For the chart-topping Netflix original series “Outer Banks,” freelance Flame artist Gurvand Tanneau was recently tapped by Culver City-based VFX facility Mr. Wolf to help set the stage and transport audiences to the barrier islands of North Carolina. Tanneau discusses his work on the project and prolific career as a Flame artist.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a veteran Flame artist who has worked in the industry for more than 20 years, honing my expertise on film, episodic and commercial projects. In my work, I strive to create the most natural, photoreal effects that appear invisible to the discerning eye. I am originally from France, where I got my start as an artist in Paris by pursuing a career in film production and initially began learning compositing. For the past nine years, I’ve been based in LA and have worked as a freelance Flame artist for a number of high-profile VFX companies, including MPC, Method, Framestore, Digital Domain and Mr. Wolf. My knack for creativity and the arts stems back to age 12, when I began learning photography and later learned how to digitally manipulate imagery with my computer as a teen.
What are some recent or high-profile projects that you’ve worked on as a Flame artist?
Throughout my career, I’ve collaborated on VFX for many acclaimed and highly rated shows, including “Chicago Fire,” “The Walking Dead,” “The Act,” “FBI,” “Preacher” and “New York Undercover,” and I’ve provided commercial VFX for brands that include Apple, Ford, Sony, Chevrolet, L'Oréal, Target and Smirnoff, among many others.
Can you discuss more about “Outer Banks”?
My work on “Outer Banks” primarily focused on background cleanup, during ocean or driving scenes. I used Flame to remove camera and crew from shots, as well as background elements to obscure physical production locations. There were shots that required landmark removal so that areas filmed were no longer recognizable to viewers. For shots captured at sea, I also removed the coastline wherever visible to make boats appear further out in open water. Driving shots consisted mainly of removing crew members from inside of vehicles.
How did you get involved in the project?
I was brought onto “Outer Banks” last June by Mr. Wolf in Culver City. They have a great team, and I’ve regularly been working as a freelance Flame artist for the studio for the past four years.
How large was your scope of work on “Outer Banks”?
I worked on 15 shots within a one-month delivery deadline. During this period, I was actually working on five shows simultaneously. I keep my projects well-organized and since TV shows typically require very few revisions, it’s a manageable workload.
Working on multiple shots across different projects offers me variety and helps keep my creativity engaged. While some shows demand heavy beauty work and retouching, others are primarily focused on background cleanup or adding elements, like smoke and fire. Transitioning between different types of tasks helps keep the work feel fresh, but it requires a versatile range of tools. This is why Flame is so important – it offers all the tools in one application. I wouldn’t be able to deliver such a large volume of work at this level of quality without Flame.
Did you face any challenges during production?
When working on episodic projects, like “Outer Banks,” the major challenge is always time constraints. You’re provided with the shots and a timeframe for screenings, so as I previously mentioned, Flame is essential for getting the job done. There’s less pressure on episodic than on commercials or feature films, though.
What Flame tools did you use on “Outer Banks”?
I used all of the classic Flame tools, like Action, Gmask, and color correct. There’s so much functionality in the Action node now that on the majority of projects, you can use it for ninety percent of your work if you want to.
What are your favorite Flame features?
Action node, most definitely. More generally, the fact that everything I need is usually in Flame is a major advantage. Whether editing or cleaning up a shot, tracking, Flame offers the flexibility to do almost anything. I don’t know of any other tools that offer as rich of a feature set with so many options.
Are you using Flame’s AI tools at all?
I use Flame’s machine learning tools for body extraction, as well as on precomps, while I’m waiting for roto. It saves me a lot of time – especially on projects that require heavy roto on people. For example, in shots where a person is presenting and the background needs to be removed, I can do a precomp, run the AI extraction tool, and it’s very fast. It’s not perfect, but it’s convenient and sufficient for a precomp to see how the results will look.
What are the most challenging aspects of your work?
Oftentimes working on scenes can be challenging because they’re not shot with VFX in mind, either due to budgetary or time constraints. These instances are just some of the many examples of why Flame is so invaluable for post-production.
Would you recommend young artists who are interested in working in the industry learn Flame?
Yes, definitely. There’s a lot of opportunity and work available right now – especially across episodic TV. Because of the content boom and influx of streaming services, television has really taken over and experienced Flame artists are in demand. These days, I’m receiving offers almost every day for new jobs, and a lot of companies are looking to bring on Flame artists right now. It’s a valuable tool to learn and master.
Do you have any advice for students or young professionals looking to get started in the industry?
Put yourself out there, keep working and make an effort to meet people. This is difficult now due to remote work, but persevere and stick with the course. Get involved with as many projects as possible, even if they are student films, indie projects or unpaid work. When you get started, you need to work on a bit of everything to find your niche in the industry and develop your skillset. Building this experience and making connections will help you get started and eventually grow your career.
For more information on Gurvand Tanneau’s work as a Flame artist, visit: www.gurvand-tanneau.com.