Audionamix – 7.1.20

Category Archives: 2D

Framestore creates variety of animation styles for Libresse/Bodyform spots

Partnering with creatives Nick & Nadja at agency AMV BBDO, Framestore provided animation and VFX for the latest campaign for Libresse and Bodyform. The campaign was directed by Golden Globe winner and Emmy-nominated Nisha Ganatra (Late Night). Framestore provided six animated sequences, each featuring a different style of animation to show the inner worlds that act as reflections to the realities of the uterus. The film has been created to dispel myths, encourage a positive conversation and address the life-changing moments in a woman’s life, from miscarriages and menopause to endometriosis.

Framestore creative director Sharon Lock worked with Nick & Nadja to select the styles of animations that would bring to life the emotions and unique perspectives of each story. Styles included 2D cell techniques and stop-frame animation, as well as hand-painted images created with oil paint on glass.

Lock worked with the team of artists to direct the animated sequences and work as the main central point of creativity for them with the client and agency. Talking about bringing those visually different elements together into a single cohesive film, she says, “it was important that the animations produced for this film not only looked as good as possible but also made an emotional impact on audiences because of the nature of the film.

“We worked with animators who had wonderful storytelling abilities and whose work was unique and handmade and could communicate a range of tone and emotion to audiences in a short amount of time on screen.”

The team at Framestore, which included producers Niamh O’Donohoe and Emma Cook, was a part of the film’s predominantly female cast and crew, which they felt made a big difference in creating something that was honest and powerful. “We were telling real stories about the experiences of being a woman, so having the team we did meant we had something of a shorthand,” explains O’Donohoe. ‘We could easily communicate what we needed because there was a mutual understanding of how these stories had to be presented, something that I feel beautifully reflects the messages that Libresse/Bodyform is always communicating.”

Framestore also delivered invisible VFX work for the film’s live-action portions and created a world of uteri, which represents the billions of women who are a part of the Libresse/Bodyform story. These visuals are featured in the opening and closing sequences that will become the brand’s main visual for this campaign. Framestore also provided the color grade.

“It was important that everyone worked really closely together to make sure every frame did its part in telling the stories and I think the final piece speaks for itself. It was amazing to be part of such an inspiring and creative campaign,” concludes Lock.

Behind the Title: Two Fresh creative director Phil Guthrie

“One of the biggest things I have learned but not mastered yet is taking time off. Do not underestimate a good recharge and break from thinking about work,” shares Phil Guthrie.

Name: Phil Guthrie

Company: Two Fresh Creative 

Can you describe your company?
We are an artist-driven studio. Two Fresh is in this to make fresh and inspiring work. Of course, not every project will be groundbreaking, but when we have the opportunity, that’s that we do. We’re more of a problem-solving company, and if you look at our portfolio, it ranges a lot. We pride ourselves on understanding our client’s problem, and then putting our efforts into fixing it to the best of our ability. Services include design, animation, compositing, editorial, live-action, VFX and stadium graphics.

Two Fresh Creative

What’s your job title?
Founder/Creative Director

What does that entail?
It means a lot of hours. It also means a long road to get to this point in the company’s life. We moved four times before hiring our first full-time employee. We still have room to grow while remaining a boutique size and taking on jobs we feel passionate about.

What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
The fact that at some point, I had to bootstrap and do everything myself — produce, design, animate, creative direct and handle billing and accounting. I have given these tasks away along the way, but it really gives you an extra sense of understanding since you now know what’s entailed in the role and what struggles come with it. I think you relate to others with more empathy.

Two Fresh Creative

Another thing I didn’t anticipate is holding the job of peacekeeper — keeping a watch over our team and trying to keep the mood positive and creative. It’s a challenge some days, but it’s so worth all the work.

What have you learned over the years about running a business?
One of the biggest things I have learned but not mastered yet is taking time off. Do not underestimate a good recharge and break from thinking about work. Also, learn to delegate, and bring in people who are smart and adept at certain tasks. This is how you elevate your business. Like [RevThink consultant] Joel Pilger told me once before, focus on your genius.

A lot of your job must be about trying to keep employees and clients happy. How do you balance that?
Yes, there must be a buffer between the two. The balance is in keeping clients happy and creatives motivated and feeling free to think and explore. If we get an odd piece of feedback, the translation to the artist is always tailored to that individual. This is an art on its own, and this is why, when we find people we like to bring into the studio, we find a good rhythm and form these working relationships where we understand each other.

As for clients, we are still relatively “fresh” on the scene, but these relationships develop over time as well. Ultimately, I want what’s best for everyone. My stance is, I am here because I love what I do, and for me to achieve what I love, I need to help you improve your brand/product/service. So we are helping each other. It sounds cheesy but we only live once, so let’s enjoy this!

What’s your favorite part of the job?
The people I meet and work with. I feel accomplished when we’re all flowing as a team on a job. Another thing I love is the constant learning about new industries. Esports, for example, is one that I’ve come to feel like an expert in even though it’s still a bit of a wild-west space. It’s incredibly exciting to watch it change so quickly, and you have to keep up.

What’s your least favorite?
Talking about money! Even on lower budgets, it’s tough to downplay our skills to that.

What is your most productive time of the day?
Just before everyone gets into the office. It’s quiet and I jam at 300%.

How has your studio pivoted to working from home during this COVID crisis?
We now have our network setup on a secure remote access, which has proven to work. We’ve also been using tools, such as Slack and Frame.io, to give notes, set schedules and chat like we are all in the same building.

As for new business, a number of our live events and sports jobs were put on hold, so we’ve been trying to stay in touch with all kinds of people in the industry and be as conversational and resourceful as possible. We’re still mastering the art of remote new business, but I think the same is true for so many of us who are all trying to figure it out day by day. For now, we are staying the course and continuing to work on the projects we have in-house.

XCOM Chimera Squad launch trailer

Any tips for those in a similar position?Stay positive! When this crisis first upended life and business as we know it, I was angry and sad, and I’ll tell you, it slows productivity. So stay positive, engage your staff, keep smiling, try to have some fun and get to know each other better. Laughing together really does have a healing effect, so keep those funny Zoom backgrounds coming.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
Well, if I weren’t running my own company, then I would look for a staff creative director role somewhere. It might sound similar, but it would be so different than what I’m doing now. If that’s not an option, then I’d open that coffee shop I’ve always wanted to and, obviously, have fresh in the name.

Can you name some recent clients?
Our recent clients include TSN, 2K Games, 7-11, Facebook and Fox.

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
My cell phone, Spotify and white boards.

Audionamix – 7.1.20

Behind the Title: Orci’s CD of production Allen Perez

To become a better producer, he became an editor, sound engineer, motion graphics artist and camera assistant… then went back to producing.

Name: Allen Perez

Company: Orci

Can you describe your company?
Orci is a multi-segment marketing agency that has worked with global brands including Verizon, Dole, Honda and Disney. Orci also provides production, editorial, post and graphics as part of its services.

What’s your job title?
SVP, Creative Director of Production

Acura – Senses

What does that entail?
I provide creative input for a production and creative perspective, and I also get involved producing projects. I provide support to other producers and always work toward delivering the best piece, regardless of the budget or the platform where the content will live. It can be a full-up production or in-house production that may require a still image.

What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
The level of involvement that goes beyond producing. I’m also a director so I get to step back as producer to focus on directing. And I sit on the board of directors and work next to our CEO, COO and SVPs.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
The creative process that carries through the whole development of a production. From a brainstorming session where doodles become full-blown ideas that go into storyboarding all the way to a project that comes to life.

What’s your least favorite?
Time is the most mind-bending part of the process. Every project has different challenges. Producers are time negotiators. All parties involved are focusing on their own due date, so there are several timelines within the main timeline, and it is up to the producer to keep everyone synchronized and on track. It’s like directing an orchestra.

What is your most productive time of the day?
Early morning. I start my day by looking at my schedule, reading emails and developing my daily-plan list. Then, I begin to work. This morning ritual is key so I can get a clear sense of what I need to accomplish.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
Winemaking tickles my brain. Passionate winemakers are creative people, the type that see things differently and think that everything is possible. The care that goes into winemaking puts me in touch with Earth in ways that you wouldn’t expect.

How early on did you know this would be your path?
This profession chose me during my high school years. I took a photography class, and that was the beginning. During high school, I worked at a video rental store and watched a lot of films. I began producing while going to college. Once I discovered the big impact a producer has on a project, I didn’t look back.

Honda – Best Friends

As I continued the path, I wanted to learn more about what everyone did to fully engage and bring out the best in them. I did take a small detour: I became an editor, music producer, sound engineer, camera assistant and motion graphics artist to gain a broad understanding of all the moving pieces and how every decision would impact the people doing the actual work. After having such perspective, I went back to producing, and producing got more interesting.

Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
Honda broadcast and social media projects, as well as some Stella Artois projects.

What is the project that you are most proud of?
There are several projects that come to mind. The reasons are different. I guess I’d choose the Honda Civic Coupe campaign back in 1999. I’m a big fan of all things animation. When MTV started airing Aeon Flux in the early ‘90s, I was hooked. The opportunity to do an animated commercial came up, so I brought my Aeon Flux VHS tapes and showed them to the creative team. It was meant just as reference, but everyone loved the look and tone. I managed to get hold of Peter Chung, the creator of Aeon Flux, who ended up directing the spot.

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
1. Cell phone
2. Laptop
3. Internet

What social media channels do you follow?
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

Do you listen to music while you work? Care to share your favorite music to work to?
I do, I can work to pretty much anything. Mac Miller, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan and classical music are on my most-played list.

This is a high-stress job with deadlines and client expectations. What do you do to de-stress from it all?
I paint using acrylics on canvas (oils are too messy!). It allows me to disconnect from it all and to dream awake.


Weta opens animation wing led by Prem Akkaraju

Weta Digital will begin producing original content for the first time in its 25-year history. Under the banner Weta Animated, the company will develop original animated content for both cinema and streaming platforms. The company has named Prem Akkaraju, a co-founder of SR Labs, as CEO.

Weta Animated has been a long-held dream of majority owners Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, who will write, produce and direct several animated projects for the company.

“We are huge fans of animated storytelling in all of its forms, but it can be a long, protracted and often costly way to make movies. That’s, in part, why we have created this company — to change the model and open the doors to filmmakers and storytellers who might not otherwise be given the chance to show what they can do,” says Jackson.

Academy Award winners Jackson and Walsh will play a key role in the development of Weta Animated. The new production company will work alongside Weta’s visual effects business for the film and television industry.

Jackson goes on to say, “We’re fortunate to have a strong, creative leadership team at Weta. Both [senior VFX supervisor] Joe Letteri and [executive VFX producer] David Conley have played a huge role in the success of the company. With the expansion of the company, adding someone of Prem’s caliber to this mix is essential. Prem’s energy and passion for film is inspiring; we cannot wait to work with him.”

Weta Digital is known for revolutionizing the VFX production pipeline for some of the biggest films of all time, including Avatar, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Avengers: Endgame. Over the past 25 years, Weta Digital has developed over 100 proprietary tool sets and AI technology.

“Weta Digital began with one machine and just one artist, who created the digital effects in Heavenly Creatures,” says Walsh. “None of us knew what we were doing, but even in those early days, we could see the incredible potential of this new technology. Since then, VFX has become a huge industry, but our goal has remained the same — to bring stories to life through the power of imagination. If you can dream it, we can create it.”

This sentiment is shared by entrepreneur Sean Parker (Napster, Facebook), who invested in Weta Digital last year and who has joined the board as vice chairman. Akkaraju co-founded SR Labs with Parker, where he previously served as CEO and still serves as executive chairman. SR Labs solutions streamline traditional distribution to theaters and consumers. Akkaraju is an inventor on 11 domestic and 25 global utility technology patents related to SR Labs’ groundbreaking architecture. Prior to SR Labs, Akkaraju was the chief content officer of SFX Entertainment. Before joining SFX, he was a principal at JPMorgan Entertainment Partners, the largest entertainment-focused Wall Street investment fund at the time.


Foundry Katana 3.6 includes UI and workflow updates

Foundry has released Katana 3.6, the latest version features fundamental UI and workflow updates with artist-focused snapping functionality that accelerates tasks such as light placement. The new Katana 3.6 includes advancements within 3Delight NSI 2.0, which features a toon shading tool set, overhauled live rendering and powerful new texturing tools.

The new Network Material Edit node provides a new UX on top of Katana’s procedural shading workflows. Existing network materials can be edited with minor tweaks or whole new sections of node graph, allowing procedural shot-based edits. Changes are captured in a color-coded UI that clearly document all changes made by any artist, facilitating collaboration and subsequent edits.

Katana 3.6 highlights include:

• Snapping in the Hydra-powered viewer. Thanks to visual clues including wireframe, object outline, and face and edge highlighting, artists know exactly how they are managing objects.
• The new Material Edit node combines the basis of Katana 3.2’s UI work with the procedural functionality of the legacy Network Material Splice and Network Material Parameter Edit tools. It offers a natural and intuitive workflow to artists familiar with the Network Material node graph and a new UX boosting procedural power across entire look development and lighting teams.
• Dockable Widgets in the UI and a new modular system make it possible to use Dockable areas on the top, bottom, left and right of the UI.
• 3Delight NSI 2.0 features a toon shading workflow, which can now leverage all the benefits of Katana’s bulk asset look development and sequence-based lighting, plus overhauled live rendering and new tools for texture-based look development.

“Katana 3.6 represents another release that brings us closer to Foundry’s vision of the digital cinematography platform of the future,” says Jordan Thistlewood, director of product — preproduction, look development and lighting. “The work on tools like Snapping is more than just a tool to itself; it is the foundation of much more to come in the future.”

 


VFX studio Cinesite adds three to global management team

Visual effects and animation studio Cinesite has added three to its management team: Melissa Taylor joins as general manager in London, Siobhan Bentley is head of production VFX in London, and Tamara Boutcher is the company’s new global head of production for feature animation in Montreal.

“Melissa, Siobhan and Tamara are proven talented executives with deep knowledge of the visual effects and feature animation industries,” reports Cinesite CEO Anthony Hunt. “Working toward equal representation in an industry that is statistically male-dominated is very important to us all, and we’re working hard to improve the balance. We have a collective philosophy on diversity and inclusion, which is embodied in our wider approach of encouraging everyone on the team.”

Taylor will oversee Cinesite London’s visual effects studio while working closely with Montreal colleagues and group VFX brands Image Engine and Trixter. Taylor brings over 30 years’ industry knowledge and relationship-building experience. She joins Cinesite from visual effects studio Framestore, where she served as global head of business development for film and was involved with projects such as Spider-Man: Far From Home, Wonder Woman 1984, Lady and the Tramp, Tom and Jerry and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. Prior to Framestore, Taylor was EP at DNeg.

Bentley is tasked with leading, developing and motivating the London production teams throughout a show’s lifecycle. She joins Cinesite from MPC, where she oversaw the production teams on many acclaimed films, such as The Lion King, Roma, The Jungle Book, The Martian and Guardians of the Galaxy. She will work closely with crewing and producers to ensure projects are progressing through departments and deadlines are being met.

Based at Cinesite’s Montreal studio, Boutcher will be responsible for the production and day-to-day operations of the company’s feature animation service slate, developed and produced out of the Montreal and Vancouver studios. Her animation career began at The Walt Disney Company and as the studio transitioned from 2D features to 3D features, Boutcher worked as the director of production, helping to guide the teams and develop practices and technologies for the blending of traditional animation and CGI. Her work is featured in The Addams Family, Dinosaur, The Angry Birds Movie and We Are Not Princesses.

Image Caption: L-R Siobhan Bentley, Melissa Taylor and Tamara Boutcher


Jellyfish Pictures uses cloud to grow global talent pool

Animation and VFX studio Jellyfish Pictures has expanded its operating model to access talent across the world. The move is the company’s next stage of development after opening a large virtual studio at the end of last year.

This new way of working allows Jellyfish Pictures to access talent anywhere in the world without having to invest in brick and mortar or on-premises hardware. Artists can work from their own homes and have the same experience as teammates located 6,000 miles away, thanks to Teradici Cloud Access Software and Microsoft Azure. This new model has been implemented with artists joining the company from Israel, India, North America, Finland, Canada, Spain and Réunion.

With Jellyfish Pictures’ IT infrastructure already housed off site and completely virtual, the company uses Azure’s backbone to set up hubs all over the world, which connect back to the Jellyfish Pictures’ tier-one data center in the UK.

Cristina Ortega working from home in the UK.

All content resides on PixStor, Pixit Media’s software-defined storage solution. Using Pixit Media’s dynamic data manager, Ngenea, integrated with pipeline tools and Azure, Jellyfish Pictures distributes files across creative hubs quickly and securely. Artists access their content from PixStor running in the cloud hub, which guarantees their performance requirements are always met. When completed, files automatically move back to the UK data center.

Data never leaves the secure Azure hub, with pixels streamed to artists’ monitors via an encrypted streaming session over Teradici PCoIP technology. Data cannot be downloaded, shared or accessed, remaining fully compliant with TPN protocols and the stringent security measures withheld in the physical studios.

To further strengthen the global operation, Jellyfish Pictures’ review tool, which extends to the public cloud, allows clients to review content seamlessly in 4K. No matter where they are based in the world, both client and artist can share the same screen, updating and annotating in real time.

According to Jellyfish CEO Phil Dobree, “From the very beginning, when I first started looking at cloud and virtual technologies with Jellyfish CTO Jeremy Smith, it was always my vision to be able to go to where the artists are. We introduced cloud rendering and virtual desktops so we could break out of our four walls. Now in 2020, with events no one could have foreseen, we have over 280 artists working from home with no loss in productivity. Moving our staff to this environment was a relatively simple; connecting to the data center from home is the same as if they were connecting from the studio.

“It was always our intention to roll out this way of working on a global scale. We have merely accelerated our plan due to current circumstances.”

Main Image: Art director Katri Valkamo working out of her home in Finland. 


Alkemy X: VFX supervisors share work from home process

By Bilali Mack and Erin Nash

On the heels of joining Alkemy X’s VFX team, what we expected of our first few weeks was quickly interrupted by a global crisis. After getting to know the company and settling in, we were tasked with responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and transitioning the staff to remote work as quickly and efficiently as possible. As a headcount, that would be 42 artists, three supervisors, three pipeline engineers, three in editorial and the I/O department, and eight production management personnel.

Erin Nash’s WFH setup

We were fortunate that Alkemy X already had systems and processes in place and ready for these virtual workflows. It was just a matter of making the decision to get ahead of state mandates and make the shift early to set ourselves up for success. Our pivot to a remote workflow was structured and executed the week prior to March 16. We began to build our plan starting Tuesday, March 10, and by that Friday, the engineering and pipeline team had built on its pre-existing security-compliant processes to roll out to the entire staff of artists and production.

The company uses RGS to connect artists to a low-latency screen-sharing session on their work computers. Since the remote artists are working off the computer they normally use at work, they still have access to all of the software, licenses and tools they have when at the office. Agile and innovative responses have made our jobs easier, despite these circumstances.

Alkemy X built an openVPN server to allow secure, encrypted, multi-factor authentication and remote access to our internal network. By working remotely, we are able to maintain security and keep assets contained within our secure network. Artists have access to their files via high-speed file servers, with no need for time-consuming file transfers.

Bilali Mack working from home

Alkemy X uses Shotgun to manage our shows and workflow, but we are leaning on it more heavily now as a first-line review tool before heading to high-resolution reviews through HP RGS. Our traditional dailies have been replaced by rolling spot checks in Shotgun followed by more exhaustive reviews of full-resolution media.

We use Google Meet for meetings, screen sharing, video chat and telephone calls. We use Slack extensively on non-networked computers for team communication, keeping everyone connected and up to date and to quickly get assistance with any technical problems.

Priority is still placed on building and maintaining the company’s culture in addition to the quality of creative work, but we’re doing so behind the top of a dining room table or bedroom-stationed desk and within steps from our kitchens.

Erin Nash

As we move from our former posts, here’s how we are individually navigating working from home:

Erin Nash: Although managing a team remotely is a new experience for me, I can’t say I have found it very difficult to transition. While the team as a whole is new to me, I have known many of the artists for years. Being able to guide their creative process and help them solve difficult technical problems from afar isn’t as different as I would have expected. Now instead of saying “Can I drive your box?” it has become “Let’s do a screen share.”

People by and large do all the same things from home that they would do in the office, with the main difference being that now nobody can tell if I’ve gone for a workout over lunch.

Bilali Mack: Starting out at any company takes time to get up to speed. Add something like a global pandemic, and you would think it would be nearly impossible not only to get up to speed, but also to manage teams, collaborate on creative and retain our company’s culture. We adapted by preparing artist and production remote on-boarding documents and deploying necessary hardware and software to any and all artists on our team.

On a cultural note, we’re still holding company happy hours and open Google Meet “office” hours, just because it’s nice to be able to jump on and chat with each other about how things are different now.

Bilali Mack

Alkemy X built an openVPN server to allow secure, encrypted, multi-factor authentication, remote access to our internal network. Alkemy X uses RGS to connect artists to a low-latency screen sharing session on their work computers. Since the artists working remotely are working off of the computer that they normally use at work, they still have access to all of the software, licenses, tools that they have when at the office. By working remotely, we are able to maintain security and keep assets contained within our secure network. Artists have access to their files via high-speed file servers and with no need to do time consuming file transfers.

Alkemy X uses Shotgun as usual to manage our shows and workflow but are leaning on it heavier now as a first line review tool before heading to high resolution reviews through HP RGS. Our traditional dailies have been replaced by rolling spot checks in Shotgun followed by more exhaustive reviews of full resolution media.

We use Google Meet for meetings, screen sharing, video chat, and telephone calls. We use Slack extensively on non-networked computers for team communication, keeping everyone connected and up to date, and to quickly get assistance with any technical problems. All regular company meetings, and Friday night happy hours are done with Google Meet.

Main Image: Bilali Mack WFH.


VFX supervisor Bilali Mack comes to Alkemy X from MPC, where he supervised and executed VFX for brands including Adidas, Google and BMW. Erin Nash joined the team from FuseFX was head of 2D/VFX supervisor, leveraging his experience across television, film and commercial work.


Invisible VFX on Hulu’s Big Time Adolescence

By Randi Altman

Hulu’s original film Big Time Adolescence is a coming-of-age story that follows 16-year-old Mo, who is befriended by his sister’s older and sketchy ex-boyfriend Zeke. This aimless college dropout happily introduces the innocent-but-curious Mo to drink and drugs and a poorly thought-out tattoo.

Big Time Adolescence stars Pete Davidson (Zeke), Griffin Gluck (Mo) and Machine Gun Kelly (Nick) and features Jon Cryer as Mo’s dad. This irony will not be lost on those who know Cryer from his own role as disenfranchised teen Duckie in Pretty in Pink.

Shaina Holmes

While this film doesn’t scream visual effects movie, they are there — 29 shots — and they are invisible, created by Syracuse, New York-based post house Flying Turtle. We recently reached out to Flying Turtle’s Shaina Holmes to find out about her work on the film and her process.

Holmes served as VFX supervisor, VFX producer and lead VFX artist on Big Time Adolescence, creating things like flying baseballs, adding smoke to a hotboxed car, removals, replacements and more. In addition to owning Flying Turtle Post, she is a teacher at Syracuse University, where she mentors students who often end up working at her post house.

She has over 200 film and television credits, including The Notebook, Tropic Thunder, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Men in Black 3, Swiss Army Man and True Detective.

Let’s find our more…

How early did you get involved on Big Time Adolescence?
This this was our fifth project in a year with production company American High. With all projects overlapping in various stages of production, we were in constant contact with the client to help answer any questions that arose in early stages of pre-production and production.

Once the edit was picture-locked, we bid all the VFX shots in October/November 2018, VFX turnovers were received in November, and we had a few short weeks to complete all VFX in time for the premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2019.

What direction were you given from your client?
Because this was our fifth feature with American High and each project has similar basic needs, we already had plans in place for how to shoot certain elements.

For example, most of the American High projects deal with high school, so cell phones and computer screens are a large part of how the characters communicate. Production has been really proactive about hiring an on-set graphics artist to design and create phone and computer screen graphics that can be used either during the shoot or provided to my team to add in VFX.

Having these graphics prebuilt has saved a lot of design time in post. While we still need to occasionally change times and dates, remove the carrier, change photos, replace text and other editorial changes, we end up only needing to do a handful of shots instead of all the screen replacements. We really encourage communication during the entire process to come up with alternatives and solutions that can be shot practically, and that usually makes our jobs more efficient later on.

Were you on set?
I was not physically needed on set for this film, however after filming completed, we realized in post that we were missing some footage during the batting cages scene. The post supervisor and I, along with my VFX coordinator, rented a camera and braved the freezing Syracuse, New York, winter to go to the same batting cages and shoot the missing elements. These plates became essential, as production had turned off the pitching machine during the filming.

Before and After: Digital baseballs

To recreate the baseball in CG, we needed more information for modeling, texture and animation within this space to create more realistic interaction with the characters and environment in VFX. After shoveling snow and ice, we were able to set the camera up at the batting cage and create the reference footage we needed to match our CG baseball animation. Luckily, since the film shot so close to where we all live and work, this was not a problem… besides our frozen fingers!

What other effects did you provide?
We aren’t reinventing the wheel here in the work we do. We work on features wherein invisible VFX are the supporting roles that help create a seamless experience for the audience without distractions from technical imperfections and without revising graphics to enable the story to unfold properly. I work with the production team to advise on ways to shoot to save on costs in post production and use creative problem solving to cut down costs in VFX to satisfy their budget and achieve their intended vision

That being said, we were able to do some fun sequences including CG baseballs, hotboxing a car, screen replacements, graphic animation and alterations, fluid morphs and artifact cleanup, intricate wipe transitions, split screens and removals (tattoos, equipment, out-of-season nature elements).

Can you talk about some of those more challenging scenes/effects?
Besides the CG baseball, the most difficult shots are the fluid morphs. These usually consist of split screens where one side of the split has a speed change effect to editorially cut out dialogue or revise action/reactions.

They seem simple, but to seamlessly morph two completely different actions together over a few frames and create all the in-betweens takes a lot of skill. These are often more advanced than our entry-level artists can handle, so they usually end up on my plate.

What was the review and approval process like?
All the work starts with me receiving plates from the clients and ends with me delivering final versions to the clients. As I am the compositing supervisor, we go through many internal reviews and versions before I approve shots to send to the client for feedback, which is a role I’ve done for the bulk of my career.

For most of the American High projects, the clients are spread out between Syracuse, LA and NYC. No reviews were done in person, although if needed, I could go to Syracuse Studios at any time to review dailies if there was any footage I thought could help with some fix-it-in-post VFX requests.

All shots were sent online for review and final delivery. We worked closely with the executive producer, post supervisor, editor and assistant editor for feedback, notes, design and revisions. Most review sessions were collaborative as far as feedback and what’s possible.

What tools did you use on the film?
Blackmagic’s Fusion is the main compositing software. Artists were trained on Fusion by me when they were in college, so it is an easy and affordable transition for them to use for professional-quality work. Since everyone has their own personal computer setup at home, it’s been fairly easy for artists to send comp files back to me and I render on my end after relinking. That has been a much quicker process for internal feedback and deliveries as we’re working on UHD and 4K resolutions.

For Big Time Adolescence specifically, we also needed to use Adobe After Effects for some of the fluid morph shots, plus some final clean-up in Fusion. For the CG baseball shots, we used Autodesk Maya and Substance Painter, rendered with Arnold and comped in Fusion.

You are female-owned and you are in Syracuse, New York. Not something you hear about every day.
Yes, we are definitely set up in a great up-and-coming area here in Ithaca and Syracuse. I went to film school at Ithaca College. From there, I worked in LA and NYC for 20 years as a VFX artist and producer. In 2016, I was offered the opportunity to teach VFX back at Ithaca College, so I came back to the Central New York area to see if teaching was the next chapter for me.

Timing worked out perfectly when some of my former co-workers were helping create American High, using the Central New York tax incentives and they were prepping to shoot feature films in Syracuse. They brought me on as the local VFX support since we had already been working together off and on since 2010 in NYC. When I found myself both teaching and working on feature films, that gave me the idea to create a company to combine forces.

Teaching at Syracuse University and focusing on VFX and post for live-action film and TV, I am based at The Newhouse School, which is very closely connected with American High and Syracuse Studios. I was already integrated into their productions, so this was just a really good fit all around to bring our students into the growing Central New York film industry, aiming to create a sustainable local talent pool.

Our team is made up of artists who started with me in post mentorship groups I created at both Ithaca College (Park Post) and Syracuse University (SU Post). I teach them in class, they join these post group collaborative learning spaces for peer-to-peer mentorship, and then a select few continue to grow at Flying Turtle Post.

What haven’t I asked that’s important?
When most people hear visual effects, they think of huge blockbusters, but that was never my thing. I love working on invisible VFX and the fact that it blows people’s minds — how so much attention is paid to every single shot, let alone frame, to achieve complete immersion for the audience, so they’re not picking out the boom mic or dead pixels. So much work goes on to create this perfect illusion. It’s odd to say, but there is such satisfaction when no one noticed the work you did. That’s the sign of doing your job right!

Every show relies on invisible VFX these days, even the smallest indie film with a tiny budget. These are the projects I really like to be involved in as that’s where creativity and innovation are at their best. It’s my hope that up-and-coming filmmakers who have amazing stories to tell will identify with my company’s mentorship-focused approach and feel they also are able to grow their vision with us. We support female and underrepresented filmmakers in their pursuit to make change in our industry.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

Due to COVID, The Blacklist turns to live-action/animation season finale

By Daniel Restuccio

When the COVID-19 crisis shut down production in New York City, necessity became the mother of invention for The Blacklist showrunners. They took the 21 minutes of live-action footage they had shot for Episode 19, “The Kazanjian Brothers,” and combined it with 21 minutes of graphic-novel-style animation to give viewers the season finale they deserved.

Adam Coglan

Thanks to previs/visual effects company Proof, the producers were able to transition from scenes that were shot traditionally to a world where FBI agent Elizabeth Keane and wanted fugitive Raymond Reddington lived as animated characters.

The Blacklist team reached out to Proof the week everyone at the studio was asked to start working from home. In London, artists were given workstations as needed; in the US, they had all the computers set up in the office while the team remoted into those workstations based on the different proprietary and confidentiality rules, and to keep everything on the same servers.

Over six weeks, 29 people in London, including support staff and asset people, worked on the show. While in the US, the numbers varied between 10 to 15 people. As you can imagine, it’s a big undertaking.

Patrice Avery

We reached out to Adam Coglan and Matt Perrin, Proof animation supervisors based in London, and Patrice Avery global head of production for Proof, about the production and post workflow.

How did you connect with the producers on the show?
Patrice Avery: Producer Jon Bokenkamp and John Eisendrath knew Proof’s owner and president, Ron Frankel. After The Blacklist shut down, they brainstormed ideas, and animation was one they thought might make sense.

Adam Coglan: The Proof US offices tend to work using toon shaders on models, and the producers had seen our previs work on the Hunger Games, Guardians of the Galaxy and Wrinkle in Time.

Can you walk us through the workflow?
Coglan: Everybody was working in parallel. There was no time to wait for the models to get built, then start texturing, then start rigging, then start animating. Animation had to start from the beginning, so we started out using proxy geometry for the characters.

Matt Perrin

Character build and animation was going on at the same time. We were building the sequences, blocking them out, staging them. We had a client call every day, so we’d be getting notes every day. The clients wouldn’t be looking at anything that resembled their main actors until a good three or four weeks into the actual project.

Avery: It meant they had to run blind a bit with their animation. They got scratch dialog, and then they got final. They didn’t get the real dialogue until almost the end because they still were trying to figure out how to get the best quality dialogue recorded from their actors.

Obviously, the script had been written, so you essentially animated the existing script?
Coglan: Yes. We were given the script early on and it did evolve a little bit, but not wildly. We managed to stick to the sequences that we’d actually blocked out from the start. There were no storyboards; we basically just interpreted what their script gave us.

Can you talk a bit about some of the scenes you enhanced?
Coglan: There’s a helicopter sequence at the end of the show that they hadn’t planned to shoot with live action, because of safety issues with the helicopter. They brought it back when they realized they could do all of those shots in animation. So there are big aerials over the helicopter landing pad. The helicopter is going while the main villain approaches the helicopter.

Matt Perrin: There are shots peppered throughout the whole thing that would have been tricky to fit into the timescales that they normally shoot the show in. Throughout the show, there are angles and camera work that were easier in animation. In the pilot episode, they visited Washington Mall and the Capitol building, so we got to return to that.

You used Autodesk Maya as your main tool? What else was used?
Coglan: Yes, predominantly Maya. Character heads were built in Z-Brush and then brought into Maya and textured using Substance and Photoshop. The toon shader is a set of proprietary shaders that Proof developed in Maya with filters on the textures to give them the toon shaded look.

Your networks are obviously connected?
Coglan: Absolutely. We’ve been using Teradici, which has really saved our skin on this show. It’s been a godsend and offers really good remote access.

Aside from the truncated production schedule, what were some of the other challenges that you had?
Coglan: Working completely remotely with a team of over 20 odd people was a big challenge.

Perrin: Yes. Everything slows down. Coordinating the work from home with all the artists, the communication that you have face-to-face with the team being in the same room as you is, obviously, stretched. We would communicate over Zoom chats daily, multiple times a day with them, and with the producers.

On the flip side, it felt like we had more access to the producers of the show than we might under normal circumstances, because we had a scheduled meeting with them every day as well. It was great to tap directly into their taste and get their feedback so immediately.

Can you describe how the animation was done? Keyframe, rotoscoping, motion capture, or some combination of those?
Perrin: We started with very simple blockouts of action and cameras for each scene. This allowed us to get the layout and timing approved fast, saving as much time as possible for the keyframe animation stage. There are a couple of transitions between live action and animation that required some rotoanimation. We also did a little mocap (mostly for background character motions.) On the whole though, it was a lot of keyframe animation.

How were the editors involved?
Perrin: Chris Brookshire and Elyse Holloway “got it” from the beginning. They gave us the cut of the live-action show with placeholders slugged in for the scenes we would be animating. Between watching that and the script, which was already pretty tight, it gave us an idea of what the scope of our role was going to be.

We decided to go straight into a very basic blocking pass rendered in gray scale 3D so they could see the space and start testing angles with faster iterations. It allowed them to start cutting earlier and give us those edits back. They never got an excess of footage from us.

When they shoot the show, they’ve got reels of footage to go through, whereas with us they get the shots we created and not many spare. But the editors and showrunners got the idea that they could actually start calling out for shots too. They’d ask us to change the layout in some instances because they want to shuffle the shots around from what we’d initially intended.

From that point it allowed our asset makers and R&D teams to be looking into what the character should look like in the environments and building that parallel with us. Then we were ready to go into animation.

How did you set the style for the final look of the piece?
Perrin: The client had a strong idea. They already had done a spinoff comic book series. We’d seen what they’ve done with that, and they talked about the kind of styling of The Blacklist being quite noir.

Coglan: They gave the current episode and past episodes. So they could always reference scenes that were similar to other episodes. As soon as one of the show runners started talking about leaning into the graphic novel styling of things a little light went off and we thought, okay, we know exactly what they’re after for this now. It gave us a really good creative direction.

That was the biggest development on the project — to get the fidelity of the toon shaders to stand up to broadcast quality, better than we’ve been used to in the past. Because normally these don’t go past producers and directors when we work in previs.

When you say better quality what is that actually?
Coglan: There are some extreme close-ups in this where we were right on the main characters’ faces. They had detail actually hand-painted in Photoshop and then Substance. A lot of the lines to define features were actually painted by hand.

Avery: When using the toon shading in previs, we didn’t really do much to the backgrounds, it was all character line toon shaded, and in this one we created a process for the background sets to also make them look toon shaded.

Did you recreate any of the existing sets?
Coglan: They gave us blueprints for a lot of their set builds, so, yes, some of the sets were straight from the show.

Perrin: One set, a medical facility, we’d built already from their blueprints, so that when we transition out of the live-action into the animation it’s kind of seamless.

What other things did you accomplish that you’re proud of that you haven’t mentioned yet?
Coglan: I think for me really, the amount of work that we did in the compressed amount of time really was the big takeaway for me. Dealing with people totally remotely I just didn’t know whether that could work and we made it work.

Perrin: The whole way through was very exciting, because of the current situation everybody’s in, and the time constraints. It was very liberating for us. We didn’t have the multi-tiered approval stages or the normal infrastructure. It was immediate feedback and fast results.

Avery: What was cool for me was watching the creative discussions. There was a point a few weeks in when the client was giving more notes about the comic book-style and leaning into that. Our teams are so used to the constraints of live-action and the rules that they need to follow. There was this switch when they finally were like, “Oh, we can do really cool comic book angles. Oh, we could do this and that.” To just see the team really embracing, untethered a bit, to just go for it. It was really cool to see.

What would you do if you got a call, “Hey, we’ve got an entire series that wants to go this route?”
Perrin: I think I’d jump at it really. Although I don’t think I could do it in the same timescale for everything. I think there needs to be slightly more planning involved, but it’s been pretty enjoyable.


Dan Restuccio is a writer/director with Realwork Entertainment and part of the Visual Arts faculty at California Lutheran University. He is a former Disney Imagineer. You can reach him at dansweb451@gmail.com.

Behind the Title: Gretel designer/animator Johannes Geier

Back in his home country of Germany, Johannes Geier started building cars in Photoshop when he was 11. Now he’s working on campaigns for IFC and The New York Times.

Name: Johannes Geier

Company: NYC’s Gretel

Can you describe what Gretel does?
Gretel is a design and branding studio. We work with clients to get to the heart of who they are, then we express their brand through image and language. Intuition is a crucial part in every step of the process.

What’s your job title?
Designer and animator

Can you talk more about your role?
Working in branding means a focus on systems and longer-lasting solutions. Even campaigns get systematized here. My job requires the ability to switch quickly between both micro and macro — in the details and at a higher level. Everything we create must accurately express a brand’s unique truths, so keeping strategy in mind is important. This starts with an awareness of what else is out there before quickly jumping into sketches, style frames, first proofs of concept and thinking about motion languages.

How are you handling the shutdown and working remotely?
It took some time to properly break up a day but other than that it works pretty well with the same workflow we always had. Something I miss about being in the studio together is seeing different projects on other screens.

New York Times

What’s your favorite part of the job?
The beginning when everything is open and possible. The fear and respect of the blank paper. Where a short abstract sketch can define a whole direction and has the potential to trigger the fantasy to create greater stuff on top of it.

What’s your least favorite?
Joining a project after everything is defined.

What is your most productive time of day?
Early in the morning and at night. No meetings, no nothing.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
I could imagine teaching at a university, designing workshop formats and such. Initiating my own faculty has always been a dream, especially in my hometown of Passau in Germany, where I grew up. When you offer programs to educate young people with reasonable design skills, cities look and think differently. When the awareness of design is present in a place, it can have a huge impact. Even when it’s bad, people see that and get inspired to make it better.

How early on did you know this would be your path?
I started Photoshopping cars at the age of 11 and editing basketball mix tapes at 14. Suddenly, those areas came together. I always did what interested me at the moment, and this led organically to what I do now. I went to a secondary school where we had art history and practical art taught early. Working with wood, clay and all things fun. One day we built rockets that could fly 1,000 feet high and had their own parachute.

My intention first was to learn classic drawing there. While others were practicing realistic drawing, I was working on a short film. When my teacher discovered that I could edit in Apple Final Cut, I ended up doing short films every year.

After that I went to a technical school for design and arts, but this time we built things like chairs and jewelry. It was about getting a feeling for every kind of material. During this time, I also joined a new magazine launched in my hometown in Germany and did editorial work there. Then I got to know an artist who exposed me to new philosophies about design and the understanding of abstraction. I supported him for a book release with a sculpture.

When I was interested in studying animation and visual effects, I joined a secret international team for a channel rebrand. As films became interesting again, I went to film school (Baden-Württemberg Film Academy) where I attended a motion design class. The focus was the interplay between sound, image and much more experimental approaches, called “visual music.”

During this time, I was an artist-in-residence in the remote Bavarian forest and collaborated with a musicologist. The university was very open-minded and free — a platform to do anything you wanted once you found the right people to work with. I somehow found them and did a graduation film about the 100m sprint using inflated, metaphorical worlds with light installations to stretch time. Then it was enough film for me. I was looking for something that could channel all my interests into one thing, and the result is branding.

Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
Work for the New York Times, Amazon Prime Video and MoMA.

IFC

What is the project that you are most proud of?
IFC is one. I worked on it at the beginning of my internship at Gretel with a very small dream team. I still look back at earlier frames we did then for ongoing projects today. I like that although it’s strictly type and color on a screen, the motion behavior and design can feel so unique.

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
Apple Pay, Uber, Google Maps

What social media channels do you follow?
The ones that stand out for me are:
@rentalmag: It’s an aesthetic I like, and every single post has a strong visual impact full of derivations.
@alv_alv: When you scroll down there’s a really nice archive of interesting indie film title sequences.
@RIPstreets: It’s a great resource for street races around NJ burnouts and stuff, you know?

Do you listen to music while you work?
Yes, and I very much prefer loud music. Mostly electro and minimal. Philip Glass and Steve Reich are also in my top five. For other music, we have a Gretel playlist on Spotify.

What do you do to de-stress from it all?
(Answered before the shutdown) To free my mind, I take long walks on Fridays and see where it leads me. I mostly land at Washington Square Park and go to venues around that area. The Oculus at World Trade Center is a good place on weekends. Seeing people from far above moving like one wave, the same rhythm over and over, is like meditation.

How has animation changed since you first started your career?
At the beginning, there was this era of homemade VFX and DSLR cinematography with integrated motion graphics. Highly saturated Vimeo videos are a good example of that. The quality didn’t matter that much, it was more the idea.

The awareness and accessibility of it changed rapidly. In 2016, the Google Creative Lab 5 developed a job application page to find “the next” The Five, a one-year paid program in the lab. They had keyframes there to animate the Google logo in order to submit as a first task. This was a sign for me that people recognized the craft and knew what keyframes were. We now see it on Instagram, how images and graphics are starting to move within one swipe.

Today, the graphic approach feels cleaner. More precise and on point. Animation exists everywhere now —everything needs the ability to live on a screen. This simpler, clearer approach translates easily, so the focus on animation has never felt so important.

To be fair, animation is a much bigger, complex field, and this answer is directed to commercial animation. What people do at Gobelins in Paris or Eastern European animation like in Lodz, Poland, is a whole different story. It’s more artful and doesn’t necessarily need to be tied to trends.

Framestore adds three to London film team

During these difficult times, it’s great to hear that Framestore in London has further beefed up its staff. Three new hires will join the VFX studio’s entire workforce (approximately 2,500 people) working from home at the moment.

Two-time VES Award-winner Graham Page joins the company as VFX supervisor after 14 years with Dneg, where he supervised the company’s work on titles such as Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel and Avengers: Infinity War. He brings Framestore’s tally of VFX supervisors to 24 — all of whom from pre-production to on-set supervision through to the final delivery.

Mark Hodgkins, who rejoins the company after a 12-year stint with Dneg, will serve as Framestore’s global head of FX, film, and brings with him technical knowledge and extensive experience working on properties from Marvel, DC and J.K. Rowling.

Anna Ford joins Framestore as head of business development, film. Formerly sales and bidding manager at Cinesite, Ford brings knowledge of the global production industry and a passion for emerging technologies that will help identify and secure exciting projects that will push and challenge Framestore’s team of creative thinkers.

“While working in different areas of the company’s business, Graham, Anna and Mark all share the kind of outlook and attitude we’re always looking for at Framestore. They’re forward-thinking, creative in their approaches and never shy away from the kind of challenges that will bring out the best in themselves and those they work with,” says Fiona Walkinshaw, Framestore’s global managing director, film.

How VFX house Phosphene has been working remotely

By Randi Altman

In our ongoing coverage of how studios are working remotely, we reached out to New York City-based visual effects house Phosphene. Founded in 2010 by Vivian Connolly and John Bair, Phosphene specializes in photorealistic VFX for film and television, and is particularly known for their detailed CG environments and set extensions.

This four-time Emmy-nominated (Mildred Pierce and Boardwalk Empire Season 3, Season 5, Escape at Dannemora) studio’s more recent work includes The Plot Against America, The Hunters, A Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood and Motherless Brooklyn.

The Plot Against America

Like many others, Phosphene tasked with developing secure remote workflows, so we reached out to director of IT Jimmy Marrero and head of operations and strategy Beck Dunn to find out more.

How is Phosphene weathering this storm? Do you have most of your folks working remotely?
Beck Dunn: We were fortunate to be able to switch to remote work very quickly and are extremely grateful for our team who had been preparing for this major change. We are grateful we are in a position to support staff and productions who are able to continue working remotely.

Can you talk about what it took to get artists setup from their homes and walk us through that workflow?
Jimmy Marrero: Luckily, we’ve had experience with using PCOIP technology in the past and were in a good place to transition smoothly to remote work. We had a good number of workstations already set up with PCOIP remote workstation cards. We also leveraged AWS to create cloud workstations that are connected to our office via a VPC (virtual private cloud). This gives us the capability to securely increase our capacity for work way beyond any physical hardware limitations.

What tools are you using to make sure these folks stay connected?
Marrero: We all communicate with each other via chat using an open-source tool called Rocket.Chat. Producers connect via BlueJeans video conference.

For anyone setting up a remote pipeline, I would also recommend taking advantage of cloud-based software like Slack for communication, Trello for organization, and AnyDesk to allow IT to help troubleshoot any issues that might occur during the setup process.

What about security and working remotely?
Marrero: Security was the driving force for us to investigate the advantages of PCOIP technology. Having remote workstation cards installed at the office allows us to stream encrypted screen information directly to the artists monitors and eliminates the need for any data to be hosted outside of Phosphene’s internal network.

Using PCOIP combined with only being able to access our network via VPN with two-factor authentication, we were able to address many security concerns from our clients, which was a key factor in our being able to work remotely.

PCOIP technology also allows us to easily use all the tools on our internal network, with no change in set up, or compromise to security. Once logged in, artists are able to access Nuke, Hiero, 3dsMax, Houdini and Deadline as though they are in the office.

What types of work are you guys doing at the moment?
Dunn: We can’t talk about any of our current work, but one project we recently finished is HBO’s The Plot Against America, created by Ed Burns and David Simon. The show is based on Philip Roth’s 2004 novel depicting the lives of US citizens in an alternate history where Franklin D.Roosevelt loses the 1940 presidential election to Charles Lindbergh.

Phosphene worked with show-side VFX supervisor Jim Rider on a wide range of visual effects for the show, including creating period-accurate aerial views of 1940’s Manhattan, exteriors of Newark Airport and a British Navy base, and extensive crowd duplication shots inside Madison Square Garden. In total, Phosphene delivered 274 shots for the limited series.

The Plot Against America

Any tips for those companies who are just starting to get set up remotely or even those who are currently working remotely?
Marrero: Be nice to your IT department. (Smiles) Working remotely has many moving parts that need to all work perfectly for things to go smoothly. Expect delays in the beginning as all the kinks are worked out.

What has helped staffers get settled into working from home?
Dunn: I’ll let them speak for themselves.

VFX producer Matthew Griffin: I found it really helpful to set up a dedicated mini-office rather than just working on a laptop from the couch. When I sit down at my workspace, I feel like I am still “going into” the office. Holding team meetings via video chat and maintaining rituals like having my morning coffee at the same time also helps me to stay in a familiar rhythm. We also have a dog, so walking him at the end of the day makes the workday feel complete. I close the laptop, walk the dog, and once I’m home, it’s like my commute is over and it’s time to relax.

VFX producer Steven Weigle: Producers are used to working remotely for short stints, so this hasn’t been an entirely foreign experience. I did recently add a KVM switch to my home setup, to use my full-sized keyboard, mouse and monitor to control my work laptop but be able to switch back to my personal machine with the click of a button. It’s a small, basic upgrade but it helps me maximize my desk space while still separating my “work brain” from my “home brain.”


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

The Embassy opens in Culver City with EP Kenny Solomon leading charge

Vancouver-based visual effects and production studio The Embassy is opening an office in LA office in Culver City. EP Kenny Solomon will head up the operation. The move comes following the studio’s growth in film, advertising and streaming, and a successful 2019.The LA-based office will allow The Embassy to have a direct connection and point of contact with its growing US client base and provide front-end project support and creative development while Vancouver — offering pipeline and technology infrastructure — remains the heart of operations.

New studio head Solomon has worked in the film, TV and streaming industries for the past 20 years, launching and operating a number of companies. The most recent of which was Big Block Media Holdings — an Emmy-, Cannes-, Webby-, Promax- and Clio-winning integrated media company founded by Solomon nine years ago.

“We have a beautiful studio in Culver City with infrastructure to quickly staff up to 15 artists 2D, 3D and design, a screening room, conference room, edit bay and wonderful outdoor space for a late night ping-pong match and a local Golden Road beer or two,” says Solomon. “Obviously, everyone is WFH right now but at a moment’s notice we are able to scale accordingly. And Vancouver will always be our heartbeat and main production hub.”

“We have happily been here in Vancouver for the past 17 years plus,” says The Embassy president Winston Helgason. “I’ve seen the global industry go through its ups and downs, and yet we continue to thrive. The last few months have been a difficult period of uncertainty and business interruption and, while we are operating successfully out of current WFH restrictions, I can’t wait to open up to our full potential once the world is a little more back to normal.”

In 2020, The Embassy reunited with Area 23/FCB and RSA director Robert Stromberg (Maleficent) to craft a series of fantastical VFX environments for Emgality’s new campaign. The team has also been in full production for the past 16 months on all VFX work for Warrior Nun, an upcoming 10-episode series for Netflix. The Embassy was responsible for providing everything from concept art to pre-production, on-set supervision and almost 700 visual VFX shots for the show. The team in Vancouver is working both remotely and in the studio to deliver the full 10 episodes.

Solomon is excited to get to work, saying that he always respected The Embassy’s work, even while he was competing with them when he was at CafeFX/The Syndicate and Big Block.

As part of the expansion, The Embassy has also added a number of new reps to the team — Sarah Gitersonke joins for Midwest representation, and Kelly Flint and Sarah Lange join for East Coast.

Vegas Post upgrades for VFX, compositing and stills

Vegas Creative Software, in partnership with FXhome, has added new versions of Vegas Effects and Vegas Image to the Vegas Post suite of editing, VFX, compositing and imaging tools for video professionals, editors and VFX artists.

The Vegas Post workflow centers on Vegas Pro for editing and adds Vegas Effects and Vegas Image for VFX, compositing and still-image editing.

Vegas Effects is a full-featured visual effects and compositing tool that provides a variety of high-quality effects, presets and correction tools. With over 800 effects and filters to tweak, combine, pull apart and put back together, Vegas Effects provides users with a powerful library of effects including:
• Particle generators
• Text and titling
• Behavior effects
• 3D model rendering
• A unified 3D space
• Fire and lightning generators
• Greenscreen removal
• Muzzle flash generators
• Picture in picture
• Vertical video integration

Vegas Image is a non-destructive raw image compositor that enables video editors to work with still-image and graphical content and incorporate it directly into their final productions — all directly integrated with Vegas Post. This new version of Vegas Image contains feature updates including:
• Brush masks: A new mask type that allows the user to brush in/out effects or layers and includes basic brush settings like radius, opacity, softness, spacing and smoothing
• Multiple layer transform: Gives the ability to move, rotate and scale a selection of layers
• Multi-point gradient effect: An effect that enables users to create colored gradients using an unlimited amount of colored points
• Light rays effect: An effect that uses bright spots to cast light rays in scenes, e.g., light rays streaming through trees
• Raw denoise: Bespoke denoise step for raw images, which can remove defective pixels and large noise patterns
• Lens distortion effect: Can be used to perform lens-based adjustments, such as barrel/pincushion distortion or chromatic aberration
• Halftone effect: Produces a halftone look, like a newspaper print or pop art
• Configurable mask overlay color: Users can now pick what color is overlaid when the mask overlay render option is enabled

Vegas Post is available now for $999 or as a subscription starting at $21 per month.

Working From Home: VFX house The Molecule

By Randi Altman

With the COVID-19 crisis affecting all aspects of our industry, we’ve been talking to companies that have set up remote workflows to meet their clients’ needs. One of those studios is The Molecule, which is based in New York and has a location in LA as well. The Molecule has focused on creating visual effects for episodics and films since its inception in 2005.

Blaine Cone 

The Molecule artists are currently working on series such as Dickinson and Little Voice (AppleTV+), Billions (Showtime), Genius: Aretha (NatGeo), Schooled and For Life (ABC) and The Stranger (Quibi). And on the feature side, there is Stillwater (Focus Features) and Bliss (Amazon). Other notable projects include The Plot Against America (HBO), Fosse/Verdon (FX) and The Sinner (USA).

In order to keep these high-profile projects flowing, head of production Blaine Cone and IT manager Kevin Hopper worked together to create the studio’s work-from-home setup.

Let’s find out more…

In the weeks leading up to the shutdown, what were you doing to prepare?
Blaine Cone: We had already been investigating and testing various remote workflows in an attempt to find a secure solution we could extend to artists who weren’t readily available to join us in house. Once we realized this would be a necessity for everyone in the company, we accelerated our plans. In the weeks before the lockdown, we had increasingly larger groups of artists work from home to gradually stress-test the system.

How difficult was it to get that set up?
Cone: We were fortunate to have a head start on our remote secure platform. Because we decided to tie into AWS, as well as into our own servers and farm (custom software running on a custom-built hypervisor server on Dell machines), it took a little while, but once we saw the need to fast-track it we were able to refine our solution pretty quickly. We’re still optimizing and improving behind the scenes, but the artists have been able to work uninterrupted since the beginning.

Kevin Hopper

What was your process in choosing the right tools to make this work?
Kevin Hopper: We have been dedicated to nailing down TPN-compliant remote work practices for the better part of a year now. We knew that there was a larger market of artists available for us to tap into if we could get a remote work solution configured properly from a security standpoint. We looked through a few companies offering full remote working suites via Teradici PCOIP setups and ultimately decided to configure our own images and administer them to our users ourselves. This route gives us the most flexibility and allows us to accurately and effectively mirror our required security standards.

Did employees bring home their workstations/monitors? How is that working?
Cone: In the majority of cases, employees are using their home workstations and monitors to tap into their dedicated AWS instance. In fact, the home setup could be relatively modest because they were tapping into a very strong machine on the cloud. In a few cases, we sent home 4K monitors with individuals so they could better look at their work..

Can you describe your set up and what tools you are using?
Cone: We are using Teradici to give artists access to dedicated, powerful and secure AWS machines to work off of files on our server. This is set up for Nuke, Maya, Houdini, Mocha, Syntheyes, Krita, Resolve, Mari and Substance Painter. We spin up the AWS instances in the morning and then down again after the workday is over. It allows us to scale as necessary, and it limits the amount of technical troubleshooting and support we might have to do otherwise. We have our own internal workflow tools built into the workflow just as we did when artists were at our office. It’s been relatively seamless.

Fosse/Verdon

How are you dealing with the issues of security while artists are working remotely?
Cone: Teradici gives us the security we need to ensure that the data exists only on our servers. It limits the artists from web traffic as well.

How is this allowing you to continue creating visual effects for shows?
Cone: It’s really not dissimilar to how we normally work. The most challenging change has been the lack of in-person interaction. Shotgun, which we use to manage our shots, still serves as our creative hub, but Slack has become an even more integral aspect of our communication workflow as we’ve gone remote. We’ve also set up regular team calls, video chats and more to make up for the lack of interpersonal interaction inherent in a remote scenario.

Can you talk about review and approval on shots?
Cone: Our supervisors are all set up with Teradici to review shots securely. They also have 4K monitors. In some cases, artists are doing Region of Interest to review their work. We’ve continued our regular methods of delivery to our clients so that they can review and approve as necessary.

How many artists do you have working remotely right now?
Cone: Between supervisors, producers, artists and support staff in NY and LA, we have about 50 remote users working on a daily basis. Our Zoom chats are a lot of fun. In a strange way, this has brought us all closer together than ever before.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

 

Maxon releases first subscription-only Cinema 4D

Maxon is now offering Cinema 4D Subscription Release 22 (S22), the next generation of its 3D app and its first subscription-only release. Cinema 4D S22  offers a number of performance and interactivity improvements, including UV unwrapping and editing tools, improved selection and modeling tool functionality, organizational licensing for volume customers and updated viewport technology with support for Metal on macOS.

In addition, Maxon has boosted Cinema 4D’s pipeline compatibility with GLTF export, improved GoZ integration with Z-Brush, and support for node-based materials in FBX and Cineware. Cinema 4D S22 is immediately available for subscription customers. For perpetual license holders of Cinema 4D, a release is scheduled later this year that will incorporate the features of S22 and additional enhancements.

“In September last year, we introduced subscription-based options so we could offer professional 3D software at a significantly lower price. This also allows us to deliver more frequent improvements and enhancements to our subscription customers,” says Maxon CEO Dave McGavran. “S22 offers subscription users early access to solutions like the much-requested UV tools improvements and organizational license management for our volume customers. And yes, we will roll all these features and more into an upgrade later this year for our perpetual customers.”

S22 feature highlights
• New UV workflow enhancements, improved packing and automatic UVs
Improved selection tools, visualization tools and a progressive unwrapping workflow make it much simpler to define a UV map, while new packing algorithms optimize texture resolution. A new automatic UV unwrapping option based on the Ministry of Flat licensed technology developed by Eskil Steenberg of Quel Solaar makes it easy to create a basic unwrap with minimal distortion and overlaps for baking and texture painting.
• Enhanced viewport
Cinema 4D’s new viewport core provides a framework to make the best use of graphics technology in the coming years, with full support for Apple Metal. Users enjoy a more accurate view of the 3D scene, improved filtering and multi-instance performance.
• Pipeline – GTLF export, GoZ integration and more
GLTF export offers users a flexible and efficient format for sharing 3D animations on the web and within AR applications, while GoZ integration offers a smooth workflow with Pixologic Z-Brush for advanced sculpting. Support for Nodal materials within FBX and Cineware expands the pipeline for advanced materials.
• Modeling tools improvements
In addition to many small usability enhancements, modeling tools are faster and more robust and better preserve mesh attributes like UV and vertex maps, thanks to a new core architecture.
• Organizational licensing options
Volume License customers can leverage organizational accounts within the MyMaxon ecosystem to assign licenses to individual users or groups, coupling the flexibility of floating licenses with the accessibility and reliability of Maxon’s servers.

Cinema 4D S22 can be downloaded immediately and is available for both macOS and Windows.

Autodesk’s Flame 2021 adds Dolby Vision, expands AI and ML offerings

Autodesk has released Flame 2021 with new features aimed at innovating and accelerating creative workflows for VFX, color grading, look development and editorial finishing. Flame 2021 increases workflow flexibility for artists, expands AI capabilities with new machine learning-powered human face segmentation and simplifies finishing for streaming services with new functionality for Dolby Vision HDR authoring and display. In response to user requests, the release also adds a new GPU-accelerated Physical Defocus effect and finishing enhancements that make it easier to adjust looks across many shots, share updates with clients and work faster.

Useful for compositing, color grading and cosmetic beauty work, the AI-based face segmentation tool automates all tracking and identifies and isolates facial features — including nose, eyes, mouth, laugh lines and cheekbones — for further manipulation. Face matching algorithms are also capable of specialized tasks, including specific mole or scar isolation, through custom layout workflows. Built-in machine learning analysis algorithms isolate and modify common objects in moving footage, dramatically accelerating VFX and compositing workflows.

To meet increasing demand for HDR content mastering driven by OTT streaming services, Flame 2021 introduces a new Dolby Vision HDR authoring and display workflow. This enables Flame to import, author, display and export Dolby Vision HDR shot-by-shot animatable metadata, streamlining creation and delivery of high dynamic range imagery required by leading OTT streaming services. The update also expands collaboration with Autodesk Lustre and other Dolby-certified color grading tools through enabling XML metadata import/export.

Other new features in the Flame 2021 family include:
● Save and recall color grading and VFX: Quickly save and recall color grading and VFX work in the new Explorer, a dedicated “grade bin” and reference comparison area to support artist workflows.
● Viewing area: A new video preview mode shares artist viewports — including storyboard, manager and schematic — to SDI or HDMI preview monitors. In broadcast mode, Gmasks can now be observed in the view area during editing along with any other tools that get directly manipulated.
● Gmask premade shapes: New Gmask premade shapes with softness are available for colorists, compositors, and finishing VFX artists in the image and action nodes.

Flame, Flare and Flame Assist 2021 are available at no additional cost to Flame Family 2020 subscribers.

Review: Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 mobile workstation

By Brady Betzel

The mobile workstation landscape is changing. These small-footprint computers are on their way to becoming as powerful as desktop systems. They are gaining desktop-level GPU, CPU and memory power with the addition of a screen. So other than the GPUs being throttled thermally, what sets a mobile workstation apart from a desktop? Other than portability, the screen is what is starting to convince me that mobile and desktop workstations are soon going to become interchangeable for a lot of people.

For this review, I’m going to focus on the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 2nd Gen mobile workstation. Top highlights include Intel Xeon E processors, a 4K UHD Dolby Vision HDR OLED multi-touch display and an X-Rite Pantone Factory Color Calibration option. The OLED display is amazing and can be set to super-bright (500-nits) but also calibrated with the X-Rite technology covering 100% of the Adobe color gamut.

I was sent a top-of-the-line Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 with these configurations:
CPU: Intel Xeon E-2276 CPU (2.8Ghz)
GPU: Nvidia Quadro T2000 4GB GDDR5
Memory: 1x32GB (DDR4 2667MHz)
Display: 15.5”-inch Multitouch Display (3840×2160 UHD OLED)
Storage: 1TB SSD M.2 2280 PCIe NVMe Opal2
WLAN and Bluetooth: Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200 160MHz
Ports: Two USB 3.1 Gen 1 (one always on), two Thunderbolt 3 (with Power Delivery and DisplayPort), Ethernet extension connector, HDMI 2.0, SD card reader (supports UHS-II SD cards) and microphone/headphone combo jack.
Camera: IR and HD 720p
Keyboard: Six-row, spill resistant, multimedia Fn keys; LED backlight; TrackPoint pointing device and buttonless glass surface multi-touch touchpad
Audio: 2×2 watt speakers, Dolby Audio Premium
Security: Power-on password, hard disk password, supervisor password, security keyhole, discrete TPM 2.0, TCG Certified, Intel vPro technology
Battery: 80Wh, supports Rapid Charge

Digging In
So, let’s get to the burning questions: What is there to love about the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 and what’s left for improvement? I will get to export times for Blackmagic’s Resolve 16 and Adobe Premiere Pro in a minute, but overall the design is great. I love the feel of the exterior, and it is extremely light weight — it weighs in at just under 4lbs and is thin, measuring .72-inches.

The slim 135-watt AC adapter is a must-have upgrade if you can afford it. It is relatively small (especially compared to other brands) and offers Rapid Charge technology, which is such a key feature for a mobile workstation. It weighs under a pound and measures 4.65 inches by 3.03 inches by .83 inches. While the battery itself might only last a few hours when the OLED brightness is up, it can charge up to 80% capacity in under an hour. In a pinch you can get a quick half-hour charge in just a few minutes. But when the screen brightness is cranked up, the battery does seem to drain — the price you pay for beauty, I guess. Other than the exterior, the keyboard buttons feel great. I did find myself confusing the “Ctrl” and “Fn” keys when typing a lot, but the tactile pushback on the keys is great.

The Display
The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 features an OLED display. The version I was sent had multi-touch capability — I don’t use touch screens much on a mobile workstation, but it’s there if I want it. The 500-nit OLED display with Dolby Vision HDR on the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 is one of the best-looking displays I have used in the past few years.

For a $10 upgrade (on the IPS and OLED displays only), you can add the X-Rite Pantone Factory Color Calibration. This is such a good deal for anyone working with color-critical work (which I assumed is 90% of the people reading this). This is the second mobile workstation I have tested that offers this option, and it makes a huge difference in color fidelity and image quality right out of the box.

The X-Rite app allows you to choose from different color profiles, including sRGB, Adobe RGB, DCI-P3, Rec. 709, custom and default. There is a tab that shows the chromaticity values associated with each color profile as well. The beauty is that if you tinker with it (like I did) and make it worse, you can click “Restore Profiles from Lenovo Cloud,” and you are back in business. It’s a feature I am learning to love.

Components
The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 houses high-end components like the 9th Gen Intel H-series or Xeon E processors, an Nvidia Quadro T1000 or T2000, and up to 64GB DDR4, dual-channel-capable memory.

The processors are good choices and can speak for themselves, but I want to drill down on the GPUs. II wasn’t familiar with the T Series before digging into the Lenovo ThinkPad. This led me to a Google search — it seems that the T2000 is based on the Turing architecture, which is based on the consumer desktop GTX 1650 Ti. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed because if Lenovo is targeting media creators with the ThinkPad P1 Gen 2, then it needs to allow for a higher-end GPU upgrade. Lenovo obviously has its reasons for not going with the RTX 2080 (including ISV certifications, I imagine), but the option would be nice..

A few months ago, I reviewed the Acer ConceptD 7 laptop with an Nvidia RTX 2080, and that is still one of the fastest and most robust GPUs in a laptop that I have ever used. The Nvidia T2000 GPU will definitely work, but as you will see from some of my export results, it shines a bit brighter when used for motion graphics.

Testing
Here are some results from UHD sequences I have used before. One includes Red 4K, 6K and 8K footage and another includes BRaw:

Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve 16.1
Red Footage
Export Test 1: Basic color corrections
Export Test 2: One minute of 4K, 6K (RedCode 3:1), 8K (Redcode 7:1) Red media in UHD sequence without audio — 110% zoom; spatial NR Faster, Small, 25; Resolve OFX Gaussian blur (default). No cached or optimized media. Force resize and debayer to highest quality.

Custom export H.264 as a QuickTime movie full-quality resize and debayer (essentially the YouTube UHD preset, but with forcing resize and debayer to highest quality).

H.264 encoding: Native
Export Test 1: 8:34
Export Test 2: 29:05

– Same export but changing “Native” to “Nvidia”
Export Test 1: 10:10
Export Test 2: Did not work!

– Same Export but changing “Nvidia” to “Intel Quick Sync”
Export Test 1: 21:32
Export Test 2: 10:02

Same export but H.265
Nvidia
Export Test 1: 5:04
Export Test 2: Didn’t work

Intel QuickSync
Export Test 1: 4:44
Export Test 2: 9:44

DPX testing:
Export Test 1: 4:19
Export Test 2: 9:23

BRaw Footage
Export Test 1: Basic color corrections
Export Test 2: one minute of 6K BRaw media in UHD sequence without audio — 110% zoom; spatial NR Faster, Small, 25; Resolve OFX Gaussian blur (default). No cached or optimized media. Force resize and debayer to highest quality.

Custom export H.264 as a QuickTime movie full-quality resize and debayer (essentially the YouTube UHD preset, but with forcing resize and debayer to highest quality).

H.264 encoding: Native
Export Test 1: 2:16
Export Test 2: 2:24

– Same export but changing “Native” to “Nvidia”
Export Test 1: :45
Export Test 2: 2:28

– Same Export but changing “Nvidia” to “Intel Quick Sync”
Export Test 1: :43
Export Test 2: 2:23

Same export but H.265
Nvidia
Export Test 1: :44
Export Test 2: 2:29

Intel QuickSync
Export Test 1: :44
Export Test 2: 2:25

DPX Testing:
Export 1: 1:05
Export 2: 2:25

ISV certified drivers for Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro 2020 (exporting from Adobe Media Encoder)
Sequence 1 (Export Test 1) for basic color correction only.
Sequence 2 (Export Test 2) with a few effects, including 110% zoom, sharpening 100% inside of Lumetri and a Gaussian blur of 20. I disabled any caching or optimized media and checked off “Maximum Render Quality” inside of Media Encoder.

Red Footage
– H.264 – UHD, no audio, 10Mb/s, max render quality (standard Media Encoder H.264 setting)
Export Test 1: 17:11
Export Test 2: 17:47

– H.265 – UHD, no audio, 7Mb/s, max render quality (standard Adobe Media Encoder H.265 setting)
Export Test 1: 17:43
Export Test 2: 24:37

– DPX testing: 10-bit video levels, UHD
Export 1: 34:52
Export 2: 48:59

BRaw Footage
– H.264 – UHD, no audio, 10Mb/s, max render quality (standard Media Encoder H.264 setting)
Export Test 1: 01:38
Export Test 2: 01:43

– H.265 – UHD, no audio, 7Mb/s, max render quality (standard Adobe Media Encoder H.265 setting)
Export Test 1: 02:06
Export Test 2: 02:31

– DPX testing: 10-bit video levels, UHD
Export Test 1: 2:03
Export Test 2: 2:48

PugetBench for AE

As you can see, the resulting export times are a little high, especially with the Red footage. The BRaw footage is a highly efficient codec when editing and color correcting, and the results show how easy it is to work with it, but the export times are not mind blowing.

I did some additional testing using standard benchmark apps. I really love Puget System’s benchmark apps that you can find and download here. Using the Puget System’s for After Effects Benchmark, the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 (2nd Gen) had an overall score of 85.6, which is actually pretty good and might point motion-graphics artists toward this laptop more than video editors or colorists.

One of the hardest processes on a computer is noise reduction, and one of the best noise reduction apps is Neat Video. Inside of Resolve 16.1, I ran the Neat Video benchmark and it found that using five cores along with the Quadro T2000 will get 12.2fps. Obviously, this isn’t a real-world result, but it can give you a sense of where it stands. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to get one to two frames a second on export with Neat Video applied.

Cinebench single core

Focusing on the 3D users only, Maxon’s Cinebench Release 20 gave a CPU score of 1812 points and a CPU (single core) score of 456 points with an MP ratio of 3.97x. And in the Corona Renderer 1.3 benchmark the ThinkPad had a render time of 5:01 and rays/sec of 1,613,800.

Another good 3D benchmark is a project called the Gooseberry Production Benchmark File for use in Blender (a free and open source 3D creation suite). You can download the Gooseberry file here. It essentially renders out a complex scene and it took a little over 45 minutes on the ThinkPad. Using Octane Bench the workstation scored an overall score of 72.07.

Finally  — and this is more of a gaming test — I ran the Superposition Benchmark from Unigine. It’s a few years old, but it gives a decent sense of scene building, lighting and higher-resolution playback. I selected the “4K Optimized” setting and the ThinkPad got a score of 2406, but more importantly it did a minimum playback of 14.9fps, average 18fps and max of 22.62fps. It was able to max out the GPU at 100%.

Superposition Benchmark from Unigine

What Does It All Mean?
The results mean that while the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 looks great and performs reasonably well, if you are looking for significant post power, it might not be right for you — specifically if you are doing a lot of full-resolution video and color correction work. But if you are an offline editor and/or are working with lower-resolution proxy files, like ProRes or DNxHR files, it will perform much more smoothly.

As mentioned earlier, the OLED screen is incredible, and when color correcting in Resolve, it is actually a somewhat accurate way to color correct. (I know, a real colorist uses a calibrated external monitor, but it’s OK everyone. Please don’t get too worked up.)

In Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom, the ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 excels and can easily switch color spaces between sRGB, Adobe RGB, Rec. 709 and even DCI-P3. It’s amazing how fast it can do that. That being said, you are paying a little more for the official “workstation” name. Workstations come with certain components, like the Nvidia Quadro T2000, that are meant to be run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and can output to up to four external monitors. Lenovo tests its products with certain applications like Adobe Premiere Pro and will supply drivers that are fully tested. You can find them here.

In addition, the standard one-year warranty included with the system will cover the machine against normal wear and tear. While I couldn’t find any info on upgrading to accidental damage protection or 24/7 support I believe it is offered.

Summing Up
Would I buy the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 mobile workstation, which has a price tag of just under $3,200? If portability and military-grade durability outweigh very high-end performance, then yes. If you are looking to edit and color correct full-res 4K, 6K, or 8K video? Maybe not. I think my last answer would change if the GPU had a little more “oomph” behind it, but for now it is what it is.

It’s not a bad GPU by any means; it’s just not the RTX 2080, in my experience. I do love the sleek and understated design that is super-light and durable. That alone made me think really hard about this workstation Get more info from Lenovo including pricing and customization options.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on shows like Life Below Zero and The Shop. He is also a member of the Producer’s Guild of America. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Behind the Title: And/Or CD and partner Kelli Miller

As creative director and partner of this Brooklyn-based design and production studio, Kelli Miller must balance the creative and admin parts of the business.

Name: Kelli Miller

Company: And/Or

What Does And/Or do?
And/Or is a Brooklyn-based design and production studio. We believe that good culture makes good work, substance is just as important as style and everything’s a little better with a sense of humor.

Our specialties include design and branding, campaign development and show packaging, and film and TV titles for brands and entertainment networks.

APV Comedy

What’s your job title?
Creative Director/Partner

What does that entail?
We’re a small studio so we all tend to have our hands in everything. On the creative directing side of things this means I am leading and directing all of our projects with the help of my partner Kendra Eash. Sometimes I do double or triple time as designer and art director, depending on the project. I also direct our live-action work, so that means I’m doing treatments, storyboards, on-set directing the shoot, editorial direction, etc. — which I love.

On the partner side it’s making sure we’re managing our cash flow, doing new business outreach and meeting prospective clients as well as maintaining relationships with existing clients. It also means managing our creative team and freelancers, meeting new talent and collaborators. So yeah, a little bit of everything!

What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
Well what surprised me the most about owning a studio is the amount of work that goes into running the business from an admin perspective. It seems obvious but when you’re actually confronted with choosing healthcare plans, cash flow management and IT upkeep it’s all very… surprising.

What have you learned over the years about running a business?
Too much to distill into words! It’s incredibly hard. Much harder than I could have imagined. The biggest take away is the ups are epic and the downs are even more epic. Running a business is very dramatic. Therefore, it’s really important to learn how to deal properly with stress and riding the wave of the flow of work without reaching peak panic when things shift. It’s something I’m still working on, but I think I’m getting better at it!

Adnan

A lot of it must be about trying to keep employees and clients happy. How do you balance that?
That is true! I think being a leader anywhere becomes a lot about diplomacy. Being a good and attentive listener is very important, and being empathetic to the positions of both clients and employees is so important.

It’s also important to be able to communicate the needs of the client in a positive way to the team so they don’t become deflated and unmotivated when the creative shifts or the client is looking for something that isn’t quite there yet. Balancing that with confidently presenting creative ideas and work is the special magical power of a great creative director. I think hearing challenging input from clients is all about practicing the fine art of “yes, and…” to persuade them that you hear them and there are creative solutions available.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
Working with so many talented and smart people. It’s really inspiring and exciting to see projects come together that started as little seeds of ideas thanks to the hard work of our staff and collaborators. I also love being a part of the excitement, hustle and team work on set as well.

What’s your least favorite?
Probably the overwhelming stress and responsibility of running a business. Did I mention it’s hard? (laughs)

What is your most productive time of day?
I’m definitely a morning person. I wake up stupidly early for “me time,” so I would say between 6:30am and 3pm. However, I often find I need to do “the work” after meetings and reviews have happened, so I’ve been trained to be productive in pretty much any spare second I can find. I tap out when I get hungry and crabby though!

MTV News The Breakdown

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
I think I would be working in the film industry in some capacity. I always love working with the production design and art departments. I also find in-camera visual effects fascinating; I could watch those process videos all day long.

Can you name some recent clients?
Spotify, MTV, Adnan (the client is Disarming Films) and Amazon Prime Video.

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
The internet, my laptop and my Wacom tablet.

Konee Rok creates animated DJ Aktive The City music video on his own

By Randi Altman

Filmmaker Konee Rok likes helping to promote the work of artists. Rok, who specializes in making music videos, animation and documentaries featuring athletes, musical artists and dancers, recently created an animated music video for DJ Aktive called The City, featuring Common, Freeway, Bri Steves and DJ Jazzy Jeff.

Konee Rok

The video begins with spinning heads of the featured artists transitioning to the spinning of an LP by DJ Aktive. We then see rapper Freeway moving from one upside-down city building to another, like a kid working the handlebars at a playground. The viewer is then taken on a tour of Philadelphia, with locations including the Liberty Bell and animated recreations of the Eagles winning the Super Bowl. Another Philly artist, Bri Steves, raps some more about the City of Brotherly Love, and that transitions to Common in his hometown of Chicago. Finally, there is Jazzy Jeff, spinning the globe like a turntable. It’s all very bright, colorful and cinematic.

Rok completed The City, from start to finish, by himself during a two-month period. He relied heavily on Adobe’s Character Animator and the rest of the Adobe suite. We reached out to him to find out more.

How early on did you get involved in the video? Concept stage?
I was contacted to make the video by Michael McArthur, who manages DJ Aktive, who is an incredible DJ and producer from Philly. He spins for Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, Nas, Kanye, Common, Puffy and more. Mike sent me Aktive’s album, which is composed of songs he produced with Ivan “Orthodox” Barias and features many artists Aktive has worked with. I chose the song “The City” featuring Common, Freeway, Bri Steves and DJ Jazzy Jeff as a standout. They also wanted me to work on that song. They left it up to me from there. With that, I went ahead and made the video. So, I was involved as early as possible.

Assuming you did previz/storyboards? Can you talk about this part of the process?
I normally listen to a song and storyboard a video as quickly as I can think, almost as if I’m “writing” down pictures instead of words. It’s an organic process, and I think it brings the most truth to a presentation because it’s unfiltered. I generally try to stay as close as I can to the initial ideas unless something is undeniably better or it’s technically necessary to make a change.

Can you walk us through how you created the lipsync, face-tracking and movements? How did you decide this would be the best way to tackle all of that, and how challenging was this?
I designed and drew multiple head positions in Adobe Photoshop for each vocal artist: Common, Freeway and Bri Steves. These were in forward-facing views, three-quarter views and profile views. For each of those views, I drew 14 different mouth positions. That’s a lot of mouths. Then, I brought those into Character Animator and rigged them so they moved how I wanted. After that, I laid down the acapella to the song and recorded the heads moving their mouths to the track using Character Animator’s audible lipsync method.

Because it was rap audio and not normal speech audio, I had to spend some time doing specific tweaks, so the mouth movements matched with the vocals. Once the lipsync was right, I used my Mac’s camera to motion track their head turns and expressions using my own head and face. For different scenes, I performed specific movements and exported them out of Character Animator as Mov video files with an alpha channel. Next, I brought them into Premiere Pro to stitch it together.

I love the section of the video that gives a nod to the game Operation. Can you talk about how that idea came about?
Thanks! Yeah, that was a fun one. My intention was to tell Freeway’s actual story quickly and lightly. In real life, he had kidney failure and received a transplant — a serious thing, no doubt. I thought, what’s the most efficient and appealing way to get this across to the audience? Since the board game Operation is ubiquitous across generations, when you watch the video, you get it right away, and because it’s unexpected, it demands a smile. It’s a great example of a best-case-scenario marriage between information and entertainment.

A funny thing about that scene is that a few days before the video was released, Freeway shared an Instagram video of himself at a kidney health awareness event playing with a life size Operation-style game. Crazy. On top of that, there’s another animated scene wherein Freeway is hammering a bell at the 76ers arena to open an NBA game, a new tradition for Philly natives before each game. That was imagined months before, and then literally the last 76ers game before coronavirus shut down the NBA, Freeway was asked to ring the bell, and he shared it on social media right before the music video release. All coincidence! Life imitates art imitates life.

How closely did you work with DJ Aktive? How often were you showing him scenes? Was that done remotely?
It was entirely remote. I was at home in Chicago, and Aktive was DJing in Las Vegas for Janet Jackson. I sent a few behind the scenes of unfinished animated line art but kept the video mostly a mystery. I made that choice because the way the video is structured; it lends itself to be viewed as a whole for maximum impact instead of spoiling it in bits. Thankfully, he was patient and trusting that I was doing something he would like. It worked out because I was not asked to change anything, and Common, Freeway, Bri Steves and DJ Jazzy Jeff all loved the video.

Had you used Character Animator before, and how did this tool allow you to accomplish this all yourself and in two months’ time? And what about the other Adobe tools?
I used Character Animator sparingly on a documentary we premiered at Cannes called Beyond Driven, directed by Vincent Tran and Riyaana Hartley. This is where I started to become familiar with it. That experience encouraged me to dive in fully and alter my traditional workflow to incorporate it.

Committing to it for this project forced me to learn more, which I always try to do with every project. Motion capture and lipsync automated a lot of the parts that I normally do manually, which made it more efficient in many ways. There’s also a unique quality of performance you get in the characters which I really like.

Premiere is where I structure the presentation. Photoshop is where I drew and developed the ideas for the final visuals. There’s heavy usage of the “animated timeline” in Photoshop and great attention to framing and timing in Premiere Pro. The back and forth between them is a sweet relationship. I would say they are more than friends.

Had you ever created anything like this before?
I wouldn’t say I created anything like The City before, necessarily, because I always want to do something new. It’s definitely a cousin of other projects. Right now, a video I did for Avery Sunshine called I Got Sunshine comes to mind when I think about a project I’ve done that also has continuous movement from start to finish. You can check that out on my site.

You’ve done both live-action and animated projects. How do you decide which way to go and can you talk about what you like about working in both areas?
Since I love both, I do a lot of live-action/animation hybrid videos. What I love about live action is the adventures you have working with other people in a physical environment. It’s very challenging and there is always a story about overcoming struggles.

Whenever I get together with my cinematographer, Jason “Intel” Deuchler, we’re always laughing about crazy situations we’ve been in. I love that. Deciding on live or animation is sometimes about what someone is asking for in a project, or other times it’s simply about logistics. I originally wanted The City to be live action, but it was too difficult to get everyone in one place. Oftentimes, it’s also about sensibility; what does this song feel like it should be visually?

Finally, any words of wisdom for young creators just starting out?
Strive to do what you haven’t seen. Always try something that you don’t know how to do so you force yourself into a corner where you have no choice but to figure it out. Keep working even when it seems like it’s not going well. You can gain a lot of satisfaction if you go by those affirmations. I know I have.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

Chaos offering V-Ray Education Collection via single license

Chaos Group has launched its V-Ray Education Collection, a new offering that provides access to 11 V-Ray and Phoenix FD products through a single license. Students, schools and educators can now use Chaos Group’s renderer and fluid simulation software for $149 a year (an 86% savings compared to purchasing individually).

“We wanted to make it easier for students and educators to access a full suite of software, as they learn and teach visualization for architecture, design and visual effects,” says Chaos Group education director Veselina Zheleva. “With our new collection, users can easily switch between the leading 3D applications, helping them branch out, reduce costs and expand their curriculums.”

The V-Ray Education Collection offers students more flexibility as they begin to master workflows and build their portfolios. As coursework and interests develop, students can apply different versions of V-Ray to their own challenges. With options for architecture (Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, 3ds Max), visual effects (Maya, Houdini), realtime (Unreal) and more, students can now hone in on the areas they are most focused on.

With one price across products, schools and teachers can choose the right product for the job, and then switch it if plans or industry trends start to shift. As cost is a historical barrier to departmental growth, Chaos says the V-Ray Education Collection has been priced to spur new classes and expanded curriculums, so administrators won’t have to wait for new budgets when ideas hit.

The V-Ray Education Collection includes full versions of 11 products and free upgrades for the length of the license. Free access to Chaos Group’s commercial support team is also included, providing on-demand support from set-up to settings.

The V-Ray Education Collection Includes: V-Ray for 3ds Max, V-Ray for Maya, V-Ray for SketchUp, V-Ray for Rhino, V-Ray for Revit, V-Ray for Modo, V-Ray for Unreal, V-Ray for Houdini, V-Ray for Cinema 4D, Phoenix FD for 3ds Max and Phoenix FD for Maya.

Main Image: Courtesy of ZEILT Productions 

Maxon to live-stream NAB news and artist presentation

With the Las Vegas NAB Show now cancelled, Maxon will be hosting a virtual NAB presence on C4DLive.com featuring a lineup of working artists. Starting on Monday, April 20, and running through Thursday, April 23, these pros — who were originally slated to appear in Las Vegas — will share production tips, techniques and inspiration and talk about working with Maxon’s Cinema 4D, Red Giant and Redshift product lines

For over a decade, Maxon has supplemented its physical booth presence with live streaming presentations. This has allowed show attendees and those unable to attend events in person, to benefit from demos, technology updates and interaction with the guest artists in real time. First up will be CEO Dave McGavran, who will talk about Maxon’s latest news and recent merger with Red Giant.

In terms of artists, Penelope Nederlander will break down her latest end credit animation for Birds of Prey; filmmaker Seth Worley will walk through some of the visual effects shots from his latest short film, Darker Colors; Doug Appleton will share the creative processes behind creating the technology for Spider-Man: Far From Home; Jonathan Winbush will demo importing C4D scenes into Unreal Engine for rendering or VR/AR output; and Veronica Falconieri Hays will share how she builds cellular landscapes and molecular structures in order to convey complex scientific stories.

The line-up of artists also includes Mike “Beeple” Winkelmann, Stu Maschwitz, EJ Hassenfratz, Chris Schmidt, Angie Feret, Kelcey Steele, Daniel “Hashi” Hashimoto, Dan Pierse, Andy Needham, Saida Saetgareeva and many more.

Additional presenters’ info and a live streaming schedule will be available at C4DLive.com.

Main Image: (L-R) Saida Saetgareeva and Penelope Nederlander

Quick Chat: Scholar’s Will Johnson and William Campbell

By Randi Altman

In celebrating its 10th anniversary, animation and design company Gentleman Scholar has relaunched as Scholar and has put a new emphasis on its live-action work. Started by directors/partners William Campbell and Will Johnson in Los Angeles, the company has grown over the years and now boasts a New York City location as well.

Recent Scholar projects include the animated Timberland Legends Club spot, the live-action and animated Porsche Pop Star and the live-action Acura TLX.

Considering their new name change and website rebrand, we decided to reach out to “The Wills” to find out more about Scholar’s work philosophy and what this change means to the company.

Audi Q3

Why did you decide to rename and relaunch as Scholar?
Will Johnson: After 10 years it felt like a good time to redefine how the world views us. Not as only as a one-stop shop that can handle all of your design and animation needs, but also a live-action and storytelling powerhouse.

Will Campbell: The new name evokes cleanliness and sophistication and better represents how we have evolved. Gentleman Scholar was fun, quirky and playful. We’re still all of those things, but we feel like we’ve also become more cinematic, more polished and better collaborators that understand production more clearly… which allows us to navigate the industry better as a whole.

Even when it comes to live action and carrying our film into post, we can assess solutions on-set quicker and more fluidly, understanding the restrictions or additions we can take with us into the software. Scholar has changed immensely over the past 10 years. We have grown up and become smarter, faster and better. The rebrand is a window to who we have already become and who we plan to be.

How is the business different, and what’s stayed the same?
Johnson: It’s more refined. We’ve learned a lot about how to conduct ourselves in a competitive art world — the positive ways that we approach each project and allowing the stress of the job to kick us in the ass but not let it guide the decisions we make. It’s also about being patient with our team as well as our own decision-making.

Creativity is a process, and “turning it on” every day isn’t always easy. Understanding that not every idea you have is a great idea and how to be comfortable with your creative self is important. To trust in the “why” you are making something versus the “what” that you make. And that’s reflected in the new company name and our new website design. It’s the same us. The same wild bunch of creative explorers intent on pushing the boundaries of design and live action. We are just more certain of who we are and the stories we tell, and therefore more inclusive in our path to get there.

Acura

Campbell: We now have a decade’s worth of work to back up our thoughts and collaborations. This is enormous when you need to show how capable you are, not just in the standard we hold ourselves to visually, but in the quality and sophistication of our evolving storytelling. We have fine-tuned our production processes, enabling the pipelines of our edit, animation, CG and composite teams to more easily embrace the techniques and tools we use to craft the stories we want to tell… so we can be more decisive with the concepts we put on the table. From the software to the hardware, we are more refined.

Can you talk about how the industry has changed over the past 10 years?
Johnson: It’s more spread out than it’s ever been. There is more content that reaches more eyes in more places. From social to OOH to broadcast, the need to pull everyone together and create something that speaks to everyone all at once feels like it’s stronger and more apparent than before. And we’ve seen it all at this point, from vertical campaigns to entirely experiential ones. The era of “do more with less” is here.

Campbell: For us, we were very young when we opened Scholar. We were in our 20s, and everything was a fire drill and we thrived off the chaos. We have learned to harness the inspiration that comes with chaos and channel it into focused, productive creation.

Have you embraced working in the cloud — storage, rendering, review and approval, etc. — and if so, in what way?
Johnson: Yes. We know it’s a fast-paced world and in the climate of things, generally the globe is embracing a cloud-based way of thinking. Luckily, we have an amazing team of technologists so we can tap into our home-base server from anywhere at any time. From rendering to storage to reviews and approvals — it keeps us all united, focused and organized when we’re moving a million miles a minute in any different direction.

Campbell: Scholar has been testing the technology as it is getting better and cheaper, but we are always balancing convenience versus security, and those swing on a job-by-job basis. We’ve written tools to take advantage of storage and rendering resources on both coasts and use Aspera to facilitate file syncing between each office.

Can you talk about the tools you use for your work?
Johnson: The tangible ones are the usual suspects. Adobe’s Creative Suite and 3D tools like Autodesk Maya, Maxon Cinema 4D, Foundry Nuke and all of the animation and time-based ones, like Adobe Premiere and Avid Media Composer. But my favorite tools tend to be the brains and skills of our team… the words on paper and the channeling of art and thought into something tactile. As creators, we lust to make things, and seeing that circuit board of craft and making is something amazing to watch.

Campbell: Scholar has always been a mixed-media studio. We love getting our hands dirty with new software or cameras. We fundamentally want to do what’s right for the job and not rest inside our comfort zone. Thinking about what style is right for a client, not “how do I make my style fit,” is just how we are wired. The tool is always a means to an end. My favorite jobs are the ones where the technique is invisible, and it’s all about the experience.

We are operating in an entirely new world these days with the coronavirus and working remotely. How are you guys embracing the change?
Campbell: With an office on each coast, we have already had to learn to work as a team remotely. The years of unifying groups from a distance and finding ways for technology to bring artists closer together has set the stage for us right now. We have transitioned our workforce to 100% remote. It’s early days yet, but everyone is in good spirits, and we feel as connected as ever, although I do miss our lunch table.

Johnson: We’re definitely thankful for the staff and talent that we surround ourselves with and how they’ve handled their work-from-home routines. The check-ins, the mind melds and the daily (hourly) hangouts have helped. We’re using the change in the world as an opportunity to showcase our adaptability — how we can scale up and down even in the remote world — as a way to continue to grow our relationships and push the creative boundaries.

As people who find it hard to simply sit still, we’ve changed how we approach and talk about a project as each script comes in. The conversations about techniques are important — how we look at animation with a live-action lens, how 2D can become 3D, or vice versa. We’re more easily adaptable and change purely out of the need to discover what’s new.

Main Image: (L-R) Will Johnson and Will Campbell

VFX studio One Of Us adds CTO Benoit Leveau

Veteran post technologist Benoit Leveau has joined London’s One of Us as CTO. The studio, which is in its 16th year, employs 200 VFX artists.

Leveau, who joins One of Us from Milk VFX, has been in the industry for 18 years, starting out in his native France before moving to MPC in London. He then joined Prime Focus, integrating the company’s Vancouver and Mumbai pipelines with London. In 2013, he joined Milk in its opening year as head of pipeline. He helped to build that department and later led the development of Milk’s cloud rendering system.

The studio, which depends on what it calls “the efficient use of existing technology and the timely adoption of new technology,” says Leveau’s knowledge and experience will ensure that “their artists’ creativity has the technical foundation which allows it to flourish.”

Behind the Title: Loyalkaspar EP Scott Lakso

“People probably don’t expect that sometimes being an EP involves jumping into After Effects to render something, or contributing written ideas to strategic and conceptual projects.”

Name: Scott Lakso

Company: New York City’s Loyalkaspar

What does Loyalkaspar do?
We’re a creative branding agency specializing in brand strategy, identity, marketing and production. In human terms: We like to make good work that people will enjoy, and we try to do it for companies that make the world better!

SyFy rebrand

What’s your job title?
Executive Producer

What does that entail?
It entails a little bit of everything you’d expect, but mostly it involves making sure our clients are happy so that they’ll want to keep working with us on new projects. It also means establishing relationships with potential clients. At the office, it means overseeing the team of producers and making sure that everyone is happy and productive. There are a lot of proposals, budgets and timelines as part of that, but all of the nitty-gritty stuff is in service of fostering healthy relationships inside the company and with outside clients.

What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
People probably don’t expect that sometimes it involves jumping into After Effects to render something or contributing written ideas to strategic and conceptual projects. The title makes it sound like a reductive position, as in an “executive” producer doesn’t do any of the tasks they used to do as a coordinator or mid-level producer, but it’s actually more of a cumulative role — all of the skills I’ve developed over the 11 years it took to get to EP are still used anytime it seems appropriate.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
My favorite aspect is having the freedom, capacity and trust of the company leadership to do whatever I feel is best for our people, our clients and Loyalkaspar as a whole. Sometimes that’s helping a client out of a bind on short notice, encouraging a staffer to vent over a pint or organizing a spontaneous karaoke night when the time is right… which is more often than you might think.

What’s your least favorite?
When the circumstances of a project or situation require me to work reactively rather than proactively. I’m not a fan of winging it! It feels like driving at night with the headlights turned off. I’m much happier when I can plan a few steps ahead and help everyone avoid the headaches of hazardous speed bumps.

What is your most productive time of day?
Anytime that I can tune out distractions and focus on the task at hand. That’s more about creating a productive window in which to work rather than waiting for a specific time of day.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
I’d be doing literally any job that NASA would be willing to hire me for, given my lack of astronautics knowledge and experience. So I’d probably be scrubbing dishes in the Cape Canaveral food court or something equally unglamorous.

How did you choose this profession?
“Chose this profession” is a strong phrase, given that I had no idea this kind of work existed until I moved to New York after college. I think I technically stumbled into it. That being said, at some point while stage-managing high school theater, I probably subconsciously chose to go down the path that would lead me to something like this as an adult.

Super Bowl halftime show graphics 2010

Can you name some recent projects?
For the past few months, I’ve been mostly dedicated to the brand identity development for Peacock, the new streaming platform from NBCUniversal. But other recent standout projects have been an interactive film for a museum in Philadelphia and involvement in pitches to the Sesame Workshop and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

Do you have a project you are most proud of?
It’s hard to pick only one, but producing the Super Bowl halftime show graphics in 2010 and overseeing our all-encompassing rebrand of SyFy in 2017 are a couple of personal favorites.

Name three piece of technology you can’t live without.
I’d have a hard time living in a world that didn’t have the technology to enjoy music and movies/television, so let’s say a good screen of some kind, a record player/stereo/iPod and some good headphones.

What social media channels do you follow?
At this point, only Instagram. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that most social media content makes people feel worse about themselves and the world. At least on Instagram, people seem interested in posting things that others will enjoy rather than just broadcasting whatever will get them the most attention.

Do you listen to music while you work? If so what kind?
I find it impossible to work without music on. In terms of what specifically, almost anything instrumental is good for working to, but I really love old, cheesy music like bossa nova, retro Italian film soundtracks, 1960s/1970s library music, Burt Bacharach, etc. That probably makes me sound pretentious, or maybe like a dork, but I’m not exactly proud of my weird taste in music.

What do you do to de-stress from it all?
There are tons of options! When time permits, traveling and hiking outside of the city (especially outside of the country) are great for stress. I know that exercise is good for stress but that doesn’t make it any more enjoyable, so I have to trick myself into accidentally getting a workout while doing something like being in nature or exploring a foreign country. On a smaller scale, just drinking wine with my wife, going to a movie with my phone turned off or doing anything you can find in a book on “hygge” (like reading in my pajamas or cooking comforting food).

Maxon plugin allows for integration of Cinema 4D assets into Unity


Maxon is now a Unity Technologies Verified Solutions Partner and is distributing a plugin for Unity called Cineware by Maxon. The new plugin provides developers and creatives with seamless integration of Cinema 4D assets into Unity. Artists can easily create models and animations in Cinema 4D for use in realtime 3D (RT3D), interactive 2D, 3D, VR and AR experiences. The Cineware by Maxon plugin is now available free of charge on the Unity Asset Store.

The plugin is compatible with Cinema 4D Release 21, the latest version of the software, and Unity’s latest release, 2019.3. The plugin does not require a license of Cinema 4D as long as Cinema 4D scenes have been “Saved for Cineware.” By default, imported assets will appear relative to the asset folder or imported asset. The plugin also supports user-defined folder hierarchies.

Cineware by Maxon currently supports Geometry:
• Vertex Position, Normals, UV, Skinning Weight, Color
• Skin and Binding Rig
• Pose Morphs as Blend Shapes
• Lightmap UV2 Generation on Import

Materials:
• PBR Reflectance Channel Materials conversion
• Albedo/Metal/Rough
• Normal Map
• Bump Map
• Emission

Animated Materials:
• Color including Transparency
• Metalness
• Roughness
• Emission Intensity, Color
• Alpha Cutout Threshold

Lighting:
• Spot, Directional, Point
• Animated properties supported:
• Cone
• Intensity
• Color

Cameras:
• Animated properties
• Field of Vision (FOV)

Main Image: Courtesy of Cornelius Dämmrich

The Call of the Wild director Chris Sanders on combining live-action, VFX

By Iain Blair

The Fox family film The Call of the Wild, based on the Jack London tale, tells the story of  a big-hearted dog named Buck whose is stolen from his California home and transported to the Canadian Yukon during the Gold Rush. Director Chris Sanders called on the latest visual effects and animation technology to bring the animals in the film to life. The film stars Harrison Ford and is based on a screenplay by Michael Green.

Sanders’ crew included two-time Oscar–winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski; production designer Stefan Dechant; editors William Hoy, ACE, and David Heinz; composer John Powell; and visual effects supervisor Erik Nash.

I spoke with Sanders — who has helmed the animated films Lilo & Stitch, The Croods and How to Train Your Dragon — about making the film, which features a ton of visual effects.

You’ve had a very successful career in animation but wasn’t this a very ambitious project to take on for your live-action debut?
It was. It’s a big story, but I felt comfortable because it has such a huge animated element, and I felt I could bring a lot to the party. I also felt up to the task of learning — and having such an amazing crew made all of that as easy as it could possibly be.

Chris Sanders on set.

What sort of film did you set out to make?
As true a version as we could tell in a family-friendly way. No one’s ever tried to do the whole story. This is the first time. Before, people just focused on the last 30 pages of the novel and focused on the relationship between Buck and John Thornton, played by Harrison. And that makes perfect sense, but what you miss is the whole origin story of how they end up together — how Buck has to learn to become a sled dog, how he meets the wolves and joins their world. I loved all that, and also all the animation needed to bring it all alive.

How early on did you start integrating post and all the visual effects?
Right away, and we began with previs.

Your animation background must have helped with all the previs needed on this. Did you do a lot of previs, and what was the most demanding sequence?
We did a ton. In animation it’s called layout, a rough version, and on this we didn’t arrive on set without having explored the sequence many times in previs. It helped us place the cameras and block it all, and we also improvised and invented on set. But previs was a huge help with any heavy VFX element, like when Thornton’s going down river. We had real canoes in a river in Canada with inertial measurement devices and inertial recorders, and that was the most extensive recording we had to do. Later in post, we had to replace the stuntman in the canoe with Thornton and Buck in an identical canoe with identical movements. That was so intensive.

 

How was it working with Harrison Ford?
The devotion to his craft and professionalism… he really made me understand what “preparing for a role” really means, and he really focused on Thornton’s back story. The scene where he writes the letter to his wife? Harrison dictated all of that to me and I just wrote it down on top of the script. He invented all that. He did that quite a few times. He made the whole experience exciting and easy.

The film has a sort of retro look. Talk about working with DP Janusz Kaminski.
We talked about the look a lot, and we both wanted to evoke those old Disney films we saw as kids —something very rich with a magical storybook feel to it. We storyboarded a lot of the film, and I used all the skills I’d learned in animation. I’d see sequences a certain way, draw it out, and sometimes we’d keep them and cut them into editorial, which is exactly what you do in animation.

How tough was the shoot? It must have been quite a change of pace for you.
You’re right. It was about 50 days, and it was extremely arduous. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically, and I was not fully prepared for how exhausted you get — and there’s no time to rest. I’d be driving to set by 4:30am every day, and we’d be shooting by 6am. And we weren’t even in the Yukon — we shot here in California, a mixture of locations doubling for the Yukon and stage work.

 

Where did you post?
All on the Fox lot, and MPC Montreal did all the VFX. We cut it in relatively small offices. I’m so used to post, as all animation is basically post. I wish it was faster, but you can’t rush it.

You had two editors — William Hoy and David Heinz. How did that work?
We sent them dailies and they divided up the work since we had so much material. Having two great voices is great, as long as everyone’s making the same movie.

What were the big editing challenges?
The creative process in editorial is very different from animation, and I was floored by how malleable this thing was. I wasn’t prepared for that. You could change a scene completely in editorial, and I was blown away at what they could accomplish. It took a long time because we came back with over three hours of material in the first assembly, and we had to crush that down to 90 minutes. So we had to lose a huge amount, and what we kept had to be really condensed, and the narrative would shift a lot. We’d take comedic bits and make them more serious and vice versa.

Visual effects play a key role. Can you talk about working on them with VFX supervisor Erik Nash.
I love working with VFX, and they were huge in this. I believe there are less than 30 shots in the whole film that don’t have some VFX. And apart from creating Buck and most of the other dogs and animals, we had some very complex visual effects scenes, like the avalanche and the sledding sequence.

L-R: Director Chris Sanders and writer Iain Blair

We had VFX people on set at all times. Erik was always there supervising the reference. He’d also advise us on camera angles now and then, and we’d work very closely with him all the time. The cameras were hooked up to send data to our recording units so that we always knew what lens was on what camera at what focal length and aperture, so later the VFX team knew exactly how to lens the scenes with all the set extensions and how to light them.

The music and sound also play a key role, especially for Buck, right?
Yes, because music becomes Buck’s voice. The dogs don’t talk like they do in Lion King, so it was critical. John Powell wrote a beautiful score that we recorded on the Newman Stage at Fox, and then we mixed at 5 Cat Studios.

Where did you do the DI, and how important is it to you?
We did it at Technicolor with colorist Mike Hatzer, and I’m pretty involved. Janusz did the first pass and set the table, and then we fine-tuned it, and I’m very happy with the rich look we got.

Do you want to direct another live-action film?
Yes. I’m much more comfortable with the idea now that I know what goes into it. It’s a challenge, but a welcome one.

What’s next?
I’m looking at all sorts of projects, and I love the idea of doing another hybrid like this.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Behind the Title: Blue Bolt VFX supervisor Richard Frazer

“If we have done our job well, the viewers should never notice the work and instead just be enjoying the storytelling.”

Name: Richard Frazer

Company: London’s BlueBolt

Can you describe your company?
For the last four years, I’ve worked at BlueBolt, a Soho-based visual effects company in London. We work on high-end TV and feature films, and our main area of specialty is creating CG environments and populating them. BlueBolt is a privately owned company run by two women, which is pretty rare. They believe in nurturing good talent and training them up to help break through the glass ceiling, if an artist is up for it.

What’s your job title?
I joined as a lead compositor with a view to becoming a 2D supervisor, and now I am one of the studio’s main core VFX supervisors.

What does that entail?
It means I oversee all of the visual effects work for a specific TV show or movie — from script stage to final delivery. That includes working with the director and DP in preproduction to determine what they would like to depict on the screen. We then work out what is possible to shoot practically, or if we need to use visual effects to help out.

I’ll then often be on the set during the shoot to make sure we correctly capture everything we need for post work. I’ll work with the VFX producer to calculate the costs and time scales of the VFX work. Finally, I will creatively lead our team of talented artists to create those rendered images and make sure it all fits in with the show in a visually seamless way.

What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
The staggering amount of time and effort involved by many talented people to create something that an audience should be totally unaware exists. If we have done our job well, the viewers should never notice the work and instead just be enjoying the storytelling.

How long have you been working in VFX?
For around a decade. I started out as a rotoscope artist in 2008 and then became a compositor. I did my first supervisor job back in 2012.

How has the VFX industry changed in the time you’ve been working?
A big shift has been just how much more visual effects work there is on TV shows and how much the standard of that work has improved. It used to be that TV work was looked down on as the poor cousin of feature film work. But shows like Game of Thrones have set audience expectations so much higher now. I worked on nothing but movies for the first part of my career, but the majority of my work now is on TV shows.

Did a particular film inspire you along this path in entertainment?
I grew up on ‘80s sci-fi and horror, so movies like Aliens and The Thing were definitely inspirations. This was back when effects were almost all done practically, so I wanted to get into model-making or prosthetics. The first time I remember being blown away by digital VFX work was seeing Terminator 2 at the cinema. I’ve ended up doing the type of work I dreamed of as a kid, just in a digital form.

Did you go to film school?
No, I actually studied graphic design. I worked for some time doing animation, video editing and motion graphics. I taught myself compositing for commercials using After Effects. But I always had a love of cinema and decided to try and specializing in this area. Almost all of what I’ve learned has been on the job. I think there’s no better training than just throwing yourself at the work, absorbing everything you can from the people around you and just being passionate about what you do.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
Each project has its own unique set of challenges, and every day involves creative problem-solving. I love the process of translating what only exists in someone’s imagination and the journey of creating those images in a way that looks entirely real.

I also love the mix of being at the offices one day creating things that only exist in a virtual world, while the next day I might be on a film set shooting things in the real world. I get to travel to all kinds of random places and get paid to do so!

What’s your least favorite?
There are so many moving parts involved in creating a TV show or movie — so many departments all working together trying to complete the task at hand, as well as factors that are utterly out of your control. You have to have a perfectly clear idea of what needs to be done, but also be able to completely scrap that and come up with another idea at a moment’s notice.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
Something where I can be creative and make things that physically exist. I’m always in awe of people who build and craft things with their hands.

Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
Recent work has included Peaky Blinders, The Last Kingdom and Jamestown, as well as a movie called The Rhythm Section.

What is the project that you are most proud of?
I worked on a movie called Under the Skin a few years ago, which was a very technically and creatively challenging project. It was a very interesting piece of sci-fi that people seem to either love or hate, and everyone I ask seems to have a slightly different interpretation of what it was actually about.

What tools so you use day to day?
Almost exclusively Foundry Nuke. I use it for everything from drawing up concepts to reviewing artists’ work. If there’s functionality that I need from it that doesn’t exist, I’ll just write Python code to add features.

Where do you find inspiration now?
In the real world, if you just spend the time observing it in the right way. I often find myself distracted by how things look in certain light. And Instagram — it’s the perfect social media for me, as it’s just beautiful images, artwork and photography.

What do you do to de-stress from it all?
The job can be quite mentally and creatively draining and you spend a lot of time in dark rooms staring at screens, so I try to do the opposite of that. Anything that involves being outdoors or doing something physical — I find cycling or boxing are good ways to unwind.

I recently went on a paragliding trip in the French Alps, which was great, but I found myself looking at all these beautiful views of sunsets over mountains and just analyzing how the sunlight was interacting with the fog and the atmospheric hazing. Apparently, I can never entirely turn off that part of my brain.

Kent Zambrana joins design house ATK PLN as senior producer

Dallas-based design studio ATK PLN has added Kent Zambrana as senior producer. Zambrana has over a decade of experience in production, overseeing teams of artists working on live action, animation and design projects. Over the years, he has worked at a number of creative shops across the agency and production sides of the business where he developed media campaigns for omni-channel video ecosystems, interactive projects and future tech.

Adds Zambrana, “ATK PLN’s offerings across design, animation and live action fit nicely within my skill set. I’m looking forward to leveraging my production expertise and direct-to-brand and agency perspectives to better serve their clients and continue to grow their offerings.”

Zambrana, who studied radio, television and film at the University of Texas in Austin, started his pro career in Los Angeles, where he spent four years producing work across The Simpsons properties, including the television series, theme park ride, digital platforms and promotional campaigns. He brought that experience with him and returned to Texas where the became a supervising producer at Invodo, building out the video content library of the startup’s digital video platform. He then landed as head of production, producing animation, live action, 2D and 3D work. When the company was acquired by Industrial Color in 2018, he led both the Dallas and Austin offices as senior director of production before joining The Marketing Arm to lead their in-house production shop.

How does Zambrana relax? He can be found rehearsing, recording and performing with his indie pop band, Letting Up Despite Great Faults.

PBS celebrates 50 years with new on-air graphics

LA-based Nathaniel Howe Studios (NHS) has partnered with PBS and creative consultancy Lippincott to create a new on-air graphics package to coincide with the public broadcaster’s updated identity. This includes a refreshed logo, bolder color palette and custom typeface. The new on-air look for PBS — home to shows such as Masterpiece, Nature and Frontline — will roll out throughout 2020 as the network celebrates its 50th anniversary.

PBS looked to NHS to translate its new identity for modern screens while providing brand coherency at both the national and local levels with its 300-plus member stations — the studio called on Adobe’s Creative Suite to create the look. “Nathaniel and his team took our multi-platform vision to heart and developed a broad range of inspired ideas,” says Don Wilcox, VP, multi-platform marketing and content at PBS.

“The design and animation play a supporting role, framing the content and delivering all the key information effortlessly within the new ‘digital-first’ brand architecture,” explains NHS founder/CD Howe, adding that he really enjoyed getting to work with people deeply connected to the PBS brand. “Some of our clients have been with PBS for over 20 years. It was rewarding to serve a brand that is so loved across this country, one that does so much good through storytelling, and to find the balance of respecting its history while subtly evolving for the future. In the process, we also got to meet so many diverse people across the country and help to solve their creative challenges.”

Howe explains that the PBS logo provided the perfect framework to keep the visual system focused while reinforcing the brand in a subtle yet unified way. “Its new flat design also lent itself well to the motion theory behind the package, which favors minimal design elements, gentle key frames and purposeful applications of accent colors to complement the hero PBS blue.”

NHS kicked off this massive project during the early phases of the rebrand strategy, working closely with PBS and Lippincott to help translate the updated identity for digital and broadcast screens. To address the unique needs of PBS’ member stations, a process that included multiple phases of testing and feedback, NHS delivered a customizable Adobe After Effects tool kit and led a nationwide on-boarding process. This included the production of video tutorials and webinars as well as in-studio training programs and presentations for PBS summits and conferences.

“Our greatest challenge was solving almost endless co-branding scenarios within an After Effects toolkit and maintaining balance between unification and local market self-expression,” explains Howe. “This project took place over the course of a year, so we had to keep the focus locked and the fire lit throughout. And we also had to fight off the challenge of adding extra design elements or complexity for the sake of it. Simplicity was the key here.”

According to Howe, the vitals of the PBS rebrand live within a master tool kit that is quick and easy to use for everyone. “The beauty of Lippincott’s minimalistic branding system came into play here as it enabled us to eliminate technical limitations, standardize the graphics creation process, and speed up workflows across the board.”

Howe is no stranger to PBS. For over a decade, he has collaborated with the channel on on-air graphics promos for several Ken Burns documentaries (Jackie Robinson, Prohibition), the Indian Summers series and the PBS Arts Fall Festival. He also helmed the brand refresh of PBS’ long-running anthology series, Great Performances, and sizzle reels for network summits.

“We simply wanted this package to generate excitement around PBS while honoring the integrity of the brand and the value it offers in our cluttered media landscape,” concludes Howe. “As a team, our hearts were aligned from the outset — and as a new father, I was personally inspired by the thought-provoking and educational nature of the content PBS offers to such a broad-reaching audience.”

Alkemy X adds all-female design collective Mighty Oak

Alkemy X has added animation and design collective Mighty Oak to its roster for US commercial representation. Mighty Oak has used its expertise in handmade animation techniques and design combined with live action for brands and networks, including General Electric, Netflix, Luna Bar, HBO, Samsung NBC, Airbnb, Conde Nast, Adult Swim and The New York Times.

Led by CEO/EP Jess Peterson, head of creative talent Emily Collins and CD Michaela Olsen, the collective has garnered over 3 billion online views. Mighty Oak’s first original short film, Under Covers, premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Helmed by Olsen, the quirky stop-motion short features handmade puppets and forced-perspective sets to glimpse into the unsuspecting lives and secrets that rest below the surface of a small town.

“I was immediately struck by the extreme care that Mighty Oak takes on each and every frame of their work,” notes Alkemy X EP Eve Ehrich. “Their handmade style and fresh approach really make for dynamic, memorable animation, regardless of the concept.”

Mighty Oak’s Peterson adds, “We are passionate about collaborating with our clients from the earliest stages, working together to craft original character designs and creating work that is memorable and fun.”

Missing Link, The Lion King among VES Award winners

The Visual Effects Society (VES), the industry’s global professional honorary society, held its 18th Annual VES Awards, the yearly celebration that recognizes outstanding visual effects artistry and innovation in film, animation, television, commercials, video games and special venues.

Comedian Patton Oswalt served as host for the 9th time to the more than 1,000 guests gathered at the Beverly Hilton to celebrate VFX talent in 25 awards categories. The Lion King was named the photoreal feature winner, garnering three awards. Missing Link was named top animated film, winning two awards. The Mandalorian was named best photoreal episode and garnered two awards, with Game of Thrones and Stranger Things 3 also winning two awards each. Hennessy: The Seven Worlds topped the commercial field with two wins.

Andy Serkis presented the VES Award for Creative Excellence to visual effects supervisor Sheena Duggal. Joey King presented the VES Visionary Award to director-producer-screenwriter Roland Emmerich. VFX supervisor Pablo Helman presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to director/producer/screenwriter Martin Scorsese, who accepted via video from New York. Scorsese’s The Irishman also picked up two awards, including Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature.

Presenters also included: directors J.J. Abrams, Jon Favreau, Rian Johnson and Josh Cooley.

Winners of the 18th Annual VES Awards are as follows:

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature

THE LION KING

Robert Legato

Tom Peitzman

Adam Valdez

Andrew R. Jones

 

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature

THE IRISHMAN

Pablo Helman

Mitchell Ferm

Jill Brooks

Leandro Estebecorena

Jeff Brink

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature

MISSING LINK

Brad Schiff

Travis Knight

Steve Emerson

Benoit Dubuc

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode

THE MANDALORIAN; The Child

Richard Bluff

Abbigail Keller

Jason Porter

Hayden Jones

Roy K. Cancino

 

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode

CHERNOBYL; 1:23:45

Max Dennison

Lindsay McFarlane

Clare Cheetham

Paul Jones

Claudius Christian Rauch

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Real-Time Project

Control

Janne Pulkkinen

Elmeri Raitanen

Matti Hämäläinen

James Tottman

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial

Hennessy: The Seven Worlds

Carsten Keller

Selçuk Ergen

Kiril Mirkov

William Laban

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

Jason Bayever

Patrick Kearney

Carol Norton

Bill George

 

Outstanding Animated Character in a Photoreal Feature

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL; Alita

Michael Cozens

Mark Haenga

Olivier Lesaint

Dejan Momcilovic

 

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature

MISSING LINK; Susan

Rachelle Lambden

Brenda Baumgarten

Morgan Hay

Benoit Dubuc

 

Outstanding Animated Character in an Episode or Real-Time Project

STRANGER THINGS 3; Tom/Bruce Monster

Joseph Dubé-Arsenault

Antoine Barthod

Frederick Gagnon

Xavier Lafarge

 

Outstanding Animated Character in a Commercial

Cyberpunk 2077; Dex

Jonas Ekman

Jonas Skoog

Marek Madej

Grzegorz Chojnacki

 

Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature

THE LION KING; The Pridelands

Marco Rolandi

Luca Bonatti

Jules Bodenstein

Filippo Preti

 

Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature

TOY STORY 4; Antiques Mall

Hosuk Chang

Andrew Finley

Alison Leaf

Philip Shoebottom

 

Outstanding Created Environment in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project

GAME OF THRONES; The Iron Throne; Red Keep Plaza

Carlos Patrick DeLeon

Alonso Bocanegra Martinez

Marcela Silva

Benjamin Ross

 

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a CG Project

THE LION KING

Robert Legato

Caleb Deschanel

Ben Grossmann

AJ Sciutto

 

Outstanding Model in a Photoreal or Animated Project

THE MANDALORIAN; The Sin; The Razorcrest

Doug Chiang

Jay Machado

John Goodson

Landis Fields IV

 

Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

Don Wong

Thibault Gauriau

Goncalo Cababca

François-Maxence Desplanques

 

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Animated Feature

FROZEN 2

Erin V. Ramos

Scott Townsend

Thomas Wickes

Rattanin Sirinaruemarn

 

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project

STRANGER THINGS 3; Melting Tom/Bruce

Nathan Arbuckle

Christian Gaumond

James Dong

Aleksandr Starkov

 

Outstanding Compositing in a Feature

THE IRISHMAN

Nelson Sepulveda

Vincent Papaix

Benjamin O’Brien

Christopher Doerhoff

 

Outstanding Compositing in an Episode

GAME OF THRONES; The Long Night; Dragon Ground Battle

Mark Richardson

Darren Christie

Nathan Abbott

Owen Longstaff

 

Outstanding Compositing in a Commercial

Hennessy: The Seven Worlds

Rod Norman

Guillaume Weiss

Alexander Kulikov

Alessandro Granella

 

Outstanding Special (Practical) Effects in a Photoreal or Animated Project

THE DARK CRYSTAL: THE AGE OF RESISTANCE; She Knows All the Secrets

Sean Mathiesen

Jon Savage

Toby Froud

Phil Harvey

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project

THE BEAUTY

Marc Angele

Aleksandra Todorovic

Pascal Schelbli

Noel Winzen

 

VFX-heavy Skyworth OLED TV spot via The-Artery

The-Artery created a spot for Skyworth’s latest version of its W81|W81 Pro Wallpaper OLED TV, which debuted last month at the “See the Wonder” event at CES 2020.

Created using The-Artery‘s newly opened Resolve-based color room and expanded design capabilities —spearheaded by colorist Stephen Picano and design director Lauren Indovina — the commercial features a couple swimming through space-like waters, children battling origami dragons while floating in a paper boat and a traveler treking through snowy tundras while glowing jellyfish float overhead. Publicis, Skyworth’s agency, wanted the ad to reflect “the wonder” of the company’s newest television model.

“The campaign, helmed by director Eli Sverdlov, was very director-led in a way that I’ve never seen before,” explains The-Artery’s EP/MD, Deborah Sullivan. “Of course, there was still ongoing dialogue with the client and agency, but the level of creative control that was entrusted is almost unheard of. Everything was open from start to finish, including the ideation phase, color grading and design — to name a few. Our team had a lot of fun jumping straight into the edit to develop and launch what we consider as a high-end conceptual throwback to the nineties.”

Sverdlov agrees: “Our flexible creative process was in a condensed schedule and required a very unique collaboration. We were practically creating the ideas and visuals while editing and sourcing footage.”

Due to the production’s long shooting schedule and tight deadlines, the visual effects were designed via Autodesk Flame in realtime, all under one roof, while filming took place in Serbia. Additional footage was carefully curated as well as color graded and cut to fit the tone and flow of the rest of the piece. The creature imagery such as the jellyfish was done via CG.

In addition to Flame and Resolve, The-Artery called on SideFX Houdini, Autodesk Maya, Maxon’s RedShift, Otoy’s Octane, Autodesk’s Arnold, Adobe After Effects and Maxon’s Cinema 4D.

Framestore launches FPS preproduction services

VFX studio Framestore has launched FPS (Framestore Pre-production Services) for the global film and content production industries. An expansion of Framestore’s existing capability, FPS is available to clients in need of standalone preproduction support or an end-to-end production solution.

The move builds out and aligns the company’s previz, virtual production, techviz and postviz services with Framestore’s art department (which operates either as part of the Framestore workflow or as a stand-alone creative service), virtual production team and R&D unit, and integrates with the company’s VFX and animation teams. The move builds on work on films such as Gravity and the knowledge gained during the company’s eight-year London joint venture with visualization company The Third Floor. FPS is working on feature film projects as part of an integrated offering and as a standalone visualization partner, with more projects slated in the coming months.

The new team is led by Alex Webster, who joins as FPS managing director after running The Third Floor London. He will report directly to Fiona Walkinshaw, Framestore’s global managing director, film.

“This work aligns Framestore’s singular VFX and animation craft with a granular understanding of the visualization industry,” says Webster. “It marries the company’s extraordinary legacy in VFX with established visualization and emergent virtual production processes, supported by bleeding-edge technology and dedicated R&D resource to inform the nimble approach which our clients need. Consolidating our preproduction services represents a significant creative step forward.”

“Preproduction is a crucial stage for filmmakers,” says chief creative officer Tim Webber. “From mapping out environments to developing creatures and characters to helping plot action sequences it provides unparalleled freedom in terms of seeing how a story unfolds or how characters interact with the worlds we create. Bringing together our technical innovation with an understanding of filmmaking, we want to offer a bespoke service for each film and each individual to help tell compelling, carefully crafted stories.”

“Our clients’ needs are as varied as the projects they bring to us, with some needing a start-to-finish service that begins with concept art and ends in post while others want a bespoke, standalone solution to specific creative challenges, be that in early stage concepting, through layout and visualization or in final animation and VFX” says Framestore CEO William Sargent. “It makes sense to bring all these services in-house — even more so when you consider how our work in adjacent fields like AR, VR and MR has helped the likes of HBO, Marvel and Warner Bros. bring their IP to new, immersive platforms. What we’ll ultimately deliver goes well beyond previz and beyond visualization.”

Main Image: (L-R) Tim Webber, Fiona Walkinshaw and Alex Webster.

Behind the Title: Design director Liron Eldar-Ashkenazi

NAME: Liron Eldar-Ashkenazi  (@iamlirona)

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Design Director

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I help companies execute on their creative hopes and dreams, both hands-on and as a consultant and director.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Educating my clients about the lay of the land when it comes to getting what they want creatively. People typically think coming up with creative concepts is easy and quick. A big part of my job is helping companies see the full scope of taking a project from beginning to end with success while being mindful of timeline and budget.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING IN MOTION GRAPHICS?
I was accepted to the prestigious position of motion graphics artist in the Israeli defense force when I was 18 — all women and men have to serve in the military. It’s now been about 12 years that I’ve been creating and animating.

HOW HAS THE INDUSTRY CHANGED IN THE TIME YOU’VE BEEN WORKING? WHAT’S BEEN GOOD, WHAT’S BEEN BAD?
I see a lot more women 3D artists and animators. It’s so refreshing! It used to be a man’s world and I’m so thrilled to see the shift. Overall, it’s becoming a bit more challenging as screens are changing so fast and there are so many of them. Everything you create has to suit a thousand different use-cases and coming up with the right strategy for that takes longer than it did when we were only thinking in 15’s and 30’s 16:9.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I love that there are so many facets to my work under one title. Coming up with concepts, designing, animating, creating prints and artworks, working with typography is just so much more rewarding than in the days when you only had one job — lighting, texturing, animating, designing. Now an artist is free to do multiple things, and it’s well appreciated.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Long rendering times. I think computers are becoming stronger, but we also demand more and more from them. I still hate sitting and waiting for a computer to show me what I’m working on.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
Morning! I’m a morning person who loves to start early and finish when there’s still light out.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION?
I didn’t really choose it; it chose me.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
At age 16 I knew I would never be great at sitting on my behind and just studying the text. I knew I needed to create in order to succeed. It’s my safe space and what I do best.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Some other form of visual artist, or a psychologist.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Right before I left The-Artery as a design director, where I’d been working the past three years, we created visuals for a really interesting documentary. All the content was created in 3D using Cinema 4D and Octane. We produced about 18 different spots explaining different concepts. My team and I did everything from concept to rendering. It’ll be amazing to see it when it comes out.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
At The-Artery, I was in charge of a really interesting branding project for a Fin-tech company. We created an entire visual language in 3D for their everyday marketing, website, and blog use. All content was designed and rendered using Cinema 4D and it was so great combining a branding exercise with motion graphics to bring all the visuals to life.

YOU HAVE RECENTLY PRESENTED YOUR WORKFLOW AT TRADES SHOWS AND ROAD TOURS. TELL US ABOUT SHARING YOUR WORK PUBLICLY.
I’ve was invited by Maxon, the developers of Cinema 4D, to give a live-demo presentation at SIGGRAPH 2019. It was an exceptional experience, and I received really lovely responses from the community and artists looking to combine more graphic design into their motion graphics and 3D pipeline. I’ve shared some cool methods I’ve developed in Cinema 4D for creating fine-art looks for renders.

PRESENTLY, YOU ARE WORKING AS ARTIST IN RESIDENCE AT FACEBOOK. HOW DID THIS COME ABOUT AND WHAT KIND OF WORK ARE YOU DOING?
Facebook somehow found me. I assume it was through my Instagram account, where I share my wild, creative experiments. The program is a six-week residency at their New York office, where I get to flex my analog muscles and create prints at their Analog lab. In the lab, they have all the art supplies you can ask for along with an amazing Risograph printer. I’ve been creating posters and zines from my 3D rendered illustrations.

WHAT SOFTWARE TOOLS DO YOU USE DAY-TO-DAY?
Maxon Cinema 4D is my primary tool. I design almost everything I create in it, including work that seems to be flat and graphic.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION NOW?
I find talking to people and brainstorming has always been the thing that sparks the most creativity in me. Solving problems is another way I tackle every design assignment. I always need to figure out what needs to be fixed, be better or change completely, and that’s what I find most inspires me to create.

THIS IS A HIGH-STRESS JOB WITH DEADLINES AND CLIENT EXPECTATIONS. WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Planning is critical for me to feel confident about projects and helps me avoid stress in general. Giving my work 100% and not promising any false expectations to my clients also helps limit stress. It’s key to be honest from the get-go if I think something wouldn’t work in the timeline, or if late changes would hurt the final product. If I do get to a point that I’m really stressed, I find that running, going out dancing or dancing to my favorite music at home, and generally listening to music are all helpful.

Picture Shop VFX acquires Denmark’s Ghost VFX

Burbank’s Picture Shop VFX has acquired Denmark’s Ghost VFX. This Copenhagen-base studio, founded in 1999, provides high-end visual work for film, television and several streaming platforms. The move helps Picture Shop “increase its services worldwide and broaden its talent and expertise,” according to Picture Shop VFX’s president Tom Kendall.

Over the years, Ghost has contributed to more than 70 feature films and titles. Some of Ghost’s work includes Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, The Mandalorian, The Walking Dead, See, Black Panther and Star Trek Discovery.

“As we continue to expand our VFX footprint into the international market, I am extremely excited to have Ghost join Picture Shop VFX,” says Bill Romeo, president of Picture Head Holdings.

Christensen says the studio takes up three floors and 13,000 square feet in a “vintage and beautifully renovated office building” in Copenhagen. Their main tools are Autodesk Maya, Foundry Nuke and SideFX Houdini.

“We are really looking forward to a tight-nit collaboration with all the VFX teams in the Picture Shop group,” says Christensen. “Right now Ghost will continue servicing current clients and projects, but we’re really looking forward to exploring the massive potential of being part of a larger and international family.”

Picture Shop VFX is a division of Picture Head Holdings. Picture Head Holdings has locations in Los Angeles, Vancouver, the United Kingdom, and Denmark.

Main Image: Ghost artists at work.

Conductor Companion app targets VFX boutiques and freelancers

Conductor Technologies has introduced Conductor Companion, a desktop app designed to simplify the use of the cloud-based rendering service. Tailored for boutique studios and freelance artists, Companion streamlines the Conductor on-ramp and rendering experience, allowing users to easily manage and download files, write commands and handle custom submissions or plug-ins from their laptops or workstations. Along with this release, Conductor has added initial support for Blender creative software.

“Conductor was originally designed to meet the needs of larger VFX studios, focusing our efforts on maximizing efficiency and scalability when many artists simultaneously leverage the platform and optimizing how Conductor hooks into those pipelines,” explains CEO Mac Moore. “As Conductor’s user base has grown, we’ve been blown away by the number of freelance artists and small studios that have come to us for help, each of which has their own unique needs. Conductor Companion is a nod to that community, bringing all the functionality and massive render resource scale of Conductor into a user-friendly app, so that artists can focus on content creation versus pipeline management. And given that focus, it was a no-brainer to add Blender support, and we are eager to serve the passionate users of that product.”

Moore reports that this app will be the foundation of Conductor’s Intelligence Hub in the near future, “acting as a gateway to more advanced functionality like Shot Analytics and Intelligent Bid Assist. These features will leverage AI and Conductor’s cloud knowledge to help owners and freelancers make more informed business decisions as it pertains to project-to-project rendering financials.”

Conductor Companion is currently in public beta. You can download the app here.

In addition to Blender, applications currently supported by Conductor include Autodesk Maya and Arnold; Foundry’s Nuke, Cara VR, Katana, Modo and Ocula; Chaos Group’s V-Ray; Pixar’s RenderMan; Isotropix’s Clarisse; Golaem; Ephere’s Ornatrix; Yeti; and Miarmy.

The Mill opens boutique studio in Berlin

Technicolor’s The Mill has officially launched in Berlin. This new boutique studio is located in the heart of Berlin, situated in the creative hub of Mitte, near many of Germany’s agencies, production companies and brands.

The Mill has been working with German clients for years. Recent projects include the Mercedes’ Bertha Benz spot with director Sebastian Strasser; Netto’s The Easter Surprise, directed in-house by The Mill; and BMW The 8 with director Daniel Wolfe. The new studio will bring The Mill’s full range of creative services from color to experiential and interactive, as well as visual effects and design.

The Mill Berlin crew

Creative director Greg Spencer will lead the creative team. He is a multi-award winning creative, having won several VES, Cannes Lions and British Arrow awards. His recent projects include Carlsberg’s The Lake, PlayStation’s This Could Be You and Eve Cuddly Toy. Spencer also played a role in some of Mill Film’s major titles. He was the 2D supervisor for Les Misérables and also worked on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. His resume also includes campaigns for brands such as Nike and Samsung.

Executive producer Justin Stiebel moves from The Mill London, where he has been since early 2014, to manage client relationships and new business. Since joining the company, Stiebel has produced spots such as Audi’s Next Level and the Mini’s “The Faith of a Few” campaign. He has also collaborated with directors such as Sebastian Strasser, Markus Walter and Daniel Wolfe while working on brands like Mercedes, Audi and BMW.

Sean Costelloe is managing director of The Mill London and The Mill Berlin.

Main Image Caption: (L-R) Justin Stiebel and Greg Spencer

VES Awards: The Lion King and Alita earn five noms each

The Visual Effects Society (VES) has announced its nominees for the 18th Annual VES Awards, which recognize outstanding visual effects artistry and innovation in film, animation, television, commercials and video games and the VFX supervisors, VFX producers and hands-on artists who bring this work to life. Alita: Battle Angel and The Lion King both have five nominations each; Toy Story 4 is the top animated film contender with five nominations, and Game of Thrones and The Mandalorian tie to lead the broadcast field with six nominations each.

Nominees in 25 categories were selected by VES members via events hosted by 11 VES sections, including Australia, the Bay Area, Germany, London, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, New Zealand, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington.

The VES Awards will be held on January 29 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The VES Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Academy, DGA and Emmy-Award winning director-producer-screenwriter Martin Scorsese. The VES Visionary Award will be presented to director-producer-screenwriter Roland Emmerich. And the VES Award for Creative Excellence will be given to visual effects supervisor Sheena Duggal. Award-winning actor-comedian-author Patton Oswalt will once again host the event.

The nominees for the 18th Annual VES Awards in 25 categories are:

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature

 

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL

Richard Hollander

Kevin Sherwood

Eric Saindon

Richard Baneham

Bob Trevino

 

AVENGERS: ENDGAME

Daniel DeLeeuw

Jen Underdahl

Russell Earl

Matt Aitken

Daniel Sudick

 

GEMINI MAN

Bill Westenhofer

Karen Murphy-Mundell

Guy Williams

Sheldon Stopsack

Mark Hawker

 

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

Roger Guyett

Stacy Bissell

Patrick Tubach

Neal Scanlan

Dominic Tuohy

 

THE LION KING

Robert Legato

Tom Peitzman

Adam Valdez

Andrew R. Jones

 

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature

 

1917

Guillaume Rocheron

Sona Pak

Greg Butler

Vijay Selvam

Dominic Tuohy

 

FORD V FERRARI

Olivier Dumont

Kathy Siegel

Dave Morley

Malte Sarnes

Mark Byers

 

JOKER

Edwin Rivera

Brice Parker

Mathew Giampa

Bryan Godwin

Jeff Brink

 

THE AERONAUTS

Louis Morin

Annie Godin

Christian Kaestner

Ara Khanikian

Mike Dawson

 

THE IRISHMAN

Pablo Helman

Mitch Ferm

Jill Brooks

Leandro Estebecorena

Jeff Brink

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature

 

FROZEN 2

Steve Goldberg

Peter Del Vecho

Mark Hammel

Michael Giaimo

 

KLAUS

Sergio Pablos

Matthew Teevan

Marcin Jakubowski

Szymon Biernacki

 

MISSING LINK

Brad Schiff

Travis KnightSteve Emerson

Benoit Dubuc

 

THE LEGO MOVIE 2

David Burgess

Tim Smith

Mark Theriault

John Rix

 

TOY STORY 4

Josh Cooley

Mark Nielsen

Bob Moyer

Gary Bruins

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode

 

GAME OF THRONES; The Bells

Joe Bauer

Steve Kullback

Ted Rae

Mohsen Mousavi

Sam Conway

 

HIS DARK MATERIALS; The Fight to the Death

Russell Dodgson

James Whitlam

Shawn Hillier

Robert Harrington

 

LADY AND THE TRAMP

Robert Weaver

Christopher Raimo

Arslan Elver

Michael Cozens

Bruno Van Zeebroeck

 

LOST IN SPACE – Episode: Ninety-Seven

Jabbar Raisani

Terron Pratt

Niklas Jacobson

Juri Stanossek

Paul Benjamin

 

STRANGER THINGS – Chapter Six: E Pluribus Unum

Paul Graff

Tom Ford

Michael Maher Jr.

Martin Pelletier

Andy Sowers

 

THE MANDALORIAN; The Child

Richard Bluff

Abbigail Keller

Jason Porter

Hayden Jones

Roy Cancinon

 

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode

 

CHERNOBYL; 1:23:45

Max Dennison

Lindsay McFarlane

Clare Cheetham

Paul Jones

Claudius Christian Rauch

 

LIVING WITH YOURSELF; Nice Knowing You

Jay Worth

Jacqueline VandenBussche

Chris Wright

Tristan Zerafa

 

SEE; Godflame

Adrian de Wet

Eve Fizzinoglia

Matthew Welford

Pedro Sabrosa

Tom Blacklock

 

THE CROWN; Aberfan

Ben Turner

Reece Ewing

David Fleet

Jonathan Wood

 

VIKINGS; What Happens in the Cave

Dominic Remane

Mike Borrett

Ovidiu Cinazan

Tom Morrison

Paul Byrne

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Real-Time Project

 

Call of Duty Modern Warfare

Charles Chabert

Chris Parise

Attila Zalanyi

Patrick Hagar

 

Control

Janne Pulkkinen

Elmeri Raitanen

Matti Hämäläinen

James Tottman

 

Gears 5

Aryan Hanbeck

Laura Kippax

Greg Mitchell

Stu Maxwell

 

Myth: A Frozen Tale

Jeff Gipson

Nicholas Russell

Brittney Lee

Jose Luis Gomez Diaz

 

Vader Immortal: Episode I

Ben Snow

Mike Doran

Aaron McBride

Steve Henricks

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial

 

Anthem Conviction

Viktor Muller

Lenka Likarova

Chris Harvey

Petr Marek

 

BMW Legend

Michael Gregory

Christian Downes

Tim Kafka

Toya Drechsler

 

Hennessy: The Seven Worlds

Carsten Keller

Selcuk Ergen

Kiril Mirkov

William Laban

 

PlayStation: Feel The Power of Pro

Sam Driscoll

Clare Melia

Gary Driver

Stefan Susemihl

 

Purdey’s: Hummingbird

Jules Janaud

Emma Cook

Matthew Thomas

Philip Child

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project

 

Avengers: Damage Control

Michael Koperwas

Shereif Fattouh

Ian Bowie

Kishore Vijay

Curtis Hickman

 

Jurassic World: The Ride

Hayden Landis

Friend Wells

Heath Kraynak

Ellen Coss

 

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run

Asa Kalama

Rob Huebner

Khatsho Orfali

Susan Greenhow

 

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

Jason Bayever

Patrick Kearney

Carol Norton

Bill George

 

Universal Sphere

James Healy

Morgan MacCuish

Ben West

Charlie Bayliss

 

Outstanding Animated Character in a Photoreal Feature

 

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL; Alita

Michael Cozens

Mark Haenga

Olivier Lesaint

Dejan Momcilovic

 

AVENGERS: ENDGAME; Smart Hulk

Kevin Martel

Ebrahim Jahromi

Sven Jensen

Robert Allman

 

GEMINI MAN; Junior

Paul Story

Stuart Adcock

Emiliano Padovani

Marco Revelant

 

THE LION KING; Scar

Gabriel Arnold

James Hood

Julia Friedl

Daniel Fortheringham

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature

 

FROZEN 2; The Water Nøkk

Svetla Radivoeva

Marc Bryant

Richard E. Lehmann

Cameron Black

 

KLAUS; Jesper

Yoshimishi Tamura

Alfredo Cassano

Maxime Delalande

Jason Schwartzman

 

MISSING LINK; Susan

Rachelle Lambden

Brenda Baumgarten

Morgan Hay

Benoit Dubuc

 

TOY STORY 4; Bo Peep

Radford Hurn

Tanja Krampfert

George Nguyen

Becki Rocha Tower

 

Outstanding Animated Character in an Episode or Real-Time Project

 

LADY AND THE TRAMP; Tramp

Thiago Martins

Arslan Elver

Stanislas Paillereau

Martine Chartrand

 

STRANGER THINGS 3; Tom/Bruce Monster

Joseph Dubé-Arsenault

Antoine Barthod

Frederick Gagnon

Xavier Lafarge

 

THE MANDALORIAN; The Child; Mudhorn

Terry Bannon

Rudy Massar

Hugo Leygnac

 

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY; Pilot; Pogo

Aidan Martin

Craig Young

Olivier Beierlein

Laurent Herveic

 

Outstanding Animated Character in a Commercial

 

Apex Legends; Meltdown; Mirage

Chris Bayol

John Fielding

Derrick Sesson

Nole Murphy

 

Churchill; Churchie

Martino Madeddu

Philippe Moine

Clement Granjon

Jon Wood

 

Cyberpunk 2077; Dex

Jonas Ekman

Jonas Skoog

Marek Madej

Grzegorz Chojnacki

 

John Lewis; Excitable Edgar; Edgar

Tim van Hussen

Diarmid Harrison-Murray

Amir Bazzazi

Michael Diprose

 

 

Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature

 

ALADDIN; Agrabah

Daniel Schmid

Falk Boje

Stanislaw Marek

Kevin George

 

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL; Iron City

John Stevenson-Galvin

Ryan Arcus

Mathias Larserud

Mark Tait

 

MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN; Penn Station

John Bair

Vance Miller

Sebastian Romero

Steve Sullivan

 

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER; Pasaana Desert

Daniele Bigi

Steve Hardy

John Seru

Steven Denyer

 

THE LION KING; The Pridelands

Marco Rolandi

Luca Bonatti

Jules Bodenstein

Filippo Preti

 

 

Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature

 

FROZEN 2; Giants’ Gorge

Samy Segura

Jay V. Jackson

Justin Cram

Scott Townsend

 

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD; The Hidden World

Chris Grun

Ronnie Cleland

Ariel Chisholm

Philippe Brochu

 

MISSING LINK; Passage to India Jungle

Oliver Jones

Phil Brotherton

Nick Mariana

Ralph Procida

 

TOY STORY 4; Antiques Mall

Hosuk Chang

Andrew Finley

Alison Leaf

Philip Shoebottom

 

 

Outstanding Created Environment in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project

 

GAME OF THRONES; The Iron Throne; Red Keep Plaza

Carlos Patrick DeLeon

Alonso Bocanegra Martinez

Marcela Silva

Benjamin Ross

 

LOST IN SPACE; Precipice; The Trench

Philip Engström

Benjamin Bernon

Martin Bergquist

Xuan Prada

 

THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE; The Endless Forest

Sulé Bryan

Charles Chorein

Christian Waite

Martyn Hawkins

 

THE MANDALORIAN; Nevarro Town

Alex Murtaza

Yanick Gaudreau

Marco Tremblay

Maryse Bouchard

 

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a CG Project

 

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL

Emile Ghorayeb

Simon Jung

Nick Epstein

Mike Perry

 

THE LION KING

Robert Legato

Caleb Deschanel

Ben Grossmann

AJ Sciutto

 

THE MANDALORIAN; The Prisoner; The Roost

Richard Bluff

Jason Porter

Landis Fields IV

Baz Idione

 

 

TOY STORY 4

Jean-Claude Kalache

Patrick Lin

 

Outstanding Model in a Photoreal or Animated Project

 

LOST IN SPACE; The Resolute

Xuan Prada

Jason Martin

Jonathan Vårdstedt

Eric Andersson

 

MISSING LINK; The Manchuria

Todd Alan Harvey

Dan Casey

Katy Hughes

 

THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE; Rocket Train

Neil Taylor

Casi Blume

Ben McDougal

Chris Kuhn

 

THE MANDALORIAN; The Sin; The Razorcrest

Doug Chiang

Jay Machado

John Goodson

Landis Fields IV

 

Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature

 

DUMBO; Bubble Elephants

Sam Hancock

Victor Glushchenko

Andrew Savchenko

Arthur Moody

 

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME; Molten Man

Adam Gailey

Jacob Santamaria

Jacob Clark

Stephanie Molk

 

 

 

 

 

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

Don Wong

Thibault Gauriau

Goncalo Cababca

Francois-Maxence Desplanques

 

THE LION KING

David Schneider

Samantha Hiscock

Andy Feery

Kostas Strevlos

 

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Animated Feature

 

ABOMINABLE

Alex Timchenko

Domin Lee

Michael Losure

Eric Warren

 

FROZEN 2

Erin V. Ramos

Scott Townsend

Thomas Wickes

Rattanin Sirinaruemarn

 

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD; Water and Waterfalls

Derek Cheung

Baptiste Van Opstal

Youxi Woo

Jason Mayer

 

TOY STORY 4

Alexis Angelidis

Amit Baadkar

Lyon Liew

Michael Lorenzen

 

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project

 

GAME OF THRONES; The Bells

Marcel Kern

Paul Fuller

Ryo Sakaguchi

Thomas Hartmann

 

Hennessy: The Seven Worlds

Selcuk Ergen

Radu Ciubotariu

Andreu Lucio

Vincent Ullmann

 

LOST IN SPACE; Precipice; Water Planet

Juri Bryan

Hugo Medda

Kristian Olsson

John Perrigo

 

STRANGER THINGS 3; Melting Tom/Bruce

Nathan Arbuckle

Christian Gaumond

James Dong

Aleksandr Starkov

 

THE MANDALORIAN; The Child; Mudhorn

Xavier Martin Ramirez

Ian Baxter

Fabio Siino

Andrea Rosa

 

Outstanding Compositing in a Feature

 

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL

Adam Bradley

Carlo Scaduto

Hirofumi Takeda

Ben Roberts

 

AVENGERS: ENDGAME

Tim Walker

Blake Winder

Tobias Wiesner

Joerg Bruemmer

 

CAPTAIN MARVEL; Young Nick Fury

Trent Claus

David Moreno Hernandez

Jeremiah Sweeney

Yuki Uehara

 

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

Jeff Sutherland

John Galloway

Sam Bassett

Charles Lai

 

THE IRISHMAN

Nelson Sepulveda

Vincent Papaix

Benjamin O’Brien

Christopher Doerhoff

 

 

Outstanding Compositing in an Episode

 

GAME OF THRONES; The Bells

Sean Heuston

Scott Joseph

James Elster

Corinne Teo

 

GAME OF THRONES; The Long Night; Dragon Ground Battle

Mark Richardson

Darren Christie

Nathan Abbott

Owen Longstaff

 

STRANGER THINGS 3; Starcourt Mall Battle

Simon Lehembre

Andrew Kowbell

Karim El-Masry

Miklos Mesterhazy

 

WATCHMEN; Pilot; Looking Glass

Nathaniel Larouche

Iyi Tubi

Perunika Yorgova

Mitchell Beaton

 

Outstanding Compositing in a Commercial

 

BMW Legend

Toya Drechsler

Vivek Tekale

Guillaume Weiss

Alexander Kulikov

 

Feeding America; I Am Hunger in America

Dan Giraldo

Marcelo Pasqualino

Alexander Koester

 

Hennessy; The Seven Worlds

Rod Norman

Guillaume Weiss

Alexander Kulikov

Alessandro Granella

 

PlayStation: Feel the Power of Pro

Gary Driver

Stefan Susemihl

Greg Spencer

Theajo Dharan

 

Outstanding Special (Practical) Effects in a Photoreal or Animated Project

 

ALADDIN; Magic Carpet

Mark Holt

Jay Mallet

Will Wyatt

Dickon Mitchell

 

GAME OF THRONES; The Bells

Sam Conway

Terry Palmer

Laurence Harvey

Alastair Vardy

 

TERMINATOR: DARK FATE

Neil Corbould

David Brighton

Ray Ferguson

Keith Dawson

 

THE DARK CRYSTAL: THE AGE OF RESISTANCE; She Knows All the Secrets

Sean Mathiesen

Jon Savage

Toby Froud

Phil Harvey

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project

 

DOWNFALL

Matias Heker

Stephen Moroz

Bradley Cocksedge

 

LOVE AND FIFTY MEGATONS

Denis Krez

Josephine Roß

Paulo Scatena

Lukas Löffler

 

OEIL POUR OEIL

Alan Guimont

Thomas Boileau

Malcom Hunt

Robin Courtoise

 

THE BEAUTY

Marc Angele

Aleksandra Todorovic

Pascal Schelbli

Noel Winzen

 

 

Recreating the Vatican and Sistine Chapel for Netflix’s The Two Popes

The Two Popes, directed by Fernando Meirelles, stars Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as current pontiff Pope Francis in a story about one of the most dramatic transitions of power in the Catholic Church’s history. The film follows a frustrated Cardinal Bergoglio (the future Pope Francis) who in 2012 requests permission from Pope Benedict to retire because of his issues with the direction of the church. Instead, facing scandal and self-doubt, the introspective Benedict summons his harshest critic and future successor to Rome to reveal a secret that would shake the foundations of the Catholic Church.

London’s Union was approached in May 2017 and supervised visual effects on location in Argentina and Italy over several months. A large proportion of the film takes place within the walls of Vatican City. The Vatican was not involved in the production and the team had very limited or no access to some of the key locations.

Under the direction of production designer Mark Tildesley, the production replicated parts of the Vatican at Rome’s Cinecitta Studios, including a life-size, open ceiling, Sistine Chapel, which took two months to build.

The team LIDAR-scanned everything available and set about amassing as much reference material as possible — photographing from a permitted distance, scanning the set builds and buying every photographic book they could lay their hands on.

From this material, the team set about building 3D models — created in Autodesk Maya — of St. Peter’s Square, the Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. The environments team was tasked with texturing all of these well-known locations using digital matte painting techniques, including recreating Michelangelo’s masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

The story centers on two key changes of pope in 2005 and 2013. Those events attracted huge attention, filling St. Peter’s Square with people eager to discover the identity of the new pope and celebrate his ascension. News crews from around the world also camp out to provide coverage for the billions of Catholics all over the world.

To recreate these scenes, the crew shot at a school in Rome (Ponte Mammolo) that has the same pattern on its floor. A cast of 300 extras was shot in blocks in different positions at different times of day, with costume tweaks including the addition of umbrellas to build a library that would provide enough flexibility during post to recreate these moments at different times of day and in different weather conditions.

Union also called on Clear Angle Studios to individually scan 50 extras to provide additional options for the VFX team. This was an ambitious crowd project, so the team couldn’t shoot in the location, and the end result had to stand up at 4K in very close proximity to the camera. Union designed a Houdini-based system to deal with the number of assets and clothing in such a way that the studio could easily art-direct them as individuals, allow the director to choreograph them and deliver a believable result.

Union conducted several motion capture shoots inhouse at Union to provide some specific animation cycles that married with the occasions they were recreating. This provided even more authentic-looking crowds for the post team.

Union worked on a total of 288 VFX shots, including greenscreens, set extensions, window reflections, muzzle flashes, fog and rain and a storm that included a lightning strike on the Basilica.

In addition, the team did a significant amount of de-aging work to accommodate the film’s eight-year main narrative timeline as well as a long period in Pope Francis’ younger years.

Maxon and Red Giant to merge

Maxon, developers of pro 3D software solutions, and Red Giant, makers of tools for editors, VFX artists, and motion designers, have agreed to merge under the media and entertainment division of Nemetschek Group. The transaction is expected to close in January 2020, subject to regulatory approval and customary closing conditions.

Maxon, best known for its 3D product Cinema 4D, was formed in 1986 to provide high-end yet accessible 3D software solutions. Artists across the globe rely on Maxon products to create high-end visuals. In April of this year, Maxon acquired Redshift, developer of the GPU-accelerated Redshift render engine.

Since 2002, Red Giant has built its brand through products such as Trapcode, Magic Bullet, Universe, PluralEyes and its line of visual effects software. Its tools are used in the fields of film, broadcast and advertising.

The two companies provide tools for companies including ABC, CBS, NBC, HBO, BBC, Sky, Fox Networks, Turner Broadcasting, NFL Network, WWE, Viacom, Netflix, ITV Creative, Discovery Channel, MPC, Digital Domain, VDO, Sony, Universal, The Walt Disney Company, Blizzard Entertainment, BMW, Facebook, Apple, Google, Vitra, Nike and many more.

Main Photo: L-R: Maxon CEO Dave McGavran and Red Giant CEP Chad Bechert

Shape+Light VFX boutique opens in LA with Trent, Lehr at helm


Visual effects and design studio boutique Shape+Light has officially launched in Santa Monica. At the helm is managing director/creative director Rob Trent and executive producer Cara Lehr. Shape+Light provides visual effects, design and finishing services for agency and brand-direct clients. The studio, which has been quietly operating since this summer, has already delivered work for Nike, Apple, Gatorade, Lexus and Proctor & Gamble.

Gatorade

Trent is no stranger to running VFX boutiques. An industry veteran, he began his career as a Flame artist, working at studios including Imaginary Forces and Digital Domain, and then at Asylum VFX as a VFX supervisor/creative director before co-founding The Mission VFX in 2010. In 2015, he established Saint Studio. During his career he has worked on big campaigns, including the launch of the Apple iPhone with David Fincher, celebrating the NFL with Nike and Michael Mann, and honoring moms with Alma Har’el and P&G for the Olympics. He has also contributed to award-winning feature films such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Minority Report, X-Men and Zodiac.

Lehr is an established VFX producer with over 20 years of experience in both commercials and features. She has worked for many of LA’s leading VFX studios, including Zoic Studios, Asylum VFX, Digital Domain, Brickyard VFX and Psyop. She most recently served as EP at Method Studios, where she was on staff since 2012. She has worked on ad campaigns for brands including Apple, Microsoft, Nike, ESPN, Coca Cola, Taco Bell, AT&T, the NBA, Chevrolet and more.

Maya 2020 and Arnold 6 now available from Autodesk

Autodesk has released Autodesk Maya 2020 and Arnold 6 with Arnold GPU. Maya 2020 brings animators, modelers, riggers and technical artists a host of new tools and improvements for CG content creation, while Arnold 6 allows for production rendering on both the CPU and GPU.

Maya 2020 adds more than 60 new updates, as well as performance enhancements and new simulation features to Bifrost, the visual programming environment in Maya.

Maya 2020

Release highlights include:

— Over 60 animation features and updates to the graph editor and time slider.
— Cached Playback: New preview modes, layered dynamics caching and more efficient caching of image planes.
— Animation bookmarks: Mark, organize and navigate through specific events in time and frame playback ranges.
— Bifrost for Maya: Performance improvements, Cached Playback support and new MPM cloth constraints.
— Viewport improvements: Users can interact with and select dense geometry or a large number of smaller meshes faster in the viewport and UV editors.
— Modeling enhancements: New Remesh and Retopologize features.
— Rigging improvements: Matrix-driven workflows, nodes for precisely tracking positions on deforming geometry and a new GPU-accelerated wrap deformer.

The Arnold GPU is based on Nvidia’s OptiX framework and takes advantage of Nvidia RTX technology. Arnold 6 highlights include:

— Unified renderer— Toggle between CPU and GPU rendering.
— Lights, cameras and More— Support for OSL, OpenVDB volumes, on-demand texture loading, most LPEs, lights, shaders and all cameras.
— Reduced GPU noise— Comparable to CPU noise levels when using adaptive sampling, which has been improved to yield faster, more predictable results regardless of the renderer used.
— Optimized for Nvidia RTX hardware— Scale up rendering power when production demands it.
— New USD components— Hydra render delegate, Arnold USD procedural and USD schemas for Arnold nodes and properties are now available on GitHub.

Arnold 6

— Performance improvements— Faster creased subdivisons, an improved Physical Sky shader and dielectric microfacet multiple scattering.

Maya 2020 and Arnold 6 are available now as standalone subscriptions or with a collection of end-to-end creative tools within the Autodesk Media & Entertainment Collection. Monthly, annual and three-year single-user subscriptions of Arnold are available on the Autodesk e-store.

Arnold GPU is also available to try with a free 30-day trial of Arnold 6. Arnold GPU is available in all supported plug-ins for Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3ds Max, SideFX Houdini, Maxon Cinema 4D and Foundry Katana.

Reallusion’s Headshot plugin for realistic digi-doubles via AI

Reallusion has introduced a plugin for Character Creator 3 to help create realistic-looking digital doubles. According to the company, the Headshot plugin uses AI technology to automatically generate a digital human in minutes from one single photo, and those characters are fully rigged for voice lipsync, facial expression and full body animation.

Headshot allows game developers and virtual production teams to quickly funnel a cast of digital doubles into iClone, Unreal, Unity, Maya, ZBrush and more. The idea is to allow the digital humans to go anywhere they like and give creators a solution to rapidly develop, iterate and collaborate in realtime.

The plugin has two AI modes: Auto Mode and Pro Mode. Auto Mode is a one-click solution for creating mid-rez digital human crowds. This process allows one-click head and hair creation for realtime 3D head models. It also generates a separate 3D hair mesh with alpha mask to soften edge lines. The 3D hair is fully compatible with Character Creator’s conformable hair format (.ccHair). Users can add them into their hair library, and apply them to other CC characters.

Headshot Pro Mode offers full control of the 3D head generation process with advanced features such as Image Matching, Photo Reprojection and Custom Mask with up to 4,096-texture resolution.

The Image Matching Tool overlays an image reference plane for advanced head shape refinement and lens correction. With Photo Reprojection, users can easily fix the texture-to-mesh discrepancies resulting from face morph change.

Using high-rez source images and Headshot’s 1,000-plus morphs, users can get a scan-quality digital human face in 4K texture details. Additional textures include normal, AO, roughness, metallic, SSS and Micro Normal for more realistic digital human rendering.

The 3D Head Morph System is designed to achieve the professional and detailed look of 3D scan models. The 3D sculpting design allow users to hover over a control area and use directional mouse drags to adjust the corresponding mesh shape, from full head and face sculpting to individual features — head contour, face, eyes, nose, mouth and ears with more than 1,000 head morphs. It is now free with a purchase of the Headshot plugin.

The Headshot plugin for Character Creator is $199 and comes with the content pack Headshot Morph 1,000+ ($99). Character Creator 3 Pipeline costs $199.

Redshift integrates Cinema 4D noises, nodes and more

Maxon and Redshift Rendering Technologies have released Redshift 3.0.12, which has native support for Cinema 4D noises and deeper integration with Cinema 4D, including the option to define materials using Cinema 4D’s native node-based material system.

Cinema 4D noise effects have been in demand within other 3D software packages because of their flexibility, efficiency and look. Native support in Redshift means that users of other DCC applications can now access Cinema 4D noises by using Redshift as their rendering solution. Procedural noise allows artists to easily add surface detail and randomness to otherwise perfect surfaces. Cinema 4D offers 32 different types of noise and countless variations based on settings. Native support for Cinema 4D noises means Redshift can preserve GPU memory while delivering high-quality rendered results.

Redshift 3.0.12 provides content creators deeper integration of Redshift within Cinema 4D. Redshift materials can now be defined using Cinema 4D’s nodal material framework, introduced in Release 20. As well, Redshift materials can use the Node Space system introduced in Release 21, which combines the native nodes of multiple render engines into a single material. Redshift is the first to take advantage of the new API in Cinema 4D to implement its own Node Spaces. Users can now also use any Cinema 4D view panel as a Redshift IPR (interactive preview render) window, making it easier to work within compact layouts and interact with a scene while developing materials and lighting.

Redshift 3.0.12 is immediately available from the Redshift website.

Maxon acquired RedShift in April of 2019.

London’s Freefolk beefs up VFX team

Soho-based visual effects studio Freefolk, which has seen growth in its commercials and longform work, has grown its staff to meet this demand. As part of the uptick in work, Freefolk promoted Cheryl Payne from senior producer to head of commercial production. Additionally, Laura Rickets has joined as senior producer, and 2D artist Bradley Cocksedge has been added to the commercials VFX team.

Payne, who has been with Freefolk since the early days, has worked on some of the studio’s biggest commercials, including; Warburtons for Engine, Peloton for Dark Horses and Cadburys for VCCP.

Rickets comes to Freefolk with over 18 years of production experience working at some of the biggest VFX houses in London, including Framestore, The Mill and Smoke & Mirrors, as well as agency side for McCann. Since joining the team, Rickets has VFX-produced work on the I’m A Celebrity IDs, a set of seven technically challenging and CG-heavy spots for the new series of the show as well as ads for the Rugby World Cup and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.

Cocksedge is a recent graduate who joins from Framestore, where he was working as an intern on Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. While in school at the University of Hertfordshire, he interned at Freefolk and is happy to be back in a full-time position.

“We’ve had an exciting year and have worked on some really stand-out commercials, like TransPennine for Engine and the beautiful spot for The Guardian we completed with Uncommon, so we felt it was time to add to the Freefolk family,” says Fi Kilroe, Freefolk’s co-managing director/executive producer.

Main Image: (L-R) Cheryl Payne, Laura Rickets and Bradley Cocksedge

Alkemy X adds Albert Mason as head of production

Albert Mason has joined VFX house Alkemy X as head of production. He comes to Alkemy X with over two decades of experience in visual effects and post production. He has worked on projects directed by such industry icons as Peter Jackson on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Tim Burton on Alice in Wonderland and Robert Zemeckis on The Polar Express. In his new role at Alkemy X, he will use his experience in feature films to target the growing episodic space.

A large part of Alkemy X’s work has been for episodic visual effects, with credits that include Amazon Prime’s Emmy-winning original series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, USA’s Mr. Robot, AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, Netflix’s Maniac, NBC’s Blindspot and Starz’s Power.

Mason began his career at MTV’s on-air promos department, sharpening his production skills on top series promo campaigns and as a part of its newly launched MTV Animation Department. He took an opportunity to transition into VFX, stepping into a production role for Weta Digital and spending three years working globally on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He then joined Sony Pictures Imageworks, where he contributed to features including Spider-Man 3 and Ghost Rider. He has also produced work for such top industry shops as Logan, Rising Sun Pictures and Greymatter VFX.

“[Albert’s] expertise in constructing advanced pipelines that embrace emerging technologies will be invaluable to our team as we continue to bolster our slate of VFX work,” says Alkemy X president/CEO Justin Wineburgh.

Carbon New York grows with three industry vets

Carbon in New York has grown with two senior hires — executive producer Nick Haynes and head of CG Frank Grecco — and the relocation of existing ECD Liam Chapple, who joins from the Chicago office.

Chapple joined Carbon in 2016, moving from Mainframe in London to open Carbon’s Chicago facility.  He brought in clients such as Porsche, Lululemon, Jeep, McDonald’s, and Facebook. “I’ve always looked to the studios, designers and directors in New York as the high bar, and now I welcome the opportunity to pitch against them. There is an amazing pool of talent in New York, and the city’s energy is a magnet for artists and creatives of all ilk. I can’t wait to dive into this and look forward to expanding upon our amazing team of artists and really making an impression in such a competitive and creative market.”

Chapple recently wrapped direction and VFX on films for Teflon and American Express (Ogilvy) and multiple live-action projects for Lululemon. The most recent shoot, conceived and directed by Chapple, was a series of eight live-action films focusing on Lululemon’s brand ambassadors and its new flagship store in Chicago.

Haynes joins Carbon from his former role as EP of MPC, bringing over 20 years of experience earned at The Mill, MPC and Absolute. Haynes recently wrapped the launch film for the Google Pixel phone and the Chromebook, as well as an epic Middle Earth: Shadow of War Monolith Games trailer combining photo-real CGI elements with live-action shot on the frozen Black Sea in Ukraine.  “We want to be there at the inception of the creative and help steer it — ideally, lead it — and be there the whole way through the process, from concept and shoot to delivery. Over the years, whether working for the world’s most creative agencies or directly with prestigious clients like Google, Guinness and IBM, I aim to be as close to the project as possible from the outset, allowing my team to add genuine value that will garner the best result for everyone involved.”

Grecco joins Carbon from Method Studios, where he most recently led projects for Google, Target, Microsoft, Netflix and Marvel’s Deadpool 2.  With a wide range of experience from Emmy-nominated television title sequences to feature films and Super Bowl commercials, Grecco looks forward to helping Carbon continue to push its visuals beyond the high bar that has already been set.

In addition to New York and Chicago, Carbon has a studio in Los Angeles.

Main Image: (L-R) Frank Grecco, Liam Chapple, Nick Haynes

Behind the Title: Compadre’s Jessica Garcia-Scharer

NAME: Jessica Garcia-Scharer

COMPANY: Culver City’s Compadre

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We are a creative marketing agency. We make strategically informed branding and creative — and then help to get it out to the world in memorable ways. And we use strategy, design, planning and technology to do it.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Head of Production

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Head of production means different things at different companies. I’m the three-ring binder with the special zip pack that helps to hold everything together in an organized manner. Everything from hearing and understanding client needs, creating proposals, managing budget projections/actuals/contracts, getting in the right talent for the job, all the way to making sure that everyone in-house is happy, balanced and supported.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Probably the proposals and planning charts. I’m also “Snack Mom!”

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Snack Mom. Ha! My favorite part of the job is being part of a team and bringing something to the table that is useful. I like when my team feels like everything is being handled.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
If and when there isn’t enough quiet time to get into the paperwork zone.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
At work: When I get in early and no one is in yet. I get the most work done during that time. Also lunch. I try to make it a point now to get out to lunch and take co-workers with me. It’s nice to be able to break up the day and be regular people for an hour.

Non-work-related: When the sun is just coming up and it’s still a little brisk outside, but the air is fresh and the birds are starting to wake up and chirp. Also, when the sun is starting to descend and it’s still a little warm as the cool ocean breeze starts to come in. The birds are starting to wind down after a hard day of being a bird, and families are coming together to make dinner and talk about their days (well… on the weekend anyway). I am obviously very lucky, and I know that. There are many that don’t get to experience that, and I think of them during that time as well.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
It depends on if I were independently wealthy or not, and where I had been previously. Before going to college, I wanted to be a VFX make-up artist, a marine biologist working with dolphins or a park ranger in Yosemite.

If I were independently wealthy, I would complete a painting collection and put up an art show, start a female/those-who-identify-as-female agency, open up a vegan restaurant and be a hardcore animal activist.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I wish people thought about their careers as more than one path. I have many paths, and I don’t think I’m done just yet. You never know where life will take you from one day to the next, so it’s important to live for today.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
CNN 2020 Election promo package, ESPN 40th Anniversary and another that is pretty neat and a big puzzle to figure out, but I can’t tell you just yet…

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I technically work on everything, so they’re all my babies, and I’m proud of all of them for different reasons. Most, if not all, of the projects that we work on start out with a complex puzzle to solve. I work with the team to figure it out and present the solution to the client. That is where I thrive, and those documents are what I’m most proud of as far as my own personal accomplishments and physical contributions to the company.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Water filtration systems, giant greenhouses and air conditioning will be vital because of global warming.

For work, it would be really hard to function without my mobile phone, laptop and headphones.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Mainly Instagram and Facebook. Facebook is where I learn about events/concerts/protests coming up, keep tabs on people’s birthdays, weddings, babies and share my thoughts on factory farming. Instagram is mindless eye candy for the most part, but I do love how close I feel to certain communities there.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK? CARE TO SHARE YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC TO WORK TO?
Usually binaural beats (for focus and clarity) and new age relaxation; but if I’m organizing and cleaning up, then The Cure, Bowie, Duran Duran, Radiohead and Bel Canto.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
As I mentioned before, it’s important to take a lunch break and bond with co-workers and old friends. Taking a step away and remembering that I am a human being living a life that needs to be enjoyed is key to a happy work-life balance. We aren’t saving lives here; we are making fun things for fun people, so as long as you have the systems and resources in place, the stress is the excitement of making things that exceed expectations.

But if I do let things get to me, the best de-stressor is getting home and into my PJs and snuggling up with my family and animals… drowning myself in the escape of love. Oh, and dark chocolate (vegan, of course).