Balázs Drenkovics is a Visual Effects Technical Director, who has worked on many large projects that have been successful globally. For his work on Iron Man 3, he was nominated for both a Visual Effects Oscar and a BAFTA Film Award. We had the honor of having an interview with him and talk about his life, work and views on design.
About Balázs Drenkovics
I started off doing 3D modeling at a small Hungarian company in Budapest. We made games for Nintendo consoles (Tomb Raider: Legend, Hot Wheels). I then got a job in the movie business and we made some low-budget animation films and series. After that I got into the commercial and game cinematic business where I learned a lot. It was at that time I got a job offer from Trixter, and then Digic Pictures (where I’m currently working). We made lot of cinematic game trailers including The Witcher 3 and Call of Duty. Not too long ago, I got call from MPC Vancouver and it seems I will continue my career there.
The biggest project I was involved with was Avengers: Age of Ultron at Trixter as the Visual Effects Technical Director. Trixter is a small company based in Munich and Berlin, but also they have office in LA. I spent two and half years there. During that time I worked on several famous Marvel movies such as: Iron Man and Captain America. I also worked on White House Down as well.
When I went to Trixter they already started to work on Iron Man 3. Before this time, I worked only in the games and commercial business so movies were totally new for me. We had only six weeks for the connecting sequence. That was the first time when Marvel showed the new armor. The design and model was created by the Trixter art department. My main role on this project was to work on Iron Man’s jet system and other particles effects. The project was a hard six weeks, but I received a contract extension afterwards and I stayed a little while longer.
Time Spent on Effects
There is no real set amount of time spent on effects. Sometimes if I made the same effects previously, I would only need hours to create the final effects. However, if the supervisor and the client don’t give clear information, we would need to run hundreds of cycles before the final approval. That’s what happened in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where Quicksilver appeared for the first time. I developed the speed trail for him and that was really painful to create [laughs].
When I work as Visual Effects Technical Director in a VFX movie, usually we get the film plates (footage shot) and the layout. The layout contains the scanned 3D environment (Light Detection and Ranging aka LIDAR) and motion captured 3D camera data. This data then needs to be imported into any 3D software such as Houdini, 3ds Max, and Maya. Of course, the softwares that I use are always dependent on the effects. If the effects simulation is done, I need to create a 3D light for the effects and after to render. The work is complete when I provide 3D rendered and pre-composited footage to the compositors.
In modern game engines there are lots of limitations because it must run in real-time. The biggest limitation, in my opinion, is the graphics card. The GPU memory never enough. For example, in the Iron Man project I had some shots where I used a PC with 128GB of RAM for smoke simulations. An average GPU has only 4GB-6GB. Besides that, ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) has a great system simulating on GPU called plume.