Interview with Enrico De Palo – VFX Artist

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Enrico De Palo is a visual effect artist, a digital compositor who works in the filmmaking industry and creates visual effects for the cinema. During his career he has worked for about ten years as a compositor, an on set supervisor and sometimes as a vfx supervisor in Italy, where he worked for movies like “Il Mercante di Pietre” and “Lontano dalla Luce”.

Then he had the fortune to divide his time between Berlin and London, in order to achieve some visual effects for many important American blockbusters as “Fast and Furious”, “Kingsman” and “Hercules”.

Moreover, for two years now, Enrico De Paolo has worked as a teacher in the Turin offices of the digital art school Event Horizon, where professionals in the field of digital art and 3D artists are willing to share their knowledge.

What are the most used software in your job?

Nowadays, in the visual effects field, only one software is used: Nuke. It is a node based program, in contrast with After Effects, which is a software that works through layers like Photoshop.

Until three-four years ago, the market was completely different and there was a huge number of programs competing for the market of visual effects. We aretalking about Fusion, Combustion, Shake and the very Nuke. Shake, for istance, was created by Apple; it is the father of Nuke and paved the way for the concept of the node based software, at least for what concerns the compositing.

Today, almost all of these programs have been abandoned and, regarding the visual effects, the market is leaded by Nuke. Another matter is the motion graphic field, where the market is totally dominated by After Effects. The two software are very different actually and they have two different markets because of the kind of work they realize.

For what concerns compositing, Nuke is much more functional and intuitive and, most of all, it has a node based architecture that let it work with a lot of footage at the same time. On the contrary, After Effects is more versatile and complete and it allows the realization of whole shots in the same program, having both particle systems and complex visual effects.

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Are there some characteristics which make impossible the use of After Effect in filmmaking?

Basically the problem with After Effects is linked to the concept of layers. It is very complex to manage a project in which we must put a huge number of contributions. In the filmmaking field it often happens to complete live-action scenes with 3D but, since the 3D objects are more frequent, there could be dozens of distinct layers for a final compositing.

Thinking of working with dozens of layers in the same shot on After Effect could be very problematic to run and, finally, very little intuitive.

On the other hand, the Nuke idea of the tree of nodes is that every part of the work can be made in different sections of the same compositing, with the result of a simpler visual way to manage and edit.

Which are the main differences between the Italian market and the foreign market?

The Italian visual effects market is quite different from the foreign and international ones, principally because of a budget reason.

On average, in Italy it is easy to turn up in an office made by 10-15 artists who work entirely on a project or a feature and on every section of the visual effects, starting with the 3D, moving to the effects and finishing with the compositing. Abroad, even where I worked (London), everithing is more complex and wider.

Obviously budgets are higher, so the number of people you work with is bigger. All the working sections are strictly detached, divided by rooms or floors and we are talking about 200-300 colleagues who work all together on the same film. Therefore, you can find rooms with 10-15 compositors who, like you, are working on almost a dozen shots of the same movie, closing within six months.

In Italy, as I said before, evertything is smaller due to the limited budget. It often happens to work alone on a shot, starting with the 3D part and arriving until the ending, even with tight times. To sum up, in Italy 20 people often make the work of 100-200 in a state like England.

However, we must consider that abroad the quality requested is a little higher: people pay attention to excess to the pixel and the single frame, so the costs rise and, as a consequence, the number of workers involved becomes obviously bigger.

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Which is the best satisfaction you obtained in the working field? And what is your favourite work environment?

Well… there are a lot of satisfactions in this field. First of all, the participation in an international production is already a personal pride because you work in a product known all over the world and that is seen in movie theatres everywhere.

On the other hand, the drawback is that there aren’t so many possibilities of working entirely on a shot and trying being creative. Everything is well organised ad fixed, you can’t do something out of the box, there is no way to work creatively and you become like a labourer in an assembly line.

The good thing of working in a little production with a low budget is, in fact, the chance to be more creative. You can edit a shot and you can propose some changes to the director who often accepts; in an international production there are so many steps that you cannot work on your shot unless doing exaclty what you are asked for. Therefore, paradoxically, it can be more interesting and gratyfing working on a low budget product.

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To sum up, what do you thing about your job? What sort of advice can you give to a person who want to take the road of the visual effects?

I have the luck of doing this job, which actually I don’t see as a job. Who works in this field do this for glory, not for money, neither because he has to make ends meet. We are all in love and sick and whoever is in love with cinema works for the love of it.

Indeed, often some post production industries close properly because they are more interested on what they do rather than on following the administration of a visual effects society, which in the end is a buisness to all intents.

Our job is a passion we carry on seven days a week, each day a year… Because we like it!

This aspect on one hand is also an adversity, due to the fact that we are always busy, but on the other hand it is positive because we do not work, but we do have fun all the time .

Authors: Francesco De Pace, Francesca Mondelli, Marco Musto, Camilla Quarato, Simona Pucillo

We’d like to thanks Enrico De Palo for the time spent with us doing the interview.

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