Having gone along to a swish London hotel to interview Paddington bear himself the Editor was in for a shock when told that the filmmakers had not found a talking bear to star in the film but was actually the work of the visual effects geniuses so prevalent in films these days. So whilst he went off to the bar to recover from the shock we spoke to Glen Pratt the Visual Effects Supervisor of Paddington 2. A softly spoken man who has worked on films as diverse as this year’s live action version of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ as well as ‘Total Recall’ (2012 version) we grabbed a few minutes to talk about his work on the film…….
AnyGoodFilms?: Can you explain what it involves being the Visual Effects Supervisor on Paddington 2?
Glen Pratt: Sure, I was involved from the beginning and Framestore (London special effects house) put me on the job and I was finishing one job and I got involved and met Paul King (director) and that was May last year and I started in pre-production until we started shooting which was October time and then my role continued into post production which finished two weeks ago. So I was involved in how we were going to shoot it with Paul all through the shoot and into post production with all the visual effects shots.
AGF: So you’re involved with far more than just bringing Paddington to life?
GP: Yeah all told we did upward of 1200 shots and around 700 of those were Paddington shots and there were a vast number of additional shots that didn’t involve the little bear at all but there’s quite substantial environment work. I mean the prison there was a lot of work involved there, there’s the pop up book itself, there was the train chase sequence which had around 200 shots. It was a complex film.
AGF: From a visual effects point of view what’s been the most difficult part of the film to do?
GP: To realise and finish there were multiple things which were a real challenge. The prison was a challenge, the sequence where Paddington is flung through the kitchen into the canteen was difficult. It was a realisation that was fairly complex. The train chase was complex which involved a shoot in January and involved additional photography from other sequences that we had shot and we did aerial shots in March up in the Lake District for the plane chase. They were all quite well prepped and involved a lot of planning and execution that we had to get right when filming them and then make sure that that translated through to the finished picture.
AGF: Was there anything in preproduction with storyboards where you had to make Paul the director aware that it might not be possible or perhaps just too expensive?
GP: yes I always try to… well I guess you do say at times that you cannot do that but I think part of the job as a visual effects supervisor is to collaborate with the director and make sure you can help realise that vision for the film. I think it’s always trying to keep that in mind and there’s a lot of pressure that there should be as little creative compromise as possible.
AGF: With 1200 effects shots can you say which are the simplest and most difficult and how long they took to complete?
GP: Some of the shots are relatively straight forward where you have, say, the outside of a building where you use a green screen but then where you’re getting into a Paddington shot where you’re trying to mimic an environment you’re then trying to simulate, say, a cloth effect which takes a couple of days and then you’re having lighting on it which takes another couple of days and then compositing on top of that which is another couple of days so you’re maybe talking a few weeks for your average Paddington shot. Then you’ve got things like the pop up book…it’s really down to the ambition of the work and its complexity. I guess it’s when you’re creating all the pixels that it’s a lot more time consuming.
AGF: So what’s the size of the team that works on each effect?
GP: Well you’d have one animator then you’d have an effects artist and you’d also have someone lighting and then a compositor. So you’ve got those four but you’ve also got backroom departments who’ll do things like make sure the camera tracking works and then you’ll have clean ups who’ll remove the eye-line markers the actors use for Paddington and then you also have production crew who are working on these shots and you also have the supervision team which is normally three of them at work as well.
AGF: So what you’re favourite visual effect in this film?
GP: I think in Paddington 2 my favourite visual effect shot is probably…..well…. I’ve got quite a few…..but it’s one near the beginning of the film when Aunt Lucy removes her hat and he eats a marmalade sandwich and I also like the one where he’s got his face up against a window of the antiques shop which is really sweet.
AGF: What about a favourite visual effects shot of any film even if you haven’t worked on it?
GP: Oh Gosh. Well I just saw the new Blade Runner and I think there’s some really lovely shots in that. The one where the car comes down into the streets and there are some impossible camera moves which are made believable and I quite like that.
AGF: So what’s you next project?
PG: My next project is a holiday! But after that there’s a few things but I’ve not committed to one yet.
CHECK THE ANYGOODFILMS YOUTUBE CHANNEL here: Hugh Bonneville introduces Paddington 2 TO SEE HUGH BONNEVILLE INTRODUCE SOME CLIPS FROM PADDINGTON 2
PADDINGTON 2 is out this Friday 10th NOVEMBER 2017