Tag Archives: 3D

Review: Maxon Cinema 4D Studio Release 18

By Brady Betzel

Each year I get to test out some of the latest and greatest software and hardware releases our industry has to offer. One of my favorites — and most challenging — is Maxon’s Cinema 4D. I say challenging because while I love Cinema 4D, I don’t use it every day. So, in order to test it thoroughly, I watched tutorials on Cineversity to brush up on what I forgot and what’s new. Even though I don’t use it every day, I do love it.

I’ve reviewed Cinema 4D Release 15 through R18. I started using the product when I was studying at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California, which coincidentally is about 10 minutes from Maxon’s Newbury Park office.

Voronoi Fracture

Each version update has been packed full of remarkable additions and updates. From the grass generator in R15, addition of the Reflectance channel in R16, lens distortion tools in R17 to the multitude of updates in R18 — Cinema 4D keeps on cranking out the hits. I say multitude because there are a ton of updates packed into the latest Cinema 4D Release 18 update. You can check out a complete list of them as well as comparisons between Cinema 4D Studio, Visualize, Broadcast, Prime, BodyPaint 3D and Lite Release 18 versions on the Maxon site.

For this review, I’m going to touch on three of what I think are the most compelling updates in Release 18: the new Voronoi Fracture, Thin Film Shader and the Push Apart Effector. Yes, I know there are a bazillion other great updates to Cinema 4D R18 — such as Weight Painting, new Knife Tools, Inverse Ambient Occlusion, the ability to save cache files externally and many more — but I’m going to stick to the features that I think stand out.

Keep in mind that I am using Cinema 4D Studio R18 for this review, so if you don’t have Studio, some of the features might not be available in your version. For instance, I am going to touch on some of the MoGraph toolset updates, and those are only inside the Studio and Broadcast versions. Finally, while you should use a super powerful workstation to get the smoothest and most robust experience when using Cinema 4D R18, I am using a tablet that uses a quad core Intel i7 3.1GHz processor, 8GB of RAM and an Intel Iris graphics 6100 GPU. Definitely on the lower end of processing power for this app, but it works and I have to credit Maxon for making it work so well.

Voronoi Fracture
If, like me, you’ve never heard of the term Voronoi, check out the first paragraph of this Wiki page. A very simple way to imagine a Voronoi diagram is a bunch of cell-like polygons that are all connected (there’s a much more intricate and deeply mathematical definition, but I can barely understand it, and it’s really beyond the scope of this review). In Cinema 4D Studio R18, the Voronoi Fracture object allows us to easily, and I mean really easily, procedurally break apart objects like MoGraph text, or any other object, without the need for external third-party plug-ins such as Nitro4D’s Thrausi.

Voronoi Fracture

To apply Voronoi Fracture in as few steps as possible, you apply the Voronoi Fracture located in the MoGraph menu to your object, adjust parameters under the Sources menu (like distribution type or point amount) add effectors to cause dispersion, keyframe values and render. With a little practice you can explode your raytraced MoGraph text in no time. The best part is your object will not look fractured until animated, which in the past took some work so this is a great update.

Thin Film Shader
Things that are hard to recreate in a photorealistic way are transparent objects, such as glass bottles, windows and bubbles. In Cinema 4D R18, Maxon has added the new Thin Film Shader, which can add the film-like quality that you see on bubbles or soap. It’s an incredible addition to Cinema 4D, furthering the idea that Maxon is concentrating on adding features that improve efficiency for people like me who want to use Cinema 4D, but sometimes don’t because making a material like Thin Film will take a long time.

To apply the Thin Film to your object, find the Reflectance channel of your material that you want to add the Thin Film property to add a new Beckmann or GGX layer, lower the Specular Strength of this layer to zero, under Layer Color choose Texture > Effects > Thin Film. From there, if you want to see the Thin Film as a true layer of film you need to change your composite setting to Add on your layer; you should then see it properly. You can get some advanced tips from the great tutorials over at Cineversity and from Andy Needham (Twitter: @imcalledandy) on lynda.com. One tip I learned from Andy is to change the Index of Refraction to get some different looks, which can be found under the Shader properties.

Push Apart Effector

Push Apart Effector
The new Push Apart Effector is a simple but super-powerful addition to Cinema 4D. The easiest way to describe the Push Apart Effector is to imagine a bunch of objects in an array or using a Cloner where all of your objects are touching — the Push Apart Effector helps to push them away from each other. To decrease the intersection of your clones, you can dial-in the specific radius of your objects (like a sphere) and then tell Cinema 4D R18 how many times you want it to look through the scene by specifying iterations. The more iterations the less chance your objects will intersect, but the more time it will take to compute.

Summing Up
I love Maxon’s continual development of Cinema 4D in Release 18. I specifically love that while they are adding new features, like Weight Painting and Update Knife Tools, they are also helping to improve efficiency for people like me who love to work in Cinema 4D but sometimes skip it because of the steep learning curve and technical know-how you need in order to operate it. You should not fear though, I cannot emphasize how much you can learn at Cineversity, Lynda.com, and on YouTube from an expert like Sean Frangella. Whether you are new to the world of Cinema 4D, mildly experienced like me, or an expert you can always learn something new.

Something I love about Maxon’s licensing for education is that if you go to a qualified school, you can get a free Cinema 4D license. Instructors can get access to Cineversity to use the tutorials in their curriculum as well as project files to use. It’s an amazing resource.

Thin Film Render

If you are an Adobe After Effects user, don’t forget that you automatically get a free version of Cinema 4D bundled with After Effects — Cinema 4D Lite. Even though you have to have After Effects open to use the Cinema 4D Lite, it is still a great way to dip your toes into the 3D world, and maybe even bring your projects back into After Effects to do some compositing.

Cinema 4D Studio R18’s pricing breaks down like this: Commercial Pricing/Annual License Pricing/Upgrade R17 to R18 pricing — Cinema 4D Studio Release 18: $3,695/$650 /$995; Cinema 4D Visualize Release 18: $2,295/$500/$795; Cinema 4D Broadcast Release 18: $1,695/$400 /$795; Cinema 4D Prime Release 18: $995/$250/$395.

Another interesting option is Maxon’s short-term licensing in three- or six-month chunks for the Studio version ($600/$1,100) and 75 percent of the fees you pay for a short-term license can be applied to your purchase of a full license later. Keep in mind, when using such a powerful and robust software like Cinema 4D you are making an investment that will payoff with concentrated effort in learning the software. With a few hours of training from some of the top trainers — like Tim Clapham on www.hellolux.com, Greyscalegorilla.com and Motionworks.com — you will be off and running in 3D land.

For everyday Cinema 4D creations and inspiration, check out @beeple_crap on Instagram. He produces amazing work all the time.

In this review, I tested some of the new updates to Cinema 4D Studio R18 with sample projects from Andy Needham’s Lynda.com class Cinema 4D R18: New Features and Joren Kandel’s awesome website, which offers tons of free content to play with while learning the new tools.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

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.

The creative process behind The Human Rights Zoetrope

By Sophia Kyriacou

As an artist working in the broadcast industry of almost 20 years, I’ve designed everything from opening title sequences to program brands to content graphics. About three years into my career, I was asked to redesign a program entirely in 3D. The rest, as they say, is history.

Over two years ago I was working full-time at the BBC doing the same work as I am doing now, broadcast designer and 3D artist, but decided it was time to cut my time in half and allow myself to focus on my own creative ventures. I wanted to work with external and varied clients, both here in the UK and internationally. I also wanted to use my spare time for development work. In an industry where technology is constantly evolving it’s essential to keep ahead of the game.

One of those creative ventures was commissioned by Noon Visual Creatives — a London-based production and post company that serves several Arabic broadcasters in both the United Kingdom and worldwide — to create a television branding package for a program called Human Rights.

I had previously worked with Noon on a documentary about the ill-fated 1999 EgyptAir plane crash (which is still awaiting broadcast), so when I was approached again I was more than happy to create their Human Rights brand.

My Inspiration
I was very lucky in that my client essentially gave me free rein, which I find is a rarity these days. I have always been excited and inspired by the works of the creative illusionist M.C Escher. His work has always made me think and explore how you can hook your viewer by giving them something to unravel and interact with. His 1960 lithograph, called Ascending and Descending, was my initial starting point. There was something about the figures going round and round but getting nowhere.The Human Rights Zeotrope Titles

While Escher’s work kickstarted my creative process I also wanted to create something that was illusion-based, so I revisited Mark Gertler’s Merry-Go-Round. As a young art student I had his poster on my wall. Sometimes I would find myself staring at it for hours, looking at the people’s expressions and the movement Gertler had expressed in the figures with his onion-skin-style strokes. There was so much movement within the painting that it jumped out at me. I loved the contrasting colors of orange and blue, the composition was incredibly strong and animated.

I have always been fascinated by the mechanics of old hand-cranked metal toys, including zoetropes, and I have always loved how inanimate objects could come alive to tell you a story. It is very powerful. You have the control to be given the narrative or you can walk away from it — it’s about making a choice and being in control.

Once I had established I was going to build a 3D zoetrope, I explored the mechanics of building one. It was the perfect object to address the issue of human rights because without the trigger it would remain lifeless. I then starting digging into the declaration of Human Rights to put forward a proposal of what I thought would work within their program. I shortlisted 10 rights and culled that down to the final eight. Everything had to be considered. The positioning of the final eight had their own hierarchy and place.

At the base of the zoetrope are water pumps, signifying the right to clean water and sanitation. This is the most important element of the entire zoetrope, grounding the entire structure, as without water, there simply is no life, no existence. Above, a prisoner gestures for attention to the outside world, its environment completely contradicting, given hope by an energetic burst of comforting orange. The gavel references the rights for justice and are subliminally inspired by the hammers walking defiantly within the Pink Floyd video, Another Brick in the Wall. The gavel within the zoetrope becomes that monumental object of power, helped along by the dynamic camera with repetitions of itself staggered over time like echoes on a loop. Surrounding the gavel of justice is a dove flying free from a metal birdcage in a shape of the world. This was my reference to the wonderful book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou.

My client wanted to highlight the crisis of the Syrian refugees, so I decided to depict an exhausted child wearing a life jacket, suggesting he had travelled across the Mediterranean Sea, while a young girl at his side, oblivious, happily plays with a spinning top. I wanted to show the negativity being cancelled out by optimism.

To hammer home the feeling of isolation and emptiness that the lack of human rights brings forth, I placed the zoetrope into a cold and almost brutal environment: an empty warehouse. My theme of the positivity canceling out negativity once again is echoed as the sunlight penetrates through hitting the cold floor in an attempt to signify hope and reconnect with the outside world.

the-human-rights-zoetrope_gavel-shotEvery level of detail was broken up into sections. I created very simple one-second loops of animation that were subtle, but enough to tell the story. Once I had animated each section, it was a case of painstakingly pulling apart each object into a stop-frame animated existence so once they were placed in their position and spun, they would animate back into life again.

My Workflow
For ease and budget, I used Poser Pro, a character-based software to animate all the figures in isolation first. Using both the PoserFusion plug-in and the Alembic export, I was able to import each looping character into Maxon Cinema 4D where I froze and separated each 3D object one by one. Any looping objects that were not figure-based were all modelled and animated within Cinema 4D. Once the individual components were animated and positioned, I imported everything into a master 3D scene where I was able to focus on the lighting and camera shots.

For the zoetrope centrepiece, I built a simple lighting rig made up of the GSG Light Kit Pro, two soft boxes, that I had adapted and placed within a NULL and an area Omni light above. This allowed me to rotate the rig around according to my camera shot. Having a default position and brightness set-up was great and helped to get me out of trouble if I got a little too carried away with the settings, and the lighting didn’t change too dramatically on each camera shot. I also added a couple of Visible Area Spotlights out of the warehouse pointing inwards to give the environment a foggy distant feel.

I deliberately chose not to render using volumetric lighting because I didn’t want that specific look and did not want any light bursts hitting my zoetrope. The zoetrope was the star of the show and nothing else. Another lighting feature I tend to use within my work is the combination of the Physical Sky and the Sun. Both give a natural warm feel and I wanted sunlight to burst through the window; it was conceptually important and it added balance to the composition.

The most challenging part of the entire project was getting the lighting to work seamlessly throughout, as well as the composition within some of the camera shots. Some shots were very tight in frame, so I could not rely on the default rig and needed additional lighting to catch objects where the 3-point lights didn’t work so well. I had decided very early on, that rather than work from a single master file, as with the lighting, I had a default “get me out of trouble” master, saving each shot with its own independent settings as I went along to keep my workflow clean. Each scene file was around a gigabyte in size as none of the objects within the zoetrope were parametric anymore once they had been split, separated-out and converted to polygons.

My working machine was a 3.2GHz 8-core Mac Pro with 24GB of RAM, rendered out on a PC — custom-built 3X3 machine — with an Intel Core Processor i7 5960X with water cooling, 32GB RAM and clockable to 4.5GHz.

Since completion, Human Rights zoetrope branding has won Gold at the Muse Creative Awards in the Best Motion Graphics Category.

Sophia Kyriacou is a London-based broadcast designer and 3D artist.

Behind the Title: State Design ECD/Owner Marcel Ziul

NAME: Marcel Ziul

COMPANY: Los Angeles-based State Design

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We’re a design, animation and live-action production company. We’re on the small-ish side. Some fancier people might call us a “boutique.” We just like taking on a few select projects at a time.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
I’m the Executive Creative Director and Owner.

STATE_01WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Being the owner, I used to handle quite a bit of our business affairs, but now I mainly direct and oversee projects that come in our doors on a creative level. Along with a great team of artists and producers, I help ensure that our clients’ creative visions are fulfilled and surpassed.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Probably the balancing act of being an owner and creative director. It’s sometimes tough to separate the two. Early on, I used to be bogged down by business dealings during the day and then focused on creative after business hours. That was unacceptable.

In the last two years, we’ve grown up as a company, and I’ve hired the right staff to handle the majority of the business, so now I can focus primarily on the creative and strategy of the studio.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Working with a client that truly enjoys collaborating. When you’re in sync with your client it’s no longer just work, it’s fun. Also, I really enjoy working directly with my team of creatives. Our 3D lead Mauro Borba, for example, is always really excited about the projects, and his leadership makes my job more rewarding and creative.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
The opposite of the above answer!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
When I have time to only focus on the creative direction and how to improve upon the projects we are currently working on. Most of the time, this is when I’m alone at the studio in the early morning or late evening.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I’d open a coffee store and probably drink coffee all day long. I also love cycling. That said, a bike shop wouldn’t be a bad idea either. But these are just entertaining thoughts. In reality, I wouldn’t do anything different than what I’m doing now.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
It’s actually because of my dad. One of his best friends had a production company and he thought it would be a good opportunity for me to intern there. I was 18 years old at the time. To me, it was the most amazing thing ever. From there, I went straight to college where I graduated with a degree in advertising.

FIFACAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Our recent work includes the History of FIFA Women’s World Cup web spot for Fox Sports, the “No Brainer” co-branded commercial campaign for IFC, and a beautifully animated commercial called Veteran’s Day for Syfy.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
That’s hard to say because I’m proud of all our collaborations. As of today, I’d say it’s our self-initiated spot called “Statement.” It hits home for me because it’s kind of a culmination of my life’s work up to this point.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
iPhone, Nespresso Machine and my Fuji XT-1.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I love Instagram, but I also follow Facebook and Vimeo.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK? CARE TO SHARE YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC TO WORK TO?
Of course! Anything by Sepultura and Queens of the Stone Age to Apparat and Moderat.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Besides cycling, I enjoying relaxing with my family and friends, going to concerts and watching UFC and soccer.

Director Justin Harder joins production/post house Golden

Los Angeles-based production and post studio Golden has signed director Justin Harder to its roster. Harder, who has a background in design, will serve as both a commercial director and a creative director at Golden. He will continue to helm both animation and live-action spots.

Golden’s multidisciplinary approach, which fuses high-end live-action production, design, animation, and visual effects, appeals to Harder. “It feels right to be part of a highly selective roster, while having the support of a larger studio with more 3D and VFX firepower. I’m here because my work really aligns with Golden’s vision and needs.”

This Chicago native, who studied graphic design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, often creates pencil drawings and full-scale props. “I’m into the mechanics of things,” he says, “I don’t always rely on computer graphics to give the work a personality, to bring it to life. I live by the credo ‘Make Something Everyday and Make Everyday Something,’ and if that means getting down and detailed, I’m in. It’s all about making something innovative, something exciting.”

Behind the Title: Executive Creative Director Erin Sarofsky

NAME: Erin Sarofsky

COMPANY: Chicago’s Sarofsky Corp. (@sarofsky)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
I always say we are a design-driven production company… but that’s my way of trying to consolidate a bunch of information into four words. The long and the short of it is that we produce work using live action, visual effects, 3D development, design, animation and editorial. We have clients in both the commercial and entertainment arenas. Ultimately, though, we are a collection of artists and producers that are problem solvers. Every day, clients call us with a task: to come up with the fastest, cheapest*, most innovative and beautiful way of producing their project.

* I’m not saying we are cheap. Actually, we are quite pricey, but budgets are what they are and we need to maximize the money clients have. We like to make sure the money winds up on screen and is not wasted.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
I am the owner and executive creative director. I am also live-action director, which is technically a small part of my job if you look at it by time spent, but it is a big focus as we become more and more entrusted with that aspect as a part of the studio’s capabilities.

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
My role is essentially to oversee the creative development of our jobs.

That probably seems like a lot of work, especially because we have multiple jobs of varying sizes happening simultaneously. Luckily, our projects are always in various stages of development. The beginning of a job tends to take up the majority of my time. It’s important that the client and I are on the same page, so that translates to a lot of communication and previsualization. We then kick it off in the studio with the right producer and artists attached. My executive producer Steven Anderson and I spend a lot of time discussing our teams and who is appropriate for what project.

The studio

After that, it’s really just keeping an eye on things and making sure the team has the resources and guidance they need. Luckily, I have a very talented group here. Our communication is better here than at any other company I’ve worked, which is essential to being flexible for our clients, and also supportive of each other.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I think that the most surprising thing is that I can never really focus on anything. The most intensive work I do happens after hours at home or on a plane (which, now that we have Internet, is sort of a wash). There are always people needing to talk through things… clients, producers, artists, lawyers, accountants, contractors, business development, etc.

As the ECD and owner, I have the big responsibility of managing not only the day-to-day projects but also the company’s bigger strategy, which includes making sure my employees’ careers are on track and that we are making informed business decisions.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I love my team. We collaborate all day… and there’s always a lot of laughter.

Really, it’s just amazing that we all make a living in the arts. I imagine that as we all went to art and film school we wondered if we would ever be able to balance the need to make a living with the desire to produce work that fuels our souls. Luckily, everyday we get to do that.

I also love that I can snack all day. I’m a bit of a grazer.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
When one of my artists is struggling and I know how to fix it, I have to give them the information, support and direction for them to figure it out themselves. I think as a CD, it’s important to embrace your role as a mentor, but sometimes all I want to do is grab the mouse and a pair of headphones with some cheesy ‘80s channel playing and do their work for them. Though, at the end of the day, that would make me a terrible CD, so I don’t.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
I love the moment before I fall asleep. When I am cozy in bed, feeling like the day was rewarding in some unexpected way (usually prompting a silly giggle) and thinking about tomorrow… and how it’s going to be crazy, wondering how are we going to get it all done.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I love, love, love American crafts. I am a knitter… not professional, but I can hold my own. All of my baby-making friends get little sweaters for their munchkins. So I think I would be doing something in the crafts, like pottery or woodworking or pattern making or even basket weaving. I love using raw materials and making stuff.

I’d like to think that my work would be shown in museums, but I’d probably be rocking a corset (begrudgingly) at a Renaissance festival selling my wares.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I began as a graphic design major but started folding in more technical courses early on. By the time I was a senior, I knew I wanted to stay to get my Masters in computer graphics, which at the time (1999-2001) at Rochester Institute of Technology was a combo of early After Effects, directing (LOL) and 3D. The second I could animate my designs, I knew that’s what I wanted to do for a living. I honestly had no idea what that even meant in terms of a career. I just knew that I loved that there could be a narrative aspect to my designs.

Captain America 2

Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
The last couple of years we have been producing main title sequences for Marvel. That work has really invigorated the studio and increased our visibility.

Our first project with them was Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. When Anthony and Joe Russo went to Marvel to direct Captain America 2 they introduced us to the executive team there and asked us to pitch on the main-on-end. I had been working with the Russos since we produced the Community main title for them in 2009. Even though we had a great relationship, we knew we were the dark horse, having never worked with Marvel or been through their intensive security process. Ultimately, they loved the creative we presented and we got the gig.

Shortly after that project, we were asked to pitch again on Guardians of the Galaxy. We did the typography for the main title sequence as well as some fun locator cards. It was so wonderful to work with James Gunn. That movie was really, really special.

      am01pp

The last project we finished for Marvel was the main-on-end for Ant-Man. That was for sure the most challenging, because the development process ate a lot of our production time away. As a studio, we are so proud of the work we produced. The look is so unique and our process was so well developed that we really hold it in high regard. Also, for me personally, I know director Peyton Reed was really happy with the final piece. It’s really rewarding when the director is just super excited about the work you create for their film.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Whatever I am working on at the moment.

This may be terrible, but as soon as I deliver a job, I am over it. I am already excited about whatever is cueing up. I am very “in the moment” when it comes to my work, and it doesn’t matter if it is a big feature main title or a commercial for a new herpes cream. I love the challenge of making something as amazing as it can be… so if someone is excited to work with me, and willing to pay me, I am all in.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My car (I love driving).
My remote control (I am lazy).
My laptop (I got work to do).

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Honestly, just Facebook. It’s basically a collection of photos of my dogs and some PR about whatever my latest work is. I have to be very careful about not being political or religious. I don’t limit my friends and I assume everything is public. When you own a company you have to understand that your opinions and behavior reflect on the company.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
When I focus and do design work, I like to choose a song and listen to it on repeat. It is crazy, I know. When I write or do admin, I usually have a Harry Potter movie on in the background. I’d like to believe my patronus would be a honey badger.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
If it get’s overwhelming, then a weekend where I just run errands with the cell phone left at home does the trick. But I find that the day-to-day stress can be easily managed when you have a lot of fun people around you who naturally laugh a lot. We all take our jobs seriously… but we certainly know how to make a joke about anything.

Animated Storyboards works with Y&R Mexico on mining ad

Y&R Mexico called Animated Storyboard’s New York office for the 60-second Cineminuto for Camimex, which aims to educate Mexican citizens on the impact of the mining industry on their community. The colorful spot explains how they process minerals into raw materials used every day.

Cineminuto shows the beginning of the mining process and follows the process through to consumer use. We see a family enjoying dinner, and an evening at home watching TV — the viewer then sees images of  the original mining that led to the factory that created materials to build a satellite that delivers the signal that broadcasts the television show they are watching.

Animated Storyboards created the initial animatic for the PSA and, following a successful previs version, was then tapped to leverage their robust in-house pipeline to craft the full cinema version. The spot features 3D animation and motion capture.

Animated Storyboards got involved “immediately after creative development. The agency came to us for their next step: to produce an animatic that would ultimately help them sell the idea to the client,” says Tania Sanchez, post producer at Animated Storyboards.

It was Animated Storyboard’s designer, Nethery Engblom, and animator, Yuri Kasprivski, who collaborated closely with Y&R Mexico to create customized character designs for the spot that fuse a cartoon aesthetic with authentic movements. With the bulk of the design established during the animatic phase, the team was able to amplify the animation for the final cinema version, adding character nuances and expanding certain sequences.
“We had a lot of creative input in the execution of this piece,” explains Sanchez. “Starting in the animatic phase where we collaborated closely with the agency to develop a unique set of characters., and continuing in the broadcast production where we finessed our characters and built the world they live in. The agency creatives were also very reliant on Ezra’s direction and expertise.” Ezra is Ezra Krausz, CEO and president of Animated Storyboards.

“There were so many efficiencies throughout the process by keeping the same creative team on the project from animatic through broadcast,” notes Krausz. “Our team had already been collaborating with the agency throughout the animatic phase, and when it came time to begin broadcast animation we knew how to make the creative vision come through easily and quickly.”

MPC LA adds five veteran 3D artists, promotes one

MPC in Los Angeles had added five veteran artists to its 3D advertising division. Steward Burris joins as head of animation, Zach Tucker as VFX supervisor, George Saavedra as rigging lead, Brian Broussard as texture and look development supervisor and Matthew Maude as head of lighting. In addition, Charles Trippe has been promoted to head of FX after two years on staff as FX TD.

“Our new 3D team has collaborated on some of the most renowned films and commercials of recent years and, along with being frontrunners in their FX specialties, they have extensive experience as problem solvers,” says MPC LA managing director Andrew Bell.

Burris brings 20 years of experience at studios such as Digital Domain, Psyop, The Mill, Framestore and Rhythm and Hues to his new role. His credits include spots for Kia (remember the hamsters?), Call of Duty and Acura; the TV series Breaking Bad and The X Files; and films The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, George of the Jungle and Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Tucker’s experience includes time at Weta Digital in New Zealand, where he worked on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and The Two Towers. Domestically he has been at Digital Domain, Asylum, Riot, Radium and Mirada. Additional film credits are Pacific Rim and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, as well as spots for Lexus, Porsche, Under Armour and Microsoft.

Saavedra has spent time at Sony Pictures Imageworks, Method Studios, Psyop and Digital Domain. He has worked on films such as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, X-Men: First Class, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and Star Trek. His spot resume includes work for Kia, Intel and DirecTV.

Broussard worked on Robert Stromberg’s Cannes Lion-winning, branded film What Lives Inside for Intel and Dell and Call of Duty: Advanced trailer Warfare Discover Your Power, both while a freelancer at MPC LA. An AICP honored trailer for Destiny, Become Legend, is another credit for Broussard, this one while at Digital Domain.

Maude has worked at studios all over the world, including Cinesite in London, Double Negative Singapore, Asylum, Method LA, Wildfire Studios in New Orleans and, most recently, Atomic Fiction in Montreal. He has collaborated on feature films such as Fast & Furious 6, Twelve Years A Slave, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Into the Woods. Spot work includes Apple’s iPhone, GMC, Diet Dr. Pepper and Hershey’s.

The new head of FX, Trippe has been instrumental on some of the Los Angeles studio’s most highly touted commercials, including the Kia 2014 Super Bowl spot and Fiat Godzilla.

Top Five Tips: How to make the most of online learning

By Dan LeFebvre

If you’ve done any sort of online learning, you’ve probably heard of Digital-Tutors. We offer a huge variety of  videos and software packages for artists to choose from. However, the system isn’t just for individuals. Oftentimes studios tap our library for their teams, effectively creating an on-demand learning center for artists of all experience levels. Fourteen years of working through this process with them has taught us a lot about what breeds success.

Her are our Top Five tips for success:

Start With The Why
What are your goals? Why are you considering an online learning program in the first place? Answer these questions and the path forward becomes a whole lot clearer.

Maybe you’ve got a big project on the horizon and your team needs to hit the ground running. Maybe you’ve just hired some new artists who need to get up to speed. Or maybe your team just needs to stay on top of the industry’s latest trends.

Assessing the why behind your decision makes it easier to understand how your team can take advantage of online learning and what kind of platform is going to help you achieve those goals. Only then should you dive in.

Share Tutorials With Your Team
After choosing the right online learning platform, you can help your team take full advantage of it by using the training yourself. See what’s good, what fits, then share relevant tutorials with your artists. You’re probably already recommending books and articles you come across. Why not expand those suggestions to online learning, as well?

Cinema 4D and After Effects tutorial

Cinema 4D and After Effects tutorial

For example, if you have a motion designer whose project needs a 3D-to-After Effects pipeline, you could share this tutorial on “Designing Elegant Product Visualizations in Cinema 4D and After Effects,” which is full of great tips on how to speed up their workflow, as well as inspiration for new approaches.

Even if it’s a five-minute video here or there, sharing tutorials with your team can spark their creativity, helping them find new ways to tackle challenges without having to search out every solution on their own. Sharing tutorials can also help team communicate better around the challenges they’re facing, giving you better insights into how to collaborate best.

Encourage Ongoing Learning
We all get caught up in the day-to-day, which makes setting aside the time to grow as artists an afterthought for most. Finding learning opportunities for your team can help curb this cycle, helping them to grow individually and as team members.

For example, have one of your artists pick a tutorial for the team to watch, then set aside time to discuss it as a group. What did people learn? What might help everyone in the future? Not only does this help your team come together and learn new things, the act of explanation improves individual communication skills, as well.

Don’t Judge A Tutorial By Its Cover
New rule: just because you know some of the techniques, doesn’t mean you won’t learn anything new. We are constantly hearing from artists who say that watching tutorials on mastered topics led them to new tips and tricks.

Problems often have many solutions, especially when software packages are being updated so frequently. Besides it never hurts to get a little faster at production, become an expert on the latest updates or hear why one technique is better than another.

Growing as an artist often requires having a strong sense of awareness — knowing how to do something and why you are doing it in a particular way. The how is sometimes easier to get to (i.e. “To do x, I need to do y”). However, knowing why you should do something requires a deeper, more subjective, artistic understanding of a process (i.e. “Why x is better than y”).

For example, knowing why an image looks “better” because it’s elements are composed in a specific way is a completely different exercise than actually knowing how to arrange them. It’s this deeper artistic understanding that even your most experienced artists can continue to refine. Revisiting familiar subjects, performed by other experts, is a way to do this.

Make Sure You’re Getting an ROI
When it comes to an online learning platform, it helps to periodically re-evaluate its efficacy. For example, if your original intention was to help your team hit the ground running for a specific project, what will happen once the project is done? Do you still need it at that point?

Maybe the original intention changed along the way from helping a single team tackle a new project to helping the same team learn about new technologies. Maybe there are other teams within your company who could benefit from the training. Or maybe the answer is you simply won’t need the platform until the next big project. Re-evaluating the why behind your purchase helps you reaffirm both its value and purpose.

Hope these tips have been helpful!

Dan LeFebvre is a 3D tutor at Digital-Tutors (@digital_tutors). Long before Dan joined Digital-Tutors full time,  he was a dedicated forum moderator, helping out Digital-Tutors members with problems they encountered across a wide variety of software.

Hinge Digital takes on animated AdoptUSKids PSA

Portland’s Hinge Digital, which works on spots, commercial campaigns and other content for big brands, such as Microsoft, Adidas, Electronic Arts and Dunkin’ Donuts, recently took on a very different kind of project with Suitcase, a 30-second public service announcement created for AdoptUSKids, Ad Council and the US Department of Health and Human Services.

It reminds people that while they might not be perfect at all times, they can provide the perfect, loving home for a child in need. It was produced to mark the 10th anniversary of AdoptUSKids, which helps place foster children into adoptive homes in the United States.

adoptuskids_suitcase_boards1_branded adoptuskids_suitcase_concept_7_branded
The storyboard and concept for “Suitcase”

Hinge came up with the concept, wrote, designed and animated the piece, but with so many partners’ hands in the mix across the country, the studio needed something to keep everyone on the same page as the project sprang to life. To do that they called on Frankie, a web-based video review tool that allowed remote parties to view the work and collaborate in realtime.

In Suitcase the audience sees a young girl who has been bounced between foster homes, growing accustomed to living out of a suitcase. When she’s given a permanent home she finds a new use for that suitcase, and appreciates her adoptive parents even if they make silly mistakes here or there.

Alex

Alex Tysowsky

“It was important to use emotional storytelling and illustrative design to tell this story, along with the software magic of Maya and Nuke to create the visual narrative,” says director Alex Tysowsky, whose nearly 20-year career includes animation for films such as The Matrix and Spider-Man 2. He had a team of eight focused on the PSA, which was in production for about six weeks.

“We wanted to create a spot with a uniquely engaging look that combined toon-shaded CG characters and watercolor backgrounds,” he explains. “Once the concept designs were approved, we built the 3D assets to match the look and feel of the artwork. The fun part was animating and bringing the characters to life. ”With approvals needed from both creative and non-creative individuals at the client companies — all in various locations across the United States —Hinge Digital needed a solution that would allow for an effective review process. That’s where Frankie came in.

adopt_breakfast_brandedcooking adopt_camping_branded

Tysowsky says that with Frankie, “remote parties can be easily invited into the review session, and everyone can quickly share their comments and notes. It makes everyone feel like part of the active process. Once we had everyone on a conference line and connected to Frankie, they were all looking at the same thing. With five people in five different locations, communication about something visual can be a bit of a challenge. But with the markup tools Frankie provides, everyone can see what we’re talking about.”

Among the studio’s favorite features in Frankie are the realtime markup tool and the ability to export notes into a PDF file. Additionally, being able to see when a client has logged into the session – whether before or during the conference call — is a helpful function.

Click here to view the final PSA.