Amr Akef Gives Us the Rundown
No longer limited by reality, today’s films can depict anything outside the realm of existence, thanks to the capabilities of CGI (Computer Graphic Imagery).
How has CGI changed the way movies are made?
Definitely, the effect of CGI has been huge in any project we have worked on. It has given us the confidence to embark on new projects that Egyptian cinema had been afraid to engage with.
Initially, films utilized CGI to create some things not related to the drama just to create more of a visual spectacle. Right now, however, this has all changed, there are now a lot of stories based on CGI. In our series, The End, CGI was the major element.
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In this series we were so close to the best science fiction quality in the world; we were the first Egyptian company to take the risk to work on a science fiction project with high quality, ‘no limits’ use of CGI.
If this series had failed in CGI, the Middle East would never have ventured into this field right now. Anyone who had read the script would never have imagined that we could reach this quality in an Egyptian company, with a 100% Egyptian crew, and without the support of any foreign company. So of course it is an essential element in the game.
Can you give us examples of what can be achieved with CGI?
Towers collapsing, airplanes falling, and fires starting are all prime examples of CGI. However, the process is very difficult, considering all the complications related to the dynamics and simulation of it.
Taking the collapsing towers, for instance, things like the wall width both inside and out and even in between the walls, matter. All these details help make it realistic and are apparent within the scene.
Weight also plays a major role as it also affects how realistic the scene is, and a tower collapsing will obviously differ from a ball dropping. Working with the different layers involves the reaction between the ground and tower, all the walls, the smoke, and dust.
What are the technical steps involved, and how closely do you have to work with the rest of the production team?
First and foremost, we read the script thoroughly to understand exactly what we should do in CGI. Secondly, we create concept art and a storyboard for the look, color palette and details of everything we’re going to do, with the director’s cooperation, of course.
Some things require pre-visualization in order to have a vision of what the work we’re doing will look like when it’s implemented. At the end, I choose the best techniques used worldwide; I don’t make it difficult for myself or my crew, this is why our work is currently one of the best in the Middle East.
How did you get into the field of CGI?
Since 2006, I’ve worked as an editor in music videos and films. Because of how much I liked and loved CGI, I started a team in 2010; I wanted to implement what I learned and take it to another level.
Our projects grew and became more intricate, as did our team, and eventually, we established our company. My role is to decide what technique we will work with because of my 10 years of experience studying CGI, as well as learning about the latest in the industry.
I have watched behind the scenes of a lot of movies and series to understand how CGI specialists get their movies done in high quality and what techniques they use.
What special training is involved?
I studied mass communication in college, but I had been working as an editor since high school, which is why I chose this major in college. I’ve always treated my job as if it were a hobby rather than something I had to do. As a result, I’ve learned a lot from the internet regarding making movies, behind the scenes and VFX breakdown.
What have been the most challenging projects you have worked on to date, and how did you meet the requirements?
The best and most challenging projects I’ve worked on recently were The End, El Deeb and El Ens W El Nems.
The End, the first science-fiction series in the Middle East, was a 4000-shot project. The script was written by Amr Samir Atif and Yasser Samy. It was extremely difficult for anyone to imagine the world in 2120. The cities, the people, literally everything.
El Deeb came as a new project, using a new technique that many people have tried to use before and failed, posing a challenge for anyone willing to take the risk, but we tried and we succeeded as The Crew, the first company in the Middle East to do face replacement. And in El Ens W El Nems, 80% of the film was built on CGI.
Which movies with CGI have been an inspiration for you in recent years?
For me, Peter Jackson’s work in CGI, as the director of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, is unrivaled. This director can create worlds and make you believe in them as if they were real, and he uses extremely difficult techniques. All the Avengers movies as well, I can’t pick just one, but Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit still remain my favorites.
Do you see CGI being used more and more?
Without a doubt! CGI is the element that will define how everything, from the production team to the director, will work. There are numerous projects that are currently based on CGI.
What are you working on at the moment?
Currently, I’m working on a film directed by Yasser El Yasry that could be one of the largest visual effect films in the Middle East. We’re creating four completely different worlds from A to Z, and it will include numerous graphic techniques that no one could have predicted we’d achieve. This is our most recent work that will be released soon.
We are also currently working on El Deeb, a series that will include many mysterious and difficult elements. In addition to two major projects in CGI with director Mohammed Samy and one with Yasser Samy, it addresses the Arab world in 2150 and how cities will look.
What would be a dream project for you?
I’d like to do a project about the history of ancient Egypt’s architecture, houses, and everything else in the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms, and in particular the Fatimid and Pharaonic periods. In addition to that, I want to develop a unique project about Islamic culture.