[Movies] VFX Supervisor James Madigan Speaks on G.I. Joe: Retaliation Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 03.09.2013
Madigan gives his perspective on working through the release delay...
ComingSoon recently interviewed visual effects supervisor James Madigan, whose newest work will be on screen this month with G.I. Joe: Retaliation. The movie opens in theaters on March 28. Here are some highlights:
Regarding his involvement in post-production after the delay in the film's release date: "Yeah, I've been in and out. I've been on "RED 2" with the same producers. I've been involved throughout. It was just that, basically, 100% of the work was finished back in June to hit the original release date. The conversion just started happening during the winter. They were basically just going back into the shots that we had completed. They were in 3D so they could do proper left eye / right eye renders of them. For the most part, all the visual effects work we did last year."
What his earliest conversations like with director Jon Chu about the film: "That's why it was kind of great that me and Jon were probably the closest in age as far as department heads. It was great that I started early on. We became friends. It's funny because people say to me a lot, "You were the guy who really did the first visual effects movie with him. How was that?" The thing you have to understand about Jon is that he's so incredibly technically savvy. He's one of these guys who can know nothing about something and will pull an all-nighter on the internet and will be an expert about it the next day. Not just enough to bulls--t about it. He'll become an expert. When you're doing visual effects, you always have to assess how much you have to, for lack of a better word, dumb things down when you talk to people. You don't want them to gloss over but, if you get asked a question, you don't want to geek out too much. You need to assess the person you're talking to and figure out just how much you need to put things into layman's terms. With Jon, it was almost immediate that you could talk with him in very deep, technological terms about why certain things were happening a certain way. He just picked it up incredibly fast. The "Step Up" films were in 3D, so it was something that he had played around with and was very keen on. With "Joe," the post schedule didn't allow it, which was what they eventually changed it for. He was always looking at it, though, and going, "This would be great in 3D." His brain was just thinking that way. When it came to showing off all the visual things that we could do, he was just like a kid in a candy store. He loved it."
Madigan's perspective on how the movie has two main stories that eventually come together: "The military story of it was the part of it that we really wanted to give a heavy hardware, nuts and bolts kind of feel to. When we get into the story of the ninjas -- which is very much a part of the folklore from the "G.I. Joe" in the '80s -- a lot of the stuff that they do with the ninjas takes place in the Himalayas. When we had a battlefield situation, we went to a battlefield and shot it for real. On the very first day, the first thing I started working out with Jon was the ninjas. As I put it to him, if we wanted this movie to look different from the first one, the biggest risk of that is really the story of the ninjas. We really wanted to make sure we had a plan. The scene we were creating was incredible and what we were coming out with was just, "Wow! This is incredible!" Because we knew it was so incredible we realized that, if we didn't shoot for real, it could come off as being a bit too much like a videogame unless we really laid down a plan to make sure that it didn't. What we were very keen on from the beginning -- me and Jon and Lorenzo di Bonaventura -- was that we actually had to shoot in the Himalayas. One of the things that Lorenzo did for us -- because he's a rock climber. He's really into all this kind of stuff for real -- was bring us Paul Borne, one of his best friends, who does this kind of stuff for real. He's a stuntman. He worked in film and actually passed away this year. He could jump off cliffs on a rope and, immediately as I started pre-vising, it was me and Paul and Jon and the pre-vis team. We would sit there and ask him, "How would you do this? What would happen? What kind of physics are involved? What kinds of speeds are we talking?" We really tried to come up with actions that they do that that are really based in reality. Through the whole pre-vis phase, Paul was really inspirational in making that a reality. It was me and him and Jon with a bunch of little action figures and animators in a room. That was one of the things right off the bat that I pushed for, saying, "This should not be all CG." Lorenzo immediately supported the idea of going up to these huge, huge mountains up in British Columbia. I mapped out all the shots that we could do for real and Paul Borne did the zipline. He went from doing the pre-vis with me to setting up a real zipline where we could have Snake Eyes and Jinx on. We filmed them going through the mountains and got as much stuff as we could for real."