Human beings suddenly find their apex predator status called into question in Jurassic World: Dominion, an action-packed new adventure directed by Colin Trevorrow. Set four years after the destruction of the once-idyllic Isla Nublar, dinosaurs now live and hunt across the globe, upsetting the delicate balance of life on Earth and reshaping its future forever.
Visualization supervisor Pawl Fulker and his team at Proof London played an essential role in bringing the film’s fearsome creatures to life on screen, crafting extensive previs and postvis shots for essentially every sequence involving a dinosaur. Fulker shared his workflow for the project along with insights into his career and advice for future previs artists with CGW.
Proof's previs workflow was powered by Maya and Nuke.
CGW: Tell us about your professional background and what led to your work in the field of visual effects and previs.
Pawl Fulker (PF): After leaving Bournemouth University, I was originally a computer animator on high-end commercials. I’d always wanted to get into film VFX work and a chance encounter with another animator at a Soho pub — which is how HR business seemed to get done in London in the late ‘90s — led to a job at Mill Film.
After being there for just a few weeks an opportunity arose for me to supervise previs on the first Harry Potter film at Leavesden. It was, as it very often is, a case of right place, right time. I loved previs and have never really delved back into finished VFX in a major way since.
After four Harry Potter films, my partner Ami and I decided we’d set up our own previs company, Destroy All Monsters, to service the growing London film industry.
CGW: Congratulations on the 10th anniversary of Proof London and the 20th anniversary of Proof! Can you tell us a little about Proof’s specializations and its growth over the years?
PF: Ron Frankel, CEO of Proof, and I met many years previous to us setting up Proof London. I was happily working on London-based projects whilst Proof in LA was doing their thing with projects that were U.S. based. In 2012, Ron contacted me about a project that would need a team that had a presence in both LA and London. So, Proof London was born. What started as one project quickly grew to many! I suppose our specialization has always been story-driven previs with a strong technical bias.
An example of Proof's previs imagery.
CGW: What interested you most about Jurassic World: Dominion when you first signed on to the project?
PF: When I first signed onto Dominion I was already two projects deep into the
Jurassic franchise. Myself and [ILM visual effects supervisor] David Vickery had not long finished working on
Fallen Kingdom, on which Colin Trevorrow was writer and producer. We’d also just finished collaborating with Colin on
Deer Park, a Jurassic short. It was a no-brainer to continue our work on the final chapter of the
Jurassic World trilogy.
CGW: How did you collaborate with Colin Trevorrow and David Vickery throughout production?
PF: The workflow between myself, David, and Colin has always been one of close collaboration. Colin would brief us on a sequence and usually give us some boards as a jumping-off point. David and I would then set off trying to create some shots that are as close to the boards as we can get.
Our next step is getting the early, first-pass previs into the edit suite where the three of us would look at the cut and flesh out more ideas based on the preliminary previs. We generally have many versions of a previs shot before we are agreed that it’s working in the cut.
I like to work with individual shots rather than beats of action, so working off of Colin’s storyboards is ideal for me.
An example of Proof's previs imagery.
CGW: Can you give us an overview of the previs and postvis work that was required for this film?
PF: We prevised or postvised pretty much every shot with a dinosaur in it for
Dominion. Which is a fair chunk of the film!
CGW: Tell us about the process of pivoting to a remote workflow during the pandemic. How did you and the Proof UK team communicate and share assets?
PF: Switching to a remote workflow during the pandemic was a challenge in many ways. The initial switch to remote working had a few technical hiccups, but within a couple of days, everyone was working as efficiently as in the office.
For me personally, it was a challenge; I’m used to seeing everyone’s screens and what they are working on instantly, as we used to all be in the same room. Switching that up meant that I needed to better communicate what was needed from a shot rather than doing rounds with the team and saying, “Left a bit, zoom out, try a different lens…”
I also had to get used to not talking the whole time, which was a challenge!
We’ve been working using tools such as Slack and Evercast for a while now, so the team is used to the workflow.
Teradici was an essential for the team's remote postvis work.
CGW: Which programs and technical systems were vital to your workflow for this project?
PF: We predominantly use Maya and Nuke for our previs and postvis work. The one tool we could not have done without working remotely is Teradici.
CGW: Were any shots or sequences particularly challenging or memorable to complete?
PF: I loved working on the Beta and Blue sequence in the snow. There’s something inherently very beautiful about seeing a dinosaur walking through a forest on crisp white snow.
CGW: What did you enjoy most about working on Jurassic World: Dominion?
PF: The finest moments of working on any show are working together as a team to overcome difficulties. Those were many on
Dominion. I particularly enjoyed working with Jance [Rubinchik], the animation supervisor for the show, in the early stages of previs. It’s a process I haven’t really experienced before, but the collaboration between us and the team at ILM I think paid off.
An example of Proof's postvis imagery.
CGW: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming artists who are interested in previs work?
PF: In terms of advice for upcoming previs artists, my advice would be to immerse yourself in as much quality cinema as your brain can take! Watch objectively and try to understand why a scene is great rather than just good. Think about shot composition and lenses. If you’re an animator that wants to do previs work, think about how the story would be best propelled by your shot and edit choices rather than picking cameras that best show off the animation.
Kendra Ruczak is the Managing Editor of CGW Magazine.
Images courtesy of ILM, Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment & Proof Inc.