Exclusive: Scott Farrar Talks About the Visual Effects for 'Transformers: Age of Extinction'
Visual Effects supervisor Scott Farrar has been in the film industry for a long time and his body of work includes all four "Transformers" movies, "Jurassic Park," "Minority Report," "World War Z" and the "Star Wars" franchise. He has been nominated for six Academy Awards and won back in 1985 for his work o Ron Howard's "Cocoon." Farrar had a moment to speak to Latin Post and talk about his work on "Transformers: Age of Extinction" and how this new installment was different from the past three films. Here is what he had to say.
Latin Post: Having already worked on the entire "Transformers" Franchise, what made "Age of Extinction" refreshing and different?
Scott Farrar: I think everything in this film is new: The cast is new with the human actors, we have many new robots in addition to favorites like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. These robots always get redesigned and modernized. And it's just a very dense film and a great story with a lot of new characters.
LP: What were the greatest challenges in creating some of these characters?
SF: It's always a challenge when you're doing 3D because you have to think about the shot design, and I spend a lot of time regarding shot design, making cool camera moves with lots of foreground action so it will look good on 3D. But I think people may not realize how much time and effort is spent with just the design, the color, the mood and the tone of the film. We created a lot of [computer generated] interiors, which are a 100 percent synthetic. But working with Michael Bay we spent most of our time trying to make it look as real as possible. We actually photographed real things like real walls, real metal and real textures to put in our synthetic environments to make it as real as possible.
LP: What was the most enjoyable part of making this film?
SF: It was a great crew on set and Michael gives me a lot of freedom to do second unit work. I did the helicopter work in Iceland, and I do that on location wherever we are whether we're in Chicago or Detroit. Michael will also start the morning, and I will do shots for him at different times of the day so I get a lot of freedom to try things and create things. But a great part of the satisfaction comes from the post-production side working with my crew back here with ILM in San Francisco. Seeing the shots come to life is just an amazing process. Even when you spend a year and a half developing the work, it's an absolute thrill to see the work come together and to see what the artists bring to the shot.
LP: What makes it fascinating to work with Michael Bay all over again?
SF: Well it's his approach. Let's say you're shooting a city, and this film has many cities where we shot. Well you can create cities, and there are cities created through computers that you may blow up or destroy or tear up. And that is valid, and that has a look. But with Michael, we try and shoot as much as possible in real cities. We start in downtown Chicago, downtown Hong Kong, Beijing, Detroit, and we shoot the real places. Then if we need to destroy something, we might partially fabricate something only for the damage. But it's a totally different look and feel. The tone, color and texture are real and people respond to that. That's part of why our robots look so real because they are placed not in synthetic environments but in real environments.
LP: One of the things that audiences having been talking about is the Transformers riding Transformers. What was the process of creating those robots? And what was the inspiration behind that?
SF: Optimus riding Grimlock was derived from the original animated Transformers. There were Dinobots in that. When we created the shots, I told Michael I wanted to have shots that would make it look like a John Ford western that was made in the future. So we have John Wayne riding at full gallop in a chase whether he is chasing or being chased. So the idea was to make it like close-ups of John Wayne and the head of the horse galloping in like a three-quarter front view of a low angle of this heroic iconic image that we've seen in westerns. But we wanted that with Optimus Prime riding a dinosaur in the streets of Hong Kong. So that all goes back to the thoughts and ideas of design. So it's really pulling out those iconic images and putting a new spin on it.
LP: So when you created these images, did you look at other John Ford movies?
SF: Sure, you look at those, but we don't copy exactly. It gives you a sense of what filmmakers did on that type of shot. It's amazing trying to do something as exciting. What's better than seeing your heroic characters galloping down the street?
LP: What brought you into visual effects work? And what has inspired you throughout your career?
SF: Well I started doing films when I was a kid before high school. I was always intrigued with photography, still and movie cameras. And I experimented a lot on my own, and I grew up in an area that did not have moviemaking. So I started making my own films. I think you start to learn and read things and find whatever you can at the library. There is a lot more material now than when I was growing up, but I think inherent to photography you start to think about tricks. How to do tricks like slow motion, high speed, upside down, backward and a reserve print. All these different concepts that you start fiddling around with. Then I studied film in college at UCLA, and then I went into live action. I started in live action but got jobs doing visual effects and was just absolutely intrigued and fell in love with it. I found it stimulating and fascinating conceptually. It was very thought-provoking. This is not an easy business because it makes you think, and I really enjoy that. In visual effects, you can you use every trick you can think of and then invent some.
LP: What do you hope audiences take away from this movie?
SF: This movie has such scale and production. You pay the same money to see all the films that are out there, but this has so many rewarding images and incredible production value. So I think fans of "Transformers" will really enjoy it. But it has a heartfelt story. It's about a father and his daughter intermingled with all the stories of the Transformers and all the good guys and the bad guys. It's a classic story all interwoven with our new characters led by Mark Wahlberg. It's just really fun movie.
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