Interview with Yanick Wilisky, Co-Founder, VFX Sup Modus FX, Canada

By AMRITA VALECHA | 28 March, 2011 - 16:31

The Montreal based Modus FX founded by Marc Bourbonnais and Yanick Wilisky has delivered VFX for films like ‘The American‘ ‘Jonah Hex‘, ‘Artic Blast‘, ‘Red Cliff Part II‘ and more recently for ‘Jane Eyre‘.‘s Amrita Valecha spoke to Yanick Wilisky about the working philosophy of Modus FX, Jane Eyre and more.


Could you tell us about your background and how did you enter this industry?
I had my first spark in 1985 when I saw my first short film created completely in CG. I was thirteen at the time and already knew where I was heading. I got an internship in the summer of 1995 in Paris at Fantome on a CG series called "Insektor". I then moved in Vancouver to work at Mainframe Entertainment where they were producing another CG series called "Reboot". A year and a half later I got a call from Hybride that was located close to my home town to work on some commercials and film project. I accepted, I was thrilled about it and worked at Hybride for ten years before co-founding Modus with my partner Marc Bourbonnais.

With a huge amount of experience, you and Marc Bourbonnais started your own studio? What is the long term vision of the studio?
Modus come from a Latin word that expresses a methodology of working. That is exactly what defines us. Our vision was clear from the beginning that we wanted to offer world class service to the film industry in the field of visual effects while creating tools to bridge principal photography and post production which is exactly what we have been up to in the last 4 years.

Can you mention some of the past and recent projects of Modus FX?
When we first announce our intention to create a new studio several artists had contacted us to join our team but we thought it was too early to hire. Then our first film was signed: Screamers 2. That is where it all started. We then met with Louis Morin to work on "Mr. Nobody" from Jaco Van Dermal. From that relation with Louis we continued our journey with "The American", Barney‘s Version", "Super" and most recently "Source Code". We did more than 20 productions since we started 3 and half years ago.

What was the VFX work involved for the movie, Jane Eyre?
We first had a call to help on several shots where the castle had been burned to the ground and need enhancement. We ended up doing 47 visual effect shots for the film. It involved matte painting, sky replacement, fixture removal and a few wardrobe enhancements for continuity.

"Jane Eyre" required the craft of 33 specialized artists in different fields (matte painter, technical directors, motion tracker, texture artist, compositor, lighter, sculptor, rigger, animator, assistant editor).

Which was the most challenging scene?
Definitly, the Thornfield sequence when Jane comes back to the burned to the ground castle. The amount of work that had to be achieve to reconstruct, enhance the castle and rotoscope Jane was massive. We first motion tracked each scene exporting the point cloud data to reconstruct the environment. We then conceptualized the burned down area for each individual shot and textured them once approved by Cary. During that time a team of roto artists led by Marie-Eve Authier were hard at work on Jane‘s character to insure that the entire roto mask would be ready in time for when the CG environment would be completed and ready to composite. We have used several different layers to achieve the final look of the sequence which also gave us a huge amount of flexibility during the compositing work and allowed to make multiple changes without having to go back to the 3D department. I am proud of the work that has been achieved on this film and this sequence was the most challenging of all.

What has been your past work at Modus FX?
I have always handled the visual effects supervision from day one. The biggest change over the years has been the addition in talent that has joined our team over the years that have made my life easier day after day for the past 3 and half years. We are currently working on "Immortals" for Tarsem Singh and a second full CGI project.

What would be your advice to upcoming artists?
Vision! Before achieving anything, take a step back. Imagine and foresee what you want to achieve. When it‘s clear in your thoughts, jump into it. The rest is easy: time and focus.