Hunter Killer Interview: Hristo Velev – Bottleship VFX Founder – Bottleship VFX
Hunter Killer is a 2018 American action thriller film directed by Donovan Marsh, written by Arne Schmidt and Jamie Moss, and based on the 2012 novel Firing Point by Don Keith and George Wallace. The film stars Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Michael Nyqvist (in one of his final film roles), Common, Linda Cardellini and Toby Stephens, and follows a group of Navy SEALs who rescue the captured Russian President from a coup. Hunter Killer was released in the United States on October 26, 2018, by Summit Entertainment. It has grossed $29 million worldwide and received mixed reviews from critics, who saw it as “an undemanding, by-the-numbers actioner”.
// From Hristo Velev, Bottleship VFX Founder, Bottleship VFX
How long have you worked on this film?
Bottleship came into the project quite late, end of 2017. We were asked to help out with the sequence at the end of the movie where the main villain’s headquarters get struck by missiles and the building explodes.
Let us know about the core team of Bottleship VFX who worked on ‘Hunter Killer’
The sequence was supervised by me, with Ilia Halembakov, Vladimir Gerasimov, Yasen Panev on FX, Petko Ganev and Stella Kamburova in lighting and assets, and Delyan Ketipov and Ivo Kalyonski in compositing.
How was the working experience of Production VFX Supervisor Sean Farrow?
It was our first time working with Sean Farrow, and it was a good one – things were moving quick and communication was on point. Would love to do that again.
How do you balance director’s vision when creating VFX for any movie?
Building visual effects is a very delicate and challenging process indeed. Ideas are rarely fixed in place for the duration of the production, usually there is plenty of evolution in all aspects of what ends up on the screen. That’s a natural part of directing – experimentation and exploration are necessary. We strive to enable these to happen earlier in the process, when work is most cost effective, and find the ideas that work best as soon as possible, and commit to them for the bigger part of the production, where we can do the long work of refining them. That works most of the time, but not always – sometimes you need to accept something is not working, director’s ideas change, and we replace and rebuild.
Building Bomb blast effects and CG Simulations. What is the biggest challenge of this?
We hit the ground running there, because the deadline was already approaching, and we knew we need to find the right beats with the director quickly. In the first week, we had a big bunch of versions that all behaved very differently, and gave the director a wide choice of options, which worked well. This made the rest of the sim work quite efficient – we just kept adding on top of the solid base that we had established, and our workflows there are quite strong. The biggest challenge was actually integrating with the plate, where the building was very close to some environmental foliage, water and structures, and we built a lot of elements to add interaction with these.
Can you describe one of your typical days?
We don’t start too early – somewhere between 9 and 10 we trickle into the office, with coffee and banitsa – an awesome Bulgarian fast food pastry you gotta try! You check out your overnight renders, submit to Shotgun, and then reviews, discussion and planning the day get started. We are an open place, all shots get discussed with everybody and ideas come from all directions. Then we hit at it for the day, and wrap things up for a client delivery around 6-7 pm, and head out – our office is in the middle of a busy downtown where there’s all the cuisine, culture and nightlife you’d ask for, so there’s plenty to do in the after hours!
How did you manage tight integration of post-production pipeline in your studio?
Pipelines are a living thing, an eternally unfinished masterpiece 🙂 Lately, we’ve gone in the direction of creating more a patchwork than a line, so we can create in lots of places – Max, Maya, Houdini, Blender, Substance, and publish out Alembic, VDB or PRTs, then load them up in Max or Katana for lighting. It’s a more open and fluid process, you don’t want to limit yourself too much. Every show and every shot sometimes are different, and flexibility is a huge help when you have to deal with crazy scenarios.
Any upcoming projects of Bottleship VFX or other details you can share?
A bunch of our work premieres these days – Airstrike with Bruce Willis, Hunter Killer, Bollywood blockbuster 2.0 and Russian sci-fi film Forsaken. We’ll be posting about these in the coming weeks, and meanwhile we’re wrapping up on some snowy destruction sequence for a big Chinese movie to premiere in February. Exciting times!
Many thanks to Bottleship VFX Team for sharing with us his experiences. We are eagerly awaiting the next one.
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