Q&A with the Head of 3D - Rob Petrie
Monday, September 19, 2011
Rob Petrie is the Head of 3D at The Mill New
York. He began his career at The Mill London as a
runner, and after only five months the 3D department brought him
onboard full-time. In 2007 Rob made his move to The Mill NY where
he worked as Lead 3D Artist on an array of high-profile projects
including the OFFF 2010 Opening Titles, a 2011 Design
Gold Lion winner, AT&T's 'Birthday', an AICP honoree, and
Daft Punk's 'Derezzed', a promo for Disney's TRON: Legacy
We asked Rob a few questions about the future of VFX, and this
is what he had to say:
Q) Which CG visual effects do you feel had the most
impact in recent years?
A) The films that I feel have made the biggest
impact are the ones that use FX to drive the story and leave a
lasting imprint in your mind. It's not so much the wow factor, but
FX that take us within the film itself. Some films that spring to
mind are Gladiator , Road to Perdition
 and Cloverfield . They are not trying to
create bigger and more fantastical FX, but let the narrative drive
what the FX should create -- a balance.
Q) On which sequences would you have liked to work?
A) Two sequences spring to mind: Blade
Runner's Spinners in the rain , and the ship leaving
orbit in The Last Star Fighter . I would like to
have worked on more traditional forms of FX, and I would like to
have been in the industry when computer animation was this new
medium and it lived alongside traditional techniques. I still love
the way a Lambert shader looks on a great model. If the
design is great, then the rest will follow.
Q) What upcoming technologies do you believe will be
A) I think processing power will be the key
driving force. GPU-accelerating rendering is something I can see
being used more and more.
Q) What sort of VFX can we expect to see moving
A) I see the holy grail of photo real humans
still being the goal of many studios and filmmakers.
Avatar  was that next step, and I'm sure films such
as The Hobbit  will raise the bar even higher.
Q) What technologies/methods do you feel may
fall by the wayside?
A) It's hard to say. Over the last 10 years I have not
really seen anything fall away but just be improved and become more
user friendly to adapt to the artists' needs. It would have been
hard to believe 10 years ago that programs such as Marind Mudbox
would become such an integrated part of production, so I guess
Photoshop is definitely the decline within our studio when it comes
Q) What technologies/methods need the most
A) I have to say it comes back to computing power. With
commercial companies, we need to try and keep up along side with
such facilities as Weta and ILM. The sheer amount of processing
power is colossal and with that you can keep pushing the bar
Q) What is the greatest hindrance to improving
A) Speaking within the realm of Visual FX in a commercial
environment, it has to be time constraints. Time on production has
gone down over the last 10 years so it's always a challenge to
produce high end visual FX with such short deadlines. This is where
new tools and developments in software are crucial to keep up with
these challenges. Render power has become more important than ever
to keep pushing the envelope and creating visually stunning pieces
Q) And finally, what has been your favorite
Mill job to date?
A) I think it has to be the Daft Punk promo for
'Derezzed.' Firstly, just because it was a Daft Punk video and
secondly, it was fun to revert back 25 years and create visuals
with the feel and techniques of a promo from the early 80's.
After all, who doesn't like the 80's?!