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The VFX Factor: Bevis Jones on Neverending Possibilities in Post


OKAY Studio’s VFX supervisor and head of post on the joy of working from home, working with the same tools and marvelling at Marvel's VFX

The VFX Factor: Bevis Jones on Neverending Possibilities in Post

Award-winning flame artist and ad industry stalwart Bevis Jones is VFX supervisor and head of post at OKAY Studio. With his many years of experience at MPC, as well as The Mill and Smoke & Mirrors, Bevis has an impressive history of work, leading jobs for directors including Kim Gehrig, Matthijs van Heijningen, Dougal Wilson, Dom&Nic and Adam Berg, and working on top tier brands such as Apple, Samsung, Toyota, Coca-Cola, Ford and Marks & Spencer.

He has led the VFX on such acclaimed work as Marks & Spencer ‘Christmas Fairies’, Honda ‘Stepping’ and the award-winning O2 ‘Be More Dog’ campaign.

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? 

Bevis> Invisible post is now ubiquitous. The scale ranges from small to enormous: from a bit of skin clean up in an advert, to full environment replacement in every shot of a feature film. As the job gets bigger the challenge is working efficiently with other parts of the production from the outset. EG The art dept should build a great set up to the point at which VFX can ‘take over’. The better the set, the better it will sell the background replacement. Liaising with other departments like SFX and makeup is key, with good communication often saving production money. And it’s not always about reducing VFX workload. For example, shooting a plate of blood splatter and re-comping in might save 30 set clean-ups between takes, and the actor and director are good to just go again.

I’m not a big fan of VFX-heavy shots. They are only achievable now with large teams, which I think leaves some artists detached from the creative process. I marvel at the latest Marvel films’ VFX, but I don’t envy the work necessary to make them possible: hundreds of people working and reworking on shots, with little engagement in the bigger picture. I am happy that there seems to be a change in the industry for what was an under-paid job. But it still has some way to go.

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

Bevis> The earlier we are involved, the better the result. That’s it. VFX are always better when planned properly. Everything is possible in post, but time and money soon rack up when additional requests come in as the result of the post being forgotten until the last minute.

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

Bevis> There were no tutorials worth speaking of when I started to learn Flame. I borrowed the manual one Christmas and read it cover to cover and made notes. It taught me very little! I returned to my running job after Christmas and sat in the suite watching the ops for three hours every day, after which I’d get on the box when they left, or offer to do bits for them. I’m sorry guys if I annoyed you, but you taught me how to run the software and work with clients. My girlfriend left me during that time. She couldn’t understand why I was on minimum wage but working the longest hours in the company!

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?

Bevis> I love the start of a project. Looking at a Christmas script in April! Full of promise. I start by reading the script or storyboard a few times and talking it through with my producer to make sure I’ve understood everything before chatting to the director about the details and vision. Then I break down each scene into component parts, working out what can and can’t be done in-camera and advising the client accordingly.

The start of a project is a great time for VFX because suggestions and ideas are welcome at that stage. (Less so when you are standing by the camera on day two of the shoot!). Next, it’s about staying involved as the script evolves, being clear about what can and can’t be done. What’s been great at OKAY is that our setup (end-to-end post) has given me the chance to get involved early on. Having in-house offline means I can work closely with the editor to flag issues and offer solutions during the edit, something that’s not so easy when working with a separate offline-only facility.

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?

Bevis> I can’t remember the last time I decided a project was finished. 

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

Bevis> It’s a bit sad but it’s the same tool that I use every day - Flame. I might have told you something different five years ago, as it lost its way for a while. But in the last few years it’s really come on and made the most of its 30-year evolution. I trust it completely to achieve anything that my client comes up with on the fly, and it just gets better and better.

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

Bevis> I had been asking to work remotely for years pre-Covid, long before I joined OKAY. I was jealous that my wife could come home, hang out with the kids and then catch up with her work when they had gone to bed. I remember chatting to people just before lockdown who thought it could never be done. The shift turned out to be really simple, the tech was already there. I can remote in or I have a live clone of the office server, meaning I’m equally fast at home or in the office. 

Initially it was odd. Now I wouldn’t have it any other way. OKAY has been great with this flexibility for me. I come in for meetings and clients, but have the space to get my head down on the Flame at home when I need to. The downside is that communication with the client can require a bit more effort sometimes. Things can get lost or misunderstood when they are written and not spoken. We always encourage the clients to come in for a live briefing or a call as often as possible, so that we pick up on all the subtleties.

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?

Bevis> Working from home! 

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? 

Bevis> I came straight from a media/film degree to work as a runner at a post house, with the aim of becoming an editor. They had a Flame in the back room. My head was turned and I’ve never looked back. I remember asking a senior editor for some advice at the time and he told me to make sure that I sit up straight, don’t slouch and regularly focus my eyes on a different distance than the monitor. I laughed it off at the time but it was the best advice I ever got. 

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

Bevis> It was a while ago now, but the original Be More Dog for O2 was a great milestone. It was really well received and was something that I had taken complete control over, leading the second unit. It was a really simple idea at the heart of the story. Everything relied on the post work being perfect and I had to put my confidence on the line so that the production company trusted me. 

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

Bevis> Sainsburys Christmas - just for its sheer VFX playfulness. It’s an effect we have seen before in many guises, but it looks really fun. It’s the classic combo of in camera with VFX help. The best results always arrive this way, unless you have the budget of Disney or Amazon. I also LOVE Meow Wolf Convergence Station. I have been asked before to do 'low-fi' VFX, with the idea in mind that it will be easier/cheaper. It’s still hard to get a polished low-fi look. This knocks it out of the park.

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OkayStudio, Thu, 02 Dec 2021 09:33:50 GMT