scene sequences as well as behind the scenes on the film set. It certainly takes a lot of collative time, effort, and planning in building the visual effects of the film. To be able to hear a professional from an actual film industry to share their works was such a mind-blowing experience.

As there are many aspects to film making, such as the creative direction, the ingenuity of engineering and the technical processes. One aspect, however, was not discussed upon budget management. The question I had in mind, was that does it cost more, in terms of time, effort, and money, to produce the film as realistic than to implore computer generated images?


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