Category Archives: Animation

Chaos Group and Adobe partner for photorealistic rendering in CC

Chaos Group’s V-Ray rendering technology is featured in Adobe’s Creative Cloud, allowing graphic designers to easily create photorealistic 3D rendered composites with Project Felix.

Available now, Project Felix is a public beta desktop app that helps users composite 3D assets like models, materials and lights with background images, resulting in an editable render they can continue to design in Photoshop CC. For example, users can turn a basic 3D model of a generic bottle into a realistic product shot that is fully lit and placed in a scene to create an ad, concept mock-up or even abstract art.

V-Ray acts as a virtual camera, letting users test angles, perspectives and placement of their model in the scene before generating a final high-res render. Using the preview window, Felix users get immediate visual feedback on how each edit affects the final rendered image.

By integrating V-Ray, Adobe has brought the same raytracing technology used by companies Industrial Light & Magic to a much wider audience.

“We’re thrilled that Adobe has chosen V-Ray to be the core rendering engine for Project Felix, and to be a part of a new era for 3D in graphic design,” says Peter Mitev, CEO of Chaos Group. “Together we’re bringing the benefits of photoreal rendering, and a new design workflow, to millions of creatives worldwide.”

“Working with the amazing team at Chaos Group meant we could bring the power of the industry’s top rendering engine to our users,” adds Stefano Corazza, senior director of engineering at Adobe. “Our collaboration lets graphic designers design in a more natural flow. Each edit comes to life right before their eyes.”

Reel FX hires Chad Mosley as senior designer

Chad Moseley has joined Reel FX as senior designer. Moseley brings with him nearly a decade of experience in motion graphics and design, spanning television, advertising and broadcast promos.

He comes to Reel FX, which has offices in Dallas and Santa Monica, from Starz Entertainment, where he spent two years as a broadcast designer, concepting and executing promotions for original programming on series such as Outlander, Da Vinci’s Demons and Flesh and Bone, including teasers, spots and graphics packages. His work for brands such as Enterprise, Nestle, Purina and Busch Gardens has earned him a Gold American Advertising Award (AAA), a Gold Addy Award and an AAF Best of Digital Award.

Texas native Moseley studied graphic design and 3D animation in Denver. He developed his career at a Texas news channel, handling the video and graphics for the channel’s website. While there he learned post production. He then worked as a video editor/animator at Denver-based ORCC, later relocating to St. Louis to take a position as senior motion graphics/VFX artist at 90 Degrees West. While there, he contributed to post projects from concept through completion for national brands including Anheuser Busch, Enterprise and UPS, among others. An opportunity as an in-house broadcast designer at Starz Entertainment led Moseley back to Denver in 2014, before once again returning to Dallas once again to join the Reel FX team.

G-Tech 6-15
Rogue One/ILM

VES nominees announced, Rogue One gets most nods for features

The Visual Effects Society has announed the the nominees for the 15th Annual VES Awards, which recognizes outstanding visual effects artistry and innovation in film, animation, television, commercials and video games as well as the VFX supervisors, VFX producers and hands-on artists who work on the projects 

This year, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story received the most feature film nominations with seven; Doctor Strange and The Jungle Book follow with six each. Kubo and the Two Strings is the top animated film contender with six nominations. Game of Thrones leads the broadcast field and scores the most nominations overall with 11.

The nominees in the 24 categories are:

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A PHOTOREAL FEATURE

Doctor Strange

Stephane Ceretti, Susan Pickett, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli, Paul Corbould

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Christian Manz, Olly Young, Tim Burke, Pablo Grillo, David Watkins

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

Frazer Churchill, Hal Couzens, Andrew Lockley, Jelmer Boskma, Hayley Williams

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

John Knoll, Erin Dusseault, Hal Hickel, Nigel Sumner, Neil Corbould

The Jungle Book

Robert Legato, Joyce Cox, Andrew R. Jones, Adam Valdez, JD Schwalm

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature

Allied

Kevin Baillie, Sandra Scott, Brennan Doyle, Viktor Muller, Richard Van Den Bergh

Deepwater Horizon

Craig Hammack, Petra Holtorf-Stratton, Jason Snell, John Galloway, Burt Dalton

Jason Bourne

Charlie Noble, Dan Barrow, Julian Gnass, Huw Evans, Steve Warner

Silence

Pablo Helman, Brian Barlettani, Ivan Busquets, Juan Garcia, R. Bruce Steinheimer

Sully

MIchael Owens, Tyler Kehl, Mark Curtis, Bryan Litson, Steven Riley

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN AN ANIMATED FEATURE

Finding Dory

Angus MacLane, Lindsey Collins- p.g.a., John Halstead, Chris J. Chapman

Kubo and the Two Strings

Travis Knight, Arianne Sutner, Steve Emerson, Brad Schiff

Moana

Kyle Odermatt, Nicole P. Hearon, Hank Driskill, Ian Gooding

The Little Prince

Mark Osborne, Jinko Gotoh, Pascal Bertrand, Jamie Caliri

Zootopia

Scott Kersavage, Bradford S. Simonsen, David Goetz, Ernest J. Petti

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A PHOTOREAL EPISODE

Black Mirror: Playtest

Justin Hutchinson-Chatburn, Russell McLean, Grant Walker, Christopher Gray

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards

Joe Bauer, Steve Kullback, Glenn Melenhorst, Matthew Rouleau, Sam Conway

Stranger Things: Demogorgon

Marc Kolbe, Aaron Sims, Olcun Tan

The Expanse: Salvage

Robert Munroe, Clint Green, Kyle Menzies, Tom Turnbull

Westworld: The Bicameral Mind

Jay Worth, Elizabeth Castro, Bobo Skipper, Gustav  Ahrén 

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A PHOTOREAL EPISODE

Black Sails: XX

Erik Henry, Terron Pratt, Aladino Debert, Yafei Wu, Paul Stephenson

Penny Dreadful: The Day Tennyson Died

James Cooper, Bill Halliday, Sarah McMurdo, Mai-Ling Lee

Roots: Night One

Simon Hansen, Paul Kalil, Theo le Roux Preist, Wicus Labuschagne, Max Poolman

The Man in the High Castle: Volkshalle

Lawson Deming, Cory Jamieson, Casi Blume, Nick Chamberlain

Vikings: The Last Ship

Dominic Remane, Mike Borrett, Ovidiu Cinazan, Paul Wishart, Paul Byrne

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A REALTIME PROJECT

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Brian Horton, Keith Pope, David Johnson, Tobias Stromvall

Dishonored 2: Crack in the Slab

Sebastien Mitton, Guillaume Curt, Damien Laurent, Jean-Luc Monnet

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Virtual Reality

Andy Rowans-Robinson, Karen Czukerberg, John Montefusco, Corrina Wilson, Resh Sidhu

Gears of War 4

Kirk Gibbons, Zoe Curnoe, Aryan Hanbeck, Colin Penty

Quantum Break

Janne Pulkkinen, Elmeri Raitanen, Matti Hamalainen, Ville Assinen

Uncharted 4

Bruce Straley, Eben Cook, Iki Ikram

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A COMMERCIAL

Coke Mini; A Mini Marvel

Vincent Cirelli, Michael Perdew, Brendan Seals, Jared Simeth

For Honor

Maxime Luere, Leon Berelle, Dominique Boidin, Remi Kozyra

John Lewis; Buster the Boxer

Diarmid Harrison-Murray, Hannah Ruddleston, Fabian Frank, William Laban

Titanfall 2: Become One

Dan Akers, Tiffany Webber, Chris Bedrosian

Waitrose: Coming Home

Jonathan Westley -Wes-, Alex Fitzgerald, Jorge Montiel, Adam Droy

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A SPECIAL VENUE

Dream of Anhui

Chris Morley, Lee Hahn, Alex Hessler, Kent Matheson

Pirates of the Caribbean; Battle for the Sunken Treasure

Bill George, Amy Jupiter, Hayden Landis, David Lester

Soarin’ Over the Horizon

Marianne McLean, Bill George, Hayden Landis, Dorne Huebler, Thomas Tait

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

John Gibson, Arish Fyzee, Sachin Shrestha, Anshul Mathuria

Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience

Dan Glass, Brett Harding, Tom Debenham, Brian Delmonico, Matt Pulliam

OUTSTANDING ANIMATED PERFORMANCE IN A PHOTOREAL FEATURES

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Niffler

Laurent Laban, Gabriel Beauvais-Tremblay, Luc Girard, Romain Rico

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; Grand Moff Tarkin

Sven Jensen, Jee Young Park, Steve Walton, Cyrus Jam

The Jungle Book: King Louie

Paul Story, Dennis Yoo, Jack Tema, Andrei Coval

The Jungle Book: Shere Khan

Benjamin Jones. Julio Del Rio Hernandez, Jake Harrell, James Hood

Warcraft: Durotan

Sunny Wei, Brian Cantwell, Brian Paik, Jee Young Park

OUTSTANDING ANIMATED PERFORMANCE IN AN ANIMATED FEATURE

Finding Dory: Hank

Jonathan Hoffman, Steven Clay Hunter, Mark Piretti, Audrey Wong

Kubo and the Two Strings: Kubo

Jeff Riley, Ian Whitlock, Adam Lawthers, Jeremy Spake

Kubo and the Two Strings: Monkey

Andy Bailey, Dobrin Yanev, Kim Slate, Jessica Lynn

Moana: The Mighty Maui

Mack Kablan, Nikki Mull, Matthew Schiller, Marc Thyng

Outstanding Animated Performance in an Episode or Real-Time Project

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare; Omar

Bernardo Antoniazzi

Aaron Beck

Jason Greenberg

Chris Barnes

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

John Montefusco

Michael Cable

Shayne Ryan

Andy Rowan-Robinson

Game of Thrones; Battle of the Bastards: Drogon

James Kinnings, Michael Holzl, Matt Derksen, Joeseph Hoback

Game of Thrones; Home: Emaciated Dragon

Sebastian Lauer, Jonathan Symmonds, Thomas Kutschera, Anthony Sieben

OUTSTANDING ANIMATED PERFORMANCE IN A COMMERCIAL

John Lewis: Buster the Boxer

Tim van Hussen, David Bryan, Chloe Dawe, Maximillian Mallman

Opel Motorsport: Racing Faces; Lion

Jorge Montiel, Jacob Gonzales, Sauce Vilas, Alberto Lara

SSE: Neon House: Baby Pixel

Jorge Montiel, Daniel Kmet, Sauce Vilas, Peter Agg

Waitrose: Coming Home

Jorge Montiel, Nick Smalley, Andreas Graichen, Alberto Lara

Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature

Deadpool: Freeway Assault

Seth Hill, Jedediah Smith, Laurent Taillefer, Marc-Antoine Paquin

Doctor Strange: London

Brendan Seals, Raphael A. Pimentel, Andrew Zink, Gregory Ng

Doctor Strange: New York City

Adam Watkins, Martijn van Herk, Tim Belsher, Jon Mitchell

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Scarif Complex

Enrico Damm, Kevin George, Olivier Vernay-Kim, Yanick Dusseault

OUTSTANDING CREATED ENVIRONMENT IN AN ANIMATED FEATURE

Finding Dory: Open Ocean Exhibit

Stephen Gustafson, Jack Hattori, Jesse Hollander, Michael Rutter

Kubo and the Two Strings: Hanzo’s Fortress

Phil Brotherton, Nick Mariana, Emily Greene, Joe Strasser

Kubo and the Two Strings: Waves

David Horsley, Eric Wachtman, Daniel Leatherdale, Takashi Kuboto

Moana: Motonui Island

Rob Dressel, Andy Harkness, Brien Hindman, Larry Wu

OUTSTANDING CREATED ENVIRONMENT IN AN EPISODE, COMMERCIAL OR REALTIME PROJECT

Black Sails: XXVIII: Maroon Island

Thomas Montminy-Brodeur, Deak Ferrand, Pierre Rousseau, Mathieu Lapierre

Dishonored 2: Clockwork Mansion

Sebastien Mitton, Guillaume Curt, Damien Laurent, Jean-Luc Monnet

Game of Thrones; Battle of the Bastards; Meereen City

Deak Ferrand, Dominic Daigle, François Croteau , Alexandru Banuta

Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter: Citadel

Edmond Engelbrecht, Tomoka Matsumura, Edwin Holdsworth, Cheri Fojtik

The Man in the High Castle: Volkshalle

Casi Blume, David Andrade, Nick Chamberlain, Lawson Deming

OUTSTANDING VIRTUAL CINEMATOGRAPHY IN A PHOTOREAL PROJECT

Doctor Strange: New York Mirror Dimension

Landis Fields, Mathew Cowie, Frederic Medioni, Faraz Hameed

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards

Patrick Tiberius Gehlen, Michelle Blok, Christopher Baird, Drew Wood-Davies

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Space Battle

John Levin, Euisung Lee, Steve Ellis, Barry Howell

The Jungle Book

Bill Pope, Robert Legato, Gary Roberts, John Brennan

OUTSTANDING MODEL IN A PHOTOREAL OR ANIMATED PROJECT

Deepwater Horizon: Deepwater Horizon Rig

Kelvin Lau, Jean Bolte, Kevin Sprout, Kim Vongbunyong

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Princess Leia

Paul Giacoppo, Gareth Jensen, Todd Vaziri, James Tooley

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Star Destroyer

Jay Machado, Marko Chulev, Akira Orikasa, Steven Knipping

Star Trek Beyond: Enterprise

Daniel Nicholson, Rhys Salcombe, Chris Elmer, Andreas Maaninka

OUTSTANDING EFFECTS SIMULATIONS IN A PHOTOREAL FEATURE

Alice Through the Looking Glass; Rust

Klaus Seitschek, Joseph Pepper, Jacob Clark, Cosku Turhan

Doctor Strange; Hong Kong Reverse Destruction

Florian Witzel, Georges Nakhle, Azhul Mohamed, David Kirchner

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Jedha Destruction

Miguel Perez Senent, Matt Puchala, Ciaran Moloney, Luca Mignardi

The Jungle Book: Nature Effects

Oliver Winwood, Fabian Nowak, David Schneider, Ludovic Ramisandraina

OUTSTANDING EFFECTS SIMULATIONS IN AN ANIMATED FEATURE

Finding Dory

Stephen Gustafson, Allen Hemberger, Joshua Jenny, Matthew Kiyoshi Wong

Kubo and the Two Strings; Water

David Horsley, Peter Stuart, Timur Khodzhaev, Terrance Tornberg

Moana

Marc Henry Bryant, David Hutchins, John M. Kosnik, Dale Mayeda

Zootopia

Nicholas Burkard, Moe El-Ali, Claudia Chung Sanii, Thom Wickes

OUTSTANDING EFFECTS SIMULATIONS IN EPISODE, COMMERCIAL OR REALTIME PROJECT

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards

Kevin Blom, Sasmit Ranadive, Wanghua Huang, Ben Andersen

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards: Meereen City

Thomas Hullin, Dominik Kirouac, James Dong, Xavier Fourmond

John Lewis: Buster the Boxer

Diarmid Harrison-Murray, Tushar Kewlani, Radu Ciubotariu, Ben Thomas

Sky: Q

Michael Hunault, Gareth Bell, Paul Donnellan, Joshua Curtis

OUTSTANDING COMPOSITING IN A PHOTOREAL FEATURE

Doctor Strange: New York City

Matthew Lane, Jose Fernandez, Ziad Shureih, Amy Shepard

Independence Day: Resurgence: Under The Mothership

Mathew Giampa, Adrian Sutherland, Daniel Lee, Ed Wilkie

The Jungle Book

Christoph Salzmann, Masaki Mitchell, Matthew Adams, Max Stummer

X-Men: Apocalypse: Quicksilver Rescue

Jess Burnheim, Alana Newell, Andy Peel, Matthew Shaw

OUTSTANDING COMPOSITING IN A PHOTOREAL EPISODE

Black Sails: XX: Sailing Ships

Michael Melchiorre  , Kevin Bouchez, Heather Hoyland, John Brennick

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards: Meereen City

Thomas Montminy-Brodeur, Patrick David, Michael Crane, Joe Salazar

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards: Retaking Winterfell

Dominic Hellier, Morgan Jones, Thijs Noij, Caleb Thompson

Game of Thrones: The Door: Land of Always Winter

Eduardo Díaz, Aníbal Del Busto, Angel Rico, Sonsoles López-Aranguren

OUTSTANDING COMPOSITING IN A PHOTOREAL COMMERCIAL

Canal: Kitchen

Dominique Boidin, Leon Berelle, Maxime Luere, Remi Kozyra

John Lewis; Buster the Boxer

Tom Harding, Alex Snookes, David Filipe, Andreas Feix

Kenzo: Kenzo World

Evan LangleyBenjamin Nowak  , Rob Fitzsimmons, Phylicia Feldman

LG: World of Play

Jay Bandlish, Udesh Chetty, Carl Norton

Waitrose: Coming Home

Jonathan Westley -Wes, Gary Driver, Milo Paterson, Nina Mosand

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A STUDENT PROJECT

Breaking Point

Johannes Franz, Nicole Rothermel, Thomas Sali, Alexander Richter

Elemental

Adrian Meyer, Lena-Carolin Lohfink, Denis Krez, David Bellenbaum

Garden Party

Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon, Théophile Dufresne, Lucas Navarro

Shine

Mareike Keller, Dennis Mueller, Meike Mueller


ESPN’s NBA coverage gets a rebrand

The bi-coastal studio Big Block recently collaborated with ESPN to develop, design and animate a rebrand package that promotes their NBA coverage. With nearly a year of design development, the studio’s role expanded beyond a simple production partner, with Big Block executive creative director Curtis Doss and managing director Kenny Solomon leading the charge.

The package, which features a rich palette of textures and fluid elegance, was designed to reflect the style of the NBA. Additionally, Big Block embedded what they call “visual touchstones” to put the spotlight on the stars of the show — the NBA players, the NBA teams and the redesigned NBA and ESPN co-branded logo.

Big Block and ESPN’s creative teams — which included senior coordinating producer for the NBA on ESPN Tim Corrigan — collaborated closely on the logos. The NBA’s was reconfigured and simplified, allowing it to combine with ESPN’s as well as support the iconic silhouette of Jerry West as the centerpiece of the new creation.

Next, the team worked on taking the unique branding and colors of each NBA team and using them as focal points within the broadcasts. Team logos were assembled and rendered and given textures and fast-moving action, providing the broadcast with a high-end look that Big Block and ESPN feel match the face of the league itself.

Big Block provided ESPN with a complete toolkit for the integration of live game footage with team logos, supers, buttons and transitions, as well as team and player-based information like player comparisons and starting lineups. The materials were designed to be visually cohesive between ESPN’s pre-show, game and post-show broadcasts, with Big Block crafting high-end solutions to keep the sophisticated look and feel consistent across the board.

When asked if working with such iconic logos added some challenges to the project, Doss said, “It definitely adds pressure anytime your combining multiple brands, however it was not the first time ESPN and NBA have collaborated, obviously. I will say that there were needs unique to each brand that we absolutely had to consider. This did take us down many paths during the design process, but we feel that the result is a very strong marriage of the two icons that both benefit from a brand perspective.”

In terms of tools, the studio called on Adobe’s Creative Suite and Maxon Cinema 4D. Final renders were done in Cinema 4D’s Physical Render.


The Famous Grouse

Putting The Famous Grouse into CG environs for holiday spots

By Randi Altman

Flaunt Productions in Glasgow teamed up with the Leith Agency on a two-spot campaign for the Scottish blended whisky brand, The Famous Grouse. Heading the effort was director Ben Craig and Flaunt’s head of lighting, Jon Neill — they were tasked with putting the iconic grouse into a CG version of his natural environment for these holiday-themed ads.

The first spot, Perfectly Balanced, was released earlier this month and takes the viewer on a flight through the Scottish Highlands to reveal the Grouse with his chest puffed out and feeling proud of his environment. The second commercial, called Smooth, which aired the week of Black Friday, starts as the camera spins through the snowy Scottish Highlands.

flauntTo create the cinematic photoreal landscape, Neill and some of the team shot drone footage in Glencoe, which allowed real-life textures to be applied to the CG world.

In order to create a realistic grouse, Flaunt applied a feather system based on a fur and procedural shader that gave on organic look to the model. When it came to movement of the body and wing feathers, specific movements had to be animated to give a sense of realistic movement and the personality that is associated with the Famous Grouse.

We reached out to executive producer Andrew Pearce about the project and its workflow…

Photo:Mike Scott

Andrew Pearce

How early did you get involved in the project? Was the agency up for suggestions, or did they already have a specific plan locked in?
Director Ben Craig worked with Flaunt on a creative treatment, based on scripts from The Leith Agency. Their central idea was to bring the much-loved Grouse into his home environment: the epic, sweeping Scottish Highlands. Previously, all ads had been set against an infinite white background. With that in mind, we worked collaboratively with the agency to bring the ads to life.

The first stage after treatment would normally be storyboard. However, because our camera move was so extreme, we felt a 2D animatic would be misleading, so we proceeded straight to previs.

You used drone footage for the Grouse’s environment. How did you go about turning it into CG?
We drove up to the Glencoe ski resort and jumped onto the ski lift to get as high as possible. After a 30-minute walk, we attached a camera to the drone and sent it up into the sky — 360 overlapping stills were taken at three different heights.

We merged the images together to create a 360-panorama and applied this to geometry in Autodesk Maya. From there we rendered out the shot with this background, making creative decisions on what to add or take away. Next, we made simple 3D hills on which to project the images, thus providing parallax and a three-dimensional feel.

Was Maya your main animation software? Did you write your own particle systems off of that? What other tools were used?
Maya was used for animation, Side Effects Houdini for FX, Houdini Mantra for lighting and Nuke for compositing. We also had to write a feather system for the Grouse, which worked inside Houdini.

Can you talk about giving the Grouse personality in the CG world? What about facial (or beak) expressions, and his eyes and movements?
For these adverts, the Grouse was in a real-world environment. With that in mind, we didn’t want to go over the top with cartoony animation. The realism of the Grouse asset wouldn’t support that style, but we needed to give the Grouse some character beyond that of a real one.

Real grouse faces don’t move that much, and we didn’t want to change the anatomy too much. So we used the eyebrows and eyes as much as we could. Our rig also enabled us to exaggerate the shape of the eyes and eyebrows beyond the norm. These subtle anatomical exaggerations were enough for us to push the facial animation enough to engage the viewer.

When it came to the motions of the Grouse, we had to tread a fine line between realistic and anthropomorphic — fans of this brand love how it has moved in previous campaigns. We created various versions of all the actions as we honed in on the motion we wanted. The Grouse’s wink at the end of one of the adverts was the product of many iterations, having explored head tilts, nods, lifts, raised eyebrows and so on.

Before we leave you, anything you would like to add?
We had to strike a balance between a look that was both realistic and magical. This was partly achieved by mashing up some of the most incredible landscapes in Scotland. To augment the magical feel, we added lens flares and camera lens aberrations in the compositing. Subtle pollen particles were also added to give a sense of space as we flew through the environment.

Check out the making of the video here.

NAB 1/17

Splenda Naturals gets the stop-motion treatment in new spot

Production company 1stAveMachine worked with J. Walter Thompson Toronto and Splenda to create an integrated marketing campaign that promotes the Stevia-based, calorie-free sweetener Splenda Naturals.

Coffee, a fully stop-motion animated spot, features an office scene where a gruff boss (a coffee mug) is laying off a packet of sugar, telling him that “sweet ain’t enough anymore.” The sugar packet figures out it’s that new “Splenda Naturals gal” who is replacing him. The boss explains that not only is she sweet, she’s healthier than sugar. The piece ends with a box of the product and the tag “Hello New Splenda Naturals Sweetener.”

Production companies Tronco and 1stAveMachine worked together to provide production and post production on the piece. The directors of the spot were Becho Lo Bianco and Mariano Bergara, and the production director was Anuk Torre Obeid. 1stAveMachine has represented Tronco and Mab and Becho exclusively worldwide for the last seven years, each year doing more work in the North American and international market.

“Mab, Becho and Anuk are directors and storytellers first and foremost. They own a stop-motion studio in Buenos Aires and have been experimenting in and perfecting this craft for over a decade, but perfect craftsmanship is only a tool to tell the story. We worked in a very collaborative way with the agency and were lucky enough to be able to be a part of the films from the ground up. We designed and built every character as well as the set,” reports 1stAveMachine executive producer/partner Sam Penfield. “As we work with agencies from around the world, many times remotely, we have built many tools in order to collaborate from a distance. Many in our business have not worked in stop-motion, and it is has some peculiarities in regards to process. The first step when we begin a job is to educate anyone on the team who is not familiar with stop motion — how to exploit its natural charm and what limitations that one should be aware of. Once there is an overall understanding of process, we build and previs in CG in order to work on pacing, camera and, most importantly, acting. In stop-motion, even inanimate objects ‘act.’

“For each frame, we build a visual hierarchy so that the viewer follows the story easily and then we fill each frame with interesting details that make for a richer experience on each viewing thereafter,” he continues. “In the case of Splenda, the pre-production was done remotely and the agency/client attended the shoot. Having a great pre-production process meant the shoot went smoothly and we had plenty of time to enjoy being in Buenos Aires.”

The editor was Nicolas Rivas and Alejandro Armaleo provided the color grade. The sound mix was via Pirate Toronto.

NAB 1/17

Behind the Title: Broadcast Designer/3D Artist Sophia Kyriacou

NAME: London-based Sophia Kyriacou

COMPANY: I’m a freelancer, but split my time working for the BBC in London as well.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE KIND OF WORK YOU DO?
Mostly broadcast design creation, but I’m looking to branch out into features as well.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Broadcast designer and 3D artist

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I design everything from opening titles, content graphics, 3D explainers to program designs and program branding projects. I design for a variety of genres and age groups.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Directing shoots for opening titles sequences or content work. Some clients think motion designers only sit in front of a computer all day working digitally, and for some, that is the case and it’s absolutely fine. However, our work does also include directing or co-directing, especially if the work you are creating is footage-based — a combination that needs heavy post or simply making sure you have the required shots you need from your client approved storyboard.

It is essential for designers to be part of the process and work with everyone on the shoot, especially the director of photography, to discuss lighting and composition and make sure you get all the shots you need. Decreasing budgets over the years has naturally impacted this valuable skill and, sadly, some designers have never even had the chance to experience directing, forcing creation to be computer-based from start to finish.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I’ve always enjoyed seeing the creative process through with my client. They are key to the process and should always be made to feel part of it. While everything I create is for a client and their audience, there is no denying that what the customer needs must always be paramount.

Understanding your target audience is very important, and as a designer you must always bear in mind that while you want to create a strong body of work, you are never designing for yourself.

Looking for Safe Shores

“Looking for Safe Shores” courtesy of the UNHCR.

What I also love about my work is the variety and the creative satisfaction I get from bringing visually engaging sequences to life. While I am always learning something new, I will never let myself be dictated by faddy design trends and popular plug-ins. For me, the concept is my focus — strong ideas with appropriately strong execution.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Having to make a call when tweaks are beyond what is considered as acceptable. With any project you take on, one to two reasonable tweaks are very much part of the process, and it’s a good thing as projects can dramatically improve. If clients want endless tweaks beyond the initial budget for free, that’s not good at all. Nobody should be expected to keep tweaking endlessly for free, so I am very firm with that.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
The morning! Working sensibly is very important, and I find that not only do I create my best ideas at the earliest part of the day I am at my most productive as well.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
This is a tricky question, as the creative world has been very much embedded and a part of my life for an incredibly long time. There are many areas I have an interest in, but possibly a career in science and technology… an inventor perhaps?!

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I was always been interested in art, way before my age hit double figures. For me, painting and drawing was natural and something I wanted to do and learn out of my own choice. My interest in art then grew into design and photography.

One thing started to influence the other, and once I started my training, that expanded to include advertising and animation as well. It was my passion for studio photography that inspired me into the moving image. I simply wanted to make my photography move, so one day I took the Super 16mm Bolex film camera out of retirement from the photographic studio and took it to the Film Stock Centre in Wardour Street, which sadly is closed down now. I held it up and asked the staff, “What film do I need?” I then loaded it up and off I went.

I never believed in rules. I always wanted my film graded my way so that it was aesthetically pleasing and not the way that was considered technically correct. This was simply because I wanted my film to look a certain way and play a role in the concept. I was, and still am, a firm believer that if you know less about something, it has a bigger influence in your end result because you never have pre-conceived ideas of where you are heading. There is something incredibly tactile about film that digital doesn’t give you.

As my work became more motion-based, I started to write scripts for animated shorts. I had hideously long journey’s traveling to and from art college every day, so I would write scripts on the bus and tube, sometimes laughing to myself as I read through them. I became very interested in narrative. Telling a story along a timeline is essentially what I do now, whether it is an opening title sequence for a show or an explainer for a variety of subjects and audiences; I’m essentially a storyteller using imagery and sound, and I love it.

Paper Town

Paper Town – Courtesy of BBC News

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
It’s hard to choose any one favorite, as they are all so different. A piece of work I created for the BBC, commissioned by the BBC Business Unit called Paper Town is probably one of my favorite BBC sequences. The overall process of modeling to the animation was so enjoyable and an effective technique too. It was also nominated for a PromaxBDA Global Excellence Award, and it changed my career path in a very positive way.

Another project I recently finished was for one of my private clients at Noon Visual Creatives. Called The Human Rights Zoetrope, it was an amazing project in many ways. It gave me the chance to get absorbed into the concept and build a fully functional 3D zoetrope, which is something I’ve always wanted to do in 3D. The Human Rights Zoetrope also recently won Gold at the Muse Creative Awards 2016

The Human Rights Zoetrope.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
It has got to be The Human Rights Zoetrope. While I have not been freelancing very long, it was the first project I was awarded as a creative independent. That aside, I am very proud of all my achievements, including the BBC, but this was a special moment for me. It’s about getting the recognition on your own and that really does taste very sweet.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My iPhone. I love my phone, keeping track of my emails and social media is incredibly important, especially when you are self-employed and have to constantly market yourself.

I love my Mac Pro and my new rendering PC. Having reliable kit is essential. I will most likely add another PC workstation to my rendering family soon, but for large-scale processor-heavy rendering, I would use an external renderfarm.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I have a Facebook page that I use to plug anything new and reinforce projects I feel proud of. I have a steady stream of followers, which is great.

I have started using Instagram again. I like Instagram because I’ve found that generally audiences respond immediately to eye-catching imagery. In a world where everything is becoming more and more fast paced, it is easier to like a strong static image than a video… unless you are a potential client. They would want to see my latest reel and other supporting motion sequences.

I really like Vimeo and Behance. YouTube is great, but because it’s so vast in scale it does have the tendency to attract some undesirables.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
Sometimes I do, yes. It all depends what I am creating. Music naturally influences art and design, so it can dramatically have an effect on an overall design at the concept stage.

I sometimes find playing uplifting music, like dance or R&B, while 3D modeling very therapeutic and it makes me work to a regular pace. Within my work I am mostly choreographing to sounds or music anyway, so music does play a huge part within the whole creating and building workflow.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I enjoy spending time with family and close friends. Stepping back is essential, not only for the sake of individual well-being, but who wants stale ideas? Everyone should take a breather to recharge physically and mentally. Giving yourself that timeout will only help promote the best creativity and outcome. Working when fatigued does not help anyone and only hinders the whole creative and production process. Even screen breaks will help you look at your work differently when you return to your workstation. When you stare at the screen too long you stop seeing what isn’t working. Screen breaks not only help rest your eyes, but also help to improve the whole design and creation process. I can’t stress how important it is, and it’s something I do take seriously.

Check out my reel!


New Wacom Cintiq Pro line offers portability, updated pen, more

Wacom has introduced a new line of Wacom Cintiq Pro creative pen displays: the Cintiq Pro 13 and Cintiq Pro 16. The Wacom Cintiq Pro features a thin and portable form factor, making them suitable for working on the road or remotely.

Cintiq Pro’s new Pro Pen 2, according to Wacom, offers four times greater accuracy and pressure sensitivity than the previous Pro Pen. The improved Pro Pen 2 creates an intuitive experience with virtually lag-free tracking on a glass surface that produces the right amount of friction, and is coated to reduce reflection.

Additionally, the new optical bonding process reduces parallax, providing a pen-on-screen performance that feels natural and has the feedback of a traditional pen or brush. Both Cintiq Pro models also feature multi-touch for easy and fast navigation, as well as the ability to pinch, zoom and rotate illustrations, photos or models within supporting 2D or 3D creative software apps.

Both high-resolution Cintiq Pro models come with an optimized edge-to-edge etched glass workspace. The Cintiq Pro also builds on its predecessor, the Cintiq 13HD touch, offering the ExpressKey Remote as an optional accessory so users can customize their most commonly used shortcuts and modifiers when working with their most-used software applications. In addition, ergonomic features, such as ErgoFlex, fully integrated pop out legs and an optional three-position desk stand (available in February), let users focus on their work instead of constantly adjusting for comfort.

The Wacom Cintiq Pro 13 and 16 are compatible with both Macs and PCs and feature full HD (1920×1080) and UHD (3840×2160) resolution, respectively. Both Cintiq Pro configurations deliver vivid colors, the 13-inch model providing 87 percent Adobe RGB and the 16-inch, 94 percent.

Priced at $999.95 USD, the Cintiq Pro 13 is expected to be available online and at select retail locations at the beginning of December. The Cintiq Pro 16, $1499.95 USD, is expected in February.


Behind the Title: Iloura lead animator Dean Elliott

NAME: Dean Elliott

COMPANY: Iloura (@iloura_vfx)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR ILOURA?
Based in Melbourne and Sydney, Iloura houses a collective of animation and VFX artists.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Lead Animator

THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
My role can change depending on the project that I’m working on at the time. On a production with only a small scope for character animation like Mad Max: Fury Road, I will work purely as an animator producing shots for the film, whereas on a larger character-based film like SpongeBob SquarePants I would work as a more traditional lead — helping other animators to hit required notes, communicating direction and working as a sounding board for any performance ideas they may have.

Then on a production like Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards, l spent most of my time supervising the complex crowd system we developed to extend the scope of our hero keyframe animation.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Somehow l seem to have ended up spending a lot of time in the mocap suit over the past 12 months. This isn’t something l had intended, but it does make it a lot easier when l can plan and generate complex performances that would be otherwise very difficult to achieve directing other actors, or purely by keyframing.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING IN VFX?
I’ve been working as an animator for over 15 years now at various studios.

HOW HAS YOUR PART OF THE INDUSTRY CHANGED IN THE TIME YOU’VE BEEN WORKING? 
As an animator, I haven’t seen any great advances in the technology we use to do our job. At the end of the day, animators only really have to deal with timing and poses. The biggest change has been the career becoming more accessible as a profession, and it’s been a good one. The tools have leveled the playing field, and now when we look for animators we don’t need to look for traditional art skills like drawing. As long as they understand performance and movement they can produce amazing work.

DID A PARTICULAR FILM INSPIRE YOU ALONG THIS PATH IN ENTERTAINMENT?
Like most people in the industry I had a lot of influences that led me in this direction, but the main film that finally tipped me over was A Bug’s Life. I could see a very strong future for 3D animation watching that film; that was when l thought l could make a career out of a hobby.

DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL FOR ANIMATION?
Not for animation. There were no courses available for animation when l left school. So instead l studied illustration to build my creative skills, and in my spare time researched animation on the Internet and taught myself at home.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I really enjoy the start of each production. Doing motion tests to establish how a character will move and looking at the storyboards or previs for the first time.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
When you’re getting close to the deadline and the schedule becomes more important than reworking the shot because you came up with a better idea for the character.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I’d love to say l would be a pilot. But then again, l spent so much time drawing in school that my grades weren’t very good, so l doubt anyone would have let me fly 50 tons of metal across the sky. (Which is probably best, now that l think of it.)

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We recently finished production on Underworld 5, and before that we completed the Battle of the Bastards sequence in Season 6, Episode 9 of Game of Thrones.

The Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards

WHAT IS THE PROJECT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I think Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards has been the most rewarding. We set out to greatly improve our crowd animation for the sequence, and it’s probably the only project l’ve worked on where the final result looked as good what I had imagined it would be when I started.

WHAT TOOLS DO YOU USE DAY TO DAY?
Along with a number of in-house tools, we rely on Maya day to day for all of our keyframe animation. We have also recently started using Massive for crowds and iPi Motion Capture in a small in-house mocap space.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
Many places. It’s very easy to find your way to a lot of very impressive work on the Internet these days. I’m probably most inspired by work in other films, and I follow a lot of illustrators and artists as well.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Leave work and go home.

Super Hero music video gets Aardman Nathan Love treatment

The Aardman Nathan Love animation studio recently finished design and animation work on director Kris Merc’s music video for Super Hero, the leadoff single from Kool Keith’s new album Feature Magnetic that is a collaboration with MF Doom.

The video starts with a variety of hypnotic imagery, from eye charts to kaleidoscopic wheels, with Doom’s iconic, ever-rotating mask as its centerpiece.

“Being a huge fan of both Kool Keith and MF Doom for years, and knowing our studio had capacity to help Kris out, we couldn’t not get involved,” recalls Aardman Nathan Love (ANL) founder/executive creative director Joe Burrascano. “Kris was able to let his imagination run wild. ANL’s team of designers, 3D artists and technical directors gave him the support he needed to help shape his vision and make the final piece as strong and unique as possible.”

According to Merc, who’s helmed notable projects from music videos for hip-hop pioneers De La Soul to spots for HTC during his lengthy career, the Super Hero production afforded him the space to realize his vision of bending and manipulating pop aesthetics to create something altogether mysterious and otherworldly. “I wanted to capture something that felt like a visual pop travesty,” explains the director. “I wanted it to visually speak to the legacy of the artists, and Afrofuturism mixed with comic book concepts. I’m a fan of the unseen, and I was obsessed with the idea of using Doom’s mask and the iconography as a centralized point – as if time and space converged around these strange, sometimes magical tableaus and we were witnessing an ascension.”

To help develop his concepts, Merc worked closely with Aardman Nathan Love in several key stages of production from the idea and design stage to technical aspects like compositing and rendering. “Our specialty lies mainly in CG character animation work, which typically involves a lot of careful planning and development work up front,” adds ANL CG director Eric Cunha. “Kris has a very organic process, and is constantly finding inspiration for new and exciting ideas. The biggest challenge we faced was being able to respond to this constant flow of new ideas, and facilitate the growth of the piece. In the end, it was an exciting new challenge that pushed us to develop a new way of working that resulted in an amazing, visually fresh and creative piece of work.”

Zbrush was used to create some of the assets, and Autodesk Maya was Aardman Nathan Love’s main animation tool. Most of the rendering was done in Maxwell, aside of two or so shots that were done in Arnold.