The VFX Factor: The Challenges of ‘Invisible Post’ with Adrien Girault

Article first appeared on LBB Online



Adrien Girault, head of design at Heckler spoke to LBB on his first creative milestone: Empire of the Sun.


Adrien has been working as a multi-disciplinary designer for over 13 years. He worked as a freelancer for a number of years before becoming Heckler’s design director in 2016. During his time at Heckler, he has since worked with big local and global clients. Those clients include, Newscorp, Pepsi, ABC, Cadbury, Ford, Tinder and Nivea. 


Adrien has a passion for storytelling through design, live action and 3D animation. He has worked on a variety of mediums, such as print, web, broadcast, documentary and experimental. 


Today, Adrien is head of design at Heckler and details his thoughts on the VFX sector of the industry with LBB. 


LBB> What’s the biggest misconception people have about motion design?


Adrien> One of the biggest misconceptions people have about motion design or VFX in general is that it’s a magic tool that can create anything effortlessly. While technology and AI enhanced tools have advanced significantly, creating realistic and seamless visual effects still requires a great deal of skill, time, and effort from talented artists, who don’t always get the recognition they deserve.


LBB> There are two ends to the VFX spectrum – the invisible post and the big, glossy ‘VFX heavy’ shots. What are the challenges that come with each of those?


Adrien> The challenge for ‘Invisible post’ work is to make the visual effects absolutely realistic and seamlessly integrated into the live-action footage. Any discrepancy in colour, lighting, or movement can break the illusion. Even when multiple artists work on the same shot it’s easy to let an element fly past unnoticed when you’re working with hundreds of layers, making it essential to pay meticulous attention to detail.


VFX-heavy shots often involve complex simulations, intricate animations, and extensive CG backgrounds and environments. Managing the technical intricacies and ensuring that all those elements work harmoniously requires a high level of technical know-how which you can only gain with experience. We rarely have the time to R&D and experiment with a new technique on the job. So, we thrive to do as much of that on our own time.


LBB> As a Motion designer, what should directors be aware of to make sure you do the best possible job for them?


Adrien> For a successful collaboration with motion designers, directors should communicate their vision clearly through a detailed creative brief, involve motion designers in the early stages of the project, and hopefully have a basic understanding of motion design principles. Providing effective feedback, establishing realistic timelines is obviously a given but unfortunately is not always the case. Ultimately, a collaborative and communicative approach empowers us to deliver our best work aligned with the director’s vision.


LBB> Motion Design is a true craft in the classic sense of the word. Where did you learn your craft?


Adrien> Coming over from France, I did a Bachelor of Visual Communications at UTS and started freelancing as a graphic designer for a few different studios whilst studying. I was given the opportunity to animate the live visuals for ‘Empire of the Sun’ while working for a small studio called Mathematics and I loved it. The creative process involved in motion design resonated with me more profoundly than print design, and I felt it offered a more fulfilling avenue for expressing creativity.


LBB> Think about the very, very start of a project. What is your process for that? Do you have a similar starting point for all projects?


Adrien> The jobs that come in are very rarely similar and so we adapt our creative process accordingly. However, researching and drawing out our inspiration is always one of the first things we do. Finding other examples and seeing what worked and what didn’t. This process not only informs our creative direction but also serves as a valuable tool during pitches when time constraints may limit our ability to animate original examples. It allows us to effectively communicate our vision to clients and agencies, showcasing the direction we intend to take.


LBB> We imagine that one of the trickiest things with VFX is, time issues aside, deciding when a project is finished! How do you navigate that?


Adrien> Ha, it’s actually quite difficult. Even after the client and agency are happy and have signed off, there’s always things I wished we had more time to do or refine. It’s rare but I love when we get the chance to do a ‘director’s cut’ afterwards.


LBB> Is there a piece of technology or software that’s particularly exciting you in VFX? Why?


Adrien> The latest versions of Unreal Engine has evolved from the traditional gaming design software to a tool that we’ve been able to use more and more in post-production work. The capability to craft entire worlds through real-time rendering is a game changer. It’s not entirely there yet, in terms of complete realism, but every update is improving drastically.


LBB> And as real time tech and games engines become ever faster and more sophisticated, how do you see that shaping or changing the role of VFX and its place in the production pipeline (e.g. thinking about things like virtual production)?


Adrien> Real-time rendering has enabled us to integrate virtual elements into live-action shots more seamlessly, which has already revolutionised interactive filmmaking and significantly reduced post-production timelines. This enhances things like pre-viz, streamlines collaboration between design departments, and helps directors to explore dynamic storytelling techniques.


LBB> When you’re watching a VFX-heavy ad or movie, what are the tells that you look for to figure out how well crafted it is?


Adrien> It’s all about making things blend seamlessly and feel real. When you spot elements like contact shadows, reflections and refractions that look just right, that’s a good sign of quality. Liquid and particle simulations are the real tricky stuff — if you’re left wondering whether it’s CGI or not, that’s when you know the artists have nailed it!


LBB> What was your first creative milestone in the industry – the project you worked on that you were super proud of?


Adrien> Those live visuals I did for Empire of the Sun were probably my first creative milestone. I cringe a bit at how they look if I see them now, but it was one of my first motion design jobs and something where I was given complete creative freedom. Seeing it play in front of a crowd of thousands at a concert was really thrilling at the time.


LBB> Which director or artist do you revere the most and why?


Adrien> There are so many talented artists out there and we’re lucky that Australia is home to some of the best. Patrick Clair and Raoul Marks have always been creatives I have looked up to the most. The title sequences they have crafted are always so imaginative. Catching the essence of the film or series you’re about to see in such a creative and mesmerising way.