Philippe Rebours began his career in visual effects at BUF on THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN. He then joined Industrial Light & Magic in 1998 and worked on films such as STAR WARS: EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE, MINORITY REPORT, IRON MAN or AVATAR.
What is your background?
I graduated from L’Ecole Centrale de Lyon in France, receiving the equivalent of a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering with a focus on Computer Science. I then worked in Research and Development at Buf Compagnie in Paris before coming to Industrial Light & Magic in 1998.
This is your first collaboration with director Darren Aronofsky. Can you tell us how it came about?
Back in September 2011, Darren came to ILM to check out the latest advent in performance capture technology and check out our performance capture stage. He was interested in seeing what we could do to help him prepare for his upcoming shoot. Three of us performed the roles of the Watchers, even going so far as to learn the lines from the script. Ben Snow, the overall VFX supervisor on NOAH demonstrated how we could create a virtual coverage of the scene, based on the height of the Watchers. We rendered the sequence from all the cameras that Darren had covered and sent them to him in New York where he used them to create a cut sequence which I believe he showed the studio to help convey what his vision was.
That was the first time I met Darren. Once the movie was awarded to ILM, I came on board as Associate Visual Effects Supervisor.
What have you done on this show?
ILM was the lead house on the film and was responsible for the Watchers, the ark shots, the dream sequences, the battle sequence, the creation sequence, the mammal and reptile arrivals and the creation sequence to name just a few.
ILM’s Ben Snow was the overall Visual Effects Supervisor on the film. When he was on set, I would supervise the team here in San Francisco. Once he returned, my role was to supervise our team at ILM Singapore where we did the arrival of the reptiles, some shots with the watchers in front of the ark, and the hound beast sequence. I was also working on a couple of sequences here, like the Forest Growth sequence, the confrontation between Tubal Cain and Noah, and some of the babies’ shots.
Can you describe one of your typical day on-set and then during the post?
During post, we typically start with dailies where we project what has been rendered overnight and provide feedback to the artists. We then get together in small groups to talk about how to solve specific problems, or how to achieve a specific effect. Typically, there’s also a meeting where we look at where we are in the production schedule, which shots needs to be turned over to artists and which shots are close to being finaled. During the day, artists send review requests to the supes or drop by to get feedback on a shot that they just ran. By the end of the day, they will be nightlies where we project shots that we didn’t have time to give feedback on or shots that could be finalized.
After that, we hold a second nightlies for shots run in Singapore so we can provide feedback to artists that are working there as well.
How have you animated so many animals?
For the mammal arrival shots, we used Massive and a crowd pipeline, after having key frame animated some various cycles : walking, sitting and laying down, sleeping, etc. The simulations was quite complex as we had to be sure that the animals would be walking by in pairs, though not always exactly next to each other, but close. Also, the animals many different sizes, some are as small as 1.5 feet long, others are up to 20 feet long.
Once the overall simulation was done, our animators would go in and hand-animate some of them. For example, in the shot where the camera pulls back inside the ark as the animals go to sleep, there’s about 3500 of them, 130 were hand animated after the initial simulation pass was completed.
For the reptile shots, everything was hand animated.
The Flood is really impressive. Can you explain in details about its creation?
Our FX lead, Raul Essig, first did a very low resolution simulation of the flood so we could time it and be sure that it was working from shot to shot. Once the cut was locked, each shot was worked on separately, re doing the simulation with greater levels of detail as needed. It’s not just about the water though, the trees are getting ripped out of
the earth by the force, the ground is breaking, falling apart, the crowds are running, tripping and falling down into gaping holes in the ground, geysers of water are jetting out of earth. Many, many artists worked on those elements that all had to be coordinated by our amazing production team.
What was the biggest challenge on this project and how did you achieve it?
The diversity of the work was a real challenge on this film. Huge destruction with the flood sequence, creating enormous numbers of unique animals for the arrival sequence, the battle sequence, with a ton of intense rotoscoping to add the army behind the real 400 extras shot under the SFX rain, the creation sequence with this timelapse look to it – They all brought different problems that had to be solved. Fortunately we have an amazing technical team and a lot of very talented artists. Each challenge was tackled by a small group of people who would brainstorm together to come up with the best solution.