Hell's Half Acre (hells_half_acre) wrote,
Hell's Half Acre
hells_half_acre

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VanCon 2013: VFX(non)Con

On Monday night, the VFX threw a Con at a local geeky tavern. Officially though, it was not a Con - in order to get permission from the WB, the VFX guys had to promise that they'd just be showing some reels to 20 or so friends at an informal get together. So, they started referring to it as a NonCon... which of course led to many (sometimes slightly awkward) giggles among the fans.

I had been out all day location hunting with friends, and I was very sleepy, but thankfully the tavern they had chosen was only a ten-fifteen minute walk from my place. I did not bring my notebook though, so what follows is just my memory...


MonVanCon13 083
I arrived and missyjack (who had helped Ryan Curtis and the VFX guys organize the event) sat me down at the head table - something I hadn't been expecting, but seeing as how the tavern was filled to brim with fans, I was happy with the seat. I only realized later that it was actually a stolen seat and had been where Adam Williams from VFX had been sitting next to his girlfriend. Oops - I blame missyjack.

Because I was sitting at the "VIP" table, I was right next to all the VFX guys and the livestream that was going out over the internet... which means I'm in a lot of the pictures circulating.

I got there just as the VFX guys started showing reels - there were vids that just showed off the effects as they appeared set to some good music, and then there were videos that showed the process and before and after shots so you could actually see the work that went into them. It was very interesting to everything from things as complicated as the shot of all the dead Deans in Goodbye Stranger to something as simple as removing the trees from the background when Dean climbs out of his grave in Lazarus Rising.

After they showed the videos, they started a Q&A. The Q&A went for over an hour! It was amazing and really informative. I know that missyjack got an audio recording of it that she'll eventually do something with - so hopefully that'll end up somewhere for posterity.

Somethings that stood out in my memory:
1)Yes, they are sometimes called on to remove blemishes and whatnot from Jensen (or Jared's) face. Ryan alluded to, without naming names of specifics, the fact that they also had to hide a significant facial injury last year - and the actor in question rewarded them with a bottle of scotch for their troubles. I'm guessing this was Jensen and the infamous TorCon wrestling incident of 2012 (for those of you out of the loops, Jared, Jensen, and Misha got into a wrestling match at TorCon and Jensen ended up with severe rug burn on his forehead).

2)They work with all departments to get the work done - but they do work with wardrobe quite a bit (the woman asking the question worked in wardrobe in the film industry). For instance, in the scene in 8x08 when the guy steps off the building into mid-air, they needed a picture of the bottom of his shoes in order to do the VFX shot. Wardrobe can provide that. Sometimes it doesn't all go to plan though, in the Prometheus episode, wardrobe had put Prometheus in a plaid shirt that was similar but not EXACTLY the same between two shots that were supposed to be sequential - VFX had to basically digitally put him in the right shirt in order for the shot to work - otherwise it would have looked like Prometheus died, got up and put on a slightly different shirt, and then died again. :P

3)The VFX in the show get dulled when they are broadcast. If you want to see the detail that actually exists in the shots, then you should buy the bluray.

4)The longest thing it took them to get right was the lightening for Zeus. They aren't exactly proud of that - it took them forever to figure out how to make it look awesome and not cheesy and fake-looking.

5)What's something that SPN's VFX does better than anyone? Smoke... and to a lesser extent fire. SPN has perfected smoke over the years. They use some program that I think has the name "fume" in it, but I can't remember - and their own program scripts. Fire, likewise, is also something they've become really good at - it's actually just the smoke program but coloured and manipulated a little differently.

6)They don't write their own computer programs, but they DO write their own scripts so that the commercially bought programs do what they want them to do. After Effects was one of the programs mentioned, I think.

7)Sometimes they'll get directors that insist that something isn't a VFX shot, and then it becomes a VFX shot - that's annoying. Sometimes new directors will make them come in for scenes that they KNOW aren't going to make the cut, but they still have to come in and do the work for them - that's also annoying.

8)Sam's glowing arms in the finale were cool. They were told the whole time that the powers-that-be only wanted them to glow intermittently. Then when it was too late, the powers-that-be were like "actually, it'd be more awesome if they glowed the whole time" and Ryan was like "yes, that would be more awesome - but oh well." There's always stuff that they could do differently or better, but they work on tight deadlines and that imposes limits.

9)Blood is usually always practical, because that looks better. It's usually split about 70-30.

10)The VFX department encourages creativity among its artists. One task is given to one artist and they are told what they have to do, but other than that, they're just told to do whatever they think would be the coolest with it - and that's a lot of trust to put in artists, because one persons "awesome" might not be the same as another's. But it makes it a really fun department to work in, because you get to stretch your creative muscles and actually have an impact on how awesome the end result is.

...I think that's all I remember off the top of my head.

After the presentation, I turned to Werner ten Hoeve and told him how much I loved that shot from Taxi Driver with the graffiti melting into the door to Purgatory. He told me that was Christopher's work and that they didn't actually have the shot of the alley - it was ALL digital. The shooting crew thought that they got the required shot of the alley that was needed for VFX but they couldn't find the shot - so Christopher had to paint ALL of it in post. I told him to tell Christopher that it was awesome - because honestly I think it's my favourite VFX thing that SPN has done.


MonVanCon13 084

After that, it was time for autographs and pictures - and there I was sitting at the head table trying to eat nachos. I'm sure I look very attractive in photographs. :P I also had a purple nurple, which was surprisingly delicious. Usually I hate every drink with the word "purple" in the title, but maybe that's just the case when it comes to martinis.

I was thinking, while I was sitting there though, about the fact that the Q&A had gone longer than an hour and the fact that Creation has such limited production crew give panels at the Con.

I mean, I know some of it is just clearing the interviews with WB/CW, who are getting more and more strict on who can speak to "the press" (basically the fans). The Supernatural Wiki was able to do some really great interviews with production last year, but word on the street is that those would probably be impossible now, because officially only Jeremy Carver and Bob Singer are allowed to talk to "the press".

But that aside, what mainly peaked my interest was the difference in quality of questions. I mean, the Q&A was over an hour of quality questions - whereas Creation panels tend to be a little lesser quality questions (not all the time, but at least more of a mix of good and bad questions). And I couldn't help but wonder if that was because there was a difference in the kind of people who buy tickets to see actors and the kind of people who come out on a school night to listen to production crew. And maybe production doesn't fit Creations business model because they cater to only one circle in that Venn diagram. Maybe you really do need to have a parallel Con dedicated to the other circle - and those who are in the overlapping section would just have to deal with being run off their feet.

I was thinking all this, of course, because on Sunday when Jensen pulled Bob Singer up on stage - I kind of wanted the questioners to ask him questions about writing/producing etc... but we really only got one of those. Now, I understand that those people had lined up for Jared and Jensen and already had their questions mentally prepared, so I'm cutting them all some slack. I'm horrible at thinking up questions on the spot, so I totally understand their lack of going off script - but still. I wonder how much it would be different if it was a Bob Singer panel. We had Jim Michaels and Russ Hamilton this year, but they're more manager types than actually involved in the creative aspects of the show.

I'm not sure what my point is - besides to say that the VFX Q&A was very fascinating and it was great to hear so many good questions and I wish we could have more of that at an official convention.

I should mention that Adam Glass showed up just after the Q&A and just before the whole bar sang Carry On Wayward Son. I tried to talk to Adam and failed slightly.
missyjack told him that I did the timelines and he basically said "better you than me" or "good luck with that" or the equivalent. He mentioned that he still calls a guy who doesn't even work on the show anymore when he wants to know something... I tried (weakly) to finagle myself a job and told him that he could call me instead, and that's approximately when he stopped talking to me because the waitress conveniently (for him) brought his bill at that moment. Ah well, I tried folks. :P

And with the end of the VFX(Non)Con came the end of VanCon 2013 for yours truly. It was a busy year and it's amazing when I compare it in retrospect to my first year at VanCon back in 2010. As I was telling raloria (who incidentally sold me my first ever VanCon ticket and was also the ONLY person I knew that first year) - I'm glad that I have so many friends now at the convention, but I feel like I barely have time to see them, let alone catch my breath!

VFX Q&A audio now available on the Women of Letter's Podcast!

I had a really good seat this year, and maybe I should have bought next years ticket and reserved that same spot - but I didn't. Part of me was debating whether I even wanted to come back on a Gold ticket. We seem to get less for our money every year, with fewer autographs included this year than last, etc... and the fact that by Saturday night I'm too worn out to go to the cocktail party anyway... and yes, I'd miss the extra "breakfast" panel with the boys, but maybe I could live with that... anyway, it was all stuff I was debating. There's also the fact that I'm about to quit my job (so I need to not spend so much money), and if I can't find another job, then I may have to move back to Ontario - or maybe that's something I want to do anyway.

So, I think I'll stick with what I've done the past few years and just wait until someone is selling their ticket online for a discount (or not for a discount, but it's a really good seat) and if it's meant to be, it will be, and if it's not meant to be, then it won't.

It was a very busy but a very good VanCon, and now I need a vacation. :P
Tags: vancon2013
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