I first got interested in 3D animation when I was in the final year of my Communications degree at the University of Canberra. After doing a short course at the Australian Film Television & Radio School in Sydney, I managed to get some unpaid work experience at a company called Engine, doing small bits of work on commercials and making 3D elements for motion graphic design projects like the NRL opening titles or QANTAS in-flight entertainment. After a lot of persistent hanging around, they eventually gave me a paid job and I ended up staying there for more than two years.

Hungry for more challenging work, I left in 2002 and got a job at Animal Logic, working as a 3D Generalist in the commercials division. Since then, I’ve gone from doing on-box work to running commercials, to my current position as Visual Effects Supervisor in the Film VFX Department (a separate unit to our Animation division). I’ve now been here almost fifteen years! 

1.  How did you get your start as an Animator?

This is tricky, since a “regular day” totally depends on where you are in a project’s timeline. On a typical live-action VFX film job, I would go through the following broad stages, the length of which would vary depending on the size of the job.

The initial pre-shoot planning and design stage involves taking the brief for the work from the film’s overall VFX Supervisor or Director, planning and scheduling with the VFX Producer, and determining the best way to tackle the technical pipeline challenges with the CG Supervisor. Sometimes, we may begin any design or conceptualising work that needs to be done, especially if it impacts on how the live-action footage will be shot. If any of the shots or sequences require creative or technical previsualisation, I’ll supervise that process and work with the production team to make sure that we’re ready for the shoot.

I’ll then attend the shoot, working with the film’s overall VFX Supervisor or Director on-set to make sure that what is being shot will creatively work according to the brief we’ve been given (as well as watching to make sure the scope of work stays roughly within what we’ve quoted and budgeted for, done in collaboration with the Producer). I’ll also work with an on-set data wrangler to collect all the data we’ll need (eg photography, measurements, camera info, set reference, 3D scans, etc) to execute the VFX correctly back at the studio.

Once the shoot is done and we’re back at the studio, my job is then to supervise the different stages of digital post-production, covering the creation of the digital assets (i.e. props, sets, characters, vehicles, etc) we need to put into the shots, briefing and reviewing shot creation, quality control (making sure that the shots are all being brought up to a consistently high standard) as well as managing client expectations at each stage of the process.

Sometimes my work days have involved some wacky stuff. I’ve directed Nicolas Cage in a reference photo shoot on set in LA for World Trade Center, conducted a “virtual” location scout across a digital model of Darwin with Baz Luhrmann while working on Australia, and traversed forests, lakes and beaches in Alaska and New Zealand to shoot background plates for Walking With Dinosaurs 3D.

As far as a regular day goes, the only constant is coffee.

2.  Can you describe a regular day on the job?

Because visual effects jobs are in a constant state of tension based on the amount of time and money you have combined with the level of quality you’re trying to produce, one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn is where to draw the line. Details are important, but a VFX Supervisor has to keep their eye on the big picture, making sure that the team doesn’t spend too much time on any particular thing at the expense of another. Learning where to put the most constructive effort at each stage of the process to get the best end result is tricky, and I feel that it’s something I’ll keep learning more about throughout my entire career.

3.  What’s the biggest thing you had to overcome to get where you

     are now?

I watched someone drive a 4x4 vehicle with tank treads on it straight through one of our most delicate hot sets in a beautiful pine forest on Walking With Dinosaurs 3D in Alaska – that was pretty ridiculous.

© REELArts 2016 www.reelarts.com.au

Will Reichelt joined Animal Logic’s TV Commercials team in 2002 as a 3D artist, leading a number of high profile projects as CG Lead or VFX Supervisor including Baz Luhrmann’s Chanel No. 5 – The Film starring Nicole Kidman, where he led a team of artists to build a mythical 3D ‘New York.’

Now in his role as Visual Effects Supervisor, Will has been involved with projects such as Alex Proyas' Knowing, Baz Luhrmann's Australia, where he spent 18 months leading a team of post-visualisation artists working directly with Production Designer Catherine Martin as well as the recently released Walking With Dinosaurs 3D. In 2014, Will supervised the visual effects on Vogue Australia and Animal Logic’s collaborative magazine issue, and recently served as Associate Visual Effects Supervisor on Chen Kaige’s kung-fu film Monk Comes Down the Mountain.

Will’s Bio

Will Reichelt

The job I feel the most emotionally attached to is Walking With Dinosaurs 3D. Partly because it was my first job as a film VFX Supervisor, and partly because it was the biggest and longest-running job I’ve ever worked on (800 shots, completed over a three year production period). I saw it go from a spark of an idea, to a script, all the way to a finished film in theatres. It was a massive learning experience – I spent months on the shoot in Alaska and New Zealand, worked with some amazing people, had some of the most fun experiences of my life, but also some of the most stressful.

The other job I’m most proud of is the last commercial I ever worked on at Animal Logic before moving into the Film department, which was the Tooheys Extra Dry “War of the Appliances”. It was a dream job – great idea from the agency, well-shot, and I think we executed the visual effects extremely well. It came out looking almost exactly as I’d hoped, which is rare.

5.  You’ve worked on some pretty big projects, which was your

     favourite and why?

I like all kinds of photography – I used to do a lot of live music and band photography, but these days I just shoot whatever and whenever I can. I’ve also recently started sinking a lot of time into video games, but mainly because I’m interested in the way that games convey narrative differently to movies. I also see a lot of movies! So generally I guess I don’t do much to take my mind off the job, as everything I do kinda feeds into the job in one way or another.

6.  What’s your favourite thing to do away from work to get your mind

     off the job?

Visual effects is a beautiful intertwining of art and science, so the consistently changing technological landscape is something everyone in the industry has to be constantly aware of and keep up with. The areas that affect my work most are image-capturing technology (still or video cameras that are constantly upgrading their capabilities such as sensor size, low-light capabilities), or vfx-specific software that are constantly updating with new features (for example improved ways of achieving a photo-realistic look, or new procedural ways of making difficult things like CG water or fire).  We’re constantly on the lookout for any new tech we can utilise to make our work faster, cheaper or better!

7.   How does changing technology affect your job?

Be passionate and persistent. Nothing good is easy!

8.  What’s the most important piece of advice you could give a

     filmmaker who’s starting out?

I don’t think film school is essential (speaking from a VFX standpoint) - if you’re passionate about filmmaking, art and technology then you can learn as you go. The tricky bit is making contacts, being around people who are doing what you want to do, and making the connections that can help you gain experience and start to work your way up, which is where I think film school can really help. Although I did learn a lot at AFTRS, the real help they gave me was to organise the work experience I did at Engine, which connected me with artists already working in the industry. Without that assistance, I would have been in the much tougher situation of having to learn the software myself at home, and produce a reel of work worthy of getting myself hired without anyone giving me any constructive feedback along the way.

9.  Is film school essential, or can you get there without it and why?

Blade Runner, because it’s a one of the best examples of pure excellence in pre-digital visual effects, conducted by one of the all-time masters, Douglas Trumbull. It’s a testament to the skill and artistry of Trumbull and the other VFX artists who worked on that film that the visuals still stand up so well today compared to modern films. 

10.  What one film in cinema history would you have loved

       to have worked on and why?

This week’s filmmaker...

Visual Effects Supervisor – Sucker Punch, Walking With Dinosaurs

Feature on a Filmmaker

Every week we talk to an industry pro and ask

them 10 questions about their work, how they got

started, plus advice they might have for aspiring filmmakers!

4.  They say whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. What’s the most

     ridiculous thing that’s gone awry while you were on a job?