“Visual Effects not as classic Wow effect , but accomplices of writing and directing, at the service of the story.” This is the main goal of Visualogie working group , who cared the Special Effects for Il Ragazzo Invisibile, directed by Gabriele Salvatores.
What about your education?
Visualogie, previously Digitalia, was founded by two partners: me (Paola Trisoglio) and Stefano Marinoni. We founded our first studio in Milan, but in 2002 we moved to Rome. We have a different educational background: Stefano is an Art teacher. After his Diploma he attended some specific courses about digital effects. I attended the high school with scientific specialization and afterwards I attended a post diploma design course at Scuola Politecnica di Milano. So neither me and my partner have a degree.
Why did you approach the visual effect world?I started my career in 1989. I was a graphic looking for a job in Milan. By chance, I met nice people who gave me some really useful advices: they told me I was a talented girl (like many other people), but they added that if I had followed a graphic career I would have had to work for free for several years (a very tiring career). I could not wait for so long, I needed to work and gain money, so an art director suggested me to go abroad and glance at Computer graphic, that in the future would have produced new work opportunities for creative people like me. Firstly, I was very sceptic, but as soon as I discovered the visual effects world, I completely fell in love with it. Thanks to this new job I wouldn’t have had to buy colors and I would have had the possibility to correct my mistakes easily. I attended a basic course organized by the camera di commercio artigianato Lombardia about “computerized graphic”aimed at young enterpreneurs, but most of all I’ve learnt my job by practicing it in one of the first digital effects studios of London.
How did you approach the cinema world?
In 1991 Stefano and I, we founded our first studio of digital effects in Milan. We deal with only digital effect and at first we worked in advertising. In 1995 we won a contest for visual effects creation for the Italian movie Nirvana, directed by Gabriele Salvatores. Nirvana was the first Italian movie in which digital effects play a vital role. From that moment onwards we started dealing more and more with movies, up to completely supplant advertising. At that point we decided to move to Rome to follow better the film industry.
Image of Nirvana (1995)
And now? You work only for the film industry, don’t you?Well, yes we do, but sometimes we have to work for TV fictions, too. For instance, we worked on Gomorra.
Which software do you usually use?
We use Nuke, the most used software in the world for compositing. We never use After effect because this software performances are not so high concerning the topic we deal with…
Are you working abroad, too?
In the past, we used to have a branch of the studio in LA, but it didn’t last so long. Now we are working exclusively on Italian projects, even if there would be many possibilities: Italians are really appreciated abroad. For instance, many young and talented people go abroad to work on interesting projects, with a good salary and broader prospects of success. Generally, Italians have a good cultural background, great creativity and the ability of creating wonderful things with poor tools.
In your opinion, despite the previous mentioned italians’ skills, can you explain the reasons why in Italy the colossal movie is not diffused?
Well, sometimes I ask to myself the same question. Nowadays, the Italian film industry is living a deep crisis. There are few examples of “smart” movies. Working on movies does not mean doing art. On the contrary, the colossal movie can be defined a kind of industry with a lot of business and lots of money on its back. Each movie requires the skills and the salaries of hundreds of people, but here in Italy cinema is still considered just as a kind of art. In reality it is a business! Until it will not be considered under this light and until the films produced will not be seen by a public, this situation won’t change. Through the realization of “Il ragazzo invisibile” it has been tried to produce an example of “good cinema”. But the results were not as satisfactory as expected and expenses were higher than revenues.
How long does it take to product the special effects for an italian film?
Approximately, the timing for the production of visuial effects during editing is from three to six weeks.
Which is the movie you worked on with the largest number of visual effect?
And which is your favorite movie (concerning special effects)?
The movie with the largest number of visual effect is Il ragazzo invisibile, not exclusively for the quantity, but also for the quality of the effects, that required months of work. Indeed, we started working on the project six months before filming. Then, we worked with the troupe during filming and after this period, which lasted 4 months, we worked on postproduction for nine months. The kind of effects required by the director (Salvatores) was really complex, because it had to seem natural and poetic, not as evident as in American films. Indeed it is easier to make explosions rather than invisible digital effects .
For what concerning my favorite movie, I fell in love with the digital effects world by watching Forrest Gump. In this film visual effects let the spectator see a world that did not exist but remaining with a base of reality. For the same reason I loved Vita di Pì.
How did you make the invisibility effect in Il Ragazzo Invisibile?
Above all, our work involves 3D reconstruction and compositing. 3D reconstruction was used in some scenes, for example in the objects levitation part. In particular, in the moped scene, in which Michele dresses a red helmet, we’ve done two different shootings: the first one was only a reference, especially to understand lights, shadows and interaction with materials. The second was the same shoot aimed to get a global view of the helmet’s movements. The helmet was completely made in 3D modeling with Side Effects Houdini software.
Helmet scene in Ragazzo Invisibile (2014)
Helmet scene : 3D modeling of the helmet
Instead, the compositing technique that has been used was Green screen method, applied to Michele’s body thanks to a green suit, in order to recreate the bottom. For instance, when Michele is invisible and wears his hat and sunglasses, it was used the 3d modelling technique and shootings of the object to recreate the inner part of these objects, which are usually hidden by Michele’s head. The program used for the 3d modeling was Houdini, a Side Effects Software, while for compositing the main software were Nuke.
Michele invisible in his room
Michele wears the green suit
3D modeling of Michele’s hat
Did you create new visual effects tools or techniques?
No I didn’t, because nowadays for the Italian films, it isn’t requested and moreover the budget that Italian production companies earmarked for visual effects production is incredibly lower than in America. For example, while in Italy the average visual effect budget for each movie is approximately 30.000 €, in America it can reach $ 3.000.000 and even more.
What kind of sensations did you want to transmit?
Despite the fact that visual effects play a vital role in the film, as a team we have tried to do what we usually call a good fitting: that means not to point out the visual effects.
Paradoxically, our intention was to perceive the effects as possible, making them look like part of reality. The effects are mostly narrative and that helps the story to appear credible without ever overdoing, but with the goal of making the invisibility like a usual phenomenon.
Written by Simonetta Brignolo, Federica Gucciardi, Debora Pilati, Marco Truffa Giachet, Serena Zerbinati