Robert Allman – CG Supervisor at Framestore.
Graduated from London Guildhall with an MA in Computer Animation in 1997. He had his first job with the newly formed Millfilm that year. Over the next few years Robert worked on Gladiator, the first Tomb Raider and Harry Potter films and TV series, like Band of Brothers. After the Mill, he worked on set at Leavesden, on Prisoner of Azkhaban, then in 2003 he joined Framestore for the first time. Up until 2011 he worked there on every Harry Potter ever made, then left to work on Judge Dredd at Prime Focus. A few years later he was back at Framestore and since 2014 he have worked on Guardians of the Galaxy and Infinity War.
b’Ars: “Infinity War” is a massive crossover event. How do you approach the visual marriage of all these different characters from different films?
Robert Allman: Part of it is down to the way in which the scripts are written, in terms of how they do their crossovers. Technically, how we do it is – all the companies that have worked on Marvel films for the last few years have been making these characters, so there’s a lot of sharing between companies, actually! We share what we’ve already done, so somebody’s done Groot, they might send you Groot… But one thing you can be sure of, is the VFX team on the studio’s side will want their own input on all of these characters. So it’s all of the characters that we’ve had before, but with updates. For instance, Rocket was originally developed at Framestore, and we sent it to lots of other companies who have done updates. And what may happen is, eventually, Rocket comes back to you with the new updates! So you get out your old Rocket, and you update it according to what was done at another company. Lots of transfer and sharing of work is how it’s brought about.
b’Ars: A big part of Framestore’s work on the film spotlights Iron Man, who is already a huge, iconic character. How did you approach it, from design to animation?
Robert Allman: The studio’s vis-dev department comes up with the initial looks, and they’re normally really good, so it’s a good place for us to start. When we propose changes, it’s normally trying to mantain the spirit of what was done. We don’t go and make a completely different look. Where there’s a need to change something, it’s normally for movement reasons. If something’s moving where its two-dimensional representation won’t necessarily translate into three-dimensional motion, we’d show that and explain the problem and sometimes, the vis-dev department might go back and actually look again at their designs and say “okay, this is a problem” and try to figure it out. It’s a collaboration, but in general, an awful lot of work has gone into deciding on how things are, conceptually, by the studio’s art department. We always start by trying to mantain that look.
b’Ars: What was the biggest challenge of the film and why?
Robert Allman: There’s lots of difficulties. I could easily quantify that by saying “well, it’s the Iron Man suit” because technically, that’s the most difficult thing. But equally, an environment might be one of the trickiest things, for instance. On one side, you’ve got all the technical problems of making a suit that manifests from nowhere; but on a more traditional, run-of-the-mill side, you’ve got the problem of the city streets of Atlanta, where it was shot, and there’s a great forest of foliage that we’ve somehow gotta get rid of. While one is the most tricky technical challenge, the other one’s an equally tricky artistic challenge – how do you do that? And it kind of ends up with a big CG build of foliage and putting that in over the trees that were shot there. So I would say, each problem has its own profile and what seem to be simpler problems can sometimes be the hard problems.
b’Ars: What was your favorite sequence to work on?
Robert Allman: I really loved working on the animatics at the start – although that’s not a scene, but it’s officially a part of the film – because we did have so much creative input on that. But the New York fight is great. At the sequences breakdown, the main ones were the race to space and New York City, and I think the New York City sequence in the park is great, and it’s under a lot of CG that was fun to work on.
b’Ars: You’re currently working on the next “Avengers” installment. Is there anything at all you can tell us about it?
Robert Allman: It’s gonna be really good!