GVN Interview: Scanline VFX’s Supervisor Nick Crew for Netflix’s ‘The Adam Project’

If there’s a more watcheable superstar in film right now than Ryan Reynolds, the numbers of which are small. In fact, two of the most watched films in 2022 on Netflix have starred the popular Reynolds. These include Red Notice with Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot and now The Adam Project. Co-starring Zoe Saldana, Mark Ruffalo and young Walker Scobell as a young version of Reynold’s character. With that popularity in mind, we recently had the pleasure to talk to Scanline VFX Supervisor Nick Crew. It was Nick who oversaw Scanline’s contribution to this popular production. So, let’s welcome Scanline VFX’s Nick Crew to GVN Interview.

Nick Crew

GVN: Thanks for sharing a bit of your time, Nick. I know as with most of your Scanline VFX brethren, you’re a busy man. Let’s start with a bit of your background. You graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.), in Film Production 2001 – 2005. What was it that inspired you to pursue film and VFX particularly? Was there a film or television show that inspired this path?

NC: While studying film production at Loyola Marymount, I ended up gravitating toward cinematography and editing, oftentimes helping my classmates on their projects as their Director of Photography. During my Senior Year, I was part of LMU’s internship program, where an opportunity was presented to intern at Warner Bros. for a previous LMU alum, Beth Howe. The internship was with the VFX department for Constantine, and I jumped at the opportunity of getting exposure to a high-profile feature. Soon after starting, I was able to see the tremendous impact VFX had. Speaking with VFX Supervisor Mike Fink about his process, and wrapping my head around the volume of work that VFX was responsible for was incredibly eye-opening. It became clear VFX was a unique blend of my two key interests of visual design and shaping a project through post-production. I was hooked.

Finding Work Early On

GVN: Not wasting any time, you went straight out of college to Warner Bros. doing visual effects and later for 20th Century Fox and Paramount. From there you went to Digital Domain and then Scanline VFX. Is there a discernible difference between working for a studio VFX Department as opposed to working with a VFX vendor?

NC: My first few jobs out of college varied greatly in my role and responsibilities but did give me a good overview of the production side of VFX. Chris Moore, whom I met on Constantine, ended up getting me my first interview to be a data wrangler on Poseidon. From there I stayed on through post-production as an office assistant and runner. After Poseidon, I bounced around as a VFX Assistant Coordinator, Coordinator, and Plate Coordinator at the studios you mentioned.

GI Joe: Rise of Cobra

On my last project on the production side, GI JOE: Rise of Cobra, I ended up working closely with then Digital Domain VFX Supervisor Bryan Grill. Bryan needed help organizing and distributing the set data to their VFX team and he brought me on board to help. During my downtime at Digital Domain I was able to get my hands dirty learning environment builds, learning from Geoff Baumann (now Marvel VFX Supervisor) and Justin van der Lek (now Additional VFX Supervisor Book of Boba Fett). It was an amazing experience, and with this exposure to the artist side, I set out to continue my path in learning the creative and technical process of facility-side VFX. Bryan ended up coming to Scanline about a year later for HereAfter, and I came along for that ride. I have been at Scanline ever since.

Production VS Vendor

Regarding the differences, the production side is more focused on high-level planning, budgeting, shoot prep, logistics, and high-level creative direction. Additionally important for the production side is selecting the right vendors and guiding them during the stages of their work. The vendor side is much more about VFX interdepartmental creative and technical workflows, breaking down efficient methodologies, and then staffing, maintaining, and guiding the right technical and creative team to accomplish that plan.

The Adam Project – The BackYard

GVN: It is always interesting to learn the different skills that go into the VFX departments. So, let’s get into our main topic Netflix’s The Adam Project (which my wife and I enjoyed very much). Scanline VFX produced a substantial 604 shots, concentrating on 3 main locations. The first of those being the Forest and the elaborate fight sequences. What were the main challenges in those sequences and did you have to think outside the box at any point during the Forest scenes?

NC: That is the segment we referenced as “The Backyard.” The work in the backyard broke down into two types of work – the environment augmentation/extension, and the creative FX work. For the backyard environment, the scope ended up ballooning as we got further and further into post-production. Originally there was a hope that it would be a fairly basic 2.5D extension, but quickly it became a full 3D build. Additionally, there was an issue with the AstroTurf shot on set, and the replacement of this turf actually ended up being one of the more challenging environmental topics. CG Supervisor Julien Forest, Environment Lead Mohamed Abdou, and Compositing Supervisor Alan Stucchi did a tremendous job getting through this work and making it look believable.

For the creative FX work, it was a fun process where production side VFX Supervisor Alessandro Ongaro worked with us to help interpret the script descriptions and conceptual ideas from Shawn Levy and the editors. This FX included ‘declocking’, ‘decimation’, and the ‘magcyl effects’. Ivan Prvulj (FX Supervisor) and Romain Besnard (FX Lead) worked closely with LookDev Comp Leads Cameron Thomas and Jamie Adkins to make this creative FX process happen within a collaborative team.  All contributing different ideas and creativity that led to our success.

The Adam Project – Drones

GVN: It end result was beautiful and seamless in it’s execution. Now, the next fight scene Scanline applied their magic to involved the drone attacks. From the breakdown, this involved basically replacing the Vancouver Convention Centre in the process. Talk a bit about this sequence and the challenges involved in recreating a known structure?

NC: The concept for the Sorian Building campus came to us through production, which ended up replacing 95% of the environment that was there during the shoot… we really just kept the ground and stairs that our characters walk on. This work was spearheaded by Sequence VFX Supervisor Boris Schmidt, and CG Supervisor Ioan Boieriu. The key challenges became taking this creative concept and giving it all of the believability and detail needed to make it photo real. I think the team did a great job!

The Adam Project – The Lab

GVN: Not surprising with Scanline’s reputation. Finally, there is the Lab segment that primarily used an asset that your team created. What went into this sequence and what are the benefits of working with an asset that you yourself created as opposed to working with one that is supplied by another vendor?

NC: The Lab Sequence became our most challenging work on this film, primarily because of the schedule and some late creative changes. Without building this environment ourselves, I truthfully do not think we would have had the time to destroy it! In addition to the environment build and the corresponding destruction, it fell to Scanline to help come up with some of the key logic and events that justified the plot points and characters’ actions during the sequence. Shawn and Ale had great ideas as a jumping-off point, but there were multiple layers inside of those ideas that all needed to be sorted out and illustrated to give the viewer a sense of the meltdown the filmmakers wanted to see.

The unsung heroes of this work are really CG Supervisor Ioan Boieriu’s 3D team, FX Supervisor Ivan Prvulj’s FX team, and Comp Supervisor Brent Prevatt’s Comp Team. It was a closely coordinated effort that took everyone’s ‘A game’ to pull off and be believable in the film.

Projects Worked On

GVN: I love how you make a point to spread the credit around to your talented FX team. Its no wonder that Scanline consistently puts out quality work. I want to thank you so much for your time, Nick. I could ask questions all day but I know you are a busy man. That being said…since I know better than to ask about upcoming projects and the crickets I would hear. If you don’t mind, in noticing how many great projects you have worked on. I would like to mention a few and ask for your remembrances of those projects. I focused on ones where you filled different roles.

Captain America The Winter Soldier – Visual Effects Crew – Scanline VFX

NC: For this project, I helped out mostly in some show setup, as well as some additional compositing. This was an ‘in-between’ project for me, so I was just trying to lend a hand during my downtime. The team did a great job on this one though!

Tomb Raider – Visual Effects Supervisor – Scanline VFX

NC: For Tomb Raider, I supervised about 300 shots for Scanline VFX that revolved around the shipwreck sequence and the waterfall sequence. That was a fun project, and I’m proud of the work we accomplished.

Cowboy BeBop – Head of 2D – Scanline VFX

NC: For Cowboy Bebop, I was involved in some early tests as a pre-production VFX Supervisor, helping oversee some early concepts of the ‘face glitch’ and the ‘holographic display’. Further along in post-production, I handed off to Mathew Giampa who I then supported into post-production, especially with the 2D side.

GVN: Thanks again, Nick. Continued good fortune to you and we look forward to your next great project with Scanline VFX.

NC: It’s a pleasure to correspond with you, thank you for your interest!

The Adam Project
2022 | PG-13 | 1h 46m | Sci-Fi Movies

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Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner

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