Posted Mar 03

Maleficent 2 and the Dark Fey: the magic of 2D and compositing

by Giovanna Borges
Maleficent 2 and the Dark Fey: the magic of 2D and compositing by Giovanna Borges

Gaelle Bossis always wanted to be a camerawoman when she was a kid. When she was 12 years old, she won her first VHS camera, which allowed her to record and edit some scenes and learn important software. Bossis eventually studied Communications in Nice, even if her dream was doing a Visual Arts course – it was much more expensive. When she saw an announcement online inviting talent to work on the first HD movie in the world, Bossis called the number and scored a job in post-production, where she learned basic compositing skills. Now, she’s more than 20 years into a career in VFX.
The Focus spoke to Bossis to learn more about her routine as a 2D supervisor as well as her goals and challenges while working on Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.


The Focus: What does a day in the life of a 2D supervisor look like?
Bossis: Technically, I need to set up the show and be involved in the pipeline decisions. I need to make sure that everything I receive from clients is respected and the output the same resolution and quality. At the beginning of a show, I have meetings with the VFX supervisor and CG supervisors to take decisions about the approaches of each sequence. Then, I need to brief the roto and prep department to start the work in advance.  I check the number of shots and I plan and organize it.

We share a lot of our work with our team in Bangalore, so the first task for the 2D supervisor is to decide (along with the VFX supervisor) how the split is done. The creative minds in any team always wants to keep the most beautiful shots for themselves, but we have to make sure it’s a fair and balanced split. Everything that needs a back and forth with the client and with the supervisor, we will try to keep it in Montreal. Beauty isn’t just about the aesthetics of the shot, but also takes into consideration the creatively challenging ones. Also, when everything is in place, our leads need to be involved as soon as possible at the beginning of a show.

For me, I have daily calls with Bangalore, even when we are not in delivery. When we are in delivery, I start my day reviewing the Bangalore comp shots. Usually the VFX supervisor gives them feedback and I’m just there to assist. I need to hear what they are doing in Bangalore, since we are doing the same sequences in Montreal, so it’s good to attend these meetings. Basically, the more communicative you are, the more successful you are.
In the morning, I have production meetings and I check my target shots and times. Normally, my leads see the target and say if it is doable during the day. Also, I talk to the production to see if we can reorganize shot deliveries. Then, we have our dailies. First, I meet with my comp team to choose which shots I want to present to the VFX supervisor. Then, in the afternoon, we show these shots to the VFX supervisor.
The Focus: What goals did you set for yourself and the team while working on Maleficent 2?
Bossis: I need to be close to my artists. I always go sit next to their desks and have a one to one conversation. It is not always doable during the day, but I try to do it as much as I can.  So, my goal is that I become someone close to them. I always ask the team if they are comfortable with their delivery or if they think that they can (or cannot) do a shot. For example, we had five shots that were really complicated, and I didn't want to shuffle the shots between the artists because, for me, it's important for a person to work on the same shots until the end. I regularly had to modify my initial plan and I had to talk to artists. “I need to give your shots away. You are working on two of them, so which one do you prefer me to take?" - I always ask the person.

Gaelle Bossis


The Focus: Which shot, or sequence was the most complex and how did you accomplish it?
Bossis: We thought the most complex shot would be changing Angelina’s dress. A lot of shots in this sequence were not going to align properly. Rotoanim and comp succeeded to blend the two dresses together without too much trouble. We also spent a lot of time working on the interior of the nest (when Angelina is injured and wakes up). This nest supposed to be hanged on the wall of a huge cave, which we see from the outside in the ocean. We needed to fill light coming through the branches. We worked along with CG, so then they could provide us the passes to create this effect.
We enjoyed working on the exterior of the nest too. The shots had huge environment details as well as foggy in a middle of the ocean. This is something really fun to work with in compositing, but it was not easy. Our challenge was to be able to sell the immensity of this nest in the middle of the ocean. There was no factor of scale anywhere, which made our job even harder.
The Focus: Which references did you use to build the perfect 2D elements for The Dark Fey Nest?

Bossis: We first looked at a bird nest and how it is built. The main point of a nest is that we need to see through it. The nest inside the dark cavern needed to be hung and we needed to see some transparency on it. Not sure if audiences could see it, but we did it! We were drawing shapes behind the walls, so we could put a little translucency. That’s why in some parts we were able to see the light going through it and some parts we could not – that’s because some parts in the nest were thicker than the others.
It was not easy to find references that look like that because it doesn’t really exist. So, it was more about our imagination. 

The Focus: What has been the biggest challenge for you working in VFX?
Bossis: As a woman, I want to say we need to work harder, but I know that some people will not agree with that. Also, there are two different things: working in VFX as a woman and as a mother.
I feel that now, especially in Quebec, it’s not so hard to work in VFX as a woman because people know that we can do the job. However, back in France, it was different. I had to fight twice as hard to work on big shots, for example. Even people that I’ve trained myself became my supervisor. It was pretty frustrating. So, my advice for women is go there and say you can do it!

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