world war z

  • How to Make a Better Zombie Movie


    world war z animators

    Our students and World War Z fans got a special treat this past Saturday at a New York Film Academy Animation School event where they were introduced to the “pre-viz” team that planned out the remarkable visuals for the blockbuster horror film. “Pre-viz” stands for pre-visualization and it is an invaluable technique for planning out complex sequences to not only visualize what a film will look like using CGI but keep costs down as well. Brian Pohl, a leading pre-viz artist and one of the founding members of the pre-viz society, was our host and moderator for the afternoon.

    We began with an enlightening discussion of the time honored art of storyboarding, presented by artist Robbie Consing. Working closely and quickly with a director to create storyboards is the start of the process. Robbie made mention that as an artist he not only has to work fast but also quickly discern what each individual director means when he or she describes a shot. A tilt up may be described as a “pan up” and the artist will need to understand and accommodate what the director means in order to move the process along. Robbie also shared some marvelous pre-production matte painting mock ups of set ideas that enhanced existing locations.

    animation wwzOur next speaker, Dan Gregoire is one of the founding partners of Halon the company that executed the pre-viz for the film. Dan mentioned that to sell a film today directors are making use of the technology to also make a “pitch-viz” to use as a marketing tool for showing the proof of concept to a studio. The students were shown the chilling pitch-viz for WW Z which was met with a round of applause at its conclusion. Mr. Gregoire continued by sharing his experience of going on location to scout the locations used from all over the world while taking extensive notes and recording video with a GoPro. Dan said that while the GoPro may have seemed overkill the production always came to him later wanting to know about some little detail they missed, but he hadn’t. The images shot on location are used to provide texture maps for the CGI settings in pre-viz. Dan went on to say that pre-viz was invaluable in planning out set construction and letting production know exactly how much green screen was needed for the shoot. Construction is a very expensive proposition and pre-viz undoubtedly saved many thousands of dollars by supplying excellent preplanning.

    Our next speaker was co owner of Halon Brad Alexander who shared many chilling videos of performance tests for zombie movement in which he and his team were often performers. This entailed people acting like zombies while walking or standing up to making running leaps at dummies and biting them viciously. These reference videos were used to provide guidance when animating the CGI characters. Brad mentioned that Halon could work around the clock taking advantage of time zones. Brad would share notes via the Internet from Dan who was just ending his workday in Madrid, and Brad would start his day after the call acting upon those instructions and be ready with dailies for Dan when he started the next day.

    The final speaker was Patrick Ready owner of Digilab who stressed the importance of data wrangling in this tech heavy production pipeline. What came as a surprise was that Patrick is responsible for saving and cataloging all the images from the camera and then after that process “erasing” the files from the cameras hard drive so that it could be used again for the next shoot. You can’t make a mistake there!

    At the end of the presentation, a robust Q & A followed from a long line of fascinated audience members. Our guests and the pre-viz society drove the point home that pre-viz is here to stay and a valuable part of the film making process.

    Special thanks to Juniko Moody co-chair of NYFA Animation along with Clayton Shanks and Brian Pohl of the pre-viz society for making this up to the minute look at current movie practices possible. We hope to see them again soon!


    July 9, 2014 • 3D Animation, Guest Speakers • Views: 6209

  • NYFA Welcomes World War Z Director Marc Forster

    marc forster

    Marc Forster with Tova Laiter

    Wednesday night, the New York Film Academy hosted a full house at Warner Bros for the screening of World War Z with Director Marc Forster brought to us by Producer Tova Laiter. His work includes smart character-driven films (Monster’s Ball, Stranger Than Fiction) as well as stylish studio blockbusters (Quantum of Solace, World War Z) and he has been nominated for an Oscar several times. His film Finding Neverland is beloved by many and received 7 Oscar nods. He also made The Kite Runner, Machine Gun Preacher and several other films. His actors also do well under his guidance. For example, his third film, Monster’s Ball, earned Halle Berry an Oscar.

    Marc grew up in Davos, a winter resort in Eastern Switzerland. He decided at the age of 14 or 15 that he wanted to become a filmmaker, though his doctor father and family thought he would “come to his senses” and go into academics eventually. Good thing for Marc, he never did come to his senses.

    forsternyfaNYFA student, Krishna, asked Marc what was the most important part of the filmmaking process. He said it all mattered, but that pre-production is very vital. He added that, “there are different challenges for different projects, it depends on who the key people are involved. I make films in a very Swiss manner, very prepared…and pre-production is the most important.”

    Marc never puts the meticulous work involved in directing a film to rest. He admits that he has a vision, which caters to every detail including color, wardrobe, haircuts and lighting. “You are only as good as your last film,” says Forster. Though, he added, “I’m not a guy who just goes out and shoots.”

    He also told the audience to try and have thick skin as, “not everyone is going to love your work, you just have to get used to it.”

    Another student, Pablo, asked Marc about the degree of collaboration he gets into with actors. Marc said, “I love actors and it’s all about collaboration. You have to start at the beginning and really discuss the character.” Actors work differently. He has been lucky and has great relationships with many successful actors. He added that sometimes you simply have to, “do takes until you are both happy.”

    Asked by a filmmaking student what’s the best way to get started in today´s filmmaking world, Marc suggested one of the following:

    • 1. Make a commercial reel
    • 2. Make documentaries
    • 3. Try to make a small feature and get it into Sundance or Cannes

    And for all of them: Know what is personal and important for you. Do something original and interesting.

    Marc noted the importance of maintaining his cool on set. “Once on set, there is nothing you can do except stay focused.” He told a story of getting a bad toothache while shooting on an aircraft carrier, only to be driven to a barn after wrap for a procedure, then to get up at 4 am and resume shooting. Stay focused.

    On staying true to yourself and your vision, Marc said, “I don’t like branding myself…I do what I am passionate about. I try to continually challenge myself and I like making films that are dealing with the human condition.”

    Truly, an inspiring filmmaker.


    November 8, 2013 • Film School, Filmmaking • Views: 7823

  • ‘Broken City’ Director of Photography Chats at NYFA Union Square



    Last week, the New York Film Academy in Union Square hosted an exclusive Guest Speaker event with Cinematographer, Ben Seresin. Ben has been a member of the British Society of Cinematographers (BSC) since 2010, and the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) since 2011. He has worked on the films Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, World War Z, Pain & Gain, and more. With over twenty years in the business, Ben has worked with many of Hollywood’s top directors. Recently, blockbuster director, Michael Bay, has chosen to work with Ben on Transformers and Pain & Gain.

    On Wednesday, NYFA screened Ben’s film, Broken City, an action thriller starring Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe. While the movie sounds like a big Hollywood film, Ben says he had to work on a bit of a low budget. He admitted having to film major scenes in the course of a day. His goal was to shoot the noir in a contemporary way and to make New York City feel more like a home, as opposed to the glorified movie set it is so often portrayed as. Ben also noted that Russell Crowe was the most technical actor he’s ever worked with. “He had a great sense of the camera.”


    One of the topics of the conversation between Ben and moderator John Loughlin was overshooting a scene, or allowing oneself to get wrapped up in the mechanics of filmmaking while on set. “Having a safe option can potentially be damaging,” said Seresin. “Compromises can be made if you over cover a scene. It can then be edited in many ways.” Ben added, “There’s a mechanical element that can distract you from film making. It’s dangerous if you get caught up in the mechanics. You lose sight of what’s really important.”

    His advice in avoiding this potentially damaging aspect of film making, “Try to stay detached. Be relaxed. Do not be stressed and trust your eyes.”

    Ben hopes to diversify his upcoming projects as he loves exploring all genres of cinema. We look forward to seeing more great work from Ben!


    August 5, 2013 • Cinematography, Guest Speakers • Views: 8187