Andrew Roberts serves as the Visual Effects On-Set Supervisor for The Creator. With credits like Black Panther, Killers of the Flower Moon, AquaMan, Gorilla vs. King Kong, and more, EBONY needed to talk to this legend. During this interview, Andrew talks to us about the hidden secrets and insane tactics of VFX, how he keeps up with the trends and more.
EBONY: What is your favorite effect that was used in The Creator?
Andrew Roberts: Well, let's see. I would say my favorite effect is the work that ILM and the whole team at ILM really focused on the realism of the stimulants. This advanced version of robot that had taken on human properties. And I think about that scene in the farmhouse where the farmer is on his knees and he cradles Alfie's head in his hands, and he says, “Wow, they've made a child”. And that's just such a hero view with very, very close on Alfie's face, we get to see the wonder in his eye. It's very tactile, and you're very, very close up on this beautiful moment. There were so many shots that I really love about the film, but that one in particular really speaks to the framing that Gareth Edwards really focused in on the characters and this beautiful moment of wonder. The lighting was very naturalistic in that moment, and then all of the artistry, the team at ILM, led by our visual effects supervisor, Jay Cooper, the animation team, and just everyone that came together to really design this realistic, complex, intricate character. And for you to believe that this interaction is happening in this little village hut. So I think that stands out above the others as my favorite moment.
"BTS of The Creator". Image by Oren Soffer
So what type of working relationship did you and the director, Gareth, have on set or during production? pre-production? post-production?
It was great. So during pre-production, Gareth, at the time, was in Thailand, and I was still back here in Los Angeles, so we would have Zoom calls with the other heads of department to go through the key action sequences. We would talk through scene by scene, what was going to happen, and then Gareth would sidebar. “Okay, so for VFX this is what needs to happen, okay, for special effects or stunts.” I did definitely enjoy the close conversations with Gareth, every morning before we would start shooting. We would talk about what was important to the shot, and the key VFX shots, I was given a space and time to capture the information that I would need to hand off to the post team to ensure that we could execute.
Were there any challenges during the post-production?
One of the overall challenges was that Gareth didn't want to tell people on set, you're going to be a robot. And you're human. Pretty early on, he saw that, letting them know that upfront affected their performance. Now they're like, how do I move, it was just sort of affecting what they were doing. He's like, no, just be natural. So he pretty quickly said, “okay, just focus on that interaction between each other.” And he wouldn't tell anyone. And you know what, he delayed that process until later. So what I meant is that I didn't have witness cameras that were capturing that motion on set, people weren't dressed up in mocap pajamas with tracking markers. And so there was that challenge now of okay, Gareth, just looking at where the eye goes in frame in the edit and saying, “Okay, make her a robot, that lady carrying the baby, let's switch her. And so that meant, you know, it was a bit of a trust fall to not get all that information on set on the day. But then trust in the ingenuity and the work of the artists at ILM, to integrate that stuff afterwards, with just really just focusing on we have what's in frame in picture. And we're going to really make it look as though, you know, that robot is carrying that baby or is cradling that cat or passing a piece of candy to the little baby. That was all handled afterwards. We really wanted to have a small nimble set and allow Gareth to have those moments with the people and then add the visual effects afterwards.
How do you stay up to date with the new trends?
I try and stay locked in. There are some great podcasts that I listen to. There's a cinematography podcast, there are some great websites like Before and Afters that really look at the technology and interview various supervisors and technologists and different people in the industry. Instagram, YouTube, and Tiktok. You’ll see some really interesting things and people pushing the tools in new directions. Staying curious and realizing that I'm still a student of this industry and this craft. So that keeps me curious, I try and just, you know, keep my finger on the pulse.
Name the movie that got you to say, “Okay, I'm gonna I'm gonna do VFX.”
Jurassic Park. Yeah.