Jamie Scott

VFX Director & Filmmaker

New York, USA

Making the art of the impossible

Jamie Scott is a visual effects artist and filmmaker working in New York City. He works on post-production for TV commercials and in his spare time uses his visual effects expertise to capture the natural world in his striking, stylised time-lapse films.

FLAIR IN THE FIELD

Scott is an expert in high-end visual effects systems, but this is restricted to dedicated workstations. For his day-to-day work, this isn’t a problem. But for Scott’s side-projects it threw up a challenge: how could he maintain his own exceptionally high standards when shooting his own images on location?

UNTETHERED IMAGINATION

Scott knew he’d need the laptop with the most powerful graphics card available if he was going to realise his vision. Light is most dramatic in the morning but it changes quickly and a full day’s shoot can see him take up to 7,000 high resolution RAW images, which need to be checked for exposure and quality there and then. A powerful laptop gives him the ability to display these images quickly, edit settings and make sure he captures the shots he needs. Wasting 6,999 images because the first one was wrong isn’t an option. The right graphics card can be the difference between total success or complete failure.

THE POWER TO CHANGE SEASONS

IN BLOOM

Scott’s time lapse films allow him to work on something he has complete creative control over, but his standards are world-class.

He won’t compromise his vision because the right shot is out of reach.

The natural world has always inspired Scott and his current time-lapse project, Bloom, highlights the simple beauty of flowers opening naturally, but brought together in a fantastical, awe-inspiring way. After spending three years capturing thousands of individual flowers blooming in front of a green screen, his backdrops had to be perfect, shooting the morning sunrise and evening sunsets in beautiful but remote locations. The shifting exposure levels would be tough to capture properly, and getting it wrong would mean wasting whole days of shooting. He needed a computer powerful enough to check and tweak his shots in real-time as well as being portable enough to carry with him over long distances and rough terrain.

HOW JAMIE MADE THE ART OF THE IMPOSSIBLE

Asking the right questions

Have you always been artistic?

Definitely. I was always drawing and making things as a kid. I used to set up Haunted Houses at home, using coloured bulbs to light the scene. I didn’t even have a camera to capture what I’d created but I was thinking as an Art Director before I even knew what that was.

I think I’m quite similar to how I was then, except I own a camera and I don’t draw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pictures as much anymore.

Is telling your own story why you wanted to work on side projects?

I’ve done some really exciting things in my career but on some projects I have more creative control than others. I wanted to have a consistent set of work I could look back on and be proud of. I didn’t want to have a year where I hadn’t created something.

“To capture the shots I want, I need the most powerful graphics card I can get in the most portable package I can get.”

Jamie Scott

That makes sense. But why nature?

I work in an industry where you have to make images more perfect than perfect. When I was thinking about doing my own project I wanted to capture reality in a more authentic way. I didn’t intend to have a lot of post-production work in my projects, but as I was continuing to work on them I began to refine and give everything a more stylised look.

Do you ever surprise yourself with what you create?

I am surprised at how much I learn. I often start with something specific in mind but end up capturing something else. For example, with my Bloom time lapse, tulips were going to be my main focus. I shot tulips and there were never as good as I thought they were going to be. But then I brought other flowers, which I had no idea the names of, weren’t even open when I brought them, and they bloomed and ended up looking amazing.

Bloom is a striking film. Was there a lot of planning?

More than you can imagine. When I’m starting these projects there’s a lot of testing that goes into it. I have to prepare for them for a long time. It’s usually a lot of trial and error. Cherry Blossom were hard to do because they take a long time to bloom, I had to shoot them a branch at a time and they’re only available at a certain time of the year. It took me three years to get it all shot.

Given the length of time it takes to shoot, is there anything you do to minimise mistakes?

I make sure I have a powerful laptop with me when I’m on location. The most dramatic light is at the start of the day but it also changes a lot. If I set up a time lapse I have to make sure my exposure accounts for that change. I simply can’t do that on a camera screen so I have to check that quickly on my laptop or I risk wasting an entire day’s work.