Category Archives: 2D

Behind the Title: Carousel’s Head of VFX/CD Jeff Spangler

This creative has been an artist for as long as he could remember. “I’ve always loved the process of creation and can’t imagine any career where I’m not making something,” he says.

Name: Jeff Spangler

Company: NYC’s Carousel

Can you describe your company?
Carousel is a “creative collective” that was a response to this rapidly changing industry we all know and love. Our offerings range from agency creative services to editorial, design, animation (including both motion design and CGI), retouching, color correction, compositing, music licensing, content creation, and pretty much everything that falls between.

We have created a flexible workflow that covers everything from concept to execution (and delivery), while also allowing for clients whose needs are less all-encompassing to step on or off at any point in the process. That’s just one of the reasons we called ourselves Carousel — our clients have the freedom to climb on board for as much of the ride as they desire. And with the different disciplines all living under the same roof, we find that a lot of the inefficiencies and miscommunications that can get in the way of achieving the best possible result are eliminated.

What’s your job title?
Head of VFX/Creative Director

What does that entail?
That’s a really good question. There is the industry standard definition of that title as it applies to most companies. But it’s quite different if you are talking about a collective that combines creative with post production, animation and design. So for me, the dual role of CD and head of VFX works in a couple of ways. Where we have the opportunity to work with agencies, I am able to bring my experience and talents as a VFX lead to bear, communicating with the agency creatives and ensuring that the different Carousel artist involved are all able to collaborate and communicate effectively to get the work done.

Alternatively, when we work direct-to-client, I get involved much earlier in the process, collaborating with the Carousel creative directors to conceptualize and pitch new ideas, design brand elements, visualize concept art, storyboard and write copy or even work with stargeists to help hone the direction and target of a campaign.

That’s the true strength of Carousel — getting creatives from different backgrounds involved early on in the process where their experience and talent can make a much bigger impact in the long run. Most importantly, my role is not about dictating direction as much as it is about guiding and allowing for people’s talents to shine. You have to give artists the room to flourish if you really want to serve your clients and are serious about getting them something more than what they expected.

What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
I think that there is this misconception that it’s one creative sitting in a room that comes up with the “Big Idea” and he or she just dictates that idea to everyone. My experience is that any good idea started out as a lot of different ideas that were merged, pruned, refined and polished until they began to resemble something truly great.

Then after 24 hours, you look at that idea again and tear it apart because all of the flaws have started to show and you realize it still needs to be pummeled into shape. That process is generally a collaboration within a group of talented people who all look at the world very differently.

What tools do you use?
Anything that I can get my hands on (and my brain wrapped around). My foundation is as a traditional artist and animator and I find that those core skills are really the strength behind what I do everyday. I started out after college as a broadcast designer and later transitioned into a Flame artist where I spent many years working as a beauty retouch artist and motion designer.

These days, I primarily use Adobe Creative Suite as my role has become more creative in nature. I use Photoshop for digital painting and concept art , Illustrator for design and InDesign for layouts and decks. I also have a lot of experience in After Effects and Autodesk Maya and will use those tools for any animation or CGI that requires me to be hands-on, even if just to communicate the initial concept or design.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
Coming up with new ideas at the very start. At that point, the gloves are off and everything is possible.

What’s your least favorite?
Navigating politics within the industry that can sometimes get in the way of people doing their best work.

What is your favorite time of the day?
I’m definitely more of a night person. But if I had to choose a favorite time of day, it would be early morning — before everything has really started and there’s still a ton of anticipation and potential.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
Working as a full-time concept artist. Or a logo designer. While I frequently have the opportunity to do both of those things in my role at Carousel, they are, for me, the most rewarding expression of being creative.

A&E’s Scraps

How early on did you know this would be your path?
I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember and never really had any desire (or ability) to set it aside. I’ve always loved the process of creation and can’t imagine any career where I’m not “making” something.

Can you name some recents projects you have worked on?
We are wrapping up Season 2 of an A&E food show titled Scraps that has allowed us to flex our animation muscles. We’ve also been doing some in-store work with Victoria’s Secret for some of their flagship stores that has been amazing in terms of collaboration and results.

What is the project that you are most proud of?
It’s always hard to pick a favorite and my answer would probably change if you asked me more than once. But I recently had the opportunity to work with an up-and-coming eSports company to develop their logo. Collaborating with their CD, we landed on a design and aesthetic that makes me smile every time I see it out there. The client has taken that initial work and continues to surprise me with the way they use it across print, social media, swag, etc. Seeing their ability to be creative and flexible with what I designed is just validation that I did a good job. That makes me proud.

Name pieces of technology you can’t live without.
My iPad Pro. It’s my portable sketch tablet and presentation device that also makes for a damn good movie player during long commutes.

What do you do to de-stress from it all?
Muay Thai. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no serious martial artist and have never had the time to dedicate myself properly. But working out by punching and kicking a heavy bag can be very cathartic.

Review: Boris FX’s Continuum and Mocha Pro 2019

By Brady Betzel

I realize I might sound like a broken record, but if you are looking for the best plugin to help with object removals or masking, you should seriously consider the Mocha Pro plugin. And if you work inside of Avid Media Composer, you should also seriously consider Boris Continuum and/or Sapphire, which can use the power of Mocha.

As an online editor, I consistently use Continuum along with Mocha for tight blur and mask tracking. If you use After Effects, there is even a whittled-down version of Mocha built in for free. For those pros who don’t want to deal with Mocha inside of an app, it also comes as a standalone software solution where you can copy and paste tracking data between apps or even export the masks, object removals or insertions as self-contained files.

The latest releases of Continuum and Mocha Pro 2019 continue the evolution of Boris FX’s role in post production image restoration, keying and general VFX plugins, at least inside of NLEs like Media Composer and Adobe Premiere.

Mocha Pro

As an online editor I am alway calling on Continuum for its great Chroma Key Studio, Flicker Fixer and blurring. Because Mocha is built into Continuum, I am able to quickly track (backwards and forwards) difficult shapes and even erase shapes that the built-in Media Composer tools simply can’t do. But if you are lucky enough to own Mocha Pro you also get access to some amazing tools that go beyond planar tracking — such as automated object removal, object insertion, stabilizing and much more.

Boris FX’s latest updates to Boris Continuum and Mocha Pro go even further than what I’ve already mentioned and have resulted in a new version naming, this round we are at 2019 (think of it as Version 12). They have also created the new Application Manager, which makes it a little easier to find the latest downloads. You can find them here. This really helps when jumping between machines and you need to quickly activate and deactivate licenses.

Boris Continuum 2019
I often get offline edits effects from a variety plugins — lens flares, random edits, light flashes, whip transitions, and many more — so I need Continuum to be compatible with offline clients. I also need to use it for image repair and compositing.

In this latest version of Continuum, BorisFX has not only kept plugins like Primatte Studio, they have brought back Particle Illusion and updated Mocha and Title Studio. Overall, Continuum and Mocha Pro 2019 feel a lot snappier when applying and rendering effects, probably because of the overall GPU-acceleration improvements.

Particle Illusion has been brought back from the brink of death in Continuum 2019 for a 64-bit keyframe-able particle emitter system that can even be tracked and masked with Mocha. In this revamp of Particle Illusion there is an updated interface, realtime GPU-based particle generation, expanded and improved emitter library (complete with motion-blur-enabled particle systems) and even a standalone app that can design systems to be used in the host app — you cannot render systems inside of the standalone app.

While Particle Illusion is a part of the entire Continuum toolset that works with OFX apps like Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve, Media Composer, After Effects, and Premiere, it seems to work best in applications like After Effects, which can handle composites simply and naturally. Inside the Particle Illusion interface you can find all of the pre-built emitters. If you only have a handful make sure you download additional emitters, which you can find in the Boris FX App Manager.

       
Particle Illusion: Before and After

I had a hard time seeing my footage in a Media Composer timeline inside of Particle Illusion, but I could still pick my emitter, change specs like life and opacity, exit out and apply to my footage. I used Mocha to track some fire from Particle Illusion to a dumpster I had filmed. Once I dialed in the emitter, I launched Mocha and tracked the dumpster.

The first time I went into Mocha I didn’t see the preset tracks for the emitter or the world in which the emitter lives. The second time I launched Mocha, I saw track points. From there you can track where you want your emitter to track and be placed. Once you are done and happy with your track, jump back to your timeline where it should be reflected. In Media Composer I noticed that I had to go to the Mocha options and change the option from Mocha Shape to no shape. Essentially, the Mocha shape will act like a matte and cut off anything outside the matte.

If you are inside of After Effects, most parameters can now be keyframed and parented (aka pick-whipped) natively in the timeline. The Particle Illusion plugin is a quick, easy and good-looking tool to add sparks, Milky Way-like star trails or even fireworks to any scene. Check out @SurfacedStudio’s tutorial on Particle Illusion to get a good sense of how it works in Adobe Premiere Pro.

Continuum Title Studio
When inside of Media Composer (prior to the latest release 2018.12), there were very few ways to create titles that were higher resolution than HD (1920×1080) — the New Blue Titler was the only other option if you wanted to stay within Media Composer.

Title Studio within Media Composer

At first, the Continuum Title Studio interface appeared to be a mildly updated Boris Red interface — and I am allergic to the Boris Red interface. Some of the icons for the keyframing and the way properties are adjusted looks similar and threw me off. I tried really hard to jump into Title Studio and love it, but I really never got comfortable with it.

On the flip side, there are hundreds of presets that could help build quick titles that render a lot faster than New Blue Titler did. In some of the presets I noticed the text was placed outside of 16×9 Title Safety, which is odd since that is kind of a long standing rule in television. In the author’s defense, they are within Action Safety, but still.

If you need a quick way to make 4K titles, Title Studio might be what you want. The updated Title Studio includes realtime playback using the GPU instead of the CPU, new materials, new shaders and external monitoring support using Blackmagic hardware (AJA will be coming at some point). There are some great pre-sets including pre-built slates, lower thirds, kinetic text and even progress bars.

If you don’t have Mocha Pro, Continuum can still access and use Mocha to track shapes and masks. Almost every plugin can access Mocha and can track objects quickly and easily.
That brings me to the newly updated Mocha, which has some new features that are extremely helpful including a Magnetic Spline tool, prebuilt geometric shapes and more.

Mocha Pro 2019
If you loved the previous version of Mocha, you are really going to love Mocha Pro 2019. Not only do you get the Magnetic Lasso, pre-built geometric shapes, the Essentials interface and high-resolution display support, but BorisFX has rewritten the Remove Module code to use GPU video hardware. This increases render speeds about four to five times. In addition, there is no longer a separate Mocha VR software suite. All of the VR tools are included inside of Mocha Pro 2019.

If you are unfamiliar with what Mocha is, then I have a treat for you. Mocha is a standalone planar tracking app as well as a native plugin that works with Media Composer, Premiere and After Effects, or through OFX in Blackmagic’s Fusion, Foundry’s Nuke, Vegas Pro and Hitfilm.

Mocha tracking

In addition (and unofficially) it will work with Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve by way of importing the Mocha masks through Fusion. While I prefer to use After Effects for my work, importing Mocha masks is relatively painless. You can watch colorist Dan Harvey run through the process of importing Mocha masks to Resolve through Fusion, here.

But really, Mocha is a planar tracker, which means it tracks multiple points in a defined area that works best in flat surfaces or at least segmented surfaces, like the side of a face, ear, nose, mouth and forehead tracked separately instead of all at once. From blurs to mattes, Mocha tracks objects like glue and can be a great asset for an online editor or colorist.

If you have read any of my plugin reviews you probably are sick of me spouting off about Mocha, saying how it is probably the best plugin ever made. But really, it is amazing — especially when incorporated with plugins like Continuum and Sapphire. Also, thanks to the latest Media Composer with Symphony option you can incorporate the new Color Correction shapes with Mocha Pro to increase the effectiveness of your secondary color corrections.

Mocha Pro Remove module

So how fast is Mocha Pro 2019’s Remove Module these days? Well, it used to be a very slow process, taking lots of time to calculate an object’s removal. With the latest Mocha Pro 2019 release, including improved GPU support, the render time has been cut down tremendously. In my estimation, I would say three to four times the speed (that’s on the safe side). In Mocha Pro 2019 removal jobs that take under 30 seconds would have taken four to five minutes in previous versions. It’s quite a big improvement in render times.

There are a few changes in the new Mocha Pro, including interface changes and some amazing tool additions. There is a new drop-down tab that offers different workflow views once you are inside of Mocha: Essentials, Classic, Big Picture and Roto. I really wish the Essentials view was out when I first started using Mocha, because it gives you the basic tools you need to get a roto job done and nothing more.

For instance, just giving access to the track motion objects (Translation, Scale, Rotate, Skew and Perspective) with big shiny buttons helps to eliminate my need to watch YouTube videos on how to navigate the Mocha interface. However, if like me you are more than just a beginner, the Classic interface is still available and one I reach for most often — it’s literally the old interface. Big Screen hides the tools and gives you the most screen real estate for your roto work. My favorite after Classic is Roto. The Roto interface shows just the project window and the classic top toolbar. It’s the best of both worlds.

Mocha Pro 2019 Essentials Interface

Beyond the interface changes are some additional tools that will speed up any roto work. This has been one of the longest running user requests. I imagine the most requested feature that BorisFX gets for Mocha is the addition of basic shapes, such as rectangles and circles. In my work, I am often drawing rectangles around license plates or circles around faces with X-splines, so why not eliminate a few clicks and have that done already? Answering my need, Mocha now has elliptical and rectangular shapes ready to go in both X-splines and B-splines with one click.

I use Continuum and Mocha hand in hand. Inside of Media Composer I will use tools like Gaussian Blur or Remover, which typically need tracking and roto shapes created. Once I apply the Continuum effect, I launch Mocha from the Effect Editor and bam, I am inside Mocha. From here I track the objects I want to affect, as well as any objects I don’t want to affect (think of it like an erase track).

Summing Up
I can save tons of time and also improve the effectiveness of my work exponentially when working in Continuum 2019 and Mocha Pro 2019. It’s amazing how much more intuitive Mocha is to track with instead of the built-in Media Composer and Symphony trackers.

In the end, I can’t say enough great things about Continuum and especially Mocha Pro. Mocha saves me tons of time in my VFX and image restoration work. From removing camera people behind the main cast in the wilderness to blurring faces and license plates, using Mocha in tandem with Continuum is a match made in post production heaven.

Rendering in Continuum and Mocha Pro 2019 is a lot faster than previous versions, really giving me a leg up on efficiency. Time is money right?! On top of that, using Mocha Pro’s magic Object removal and Modules takes my image restoration work to the next level, separating me from other online editors who use standard paint and tracking tools.

In Continuum, Primatte Studio gives me the leg up on greenscreen keys with its exceptional ability to auto analyze a scene and perform 80% of the keying work before I dial-in the details. Whenever anyone asks me what tools I couldn’t live without, I without a doubt always say Mocha.
If you want a real Mocha Pro education you need to watch all of Mary Poplin’s tutorials. You can find them on YouTube. Check out this one on how to track and replace a logo using Mocha Pro 2019 in Adobe After Effects. You can also find great videos at Borisfx.com.

Mocha point parameter tracking

I always feel like there are tons of tools inside of the Mocha Pro toolset that go unused simply because I don’t know about them. One I recently learned about in a Surfaced Studio tutorial was the Quick Stabilize function. It essentially stabilizes the video around the object you are tracking allowing you to more easily rotoscope your object with it sitting still instead of moving all over the screen. It’s an amazing feature that I just didn’t know about.

As I was finishing up this review I saw that Boris FX came out with a training series, which I will be checking out. One thing I always wanted was a top-down set of tutorials like the ones on Mocha’s YouTube page but organized and sent along with practical footage to practice with.

You can check out Curious Turtle’s “More Than The Essentials: Mocha in After Effects” on their website where I found more Mocha training. There is even a great search parameter called Getting Started on BorisFX.com. Definitely check them out. You can never learn enough Mocha!


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

DigitalGlue 2.5

Behind the Title: Left Field Labs ECD Yann Caloghiris

NAME: Yann Caloghiris

COMPANY: Left Field Labs (@LeftFieldLabs)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Left Field Labs is a Venice-California-based creative agency dedicated to applying creativity to emerging technologies. We create experiences at the intersection of strategy, design and code for our clients, who include Google, Uber, Discovery and Estée Lauder.

But it’s how we go about our business that has shaped who we have become. Over the past 10 years, we have consciously moved away from the traditional agency model and have grown by deepening our expertise, sourcing exceptional talent and, most importantly, fostering a “lab-like” creative culture of collaboration and experimentation.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Executive Creative Director

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
My role is to drive the creative vision across our client accounts, as well as our own ventures. In practice, that can mean anything from providing insights for ongoing work to proposing creative strategies to running ideation workshops. Ultimately, it’s whatever it takes to help the team flourish and push the envelope of our creative work.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Probably that I learn more now than I did at the beginning of my career. When I started, I imagined that the executive CD roles were occupied by seasoned industry veterans, who had seen and done it all, and would provide tried and tested direction.

Today, I think that cliché is out of touch with what’s required from agency culture and where the industry is going. Sure, some aspects of the role remain unchanged — such as being a supportive team lead or appreciating the value of great copy — but the pace of change is such that the role often requires both the ability to leverage past experience and accept that sometimes a new paradigm is emerging and assumptions need to be adjusted.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Working with the team, and the excitement that comes from workshopping the big ideas that will anchor the experiences we create.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
The administrative parts of a creative business are not always the most fulfilling. Thankfully, tasks like timesheeting, expense reporting and invoicing are becoming less exhaustive thanks to better predictive tools and machine learning.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
The early hours of the morning, usually when inspiration strikes — when we haven’t had to deal with the unexpected day-to-day challenges that come with managing a busy design studio.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I’d probably be somewhere at the cross-section between an artist, like my mum was, and an engineer like my dad. There is nothing more satisfying than to apply art to an engineering challenge or vice versa.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I went to school in France, and there wasn’t much room for anything other than school and homework. When I got my Baccalaureate, I decided that from that point onward that whatever I did, it would be fun, deeply engaging and at a place where being creative was an asset.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We recently partnered with ad agency RK Venture to craft a VR experience for the New Mexico Department of Transportation’s ongoing ENDWI campaign, which immerses viewers into a real-life drunk-driving scenario.

ENDWI

To best communicate and tell the human side of this story, we turned to rapid breakthroughs within volumetric capture and 3D scanning. Working with Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Capture Studio, we were able to bring every detail of an actor’s performance to life with volumetric performance capture in a way that previous techniques could not.

Bringing a real actor’s performance into a virtual experience is a game changer because of the emotional connection it creates. For ENDWI, the combination of rich immersion with compelling non-linear storytelling proved to affect the participants at a visceral level — with the goal of changing behavior further down the road.

Throughout this past year, we partnered with the VMware Cloud Marketing Team to create a one-of-a-kind immersive booth experience for VMworld Las Vegas 2018 and Barcelona 2018 called Cloud City. VMware’s cloud offering needed a distinct presence to foster a deeper understanding and greater connectivity between brand, product and customers stepping into the cloud.

Cloud City

Our solution was Cloud City, a destination merging future-forward architecture, light, texture, sound and interactions with VMware Cloud experts to give consumers a window into how the cloud, and more specifically how VMware Cloud, can be an essential solution for them. VMworld is the brand’s penultimate engagement where hands-on learning helped showcase its cloud offerings. Cloud City garnered 4000-plus demos, which led to a 20% lead conversion in 10 days.

Finally, for Google, we designed and built a platform for the hosting of online events anywhere in the world: Google Gather. For its first release, teams across Google, including Android, Cloud and Education, used Google Gather to reach and convert potential customers across the globe. With hundreds of events to date, the platform now reaches enterprise decision-makers at massive scale, spanning far beyond what has been possible with traditional event marketing, management and hosting.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Recently, a friend and I shot and edited a fun video homage to the original technology boom-town: Detroit, Michigan. It features two cultural icons from the region, an original big block ‘60s muscle car and some gritty electro beats. My four-year-old son thinks it’s the coolest thing he’s ever seen. It’s going to be hard for me to top that.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Human flight, the Internet and our baby monitor!

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Instagram, Twitter, Medium and LinkedIn.

CARE TO SHARE YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC TO WORK TO?
Where to start?! Music has always played an important part of my creative process, and the joy I derive from what we do. I have day-long playlists curated around what I’m trying to achieve during that time. Being able to influence how I feel when working on a brief is essential — it helps set me in the right mindset.

Sometimes, it might be film scores when working on visuals, jazz to design a workshop schedule or techno to dial-up productivity when doing expenses.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Spend time with my kids. They remind me that there is a simple and unpretentious way to look at life.


Efilm’s Natasha Leonnet: Grading Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

By Randi Altman

Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not your typical Spider-Man film… in so many ways. The most obvious is the movie’s look, which was designed to make the viewer feel they are walking inside a comic book. This tale, which blends CGI with 2D hand-drawn animation and comic book textures, focuses on a Brooklyn teen who is bitten by a radioactive spider on the subway and soon develops special powers.

Natasha Leonnet

When he meets Peter Parker, he realizes he’s not alone in the Spider-Verse. It was co-directed by Peter Ramsey, Robert Persichetti Jr. and Rodney Rothman and produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the pair behind 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie.

Efilm senior colorist Natasha Leonnet provided the color finish for the film, which was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Animated Feature category. We reached out to find out more.

How early were you brought on the film?
I had worked on Angry Birds with visual effects supervisor Danny Dimian, which is how I was brought onto the film. It was a few months before we started color correction. Also, there was no LUT for the film. They used the ACES workflow, developed by The Academy and Efilm’s VP of technology, Joachim “JZ” Zell.

Can you talk about the kind of look they were after and what it took to achieve that look?
They wanted to achieve a comic book look. You look at the edges of characters or objects in comic books and you actually see aspects of the color printing from the beginning of comic book printing — the CMYK dyes wouldn’t all be the same line — it creates a layered look along with the comic book dots and expression lines on faces, as if you’re drawing a comic book.

For example, if someone gets hurt you put actual slashes on their face. For me it was a huge education about the comic book art form. Justin Thompson, the art director, in particular is so knowledgeable about the history of comic books. I was so inspired I just bought my first comic book. Also, with the overall look, the light is painting color everywhere the way it does in life.

You worked closely Justin, VFX supervisor Danny Dimian and art director Dean Gordon What was that process like?
They were incredible. It was usually a group of us working together during the color sessions — a real exercise in collaboration. They were all so open to each other’s opinions and constantly discussing every change in order to make certain that the change best served the film. There was no idea that was more important than another idea. Everyone listened to each other’s ideas.

Had you worked on an animated film previously? What are the challenges and benefits of working with animation?
I’ve been lucky enough to do all of Blue Sky Studios’ color finishes so far, except for the first Ice Age. One of the special aspects of working on animated films is that you’re often working with people who are fine-art painters. As a result, they bring in a different background and way of analyzing the images. That’s really special. They often focus on the interplay of different hues.

In the case of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, they also wanted to bring a certain naturalism to the color experience. With this particular film, they made very bold choices with their use of color finishing. They used an aspect of color correctors that are used to shift all of the hues and colors; that’s usually reserved for music videos. They completely embraced it. They were basically using color finishing to augment the story and refine their hues, especially time of day and progression of the day or night. They used it as their extra lighting step.

Can you talk about your typical process? Did that differ because of the animated content?
My process actually does not differ when I’m color finishing animated content. Continuity is always at the forefront, even in animation. I use the color corrector as a creative tool on every project.

How would you describe the look of the film?
The film embodies the vivid and magical colors that I always observed in childhood but never saw reflected on the screen. The film is very color intense. It’s as if you’re stepping inside a comic book illustrator’s mind. It’s a mind-meld with how they’re imagining things.

What system did you use for color and why?
I used Resolve on this project, as it was the system that the clients were most familiar with.

Any favorite parts of the process?
My favorite part is from start to finish. It was all magical on this film.

What was your path to being a colorist?
My parents loved going to the cinema. They didn’t believe in babysitters, so they took me to everything. They were big fans of the French new wave movement and films that offered unconventional ways of depicting the human experience. As a result, I got to see some pretty unusual films. I got to see how passionate my parents were about these films and their stories and unusual way of telling them, and it sparked something in me. I think I can give my parents full credit for my career.

I studied non-narrative experimental filmmaking in college even though ultimately my real passion was narrative film. I started as a runner in the Czech Republic, which is where I’d made my thesis film for my BA degree. From there I worked my way up and met a colorist (Biggi Klier) who really inspired me. I was hooked and lucky enough to study with her and another mentor of mine in Munich, Germany.

How do you prefer a director and DP describe a look?
Every single person I’ve worked with works differently, and that’s what makes it so fun and exciting, but also challenging. Every person communicates about color differently and our vocabulary for color is so limited, therein lies the challenge.

Where do you find inspiration?
From both the natural world and the world of films. I live in a place that faces east, and I get up every morning to watch the sunrise and the color palette is always different. It’s beautiful and inspiring. The winter palettes in particular are gorgeous, with reds and oranges that don’t exist in summer sunrises.


Avengers: Infinity War leads VES Awards with six noms

The Visual Effects Society (VES) has announced the nominees for the 17th Annual VES Awards, which recognize outstanding visual effects artistry and innovation in film, animation, television, commercials and video games as well as the VFX supervisors, VFX producers and hands-on artists who bring this work to life.

Avengers: Infinity War garners the most feature film nomination with six. Incredibles 2 is the top animated film contender with five nominations and Lost in Space leads the broadcast field with six nominations.

Nominees in 24 categories were selected by VES members via events hosted by 11 of the organizations 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 February 5th at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. As previously announced, the VES Visionary Award will be presented to writer/director/producer and co-creator of Westworld Jonathan Nolan. The VES Award for Creative Excellence will be given to award-winning creators/executive producers/writers/directors David Benioff and D.B. Weiss of Game of Thrones fame. Actor-comedian-author Patton Oswalt will once again host the VES Awards.

Here are the nominees:

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature

Avengers: Infinity War

Daniel DeLeeuw

Jen Underdahl

Kelly Port

Matt Aitken

Daniel Sudick

 

Christopher Robin

Christopher Robin

Chris Lawrence

Steve Gaub

Michael Eames

Glenn Melenhorst

Chris Corbould

 

Ready Player One

Roger Guyett

Jennifer Meislohn

David Shirk

Matthew Butler

Neil Corbould

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Rob Bredow

Erin Dusseault

Matt Shumway

Patrick Tubach

Dominic Tuohy

 

Welcome to Marwen

Kevin Baillie

Sandra Scott

Seth Hill

Marc Chu

James Paradis

 

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature 

12 Strong

Roger Nall

Robert Weaver

Mike Meinardus

 

Bird Box

Marcus Taormina

David Robinson

Mark Bakowski

Sophie Dawes

Mike Meinardus

 

Bohemian Rhapsody

Paul Norris

Tim Field

May Leung

Andrew Simmonds

 

First Man

Paul Lambert

Kevin Elam

Tristan Myles

Ian Hunter

JD Schwalm

 

Outlaw King

Alex Bicknell

Dan Bethell

Greg O’Connor

Stefano Pepin

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch

Pierre Leduc

Janet Healy

Bruno Chauffard

Milo Riccarand

 

Incredibles 2

Brad Bird

John Walker

Rick Sayre

Bill Watral

 

Isle of Dogs

Mark Waring

Jeremy Dawson

Tim Ledbury

Lev Kolobov

 

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Scott Kersavage

Bradford Simonsen

Ernest J. Petti

Cory Loftis

 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Joshua Beveridge

Christian Hejnal

Danny Dimian

Bret St. Clair

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode

Altered Carbon; Out of the Past

Everett Burrell

Tony Meagher

Steve Moncur

Christine Lemon

Joel Whist

 

Krypton; The Phantom Zone

Ian Markiewicz

Jennifer Wessner

Niklas Jacobson

Martin Pelletier

 

LOST IN SPACE

Lost in Space; Danger, Will Robinson

Jabbar Raisani

Terron Pratt

Niklas Jacobson

Joao Sita

 

The Terror; Go For Broke

Frank Petzold

Lenka Líkařová

Viktor Muller

Pedro Sabrosa

 

Westworld; The Passenger

Jay Worth

Elizabeth Castro

Bruce Branit

Joe Wehmeyer

Michael Lantieri

 

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan; Pilot

Erik Henry

Matt Robken

Bobo Skipper

Deak Ferrand

Pau Costa

 

The Alienist; The Boy on the Bridge

Kent Houston

Wendy Garfinkle

Steve Murgatroyd

Drew Jones

Paul Stephenson

 

The Deuce; We’re All Beasts

Jim Rider

Steven Weigle

John Bair

Aaron Raff

 

The First; Near and Far

Karen Goulekas

Eddie Bonin

Roland Langschwert

Bryan Godwin

Matthew James Kutcher

 

The Handmaid’s Tale; June

Brendan Taylor

Stephen Lebed

Winston Lee

Leo Bovell

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Realtime Project

Age of Sail

John Kahrs

Kevin Dart

Cassidy Curtis

Theresa Latzko

 

Cycles

Jeff Gipson

Nicholas Russell

Lauren Nicole Brown

Jorge E. Ruiz Cano

 

Dr Grordbort’s Invaders

Greg Broadmore

Mhairead Connor

Steve Lambert

Simon Baker

 

God of War

Maximilian Vaughn Ancar

Corey Teblum

Kevin Huynh

Paolo Surricchio

 

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Grant Hollis

Daniel Wang

Seth Faske

Abdul Bezrati

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial 

Beyond Good & Evil 2

Maxime Luere

Leon Berelle

Remi Kozyra

Dominique Boidin

 

John Lewis; The Boy and the Piano

Kamen Markov

Philip Whalley

Anthony Bloor

Andy Steele

 

McDonald’s; #ReindeerReady

Ben Cronin

Josh King

Gez Wright

Suzanne Jandu

 

U.S. Marine Corps; A Nation’s Call

Steve Drew

Nick Fraser

Murray Butler

Greg White

Dave Peterson

 

Volkswagen; Born Confident

Carsten Keller

Anandi Peiris

Dan Sanders

Fabian Frank

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project

Beautiful Hunan; Flight of the Phoenix

R. Rajeev

Suhit Saha

Arish Fyzee

Unmesh Nimbalkar

 

Childish Gambino’s Pharos

Keith Miller

Alejandro Crawford

Thelvin Cabezas

Jeremy Thompson

 

DreamWorks Theatre Presents Kung Fu Panda

Marc Scott

Doug Cooper

Michael Losure

Alex Timchenko

 

Osheaga Music and Arts Festival

Andre Montambeault

Marie-Josee Paradis

Alyson Lamontagne

David Bishop Noriega

 

Pearl Quest

Eugénie von Tunzelmann

Liz Oliver

Ian Spendloff

Ross Burgess

 

Outstanding Animated Character in a Photoreal Feature

Avengers: Infinity War; Thanos

Jan Philip Cramer

Darren Hendler

Paul Story

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo

 

Christopher Robin; Tigger

Arslan Elver

Kayn Garcia

Laurent Laban

Mariano Mendiburu

 

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; Indoraptor

Jance Rubinchik

Ted Lister

Yannick Gillain

Keith Ribbons

 

Ready Player One; Art3mis

David Shirk

Brian Cantwell

Jung-Seung Hong

Kim Ooi

 

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch; The Grinch

David Galante

Francois Boudaille

Olivier Luffin

Yarrow Cheney

 

Incredibles 2; Helen Parr

Michal Makarewicz

Ben Porter

Edgar Rodriguez

Kevin Singleton

 

Ralph Breaks the Internet; Ralphzilla

Dong Joo Byun

Dave K. Komorowski

Justin Sklar

Le Joyce Tong

 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse; Miles Morales

Marcos Kang

Chad Belteau

Humberto Rosa

Julie Bernier Gosselin

 

Outstanding Animated Character in an Episode or Realtime Project

Cycles; Rae

Jose Luis Gomez Diaz

Edward Everett Robbins III

Jorge E. Ruiz Cano

Jose Luis -Weecho- Velasquez

 

Lost in Space; Humanoid

Chad Shattuck

Paul Zeke

Julia Flanagan

Andrew McCartney

 

Nightflyers; All That We Have Found; Eris

Peter Giliberti

James Chretien

Ryan Cromie

Cesar Dacol Jr.

 

Spider-Man; Doc Ock

Brian Wyser

Henrique Naspolini

Sophie Brennan

William Salyers

 

Outstanding Animated Character in a Commercial

McDonald’s; Bobbi the Reindeer

Gabriela Ruch Salmeron

Joe Henson

Andrew Butler

Joel Best

 

Overkill’s The Walking Dead; Maya

Jonas Ekman

Goran Milic

Jonas Skoog

Henrik Eklundh

 

Peta; Best Friend; Lucky

Bernd Nalbach

Emanuel Fuchs

Sebastian Plank

Christian Leitner

 

Volkswagen; Born Confident; Bam

David Bryan

Chris Welsby

Fabian Frank

Chloe Dawe

 

Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature

Ant-Man and the Wasp; Journey to the Quantum Realm

Florian Witzel

Harsh Mistri

Yuri Serizawa

Can Yuksel

 

Aquaman; Atlantis

Quentin Marmier

Aaron Barr

Jeffrey De Guzman

Ziad Shureih

 

Ready Player One; The Shining, Overlook Hotel

Mert Yamak

Stanley Wong

Joana Garrido

Daniel Gagiu

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story; Vandor Planet

Julian Foddy

Christoph Ammann

Clement Gerard

Pontus Albrecht

 

Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch; Whoville

Loic Rastout

Ludovic Ramiere

Henri Deruer

Nicolas Brack

 

Incredibles 2; Parr House

Christopher M. Burrows

Philip Metschan

Michael Rutter

Joshua West

 

Ralph Breaks the Internet; Social Media District

Benjamin Min Huang

Jon Kim Krummel II

Gina Warr Lawes

Matthias Lechner

 

Spider-Man; Into the Spider-Verse; Graphic New York City

Terry Park

Bret St. Clair

Kimberly Liptrap

Dave Morehead

 

Outstanding Created Environment in an Episode, Commercial, or Realtime Project

Cycles; The House

Michael R.W. Anderson

Jeff Gipson

Jose Luis Gomez Diaz

Edward Everett Robbins III

 

Lost in Space; Pilot; Impact Area

Philip Engström

Kenny Vähäkari

Jason Martin

Martin Bergquist

 

The Deuce; 42nd St

John Bair

Vance Miller

Jose Marin

Steve Sullivan

 

The Handmaid’s Tale; June; Fenway Park

Patrick Zentis

Kevin McGeagh

Leo Bovell

Zachary Dembinski

 

The Man in the High Castle; Reichsmarschall Ceremony

Casi Blume

Michael Eng

Ben McDougal

Sean Myers

 

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Photoreal Project

Aquaman; Third Act Battle

Claus Pedersen

Mohammad Rastkar

Cedric Lo

Ryan McCoy

 

Echo; Time Displacement

Victor Perez

Tomas Tjernberg

Tomas Wall

Marcus Dineen

 

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; Gyrosphere Escape

Pawl Fulker

Matt Perrin

Oscar Faura

David Vickery

 

Ready Player One; New York Race

Daniele Bigi

Edmund Kolloen

Mathieu Vig

Jean-Baptiste Noyau

 

Welcome to Marwen; Town of Marwen

Kim Miles

Matthew Ward

Ryan Beagan

Marc Chu

 

Outstanding Model in a Photoreal or Animated Project 

Avengers: Infinity War; Nidavellir Forge Megastructure

Chad Roen

Ryan Rogers

Jeff Tetzlaff

Ming Pan

 

Incredibles 2; Underminer Vehicle

Neil Blevins

Philip Metschan

Kevin Singleton

 

Mortal Engines; London

Matthew Sandoval

James Ogle

Nick Keller

Sam Tack

 

Ready Player One; DeLorean DMC-12

Giuseppe Laterza

Kim Lindqvist

Mauro Giacomazzo

William Gallyot

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story; Millennium Falcon

Masa Narita

Steve Walton

David Meny

James Clyne

 

Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature

Avengers: Infinity War; Titan

Gerardo Aguilera

Ashraf Ghoniem

Vasilis Pazionis

Hartwell Durfor

 

Avengers: Infinity War; Wakanda

Florian Witzel

Adam Lee

Miguel Perez Senent

Francisco Rodriguez

 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Dominik Kirouac

Chloe Ostiguy

Christian Gaumond

 

Venom

Aharon Bourland

Jordan Walsh

Aleksandar Chalyovski

Federico Frassinelli

 

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Animated Feature

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch; Snow, Clouds and Smoke

Eric Carme

Nicolas Brice

Milo Riccarand

 

Incredibles 2

Paul Kanyuk

Tiffany Erickson Klohn

Vincent Serritella

Matthew Kiyoshi Wong

 

Ralph Breaks the Internet; Virus Infection & Destruction

Paul Carman

Henrik Fält

Christopher Hendryx

David Hutchins

 

Smallfoot

Henrik Karlsson

Theo Vandernoot

Martin Furness

Dmitriy Kolesnik

 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Ian Farnsworth

Pav Grochola

Simon Corbaux

Brian D. Casper

 

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Episode, Commercial, or Realtime Project

Altered Carbon

Philipp Kratzer

Daniel Fernandez

Xavier Lestourneaud

Andrea Rosa

 

Lost in Space; Jupiter is Falling

Denys Shchukin

Heribert Raab

Michael Billette

Jaclyn Stauber

 

Lost in Space; The Get Away

Juri Bryan

Will Elsdale

Hugo Medda

Maxime Marline

 

The Man in the High Castle; Statue of Liberty Destruction

Saber Jlassi

Igor Zanic

Nick Chamberlain

Chris Parks

 

Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal Feature

Avengers: Infinity War; Titan

Sabine Laimer

Tim Walker

Tobias Wiesner

Massimo Pasquetti

 

First Man

Joel Delle-Vergin

Peter Farkas

Miles Lauridsen

Francesco Dell’Anna

 

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

John Galloway

Enrik Pavdeja

David Nolan

Juan Espigares Enriquez

 

Welcome to Marwen

Woei Lee

Saul Galbiati

Max Besner

Thai-Son Doan

 

Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal Episode

Altered Carbon

Jean-François Leroux

Reece Sanders

Stephen Bennett

Laraib Atta

 

Handmaids Tale; June

Winston Lee

Gwen Zhang

Xi Luo

Kevin Quatman

 

Lost in Space; Impact; Crash Site Rescue

David Wahlberg

Douglas Roshamn

Sofie Ljunggren

Fredrik Lönn

 

Silicon Valley; Artificial Emotional Intelligence; Fiona

Tim Carras

Michael Eng

Shiying Li

Bill Parker

 

Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal Commercial

Apple; Unlock

Morten Vinther

Michael Gregory

Gustavo Bellon

Rodrigo Jimenez

 

Apple; Welcome Home

Michael Ralla

Steve Drew

Alejandro Villabon

Peter Timberlake

 

Genesis; G90 Facelift

Neil Alford

Jose Caballero

Joseph Dymond

Greg Spencer

 

John Lewis; The Boy and the Piano

Kamen Markov

Pratyush Paruchuri

Kalle Kohlstrom

Daniel Benjamin

 

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project

Chocolate Man

David Bellenbaum

Aleksandra Todorovic

Jörg Schmidt

Martin Boué

 

Proxima-b

Denis Krez

Tina Vest

Elias Kremer

Lukas Löffler

 

Ratatoskr

Meike Müller

Lena-Carolin Lohfink

Anno Schachner

Lisa Schachner

 

Terra Nova

Thomas Battistetti

Mélanie Geley

Mickael Le Mezo

Guillaume Hoarau


VFX studio Electric Theatre Collective adds three to London team

London visual effects studio Electric Theatre Collective has added three to its production team: Elle Lockhart, Polly Durrance and Antonia Vlasto.

Lockhart brings with her extensive CG experience, joining from Touch Surgery where she ran the Johnson & Johnson account. Prior to that she worked at Analog as a VFX producer where she delivered three global campaigns for Nike. At Electric, she will serve as producer on Martini and Toyota.

Vlasto joins Electric working on clients such Mercedes, Tourism Ireland and Tui. She joins from 750MPH where, over a four-year period, she served as producer on Nike, Great Western Railway, VW and Amazon to name but a few.

At Electric, Polly Durrance will serve as producer on H&M, TK Maxx and Carphone Warehouse. She joins from Unit where she helped launched their in-house Design Collective, worked with clients such as Lush, Pepsi and Thatchers Cider. Prior to Unit Polly was at Big Buoy where she produced work for Jaguar Land Rover, giffgaff and Redbull.

Recent projects at the studio, which also has an office in Santa Monica, California, include Tourism Ireland Capture Your Heart and Honda Palindrome.

Main Image: (L-R) Elle Lockhart, Antonia Vlasto and Polly Durrance.


Behind the Title: FuseFX VFX supervisor Marshall Krasser

Over the years, this visual effects veteran has worked with both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, whose films helped inspire his career path.

NAME: Marshall Krasser

COMPANY: FuseFX 

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
FuseFX offers visual effects services for episodic television, feature films, commercials and VR productions. Founded in 2006, the company employs over 300 people across three studio locations in LA, NYC and Vancouver

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Visual Effects Supervisor

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
In general, a VFX supervisor is responsible for leading the creative team that brings the director’s vision to life. The role does vary from show to show depending on whether or not there is an on-set or studio-side VFX supervisor.

Here is a list of responsibilities across the board:
– Read and flag the required VFX shots in the script.
– Work with the producer and team to bid the VFX work.
– Attend the creative meetings and location scouts.
– Work with the studio creative team to determine what they want and what we need to achieve it.
– Be the on-set presence for VFX work — making sure the required data and information we need is shot, gathered and catalogued.
– Work with our in-house team to start developing assets and any pre-production concept art that will be needed.
– Once the VFX work is in post production, the VFX supervisor guides the team of in-house artists and technicians through the shot creation/completion phase, while working with the producer to keep the show within the budgets constraints.
– Keep the client happy!

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
That the job is much more than pointing at the computer screen and making pretty images. Team management is critical. Since you are working with very talented and creative people, it takes a special skill set and understanding. Having worked up through the VFX ranks, it helps you understand the mind set since you have been in their shoes.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING IN VFX?
My first job was creating computer graphic images for speaker support presentations on a Genigraphics workstation in 1984. I then transitioned into feature film in 1994.

HOW HAS THE VFX INDUSTRY CHANGED IN THE TIME YOU’VE BEEN WORKING? WHAT’S BEEN GOOD, WHAT’S BEEN BAD?
It’s changed a lot. In the early days at ILM, we were breaking ground by being asked to create imagery that had never been seen before. This involved creating new tools and approaches that had not been previously possible.

Today, VFX has less of the “man behind the curtain” mystique and has become more mainstream and familiar to most. The tools and computer power have evolved so there is less of the “heavy lifting” that was required in the past. This is all good, but the “bad” part is the fact that “tricking” people’s eyes is more difficult these days.

DID A PARTICULAR FILM INSPIRE YOU ALONG THIS PATH IN ENTERTAINMENT?
A couple really focused my attention toward VFX. There is a whole generation that was enthralled with the first Star Wars movie. I will never forget the feeling I had upon first viewing it — it was magical.

The other was E.T., since it was more grounded on Earth and more plausible. I was blessed to be able to work directly with both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg [and the artisans who created the VFX for these films] during the course of my career.

DID YOU GO TO FILM SCHOOL?
I did not. At the time, there was virtually no opportunity to attend a film school, or any school, that taught VFX. I took the route that made the most sense for me at the time — art major. I am a classically trained artist who focused on graphic design and illustration, but I also took computer programming.

On a typical Saturday, I would spend the morning in the computer lab programming and the afternoon on the potter’s wheel throwing pots. Always found that ironic – primitive to modern in the same day!

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Working with the team and bringing the creative to life.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Numbers, no one told me there would be math! Re: bidding.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Maybe a fishing or outdoor adventure guide. Something far away from computers and an office.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
– the Vice movie
– the Waco miniseries
–  the Life Sentence TV series
– the Needle in a Timestack film
The 100 TV series

WHAT IS THE PROJECT/S THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
A few stand out, in no particular order. Pearl Harbor, Harry Potter, Galaxy Quest, Titanic, War of the Worlds and the last Indiana Jones movie.

WHAT TOOLS DO YOU USE DAY TO DAY?
I would have to say Nuke. I use it for shot and concept work when needed.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION NOW?
Everything around me. I am heavily into photography these days, and am always looking at putting a new spin on ordinary things and capturing the unique.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Head into the great British Columbian outdoors for camping and other outdoor activities.


Behind the Title: Aardman director/designer Gavin Strange

NAME: Gavin Strange

COMPANY: Bristol, England-based Aardman. They also have an office in NYC under the banner Aardman Nathan Love

CAN YOU DESCRIBE HOW YOUR CAREER AT AARDMAN BEGAN?
I can indeed! I started 10 years ago as a freelancer, joining the fledgling Interactive department (or Aardman Online as it was known back then). They needed a digital designer for a six-month project for the UK’s Channel 4.

I was a freelancer in Bristol at the time and I made it my business to be quite vocal on all the online platforms, always updating those platforms and my own website with my latest work — whether that be client work or self-initiated projects. Luckily for me, the creative director of Aardman Online, Dan Efergan, saw my work when he was searching for a designer and got in touch (it was the most exciting email ever, with the subject of “Hello from Aardman!”

The short version of this story is that I got Dan’s email, popped in for a cup of tea and a chat, and 10 years later I’m still here! Ha!

The slightly longer but still truncated version is that after the six-month freelance project was done, the role of senior designer for the online team became open and I gave up the freelance life and, very excitedly, joined the team as an official Aardmanite!

Thing is, I was never shy about sharing with my new colleagues the other work I did. My role in the beginning was primarily digital/graphic design, but in my own time, under the banner of JamFactory (my own artist alter-ego name) I put out all sorts of work that was purely passion projects; films, characters, toys, clothing, art.

Gavin Strange directed this Christmas spot for the luxury brand Fortnum & Mason .

Filmmaking was a huge passion of mine and even at the earliest stages in my career when I first started out (I didn’t go to university so I got my first role as a junior designer when I was 17) I’d always be blending graphic design and film together.

Over those 10 years at Aardman I continued to make films of all kinds and share them with my colleagues. Because of that more opportunities arose to develop my film work within my existing design role. I had the unique advantage of having a lot of brilliant mentors who guided me and helped me with my moving image projects.

Those opportunities continued to grow and happen more frequently. I was doing more and more directing here, finally becoming officially represented by Aardman and added to their roster of directors. It’s a dream come true for me, because, not only do I get to work at the place I’ve admired growing up, but I’ve been mentored and shaped by the very individuals who make this place so special — that’s a real privilege.

What I really love is that my role is so varied — I’m both a director and a senior designer. I float between projects, and I love that variety. Sometimes I’m directing a commercial, sometimes I’m illustrating icons, other times I’m animating motion graphics. To me though, I don’t see a difference — it’s all creating something engaging, beautiful and entertaining — whatever the final format or medium!

So that’s my Aardman story. Ten years in, and I just feel like I’m getting started. I love this place.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE OF DIRECTOR?
Hmm, it’s tricky, as I actually think that most people’s perception of being a director is true: it’s that person’s responsibility to bring the creative vision to life.

Maybe what people don’t know is how flexible the role is, depending on the project. I love smaller projects where I get to board, design and animate, but then I love larger jobs with a whole crew of people. It’s always hands-on, but in many different ways.

Perhaps what would surprise a lot of people is that it’s every directors responsibility to clean the toilets at the end of the day. That’s what Aardman has always told me and, of course, I honor that tradition. I mean, I haven’t actually ever seen anyone else do it, but that’s because everyone else just gets on with it quietly, right? Right!?

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Oh man, can I say everything!? I really, really enjoy the job as a whole — having that creative vision, working with yourself, your colleagues and your clients to bring it to life. Adapting and adjusting to changes and ensuring something great pops out the other end.

I really, genuinely, get a thrill seeing something on screen. I love concentrating on every single frame — it’s a win-win situation. You get to make a lovely image each frame, but when you stitch them together and play them really fast one after another, then you get a lovely movie — how great is that?

In short, I really love the sum total of the job. All those different exciting elements that all come together for the finished piece.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
I pride myself on being an optimist and being a right positive pain in the bum, so I don’t know if there’s any part I don’t enjoy — if anything is tricky I try and see it as a challenge and something that will only improve my skillset.

I know that sounds super annoying doesn’t it? I know that can seem all floaty and idealistic, but I pride myself on being a “realistic’ idealist” — recognizing the reality of a tricky situation, but seeing it through an idealistic lens.

If I’m being honest, then probably that really early stage is my least favorite — when the project is properly kicking off and you’ve got that gap between what the treatment/script/vision says it will be and the huge gulf in between that and the finished thing. That’s also the most exciting too, the not knowing how it will turn out. It’s terrifying and thrilling, in all good measure. It surprises me every single time, but I think that panic is an essential part of any creative process.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
In an alternate world, I’d be a photographer, traveling the world, documenting everything I see, living the nomadic life. But that’s still a creative role, and I still class it as the same job, really. I love my graphic design roots too — print and digital design — but, again, I see it as all the same role really.

So that means, if I didn’t have this job, I’d be roaming the lands, offering to draw/paint/film/make for anyone that wanted it! (Is that a mercenary? Is there such a thing as a visual mercenary? I don’t really have the physique for that I don’t think.)

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION?
This profession chose me. I’m just kidding, that’s ridiculous, I just always wanted to say that.

I think, like most folks, I fell into it in a series of natural choices. Art, design, graphics and games always stole my attention as a kid, and I just followed the natural path into that, which turned into my career. I’m lucky enough that I didn’t feel the need to single out any one passion, and kept them all bubbling along even as I made my career choices as designer to director. I still did and still do indulge my passion for all types of mediums in my own time.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I’m not sure. I wasn’t particularly driven or focused as a kid. I knew I loved design and art, but I didn’t know of the many, many different roles out there that existed. I like that though, I see that as a positive, and also as an achievable way to progress through a career path. I speak to a lot of students and young professionals and I think it can be so overwhelming to plot a big ‘X’ on a career map and then feel all confused about how to get there. I’m an advocate of taking it one step at a time, and make more manageable advances forward — as things always get in the way and change anyway.

I love the idea of a meandering, surprising path. Who knows where it will lead!? I think as long as your aim is to make great work, then you’ll surprise yourself where you end up.

WHAT WAS IT ABOUT DIRECTING THAT ATTRACTED YOU?
I’ve always obsessed over films, and obsessed over the creation of them. I’ll watch a behind-the-scenes on any film or bit of moving image. I just love the fact that the role is to bring something to life — it’s to oversee and create something from nothing, ensuring every frame is right. The way it makes you feel, the way it looks, the way it sounds.

It’s just such an exciting role. There’s a lot of unknowns too, on every project. I think that’s where the good stuff lies. Trusting in the process and moving forwards, embracing it.

HOW DOES DIRECTING FOR ANIMATION DIFFER FROM DIRECTING FOR LIVE ACTION — OR DOES IT?
Technically it’s different — with animation your choices are pretty much made all up front, with the storyboards and animatic as your guides, and then they’re brought to life with animation. Whereas, for me, the excitement in live action is not really knowing what you’ll get until there’s a lens on it. And even then, it can come together in a totally new way in the edit.

I don’t try to differentiate myself as an “animation director” or “live-action” director. They’re just different tools for the job. Whatever tells the best story and connects with audiences!

HOW DO YOU PICK THE PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH ON A PARTICULAR PROJECT?
Their skillset is paramount, but equally as important is their passion and their kindness. There are so many great people out there, but I think it’s so important to work with people who are great and kind. Too many people get a free pass for being brilliant and feel that celebration of their work means it’s okay to mistreat others. It’s not okay… ever. I’m lucky that Aardman is a place full of excited, passionate and engaged folk who are a pleasure to work with, because you can tell they love what they do.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
I’ve been lucky enough to work on a real variety of projects recently. I directed an ident for the rebrand of BBC2, a celebratory Christmas spot for the luxury brand Fortnum & Mason and an autobiographical motion graphics short film about Maya Angelou for BBC Radio 4.

Maya Angelou short film for BBC Radio 4

I love the variety of them; just those three projects alone were so different. The BBC2 ident was live-action in-camera effects with a great crew of people, whereas the Maya Angelou film was just me on design, direction and animation. I love hopping between projects of all types and sizes!

I’m working on development of a stop-frame short at the moment, which is all I can say for now, but just the process alone going from idea to a scribble in a notebook to a script is so exciting. Who knows what 2019 holds!?

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Oh man, that’s a tough one! A few years back I co-directed a title sequence for a creative festival called OFFF, which happens every year in Barcelona. I worked with Aardman legend Merlin Crossingham to bring this thing to life, and it’s a proper celebration of what we both love — it ended up being what we lovingly refer to as our “stop-frame live-action motion-graphics rap-video title-sequence.” It really was all those things.

That was really special as not only did we have a great crew, I got to work with one of my favorite rappers, P.O.S., who kindly provided the beats and the raps for the film.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT
– My iPhone. It’s my music player, Internet checker, email giver, tweet maker, picture capturer.
– My Leica M6 35mm camera. It’s my absolute pride and joy. I love the images it makes.
– My Screens. At work I have a 27-inch iMac and then two 25-inch monitors on either side. I just love screens. If I could have more, I would!

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I genuinely love what I do, so I rarely feel like I “need to get away from it all.” But I do enjoy life outside of work. I’m a drummer and that really helps with any and all stress really. Even just practicing on a practice pad is cathartic, but nothing compares to smashing away on a real kit.

I like to run, and I sometimes do a street dance class, which is both great fun and excruciatingly frustrating because I’m not very good.

I’m a big gamer, even though I don’t have much time for it anymore. A blast on the PS4 is a treat. In fact, after this I’m going to have a little session on God of War before bedtime.

I love hanging with my family. My wife Jane, our young son Sullivan and our dog Peggy. Just hanging out, being a dad and being a husband is the best for de-stressing. Unless Sullivan gets up at 3am, then I change my answer back to the PS4.

I’m kidding, I love my family, I wouldn’t be anything or be anywhere without them.


Foundry Nuke 11.3’s performance, collaboration updates

Foundry has launched Nuke 11.3, introducing new features and updates to the company’s family of compositing and review tools. The release is the fourth update to the Nuke 11 Series and is designed to improve the user experience and to speed up heavy processing tasks for pipelines and individual users.

Nuke 11.3 lands with major enhancements to its Live Groups feature. It introduces new functionality along with corresponding Python callbacks and UI notifications that will allow for greater collaboration and offer more control. These updates make Live Groups easier for larger pipelines to integrate and give artists more visibility over the state of the Live Group and flexibility when using user knobs to override values within a Live Group.

The particle system in NukeX has been optimized to produce particle simulations up to six times faster than previous versions of the software, and up to four times faster for playback, allowing for faster iteration when setting up particle systems.

New Timeline Multiview support provides an extension to stereo and VR workflows. Artists can now use the same multiple-file stereo workflows that exist in Nuke on the Nuke Studio, Hiero and HieroPlayer timeline. The updated export structure can also be used to create multiple-view Nuke scripts from the timeline in Nuke Studio and Hiero.

Support for full-resolution stereo on monitor out makes review sessions even easier, and a new export preset helps with rendering of stereo projects.

New UI indications for changes in bounding box size and channel count help artists troubleshoot their scripts. A visual indication identifies nodes that increase bounding box size to be greater than the image, helping artists to identify the state of the bounding box at a glance. Channel count is now displayed in the status bar, and a warning is triggered when the 1024-channel limit is exceeded. The appearance and threshold for triggering the bounding box and channel warnings can be set in the preferences.

The selection tool has also been improved in both 2D and 3D views, and an updated marquee and new lasso tool make selecting shapes and points even easier.

Nuke 11.3 is available for purchase — alongside full release details — on Foundry’s website and via accredited resellers.

Making an animated series with Adobe Character Animator

By Mike McCarthy

In a departure from my normal film production technology focus, I have also been working on an animated web series called Grounds of Freedom. Over the past year I have been directing the effort and working with a team of people across the country who are helping in various ways. After a year of meetings, experimentation and work we finally started releasing finished episodes on YouTube.

The show takes place in Grounds of Freedom, a coffee shop where a variety of animated mini-figures gather to discuss freedom and its application to present-day cultural issues and events. The show is created with a workflow that weaves through a variety of Adobe Creative Cloud apps. Back in October I presented our workflow during Adobe Max in LA, and I wanted to share it with postPerspective’s readers as well.

When we first started planning for the series, we considered using live action. Ultimately, after being inspired by the preview releases of Adobe Character Animator, I decided to pursue a new digital approach to brick filming (a film made using Legos), which is traditionally accomplished through stop-motion animation. Once everyone else realized the simpler workflow possibilities and increased level of creative control offered by that new animation process, they were excited to pioneer this new approach. Animation gives us more control and flexibility over the message and dialog, lowers production costs and eases collaboration over long distances, as there is no “source footage” to share.

Creating the Characters
The biggest challenge to using Character Animator is creating digital puppets, which are deeply layered Photoshop PSDs with very precise layer naming and stacking. There are ways to generate the underlying source imagery in 3D animation programs, but I wanted the realism and authenticity of sourcing from actual photographs of the models and figures. So we took lots of 5K macro shots of our sets and characters in various positions with our Canon 60D and 70D DSLRs and cut out hundreds of layers of content in Photoshop to create our characters and all of their various possible body positions. The only thing that was synthetically generated was the various facial expressions digitally painted onto their clean yellow heads, usually to match an existing physical reference character face.

Mike McCarthy shooting stills.

Once we had our source imagery organized into huge PSDs, we rigged those puppets in Character Animator with various triggers, behaviors and controls. The walking was accomplished by cycling through various layers, instead of the default bending of the leg elements. We created arm movement by mapping each arm position to a MIDI key. We controlled facial expressions and head movement via webcam, and the mouth positions were calculated by the program based on the accompanying audio dialog.

Animating Digital Puppets
The puppets had to be finished and fully functional before we could start animating on the digital stages we had created. We had been writing the scripts during that time, parallel to generating the puppet art, so we were ready to record the dialog by the time the puppets were finished. We initially attempted to record live in Character Animator while capturing the animation motions as well, but we didn’t have the level of audio editing functionality we needed available to us in Character Animator. So during that first session, we switched over to Adobe Audition, and planned to animate as a separate process, once the audio was edited.

That whole idea of live capturing audio and facial animation data is laughable now, looking back, since we usually spend a week editing the dialog before we do any animating. We edited each character audio on a separate track and exported those separate tracks to Character Animator. We computed lipsync for each puppet based on their dedicated dialog track and usually exported immediately. This provided a draft visual that allowed us to continue editing the dialog within Premiere Pro. Having a visual reference makes a big difference when trying to determine how a conversation will feel, so that was an important step — even though we had to throw away our previous work in Character Animator once we made significant edit changes that altered sync.

We repeated the process once we had a more final edit. We carried on from there in Character Animator, recording arm and leg motions with the MIDI keyboard in realtime for each character. Once those trigger layers had been cleaned up and refined, we recorded the facial expressions, head positions and eye gaze with a single pass on the webcam. Every re-record to alter a particular section adds a layer to the already complicated timeline, so we limited that as much as possible, usually re-recording instead of making quick fixes unless we were nearly finished.

Compositing the Characters Together
Once we had fully animated scenes in Character Animator, we would turn off the background elements, and isolate each character layer to be exported in Media Encoder via dynamic link. I did a lot of testing before settling on JPEG2000 MXF as the format of choice. I wanted a highly compressed file, but need alpha channel support, and that was the best option available. Each of those renders became a character layer, which was composited into our stage layers in After Effects. We could have dynamically linked the characters directly into AE, but with that many layers that would decrease performance for the interactive part of the compositing work. We added shadows and reflections in AE, as well as various other effects.

Walking was one of the most challenging effects to properly recreate digitally. Our layer cycling in Character Animator resulted in a static figure swinging its legs, but people (and mini figures) have a bounce to their step, and move forward at an uneven rate as they take steps. With some pixel measurement and analysis, I was able to use anchor point keyframes in After Effects to get a repeating movement cycle that made the character appear to be walking on a treadmill.

I then used carefully calculated position keyframes to add the appropriate amount of travel per frame for the feet to stick to the ground, which varies based on the scale as the character moves toward the camera. (In my case the velocity was half the scale value in pixels per seconds.) We then duplicated that layer to create the reflection and shadow of the character as well. That result can then be composited onto various digital stages. In our case, the first two shots of the intro were designed to use the same walk animation with different background images.

All of the character layers were pre-comped, so we only needed to update a single location when a new version of a character was rendered out of Media Encoder, or when we brought in a dynamically linked layer. It would propagate all the necessary comp layers to generate updated reflections and shadows. Once the main compositing work was finished, we usually only needed to make slight changes in each scene between episodes. These scenes were composited at 5K, based on the resolution off the DSLR photos of the sets we had built. These 5K plates could be dynamically linked directly into Premiere Pro, and occasionally used later in the process to ripple slight changes through the workflow. For the interactive work, we got far better editing performance by rendering out flattened files. We started with DNxHR 5K assets, but eventually switched to HEVC files since they were 30x smaller and imperceptibly different in quality with our relatively static animated content.

Editing the Animated Scenes
In Premiere Pro, we had the original audio edit, and usually a draft render of the characters with just their mouths moving. Once we had the plate renders, we placed them each in their own 5K scene sub-sequence and used those sequences as source on our master timeline. This allowed us to easily update the content when new renders were available, or source from dynamically linked layers instead if needed. Our master timeline was 1080p, so with 5K source content we could push in two and a half times the frame size without losing resolution. This allowed us to digitally frame every shot, usually based on one of two rendered angles, and gave us lots of flexibility all the way to the end of the editing process.

Collaborative Benefits of Dynamic Link
While Dynamic Link doesn’t offer the best playback performance without making temp renders, it does have two major benefits in this workflow. It ripples change to the source PSD all the way to the final edit in Premiere just by bringing each app into focus once. (I added a name tag to one character’s PSD during my presentation, and 10 seconds later, it was visible throughout my final edit.) Even more importantly, it allows us to collaborate online without having to share any exported video assets. As long as each member of the team has the source PSD artwork and audio files, all we have to exchange online are the Character Animator project (which is small once the temp files are removed), the .AEP file and the .PrProj file.

This gives any of us the option to render full-quality visual assets anytime we need them, but the work we do on those assets is all contained within the project files that we sync to each other. The coffee shop was built and shot in Idaho, our voice artist was in Florida, our puppets faces were created in LA. I animate and edit in Northern California, the AE compositing was done in LA, and the audio is mixed in New Jersey. We did all of that with nothing but a Dropbox account, using the workflow I have just outlined.

Past that point, it was a fairly traditional finish, in that we edited in music and sound effects, and sent an OMF to Steve, our sound guy at DAWPro Studios http://dawpro.com/photo_gallery.html for the final mix. During that time we added other b-roll visuals or other effects, and once we had the final audio back we rendered the final result to H.264 at 1080p and uploaded to YouTube.


Mike McCarthy is an online editor/workflow consultant with over 10 years of experience on feature films and commercials. He has been involved in pioneering new solutions for tapeless workflows, DSLR filmmaking and multi-screen and surround video experiences. Check out his site.