Behind the Title: Company 3 Smoke artist Matthew Johnson

NAME: Matthew Johnson (@MattJ678​)

COMPANY: Los Angeles-based-Company 3 (@Company3)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Company 3 provides high-end post services to feature film, commercial, music video and television clients. Our services include all aspects of post production, including color correction, editorial finishing and some visual effects compositing.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Smoke Artist

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I use an Autodesk Smoke Advanced system to complete the editorial finish of our clients’ projects prior to color grading. I primarily work on features and trailers. My job begins with the conform, where I rebuild the edit using the highest resolution camera files or film scans, visual effects, stock footage and title elements. It then continues into creating any opticals, editorial effects, stereoscopic fixes or additional titles that are needed. From this point on, it becomes a constant process of editorial changes and visual effects updates until the project is finished. This often includes compositing fixes that come up as the clients view their project in our theater.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
While a good Smoke artist has to be a skilled editor and compositor, so much of the job requires an immense amount of technical knowledge. As the hub of the digital post process, all elements come through this department to be integrated into a timeline. That means we have to understand film and digital cameras, aspect ratios, resolutions, color spaces and all the issues inherent in stereoscopic 3D.

Additionally, we need to be involved in designing efficient finishing workflows requiring an understanding of production, visual effects, creative editing, stereoscopic conversion and all kinds of tape and datacentric post workflows. And since we typically handle a project from the feature deliverables all the way to various home video delivery formats, we have to understand the delivery requirements, workflow and technical specs for film, digital cinema and home video.

SO, SMOKE ADVANCED AS OPPOSED TO SMOKE ON MAC…
The projects we work on at Company 3 are always pushing the boundaries with larger resolutions, more complex timelines and tighter deadlines. The clients expect to be able to accomplish as much as possible in Smoke so we need access to all the tools and as much horsepower as possible.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
My favorite part of the job is helping clients find creative solutions to the challenges that arise through the finishing process and providing them with the freedom to experiment and perfect their projects. Whether it is a workflow issue or a shot they want to “fix,” I really enjoy when I have the opportunity to be creative and collaborate with clients in a meaningful way that affects the final product.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
The most challenging part is the late nights and weekends I sometimes have to spend away from my family when I am working on a big project.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
My favorite part of the day is first thing in the morning when it is usually pretty calm. I often find that fresh eyes in the morning can bring a lot of clarity to any challenges that you are trying to work through.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I have always had a passion for history so I could see myself trying to pursue that interest in some way.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
When I was a kid, I enjoyed making my own movies with my VHS camcorder and really had fun pushing the boundaries of what I could do with my limited editing and visual effects capabilities. That eventually led me to film school at the University of Southern California where I got a really good foundation in the entire filmmaking process.

I learned early on that I was fascinated with everything that was possible in post production. Once I began working professionally in post, I was drawn to working on the Smoke because of the variety of the work. I can find myself editing a reel of a feature one day and compositing a shot for a trailer the next. There is so much variety in what you can do that it keeps me feeling fresh.

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CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Transformers 4: Age of Extinction, Project Almanac and Exodus: Gods and Kings

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
The projects that I am usually most proud of are typically the ones that were the most challenging at the time. However, if I had to pick just one project, I think it would be Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol. While the project itself was an extremely complex finish with a lot of interesting technical challenges, what I enjoyed most was the level of collaboration that I was able to have with the clients. The director and editor both gave me several opportunities to be creative and experiment with different ideas for several sequences. Throughout the project, it felt like we were all working together as one big team.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My Smoke, my Mac and my iPhone

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

CARE TO SHARE YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC TO WORK TO?
I almost always have music playing while I work, and it’s usually SiriusXM’s Alt Nation.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
In the moment, I try to just focus on accomplishing one task at a time and this helps keep me from becoming overwhelmed. And then at the end of the day, I enjoy coming home and playing with my 3-year-old son.

 


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