VFX supervisor at The Mill LA on real-time technology, the importance of a close relationship with his team, and an award-winning project for Walmart
Yarin Manes is VFX supervisor at The Mill’s Los Angeles Studio. Highly skilled in all 3D generalist functions, Yarin has in-depth experience in virtually all phases of the production pipeline and particularly specializes in lighting, compositing, and look development. He is known amongst clients and peers for exceptional technical expertise, dedication, creativity, and inspiring team leadership.
In his time at The Mill Yarin has driven CG-heavy campaigns for a wide spectrum of brands including Audi, Nike, Pepsi and BMW. His talents are regularly utilised for Super Bowl commercials. His industry-recognised skill led to him being awarded at 2021’s VES Awards for his CG lead role on Walmart ‘Famous Visitors,’ which won ‘Outstanding VFX in a Commercial’.
LBB> As a VFX person, what should directors be aware of to make sure you do the best possible job for them?
Yarin> Communication. Explaining their vision of the world they are creating so that we can bring it to life in the production.
LBB> VFX is a true craft in the classic sense of the word. Where did you learn your craft?
Yarin> I learned classical animation as an undergrad, then attended Gnomon School of Visual Effects post-grad. That’s where I learned more about the visual effects world.
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?
Yarin> I spend time reading the scripts, boards, and references to become versed in the project. That said, I tend to approach each project individually and don’t have an exact process. Each project requires a different approach that makes the most sense.
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?
Yarin> As an artist I can say projects are never finished, we always try to push as much as we can to get the director’s vision and there’s always more and more that can be done and improved on at any point. I think it’s a matter of first making sure we are providing the best visual impact we can give with the approval of the clients and agencies. Before presenting to the director I find myself asking myself if both my team and I are happy and proud of the project.
LBB> Is there a piece of technology or software that's particularly exciting you in VFX? Why?
Yarin> I believe everyone has seen a shift into real-time in the last few years and I think it’s going to keep moving forward in that direction as computers and engines get faster and cheaper. This process gives artists the ability to create and execute our vision in a faster and more efficient way.
LBB> Speaking of that, how have you navigated your role during Covid? Was there a big shift to remote? Tell us about your experience.
Yarin> Covid definitely affected the way both myself and the industry operate. We had to create new collaboration environments and new platforms to enable our artists and partners to communicate effectively and efficiently, without getting in the way of our projects and deliveries. I have found some of these changes to be refreshing in some ways; you get a glimpse of someone’s life for a few minutes of the day.
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?
Yarin> I think one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from working from home and dealing with the Covid situation is getting to know your team in a deeper and more personable way. With more one on one interactions between the team and myself, I got to know my team individually which has created a unique situation of comradery and a sense of belonging to a team. I truly believe as a leader you are much more than just supervising a show or reviewing shots, you deal with human lives. I do hope post-Covid, we can maintain this same level of bonding and push it further to establish the perfect creative and free work environment.
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?
Yarin> I started around 2005 when I was still in Israel, as a 2D compositor. After a few years working on commercials, I moved to the US and graduated from Gnomon School of Visual Effects as a generalist where I had a chance to learn more of the 3D side of things on top of traditional animation and the process of high-end VFX.
My very first VFX job was with Warner Brothers, working on the remake of ‘Akira’ which was directed by the Hughes brothers. One of the most important lessons I learned during that period of time is teamwork and dedication. Besides the love and passion I had for the art, it was important to learn from, adjust, and listen to the directors who I worked closely with.
LBB> What was your first creative milestone in the industry – the project you worked on that you were super proud of?
Yarin> Every project holds a special place in my heart but I can’t think of anything more vibrant than Walmart ‘Famous Visitors’ which also won this year’s VES award for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial. I had a chance to work with a great team at The Mill Los Angeles and to bring back to multiple life nostalgic, iconic characters that we all know and love. The commercial is also a master-class in VFX techniques; from de-aging, to matte painting, to CG elements, to heavy fx elements.
LBB> From a VFX perspective, which ads have you seen recently that you've been particularly fond of and why?
Yarin> There are so many amazing ads that inspire me on a daily basis but if I need to select a favourite, it would be the Erste Group’s ‘Edgar’s Christmas’. I think it combines a very nice attention to detail in the style of animation that was directed by Kyra and Constantin and really takes us on a journey with the main character. I loved the lighting and the fact that it’s acknowledging the pandemic’s impact on our lives. Plus, who doesn’t like a good Christmas theme warm hearted ad?