Vfx whiz Farrar still loves cameras

Expert oversaw 'Transformers' record-breaking effects

He’s just finished overseeing the digital visual effects on one of the largest and most complex vfx pictures ever, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” He’s an unquestioned expert in CGI.

But Scott Farrar is a cameraman at heart.

“When I got into the business, the gods — the people who meant the most to me — were the directors of photography,” Farrar says.

The Escondido, Calif., native and UCLA grad joined ILM as a camera operator on 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” Just three years later, he was an Oscar winner as vfx supervisor of “Cocoon.”

Farrar, based at Industrial Light & Magic, was on set every day during principal photography of “Revenge of the Fallen” and oversaw a record-breaking vfx effort that included some 2,000 shots, made even larger by sequences made in 70mm for Imax, with each frame containing eight times the information of a 35mm frame.

Even with other shops doing hundreds of shots, ILM’s “Transformers” crew ended up being almost twice the size (350) as needed for the typical production of a tentpole.

“Transformers” d.p. Ben Seresin observes that Farrar has a knack for handling the “high-pressure environment” of a Michael Bay shoot. “He doesn’t come in too strong when there’s a need to collaborate,” Seresin says, “and at the same time is very creative with his own vision.”

Matthew Butler, who worked as vfx supervisor for Digital Domain’s part of the pic, says of Farrar: “He’s stable, he’s not frantic or panicked. And things can be in a panic around Michael, because there’s a whirlwind going on.”

Farrar works well with Bay, perhaps in part because both have been cameramen. And Bay is conversant enough with CG to sit down with individual artists and work on a shot.

“What really thrills me,” Farrar says, “is to see the work all the artists are doing on their shots back at ILM, to see the fruition of an idea that turns into an amazing looking little piece of magic on the screen.”

But Farrar has never lost his love of hands-on camerawork. He shot second-unit footage on “Revenge of the Fallen,” and proudly received his ASC membership this year — at age 58.