“When I received VES Awards for Blade Runner 2049 and Dune, I felt so proud of what the entire team had been able to accomplish on these shows… It’s really a team effort.”
Francesco Dell’Anna is an award-winning Compositing Supervisor at DNEG Vancouver. Originally from Italy he joined DNEG in 2015 and has worked on the likes of Blade Runner 2049 and Dune for which he won two Visual Effects Society (VES) Awards, and First Man for which he received a VES nomination. Keep on reading to find out how he went from generalist to compositing, and what it was like to be called on stage in L.A to receive a VES award twice.
Hello Francesco! What brought you into the world of VFX?
It all started when I went to university in Milan to study Computer Science. One of the courses was about computer graphics and that’s when I started learning Maya. It was the beginning of a journey that eventually brought me into the discipline in VFX that I love the most: compositing.
How did your journey start?
I found a job as a generalist for a company that was involved in the production of CG animated content for one of the biggest Italian TV channels. Back then I was more focused on 3D and even started teaching 3D Studio Max on the side.
Eventually, through the projects I worked on, I slowly slipped towards 2D and compositing, and taught myself how to use Nuke. When I started using the software it almost felt natural to me. It’s very intuitive in my opinion. You go through growing pains like you would with any software you learn but once you get it, the possibilities are endless.
Having a 3D and 2D background helps me understand how other departments work and better deal with challenges that can arise during any given show. Sometimes I even use my 3D skills to quickly solve certain problems the compositing team might face. I can jump into a scene in Maya, try a few things and hopefully help my team.
In 2015 I joined DNEG in London – it was really a dream come true. My first credit with DNEG was for Terminator Genisys as a compositor. Shortly after I moved to DNEG Vancouver to work on Star Trek Beyond and since then I’ve worked on shows like Blade Runner 2049, Deadpool 2, First Man, Hobbs and Shaw, Dune and Uncharted.
What is your day-to-day like as a 2D Supervisor?
For the most part, my day-to-day consists in making sure our targets for the week are reached. I have meetings with many teams from production to other departments, where we discuss the plan for the day, issues, methodology and the most efficient ways to approach certain shots, and update one another on how the work is proceeding overall.
I also check in with my team before going to dailies with the VFX Supervisor and other department supervisors to review the latest shots delivered, and feedback notes to the compositing team.
When you’re a supervisor you don’t get to work on many shots yourself which I miss – on Dune I assigned myself a shot from the ornithopter chase sequence. It was epic! I very much enjoyed working in Nuke again and ultimately seeing that specific shot on the big screen with sound and everything in the cinema!
What do you like the most about your job?
I enjoy driving my team to reach a successful outcome. It’s important in my opinion to keep everyone in the crew excited about their work. If I can, I try to assign shots based on what the artists would like to work on. It’s not always possible but I try to do that! It’s exciting to see how we can take a few sketches or a storyboard, and turn it into something great and beautiful. Compositors are responsible for the final image that millions of people will watch in cinemas or at home. Just thinking about it makes me proud of what we do.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
I’ve got a few tips actually! Never stop learning – when I started, I remember watching a lot of tutorials. I still watch some these days! In compositing a problem can be solved in multiple ways so having as many arrows in your quiver as possible will help you find the best solution out there. Technical skills are important but don’t forget about soft skills: VFX is team driven so be a team player, and work on your soft skills like communication.
Also, don’t give up – sometimes when you apply for roles it can be hard. It’s a matter of being at the right place at the right time. Keep an eye on what studios are doing, what kind of roles they are recruiting for at the time. With your showreel, make sure you aim for quality, rather than quantity.
And last but not least, strive to be at the top – build your self confidence, take care of your reputation and keep pushing.
How did you feel when you won a VES award for Blade Runner 2049 (Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature) and Dune (Outstanding Compositing and Lighting in a Feature)?
Proud. So proud of what the entire team had been able to accomplish on these shows. You know, it’s really a team effort. A shot wouldn’t look as good if matchmove was all over the place, roto was inaccurate, FX didn’t look good. Compositing is the last piece of the puzzle, we can do a lot, but without all the other departments it wouldn’t be the same.
Time for some rapid fire questions – What’s one thing that is always on your desk when you work?
Like most people… coffee!
What’s your ‘special power’ at work?
I would describe myself as a friendly and demanding supervisor. DNEG is known to produce top quality work, and I work hard to maintain that reputation.
What are you most looking forward to every day?
When we go to dailies with my team to proudly present our work to the VFX Supervisor.
How did you feel on your first day at DNEG?
Oh I was so excited but also very nervous. I had trouble sleeping the night before! Like I said before, joining DNEG was really a dream for me. I had applied several times before getting my first role – I worked hard to gain enough experience and build a strong portfolio.
Finish this sentence: DNEG is…
The place to be if you’re looking to work for one of the best VFX companies in the world.
To find out about VFX at DNEG, click here. Curious to find out more about our award-winning work, check out our awards page. And if you are interested in joining DNEG’s Oscar-winning team, stay tuned for our next ‘FOCUS’ and click here to find out more about our open positions across our studios in North America, Europe and India.