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Special Effects Artist Will Carmack on Gear, Editing and More | 21 Questions

March 25, 2020

[guitar music] INTERVIEWER: Hey Will Carmack!
[Will chuckles] WILL: Hey, what’s up?
INT: Heard you were at Central Park. So I figured I’d ask you 21 questions! WILL: Sounds incredible.
INT: So what are you doing right now? Well, I’m filming a Star Wars video INT: And so what do you do for a living? Well, I’m a special effects artist. which is why I’m playing with a lightsaber right now. I-I promise I’ll make it look realistic [laughs] INT: What got you into special effects? Well, so, I went to school for cinema… And then I had this thought “if I’m taking all the same classes as all of the people around me when I graduate I’m gonna be just as good as all of them.” And I wanted to be better than all of these people. Not because I’m mean, but because this field is competitive So I wanted to learn something different. So I started teaching myself special effects INT: And what interested you in video in general? Well, when I was a kid, I was in love with Legos… You know, I love toys. And the first things I watched on YouTube were Lego stop motions. And I thought it was mind blowing that people could make these toys come to life. Which kind of sparked my interest in being an artist. INT: What’s your go-to camera and lens? The Sony a7 III with the 16 to 35 G Master… It’s kind of a deadly combo… [no audio] INT: What was the first video you ever created? And can we still find it? So unfortunately, it’s been deleted off the internet, and it doesn’t exist anymore. But it was a Lego stop motion of a police car running over a Lego man. [sharp inhale] I was in high school when I started changing my content up. And I thought Legos weren’t cool anymore. So I deleted all of my old Lego stop motions. Which to this day my deepest regret. [Will sighs] INT: And what did you even shoot that on? It was like a 2004 red point and shoot… By a brand called Coolpix. Terrible camera, but it did the job [laughs] INT: What video put you on the map then? So, it actually took a while for me to go on anyone’s map because, like, being a special-effects artist is something that I didn’t realize I wanted to do until like eight years into me being a YouTuber. And so, I challenged the YouTube channel Yes Theory to hire me as, like, a special-effects intern And they did! That kind of made everything I was doing in an upward trajectory. So basically challenging a bigger YouTuber on YouTube is what put me on the map [indie rock music] INT: So you taught yourself how to edit. What programs were you teaching yourself? So my college was teaching us Final Cut Pro, which is notorious for being okay… And I wanted to be great and so I started teaching myself After Effects in Adobe Premiere Every day after school, I would run back home to my computer and spend weekends just in my little room… Watching After Effects tutorials. And so I taught myself all of my special effects INT: So now you’ve gotten a pretty big following on Instagram and YouTube, how did you get to this point? I tricked the world into thinking I’m talented because imagine this: you want to be a YouTuber or an Instagrammer, the best way to do that is just to make stuff that people haven’t seen before. And at the time, there wasn’t a lot of people doing special effects. And so I just taught myself all these neat tricks that other people already knew how to do. so, you know, I just saw a gap and I filled it. I think I just kind of tricked the system. I don’t know why people follow me [both laugh] INT: What are some upcoming projects that you have so I actually have? WILL: So, I have a really exciting one with LG so they’re releasing a new projector that’s like an incredible home studio and they’re partnering up with Top Gun, the movie. And so I’m doing some 3D Animation for LG and Top Gun. Who would have thought? That’s pretty sick! INT: What’s your favorite part of your work? Probably this, you know, I get to play with toys for a living. And I can just tell people like, you know, I’m just gonna do this Star Wars video, you know. I get to remain a child while also being a professional. So I get to make things that aren’t real, realistic for me, and how cool is that? INT: So then what’s your least favorite? [no audio from Will] Hmm least favorite… It’s probably the unrealistic standard of quality. I hold myself to… When you’re a digital creator, there’s like millions of people that do the exact same thing as you. And so, you kind of compare yourself to all these different creators, when really, you have to set realistic expectations for yourself. It’s kind of hard not to compare yourself to these other people. So just like, the social politics of of digital creation… It’s my least favorite part INT: We all know you’re basically a master of special effects, but do you shoot other styles? [Will clicks tongue] Yes, you know, I… Special effects is probably what I’m most known for, but I really like making travel films. I do a lot of editing tutorials as well. So some travel and educational stuff [clicks tongue]
I’m also a great photographer… but no one knows that! INT: Speaking of education… Can you give us some tips on somebody looking to create special effects like you? Okay, so it’s all about self-discipline: you have to be willing to spend your weekends or days where you’re going out partying to just learn new things, and it’s not tough. I learned everything I know that built my career just from YouTube University… which is just online tutorials. There’s so many free resources online! You can Google “how to mask” or “how to do the lightsaber effect,” and you’ll have hundreds of options to choose from. So if you want to be a special-effects artist, all you have to do is, you know… Spend a little time and do a lot of research, and you have all the resources at your fingertips! [Will making sound effect noises] [rock music continues] INT: Here’s a really, really hard question for you… Would you rather use the first version of After Effects or a computer with two gigabytes of RAM? I would be more intrigued in doing the first After Effects version just because… be like… Like a paleontologist, like working with dinosaur bones, that would probably be really interesting. INT: What was the most challenging video you’ve ever created? WILL: The most challenging one? Oh man, I used to film weddings, and that was brutal… constantly. You have one entire day to film the most important day of someone’s life and… That’s high-stakes! You know, a lot can go wrong. And so those were always difficult just because like if you mess something up, you can’t tell them to say their vows again!
[chuckles] INT: If you weren’t a Video Creator, what would you be? [sighs in thought]
You know, I would probably work at 7-eleven because I really like their slushies! [Will and the interviewer both laugh] INT: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? You get in life what you’re brave enough to ask for. INT: And then, aside from your camera, what’s your favorite piece of gear? This… Microphone right here the Sennheiser AVX. It’s made my life, SO simple and easy! I’m wearing it right now, and the audio file goes straight into the video file. So when you put your camera’s files into your computer you got this great… Uh, audio that you don’t have to sync in post-production! [rock music continues] INT: What’s one thing that makes your job easier? Um… [birds chirping in background] That’s a great question! Probably my laptop. I have the most powerful editing laptop and I’m kind of neurotic So I like to move around a lot which means a laptop is kind of crucial to my creative process. Because I’ll edit at home, and then I’ll go edit at a coffee shop, and then I’ll go edit at my friend’s studio… All in one day because I’m bad at sitting still, and so I needed a powerful laptop because I move while I edit and it’s the Asus Zenbook Pro, which is incredible! Makes my life, so easy! Runs so fast. INT: If there were to be a movie about your life who would play you? Probably… Danny DeVito. He’s short and fun… [shouts]
Like me!! [laughs and makes sword noises] INT: And so, last question, who should we interview next? Um… You know, when I first moved to New York, there was someone who always had my back. And I would go edit at their office almost every day, and that’s Brett Conti. Great, YouTuber, local New Yorker… And he probably won’t do as good as me, but he’ll give you some good answers. INT: Alright, cool, so we’ll go call him up and see if he’s down. Alright, do that! INT: Thanks for talking!
WILL: Alright, I’m gonna get back to it! [Will makes fighting noises] [rock music continues]


  • Reply B&H Photo Video March 25, 2020 at 6:01 pm

    What are your tips for those who want to get started in special effects or filmmaking in general?

  • Reply Will Carmack March 25, 2020 at 6:26 pm

    Ahh so good!! Twas lovely answering these 21 questions

  • Reply Flavio Presutti March 25, 2020 at 6:45 pm

    I went to his chanel, and I decide to begin his diet! Keto seems to be perfect for me! thanks!

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