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The VFX Factor: Making Beautiful Images with Jules Janaud

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The Framestore VFX supervisor on the crucial role of rapport in his craft, revolutionary software and working on an iconic James Bond title sequence

The VFX Factor: Making Beautiful Images with Jules Janaud

After gaining qualifications in Digital Animation and a master’s degree in Animation in France, Jules Janaud started his career with The Mill in 2005. Here, he worked as a CG generalist before quickly moving into creative direction and starting a creative design collective called bif in 2007.

Joining Framestore in 2018 as a VFX supervisor, Jules oversees and leads the team across animation, design and creative direction processes. Most recently Jules worked as a VFX Supervisor on the title sequence for the Bond film, No Time To Die and the McDonald’s festive advert 2021, Imaginary Iggy.

Jules has been a part of several award-winning teams collecting accolades across SIGGRAPH, the British Arrows, Brooklyn Film Festival, the Berlin Music Video Awards, LIA (London International Awards), and CICLOPE including gaining several VES nominations. His work has also been selected for more than 200 festivals around the world including SXSW, OFFF, Venice Mostra and Annecy Animation.


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? 


Jules> The invisible VFX challenge is the art of believable. We meticulously observe, study and then create. For example, we could spend days ensuring a window on a house in the background looks real. In those cases, we usually enhance what has already been shot on camera. Success means no one notices that there is VFX in the shot.

The VFX heavy shots range from entirely CGI shots where every pixel you can see has been created in CGI, to complex 3D creatures. Challenges are multiplied and involve bigger crews with different teams of specialists. The challenge remains the same for both: the viewer should be unaware that a computer was behind it.


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


Jules> Trust and communication with the director are key to a job going well. Having the time for plenty of preparation and building a rapport before shooting is crucial. You don’t want to be speaking to each other for the first time on set. A good relationship means we can advise and collaborate on any VFX challenges. Later in post-production it helps in understanding and sharing their vision to deliver the best result.


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


Jules> I studied 3D animation and graphic design at university, and it enabled me to find my first job in the industry. After that it was about training my eyes for the details and learning how to use the latest technology. Immersion and collaboration are key in our industry, we are surrounded by passionate people that love to teach and share knowledge. My “craft” also comes from a general artistic feeling -- I truly believe that no matter how complex the tools that we use are, we are in the business of making beautiful images. And that it is an art.


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?


Jules> it starts when an agency comes to us with an idea and a director with a vision, we then sit down and create a plan on how to bring that vision to life. Of course, we’re working with very complex projects which live and breathe. Shoots are unpredictable and organic and something that happens on set may mean you have to be willing to work quickly with the unexpected and change your plans immediately. Best laid plans and all that. Being able to deal with the unexpected quickly comes with experience and being adaptable needs to be in a VFX Supervisor’s toolbox. 


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?


Jules> We have all sorts of key targets and rounds of approval in order to progress a shot. We work in steps, for instance: modelling, texturing, lookdev, animation blocking, animation finessing, first pass lighting, compositing…These key moments have to be approved before we can move to the next phase. This structure is key in our workflow. It’s the only way to build a solid base and move forward in the most harmonious way. But how could I answer this without mentioning time. Eventually we will get to the last phase of polishing and as artists we could polish forever – it’s in our blood to be perfectionists but at some point you have to deliver. 


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


Jules> Houdini (Side FX) is becoming more and more a primary 3D software, for years it was used only for FX in companies. The modern layout and nodal workflow is a real revolution for our industry.


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


Jules> For sure it was a big shift, and it is crazy how quickly the shift happened. In a couple of weeks we were as productive at home, in some areas even more so than in the studio, no one expected that... This pivot to working from home can impact home life; it is important to define boundaries between work and personal life. We have learnt so much and we’re still learning. It will change I think, it is more complex now defining what will be the future but it is exciting!


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?


Jules> After graduating in France in 2005 I came to live in London with some mates. I got a job at The Mill as a 3D artist. My first job was a full cg animated commercial for Thorntons, it was such a fun job to start my career. A lot of long hours but a lot of great memories. What I have learnt: be humble. 


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


Jules> I have done a lot of different types of projects. It is hard to find my first milestone. Just before Covid I had the chance to be VFX creative supervisor on the No Time To Die title sequence. I’m quite proud of that one :), it is such an iconic project to be part of.


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


Jules> Probably not super original but the latest Burberry ad from Megaforce is outstanding. 


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Framestore, Thu, 25 Nov 2021 16:31:19 GMT