HUMAN CAPITAL. What made it so special, apart from its TOP CAST.

Written & Published by Andy Alesik

Directed by Marc Meyers. Starring Liev Schreiber, Marisa Tomei, and Peter Skarsgard.
VFX post-production and VFX supervision provided by Batelion. Produced 2019 by Maven Pictures and
Bert Marcus Film.

Maven Pictures

In Human Capital, we’ve worked with award-winning and acclaimed Academy film professionals, expanding our horizon and our reputation in the independent US film industry. Human Capital was the sixth project we did with Maven, since 2015, resulting in leads from New York to Los Angeles.

We are very grateful for the trust that Maven has shown us so far. All those tight deadlines and milestones only allow a few words – just like real passion and commitment. We are looking forward, very much forward to new & future projects with Maven Pictures.

Andy Alesik, Batelion, LLC, Oct-2019.

A Tight Deadline

HUMAN CAPITAL premiered at Toronto International Film Festival 2019. Due to tiff, we only had ten days left to complete 40 VFX shots. But a tight deadline comes also with some benefits. Yeah, I said it. (1) The shorter implementation phase practically saved us costs. All post-production departments committed themselves to submit to Toronto – the best possible version. It felt right to follow that lead. And due to tiff we also had (2) faster turnarounds. Besides, (3) we braced ourselves thoroughly before commencing work on the VFX. I knew we would easily fix all shots and get fast approvals. (explanation follows shortly: ‘VFX assumptions’)

Sending back those huge DPXs was my biggest concern. The upload would have taken us eight days and we had ten left. That was too risky – only one full submission would have been possible. We needed EXR’s, with settings identical to DPX, otherwise, CO3 would deny. So we built up a small test-lab with the same, unbending conditions and checked imports, exports again and again until we had all settings.

By sending back EXR’s instead of DPX’s, we reduced the total upload time of all VFX shots by a factor of 12.7 from 8.5 days down to 16 hours.

VFX Assumptions

I have contributed VFX to features since 2001. As a VFX supervisor, I’ve learned to listen carefully and try to collect as much information as possible. Usually, the director personally walks me through all VFX, noting down VFX assumptions that are as clear as possible.

For Human Capital, we had video conference calls and shared many emails, and spreadsheets – but I have not sat next to the director. And a voice in me started yelling. So I flew to New York while John Sylva, post-production-supervisor at Maven, arranged a meeting with Marc Meyers, Tariq Anwar, and me. (For all cases, John even reserved an additional AVID suite.)

When I arrived at Technicolor PostWorks NY, even the receptionist knew my name. (Well, without registration, I would not have even made it to the elevator.) Marc and Tariq warmly welcomed me. And Tariq himself presented me with all the shots while Marc explained everything.

BTW: Tariq Anwar is an OSCAR® nominated film editor who has been working professionally in the film industry since the mid-1960s. Best known for “American Beauty”, “The King’s Speech”, or “Law Abiding Citizen.”

Thirty minutes later, we were already twice through all shots. When the meeting was over, the voice was gone. Dead mute. A few weeks later, when all VFX were sent, over eighty percent of the shots were approved on our first submission. The other twenty percent on a second and third. All VFX made it to Canada.

The Director

Marc Meyers is an ambitious and visionary award-winning film director, who stood available and enthusiastic at any time. I haven’t seen such a response time on any director before. When we were talking he was always pleasant and precise. The more I dealt with his film, the more scope I got from him. We sometimes talked about his cast or the overall impression of his movie, not just VFX. Professionally speaking, Marc created a friendly, calm and professional working environment, where I felt safe with his expectations, our budget and production’s timing.

VFX Trivia

(1) We received a first draft in late-2016 and started working on visual effects in August 2019.

(2) Production showed Marisa Tomei a VFX close-up shot where we removed a few wrinkles of her face. Seeing no reason to look younger, Marisa Tomei refused.

That really came unexpectedly. Everyone was so worried. And though my vanity budget blew like soap bubbles, it made her all the more charming.

(3) Twenty hours before the deadline, we received twelve additional VFX shots – no, no, not her.

(4) We gave room for a little experiment called Cerebro. Cerebro is a full-blown production management software (PMS), designed for small to medium-sized, professional VFX, Design, or Film Production Studios. The software receives updates on a constant base.

Cerebro helped us to keep track of the project. We created proper schedules and did precise estimates. It costs only $6 a month, though I realized that the most significant benefit is: Cerebro is lightning fast.

Summary. What made it finally special?

Human Capital had only installed key people who were originally designed to be key-accountable and who ran combined smoothly like a 911 Porsche. No overlaps, no overheating. Apart from the tight deadline, we have delivered uncompromising quality with ease. And was it not hard and difficult to edit and send all these shots in such a short time? Of course! And sometimes VFX can get damn nasty. But when I realized what the director was really expecting. It just did not feel easy to commit, it felt right.

Look back and ask yourself how many times you’ve been in a situation where you’re suddenly the only one who has worked towards a deadline. And how many times have you tried to fulfill a deadline only to get a new and a new one? VFX only succeeds with a clear vision and a clear expectation of its director. What does he need to tell his story? Most of the time should be spent to get behind that. A waggy view – from both sides, very unpleasing. Stop ranking VFX in terms of difficulty or complexity, that’s psychotic too.

Define VFX by adding or removing all elements necessary, like tasks, messages, discussions, phone calls, video clips, references, etc. – that let you comply with your director’s vision.

Discover more insights, soon.

We are currently making a VFX breakdown of the shots in Human Capital. If you liked this article, leave us your email address (on top of the page), and receive the video-link immediately upon completion.

Written & Published by Andy Alesik

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