People in association withLBB Pro

The VFX Factor: Andy Copping on the Art of Being Prepared

Post Production
London, UK
Freefolk flame artist on painstaking jobs, a love of 2D visual effects and an addiction to home office purchases

Andy Copping is a flame artist at Freefolk, with 14 years experience at the same company. Working with clients such as Adidas World Cup, Bet365, Churchill, Toolstation and Anchor Butter.

LBB> There are two ends to the VFX spectrum - the invisible post and the big, glossy 'VFX heavy' shots. What are the challenges that come with each of those? 

Andy> Invisible post work is a skill that if done right no one notices, you can spend days on a task that makes the shot look better but can be a bit thankless sometimes. 

‘Clean up’ shots can take much longer and need more skill than bigger flashier obvious effects, because of this sometimes clients need to be walked through the process of a shot on why it’s difficult and time consuming. 

We recently did an advert for TFL where we changed lots of signs and posters and screens to reflect London opening up, with this advert I bet 99% of people who saw this advert thought it was all in camera effects. Where in truth we had to painstakingly match all the original shot references to the new ‘fake’ ones.

LBB> As a VFX person, what should directors be aware of to make sure you do the best possible job for them? 

Andy> Communication is the key when working with a director, before a job starts a quick video call or in person meeting to chat through scripts and storyboards, always is the best way to get your head around a job. There are certain things we look out for that others may not notice, where we can use our experience to see something that may be an issue later on down the line, or come up with a more effective shooting route. There is also nothing wrong with getting clean plates on shots, you never know when you will need them. 

LBB> VFX is a true craft in the classic sense of the word. Where did you learn your craft?

Andy> I always had an interest in creative video editing and animation in school, so when deciding on courses for Uni I went for a rounded creative media production degree. I did as I wasn’t sure which path I want to get into as a career. During the course I realised 2D visual effects was where I wanted to work. After Uni I managed to get a job as a runner at the company I am with now. During my time I would always sit with the more experienced artist and learn from them, then ask if I could help out in any way possible. Slowly I learnt the software (Flame) and became useful and skilled enough to earn promotions, to where I am today.

LBB> Think about the very, very start of a project. What is your process for that? Do you have a similar starting point for all projects?

Andy> For commercial work you always have to have the client/agency in mind, always best with your producer to have a clear idea of when clients need work in progress sessions/links. A lot of longer projects I led have three or four reviews during the process and they sometimes have set shots that need to be done first. If you are working with others on either the 2D or 3D side, sometimes the first day can be just conforming and organising the job and laying off shots and plates. Personally I always like to get a few simple shots done first just to get into the flow of a job and have a few ticks on the shortlist, as it makes you feel like you have got something done rather than starting a longer shot.


LBB> We imagine that one of the trickiest things with VFX is, time issues aside, deciding when a project is finished! How do you navigate that?

Andy> As an artist you know when something looks right, once you are happy with it you know when it’s done. Timing aside (which is the main factor), you always have the curve ball of changes and different perspectives of clients or directors.  

LBB> Is there a piece of technology or software that's particularly exciting you in VFX? Why?

Andy> I have seen some prototypes of cameras which have multiple lenses, which allows the scene to be perfectly analysed from a depth perspective. Allowing for any object in the scene to have a perfect matte created for it, pretty much instantly. Sadly the camera was about the size of a car so is not in practical form yet. 

LBB> Speaking of that, how have you navigated your role during Covid? Was there a big shift to remote? 

Andy> All credit for a smooth transition to working from home was down to our IT team, Paul and Marco did a fabulous job of having the foresight to see lockdown coming weeks.  As time went on we have improved it massively. I had a small addiction to buying things that made the home office more comfy and stylish, simple things like a decent microphone, arm rests, back lights all made working from home much easier.

LBB> Are there any lessons you've learned / experiences that you've had from working during Covid that you'll be looking to keep with you once things hopefully get back to some form of normality?

Andy> Having the equipment to work remotely is a god send for small little changes that need to be done in out of hours. Previously traveling into the office for something small or quick could be a pain, but having the ability to work from home hopefully has ended that. Working from home is also great for days when you have a long task and you can cancel out any distractions you may have in a busy office.

LBB> How did you first get into the industry? What was your very first job in the industry and what were the biggest lessons that you learned at that time? 

Andy> I have been at the same company my whole industry life, started in 2007 as a runner when the company was called ‘Finish’, seems a long 14 years ago now. Think the biggest lesson I have learnt is in trusting your abilities and having confidence in presenting your work.  Another lesson is always  see if you can work out how to do the shot yourself but  if you have trouble or difficulties other experienced artists are happy to help. It doesn’t just have to be experienced artists either we can all learn from each other. 

LBB> What was your first creative milestone in the industry – the project you worked on that you were super proud of? 

Andy> Think being given my first project to do all by myself, having been given the responsibility and trust to look after a job and taking ownership over it was a big step and deal. That project was a TV licensing advert about 13 years ago, not too much comping, a few split screen effects and titles. Luckily the agency producer knew me and was up for being my first client. All turned out well and it was a proud moment seeing it on TV for the first time.

LBB> From a VFX perspective, which ads have you seen recently that you've been particularly fond of and why? 

Andy> During the BBC’s Olympics coverage, I was really impressed with the green screen virtual 3D studio that was created , and how it was pretty seamless with camera movements, and how they had a day cycle going on with Tokyo. 

More News from Freefolk
Hires, Wins & Business
Freefolk Promotes Rob Sheridan and Paul Wright
Work from Freefolk
Cursed - Breakdown
FAST X - Breakdown
NBC Universal Pictures