VFX Interview with Luca Gabriele Rossetti, Art Director & VFX Supervisor, Marvelous Design Studio
April 7, 2020 – Today, Luca Gabriele Rossetti spoke to VFX Online about his work experience of Visual Effects Industry.
Like most kids, my mind was all over the place. I wanted to be an archaeologist first, then a marine biologist, and after seeing Jurassic Park, a palaeontologist… But, when I realized that was misguided, I decided I wanted to be a dreams maker. I was obsessed with movies and how they are made, and absorbed everything I could from books, special features on DVDs and people in the field.
My passion drove me to work quite hard. Of course, I did have some training, starting with the only certified Softimage 3D school, at that time. Then, as I grew up, I changed to others training courses and then, went abroad, always wanting more and more throughout.
Visual Effects has been of course my main route in the Film Industry, since I have realized that I was good enough to inspire the mood and the look of establishing sequences in great blockbusters.
Form concept artist to film designer for VFX studios, since landing to work with art departments straight with production designers and directors.
Some of the best example are Conan the Barbarian, Snow white and the Huntsman, Total Recall, Alice in Wonderland 2 and the most recent The Mummy Reboot and STAR WARS: Rogue ONE
The VFX WORLD
I have been lucky enough to work with majors VFX studios worldwide, from Double Negative to Animal Logic, from Rising Sun Pictures to Sony Pictures ImageWorks and so on…
Working with so many talented people, cheek to cheek with visual effects veterans, well, I am proud of it.
I became a Member of the Visual Effects Society in 2011, the most important award achieved for having contribute in a significant way in the visual effects on Harry Potter.
I started to get that director bug. Writing scripts and developing stories.
While working on different projects, in 2006 I wrote a short film, a particular one that has been shoot only 2 years ago.
I was Director, DP, Editor, VFX, Wardrobe, and Art department all in one…and I loved it!
I have been lucky enough to shoot some commercials when I was in Vancouver, for NIKE and Hyundai
Much more than this, I could merge my strong knowledge in VFX with the Director side, few of us can make this!
In 2019 I have directed my first film, which is now in post production and will be released worldwide in 2021.
I still like to get dirty and draw ideas or create the odd ball visual effect… It’s all part of the fun!
// From Luca Gabriele Rossetti, Art Director & VFX Supervisor, Marvelous Design Studio
How do you describe yourself professionally?
Creative / Innovative / Visionary : I reckon those 3 words explain my whole attitude, but I can definitely say that I am also Ambitious and Leader, I work always stepping the stone, and making sense of anything I do.
What sparked your interest in Art Direction and VFX Supervising? How would you describe your Art and VFX?
Long time has passed since my beginning, but I clearly remember that like most of the kids watching films has always been a magical approach to this career.
I have started as artist, from Editor to Compositor, and I spent years doing compositing, using any tools possible, from Fusion or After effects to Flame as on line editor, and again from Shake To Nuke.. where actually I am still working with…
Let’s say that, around 10 years ago, when digital compositors became more requested as TD Compers, I have started to loose interest in the technical side…too boring and not anymore creative as before, that has been the time where I focused myself more on the artistic side, becoming a good matte painter and concept designer for films.
However, this is something you must have in your soul, “the ART” is not easy to teach as numbers.
Of course, I grew up technically as well and I have been in charge of sequences or shows as VFX supervisor.
I would say that today I am a very well-rounded artist, going from the art side to the tech one, with no limitations.
How did you enter in this industry? What was the key to getting inside?
I had the opportunity to work on different realities for commercials firstly and later in Films, so I would say that I have been lucky enough to start from scratch doing what it is called “ do the mess”
How was the experience to working in Art Director/VFX Supervisor?
When you reach up this level, on major films as “blockbusters”, and you are really into the film and the higher level of the crew, then you can say that you are not a number anymore.
Of course, there are levels and hierarchies, always, but u start to feel yourself as someone who made a footprint.
What was your Best VFX project worked for? What was the Art Challenges in this project?
I did many, as best work in terms of artistical and technical efforts, I always remember with pleasure The Great Gatsby, but I can definitely say Total Recall, which involved myself in studying and crafting the post-apocalyptic London, or Conan (2011) and Alice through the looking glass which involved myself to design the 80% of the film, pushing the most fresh Ideas I could put in a visual. You won’t read all the time who made what, but this is the true behind the magic.
What are some of the projects you have worked on/clients or studios you’ve worked with?
Wow, this is a long one, better you go on IMDB yourself.
Any particular artists/professionals that inspire you?
Dylan Cole, probably the new generation of digital artist don’t know who he is, and this is a shame since they pretend to sell themselves as Sr. Artist, but when I watch their work they even don’t recognize the difference between a Concept Art or a Matte.
Young artists are grew up in a non-perfect world and these are the results, however, the main industry is not helping either, giving them the opportunity to work on big projects not having enough experience. They are just happy to have their name in the “ending titles” if this happens, indeed, but this will bring no them to any place, you bet.
It’s not about your name in the film, but what you have made for it…quite often they just touch a frame for few hours, and they have they got the film credit flagged…oh my god!
Dylan Cole was my boss on Conan, and I have been lucky enough to learn from one of the most talented artists worldwide.
He is working now on the Avatar’s sequels with James Cameroun, I reckon.
Share something about that Awarded Project Star Wars : Rogue One?
Star Wars : Rogue One to me has started earlier than the real work I made at Ghost VFX.
A year previously to that I was working at Shepperton Studios UK where they actually were shooting the film.
I was there for THE MUMMY of Alex Kurtzman. During my time off I met some artists working on the art department for the upcoming Star Wars spin off and I had the change to have a little glance on the props design made for the film.
I wasn’t imagining that exactly a year later I was part of the VFX crew for ROGUE ONE.
The experience was great, the team and the studio amazing, and I was involved on the YAVIN 4 temples creation, plus some other shots.
It is pity that today Ghost VFX has been acquired from another studio, I think they deserved to grew up more by itself.
The creation of the temples views was involving a mix of 2D/3D tools, and we made it so good that once presented to Lucasfilm VFX Supervisor John Knoll, they have been approved almost straight away.
A very successful experience, indeed.
Share something about that Awarded Project Snow White and the Huntsman?
2010/11 I was living in London.
Baseblack LTD no longer exiting was one of the VFX company involved in this film.
At that time a very proficient company for visual effects for sure. Most of the people I met there are still very friends and very talented people, indeed.
BaseBlack was bidding for getting part of the sequences on Snow White, they called me to make some concepts regarding one of the castles involved in the movie…
I made 3-4 different detailed concepts art in about 3 weeks…which is a very short time if you see my kind of work, it is not just a drawing …it is almost a final matte painting with all the mood and the energy that grab the attention of the clients, just in one shot…and in fact after they presented it…they’ve got the deal…so, we started to work on it, for about 4-5 months.
In the meantime, Total Recall, popped up in some ways…and just I was involved again in the Underground Sequence which is showing London in a possible future….in this case we had quite a few Conference Meeting with the Director, (which was in L.A.) at the Dneg’s London office, we worked together and Double Negative was in charge for the main VFX in the movie.
Going back on Snow White, the job made for initial sequence was more like a series of internal set extensions, plus some exterior of the castle, however the main challenge was to represent the castle itself from different camera angles, and so after maybe 6/7 different concepts, a 3D approach was applied to keep the continuity of the design.
It has been a nice a slow evolving of the look, just in the right timing, no pressure, just exploration on how the castle at the end should have look terrific.
Share something detail about VFX Art Direction in Films?
When we talk about art direction in films, especially for establishing the main key shots and ideas in crafting the world, the characters and visual as well, we are actually talking about a long period of brainstorming based on a screenplay and thoughts.
Nowadays can be not easy going to find new visual solutions for crafting unique concept, and the reason is related to the worldwide communication over media and internet. You can find more ideas on what your brain can think just using google.
The difficult part though, would it be to make these ideas fitting your needs, quite often I go scouting old books, or perhaps I do start to draft concepts basing on some design I saw on the web that I liked…much more intense is the efforts I do push just observing the real world.
I wish to make you a little example, when I joined Sony Image works, I was supposed to drive the Matte Paint and the Art Department that, for some reason was shut down years before in L.A.
With the opportunity to make Alice 2, a movie indeed rich of CGI through weird environments and characters, Sony probably decided to reopen again a powerful department as a Matte department can be.
Never mind, the story is related to the very first concept I made for Alice reaching “the castle of time”.
I was asked to perform some fresh ideas for a kind of a quite “dark environment” where the castle was living, but in the same time a asked as well for stylish one.
I did recall when I was working in Ireland on a Luc Besson’s Sci Fi movie some hexagonal stones so particular that I found interesting give it a try with that.
See a link here : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant%27s_Causeway
Well after this first concept other will came up for the same environment…. after few weeks of experimentation, the one chosen was the very first, and that is what you actually you see today in the film.
Unleash your emotion and grab even the first shine that pop up in your mind straight away …that can be the right emotion for making a successful design.
What’s your thoughts about current industry situation in VFX Industry?
I reckon the whole film industry will be facing soon a massive change, Covid 19 has forced reluctant major studios to end up their ongoing projects with very few big realities where, due the content protection, are asked to bring the artists in house, as usual, however artist might not be happy to go an work in a non-safe environment.
Soon they must be forced to accept the change, or they won’t produce anymore work and Studios will collapse.
It’s an evolution they must face and allow people to work in different ways rather than traditional workflows.
Let’s be honest, I do produce remote work for major studios such as Technicolor VFX, Glassworks, Framestore, Passion Picture, Territory among many others, since quite a few time, alternating in house positions as well, and there are tons of ways to secure your data, through encrypted servers or other cloud solutions, so why they insist to make people moving worldwide with, of course, intensive visa or relocation costs? They are even not able to make quick changes in required just dropping the job to another artist without going through bureaucratic papers if, for instance, the company might not be happy with the artist’s performance. This is not making any sense to me.
It’s ridiculous to think that with such of technology we own today, we will still be affected by old and useless rules and methods . Future is smart, and work must be smarter.
What do you think about the future of VFX and Animation Industry?
I think that we will be facing a new way to work, I see digital contents will be more and more, just in a different way and different approach.
There is an open war to fight costs from Big Studios to little realities in producing VFX or animation, Big studios still have the power to make decisions, till when?
Someone important said, the cinema world will implode soon, I agree, unless will start to change out methods, now!
Also talking about “budgets”… in films, is totally unbalanced, too many Executives on board just to have a slice of the incoming, “actors” and “film production” in general is sucking a huge amounts of money leaving “nuts” for the VFX that honestly is quite often 80% of the film.
You do your math. Animation as well is not far away from this concept.
What’s your favorite works in Matte Painting?
When I talk of matte paintings I feel relaxed…here I can talk about art and not bureaucracy at all, I made may works adopting my own workflow, which I feel proud of, however, Rogue One made me happy to have contributed a masterpiece of the film history, I have been in charge of some mattes but specifically on the YAVIN 4 Rebel base, day and night time, wasn’t a traditional matte, indeed more a 3D matte, but cool to make.
I have been working on Star Wars with Lucasfilm through GHOST VFX and I have beautiful memories, very nice people up there.
What’s your best memory of VFX Supervisor or Film Director?
I do remember every experience made in my life “on set” or in a VFX Studio, I can’t say that all of them are perfect, but this definitely is because different situations or managment, however, I have been pretty much everywhere in a “worldwide meaning”, and quite often has been a fantastic experience.
Also the place where you live for the time you do work for a studio make a huge difference, I love California, Australia and all the places where at the end of the day you can reach out the sea, and quite often you BBQ on the beach over the week end with friends.
Often, it’s more the people you meet and the place you work for that make much difference on your own experience rather than the project itself.
How has your experience been working at Marvelous Design Studios?
Marvelous Design Studios is grew up on the ashes of Darmatter Art Studio, my previous boutique, to be fair nothing is changed since it’s born just is now under my British Film Company, Marvelous Pictures LTD.
MDS is a small and stylish boutique focusing on high end digital environments for films.
I can ramp up artists if necessary basing on the scale of the jobs, however, I wish to say that the core of the studio is myself and a couple of very close artists that I work with producing any kind of visual from concept design to 2D, 3D and 2.5D mattes.
Today MDS serves a large number of studios worldwide, however, the force behind this success is my name and my heritage having show proven track record of stunning works over the past years.
What will be your ‘dream project’ to work on Animation or VFX?
I would say that after being involved in so many projects for other studios, today I wish to bring up some of my personal ideas, that I am developing as “Indie studio”.
I feel more satisfaction on making those with a limited budget rather than work for a not mine blockbuster movie
What’s the most important tool you think is the Best for VFX?
Your brain first, then what ever tool is able to give you the power to craft your vision. I am not the kind of person limited to traditional software just because they are chosen by the market.
What do you like to do away from the computer?
I love cooking, but more then that I guess planning vacations in beautiful places, meeting friends…reading. The problem is that my brain never stops to elaborate ideas…and sometimes I push myself in different direction or it would be too much
Which direction would you like to take your career in the near future?
Hard to say, however, I am focusing on developing more film ideas, for sure, but I had also the chance to explore the game world in deep and videogames might be a turnaround of my career. Who knows…
At the moment, I am involved more into the Film production side, and my company is investing in what is called a “Virtual Production Studio”.
A new era of shooting film indeed that finds his origin and techniques in a classy videogames workflows.
So again, the game world is very close to us these days much more than what you think
What advice would you give to someone who wishes to get into this industry?
My suggestion is not really related to the VFX or the film industry itself, but it’s more a general advice when you approach any work environment for the first time.
Be humble, and listen who is working with you, look around, explore possibilities, listen, learn, and more than that respect hierarchies, no one is born senior, and even a senior has always possibilities to learn. It’s not a challenge to prove you are the best, it’s a team player effort.