Below-the-line Impact Report

Rob Engle
senior stereographer and digital effects supervisor, Sony Pictures Imageworks

RECENT SCORES: Engle’s work on “G-Force,” the first feature-length 2D-to-3D conversion, received the Intl. 3D Society’s Lumiere Award. Engle also consulted on “Alice in Wonderland,” which utilized the same conversion techniques. He has a background in computer programming and holds several vfx patents. “My programming background has helped me define technical needs so we can focus on the creative,” he says.

COMING UP: Having completed post-production supervision on “Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3D,” Engle is currently consulting on “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” He’s also attached to “The Green Hornet” and “Priest.”

Paul Franklin
vfx supervisor, Double Negative

RECENT SCORES: The co-founder of London vfx house Double Negative oversaw work on “The Dark Knight,” for which he — along with Nick Davis, Chris Corbould and Timothy Webber — received both Oscar and BAFTA noms and a Saturn award. Franklin’s work on “Batman Begins” earned him his first BAFTA nom in 2006. He re-teamed with with “Dark Knight” helmer Christopher Nolan to head vfx on “Inception.” “Chris gave me an exhilarating degree of freedom in creating the visual effects,” he says. “The biggest challenge was pushing myself and the technology to place the world of dreams into the world of the here and now.”

Robert Gaines, David Johnson, Richard Kriegler & Mark Rubin: videogame developers

RECENT SCORES: The quartet won a VES award for outstanding real-time visuals in a videogame for their work on the “Extraction From the Gulag” level of 2009’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.” The chapter was one of the game’s most intense, pitting players against everything from SAM missiles to a seemingly endless stream of enemy soldiers in close quarters. “MW2″ set a record for the entertainment industry’s largest launch, making vidgames ever more likely to steal audiences away from traditional studios.

COMING UP: The abrupt dismissal of the heads of the Infinity Ward studio, which made “Modern Warfare 2,” has split the team. Gaines left the company to join his former bosses at newly formed Respawn Entertainment, now creating its first title for Electronic Arts. Johnson, Kreigler and Rubin, still with the studio, have assisted on several downloadable content packages for the game, which also have broken sales records, and are working on the studio’s next venture.

Gary Hutzel
vfx supervisor

RECENT SCORES: This TV effects wizard has worked on some major sci-fi series. A six-time Emmy nominee, he took home the trophy four times — for “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and twice for “Battlestar Galactica.” His work on the latter also earned him five VES awards. Other credits include “Caprica,” “Bionic Woman” and “Spy Kids.” He believes today’s vfx are revolutionary because “we’ve created a more free-flowing, flexible process that gives you the most creative control.

COMING UP: In talks for future projects.

John Knoll
vfx supervisor

RECENT SCORES: Knoll has an Oscar for his work on “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” — he was vfx supervisor on all three films in the trilogy — and was Industrial Light & Magic’s supervisor on “Avatar.” Though he says his teams mostly try to help production, he also shakes things up. “Given how complicated the work has become, it’s easy for people to cling to what they know and work the way they worked on the last show. I’m always questioning those assumptions. That’s sometimes seen as stirring up trouble.”

COMING UP: Knoll re-teams with Gore Verbinski on vfx for Paramount’s CG-animated “Rango,” ILM’s first foray into feature animation.

Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham & Andrew R. Jones
vfx and animation supervisors

RECENT SCORES: This quartet of wizards shared the 2010 Oscar and BAFTA trophies for their groundbreaking work on “Avatar.” Letteri — a three-time Oscar winner for the last two “Lord of the Rings” films and “King Kong” — led the team. He and Weta Digital’s vfx supervisor Rosenbaum (Oscar-winner for “Forrest Gump”) and animation supervisors Baneham (a VES winner for “Lord of the Rings” and VES-nommed for “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe“) and Jones (Oscar-nommed for “I, Robot”) brought to life the Na’avi and the psychedelic landscapes of Pandora.

COMING UP: Rosenbaum has moved to Digital Domain, Jones is set to direct, Baneham is working with James Cameron and Letteri’s latest project is Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.” “We took the style of what we accomplished on ‘Avatar’ and pushed it even further; there’s no live action at all — it’s all digital characters, all the time,” says Letteri. “We’re doing all the vfx at Weta; the film’s essentially one big effect.”

Phil McNally
global stereoscopic supervisor, DreamWorks Animation

RECENT SCORES: McNally, also known as “Captain 3D,” has been involved in creating the 3D for classics like “Shrek Forever After,” “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Monsters vs. Aliens.” He began his 3D adventure long ago as a member of the National Stereoscopic Assn., where he joined other aficionados of the 3D process.

COMING UP: “I think the laptop will be one of the next areas where you see 3D,” says McNally. “The little camera there will be used to track our eyes and give us a new experience.”

Neville Page
creature designer

RECENT SCORES: Former actor Page was the lead creature designer on “Avatar” and “Star Trek.” He also designed creatures, characters and concepts for “Watchmen,” “Cloverfield,” “The Hulk,” “X Men: The Last Stand” and “Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

COMING UP: Several high-profile projects: “Spider-Man 4,” Steven Spielberg’s “Terra Nova,” Spielberg’s and J. J. Abrams’ “Super 8,” Martin Campbell’s “Green Lantern,” “Tron: Legacy” and “Piranha 3D.” “All present the same challenge,” he notes, “to create something new and never seen before, yet balanced with the familiar and plausible.”

Stefan Sonnenfeld
colorist/DI Artist, Company 3/Ascent Media

RECENT SCORES: As a leading industry colorist, Sonnenfeld’s work can be seen everywhere — from the biggest blockbusters to many notable independent films. Recent titles include “Alice in Wonderland” and “CSI: New York.” “We do everything we can to help filmmakers deliver their work the best way we possibly can,” says Sonnenfeld. “We’re interested in projects the size of ‘Hurt Locker,’ the size of ‘Transformers’ or something in between.”

COMING UP: Sonnenfeld’s efforts are
on display in Lady Gaga’s video “Alejandro.”

Bob Whitehill
stereoscopic supervisor, Pixar

Recent Scores: Oversaw stereoscopic 3D re-rendering of the first two “Toy Story” toons while working directly with the helmers to create “Up” and “Toy Story 3″ in 3D. The six-year Pixar vet and former layout artist has an approach that may seem more conservative than what prevails at other toon studios: “To me, it’s akin to color saturation or maybe lens choice. It has to work in concert with the film itself.”

COMING UP: Handling 3D aspects of Pixar’s “Cars 2,” “Brave” and “Monsters, Inc. 2.” Also consulting on a live-action project. “There is a group of very talented artists here trying to take computer graphics into new arenas, including painterly looks and new effects. We’ll also be developing that in 3D,” he says.

Profiles written by Iain Blair, David Cohen, Peter Debruge, Jack Egan, Marjorie Galas, Karen Idelson, Chris Morris and Bruce Shutan.

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