Featured Alumni

Northeastern Alumnus Brings Ghostbusters to Life with Special Effects

Visual effects have come a long way since the original Ghostbusters first entertained audiences more than 30 years ago. This summer’s re-make of the film not only has a new star-studded female cast and storyline, but also advanced digital effects that have impressed viewers around the globe. CAMD alumnus and part-time instructor Alex Falcon, AMD ‘14, was part of the team that helped bring the film to life.

We caught up with Alex to learn more about his work on Ghostbusters, his role at Zero VFX, and his time at Northeastern:

What is your role at Zero VFX?

I am a Computer Graphics (CG) Generalist at ZERO VFX, where I started working just a week after graduation. I specialize in creating 3D assets such as buildings, vehicles, characters – anything that could possibly need to be done in 3D to help make sure a shot for a film looks perfect. In the case of Ghostbusters, my main task was to use visual effects to convince the audience that the heroines were in a New York subway tunnel.

What was Zero VFX’s role in the making of Ghostbusters and what role did you individually play in that?

One sequence ZERO VFX was responsible for took place in a New York subway tunnel. This included a building, a ghost, proton beams, set extensions, and an MTA train.

I worked mostly with the environment. Once the tunnel was built out, colored, and lit, I was responsible for ensuring it matched the physical set. Thankfully, we had a 3D scan of the set. While this was certainly helpful, we still had to match every pillar, pipe, wire, and bolt visible in the sequence. We were also able to create a contact point for lightning bolts and sparks. Overall, we had around 140 green screen shots to put in the environment.

What is it like to see a project that you worked on up on the big screen?

It’s amazing, especially for a film like Ghostbusters where everyone can recognize and get excited about the work. My team and I saw it opening night. As a kind of tradition, we sat around waiting for the credits. When my name appeared on screen I couldn’t help but blurt out, “there it is!” Getting this opportunity to work on Ghostbusters has been a fantastic experience, one that has allowed me to work in Boston and Los Angeles to really make sure the work was done right. Seeing my work on the big screen makes all those late nights worth it.

How did Northeastern prepare you for your role at Zero VFX?

Northeastern gave me access to a computer lab that had all the software I needed. I was known to be a bit of a hermit and could generally be found in the computer lab at any hour working on projects. One of the biggest hurdles is understanding how the software works, and having access to it is a great help.

The community was also a great help. It is very easy to get lost in your own work and to tell yourself it’s the best thing since Pixar, so having another set of eyes from someone who has studied Pixar just as much as you have is great to bring you back to reality. The animation club is also a great group of people who meet regularly to share VFX knowledge. Going to the weekly meetings and and trading knowledge people gained from their co-op experiences added greatly to my own.

I was lucky enough to get a co-op at a local studio called BlackMath. One of the studios’ creators is a Northeastern alumnus who understands that work experience is vital for anyone looking to enter the field. It helped prove to me that despite the long hours and constant judgment of my work, this was a career path I wanted to explore. For many, the idea of becoming an animator can be enticing on paper, but the actual work that goes into it can be very daunting and is not not for everyone. My co-op, however, proved to me that I could handle the work and excel at it.