Meet the Mentor: Chris Brejon, Illumination Mac Guff

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Q. Chris, you’ve been in VFX for over a decade…talk about your background and work (maybe mention where you’re based?)

A. I mostly come from an artistic background studying traditional painting and drawing. When I graduated, my purpose has always been to work on tent pole movies and travel around the world. After more than ten years in Australia, Canada, Spain and New Zealand, I am now back to France.

Q. You obviously have a passion for helping others learn. Tell us a little about your lighting/vfx guides, and your teaching position.

A. Writing this lighting bible has been a long-term project of mine. Around 2016, as I was traveling between studios and countries, I realized that it was time to do it (mainly thanks to Craig Welsh, Matthias Menz and Sandip Kalsy). The idea was to gather all my knowledge in one place to share ideas, tricks about cinematography and ACES of course. I teach in the south of France in this great school called ENSI where ACES has also been implemented. The masterclass I give is “just” a live presentation of my website.

Q. How did you find out about ACES? You seem to have really embraced it in a short time. Why?

A. I found out about ACES at Animal Logic working on the Lego Batman movie. Kudos to Alex Fry and Steve Agland for such a brilliant implementation! I still remember the day Alex kindly explained to me what ACES was. I was so impressed! I totally embraced it as I quickly realized that ACES was going to be a game changer in the industry. The amazing and very saturated look of Lego Batman was only achievable with ACES and it really fascinated me (and it still does!)

Q. What types of ACES projects have you been involved with?

A. I have worked on two feature films at Animal Logic using ACES: Lego Batman and Ninjago. We also did a short film called The Master. For the past two years I have been responsible with Christophe Verspieren on implementing ACES at our studio, Illumination Mac Guff. It was a great challenge and journey through color management. Such a wide topic!

Q. What are the biggest ‘lessons learned’ about ACES that you can share with people in a similar situation as you were?

Go for it! Don’t be afraid! We have plenty of documentation, articles and a great community to help you use this wonderful tool.  Once you have adopted it, there is no going back. It is not as complicated as it may seem, and it is really worth it. You will not regret it! On a personal note, I have learned that they are many great people in the ACES community willing to help such as Thomas Mansencal, Scott Dyer and Nick Shaw.

On the technical side, the biggest lesson that I have learned is that we should be accurate with terminology when it comes
to color management.

Q. What are some of the benefits of using ACES for VFX?

A. I’ll speak mostly for full CG feature films since it is my specialty. I see three main benefits:

  • A better Global Illumination since we render in a wide gamut (ACEScg).
  • An adapted RRT/ODT to our needs (movie theater, HDR, internet…) with a top-notch tone mapping.
  • A standard format for delivery/exchange (ACES2065-1).

ACES not only simplifies the whole color chain but also makes our renders look better !

Q. Have you seen progress in the ease of using ACES in certain VFX applications, has OCIO helped this cause?

A. Yes, OCIO integration is definitely helping. It has been recently implemented in Guerilla Render and hopefully more software will follow. There is not a single week that passes by without a new video tutorial about ACES. The CG community is really catching up and hopefully developers will too.

Q. What’s your favorite film, and why?

A. If we talk only about cinematography, I would only have to go for Blade Runner (Director: Ridley Scott, DP: Jordan Cronenweth). Each frame of this movie is just mind-blowing and the visual vocabulary is so rich and broad. I have recently learned that people watch it with a horizontal flip for studying purpose. It might be worth to try! Otherwise, 12 angry men is still my favorite movie since I watched it with my dad when I was about 10 years old. I just love the idea of having twelve characters in a single room for one hour and a half.

Chris Brejon is a lighting lead who has mainly worked for the past 15 years on animated feature films. His credits include : Planet 51, Happy Feet 2, The secret life of pets, Lego Batman and Playmobil. His interest for color management and ACES has been sparkled while working at Animal Logic. After a decade of traveling around the world, he is now back to France where he has become a teacher. He is also the author of the CG cinematography website, a free online book available for any lighting artist. Chris Brejon works at Illumination Mac Guff where he has been pushing to adopt ACES, is married and a father.