Invisible interlopers of the visual world

Sometimes the best job has been done when it appears no job has been done at all.

Sometimes the best job has been done when it appears no job has been done at all.

The job of a flame artist in post-production work is to do just that. They make sure when viewers sit in front of their TV’s and view different shows, movies, music videos and commercials that whatever they see looks as natural and real as possible.

Anthony Tsav-daris, a Jr. flame artist, says it’s his job to take footage shot or created with various elements like green screens and 3-D effects, and make it look like no manipulation has occurred. In one word, the job is called compositing.

“It’s sort of a thankless job,” he says. “Our job is to make it look like we did nothing at all.”

He does special effects for short-form post-production projects like music videos and commercials. Tsav-daris prefers short-form to long-form (like feature films) because of his short attention span. He’s responsible for coming up with creative concepts, brainstorming with directors and production companies about how to manipulate footage, or discuss various concept requirements.

These requirements can be anything from whitening teeth, giving hair some extra shine or doing something called “pack replacement.” Pack replacement is when a company has updated packaging for its product and needs to work it into a commercial.

What makes it even cooler is that he gets to work on a computer system that costs a half-million dollars, called an Autodesk Flame.

“It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen,” he says.

Because every job is different — either because of location or lighting or creative concepts — there is plenty of thought that goes in to each project. Tsav-daris and his colleagues try to give the production company as much guidance as they need, but it’s rarely followed. That’s where the fun really begins. The greater the challenge in front of him, the more impressive his work is.

“The personal touch is taking it to the next level of being perfect,” he says. “But not just perfect to the average person’s eyes, but perfect to people who do the same type of work. Compositing is very much about doing work for your peers.”

Because post-production work can be so unnoticeable to the average viewer, recognition mainly comes from those within the industry itself.

There are various programs at colleges and universities that offer post-production courses. Tsav-daris attended the University of Windsor. Following school, he did as most people in his field likely do:
Worked for free as a production assistant and driver.

This experience gave him the opportunity to make contacts that would eventually land him his job.