China’s Aaron Wei brings new life to scenes in award-winning show ‘The Affair’

December 1, 2017

 Aaron Wei does not believe he chose a career as compositing, he believes it chose him. From the time he was a child, he had a passion for filmmaking and the arts, and as he grew and began to turn that passion into skill, he began to grasp an extraordinary sense of light behavior, perspective, and color through painting and photography. He didn’t know this at the time, but such abilities would prove pivotal for a compositor, which he spent his whole like unknowingly preparing for, before he even knew such a trade existed.

 

Wei’s expansive knowledge of his craft has allowed him to rise to the top of his industry. He knows how to use VFX to make something look completely natural, which is evident with his work on shows like Ballers and Quantico and movies including The Discovery and Zoolander 2. Wei has the ability to work on such acclaimed productions on a daily basis, working toward making every single shot a masterful work of art.

 

“Aaron is great. He has a good positive attitude, works well both independently and within a team, and gets along with everyone. Although normally quiet, he communicates well with his supervisors. I can tell he puts his all into the work he creates because he produces a great artistic product,” said Mark Friedman, Compositing Supervisor. “There are a lot of people who can use a computer and push the right buttons, but where Aaron stands out is his artistic creativity. Recreating photographic moving images takes skill and patience, Aaron has both. He really has a good eye for details and has good understanding of how things should look when shot through a camera. His ability to evaluate the footage in front of him, picking up on visual cues, to determine appropriate compositing strategies has made him vital to our team as well as anyone fortunate to work with him.”

 

Friedman and Wei have worked together on a variety of projects, including The Affair. At once deeply observed and intriguingly elusive, The Affair explores the emotional effects of an extramarital relationship. Noah is a New York City schoolteacher and budding novelist with a wife of twenty years and four children. Alison is a young waitress and wife from Montauk at the end of Long Island, trying to piece her life back together in the wake of a tragedy. The provocative drama unfolds separately from multiple perspectives, using the distinct memory biases of each character to tell the story.

 

“In reality, affairs exists in many families. When you watch the show, you can relate to these characters, and feel what they feel. I am not saying I have had an affair, but through the story, I can imagine the kind of emotional and psychological effects it would have on someone. They make it seem like I too have experienced this,” said Wei.

 

The Affair not only sees stellar ratings each week, but it won the Golden Globe for Best Television Series – Drama in 2015. Wei was recently the senior compositor for ten episodes of Season 3. This project had some challenging shots and that is the exact reason why Wei was introduced to the team, knowing he possesses the skills required to overcome unique VFX obstacles. Nailing a challenging shot is an immensely rewarding experience for him.  

 

“I am very happy seeing there’s such a large viewership, and appreciation. I am very proud of being part of the team. Every time I see the advertising of this show on the street or subway, I really feel I belong here, the city I am living in, I am part of it,” he said.

 

Wei’s seamless compositing skills help viewers focus on the story. In one particular scene, there was a very tricky shot. It’s in a kitchen, and the camera was focusing on the sink and all the dirty dishes that were in it. Wei needed to add a group of ants moving by the sink. The challenging part was that he had to find the right moving ants stock footage and cut the ants out and reorganize it, make sure it looked like there were many ants moving around and reacting to the dirty stuff on the kitchen table. He then color-corrected the ants by using the “curve tool” so that it matched the broken flashy light in the original shot. It’s not a common tool, many compositors do not even know that tool is in their software, but in difficult and complex lighting shots, Wei finds it solves the problem very quickly and efficiently. In the end, his creative selection of the ants’ behavior and flawless compositing made the scene almost perfect. It is impossible to tell that the shot had been modified and the ants were not actually in the scene, which was important for the success of the episode.

 

“Working on this project was the best experience I have had in my career so far. I was empowered by the supervisors; they 100 percent trusted me. Normally, a supervisor would tell the artists what they’re expecting and how they would approach the problems. But when it came to me, he only told me the job description and background information. I could do whatever I wanted to finish the job,” Wei concluded.

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