The most essential skill of any artist is imagination. Imagination is the spark that leads to a life in pursuit of honing one’s skills and achieving that perfect vision. Imagination has served Aleksei Kenig well. As a young boy in Chelyabinsk in the 2000’s, he and his friends heard rumours of the popularity of the game Counter-Strike. Without ever having seen Counter-Strike in this pre-internet era, Aleksei began creating his own videos of the game solely based on those rumors.
The same creative drive which compelled Aleksei to do this as a youth has led to his work on feature films as well as with some of the most accomplished music artists of today. VFX artists such as Aleksei manifest the visions of other artists in ways never before possible; for professionals like Kenig, this means the freedom to work with other creatives across the world while often doing so from the comfort of his own office.
J Balvin is one of the most popular and accomplished singers in the Latin music world. Known as the “Prince of Reggaeton”, this Columbian born artist has accumulated such international recognitions as Latin Grammy Awards, Billboard Latin Music Awards (including Artist of the Year), American Music Awards, and numerous others. Balvin is particularly known for his music videos and when his video for “Mi Cama” won Univision’s “Video of the Year”, the decision was to raise the game for the music video to accompany his song “Rosa.”
This goal was overwhelming attained with more forty million YouTube views so far and outlets like Rolling Stone featuring the video and discussing its brilliance. While there were several teams involved, VFX supervisor and artist Aleksei Kenig and his team were the heart of achieving the visuals which are so stunning in “Rosa.” As the supervisor, it was Aleksei’s responsibility to think up a concept and imagine the final look of the product, create and distribute tasks to the artists, and oversee the quality of their work to delivery.
From the magnificent rooftop scene to the butterflies and even steam from the hot beverages, Aleksei’s work is ubiquitous throughout “Rosa.” While creating butterflies and Matrix type blur effects for martial arts fight scenes were simply a result of skill and using the proper tools, other aspects of this video required more from Aleksei and his team; a challenge he welcomed. He notes, “For part of the video, we had the task of making two scenes: a scene with a Japanese garden, and a rooftop scene with a city in the background.
For 3D Extension we used 3DS MAX and Octane render. Octane render was chosen because of its fairly high rendering speed as opposed to our usual V-ray. We had never used Octane render before and had to learn it on the fly. We bought some pre-made models and modelled the main facade, there’s nothing complicated about that.
From these models I assembled both scenes for all the camera shots, our 3D artist Yana Shumarina did texturing, shading, and lighting.” The final step of the entire project was the compositing in which Aleksei merged the 3D rendering with the footage for a seamless and astonishing look. The suspension of reality in scenes like the Martix inspired aerial fight scenes of “Rosa” would be impossible without these contributions.
2021’s comedy/action/thriller Dark Web: Cicada 3301, provided ample opportunity for Aleksei to be creative with his skill as applied to a feature film. Directed by Alan Ritchson (known for his work in the Golden Globe nominated The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), the film follows two friends who are forced to compete for recruitment into a Dark Web society. Mr. Kenig was brought on early in order to design and animate of all the UIs before production began. Describing his process, Aleksei relates, “I had to recreate the gameplay of Cicada 3301 and the actions of the main character on screen.
To do this, I researched all the details of the game Cicada 3301 on Reddit.com. The main challenge was to find the optimal timings of the animations without looking, because there was no editing yet, I only had parts of the script.” From the explosion at the very beginning of the film to compositing scenes with a flying book in the library and the holographic aquarium in the Cicada 3301 party scene, Kenig’s contributions to Dark Web: Cicada 3301 were instrumental in arriving at the tongue-in-cheek humor meets reality bending tone.
A vital part of the team at LA’s MOD VFX studio, Aleksei finds himself far from his early years at Media74 in Chelyabinsk where he gained so much recognition as a twenty-two-year old. He notes that the need for him to personally do every aspect of a production in those early years, from camera work to lighting on the set, editing, coloring, effects, and 2D/3D graphics; all of this informed his later work to its betterment. That key component of imagination has taken Aleksei Kenig across the planet in pursuit of creating the kind of visuals that exist in his own mind but which he manages to bring into existence with his tremendous skill.