The well-known video game adaptation film "Detention" could be called the winner of last year Golden Horse Awards, and the stunning visual effects scenes in the movie were also recognized by the "Best Visual Effects" award, and the silent achiever [...]
High-performance computers were usually too large, mainly to accommodate the heat dissipation effect, but the Prestige P100 was small yet took into account the performance output.
The well-known video game adaptation film "Detention" could be called the winner of last year Golden Horse Awards, and the stunning visual effects scenes in the movie were also recognized by the "Best Visual Effects" award, and the silent achiever was the "Renovatio Pictures" special effects team from Taiwan! This article showed an interview with Guo Xiancong, the special visual effects supervisor and the glue who held the team together. In addition to revealing the secrets behind film production, this article further explored the post-production technology and hardware equipment required for special effects generation.
In the 56th Golden Horse Awards last year, the film “"etention", which swept up five awards, accurately reproduced the game's original atmosphere and extremely satisfying visual effects. It became a blockbuster and went viral among audiences at home and abroad. The driving force behind the visual effects in the movie, the team of Renovatio Pictures special effects, not only won the Golden Horse Award for “Best Visual Effects”, but also successfully set a milestone in the field of visual effects in the Taiwanese films.
Founded in 2017, Renovatio Pictures's special effects has been able to make its mark quickly in less than 3 years in Taiwan’s film industry because of the silent achiever, special effects supervisor and founder, Guo Xiancong. He has had many years of experience in film and television related industries such as Central Motion Pictures Corporation, Syntrend, OZ DESIGN, and has participated in the production of special effects in many Taiwanese films, including the well-known blockbuster, "KANO" and "LOVE", "Girlfriend Boy" "Friends", "A Trysting Place" and these precious experiences also laid a solid foundation for his later entrepreneurial road.
Guo Xiancong, Renovatio Pictures's speical effects supervisor and co-founder, is the glue that holds the company together.
In addition to movies such as "Detention" for the big screen, Renovatio Pictures has also participated in the production of many original drama series in recent years, such as PTS's"The Coordinators", FTV's"The Mirror", and the suspenseful drama "The Victims' Game" released on Netflix at the end of April. With superb visual effects processing skills, the global audience can see the profound strength of the Taiwan special effects team.
In order to show an in-depth understanding of how the unique industry of visual effects works, and the technical and hardware requirements behind it. If you are curious about the secrets and difficulties behind the production of movies and series, this article is not to be missed!
Special effects were an art of creating something out of nothing
Like many video creators, Guo Xiancong didn’t receive professional training for it. When applying for college, he chose the major of information management because his parents thought it was easier to find a job. He had loved to draw since his childhood, and so he also took Computer Graphics as an elective during college and put in efforts. Later, he decided to go to the Graduate Institute of Animation Design, where he met many friends who were passionate about making movies, and laid the groundwork for the special effects career in the future. Although Guo Xiancong had no professional training for it, he made his name with his passion for and special interest in special effects.
When asked why he chose image special effects as his ambition, Guo Xiancong smiled and said that he liked creating something out of nothing in the special effects production. Although it was not actually shot, it could greatly affect the audience feelings when they were viewing the work. In addition, visual special effects were widely applied. The well-known 3D animation was actually a part of special effects, but compared to simply animation creation, the biggest challenge of image special effects was to be perfectly integrated with the real environment, which was also a trial for every visual effects creator from time to time.
Guo Xiancong told the editor that, in fact, the visual effects specialists not only needed to sit in front of the computer to complete the special effects, but also needed to be onsite and monitor scenes during shooting. They even completed the preliminary preparations required for subsequent special effects during shooting to ensure that the footage was perfectly in line with the special effects originally planned. In addition, in the event of special weather conditions and geographical environmental factors, they were required to adjust the shooting suggestions immediately to maximize the performance of the special effects on the later stage. Guo Xiancong emphasized that although the image special effects were "post-production", they needed to play a bigger part in the early stage of shooting before they could achieve the desired results.
Back then when visual effects were not valued, we usually waited for the film to be completed before finding a special effects company for the production. Therefore, there might be chances that special effects were unable to be added to some footage at all. In the case of forced addition, it would usually have negative effect, leaving many viewers to have no expectations of the special effects of the Taiwanese films. In order to produce the best visual effects, Guo Xiancong believed that the previous planning was critical.
For "Parasite", the critically acclaimed movie with many major awards at the Academy Awards this year, "overall storyboard" was carefully applied to plan the entire shooting process. So not only could the movement of the setup be precisely controlled, but also the final product could be evaluated before shooting. The Renovatio Pictures also adopted the same standards. In addition to the storyboard plan, even the pre-shooting screen preview could also be synchronized through the software. For him, to be well prepared by investing in the early stage could better manage the cost of post-production besides the anticipated final results.
It was very likely that film adaptation of the video games would fail, yet "Detention" had become a new record for the Taiwanese films in terms of special effects against the odds..
Guo Xiancong recalled that when he was first invited to participate in the special effects production for "Detention", he thought it was quite a difficult task, because from the previous "adaptions from the original video games", chances were that he would fail. But after he read the script and tried to play the game himself, he was deeply moved by the story and found that the essence of the game was different from what he has imagined. In fact, it was not just a horror game, but a meticulous reproduction of the tragedy under the authoritarian system in Taiwan with thorough field research.
From the previous interviews, one point could be summed up was that the production of special effects was a process of creating something out of nothing so preparation and communication before shooting became extremely important. Guo Xiancong mentioned that the director would use the plot as the basis to communicate the content of the image in his head, while he would use the visual effects reproduction for evaluation, so there might be intense discussions. For example, when the classic character "Messenger" was eliminated in the movie, the supervising animator Chen Shangbai argued that the "Messenger" should be touching his face in pain and bursting, but the director was thinking that the character was without any personality and emotion. As a result, it became the version later on screen with better atmosphere. In the interview, Guo Xiancong explained to the editor how the "Messenger" that made the audience nervous in the "Detention" was born.
Guo Xiancong also revealed something about the "Messenger" who originally didn’t wear the military uniform as we saw today, but was modeled on the predecessor in the game. However, the director also hoped to create a monster “original from Taiwan”, and therefore, it was continuously revised few months before the release of the movie. Although for the team, it took more time and money, it was a relief that the “Messenger” that appeared on the screen in the end made great impact and received a huge response. Judging from the final results, the efforts were worthwhile. The character setting of "Messenger" in the "Detention" was the achievement of brainstorming between Guo Xiancong and the director.
It were tough times for the Taiwan film industry, but it still had unique advantages
When asked about the downturn in the film environment in Taiwan, Guo Xiancong believed that in terms of visual effects, because of the overall budget, there weren't relatively high investments, which sometimes turned most of the designs of special effects conservative, making it harder for viewers to expect stunning scenes with special effects in Taiwanese films and eventually lack of confidence in Taiwan’s special effects. With the popularity of movies such as “Detention”, Taiwan’s environment would be more perfected in the future. With the reputation and high revenues of the Taiwanese films, only then would the film companies be willing to continue to invest, giving local teams the opportunity to grow and thrive.
In terms of foreign markets, viewers from various countries usually tended to be more supportive of the films from their countries, but it was opposite in Taiwan. But for the Taiwan market, Guo Xiancong was not pessimistic at all. Because Taiwan’s political situation and folk customs were free and open, there were diverse themes for film production, which became the advantage of Taiwan compared to other countries. In addition, the density of Taiwan’s cinemas raised a group of audiences who were accustomed to going to movie theaters regularly, which would also become a great potential for the future development of the Taiwanese film market.
In terms of visual effects processing, effectiveness meaned efficiency!
Visual effect processing was actually a labor-intensive task. To further reduce the working hours, the "efficiency" of the work should be improved. And one of the important aspects of efficiency improvement was “effectiveness” of the equipment! Therefore, Renovatio Pictures set extremely strict requirements on the hardware for the computer equipment purchased by the company, including the standards of the processor, memory and graphics card. Guo Xiancong's new favorite at work: MSI Prestige P100 creator host and PS314WU creator display.
When the company was first founded, Guo Xiancong mostly built high-standard mainframes himself in order to save costs in the initial stage. However, the stability of the system would be a concern after it was used for a long time. Especially when the software was running, there would be all kinds of strange shutdowns, which became the main reason for delayed projects. So the company later used a branded set of computers for better stability.
From the perspective of the demand for special effects production, memory and graphics card were of the greatest impact. No matter the size of the memory, the application must be running at full capacity. As for the performance of the graphics card, it was related to MAYA. , BLENDER 3D and After Effect speed during the real-time preview. It was worth mentioning that, because the hardware performance of the computer host was higher than that of ordinary computers, the heat generation during operation was also shockingly high, so the cooling performance of the computer host was also related to the system stability during work.
Why was MSI Prestige P100 Creator Host + PS314WU Creator Display chosen?
Image production recently introduced the Prestige P100 creator console and Prestige PS314WU creator monitor specially designed for creators by MSI. Compared to the branded computer set purchased in the past, the Prestige P100 creator console impressed the team most. Guo Xiancong said that though it was compact, it was powerful due to the combination of Intel Core i9-9900KF 8-core 16-thread processor and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti VENTUS 11GB GDDR6 graphics card, With such a mini size, it was worthy of the name black technology! It needed a little space, so that people were willing to place the Prestige P100 on the table during work, making it easier to operate and connect to external devices. Good hardware and compact size was Prestige P100’s dominant highlight to Guo Xiancong.
Guo Xiancong told the editor that high-performance desktop computers were usually too large, mainly to accommodate the heat dissipation effect, but to his surprise, the Prestige P100 was small yet took into account the performance output and system stability. It was still very quiet when running at full speed.
The work style of special effect production placed great importance on the stability of the computers when working for a long time, because the production often took extremely long hours, and the post-production render output would be more time-consuming. The excellent heat dissipation capacity also signified that the system was stable and reliable, and ensured that there would be no accidents affecting the scheduled itinerary during the execution of the project. MSI Prestige P100 not only had excellent performance, but was also reassuring to the creators in terms of the cooling performance when it was running for a long time.
In addition to the creator host, the PS314WU creator display equipped was also enlightening to Guo Xiancong, especially the design with 5K ultra-high resolution, and 21:9 ultra-wide ratio 34-inch display. Basically, one display was capable of what two screens could show, not just withexcellent picture quality, but alsomore working area available, allowing creators to flexibly deploy multi-engineered applications according to different needs. In terms of Guo Xiancong's daily work, it was very easy and convenient to open image processing tools, special effect material libraries and scripts at the same time to complete the inspection of special effect takes in the same screen. When using Premiere and After Effect for dynamic audio and video processing, the PS314WU’s ultra-wide screen also maximized the display of the timeline, completely reducing the operations of frequently scaling the window. PS314WU&’s ultra-high resolution and ultra-wide screen design could meet the needs of Guo Xiancong to use application tools and reference materials at the same time, making switching screens repeatedly much more easier.
Guo Xiancong also mentioned that PS314WU had another feature he really liked, that is the “Creator OSD”, a software display setting tool. With this useful tool, you could directly switch the screen color mode, display source and auxiliary display... and other functions in the computer. In addition, with the help of the window split function, you could split and multiple applications in custom split ration on the screen, making manual operation easier and further improving work efficiency.
Perfect inside out! Cater to the real needs of creative workers
Guo Xiancong, who paid much attention to the appearance of the product, also talked about the design of Prestige P100 that it broke away from the common stereotype on the computer. The concise yet elegant style fit into the taste of professional creators. Besides the distinctive appearance, the inner performance rivalled a beast which was unexpected compared to its elegant appearance! In addition to its appearance, the Prestige P100 also offered high degree of convenience in planning, including a complete line of I/O expansion ports in terms of type and quantity, which could fully meet Guo Xiancong's diverse needs for connecting external devices while working, so that it would be no need for him to use an additional extended USB Hub or card reader, and he could just get things done with only one host. The base of PS314WU masterfully integrated the magnetic design, which allow one to quickly fix the note paper or sketches needed for work.
Professional special effects artists were actually very picky about the screen, especially regarding color rendering ability and color accuracy. Guo Xiancong, who had been using the PS314WU for a while, believed that this screen made it easier for him to view the details of the dark parts of the material due to the DCI-P3 98% wide color gamut specification and VESA DisplayHDR 600 professional certification, and the finished content could be directly used in a professional dimming room, which could properly prove that this screen had excellent color accuracy performance. For special effects creators, computer performance was undoubtedly the top priority at work, and the combination of Prestige P100 creator host and PS314WU creator display really brought comfort and fluency that Guo Xiancong had never experienced before.
Excellent design and operating experience was Guo Xiancong’s comment on the MSI Prestige creator series. In the field of visual effects where extreme high-efficiency was needed, the combination of Prestige P100 and PS314WU allowed him to more skillfully visualize his inspiration when creating, and also made audience expect the visual impact Guo Xiancong would create again by using his light and shadow magic.