Q&A with John Mangia - VFX supervisor
As a visual effects supervisor, John Mangia has an impressive resume that includes “The Offer,” “The Queen’s Gambit,” “If Beale Street Could Talk”, and many others. We talked with John about working on fast-paced film and television productions and his onset VFX data collection workflow.
S: When did you get your start in visual effects and what drew you to working in the industry?
JM: I’ve been working professionally for over 16 years, but my journey started much earlier. It sounds cliche, but VFX became an interest of mine after seeing Star Wars at a friend’s house when I was six years old. I was enamored by the effects in the film, and others, and was curious to learn how they were created. I read many books on the process. This spurred a variety of interests including filmmaking, model making and computer graphics that has carried through my youth and into my adult life.
S: How did you first hear about Setellite? What benefits does it give you in the VFX roles you assume?
JM: I learned about Setellite through a colleague of mine and have used it for the last four years. What I like most about Setellite is that it’s fast, secure, and reliable. On my recent projects, I’m typically wearing multiple hats on set since my shows didn’t have the budget for a data wrangler or on-set supervisor. This means I’m constantly juggling between working with the director, showrunner, and DP on set, logging data and measurements in Setellite, shooting reference photos and HDRIs, answering emails from VFX vendors as well as dealing with any surprises that might come up throughout the day.
S: Tell us about the importance of collecting and registering all your on-set VFX data in an organized and effective way. What TV and film production teams/departments are you generally collecting data for downstream?
JM: My team collects and organizes on-set data to provide to all the VFX facilities and artists working on the show. It’s important to have accurate data, especially when dealing with shots that require CG integration and shots with anamorphic lenses.
S: Recently, you’ve worked on large projects overseeing hundreds of VFX shots and managing multiple vendors globally across different time zones. How does using a solution like Setellite help each team collaborate and keep track of shots?
JM: Collaboration is essential. We typically generate PDF data sheets, CSV exports, and other reports that the VFX vendors can use to integrate into their own pipelines however they see fit. Every VFX company has different ways they like to deal with on-set data and the export options in Setellite allow us to provide that flexibility.
S: What are some of the biggest obstacles in your line of work regarding the collection of on-set data on large (or small) projects?
JM: Time! If I’m wearing multiple hats on-set, the quicker and more accurately I can get data recorded for each setup the more time I have to focus on how to make the shot better.
S: Can you outline at what point in a production Setellite is used?
JM: Towards the end of prep, once the DP has done their camera tests and the camera assistants have checked out all of the equipment, I record it all in Setellite. I record separate information for multiple lens packages for our cameras, including serial numbers, since lens distortion can vary between the same model and focal length of a lens, and configure the general project settings in preparation for the first day of production. During production, I use Setellite constantly throughout the day as we record necessary data for our VFX shots. This includes recording specific notes on various takes and any potential issues or hot costs that may have arisen. In post, it’s all about getting the data from Setellite to our VFX vendors in a usable format as we turnover shots to them. Occasionally, I’ll use the Setellite website if I have to look up data on a particular scene for reference.
S: What other major hardware or software tools do you use in conjunction with Setellite?
JM: My team uses ShotGrid and RV extensively in post. I also use Nuke, Photoshop, Blender, and Resolve for concept work. My VFX Editor uses Avid to keep all our cuts up to date with the latest VFX work and for us to review shots in context.
S: As a productivity tool, what are your favorite features in Setellite?
JM: I like that Setellite is cross-platform and as easy to access on my iPad as it is on the website. Episodic TV sets move very rapidly. The ability to quickly populate fields with preset data and duplicate slates saves us a lot of time as we record all the data quickly and accurately for multiple cameras during a scene.
S: With the continued rise in streaming content creation, are you seeing more opportunities for onset VFX data wranglers and VFX Supervisors?
JM: Absolutely! There’s more high-quality content being created that relies on VFX as a tool to help tell the story. The bigger the vision, the more VFX teams will be required to help bring it to life.
“I like that Setellite is cross-platform and as easy to access on my iPad as it is on the website. Episodic TV sets move very rapidly. The ability to quickly populate fields with preset data and duplicate slates saves us a lot of time as we record all the data quickly and accurately for multiple cameras during a scene.”
John Mangia, VFX Supervisor
Still from The Queen’s Gambit, Netflix
Still from The Offer, Paramount+