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Ryan Laney — VFX Supervisor; Founder, Teus Media

Hard-hitting documentaries and cutting-edge VFX rarely go together, but for David France’s Welcome to Chechnya, it was necessary to marry the two. The film captures the flight of LGBTQ citizens from the Russian republic of Chechnya, where being gay can lead to beatings and murders. To preserve his subjects’ anonymity while allowing the audience to connect with them emotionally, David turned to VFX expert Ryan Laney to digitally swap faces with willing “donors” from around the world.

Ryan explains how he developed new techniques to replace faces without the limitations of traditional methods such as blurring and pixelation. He also discusses his 20-plus-years in movie VFX, including The Matrix, The Aviator, The Day After Tomorrow, and many more. It’s proof that VFX’s role in filmmaking now extends far beyond Hollywood blockbusters— and it’s had a surprising effect on Ryan’s outlook, too.


Ryan Laney >

TeusMedia >

Ryan Laney on IMDb >

Deadline interview with Ryan Laney >


6:41 Where Ryan’s passion for 3D started

9:45 Starting in VFX and “The Matrix”

19:06 Joining ILM

29:53 Stealth’s extreme Gs

39:01 Consulting and bringing the VFX mentality to other industries

43:26 Why “Welcome to Chechnya” needed new tools

51:28 How to change the structure of a face

1:00:03 Capturing the donors’ data

1:08:21 Security issues

1:19:01 Issues with CG imagery and fake media

1:24:11 Documentary film vs summer blockbusters

About the author

Christopher Nichols

Chris is a CG industry veteran and Director of Chaos Labs. He can also be heard regularly as the host of the CG Garage podcast which attracts 20,000 weekly listeners. With a background in both VFX and Design, Chris has worked for Gensler, Digital Domain, Imageworks and Method Studios. His credits include Maleficent, Oblivion and Tron: Legacy.

Originally published: June 7, 2021.
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