Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Interview with Visual Effects Creator Jason M. George

"Being naturally gifted with the ability to understand and use computers is only a fraction of his genius," says Office Wars director Noka Aldoroty, "Jason is also incredibly creative and very driven to be the best at everything he does." This description of visual effects creator Jason M. George is evident when one sees his work in Office Wars: Escape from North Brand, a film that has entertained thousands of online viewers since it debut on iFilm.

With effects work that is so professional and polished and certainly on par with some of the work done on George Lucas's original Star Wars trilogy, viewers often wonder how such extraordinary results could be produced by a first time visual effect artist on virtually no budget. We caught up with the man himself, Jason M. George, to get some answers.

Q: Where did you learn how to create the visual effects used is Escape from North Brand and how long did it take you to create them?

A: Most of the effects that are seen in the movie were learned from doing research on the Internet. It is amazing what people are willing to document and teach. Specifically I learned how to do the Light Saber effects from taking a tutorial posted by Ryan Weiber. He has his own website which showcases some of his work and his tutorials at:


I am also very proud to say that I came up with a couple of the techniques on my own. The Title Crawl is the best example of this; sometimes if you mess around with something long enough, it starts to look decent.

Q: What sort of preparations or considerations were made while filming that allowed you to add the effects?

A: The only real preparations that I made involved the props. We needed to make sure that they would be easily referenced in post. We also had to dissect the shots (cut away) where a Light Saber was being activated or de-activated so that we could replace the empty Light Saber hilt with a hilt containing the reference dowel rod or vice-versa. There was definitely an “I hope I can take care of that in Post” attitude on the production.

Q: Did the effects work that was to be completed in Post-Production influence the creative choices you made as an actor in the film?

A: Not really. During shooting I was very conscience about taking direction from the Director, who did a fabulous job by the way. During a stoppage or during the setup of a scene is when we would put our heads together as Director & Visual Effects guy. I kind of made it a point to wear the two hats separately.

Q: Which process did you enjoy more: Visual Effects or Acting?

A: That is tough to answer. I would have to say acting was more fun while it was happening. The six months or so that I spent doing the post work started to take its toll a little bit, however the payoff of seeing the final product was extremely rewarding.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of the production for you personally?

A: Okay, don’t laugh, but the most challenging aspect was really the physical demands that Noka and I placed on ourselves as actors. In the movie my character gave off this persona of being this tough, evil, nothing-going-to-stop-him type co-worker, but as a human being with extremely bad knees, I was getting hurt a lot. On most of the fight scenes, after the director yelled, “Cut!” I would immediately be found rolling around the ground in pain.

Q: Tell us a bit about the process you had with director/editor Noka Aldoroty in integrating the effects into the final edit of the film.

A: That was really an undertaking to solve. To start we were working with different platforms, I on a PC (I know, I know) and Noka was working on a MAC G5. So we had to figure a way to transfer the massively large files back and forth between each other. We ended up using an External Firewire Hard Drive as a briefcase, as it was compatible with both machines. First Noka would cut the scene together, and then output the scene as individual TARGA frame images. He would give the files to me, via the Hard Drive, which I would then use as reference for the effects. I would then output only the effects pieces against a black background, write them to our portable hard drive and deliver them to him. He could then lay the effects plate over the scene in his project to complete the shot.

Q: Visual effects aside for a moment, how did you prepare for your role as the evil co-worker?

A: As a method actor I felt it was very important to understand why my character chose the course of action that he did. Let’s face it, he is just plain mean. Fortunately for the role (not for me) I have worked with some pretty mean people and had some good material to draw from. One person in particular gave much insight into the sarcastic tendencies of my character. On my way to the shoot I would reflect on how those real life moments made me feel so that during shooting I could find myself in a place to project that onto Noka’s character.

Q: What do you think most viewers would be most surprised to learn about the production of this film?

A: That would be the budget. Besides our own personal equipment and software that the director and I already had, the budget for the production came in under $100. Some lunches, some toy props with dowel rods, and a crew of friends willing to donate their time.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to create these types of effects for their own films?

A: Go for it. You never know what you can do until you try. This was my first real experience as and actor and my first as a visual effects guy, and yet every time I watch it, I am taken back by the final product. It is amazing what one can do.

Q: Will there be a sequel?

A: Absolutely, without a doubt.


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