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Frankie goes big (and a little bad)


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Founded over 10 years ago, the Emmy-winning Rodeo FX has grown from a Montreal boutique to a major player in world-class VFX. Its credits are impressive and diverse, combining high-end commercials for brands like Nike, SAAQ and NBC with effects-heavy work for lauded features ArrivalGame of Thrones, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

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To add to this impressive list, the studio is also producing work for such VFX extravaganzas as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and The Fate of the Furious.

To wrap up 2016, the Rodeo team contributed to black comedy crime caper Bad Santa 2 – a black Christmas crime caper with a variety of invisible VFX needs.

In order to manage client review across the production, the Rodeo team turned to the web-based application Frankie. Using this flexible and intuitive video review tool, the Rodeo FX team delivered to Holywood-grade directly from their browser.

“We’ve been using Frankie since its inception,” says André Ü Montambeault, VFX Supervisor at Rodeo FX. “Its intuitive architecture makes it a great tool for the studio, whether we’re working on a commercial or feature film like Bad Santa.”

Seamless review

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For Bad Santa 2, the Rodeo FX team needed to deliver a variety of CG enhancements, additions, and replacements intended to amplify the comedic events that transpire on screen.

“We knew that the VFX work was there to support the story and, from time to time, add to the black humour,” says Montambeault.

Frankie became key in dissecting these effects, ensuring each delivered on this goal as seamlessly and believably as possible. Although Frankie is more typically used in the production of short-form commercial content and marketing materials, its ease-of-use and flexibility were pivotal on the Bad Santa 2 project.

The ability to easily hop onto a browser to review the frames in question – while still having access to tools that could highlight specific details – was a big reason for Rodeo choosing Frankie, enabling the Rodeo team and director Mark Waters to perfect Bad Santa 2’s risqué style.

“In one scene, there is a gun fight in which we had to composite one-frame muzzle flashes; there was a lot of discussion around that. ” explains Montambeault. “The fact that Frankie does not drop any frames during reviews made these sessions go very smoothly, enabling us to comment on exactly the moments we needed to with total precision. The reviews happened perfectly in sync, even in a browser.”

Globalized production

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Frankie proved itself to be particularly useful given the geographic locations of those involved in the production. While Rodeo FX was based in Montreal, Canada, the Bad Santa 2 production team was working out of the West Coast.

Neither team could travel at the drop of a hat, so needed a quick and simple solution to jump in and carry out a reviews. Being able to interact in real-time via a browser became the most easy and efficient way of moving the Bad Santa 2 project forwards.

“Because Frankie is web-based, the director and editorial team could easily sync up from anywhere,” says Montambeault. “What’s really great is that when we’re in a Frankie session, it’s like there’s no time difference. We can work quickly and easily, sometimes in less time than it would take for a colleague to walk from one office to another!”

Demolishing deadlines

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Bad Santa 2 may be a film about drunken chaos, but its post process was as organised as can be – even under the pressure of a strict seasonal deadline.

“Sometimes we needed to review more than 20 shots in a very short space of time. Frankie enabled us to do that without breaking a sweat,” says Montambeault.

With Frankie, the team could pass shots back and forth quickly between artists and directors, or narrow down efforts to a specific frame to annotate tiny details. Rather than forcing artists into long-winded explanations and constant meetings, Frankie enabled the team to address issues visually, immediately and remotely.

“Instead of just saying what’s wrong with a shot, you can show it,” says Montambeault. “The option to export PDFs from each session’s notes was a great addition to the process, as they gave anyone not involved in the session a full breakdown of what was produced.”

This proved invaluable in the film production process specifically – one in which every member of the team is not always available for each step of the way.

The final verdict

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Overall, Frankie proved a valuable addition to Rodeo FX’s established film production pipeline, delivering to Hollywood standard via the confines of a browser.

Bad Santa 2 was our first engagement with Miramax, and they immediately came back to Rodeo with another feature film, delighted by their experience,” concludes Montambeault. “Frankie certainly played a part in making that happen.”


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