The Yardeners – Noemie Cauvin, Head of DMP
Meet The Yardeners – the passionate team at The Yard, who strives everyday to make the seeds of creativity grow into stricking visual effects, fruitful collaborations and stories to remember.
This week, we introduce you to Noemie Cauvin, who has been heading the DMP department at The Yard for almost two years after a 10-year career at international studios.
Hello Noemie ! You’re Head of DMP at The Yard. Could you please explain your current role?
As “head of DMP”, my role is to increase the pace and efficiency of my department. This can be achieved through improving the internal and external processes, saving some time on repetitive technical tasks in order to spend more time on artistic tasks, and improving teamwork and relationship with the other departments.
My role is also to make sure everybody fits well within the team.
Alongside this mission, I actually wear several hats :
- I am Matte Painting and Concept Art Supervisor for the various projects we are working on. Among others, I guide my team to help them to reach the quality expected by the VFX supervisor and the client within the set deadlines ;
- I work on concept art and matte painting myself.
What do you find great about your department ?
I have always been fascinated by scenery either in films, illustration or real life. What I love about concept art and matte painting is that each project takes place in a different location, and at a different era. So it makes me travel in time and geographically, and I always learn something new along the way.
What I particularly like in the team right now is that everyone has his/her own special skills that he/she can share with the others (no matter the years of experience). So we all benefit from that and grow up together as a department. And everyone is very supportive of each other.
What brought you to DMP ?
In my family, I was born and raised with feature animation. When I was around 8 year-old, I discovered a documentary at the end of my “Snow White and the seven dwarves” VHS showing how the Walt Disney studio made the film. I was amazed to realize that drawing for feature animation was actually a real job. And it became my childhood dream job.
Fifteen years later, in my last year of 3D animation studies at Supinfocom, I was in charge of art directing and creating matte paintings for our student graduation short film. I’ve had so much fun that I decided to focus my career on that field.
I started my career in a small company in London called Painting Practice specialized in Production Design for sets, concept art and matte painting. I’ve spent two incredible years in that studio, surrounded by amazing artists who generously taught me everything about painting, designing sets and the fundamentals of matte painting, working on TV shows like Black Mirror and feature films like “Beauty and the Beast” (directed by Bill Condon).
After that, I moved to Sydney to Animal Logic Art Department (I have never been that close to my childhood dream !). It has been another fantastic experience with another bunch of talented artists (some of whom have become long-time friends) with who I had the chance and the fun to enter the square world of “Lego Batman” and “Lego Ninjago” movies.
Then I came back to France where I had the opportunity to work within the DMP department for animation and VFX projetcs. I’ve always liked to switch between projects as animation is more challenging artistically (as we have to adapt ourselves to a specific graphic style) while VFX is more challenging technically (to reach the highest photorealistic quality).
I have made a stop over in MPC Montréal in 2017-2018 which has been an intense technical boost to my career before going back to France where I met Laurens Ehrmann and had the pleasure of working at The Yard VFX for the first time.
Today I am very happy to reunite my different past experiences as we are doing both Matte Painting and Concept art in the DMP department.
We don’t make pretty pictures just for the sake of it. It has to make sense and tell something about the set we are creating. Is this place very old or brand new ? Natural or manmade ? Has the weather left some marks through centuries on that rock ? It can also underline the drama of the screenplay. For example in Enola Holmes 2 we were asked to create a stormy sky to announce that the main character was going to be in trouble.
Since you’ve joined The Yard, you’ve made the audience « travel » through different places and even through time. Could you please tell us about the different projects you’ve worked on?
I started my journey on fire in Paris with “Notre Dame Brûle” from Jean-Jacques Annaud. Then I went for a retreat in a lost castle in the Slovenian Alps with “The Princess” (directed by Le-Van Kiet) before jumping on a train to follow “The Gray Man” (The Russo brothers) on his secret mission from Vienna to Rio, stopping by Sydney and Prague.
After a summer break in Athens with “Salade Grecque” from Cédric Klapish, I landed in a dusty mysterious Moroccan city to meet a no less mysterious professor of archaeology (Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny – James Mangold). 2022 was quite a ride !
But my favorite trips so far have been traveling back in time to London at the Victorian era for “Enola Holmes 2” (directed by Harry Badbeer) and to Saint-Malo during the World War Two for “All The Light We Cannot See” (directed by Shawn Levy).
Shots involving Noemie’s work for The Yard or The Yard’s DMP Department (Enola Holmes 2, Ford v Ferrari, Minuscule 2, Notre Dame on Fire, The Gray Man) :
The main challenge in DMP to render realistic environments is that the CG can look too 3D and the 2.5 DMP can look too flat and painterly. So we have to find the right balance between the two techniques to get the best of both worlds.
What is your favorite place/time to bring on screen ? Any that you’d dream to work on ?
My favorite experience so far has been working on Andy Serkis’ Jungle Book adaptation “Mowgli”. I was working at Painting Practice in London at that time and we had to design the jungle sets that will be built in the Leavesden studio for the shooting. It was super interesting as we had to design an endless luxurious jungle with the constraints of a film set (emergency exit, pathway for the camera and lighting rig, etc …).
A few months later, to thank us for our hardwork, our production designer allowed us to go on set and discover what had been built based on our set design. It was incredible how believable the jungle was and to know even if I was there for the first time that if I turn right I will find a river bed, and if I carry on left I will find myself in front of this very old tree covered in vines that I designed a few month ago. It’s was like being Mary Poppins and jumping into your own drawings !
In general, the projects I enjoy the most to work on are either organic sets or period drama (my personal favorite to watch !).
Also I always admire projects where risks are taken in Production Design to bring a strong graphic identity to the project and something new on screen. On that matter I have truly enjoyed films like Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve), MacBeth (Justin Kurzel), Her (Spike Jonze), Wes Anderson’s work, and in animation Long Way North (Rémi Chayé) and Spider-man into the Spider-verse to name just a few. Working on projects like that with such a strong graphic identity would be a blast !
What major evolution do you see upcoming in your field of expertise ?
With the emergence of AI we are facing a big change in the way we are going to create pictures for entertainment.
The Covid has also changed drastically the way we are working as a team. Managing a hybrid department with half of the artists in the studio and the other half fully remote is quite a challenge. You have to make sure they feel equally part of the team, and compensate the lack of spontaneity and knowledge transmission you get naturally when everybody is working in the same room. Being a junior today in this kind of environment is not easy.
I am very picky about that checklist, especially with juniors. But I think this is a useful tip to keep in mind.
Any piece of advice you’d give to students to choose DMP for their career ?
With the emergence of drones and the recent fashion of making films with bolder camera moves, the DMP department has undergone significant technological change over the last 15 years and still is ! So you have to be able to adapt yourself and don’t be afraid to learn new software on the job.
But whatever the software and the project, some things will never change : composition, colors and lights, perspective, attention to detail in real life. So I would suggest to students to work on their artistic skills and training their eye, studying films and trying to analyze why you like this or that frame.
Nourish yourself with anything that can inspire you : books, films, travels, sport, exhibitions … You never know what will be the next film subject. And all the personal references you bring to the table will make the difference.
After all, whatever the technology we use, our goal remains to tell stories through beautiful believable pictures.
WHAT THE TEAM SAYS
Noemie’s team has also shared some of her favorite phrases :
Because when Noemie gives them feedbacks, she always starts by telling what’s great in the work they’ve submitted before talking about what could be improved.
We started from scratch and, in a fast-growing company you have to be very patient to make things move. So she is always over excited when she can announce to the team that a new tool has been implemented in the pipeline or a new time-saving process is ready, or that a long last annoying bug has been finally fixed !