BRIDGE OF SPIES: Sven Martin – VFX Supervisor

Art of VFX Vincent Frei interviewed PIXOMONDO’s VFX Supervisor Sven Martin about his experience working on the feature film Bridge of Spies.

Can you tell us more about your collaboration with director Steven Spielberg?

Spielberg has a big trust in his long time collaborating team, therefore a lot of the communication was running about these guys. On a shooting day, right before the start of a new scene, all the HOD’s would gather around Steven while he is explaining the scene and defining the camera angles. Afterwards all departments started prep the set while he was working with the actors. I first met Spielberg in New York and I really enjoyed watching him work with the actors when rehearsing. You could really feel his long time experience here. Standing often close to his monitor setup while the camera was rolling, I was always very much impressed by his precise eye to every detail.

What was his approach about the visual effects?

When I joined the pre-production there were no fixed plans about the realization of the vfx scenes. The main task was to create a period East Berlin and New York and we explored different ways to accomplish this. We knew that the subway scenes will be shot against blue screen, as for the car scenes we also considered making it the traditional way, on a trailer. The realization of the ‘death strip’ was thought as a full digital solution along with a blue screen element of running people, but I suggested building the foreground and extending it from a certain distance on to capture all the lighting, snow interaction and bullet hits for real.

Based on a concept by the production designer Adam Stockhausen, I setup a previs scene for the location by re-projecting the painting onto geometry that was based on satellite images. With this, I could early show how the scene might look like and we could play with the different speed variations for the virtual S-Bahn train crossing the border.