Interview Das Werk

PICTORION das werk
Visual Effects company

Contact: Germany
Hello and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Tell us a bit about yourself…
My name is Rolf Muetze, I am 37 years old, married and have two little boys. I studied visual communication at the University of Applied Sciences in Muenster/Germany and Computer Arts at the University of Arts in San Francisco.  After living and working in London for some time I now work for das werk since 2005, where I am head of the 3D department.
What programs/ plugins/ scripts do you use? 
We at das werk use Maya as our main 3d tool. Depending on the project’s need we bring in different tools, for example PFTrack, zBrush, Realflow, Softimage or Houdini. Compositing-wise we run nuke and flame, further down the pipeline we use the baselight system for color grading.
I myself use the combination of maya and photoshop/after effects for layout purpose quite a lot. Drawing over simple 3d renders helps to get an idea what direction a project should go.

What can you tell us about the decision to implement Nuke in your company as the new desktop compositing software?

We had a strong maya/shake pipeline build over the years. However switching to a maya/nuke workflow brings 3D and compositing artists much closer together. Being able to work in with the same cameras, tracking data and work in the same 3D environment gives us a lot of freedom for a faster workflow and quicker turnarounds when getting feedback from the client. Also, having more and more 3D stereo projects coming up, Nuke definitely is the weapon of choice for that task.

You work with a lot of advertising agencies. Do you find it difficult to work on “somebody else’s vision”?
Yes and No ;-) 
It is difficult if the vision is blurred by too many people, marketing studies and influences of all these “political” stuff. Then it is hard to decide how much of your own vision and ideas needed to be put in and where to let go. 
However, if you work with someone having a clear vision, I myself enjoy it a lot helping him or her to achieve the images he/she has in mind. We always try to bring the vision to the next level. Achieving that with a team where different strength are coming together is a very fulfilling thing. It is always amazing to see what can be done working with a great team. 

You managed to master your own Digital Intermediate (DI) workflow. Can you give us an insight on the process? What steps do you follow?
Because there are so many people in all the different departments working in different environments and with different tools, we think it is essential that the artists know what is happening in the pipeline before and after them. Having a basic knowledge what’s happening in scanning, what data can editorial deliver to comp, what layers can be rendered in 3D, what is grading doing to your comp?  Understanding the work of the others helps to bring the artists closer together and build up a good collaboration between all departments. 
Do you recognize differences between VFX artists, in terms of style? 
The great thing working in this field is that the artists have various backgrounds. Some are coming from Art school while others have Masters in technology. So both worlds are merging at vfx. People find different ways to solve a given task depending of their background, which is very inspiring. It is always a team afford and it a lot of fun seeing the different skills coming together.   

What is the typical starting point in a VFX project? How about a 3D project? How long does it usually take?

Starting point are normally simple sketches. From there we try to figure out what is needed for the shot. Do we have to do some Research and development or is there a big setup to be done, before we actually can start working on the shot. Then it depends if we have a full CG shot or does it involve life action plates. If it does, we will supervise on set to make sure we have all the elements and data we need to combine CG elements with the life action plates. 
It is hard to say how long it takes, but the children of Huang Shi took us 4 month to finish, but this varies a lot regarding the show. 

What are your company goals?
efficiency, high quality as a standard, state of the art in technologies and R&D and last but not least creativity of course
With the market becoming more and more competitive, what do you believe is a must that an artist has in his portfolio or skills?
I think, first of all an artist must have an eye for a good image, it is important that an artist is able to judge an image. Having a feeling why something looks good or bad, what is missing or what is to much, is essential besides good software skills. He or she must be able to work in a team; everything in this business is teamwork. Positive thinking and the desire to solve problems help as well!  
What is your favourite movie/ commercial?
Hard to say. The commercial I still really like a lot is the Sony Bravia spot with the little coloured balls jumping down the streets of San Francisco. It is so beautifully simple. 

I have a lot favourite movies and I tend to name most recent ones.
However, thinking of it, I would name Walt Disney’s The Rescuers, I was the first movie I saw as a child on the big screen and I saw it again recently. It is an old movie but the character design and the animation is just great, so much in it to learn from.
If you had the opportunity to spend a day with anyone from this industry, who would it be?
Tim Burton
What advice would you give to someone who wants to specialize in special effects and 3D?
Have fun creating great images! Learn the tools and the art but don’t forget to look around you. Life is the best reference you can get – look closely! :-)