VFX powerhouse MacGuff is using its proprietary tools Face Engine and the new Face Creative Engine, in conjunction with traditional CGI, on a slew of French and international projects for streamers and French broadcasters.
France is one of the world’s biggest VFX hubs, leveraged by its TRIP scheme, that enables foreign shoots to tap into a 40% cash rebate on all eligible expenses – including expenses for live action that are not VFX related – for international projects whose VFX expenses surpass €2 million ($2.16 million) spent in France.
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Philippe Sonrier, MacGuff’s co-founder and joint director, says that the studio is seeing rising demand from streamers. The studio has 70 staff, but plans to grow to around 120 in 2023, due to rising demand.
For Netflix, MacGuff is providing VFX work on three series, including Season 3 of “Lupin,” having worked on Seasons 1 and 2. “Wonderman” is about the life of French empresario Bernard Tapie, in which the studio uses de-ageing tools. “Transatlantic,” produced by Anna Winger and Camille McCurry at Airlift Productions and line produced in France by Cactus Films, is inspired by the true story, set in Marseille in 1940, of the Emergency Rescue Committee, which helped refugees escape from Nazi persecution.
For Disney+, the studio is working on VFX for French original series “Tout va bien,” from Maui Entertainment, which will be co-directed and co-produced by “The Bureau” creator and showrunner Eric Rochant. It’s about a dysfunctional Parisian family confronted by the tragic illness of one of their children. Face Engine was used to show the effect of cancer on the daughter who undergoes intensive treatment and loses her hair. Sonrier explains that it was possible to achieve all the effects without make-up, which made the production faster and more realistic.
Another Disney+ project with VFX from MacGuff is environmental thriller “ZAD (Zone to Defend),” directed by Romain Cogitore and produced by Nicolas Dumont and Hugo Selignac for Chi-Fou-Mi Productions (“BAC Nord”).
For Amazon Prime Video, MacGuff is supplying VFX to comedy series,“Alphonse,” by Nicolas Bedos, who previously worked with the studio on “Mascarade,” starring Isabelle Adjani. The series is produced by Alain Goldman (“La Vie en rose”) and Banijay.
The studio is also providing extensive CGI work, in a 50/50 partnership with MPC, on the hybrid creatures of Thomas Cailley’s “Le règne animal,” for Nord Ouest Film, about a father and son living in a world where some humans have started mutating into other animal species. CGI is used to create characters such as bird-men and bear-men.
It will be the second feature film from Cailley, whose “Love at First Fight” premiered at the 2014 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, and went on to win the Louis Delluc Award, Best First Film Lumière, and the Best Actress and Best New Hope awards at the 2015 Césars.
MacGuff’s proprietary AI tools have been overseen by co-founder and joint director Rodolphe Chabrier and MacGuff’s veteran VFX supervisor Martial Vallanchon.
Face Engine has been used to de-age actors and bring characters back to life in projects such as “Hotel du Temps,” for which new episodes are underway, and “Mascarade.”
The new tool – Face Creative Engine – based on deep learning, enables the studio to go even further by realistically mixing the faces of two characters.
The tool will be used on the upcoming comedy “BDE” by Michael Youn, about a “no limit” weekend in the Alps, between forty-somethings and millennial, scheduled to be released on Prime Video in 2023.
MacGuff is also producing VFX work for the documentary “Corridor of Power,” produced by Dror Moreh, in which it recreates the Oval Office with recent U.S. Presidents, and the French-Chinese coproduction “Last Secret of Humanity,” a docu-fiction produced by 10.7 Films, set in prehistoric China.
Sonrier is also co-president of the lobbying association FranceVFX, created in 2017, which represents 12 studios: MacGuff, BUF, Digital District, Mikros Image, Trimaran, Solidanim, The Yard, Autre Chose, Les Androïds Associés, Reepost, La Planète Rouge and D-Seed.
He says that it is essential to maintain the 40% TRIP cash rebate scheme to ensure continuity to the current surge of VFX work in France.
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