Back in 2018 I had the chance to work on Metro Exodus for Platige Image. That was not the first project from them, and since then I did various jobs on other projects too.
Most of the work was basically animation, MOCAP cleanup, and my role was to support a small team of animators to do that. It was an interesting experience, from many standpoints.
Every company works even if slightly, but somewhat differently. Tools, folders, assets, naming they can differ wildly and also the methods for tracking the work.
Platige gave for the project an account to the tracking framework they used and they expected daily updates. Most of the previews, and communication went over that and emails. They also gave us tools to help, and we had to follow guidelines, how things had to be done.
I write and use more and more custom tools for work, organization and tracking. Since that was not the first projekt for them, I had already begun to develop scripts to handle the incoming assets, shots they gave out, and to meet the required formats they expected to get. It helped to work on our own way, but without breaking things if we have to give them back. I helped to set up the workflow.
Basically I could automate the import of the assets to our own framework, and set up everything for the animators. That came handy later on a different project with a lot more assets. If you work with someone else more than once it makes sense to develop for it to ease. On latter projects we had methods for most of the things that could come up.
Most of the work was done by the animators. They had to learn the usage of the rig assets that were provided, and I gave support for them when something went wrong, or they needed something. There was the case of changing rigs, bugs, but also changing mocap data, that had to be transferred sometimes. We had automatic backups, and versioning internally, for safety but also against file corruption, mistakes.
At daily and weekly sessions, there were internal meetings with the animator and technical staff I’ve worked with, to discuss and clear up things. Our animation director, and lead animator reviewed the progress and gave feedback to the animators. We spoke about problems, or questions, suggestions. I did a couple of small tools over the time I worked on the project to help out with some tasks. From project management, help with rigs, recovery, or even preview video generation, with proper letterboxing, watermarking etc..
We used an inhouse tool I helped to develop for the project management so we could follow the progress. We could track the feedback we got from Platige, and also everything internals, on artist, task, shot, asset and project level.
There was the difficulty that even if I could, I should not always fix things, especially rigs. For example if a provided asset broke, I was not supposed to fix it, since it can cause problems, even if I give them back to Platige. The asset may have had a lot more versions internally since we got it, and many more reasons. As someone who does rigging but outsourcing too, I can definitely relate, it is better to do it centrally. Offen what I could do is give as good a feedback as I can. They were always really helpful.
To work with another company can be challenging, but also interesting, and you can learn a lot, even from communication or from expectations you have to meet. It was a good opportunity for me, and I did really like to work on the projekt.
As a producer of animated films, the studio has been becoming more and more known publicly. The plan succeeded. We did the commercials, the game intros, etc. but we felt like something was always missing…
…What was it?
We spent a lot of time searching for the accompanying music of the works, choosing the right narrators, dubbed actors, arranging the dates of the sound studios, before we realized that all this means unnecessary extra expenses in the budget.
We found that we pay undeservedly little attention to the rule that the “sound” of a film determines the ultimate quality by 50 percent. If the sound of the film is so important, then our aim should be to produce excellent quality sound with less expenses. Therefore, we decided to build our own SOUND STUDIO 4 years ago!
The room was built with the help of acoustic specialists, and we can proudly mention that some of the Ionart team members also helped with the construction. Curiously, under the sponge layer covering the walls, in some places the fingerprints, DNA traces and even signatures of the creators can be seen, but solely for this reason no one should start peeling the studio walls. After completion, we began using the new “miracle weapon” almost immediately. A V.O. activity has been going on ever since, sadly the COVID-19 virus interrupted the work a bit. At the moment we continue our work in internet “home office” mode. Most of our productions use this service.
Interview with our vfx supervisor about his previous experiences
24 February 2020
Balázs Drenkovics is our visual effects supervisor, who has worked on numerous globally successful projects. He joined Ionart in 2017. He was nominated for both the Visual Effects Oscar and the BAFTA Film Award for his work onIron Man 3. We invited him for an interview to talk about his life, work, and views on design.
I started off doing 3D modeling at a small Hungarian company in Budapest. We made games for Nintendo consoles (Tomb Raider: Legend, Hot Wheels). Then I got a job in the movie business, where I worked on some low-budget animation films and series. After that, I managed to get into the commercial and game cinematic business, where I gained a lot of practical knowledge. It was at that time I got a job offer from Trixter, and MPC Vancouver. Afterwards I was managing the effects department of Digic Pictures, where we made a lot of cinematic game trailers including The Witcher 3 and Call of Duty. The past three years I have been a part of the Ionart team as co-owner and vfx supervisor.
The biggest project I was involved in were Avengers: Age of Ultron and Iron Man 3 at Trixter as the Lead Visual Effects Technical Director. Trixter is a medium sized company based in Munich and Berlin, but I spent two and a half years in their office. During that time I worked on several famous Marvel movies, such as Iron Man and Captain America. I took part in the production of White House Down.When I joined Trixter, the team had already started working on Iron Man 3. Before joining the project, I had only had experience in the games and commercial business, so movies were totally new for me. We only had six weeks for the connecting sequence. That was the first time when Marvel showed Iron Man’s new armor. The design and model was created by the Trixter art department. My main role on this project was to work on Iron Man’s jet system and other parts’ effects. The six weeks of the project was challenging, but I received a contract extension afterwards, and I stayed a little while longer.