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Marc Weigert The Magic Wand Behind The Blockbuster ‘2012’

Marc Weigert is one of the most talented and most wanted Visual Effects Project Supervisor of the film Industry today. After completing his studies in directing and producing at the Film akademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany, Marc worked on commercials and produced a few small TV features. His experience in working with Silicon Graphics computers, with Alias Wave front software used in Terminator 2 and his urge for working on 3D animation led him to create the outstanding visual effects for the movies like Independence Day, The Triangles and 2012.

How was your experience in working with the movie 2012? And the Association with Film Maker Roland Emmerich

Both Volker and I have a great relationship with Roland Emmerich, since we've known each other for a very long time. We know his style, and what he likes and doesn't like, so there's a nice "shorthand" way of communicating. Roland trusts us, so that's why we're co-producers (executive producers on "Anonymous") and visual effects supervisors at the same time. And on "2012", as on other movies, I took care of the entire pipeline for creating the film. I've worked closely with the folks at Sony Pictures, to put a fully digital pipeline into place, from shooting the film to the last frames of color correction at the end. It was a 400 Terabyte server that was built for that purpose, and let us access any frame of film that was shot by any unit anywhere within seconds. Through automation, it would convert the film frames we'd need and rename them correctly to fit our own tools, and move them to our computers. The system that we started has now grown to over 15 Petabyte, and can handle several of Sony's movies at the same time. We integrate as many departments as we can. Right now, we have the art department, costume and VFX in one place, on one network, for "Foundation". We will also add editing and digital intermediate (color correction) into that same pipeline. "2012" was extremely challenging, since we had our Uncharted Territory team of over 100 people, and then 14 other VFX companies that were working for us. And the movie had a fairly short time frame of 16 months from beginning to final delivery. Usually you have 18-24 months on a big Hollywood feature.

How do you choose a movie to work with?

There are usually two criteria for us: One is the story. What's the project about? It's a very personal decision, for instance, as we both don't like horror films very much, so we usually turn them down. It also needs to be challenging. Something new, that hasn't been done before, or at least the WE haven't done before (like the 10.5 earthquake scene in"2012", or building the entire city of London in the 16th century in "Anonymous").

Second criteria are the people involved. Who is the director? The other producers? Since we are usually the very first people to start on a movie (most of the time already during the script development phase), and the very last to finish (during or after color correction), it's a long time. At a minimum one year, but if "Foundation" gets the green light for a whole trilogy, it will be about 5 years! And we work long hours, and a lot of weekends, so it's very important that you like the people you work with. You must get along well with the other creatives, and have a constant dialogue, where nobody is afraid of constructive criticism, and you have fun working together. Because that's what makes the film better and better.

Independence day and 2012 can be called as two blockbuster hits in your film career. How different was the working experience? Can you rate the visual effects aspects of 1996 and 2009.

Visual Effects and the way we're making movies have changed tremendously in the past 10-15 years. On Independence Day, we used mainly miniatures, and very little computer animation. Most shots were already composited digitally, but we had a 10 month miniature shoot with 2-4 teams shooting simultaneously. As a comparison, on "2012" we shot only 3 days miniatures. Pretty much everything was computer generated. So you're a lot less outdoors (I actually miss that), and spend most of your time in dark rooms with lots of computer screens.

Your upcoming movie Anonymous…

"Anonymous", also directed by Roland Emmerich, is about the prevalent theory that Shakespeare was not the author of the works attributed to him. The film is about the power of the written word, in a world where freedom of speech was still just a vague idea.

We have created about 30 minutes of visual effects for the film. We built the entire city of London (around the year 1600) in the computer, and built several palaces and manors for close-up shots. It was really exciting to work on a "non-VFX"-movie, and use the VFX only in an invisible way, to tell the story and to create a time period that's long gone.

Uncharted Territory

Founded in 1999 by Volker Engel and Marc Weigert.

"Uncharted Territory is an unusual company, because we are a production company, but we also build up a visual effects studio for each film. For "2012", we had over 100 artists working on about a third of the movie, and creating two of the biggest sequences in the film. Normally, we create all the effects for a film in-house (which we did on "Anonymous" again), but for "2012" we knew from the beginning, that it would be too much to handle. So we separated the screenplay into several major sequences, and gave some of them away to other big VFX companies like Digital Domain, Sony Pictures imageworks, Double Negative, Scanline and Hydraulx" - Marc Weigert

 

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