Meet the winners of this year’s Visual Effects Society (VES) Student Award. The team comprised of Thomas Battistetti, Mélanie Geley, Guillaume Hoarau and Mickaël Le Mézo created the short film Terra Nova for their final graduation project last year at ArtFX School in Montpellier, France.
Terra Nova is a film based on true events and follows British explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s conquest of the South Pole in the early 20th century. Created using Autodesk Maya and Arnold, the film is a stunning VFX achievement that is brimming with transformative visuals of frozen landscapes and monumental ships at sea.
We sat down with the members of the Terra Nova team to hear about their experiences working on their film. We also picked their brains on how they transitioned from students to successful young professionals (so that we could share their advice with you!) Here’s what they had to say.
On Overcoming Production Challenges
Production-wise, one of the biggest challenges was simultaneously staying true to the history of Robert Falcon Scott and the Terra Nova expedition, while creating a short film that was exciting to watch.
Post-production-wise, the greatest challenges were creating realistic snow and icescapes. We were fortunate enough to visit the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge where we found a lot of useful references. There, we had access to landscape and ice references. This helped us understand the importance of scale and how it affects the look and overhaul patterns.
Because we had a lot to create with very few means, we had to be smart concerning the VFX. That’s why we chose to use a lot of matte painting. They added credibility to the visuals and saved us a great deal of time.
The FX were another big challenge. Our short film required a lot of effects, especially for the oceans. It’s quite difficult to make realistic-looking water and because people are used to seeing water regularly, they can’t be tricked easily!
Simulation times were sometimes very long. It was something we had to keep in mind the whole year. We eventually decided to use simulations only when they were required and used procedural setups as much as we could.
"one of the biggest challenges was simultaneously staying true to the history of Robert Falcon Scott and the Terra Nova expedition, while creating a short film that was exciting to watch."
On What Inspired them to Pursue a Career in VFX
We have all have been influenced by films like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Avatar and Disney movies during our childhood. In our own way, we want to make people dream as much as we did when we were younger.
On the Transition from Students to Young Professionals
Thanks to ArtFX’s jury at the end of the 5th year, we all met professionals to present our short film to. These meetings helped us receive feedback on our work and create contacts to eventually find positions in studios. We all found jobs pretty quickly. Thomas and Guillaume went to MPC London as Environment TD and FX TD, Mickael to Double Negative London as an Environment TD and Melanie to Framestore London as a Digital Matte Painter / Environment TD.
Creating Terra Nova prepared us for this transition. During the production, we were working in the same way as we do in studios, with deadlines, supervisors and retakes trying to deliver the most realistic and artistic images possible.
On Advice to Students Wanting to make it in the VFX Industry
People have really different backgrounds in our profession, some have gone to VFX schools like ArtFX, while others have gone to architectural schools, and some have been self-educated. They all have a passion for the work they do though. So, if you want to work in the VFX industry, it takes work and involvement. You can achieve anything if you work hard. Be curious and open minded, don’t wait to have all the answers from your teacher. You have to do research and training on your own as well. It is a relatively small industry, so it is very easy to develop a network. Meeting people and building a network will one day, help you achieve your goal.
"Be curious and open minded, don’t wait to have all the answers from your teacher."
On What’s Next
Melanie: Personally, I worked on concepts and dmp for Alita Battle Angel by Robert Rodriguez at Framestore. It was a really interesting project. The movie is being released in February and I am very excited to see my team's work on the big screen. The second project I worked on was Wonder Woman 1984, and I am now working on Secret Garden.
Guillaume: Thomas and I have been working on The Lion King since we graduated from ArtFX last June.
Thomas: As this industry is constantly moving, we don’t always know in advance the shows we will be working on in the future. I’ll move to MPC Montreal in a couple of weeks, to work on new shows. In the meantime, I’ll be patiently waiting for The Lion King to be released this summer. Like Melanie, I’m really excited to see some of my work on the big screen.
Mickaël: I'm currently working on a confidential project. The future is full of surprises, I can't wait to know what my next challenges are going to be!
For more information on ArtFX and Terra Nova, visit; https://vimeo.com/artfx