NEW TALENT Philippines' Francis Allan Andalis (Fandalis) talks about his work with Plasticwax and what it is like to work on remote
cebas: You are an amazing New Talent, Francis and we are very happy to feature your story this month. Let's start with an update about yourself and current work status.
Francis Allan Andalis: Hello, first, let me thank you for giving me an opportunity to be interviewed. I am Francis Allan Andalis, FX Artist here in the the Philippines. As of now, I am a contractor at Plasticwax, a versatile VFX studio based in Australia. Compared with other countries, I think the Philippines has a good potential in the industry. There are not many feature films here that require heavy VFX, there is only seasonal demand for them. Mostly, films with VFX are produced during the month of December as an entry to the Metro Manila Film Festival. In my opinion, most CGI/VFX here are used for TV Commercials, and this industry continues to improve due to new technology (computers and softwares) and talent. Also, with Ubisoft having a base here, among other players, I can say that the gaming industry has a bright future as well.
cebas: please give cebas a few interesting insights into your recent FX projects (GoldenWolf and PlasticWax) that you have derived great satisfaction working on, and something on how the creative idea originated and your role in the project.
Francis: working with projects from Plasticwax is enriching! There are great game trailers to work on and the workflow is a bit different compared with the projects I worked on locally. We make use of automated and collaboration tools. I gained significant learning from this and enjoyed it as well. As for Goldenwolf, I only worked for a very short stint on a project.
I have been a contractor at Plasticwax for almost a year and we worked on numerous AAA projects. I enjoyed working on all of the projects but I can say that Civilization VI - Rise and Fall is one of my favorites. I was one of the FX Artists who worked on the Tbilisi battle scene. I worked on diverse shots, from wall impact explosions, trebuchets - stationary fires/smoke and fireballs, fire arrows, etc. It is a bit hard to work on considering the scale of the scene, but very fulfilling seeing the final output.
Injustice 2 - The Lines are Redrawn is another favorite. This was my first project from them. I was tasked to do FX shots for the Supergirl ground stomp and ground break, particle bubbles on tubes, Wonderwoman skid FX and some environment smoke.
I only named a few but for all of the projects I worked on from them, I truly enjoyed and found very fulfilling.
cebas: Tell us something that you enjoyed creating as a personal RnD thinkingParticles test that received awesome reviews, or anything significant to your studio.
Francis: I am thinking about the creepy setup I RnD'd and was posted here; https://vimeo.com/168054883 / (posted below) I named it 'Align to Normals' study. It was a personal project I had in mind. I had an old version of this before I learned Thinking Particles. The first one was done in PFlow but I tried to set this up again and found that i can have better control in TP. The setup was simple. There are lead particles travelling on the object surface and checking distances to activate other groups. Then once activated, particles displays animated geometry instances (oriented to the surface normals) that look like they are crawling on the surface. I then meshed this to make it look integrated. It think this FX can still evolve and can be modified like the Mystique and Venom FX. It can be a similar approach.
cebas: Francis, on the aforementioned projects mentioned : which were the VFX shots that uses tP ? Can you give us a step-by-step breakdown of the selected fx shots? For example, the logic behind the tP dynamic setup, and how you go about wiring ?
Francis: Here are some projects that I worked on using TP:
Injustice 2 Game Cinematics - Ground Stomp Fracturing and Skid Ground Fracturing
Francis: I first reviewed which parts of the object needs fracturing. I don't usually fracture the whole geometry, only the parts that I need to have interaction with as seen in the samples below. I used a plane with noise to cut the ground with ProCutter tool. This is to have control over the direction and details. And sometimes I use Rayfire, it depends on the setup. I then bring this inside TP grouping which are Inactive and parts that will be Active. Then activate it using InMesh (on collision) or by checking the Velocity. Inactive will be the deflector group in the Shape Collision. Also, I add some secondary debris with VolumeBreaker then add some mass, drag, forces etc.
Injustice 2 - Bubbles on Tube
I was tasked to work on a liquid that gets pumped slowly into Bane, the liquid should 'pulse' through as if being pumped, so it needs bubbles to display motion. To achieve this, I made the particle bubbles follow a path then for a natural pulsing motion, I connected a Bell Curve into the Position Born node so it is not emitting constantly. And also, I connected a Bell Curve into the Velocity and used some Force to help also with the motion.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 - Particles Swirling on Groot’s Body Parts
Francis: I was tasked to do some additional elements for Groot’s transition portal. The task looks simple, but the issue here was how to get particles into the required shape and with fast motion. So I created a crescent-shaped cylinder, then adjusted the pivot so it can circle around Groot’s body where they were born. The problem I encountered here was placing a high count of particles inside narrow object instances that are continuously changing its shape and popping in and out. So i needed to include in the workflow a PRT Volume modifier and this helped the task hand in hand with TP.
cebas: Would you say, Francis, that your art talent and creativity were evident from a young age?
Francis: definitely. When I was a child I really loved drawing. I drew comic books. I drew robots, environments and lots of fun stuff . I used to join competitions when I was in primary and secondary school. Fortunately, I won some contests and was awarded artist of the year. When I finished high school I studied Fine Arts, majoring in Advertising. I also participated in competitions and got some recognition.
cebas: and how many years did it took you from first-step learning to where you are today? Do you feel you now get to do what you dream of in VFX or there is something more?
Francis: I think I was always looking for something more, and found it in the field of VFX. When it comes to knowledge, you always need to learn something new and it keeps evolving. I did not start my career as a VFX Artist. I was a multimedia artist back then. It was from 2008 when I formally worked with VFX projects for film and I was still learning back then. I knew 3ds Max and compositing before but was only using it for multimedia projects and web design. Yes, I can say my recent projects give me satisfaction in what I want to do. When I was starting back then I always wished for a job with big international projects. It always inspired me to work harder and learn more. Specially as a Filipino artist, where we are limited in terms of working with other countries with large vfx productions. And also the competitive pool of talents around the world. But as of today, with studios having remote setup and lots of resources to learn from, I think we have more chances to put our foot in the door.
cebas: I notice from your LinkedIn profile that your initial career development was in a less exciting spot, not films but with the Philippine’s National Capital Region - could you give a bit of intro what do the NCR does and do they help groom artistic talents in The Philippines?
Francis: NCR is a region in the Philippines where VFX studios, post-production houses, game development, multimedia studios and other businesses are mostly concentrated. Yes, some VFX studios in NCR are also on films and I have worked for them. There are also schools/universities inside NCR which offer multimedia and film courses.
cebas: Fandalis, would you say PlasticWax (Sydney, Australia) is your big break into bigger things? Is the studio predominantly on game trailers fx ?
Francis: In my experience, the studio produces predominantly game trailers.Absolutely! Working with them marked a big milestone in my career as an FX Artist. With the projects, I gained more learning and experience.
cebas: and being an independent contracted freelance vfx artist on remote, do you feel it is a less juicier role ? Or you feel there is no difference between an artist working on site versus an artist on remote? What are the pros and cons?
Francis: I think it is the same. Same roles and balanced task distribution--I derive this from my previous experiences. We have several FX Artists and I think the complexity of the shots are distributed equally as I have observed.
Pros of being a remote artist:
Basically, you don't have to be away from your family. I think this is an important advantage for a remote setup. It is also cheaper. If I will work onsite, i need to rent for a place, pay for transportation, food and many others. This will double my expense because I also need to support my family here in the Philippines.
Cons of being a remote artist;
In the Philippines, internet connection is always a big problem. When remoting, I am accessing my PC which is based in another country and it is sometimes slow. I need to patiently work through with the setup.
cebas: back to thinkingParticles, what are some of the features that you feel are your favourites and make you feel you want to create this fx with TP ?
Francis: my favorites are VolumeBreaker and Fragment nodes. This always goes hand in hand with my setup in TP. This also gives me control on the mesh whether I need it to have low fragmentation count when testing and iterate on higher versions. I don't need to collapse the fragments; I just activate it with a Fragment node then send it to a VolumeBreaker. This workflow includes the rayfire voronoi object modifier. I think it's a cleaner setup and not heavy when testing dynamics with TP because I can iterate fragment counts by only adding on its parameters. I also like VolumeBreaker's activation from-to Center and CenterNegative because it gives an organic look on fragment edges.
Another is the nodes under Condition tool because it gives me full control over my TP setups.
cebas: Looking at the pipeline for Plasticwax - how did cebas software integrate into their production pipeline? How straightforward was it?
Francis: The studio utilizes different platforms and 3ds Max is one of them. I use TP when I need more control on setups and sometimes on complex tasks. With the help of some plugins, my TP setups are exported seamlessly to other platforms in the pipeline.
cebas: what was the most fun or rewarding part of a project for you?
Francis: seeing the final output of the project is the most rewarding part! Watching it on Youtube or Vimeo with all my work contributions as an FX Artist comped together with the other passes. And feeling gratified that I was part of the a team that put it together.
cebas: in your view, what is your wish for cebas software to achieve that is not currently doing for you?
Francis: I think Granular system would be cool if it will be added inside TP.
cebas: finally Francis, what projects can we expect from you in the future (if you're able to tell ?)
Francis: I will be happy to do more FX on game trailers! Also as of now, I am doing side projects for FX on both visualizations and TV commercials. And maybe more RnD's and personal projects in the future.
Thank you so much Francis for taking the time for this interview. You can find Francis at https://www.fandalis.com, and we hope you have tons of game and more projects with thinkingParticles and remember to drop us a note on it.