VIEW preview: ‘Guardians Vol. 2’ VFX supe Christopher Townsend talks shot iterations


It’s not very long until the VIEW Conference in Turin, Italy, which kicks off 23 October. One of the amazing things about this event is the high calibre of speakers – we’re talking major visual effects supervisors, animation directors and leaders in VR and other creative content industries.

Oscar-nominated visual effects supervisor Christopher Townsend is one of those incredible speakers whose keynote on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will be a highlight of VIEW. His talk, which will also be presented with Trixter animation supervisor Simone Kraus, is affectionately called, ‘The making of a really colourful movie’ – which is exactly what Guardians Vol. 2 is.

When the film came out, I had a chance to chat to Chris about supervising the VFX – and one thing I asked him was in reference to a post from the director, James Gunn, on a shot that had been approved that was in its 749th iteration. I thought I’d share some of Chris’ thoughts about the iterative nature of VFX.

Chris Townsend: You know, honestly, I can’t remember which shot it was. But I think one of the things that happened was, we were in review and we finalled something and you see the version number, and it came up in the room where somebody asked, does that mean there are 749 versions?

And, well, it means, yeah, there are 749 submissions collectively from all the different departments whether it be layout and tracking and roto and whatever else, and this is the 749th version of some part of that shot.

We don’t get to see all of those by any means, obviously, but it just shows the amount of work that goes into any of these shots. And the amount of care and attention to detail that’s required to try and create something which is seamless is, well, there’s a lot of stuff that is a very iterative process with what we do creatively.

Actually, I was reading online after seeing that post, and somebody said, ‘Well, why are you wasting your time and why are you spending so much time on it? You should just make a decision and stick to it rather than keep changing your mind.’

Of course, this is not what happens at all. I mean, there are aspects that obviously involve the creative iterative process, but there are also aspects of, okay now that you’ve done that, now this little bit over here, that highlight, isn’t working now.

And I think it’s that attention to detail from everybody, from everyone from James and the studio and obviously us on our side in visual effects production, and me, right down to the layout team, the roto artists at the very beginning who start building the shot from the ground up. There is just so much artistry in every shot.

You can find out more about Christopher Townsend and Simone Kraus’ keynote at VIEW on the website: