The advancements of each oncoming generation is a result of being inspired by the previous one. A momentary contemplation of this reinforces the responsibility we feel to strive to attain our absolute best. Visual Effects Artist and Technical Director Jie Meng has worked on some of the most visually advanced films and television productions in current times; he only needs to look back a short while to recall the spark that prompted him. Meng relates, “The reason I became interested in becoming a VFX artist was the film series The Lord of the Rings. After watching every episode, I was speechless and deeply touched. This was not just a film series, it’s a masterpiece of art. I watched The Lord of the Rings series countless times and every time I watched them I was shocked by the stunning visual effects and special effects images like the dark Mordor, the burning eyes of Sauron, beautiful Rivendell, grim Minas Morgul, and others. These were created by either computer graphics or miniature special effects. I could not believe that the film making and visual effects could create such scenes at that time.” Peter Jackson’s imagining of the Tolkien classics would set Jie and his peers on a course to becoming the leaders in the next iteration of visual storytelling.
Visual Effects are ubiquitous in the storytelling of the modern era. Whether it be TV, Film, Streaming, or commercials, these effects are essentially part of the fabric of entertainment. The work of VFX artists such as Jie seem like “wizardry” but actually require an implementation of linear algebra, vector mathematics, computer graphics, fluid dynamics, and scripting. This analytical process is counterbalanced by a highly creative mind which confers with creative collaborators. Meng’s talent is used in a sliding scale which correlates with the “reality” of the storyline. From tales of modern day crime to those of beings with beyond-human abilities, it’s Jie who creates the connective visual tissue that allows us as the audience to accept the “truth” of what our eyes witness.
For the CBS Emmy Award Winning and Golden Globe Nominated series Hawaii Five-0, Jie was tasked with creating numerous effects from scratch. As Technical Director, Jie developed multiple digital asset tools for himself and the effects team to lower their burden of completing these within a curt time frame. His creation of a “bullet hit debris template” and one for close-up smoke effects, as seen in season nine when Raoul Trujillo was in a gas chamber, has elevated the look of the show and lightened the load of the VFX team. Everything from falling debris after an explosion (as in season ten when Steve McGarrett was nearly pummeled) to exploding cocaine bags during a gunfight have been transformed into immense drama thanks to the skill of Jie Meng. The art of making these moments seem completely authentic is not to be taken lightly. A subtle approach is required to lull the viewer into a sense that all of these things were actually taking place in the physical world.
The inverse of this light approach has been used by Jie in establishing the fantastic world of Marvel characters for hugely successful films. His work on Captain America: Civil War (WW Gross in excess of 1 Billion dollars)is essential to the Iron Man/Captain America/Silo fight scene during the film’s final sequence. Working on the Oscar Nominated (for Best Achievements in Visual Effects) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, Jie relates, “It was an incredible thrill to see my work on the big screen like that. It was pretty insane and I was immensely proud of our whole team.” Jie also contributed to the yet to be released feature film The New Mutants, repeating his collaboration from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 with effects supervisor David Cunningham. The film is currently on hold due to the Corona virus but in hopes to be finished and released by the end of 2020 (if possible). While specifics about the story are forbidden, Jie confirms that his work is focused on fire effects for one of the super-villains.
There are a number of new avenues in film that Jie Meng is eager to explore; based on his work so far, these will most likely be situations which see him surrounded by similarly exceptionally creative professionals. Testifying to Jie’s notoriety in the industry, Tong Jason Lin (Senior Effects Artist at Dream Works Animation) whom has worked with Jie on everything from Marvel films to Target commercials and refers to him as, “A great asset to any VFX team. I can’t wait to work with him again!”