Interview: Ben Perkins

Roshawn interviews Ben Perkins, digital compositor for The Amazing Spider-Man. Perkins bring special effects to the screen.

First off, I would like to say thank you for doing this interview with me Ben. I really appreciate the time you took out of your day for this :)

**CONTAINS SOME MOVIE SPOILERS**

Red-Headed Mule: What job did you have on The Amazing Spider-Man?

Ben Perkins: I was a compositor and stereo lead.

RHM. Nice. How was your time working on the movie?

BP: I enjoyed it. With that movie, there were pretty concerned with every pixel in every shot. They went through each shot with a fine tooth comb so we had to do a bunch of different versions for every shot, because they wanted to make it look perfect.

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RHM: Well they did a very good job of that. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

BP: *Laughs* Yeah, thanks.

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RHM. No problem. Did you get to meet any of the cast?

BP: The cast? No. I’m lower down on the chain. They usually have the producer and supervisors interact with the bigger names. The director would come to the studio everyday to look at stuff, but they have people to specifically handle the personal interactions with the big wigs.

RHM: Very cool. Can you talk about any parts that you worked on in the movie? If so, what was your favorite?

BP: Sure. I helped out with when Spider-Man was in the sewers and he was letting out the web-line in the tunnels, while he was trying to get a photo of the lizard and trying to capture him. They called that the onion because of the onion shapes. That one and I worked on the lizard in the high school scene. Where the Lizard comes to Peter Parker and Gwen’s high school and they start ripping up the hallways and all that.

I also worked on when Spider-Man was messing around with the car thieves. When he started shooting all the webs at him and getting stuck to the wall.And I also worked on when the Lizard is on his way back to Oscorp Lab to use the Ganali device and Gwen Stacey is hiding in the storage area, trying not to make a noise, and she tries to fend him off with a homemade blowtorch. Probably my favorite to work on were the shots with the Lizard, because the Lizard looked pretty cool.

RHM: I thought the Lizard looked amazing on screen. It looked great.

BP: Yeah. The artists that came up with the look and developed him did a really good job. The light, the skin qualities, the iridescence and how the light plays off of all of that, they did a really good job.

RHM: I agree. The next question I have was how long did it take for your team to do the CGI for any one scene?

BP: It depends. I worked on (The Amazing) Spider-Man for six months and there was one shot where they were really dialed in. The special effects supervisors were giving us notes and reviewing everything. They wanted a very specific look for the webs. You knew it was a hot glue gun polymer sort of material with the color shifts, but they were very particular about how they wanted them to look and feel organic, but still look like a man made thing. So we had one shot where he was shooting his webs and I think it was started with the compositing back in October or November. And it was probably the last shot I finished. We kept going back and forth for at least six months.

RHM: That seems like a long time for a single shot.

BP: What I mean is we are working on other shots in the mean time. I’m not working on just that shot. It was trying to find time to finish it but we were having a lot of discussions on what needed to be changed and in addition to that, we had to get the lighting and look of the webs correct along with the placement and making them interact appropriately with the thieves hands. We also had to make the depth look well to actually make it look as if the webbing was holding the thief against the wall. There are a lot of different things that have to be finessed before they can be shown to the audience.

RHM: Wow. Thanks for answering that. What were the specs for the workstations your team used?

BP: Most artist doing lighting and boxing, like myself, we have dual monitor display. I don’t know all the specs, I do know we were using HP machines and I was running a 12 core machine with 24 GBs of RAM. That’s what I was working on.

RHM: Wow! That’s a pretty powerful machine. You must’ve been really putting that thing to work.

BP: Yeah, but my machine would still crash on a fairly regular basis. It would get really bogged down. Alot of rendering and imagery and other machines trying to compute all in real-time, but there was virtually no way.

RHM: Wow. Thanks for answering those questions. Do you mind if I ask you some non-ASM questions?

BP: Sure.

RHM: What did you think about the CGI in The Avengers?

BP: I thought it was really good. I had a lot of fun watching that movie. I felt more like it was a directorial movie, not CGI. Part of it but the character interaction and general direction of the movie was very good.

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RHM: Alright. Have you worked on any other movies before?

BP: yeah. I worked on Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Green Lantern, G-Force, 3D on The Phantom Menace, one of the Harry Potter Movies just to name a handful.

RHM: Wow. Those are some pretty big movies. The last question I have for you is a two-parter. How did you get into the industry and do you have any suggestions for those that want to follow in your line of work?

BP: Yeah. I got into the industry, originally, by wanting to be an animator. I wanted to do stuff like Aladdin and Lion King, stuff like that. I drew alot growing up and I loved it. But when I started doing it professionally at a small studio in Syracuse, New York. I realized it was tedious and I couldn’t picture myself doing it forever. I then got a four year degree in fine arts at Syracuse which helped out the traditional art skills of drawing, perspective and color theory.

And then I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I found a school on-line that does specific training and special effects for video games, movies and commercials. I then saved money for 3 1/2 years and moved to Los Angeles from the east coast where I got a very specific education in Hollywood. I then started working at a commercial house in Pasadena and after a year there, I saw that Sony and Dreamworks had a ton of opportunity with movies like Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs and G-Force, so I applied and here I am.

RHM: That’s a really cool story. Thank you so much for doing this interview. I really appreciate it.

BP: Thanks.

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