Scott Squires is a familiar name in the field of visual effects, and for good reason. Currently freelancing as a visual effects supervisor, Scott has worked in the industry for more than 35 years. Numerous high-profile films have benefited from his involvement over the last three decades, including Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), The Hunt for Red October (1990), The Mask (1994), Dragonheart (1996), Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), Van Helsing (2004) and Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007). Recently, Scott has been a prominent voice in the movement for reforms in the visual effects industry, championing the cause of a system that supports more consistent and equitable compensation for VFX professionals. Today, Scott did me the great favor of taking a few minutes out of his morning to chat with me about his work and career.
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
When did you first become interested in VFX?
I always enjoyed Ray Harryhausen films and animated cartoons. I had an active imagination and was into model trains, studying insects and other activities.
So in high school I decided visual effects would be an interesting career. This was before
Star Wars. Since I was in small midwest town I did what I could to advance toward that goal. I worked as newspaper photographer while in highschool and was theater projectionist to try to learn what I could where I was. In the meantime, I bought myself a Super-8 and 16mm camera for doing animation and experimenting.
The Mask (1994)
How did you land your first gig?
Knocking on doors. Someone recommend contacting Doug Trumbull who was starting on a project (Close Encounters). I interviewed with him and was hired as his assistant.
What do you love most about your job?
Creating new images and changing others. Interesting creative and technical challenges that are unique.
Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
Is there anything that you don't love about your job?
The hours can be long. More and more work is being done out of the country, so there cn be long periods away from home. I like to focus on the actual work and at times other factors detract from that task.
You've worked on so many amazing projects. Which one was the most fun to work on? Why?
I directed Space Race (a Showscan simulator ride). That was fun for the flexibility and creative control. Dragonheart was also fun because we were able to focus on the work and create a character.
Do you have a favorite piece of software?
The last year or two I've used Nuke fairly extensively. It's nice how much flexibility and control you have in the package. Most of the 3D apps really don't seem like they've made as much improvement over the last decade or two. They have more features but are not any easier to use. I of course still like Commotion, a software package that I created for roto and composite work. Sold throughout the world but Avid no longer sells it.
What's your position on the 24fps vs. 48fps debate?
48fps (and 60fps) provide smoother, more realistic imagery. Also, the higher frame rates overcome the strobing issue in 3D stereo. 24fps provides more of the traditional dream film look. So the choice depends on the project. Higher frame rates will take more time and effort to work on so I hope the budget and time adjust accordingly.
Van Helsing (2004)
Do you have any advice for aspiring VFX artists?
1. Be aware of the current visual effects industry.
2. Make sure you learn and understand the principles.
3. Determine the specific area you wish to focus on.
4. Don't go into crazy debt to get a visual effects education since there are a number of avenues.
5. Create the best work and reel you can.
Reel stills © Fox, Universal, Warner Brothers, LucasFilm, New Line Cinema