Month: August 2009

Digital Domain.. and the great VFX craftsmen..

Howdy All,

Came across a few old photographs of my time at Digital Domain, circa 1996.. In the visual effects world, that’s like dog years, every one of ours is like 160 odd years to us. So 1996 puts these pictures around 150BC in film VFX terms! Which makes these guys… well, its makes them advanced in years!

What they have in mileage does not diminish the spirit, creativity and sense of humor.. (despite Mark’s grave expression in the photo). They also have a credit list under their belts that most fan boys can only dream of!

They were practitioners of a ‘craft’, a way that has sadly been replaced by computer science and the idea that more rendering power will solve the problem. It’s a way of looking at visual problems in a simple practical way and cheating the effect, not simulating the effect. Huge difference here and one that can have huge cost implications. I’m not saying throw away the computers, but how about we start looking at these problems from the perspective of ‘craft’.

As the saying goes, give a man a hammer and every problem looks like a nail. No wonder vfx costs so much today.

The image that ends up on the screen is nothing more than a bunch of 2D shapes, some light, some dark and of varying colours, they are not the ACTUAL thing being depicted. So no matter how much software you throw at a film project, it all boils down to basic composition on a flat 2D surface and of course, story! For this reason I cant wait to see ‘Moon’.

These guys came out of the effects industry where limitation spawned creative visual solutions and in the process, iconic cinema visuals. In this CG age, I feel that the forest is in danger of being lost for the CG trees.. if it hasn’t already.


First old timer.. Ira Gilford. From Detroit if I remember correctly. One of, if not the first guy to design the original HOT WHEELS toy cars! He illustrated a ton of cars for the Fifth Element among other things. I cant quite remember what he was telling Ron here and I don’t really want to speculate either!! You’re a bad bad man Ira!! ­čśë


“Here.. I’ll draw you a picture of it..” Perhaps Ron’s expression says it all!! Ron Gress, matte painter, mural painter, fine artist in every sense of the word. Worked on Star Trek the Motion Picture and a million things since then. Great guy, great party host and collector of haute couture Hawaiian shirts! If you’re in the US and Reno in particular, go check out his mural at the Reno Hilton (I assume it’s still there.. otherwise see it on his blog)


Ron in his excitement phoning Mark.. “Hey Mark, guess what Ira just told me!”


“.. Stay put.. I’ll grab my duck whistle and be right there!”. Yes folks, Mark ‘senior model builder on Blade Runner’ Stetson! You could die a happy man with that credit alone.. That he made time for everyone, has probably forgotten more than most are still trying to learn, is a hell of a nice guy and complete gentleman, goes without saying and barely describes the man. That goes for all them.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, The Fifth Element remains the pinnacle and highlight of my professional film career… and it’s because of these guys. Thanks fellas!

Kelly McKernan Artist

Hi all..

After having been through a year of almost no work, no art sales and needing to sell off a bunch of my photographic equipment, I know what it feels like to struggle for money to pay the bills, rent etc. If it wasn’t for the generosity and kindness of my family and friends, things would have been a lot tougher. So when I saw this email from a fellow artist on the Behance Network, I thought I would help out a little and buy one of her prints.

“… I could really use your help! I was recently laid off from my dream job, and was denied unemployment benefits, so I’m trying to scrounge for rent and food until I can get myself another job (no luck so far).”

So check out Kelly’s work and visit her shop, I’m sure a few print sales would go a long way to helping her out.

If artists are to survive, perhaps it’s up to us to support each other. Lots of people comment on artist’s work on blogs/portfolio sites etc, espousing how wonderful their work is and yet never buy anything. I had over 500 people comment on one of my images on Redbubble, and only one person bought a poster (thank you who ever you are btw). A 1 in 500 ratio doesn’t sit right with me if they all claim that image is the most awesome thing they’ve ever seen. You telling me of those remaining 499 people, none of them could afford a post card or small print? It’s time to put our money where our mouth is and support other artists in a practical way… buy their art! So get out there and buy some art, it doesn’t have to be a big purchase, but every little bit helps!

Best of Luck Kelly, I hope your situation improves soon. I just bought this lovely print and when my fortunes improve, I’ll be looking to buy one of your originals!


Kelly’s blog.

Xfuns Magazine and Expose┬┤ 7

Howdy all!

Long time no blog.. I said I wouldn’t leave it so long after my last entry and I was right.. It was LONGER!

First off, I got an image into Ballistic Publishing’s Expose┬┤7, pg 116, environments section.. Some really cool work in this edition so go check it out!

One thing that I have noticed over recent years is the incorrect usage of the term ‘matte painting’ when it is applied to digital art. As soon as you paint a figure into a scene, it stops being a matte painting and becomes concept art.. or just plain art. Matte painting is a specific tool in the visual effects toolbox, not a term to be applied to any old digital painting.┬á The term is useless outside of visual effects.

End mini rant..

Today I picked up my copy of the latest Xfuns Magazine. Issue 43. Xfuns is a Creative & Design Magazine published in Taiwan. Many thanks to Audrey and Ching for making this happen, it looks great! You can find their website here.

What else has been happening… I’ve been busy working on several matte paintings for Director Vincent Ward’s latest TV commercial, ‘Blossom Hill’ for Luscious International here in Sydney. I’ll post some of this later. For those in the UK, you would have already seen this ad.. Right now I’m finishing up on a print job for a Saudi Arabian client. Those two jobs have kept me busy for the last 7 weeks. It never rains but it pours as they say!

I have the odd oil painting on the go as well, I’ll post more of that later.. really..

So that’s it for now. Back to it for me..