Veronica Kablan BFA '06 (Film)

Larger than life and in glorious 3-D, Spider-Man swings through the canyons of Manhattan, on his way to an urgent—and unpleasant—date with a rampaging, mutated green villain known as the Lizard. Unbeknownst to the audience, however, the real heroes of the movie were hard at work behind the scenes for months before the film opened—and they don’t wear capes or shoot webs.

Meet Veronica Kablan BFA ’06 (Film), a visual effects coordinator for Sony Pictures Imageworks, and her fellow visual effects wizards.

Visual effects involve integrating live-action footage and generated imagery—animated characters or even entire worlds—that look astonishingly realistic. And Kablan’s helped to create that visual magic on a growing list of major films, most notably the blockbusters “The Amazing Spider-Man” and Disney’s “Oz the Great and Powerful,” which earned a combined $1.2 billion worldwide. She’s now working on “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (May 2, 2014), and she says that putting together such a movie is a huge undertaking.

“Visual effects crews at Imageworks range from 150 to 200 people,” she says, “with teams of artists building models, animating characters and lighting computer-generated scenery.”

And the results can be spectacular. In “The Amazing Spider-Man,” for example, those iconic canyons of Manhattan? Not real. The shimmering Emerald City that an astonished wizard passes through for the first time in “Oz the Great and Powerful”? The product of many talented effects artists’ imaginations. And it takes a lot of work to make it so.

“As a visual effects coordinator, I often get to be involved from the very beginning of our production process, when our team focuses on finding a ‘look’ for the movie and builds a pipeline that can help us achieve that look,” she says. “I’m responsible for a ton of different things, from scheduling shots, to working with the artists, to taking part in marketing meetings—and it changes with every movie. There’s an incredible amount of project management involved.”

She credits her UArts experience with helping her develop a solid foundation, both technically and creatively, that still serves her well. “One of the things I loved most about my education at UArts was the broad scope of topics that were covered,” she says. “Having the opportunity to take classes that were outside of my niche—things like acting, dance, printmaking and writing—allowed me to develop the ability to think creatively in other areas of life. One thing that’s constant in filmmaking is change, so I rely on these creative thinking skills regularly to tackle the unexpected challenges that come my way.”

Kablan, who received an MFA in Producing from the American Film Institute in 2008, also minored in Photography in addition to majoring in Film & Digital Video at UArts. “Both of those programs focused heavily on creating a base knowledge on how film works,” she says, “from how it reacts to light, how it is chemically processed, down to how to edit actual 16 millimeter film using a splicer and tape. Understanding those fundamentals has been incredibly useful throughout my career, both in visual effects and in my experience at the American Film Institute.”

She’s now hard at work on another likely blockbuster. “We’re working like crazy on ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2,’” she says. And she’s still amazed when she sits in a theater and sees for the first time a finished film she put so much into.

“I went to ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ with my parents, and when the credits rolled and my name came up, they jumped up and cheered,” she says. “It was really exciting.”