Visual Effects Artist Oleg Smykalov talks passion for VFX and working on 2019’s ‘Cats’

Oleg Smykalov discovered his passion for film as a teenager. He was graduating from high school in the small town of Berdyansk, Ukraine when he met a videographer who was shooting his inauguration day. He volunteered to help him edit the video. From there, his interest only grew, and he knew he wanted to pursue filmmaking for the rest of his life but wasn’t exactly sure in what role. When he started working in visual effects, he knew that was where he was meant to be and has never looked back. Now, as a celebrated visual effects artist, Oleg is living his childhood dream. He has an extensive resume, working on dozens of hit productions, including Amazon’s The Expanse, Netflix’s The Ice Road, FOX’s Gotham, and so many more

A highlight for Oleg came when he was the key compositor on the 2019 film CATS. Although the movie is known all around the world for being what many call a “flop” it has been recognized for its impressive feat in visual effects, and for Oleg, it was a defining moment of his career.

“Many experts like the movie and the visual effects because they do the craft themselves and know how hard it is to accomplish something like the whole body of cat fur integrated into live action. The movie was shortlisted for the 2019 Oscars in the category,” he says.

CATS was the most challenging project Oleg has have ever worked on. He put in more hours than anyone else on MillFillm’s Montreal team, delivering a tremendous amount of work in a very short time. He was able to help finish shots at times when other artists weren’t available to come to the office and meet deadlines. 

“The compositing work was fascinating, learning new tools and techniques and yet very challenging staying in the office from 10 am till 3 am seven days a week for slightly more than two months. We only left the office the last day before the premiere at 11 pm.,” he recalls.

Oleg was responsible for compositing CG bodies and fur integration into live-action plates, as well as a lot of invisible visual effects such as removing unwanted background imagery. Each shot had to be delivered to the director within one day, a remarkable timeline for a project of this size. Oleg’s dedication to the work did not go unnoticed.

“Oleg is a pleasure to work with as he is passionate and dedicated to his work. Cats was a complex and difficult show to deliver, as it had a huge number of shots and less time to deliver them. I assigned Oleg the most critical shot, which had to be done in a single day time frame and delivered to the client by the morning, and he put that shot in a sweet spot on time,” says Sanchit Gawale, Compositing Supervisor at Rodeo FX, Montreal QC. “Oleg would always stay in the office as long as we needed him and would work throughout weekends and holidays per our production request. He supported the whole show and the company to deliver on time.”

Even though the movie had little commercial success, Oleg and his team put a crazy amount of work into it. It is a true feat in the world of visual effects, and one that should never go unrecognized.

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