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July 2005
A Technican's View On The Fantastic Four And Sky High : An Interview with Raymond King

A Technican's View On The Fantastic Four And Sky High : An Interview with Raymond King

By Wilson Morales

With this summer being taken over by aliens and comic book superheroes, a lot of what you are seeing on screen is mostly computer generated images, aka CGI. This is what makes summer films so much fun. Between the acting and car chases that we always see in films, the CGI makes up for the effects that human can't do. Raymond King is a digital effects director and a co-founder of 850 Productions in Los Angeles, CA. He's been in this business for almost a decade having worked on such films as "Van Helsing" and "Space Jam". In some cases, he's been uncredited on some of the films he's worked on such as "Tin Cup". This summer, Raymond will have 2 hopeful blockbuster films that he worked on, The Fantastic Four (opening July 8) and Sky High (opening July 29). In speaking with blackfilm.com, King briefly spoke about his technical role on both films.

What was your job on The Fantastic Four?

Raymond King: With "The Fantastic Four", they were having problems with it, technically, and trying to decide where they wanted to go with it as far as being able to embrace 3-D and compositing all the stuff for it and to understand what the audience would like and also make it cost-effective because you can sit there and have something that looks really cool but it would take too long to render and also cost too much money. When I say render, what ever images I can do, whether it be on 3-D or on a computer and how it takes for the computer to basically render so it's photo real and made to look to photo real. With "The Fantastic Four", they came to me and said "We need fire and we saw your work in 'Ladder 49" and in "The Chronicles of Riddick" and could you help us in creating the Human Torch and make him look like he's on fire." That's when I gave them basically what I thought a guy on fire would look like and then I would begin to work with their art director for the film and for the different visual effect company that were already working on it. I would come up with a procedure that makes the fires look cool.

You also did some work on "Sky High".

RK: For "Sky High", it was not only background, 3-D and photo realistic background, but they have a couple of scenes where I had to match a photo realistic bus and I had to make it look seamless so you couldn't tell it was a computer generated bus. Had to have it flying around in the atmosphere and had to have it transformed like stuff that you saw in "Inspector Gadget". I didn't work on that film but I have worked with people who had and they told me how they did it and I was able to recreate it for "Sky High".

Both films are slated to come out this summer.

RK: Right around the same time period. I did them both at the same time. I shuffled from production company to the next. I would go back and forth sometimes being up 24/7, but this what I love to do. When I worked with the people from "Sky High", they were really excited about creating this world and creating this look, and the more they gave me, the more I can sit there and build their world and give them what they want. At times, a lot of people look at the computer generated stuff and sometimes it comes off a little bit flat or it just doesn't look real, but when I start to get good feedback and other things, I can make the stuff pop. A lot of work that you have probably seen in films, you wouldn't even think twice about it, but it was computer generated. I would add the extra stuff because I never want to take people out of the element. If they are watching the film, I want to make sure that they continue to watch the film and don't sit there and asking themselves whether it was CG or not. I don't like to do it, but with a man on fire, you just know it's CG.

How did you get assigned to these big studio films?

RK: A lot of times, I get brought in when stuff is ready to fall apart. They basically call me at the last minute usually when I have to fix something and I have to work with what I have. Usually they don't have reshoots. They are at the point where they would say, "We just have to get this done and it has to look cool and it has to meet our budget." They know that I'm a one man team where they can just bring me in by myself and whether I'm working from home or working on location or from different buildings, I'll get the job done.

Was that the case with The Fantastic Four? Did you get the job done?

RK: With that film, I was brought in back in January and nothing was really locked in stone. They didn't even have a glimpse as to how stuff was going to look, but they were so far into production, that they would sit there and say, "Well Ray, what do you think would be cool here?" After talking to the creative director and whoever had the vision, I would sit with them and come up with three different lo-res simple models so they can tell me if they like that direction or not. With "The Fantastic Four", they had already filmed a lot and had already use other companies that they weren't happy with or didn't get what they wanted, and they went to another company, who told them that he knew a guy he could bring in. I would leave my body of work and they noticed that I had worked on fire before and had done this and that on other projects. So they brought me in and gave me the free reign to make the creative director happy. That's what I love doing and didn't have any problems with it.

How was the case on "Sky High"?

RK: "Sky High" was a little bit different. They brought me in the beginning of the whole production. On that film I was able to say, "Hey, you know what, I think this would be cool if you did this." When they started filming stuff and getting a place to get the effects done, I was able to put more of my input and have more control as to how the look was going to be and they were really pleased. I pushed myself to the point where I didn't want people to look at it and say, "I see your stuff." Because I was brought in early on, I was able to give a little more of myself. It wasn't taking someone else's work. By being of it from the beginning, I was involved in different stages of the production. I really enjoyed working on "Sky High" where on "The Fantastic Four", it wasn't the same.

I noticed that you weren't credited for your work on 'The Fantastic Four". Why so?

RK: A lot of times the effects companies that I get hired by don't even credited. I don't understand the credit work. There's tons of stuff that I have done that I haven't been credited for because I did come in at the last minute. I never worried so much about the issue. Years ago, I did some last minute work on "Tin Cup", the Kevin Costner film, where I did some work on the golf balls and I didn't get credit on that. There's a lot of stuff out there.

Stay tuned for more on Raymond King...


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