Sam Khorshid, VFX Supervisor, PhenomFilms talks to Cebas, Edwin Braun, on his work and the VFX market in China


Sam Khorshid, VFX Supervisor, Phenom-Films, China 
with Edwin Braun, CEO, cebas Visual Technology

Main points:

Sam Khorshid introduces himself from Hollywood to China. And how he fell in love with thinkingParticles and the changing point in his career - the procedural approach - and gave him success in his career. 

- thinkingParticles and finalRender in Lung men fei jia (Flying Swords of Dragon Gate starring Jet Li by Tsui Hark) 2011

- Mojin - the lost legend 2015 consider the best effects coming out from China- $6 million budget : the Indiana Jones of China's ancient tombs underground caves, water, creature, collapse...Douglas Smith, the fame cameraman who did the original Star Wars (1977), was also one of the Mojin team.

 - Sam Khorshid PhenomFilms won the recent 2016 Golden Horse Best Visual Effects Award. 

The PhenomFilms Studio in Beijing 

-Beautiful area 798 arcade in Beijing

-large facility, 3Di theatres and 60 ft screen for sound mixing.

- 2 depts: 4D/3D and 4D/2D 

- about 600 people

Importance of the Core Team

-lack of freelance artwork culture in China.

-Sam gets to manage from pre-production to post-production - whole new opportunities and Sam decided to stay on in China.



- Sam/PhenomFilms is seeking for high level thinkingParticles VFX artists who wants to work on China movies by PhenomFilms.


' Steps of Trust ' - Sam talks about the methodology to successful production in China

- supervising for Sam and the work of getting the inter-departmental communications right, from the FX work to a CG Supervisor, who may not have much experience in VFX and bridging different methodologies. 

-the costliness of fx setups if not approved as there is a lack of technical standards in China, and Sam Khorshid's approach. 

-the importance always to have a 'paper trail' and keeping things clean. 

TP power in procedural & flexibility 

- In the past, changes were tough but with TP procedural approach, changes and modifications are possible and faster: offer twenty FX sim variations for the director to pick one. 

-the more procedural, the greater the flexibility to change down the line (layered / wired properly from the start)

Current Project with thinkingParticles

-China movie 'Santi' - The Three-Bodies Problem'  is Sam's latest vfx project for PhenomFilms: a Sci-fi movie. TP was used in the effects where a big ship was split at Panama. The 'ship' model was 4 Gigs. Sam tells us about the concept art and leaping to a doable VFX scene. 

The Hugo Award for Sci Fi 

ThinkingParticles Blackboxes and Library of FX - the competitive edge

-Sam talks about how he used BB and ready-made setups refurbished for reuse. A whole library of effects and TP for achieving greater accuracy when meeting speedy deadlines that was accumulated over seven years from pervious VFX work. 

-rarely starts from scratch, saving costs. 

-a way for studio level VFX art to be profitable; like a safety net. 

-Blur Studio's games cinematic similarly used isolated effects, assets and sim pulled in from their library - cuts 20% of work load: a SIM/ Render level archive. 

Tricky Part 

- in a movie sequence people don't remember all the good shots, but if there was one bad shot, everyone remembers it so every shot have to touch a minimum standard. 

- Sam elaborate on the tricky part of how to incorporate those micro details that makes a big hero shot much more cooler in a cost-effective way, without sacrificing on quality large shots.

-TP worked well. 

Projects in China 

-VFX artists normally has no control over what movies they get however, Sam in China, gets to read and pick scripts of what projects he wants to do.

- Sam looks for a good VFX sequence and not so much of a good story.  

PT Anderson's 'There will be blood' - Sam's favourite VFX experience

- Sam talks about a favourite movie where he did the VFX with a tiny team of 4-5 artists where he worked with Adam Watkins. 

- the oil rig and explosions 

- the movie made it to the top #35 of all time best vfx movies. 

PhenomFilms Hybrid Pipeline

-the pipeline is build on China knowledge-base in VFX namely: animation/camera setup/layout in Maya; tracking in multiple software (SynthEyes); lighting, simulation and FX work in 3ds Max; final composite in Nuke. 

The Cultural/Communication in China

-how does Sam Khorshid get pass the cultural and language gap between his English speaking world and the Chinese artists, production workers. 

VFX China Market

-Sam talks about Wanda, major power in film production in China after having bought over MPC and Legendary and the QingDao Studio. Almost all US big VFX companies source for work from Wanda. 

-China's VFX goal is not so much in doing Hollywood movies although their target is to do 3-4 US Hollywood style movies per year. 

-their interest is not so much in Holllywood service work since there is a hige market internally for China movies that normally sees ticket sales of $35 - $65 million. Their interest is more in growing more high quality China movies.

- Sam does not see a backlash of competition taking away VFX jobs from the west, he sees a huge opportunity in terms of revenue stream for artists in China - budget and pay scale has all been rising over the years, with hundreds of new movies annually being produced. 

-Sam talks about what China film producer demands for nowadays. 

The Great Wall movie

-Candid comments on the latest US-China production perhaps a model of what China is intending to do in the future. 

-Sam sees the trend in the East as moving away from Kung-Fu movies to more modern approaches such as sci fi movies. He talks about the Kung-fu movies in the Hongkong New Wave Cinema movement of the 80s-90s (John Woo, Tsui Hark) and the unique style of in-camera editing and shooting of action sequence that then presented itself in The Matrix. Cultural difference can be a uniqueness in storytelling although language and communication between western artists/studios and China will always need to be worked on.  


- Sam/PhenomFilms is seeking for high level thinkingParticles VFX artists who wants to work on China movies by PhenomFilms.