Where I work

21 September 2017

Mike Kelt SFX supervisor, founder and CEO - Artem Ltd

Car explosions are all in a day’s work. As Mike Kelt says, “There’s no typical day, but an SFX supervisor’s week might include creating huge explosions, some precision engineering, designing an original sculpture, building an electro-mechanical marvel and making it snow in September”

The role of an SFX supervisor is all-encompassing, covering a huge range of skills and experience.

Every day at Artem we are asked to solve unique and unusual problems and often the client doesn’t even know if their request is possible. We operate across every industry, from film and TV, to events and stage production, exhibitions and visitor attractions, providing all aspects of physical special effects.

This means our workspace (we have workshops in both London and Glasgow) must be both highly specialised and adaptable at the same time.”

Designing shells for live hermit crabs in Zoopla’s advertising campaign ‘Crab World’

What are your weapons of choice?

Over the last couple of decades, technology has become increasingly important. Most designs start on a computer screen but we also depend on a variety of input devices, including scanners and haptic arms to produce organic forms. From there, the output can be fed to 3D printers, CNC routers or precision cutting machines.

But that’s not to say that hand skills are dead. As a rule, these machines remove the more tedious parts of the job, allowing our talented craftspeople to concentrate on the creative finishing.

The large 9-axis KUKA robot arm

Face casting demonstrating Artem’s work with prosthetics

What technology/product couldn’t you live without in your workspace?

It’s very difficult to single out one piece of technology as we need different machines for different jobs. Our most impressive piece of kit is our large 7-axis KUKA robot arm, which can carve enormous shapes with an accuracy of 0.2mm – it has produced a sperm whale in the past. You don’t want to get in its way as it would happily slice right through you and carry on with the job.

What is missing from your toolset?

A time machine! Deadlines vary, but they are usually too short.

Despite the introduction of new technology, craft skills are still very important

Artem worked on Danny Boyle’s T2 Trainspotting providing all the atmospherics for the film

Is there anything that would make your design process run smoother?

More skilled staff. We are lucky to have a fantastic team, but the industry is busy and the education system doesn’t really produce ‘oven-ready’ crew. The creative industries are generally fighting over the same graduates. We’ve talked about setting up a training facility but time and money are a hurdle. Unfortunately the government’s new apprenticeship levy is not going to help.

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