To INFINITE and Beyond – Supervisor Q&A

On-set memories, COVID-19, past lives and more.

Since premiering on Paramount+ last week, Antoine Fuqua’s action-packed INFINITE  has us all amazed by the death-defying action, intense showdown sequences and breathtaking environments.

Now that we’ve got a taste of what it’s all about on-screen, it’s time to turn to a few of our all-star Supervisors off-screen. We sat down with Lee Sullivan (DNEG VFX Supervisor, Montreal), Pete Bebb (Overall VFX Supervisor), Stuart Lashley (DNEG VFX Supervisor, London) and one of our talented DNEG DFX Supervisors, Daniel Elophe (Montreal) to learn more about their experiences working on this film, their proudest moments, and what they might have been in a past life.

 

1. What was your everyday like while working on this show? What was specific to the process that stood out to you?

This film was already going to be a challenging project due to the broad range of work required.  There were over 1,200 shots on the original 6-month schedule and 6 units across 3 sites to manage everything. Then right when we were ramping up, COVID and quarantine hit, so suddenly we had the additional challenge of figuring out this whole new world of Working From Home.  But we were lucky to have Pete Bebb as our client-side supervisor; he is really enthusiastic and takes you along on a journey with him on his projects, and he helped guide us through the madness.
 
Having the privilege of being the client-side supervisor, I was far more involved than previous projects whereby I was DNEG’s internal VFX supervisor. Working closely with the director and other heads of department is both challenging and very rewarding.
 
This was a slightly different experience for me as I joined the show well into production, so there was a lot of initial catch-up. A lot of the design and methodology was in place so my job was really to see that vision through to the end. At almost the exact time I was due to take over supervision we went into lockdown and operations moved to home working. That made for an interesting mix of challenges but the team was soon up and running and I was soon into a daily routine of reviewing and feeding back on the work. The one thing that stands out to me is how well the team handled the extreme circumstances and were able to keep productivity going at such an impressive level.
 
Overall, my experience on ‘Infinite’ showed that we can take VFX and move it into the cloud, while still delivering high quality imagery. It also showed the dynamic nature of the artists and supervisors to adapt quickly and reorganize to work and deliver a show under a new structure. ‘Infinite’ was also my first show at DNEG, so it was wonderful to start working and interacting with the global teams to solve problems and create cool work.
 

2. The idea behind INFINITE — that one person lives multiple lives forever — summons concepts like unlimited possibility and variety. How did these concepts materialize throughout your work or process?

Well the name of the show does lend itself to some ironic humour amongst the team (Infinite Dailies! Infinite Client Notes!), but thankfully most of the conceptual material was grounded in a cinematic reality so we didn’t get into Infinite Feedback Loops with the director.  We spent more time fleshing out the ideas around how Evan (Mark Wahlberg’s character) is realigning his perception of the world and his place in it.  There are some really fun, unique (and challenging!) sequences that expanded out of the ideas of how so many lives of experience expand your abilities. 
 
Antoine Fuqua had a huge plethora of concepts and research references he wanted to explore with in regards to the various looks and imagery for the film. From this we worked together to create the imagery you see on screen. As always I like to start shows with as divergent a creative frame of mind as I can, only then to converge through using a small elite team to try and narrow down the concept/look the director is after.  
 
Whilst I wasn’t on the show for the initial conceptual conversations (which I can imagine must have been extremely philosophical in nature) there were new ideas constantly being explored all the way to the end. It was fascinating to see how some of those initial broad scope ideas had solidified into shots and sequences that were in play when I joined the show. 
 

I picked up the creative discussion on one particular sequence that was still in a bit of flux and that was the depiction of Evan’s Memory Hall, a cerebral environment that he needs to navigate whilst attempting to get his memories back. The reference came from all sources but particularly conceptual art and underwater photography. For the most part though, the concept of reincarnation is explored in this film in a way very much grounded in physical reality with our work being more about enhancing characters’ learned abilities and the tech they have been able to develop with unlimited knowledge.

   
The challenge of the show was to illustrate the characters and their connections to their various past lives. The show did a great job in trying to display those past lives in very engaging visual ways, through hallucinations, high tech image displays, holograms and general visions.
 

Most times these things were referenced through a complex interactive review, something a character can walk through or see. We had articulate briefs on how these past lives would be demonstrated, which was great. It saved time in trying to think of the present flashback, but more to tackle how we were doing to develop the representation of the past lives. 

3. Was there a specific memory during production that you can share, perhaps a memorable challenge or on-set experience?

I was sent on location in January 2020 to supervise a unit shooting helicopter and drone plates at a national park in Thailand; somehow the local production company managed to gain access to the King’s personal helicopter landing pad on the edge of the park, and we spent two days flying over this gorgeous mountainous lake.  The first day, the pilot was very restrained, but we needed to get some dynamic wingsuit footage and I was worried we weren’t getting what we needed.  I don’t know what the pilot had at breakfast but the second day he was diving around the mountain peaks like a madman!  It was totally absorbing location work and I had sort of checked out of international news.  But then flying home I realized this COVID wave was following me; I had this feeling of getting home in the nick of time.  
 
One of the major challenges was designing and building the FX rig we constructed for the 360 shot. It utilised a super slow motion camera that could shoot at 1000fps and could spin around the actor at up to 10 rpm. It was quite a sight. Then of course there was the major challenge of the pandemic which affected everyone. 
 
I think the story here is one many of us share given what the last year has been like. The entire experience will never be forgotten.
   
It’s hard to pinpoint one rewarding outcome, but the challenge of the show overall was quite rewarding. This is the show where it felt like we had to do everything, no two sequences were alike, and it was rewarding to see it all come together. On top of that, it was a pleasure working with the team in Montreal, as well as closely with the London and Mumbai teams to bring the whole show together while dealing with a pandemic. Incredibly, nothing really tripped us up too much along the way.    

4. What are you most proud of looking back on this film?

I am so proud of the team for putting a huge amount of effort and enthusiasm into this project in spite of all the difficulties last year!  I especially want to thank Sara Khangaroot and Preeya Kalidas for holding the production together.
Most proud of being able to deliver the film without destroying careers or crew! Of course having a happy and content director and studio is also a blessing. 😉 
 
I think the end result and the resilience and professionalism of the team.
 
I’m most proud of starting at a new company during a pandemic, learning a new company and pipeline, while at the same time navigating working from home. The team was incredible and made each day fun, which is all you can really ask for. It’s all good to make cool images but what sticks with me were the new relationships formed with great coworkers. Our overall VFX supervisor, Pete Bebb always kept the process engaging and fun with his British colloquialisms.

5. Now for the most important question of all — who do you think you were in a past life?

Alexander Hamilton.
   
In a past life I am quite sure I was either a sergeant in the Army or a farmer.
 
Some sort of mole probably or an owl or another animal happy to spend endless hours in the dark looking at shots. 
 
I can only choose one?? I would say in a past life I could have been Joseph Fry, the creator of modern day chocolate.  I mean, who doesn’t love chocolate. 
 
 

Watch the trailer and get more information about the show here!

 

London

Vancouver

Mumbai

Los Angeles

Chennai

Montréal

Chandigarh

Bangalore

Toronto