MEET DEREK STEVENSON
Derek has been with Image Engine since 2000. Having spent many
years as a Generalist, he became Image Engine’s Lead Matchmove artist in 2008. His credits range from the company’s first feature, Slither, through to The Incredible Hulk, District 9, and
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.
You're the Image Engine ‘Iron Man’ having completed more consecutive years of work at the studio than anyone else – how does that make you feel?
It has been interesting to see all the changes over the years; there were only 6 or 7 people when I started. Has that much time really passed?
That’s a big shift in numbers; we currently have a crew of 125. What’s different these days, working in a larger company?
Work is more department-focused. I work on Matchmove, and other people worry about their departments.
With a smaller company, you need to wear more hats, and fill in where you're needed.
Can you explain how you started out in the industry – what is your background?
This is my second job in the industry, I spent a year in Berlin working on a kids cartoon called Stevie Stardust, working on animation and lighting. I studied at VFS, I was in the same class as Neill Blomkamp, back in 97-98. Before that I worked in Architecture, drafting and creating walk thrus.
For a lot of our high-end visual effects work you’re really an unsung hero! Can you explain a little bit about your role?
I'm currently working as the Matchmove Lead. I come up with solutions for the difficult, hard to solve shots.
I make sure everyone is following the pipeline, and try to make improvements to the pipeline. I'm responsible
for training new employees, and working with other departments, to find solutions for problem shots.
What kind of perspective on visual effects work do you think you have to have in order to achieve great results in this essential building block phase of post-production?
You need to have a good eye for detail. Sometimes you need to find creative solutions when the tools don't work. Mostly I think you need perseverance, but sometimes you need to step back and reassess how you're doing something, to find a better solution to the problem. Sometimes talking to someone in the comp or animation departments will help for example.
What work you are most proud of that you've completed at Image Engine?
The Matchmove work we did on District 9 and the work I'm currently doing on The Thing. The body tracking on The Thing has been the most difficult I've encountered. The Red Camera, that was all hand held, was difficult on District 9 (lots of rolling shutter issues)
Looking into the future a little bit, what would you say excites you most creatively or technically that's on the horizon in visual effects?
I think Stereo is going to be a challenge, I don't know if it's going to stick around in VFX though. I find
technologies that help capture set data, and make our work more accurate, (like Totalstation and Lidar) intriguing.
And lastly… What keeps you sane outside of work?
I try to get away and spend time with the family, snowboarding, camping and restoring the old house we live in. Although the latter can make me a little crazy sometimes.