Dallas Harvey: Vancouver FX Studio Founder
We recently caught up with alumni student, Dallas Harvey, who graduated in 2010 from the 3D Computer Animation, Visual Effects and Game Design program. In 2011, Dallas went on to found the full service studio, Vancouver FX. His company specializes in character and creature special effects using makeup, sculpture and 3D designs for film, television and music videos. In this interview he talks about how the knowledge and skills he gained at Think Tank helped pave the way for him in the FX industry.
Where did the initial interest come from to sign up for the 3D Computer Animation, VFX and Game Design program at Think Tank?
DH) I have enjoyed creating monsters and creatures most of my life and always wanted to pursue it professionally. While working as a digital graphic designer and web developer in Calgary, I felt it was time to move into the 3D world and make creatures full-time. I became interested in the 3D animation and game design program at Think Tank. Scott and Joe were very helpful and encouraged me to come out and see Think Tank in person. After taking a tour and discussing my goals with them, I knew this was the right choice to continue my education and follow my dreams of making creatures professionally. I moved to Vancouver, enrolled in the program, learned a ton and graduated in 2010. I have never once regretted that decision!
Where was your first job at after you finished the program at Think Tank?
DH) Vancouver’s fashion and makeup school, Blanche Macdonald, were planning to implement a new Digital Makeup Design program, so they hired me to write a curriculum and teach it. I instructed students on how to use Photoshop for creating a concept to be used for their prosthetic FX makeups, weapons, props and costume and hair designs. Being able to teach these up-and-coming artists to use digital tools for their future work was very rewarding, and it was an honour to write the program for the school.
Soon after that I was hired to write articles for Makeup Artist Magazine in the Digital Makeup Design column. My first article focused on using Photoshop to design realistic tattoos using a special makeup application technique on an actor. These jobs started me on a journey from digital to practical FX, and I now work with both mediums on a daily basis.
When did you start your company, Vancouver FX? What made you want to start up your own company? Was there something in particular that inspired you to do so? Did you already have a background in doing makeup/prosthetics?
DH) I did not have a background in make-up or prosthetics before going to Think Tank. After graduating, I was fortunate enough to be mentored by a few of Canada’s best practical FX artists. In particular, Think Tank sculpting instructor, Gideon Hay, and Gemini award winning makeup FX artist, Celine Godeau. Within two years of learning practical effects makeup and prosthetic sculpting, I was hired to be the key FX artist and designer for many films and music videos in Canada and the USA.
Vancouver FX was started in 2012, and I started doing production work full-time out of my studio. What inspired me to create my own business was having the freedom to create designs that I could choose. I am able to train and build an amazing team that creates original monsters and creatures. This is the best part of the job!
Do you find the knowledge you gained at Think Tank to be useful and applicable to what you do now? Is there a big crossover? Which things do you use the most on a daily basis?
DH) Going to Think Tank changed my life artistically and put me on a professional career path in the FX industry. The experience and mentorship of the instructors was very important in forming a professional work ethic and solid design skills to become a successful artist. Think Tank teaches a professional FX pipeline, so you know what to expect when you enter the industry. Thanks to this program, the transition from school to actually working in the field was very smooth for me.
How many people work at your company? How many projects do you work on at any given time?
DH) We have two departments at Vancouver FX working on our in-house film productions. The studio also creates effects for other film productions when the story and designs are something I find challenging creatively. Our practical FX and Makeup department consists of two key artists and their assistants. Depending on the show’s requirements, the crew can have up to 12 artists working on a project. Patrick Wakefield (300, Watchmen, Sin City, iRobot) is the FX Supervisor and heads up the CG department. We then bring on junior CG artists to satisfy production needs when required. Typically we have a few episodes in pre-production, one in production and one in post. The studio creates original TV and web series in-house, therefore we run a full pipeline from initial concept design, practical and digital asset creation to the final edit.
Is there a particular project you have worked on that you are most proud of?
DH) In 2015 I was nominated for a Leo Award for “Best Makeup in a Short Drama“. We created a world of original creatures and characters for the award-winning kids’ film, ‘Gord’s Brother’. It was a cute, fun monster film. I really enjoy making those sorts of movies.
What projects are you currently working on?
DH) ‘7 Demons’ is a supernatural sci-fi film. It will be released at festivals across North America at the end of 2016.
My studio designed a practical life-sized robot for ‘Unit Bryan’, and I personally puppeted it live in a green suit. My CG team then composited me out of the shots, which you can see in the VFX breakdown video. View it on the Telus Optik TV.
We also have three new in-house film productions starting in 2017, so stay updated on our website: http://VancouverFX.com