Audionamix – 7.1.20

Category Archives: Animation

How to use animation in reality TV

By Aline Maalouf

The world of animation is changing and evolving at a rapid pace — bringing photorealistic imagery to the small screen and the big screen — animation that is rendered with such detail, you can imagine the exact sensation of the water, feel the heat of the sunshine and experience the wilderness. Just look at the difference between the first Toy Story film, released in 1995, up to Toy Story 3’s release in 2010.

Over 15 years, there is a complete world of difference — we progressed from 2D to 3D, the colors are poignant, we visualize changes from shadows and lightness and the sequences move much more quickly. The third film was a major feat for a studio, and now either years later, the technology there is already on the cusp of being old news.

Technology is advancing faster than it can be implemented — and it isn’t just the Pixar’s and Disney’s of the world who have to stay ahead of the curve with each sequence released. Boutique companies are under just as much pressure to continually push the envelope on what’s possible in the animation space, while still delivering top results to clients within the sometimes demanding time constraints of film and television.

Aline Maalouf

Working in reality TV presents its own set of challenges in comparison to a fully animated program. To start, you need to seamlessly combine real-life interaction with animation — often showcasing what is there against what could be there. As animation continues to evolve, integrating with emerging technology, such as virtual reality, augmented reality and immersive platforms, understanding how users interact with the platform and how to best engage the audience will be crucial.

Here are four ways using animation can enhance a reality TV program:

Showcasing a World of Possibilities
With the introduction of 3D animation, we are able to create imagery so realistic that it is often hard to define what is “real” and what is virtually designed. The real anchor of hyper-realistic animation is the ability to add and play with light and shadows. Layers of light allow us to see reflection, to experience a room from a new angle and to challenge viewers to experience the room in both the daylight and at nighttime.

For example, within our work on Gusto TV’s Where To I Do, couples must select their perfect wedding venue — often viewing a blank space and trying to envision their theme inside it. Using animation, those spaces are brought to life in full, rich color, from dawn to the glaring midday sun to dusk and midnight — no additional film crew time required.

Speeds up Production Process
Gone are the days where studios are spending large budgets resetting room after room to showcase before-and-after options, particularly when it comes to renovation shows. It’s time-consuming and laborious. Working with an animation studio allows producers to showcase a renovated room three different ways, and the audience develops an early feel for the space without the need to see it physically set up.

It’s faster (with the right tools and technology to match TV timelines), allows more flexibility and eliminates the need to build costly sets for one-time use. Even outside of reality TV, the use of greenroom space, green stages and GCI technology allows a flexibility to filming that didn’t necessarily exist two decades ago.

Makes Viewers Part of the Program
If animation is done well, it should make the viewers feel more invested in the program — as if they are part of this experience. Animation should not break what is happening in reality. In order to make this happen, it is essential to have up-to-date software and hardware that bridges the gap between the vision and what is actually accomplished within each scene.

Software and hardware go hand-in-hand in creating high-quality animations. If the software is up to date and not the hardware, the work will be compromised as the rendering process will not be able to support the full project scope. One ripple in the wave of animation and the viewer is reminded that what they’re seeing doesn’t really exist.

Opens Doors to Immersive Experiences
Although we have scratched the surface of what’s possible when it comes to virtual reality, augmented reality and generating immersive experiences for viewers from the comfort of their living rooms, I anticipate there will be a wave of growth in this space over the next five years. Our studio is already building some of these capabilities into our current projects. Overall, studios and production companies are looking for new ways to engage an audience that is exposed to hours of content a day.

Rather than just simply viewing the animation of a wedding venue, viewers will be able to click through the space — guiding their own passage from point A to point B. They become the host of their own journey.

Programs of all genres are dazzling their audiences with the future of animation and reality TV is right there with it.


Aline Maalouf is co-founder/EVP of Neezo Studios, which has produced the animation and renderings for all six seasons of the Property Brothers and all live episodes of Brother vs Brother, in addition to other network shows.

Sony Imageworks provides big effects, animation for Warner’s Smallfoot

By Randi Altman

The legend of Bigfoot: a giant, hairy two-legged creature roaming the forests and giving humans just enough of a glimpse to freak them out. Sightings have been happening for centuries with no sign of slowing down — seriously, Google it.

But what if that story was turned around, and it was Bigfoot who was freaked out by a Smallfoot (human)? Well, that is exactly the premise of the new Warner Bros. film Smallfoot, directed by Karey Kirkpatrick. It’s based on the book “Yeti Tracks” by Sergio Pablos.

Karl Herbst

Instead of a human catching a glimpse of the mysterious giant, a yeti named Migo (Channing Tatum) sees a human (James Corden) and tells his entire snow-filled village about the existence of Smallfoot. Of course, no one believes him so he goes on a trek to find this mythical creature and bring him home as proof.

Sony Pictures Imageworks was tasked with all of the animation and visual effects work on the film, while Warner Animation film did all of the front end work — such as adapting the script, creating the production design, editing, directing, producing and more. We reached out to Imageworks VFX supervisor Karl Herbst (Hotel Transylvania 2) to find out more about creating the animation and effects for Smallfoot.

The film has a Looney Tunes-type feel with squash and stretch. Did this provide more freedom or less?
In general, it provided more freedom since it allowed the animation team to really have fun with gags. It also gave them a ton of reference material to pull from and come up with new twists on older ideas. Once out of animation, depending on how far the performance was pushed, other departments — like the character effects team — would have additional work due to all of the exaggerated movements. But all of the extra work was worth it because everyone really loved seeing the characters pushed.

We also found that as the story evolved, Migo’s journey became more emotionally driven; We needed to find a style that also let the audience truly connect with what he was going through. We brought in a lot more subtlety, and a more truthful physicality to the animation when needed. As a result, we have these incredibly heartfelt performances and moments that would feel right at home in an old Road Runner short. Yet it all still feels like part of the same world with these truly believable characters at the center of it.

Was scale between such large and small characters a challenge?
It was one of the first areas we wanted to tackle since the look of the yeti’s fur next to a human was really important to filmmakers. In the end, we found that the thickness and fidelity of the yeti hair had to be very high so you could see each hair next to the hairs of the humans.

It also meant allowing the rigs for the human and yetis to be flexible enough to scale them as needed to have moments where they are very close together and they did not feel so disproportionate to each other. Everything in our character pipeline from animation down to lighting had to be flexible in dealing with these scale changes. Even things like subsurface scattering in the skin had dials in it to deal with when Percy, or any human character, was scaled up or down in a shot.

How did you tackle the hair?
We updated a couple of key areas in our hair pipeline starting with how we would build our hair. In the past, we would make curves that look more like small groups of hairs in a clump. In this case, we made each curve its own strand of a single hair. To shade this hair in a way that allowed artists to have better control over the look, our development team created a new hair shader that used true multiple-scattering within the hair.

We then extended that hair shading model to add control over the distribution around the hair fiber to model the effect of animal hair, which tends to scatter differently than human hair. This gave artists the ability to create lots of different hair looks, which were not based on human hair, as was the case with our older models.

Was rendering so many fury characters on screen at a time an issue?
Yes. In the past this would have been hard to shade all at once, mostly due to our reliance on opacity to create the soft shadows needed for fur. With the new shading model, we were no longer using opacity at all so the number of rays needed to resolve the hair was lower than in the past. But we now needed to resolve the aliasing due to the number of fine hairs (9 million for LeBron James’ Gwangi).

We developed a few other new tools within our version of the Arnold renderer to help with aliasing and render time in general. The first was adaptive sampling, which would allow us to up the anti-aliasing samples drastically. This meant some pixels would only use a few samples while others would use very high sampling. Whereas in the past, all pixels would get the same number. This focused our render times to where we needed it, helping to reduce overall rendering. Our development team also added the ability for us to pick a render up from its previous point. This meant that at a lower quality level we could do all of our lighting work, get creative approval from the filmmakers and pick up the renders to bring them to full quality not losing the time already spent.

What tools were used for the hair simulations specifically, and what tools did you call on in general?
We used Maya and the Nucleus solvers for all of the hair simulations, but developed tools over them to deal with so much hair per character and so many characters on screen at once. The simulation for each character was driven by their design and motion requirements.

The Looney Tunes-inspired design and motion created a challenge around how to keep hair simulations from breaking with all of the quick and stretched motion while being able to have light wind for the emotional subtle moments. We solved all of those requirements by using a high number of control hairs and constraints. Meechee (Zendaya) used 6,000 simulation curves with over 200 constraints, while Migo needed 3,200 curves with around 30 constraints.

Stonekeeper (Common) was the most complex of the characters, with long braided hair on his head, a beard, shaggy arms and a cloak made of stones. He required a cloth simulation pass, a rigid body simulation was performed for the stones and the hair was simulated on top of the stones. Our in-house tool called Kami builds all of the hair at render time and also allows us to add procedurals to the hair at that point. We relied on those procedurals to create many varied hair looks for all of the generics needed to fill the village full of yetis.

How many different types of snow did you have?
We created three different snow systems for environmental effects. The first was a particle simulation of flakes for near-ground detail. The second was volumetric effects to create lots of atmosphere in the backgrounds that had texture and movement. We used this on each of the large sets and then stored those so lighters could pick which parts they wanted in each shot. To also help with artistically driving the look of each shot, our third system was a library of 2D elements that the effects team rendered and could be added during compositing to add details late in shot production.

For ground snow, we had different systems based on the needs in each shot. For shallow footsteps, we used displacement of the ground surface with additional little pieces of geometry to add crumble detail around the prints. This could be used in foreground or background.

For heavy interactions, like tunneling or sliding in the snow, we developed a new tool we called Katyusha. This new system combined rigid body destruction with fluid simulations to achieve all of the different states snow can take in any given interaction. We then rendered these simulations as volumetrics to give the complex lighting look the filmmakers were looking for. The snow, being in essence a cloud, allowed light transport through all of the different layers of geometry and volume that could be present at any given point in a scene. This made it easier for the lighters to give the snow its light look in any given lighting situation.

Was there a particular scene or effect that was extra challenging? If so, what was it and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge to the film as a whole was the environments. The story was very fluid, so design and build of the environments came very late in the process. Coupling that with a creative team that liked to find their shots — versus design and build them — meant we needed to be very flexible on how to create sets and do them quickly.

To achieve this, we begin by breaking the environments into a subset of source shapes that could be combined in any fashion to build Yeti Mountain, Yeti Village and the surrounding environments. Surfacing artists then created materials that could be applied to any set piece, allowing for quick creative decisions about what was rock, snow and ice, and creating many different looks. All of these materials were created using PatternCreate networks as part of our OSL shaders. With them we could heavily leverage the portable procedural texturing between assets making location construction quicker, more flexible and easier to dial.

To get the right snow look for all levels of detail needed, we used a combination of textured snow, modeled snow and a simulation of geometric snowfall, which all needed to shade the same. For the simulated snowfall we created a padding system that could be run at any time on an environment giving it a fresh coating of snow. We did this so that filmmakers could modify sets freely in layout and not have to worry about broken snow lines. Doing all of that with modeled snow would have been too time-consuming and costly. This padding system worked not only in organic environments, like Yeti Village, but also in the Human City at the end of the film. The snow you see in the Human City is a combination of this padding system in the foreground and textures in the background.

Audionamix – 7.1.20

Creating super sounds for Disney XD’s Marvel Rising: Initiation

By Jennifer Walden

Marvel revealed “the next generation of Marvel heroes for the next generation of Marvel fans” in a behind-the-scenes video back in December. Those characters stayed tightly under wraps until August 13, when a compilation of animated shorts called Marvel Rising: Initiation aired on Disney XD. Those shorts dive into the back story of the new heroes and give audiences a taste of what they can expect in the feature-length animated film Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors that aired for the first time on September 30 on both the Disney Channel and Disney XD simultaneously.

L-R: Pat Rodman and Eric P. Sherman

Handling audio post on both the animated shorts and the full-length feature is the Bang Zoom team led by sound supervisor Eric P. Sherman and chief sound engineer Pat Rodman. They worked on the project at the Bang Zoom Atomic Olive location in Burbank. The sounds they created for this new generation of Marvel heroes fit right in with the established Marvel universe but aren’t strictly limited to what already exists. “We love to keep it kind of close, unless Marvel tells us that we should match a specific sound. It really comes down to whether it’s a sound for a new tech or an old tech,” says Rodman.

Sherman adds, “When they are talking about this being for the next generation of fans, they’re creating a whole new collection of heroes, but they definitely want to use what works. The fans will not be disappointed.”

The shorts begin with a helicopter flyover of New York City at night. Blaring sirens mix with police radio chatter as searchlights sweep over a crime scene on the street below. A SWAT team moves in as a voice blasts over a bullhorn, “To the individual known as Ghost Spider, we’ve got you surrounded. Come out peacefully with your hands up and you will not be harmed.” Marvel Rising: Initiation wastes no time in painting a grim picture of New York City. “There is tension and chaos. You feel the oppressiveness of the city. It’s definitely the darker side of New York,” says Sherman.

The sound of the city throughout the series was created using a combination of sourced recordings of authentic New York City street ambience and custom recordings of bustling crowds that Rodman captured at street markets in Los Angeles. Mix-wise, Rodman says they chose to play the backgrounds of the city hotter than normal just to give the track a more immersive feel.

Ghost Spider
Not even 30 seconds into the shorts, the first new Marvel character makes her dramatic debut. Ghost Spider (Dove Cameron), who is also known as Spider Gwen, bursts from a third-story window, slinging webs at the waiting officers. Since she’s a new character, Rodman notes that she’s still finding her way and there’s a bit of awkwardness to her character. “We didn’t want her to sound too refined. Her tech is good, but it’s new. It’s kind of like Spider-Man first starting out as a kid and his tech was a little off,” he says.

Sound designer Gordon Hookailo spent a lot of time crafting the sound of Spider Gwen’s webs, which according to Sherman have more of a nylon, silky kind of sound than Spider-Man’s webs. There’s a subliminal ghostly wisp sound to her webs also. “It’s not very overt. There’s just a little hint of a wisp, so it’s not exactly like regular Spider-Man’s,” explains Rodman.

Initially, Spider Gwen seems to be a villain. She’s confronted by the young-yet-authoritative hero Patriot (Kamil McFadden), a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. who was trained by Captain America. Patriot carries a versatile, high-tech shield that can do lots of things, like become a hovercraft. It shoots lasers and rockets too. The hoverboard makes a subtle whooshy, humming sound that’s high-tech in a way that’s akin to the Goblin’s hovercraft. “It had to sound like Captain America too. We had to make it match with that,” notes Rodman.

Later on in the shorts, Spider Gwen’s story reveals that she’s actually one of the good guys. She joins forces with a crew of new heroes, starting with Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl.

Ms. Marvel (Kathreen Khavari) has the ability to stretch and grow. When she reaches out to grab Spider Gwen’s leg, there’s a rubbery, creaking sound. When she grows 50 feet tall she sounds 50 feet tall, complete with massive, ground shaking footsteps and a lower ranged voice that’s sweetened with big delays and reverbs. “When she’s large, she almost has a totally different voice. She’s sound like a large, forceful woman,” says Sherman.

Squirrel Girl
One of the favorites on the series so far is Squirrel Girl (Milana Vayntrub) and her squirrel sidekick Tippy Toe. Squirrel Girl has  the power to call a stampede of squirrels. Sound-wise, the team had fun with that, capturing recordings of animals small and large with their Zoom H6 field recorder. “We recorded horses and dogs mainly because we couldn’t find any squirrels in Burbank; none that would cooperate, anyway,” jokes Rodman. “We settled on a larger animal sound that we manipulated to sound like it had little feet. And we made it sound like there are huge numbers of them.”

Squirrel Girl is a fan of anime, and so she incorporates an anime style into her attacks, like calling out her moves before she makes them. Sherman shares, “Bang Zoom cut its teeth on anime; it’s still very much a part of our lifeblood. Pat and I worked on thousands of episodes of anime together, and we came up with all of these techniques for making powerful power moves.” For example, they add reverb to the power moves and choose “shings” that have an anime style sound.

What is an anime-style sound, you ask? “Diehard fans of anime will debate this to the death,” says Sherman. “It’s an intuitive thing, I think. I’ll tell Pat to do that thing on that line, and he does. We’re very much ‘go with the gut’ kind of people.

“As far as anime style sound effects, Gordon [Hookailo] specifically wanted to create new anime sound effects so we didn’t just take them from an existing library. He created these new, homegrown anime effects.”

Quake
The other hero briefly introduced in the shorts is Quake (Chloe Bennet), who is the same actress who plays Daisy Johnson, aka Quake, on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Sherman says, “Gordon is a big fan of that show and has watched every episode. He used that as a reference for the sound of Quake in the shorts.”

The villain in the shorts has so far remained nameless, but when she first battles Spider Gwen the audience sees her pair of super-daggers that pulse with a green glow. The daggers are somewhat “alive,” and when they cut someone they take some of that person’s life force. “We definitely had them sound as if the power was coming from the daggers and not from the person wielding them,” explains Rodman. “The sounds that Gordon used were specifically designed — not pulled from a library — and there is a subliminal vocal effect when the daggers make a cut. It’s like the blade is sentient. It’s pretty creepy.”

Voices
The character voices were recorded at Bang Zoom, either in the studio or via ISDN. The challenge was getting all the different voices to sound as though they were in the same space together on-screen. Also, some sessions were recorded with single mics on each actor while other sessions were recorded as an ensemble.

Sherman notes it was an interesting exercise in casting. Some of the actors were YouTube stars (who don’t have much formal voice acting experience) and some were experienced voice actors. When an actor without voiceover experience comes in to record, the Bang Zoom team likes to start with mic technique 101. “Mic technique was a big aspect and we worked on that. We are picky about mic technique,” says Sherman. “But, on the other side of that, we got interesting performances. There’s a realism, a naturalness, that makes the characters very relatable.”

To get the voices to match, Rodman spent a lot of time using Waves EQ, Pro Tools Legacy Pitch, and occasionally Waves UltraPitch for when an actor slipped out of character. “They did lots of takes on some of these lines, so an actor might lose focus on where they were, performance-wise. You either have to pull them back in with EQ, pitching or leveling,” Rodman explains.

One highlight of the voice recording process was working with voice actor Dee Bradley Baker, who did the squirrel voice for Tippy Toe. Most of Tippy Toe’s final track was Dee Bradley Baker’s natural voice. Rodman rarely had to tweak the pitch, and it needed no other processing or sound design enhancement. “He’s almost like a Frank Welker (who did the voice of Fred Jones on Scooby-Doo, the voice of Megatron starting with the ‘80s Transformers franchise and Nibbler on Futurama).

Marvel Rising: Initiation was like a training ground for the sound of the feature-length film. The ideas that Bang Zoom worked out there were expanded upon for the soon-to-be released Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors. Sherman concludes, “The shorts gave us the opportunity to get our arms around the property before we really dove into the meat of the film. They gave us a chance to explore these new characters.”


Jennifer Walden is a New Jersey-based audio engineer and writer. You can follow her on Twitter @audiojeney.


London design, animation studio Golden Wolf sets up shop in NYC

Animation studio Golden Wolf, headquartered in London, has launched its first stateside location in New York City. The expansion comes on the heels of an alliance with animation/VFX/live-action studio Psyop, a minority investor in the company. Golden Wolf now occupies studio space in SoHo adjacent to Psyop and its sister company Blacklist, which formerly represented Golden Wolf stateside and was instrumental to the relationship.

Among the year’s highlights from Golden Wolf are an integrated campaign for Nike FA18 Phantom (client direct), a spot for the adidas x Parley Run for the Oceans initiative (TBWA Amsterdam) in collaboration with Psyop, and Marshmello’s Fly music video for Disney. Golden Wolf also received an Emmy nomination for its main title sequence for Disney’s Ducktales reboot.

Heading up Golden Wolf’s New York office are two transplants from the London studio, executive producer Dotti Sinnott and art director Sammy Moore. Both joined Golden Wolf in 2015, Sinnott from motion design studio Bigstar, where she was a senior producer, and Moore after a run as a freelance illustrator/designer in London’s agency scene.

Sinnott comments: “Building on the strength of our London team, the Golden Wolf brand will continue to grow and evolve with the fresh perspective of our New York creatives. Our presence on either side of the Atlantic not only brings us closer to existing clients, but also positions us perfectly to build new relationships with New York-based agencies and brands. On top of this, we’re able to use the time difference to our advantage to work on faster turnarounds and across a range of budgets.”

Founded in 2013 by Ingi Erlingsson, the studio’s executive creative director, Golden Wolf is known for youth-oriented work — especially content for social media, entertainment and sports — that blurs the lines of irreverent humor, dynamic action and psychedelia. Erlingsson was once a prolific graffiti artist and, later, illustrator/designer and creative director at U.K.-based design agency ilovedust. Today he inspires Golden Wolf’s creative culture and disruptive style fed in part by a wave of next-gen animation talent coming out of schools such as Gobelins in France and The Animation Workshop in Denmark.

“I’m excited about our affiliation with Psyop, which enjoys an incredible legacy producing industry-leading animated advertising content,” Erlingsson says. “Golden Wolf is the new kid on the block, with bags of enthusiasm and an aim to disrupt the industry with new ideas. The combination of the two studios means that we are able to tackle any challenge, regardless of format or technical approach, with the support of some of the world’s best artists and directors. The relationship allows brands and agencies to have complete confidence in our ability to solve even the biggest challenges.”

Golden Wolf’s initial work out of its New York studio includes spots for Supercell (client direct) and Bulleit Bourbon (Barton F. Graf). Golden Wolf is represented in the US market by Hunky Dory for the East Coast, Baer Brown for the Midwest and In House Reps for the West Coast. Stink represents the studio for Europe.

Main Photo: (L-R) Dotti Sinnott, Ingi Erlingsson and Sammy Moore.


Using VFX to bring the new Volkswagen Jetta to life

LA-based studio Jamm provided visual effects for the all-new 2019 Volkswagen Jetta campaign Betta Getta Jetta. Created by Deutsch and produced by ManvsMachine, the series of 12 spots bring the Jetta to life by combining Jamm’s CG design with a color palette inspired by the car’s 10-color ambient lighting system.

“The VW campaign offered up some incredibly fun and intricate challenges. Most notably was the volume of work to complete in a limited amount of time — 12 full-CG spots in just nine weeks, each one unique with its own personality,” says VFX supervisor Andy Boyd.

Collaboration was key to delivering so many spots in such a short span of time. Jamm worked closely with ManvsMachine on every shot. “The team had a very strong creative vision which is crucial in the full 3D world where anything is possible,” explains Boyd.

Jamm employed a variety of techniques for the music-centric campaign, which highlights updated features such as ambient lighting and Beats Audio. The series includes spots titled  Remix, Bumper-to-Bumper, Turb-Whoa, Moods, Bass, Rings, Puzzle and App Magnet, along with 15-second teasers, all of which aired on various broadcast, digital and social channels during the World Cup.

For “Remix,” Jamm brought both a 1985 and a 2019 Jetta to life, along with a hybrid mix of the two, adding a cool layer of turntablist VFX, whereas for “Puzzle,” they cut up the car procedurally in Houdini​, which allowed the team to change around the slices as needed.

For Bass, Jamm helped bring personality to the car while keeping its movements grounded in reality. Animation supervisor Stew Burris pushed the car’s performance and dialed in the choreography of the dance with ManvsMachine as the Jetta discovered the beat, adding exciting life to the car as it bounced to the bassline and hit the switches on a little three-wheel motion.

We reached out to Jamm’s Boyd to find out more.

How early did Jamm get involved?
We got involved as soon as agency boards were client approved. We worked hand in hand with ManvMachine to previs each of the spots in order to lay the foundation for our CG team to execute both agency and directors’ vision.

What were the challenges of working on so many spots at once.
The biggest challenge was for editorial to keep up with the volume of previs options we gave them to present to agency.

Other than Houdini, what tools did they use?
Flame, Nuke and Maya were used as well.

What was your favorite spot of the 12 and why?
Puzzle was our favorite to work on. It was the last of the bunch delivered to Deutsch which we treated with a more technical approach, slicing up the car like a Rubix’s Cube.

 


Allegorithmic’s Substance Painter adds subsurface scattering

Allegorithmic has released the latest additions to its Substance Painter tool, targeted to VFX, game studios and pros who are looking for ways to create realistic lighting effects. Substance Painter enhancements include subsurface scattering (SSS), new projections and fill tools, improvements to the UX and support for a range of new meshes.

Using Substance Painter’s newly updated shaders, artists will be able to add subsurface scattering as a default option. Artists can add a Scattering map to a texture set and activate the new SSS post-effect. Skin, organic surfaces, wax, jade and any other translucent materials that require extra care will now look more realistic, with redistributed light shining through from under the surface.

The release also includes updates to projection and fill tools, beginning with the user-requested addition of non-square projection. Images can be loaded in both the projection and stencil tool without altering the ratio or resolution. Those projection and stencil tools can also disable tiling in one or both axes. Fill layers can be manipulated directly in the viewport using new manipulator controls. Standard UV projections feature a 2D manipulator in the UV viewport. Triplanar Projection received a full 3D manipulator in the 3D viewport, and both can be translated, scaled and rotated directly in-scene.

Along with the improvements to the artist tools, Substance Painter includes several updates designed to improve the overall experience for users of all skill levels. Consistency between tools has been improved, and additions like exposed presets in Substance Designer and a revamped, universal UI guide make it easier for users to jump between tools.

Additional updates include:
• Alembic support — The Alembic file format is now supported by Substance Painter, starting with mesh and camera data. Full animation support will be added in a future update.
• Camera import and selection — Multiple cameras can be imported with a mesh, allowing users to switch between angles in the viewport; previews of the framed camera angle now appear as an overlay in the 3D viewport.
• Full gITF support — Substance Painter now automatically imports and applies textures when loading gITF meshes, removing the need to import or adapt mesh downloads from Sketchfab.
• ID map drag-and-drop — Both materials and smart materials can be taken from the shelf and dropped directly onto ID colors, automatically creating an ID mask.
• Improved Substance format support — Improved tweaking of Substance-made materials and effects thanks to visible-if and embedded presets.


Maxon intros Cinema 4D Release 20

Maxon will be at Siggraph this year showing the next iteration of its Cinema 4D Release 20 (R20), an update of its 3D design and animation software. Release 20 introduces high-end features for VFX and motion graphics artists including node-based materials, volume modeling, CAD import and an evolution of the MoGraph toolset.

Maxon expects Cinema 4D Release 20 to be available this September for both Mac and Windows operating systems.

Key highlights in Release 20 include:
Node-Based Materials – This feature provides new possibilities for creating materials — from simple references to complex shaders — in a node-based editor. With more than 150 nodes to choose from that perform different functions, artists can combine nodes to easily build complex shading effects. Users new to a node-based material workflow still can rely on Cinema 4D’s standard Material Editor interface to create the corresponding node material in the background automatically. Node-based materials can be packaged into assets with user-defined parameters exposed in a similar interface to Cinema 4D’s Material Editor.

MoGraph Fields – New capabilities in this procedural animation toolset offer an entirely new way to define the strength of effects by combining falloffs — from simple shapes, to shaders or sounds to objects and formulas. Artists can layer Fields atop each other with standard mixing modes and remap their effects. They can also group multiple Fields together and use them to control effectors, deformers, weights and more.

CAD Data Import – Popular CAD formats can be imported into Cinema 4D R20 with a drag and drop. A new scale-based tessellation interface allows users to adjust detail to build amazing visualizations. Step, Solidworks, JT, Catia V5 and IGES formats are supported.

Volume Modeling – Users can create complex models by adding or subtracting basic shapes in Boolean-type operations using Cinema 4D R20’s OpenVDB–based Volume Builder and Mesher. They can also procedurally build organic or hard-surface volumes using any Cinema 4D object, including new Field objects. Volumes can be exported in sequenced .vdb format for use in any application or render engine that supports OpenVDB.

ProRender Enhancements — ProRender in Cinema 4D R20 extends the GPU-rendering toolset with key features including subsurface scattering, motion blur and multipasses. Also included are Metal 2 support, an updated ProRender core, out-of-core textures and other architectural enhancements.

Core Technology Modernization —As part of the transition to a more modern core in Cinema 4D, R20 comes with substantial API enhancements, the new node framework, further development on the new modeling framework and a new UI framework.

During Siggraph, Maxon will have guest artists presenting at their booth each day of the show. Presentations will be live streamed on C4DLive.com.

 

 


SIGGRAPH conference chair Roy C. Anthony: VR, AR, AI, VFX, more

By Randi Altman

Next month, SIGGRAPH returns to Vancouver after turns in Los Angeles and Anaheim. This gorgeous city, whose convention center offers a water view, is home to many visual effects studios providing work for film, television and spots.

As usual, SIGGRAPH will host many presentations, showcase artists’ work, display technology and offer a glimpse into what’s on the horizon for this segment of the market.

Roy C. Anthony

Leading up to the show — which takes place August 12-16 — we reached out to Roy C. Anthony, this year’s conference chair. For his day job, Anthony recently joined Ventuz Technology as VP, creative development. There, he leads initiatives to bring Ventuz’s realtime rendering technologies to creators of sets, stages and ProAV installations around the world

SIGGRAPH is back in Vancouver this year. Can you talk about why it’s important for the industry?
There are 60-plus world-class VFX and animation studios in Vancouver. There are more than 20,000 film and TV jobs, and more than 8,000 VFX and animation jobs in the city.

So, Vancouver’s rich production-centric communities are leading the way in film and VFX production for television and onscreen films. They are also are also busy with new media content, games work and new workflows, including those for AR/VR/mixed reality.

How many exhibitors this year?
The conference and exhibition will play host to over 150 exhibitors on the show floor, showcasing the latest in computer graphics and interactive technologies, products and services. Due to the increase in the amount of new technology that has debuted in the computer graphics marketplace over this past year, almost one quarter of this year’s 150 exhibitors will be presenting at SIGGRAPH for the first time

In addition to the traditional exhibit floor and conferences, what are some of the can’t-miss offerings this year?
We have increased the presence of virtual, augmented and mixed reality projects and experiences — and we are introducing our new Immersive Pavilion in the east convention center, which will be dedicated to this area. We’ve incorporated immersive tech into our computer animation festival with the inclusion of our VR Theater, back for its second year, as well as inviting a special, curated experience with New York University’s Ken Perlin — he’s a legendary computer graphics professor.

We’ll be kicking off the week in a big VR way with a special session following the opening ceremony featuring Ivan Sutherland, considered by many as “the father of computer graphics.” That 50-year retrospective will present the history and innovations that sparked our industry.

We have also brought Syd Mead, a legendary “visual futurist” (Blade Runner, Tron, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Aliens, Time Cop, Tomorrowland, Blade Runner 2049), who will display an arrangement of his art in a special collection called Progressions. This will be seen within our Production Gallery experience, which also returns for its second year. Progressions will exhibit more than 50 years of artwork by Syd, from his academic years to his most current work.

We will have an amazing array of guest speakers, including those featured within the Business Symposium, which is making a return to SIGGRAPH after an absence of a few years. Among these speakers are people from the Disney Technology Innovation Group, Unity and Georgia Tech.

On Tuesday, August 14, our SIGGRAPH Next series will present a keynote speaker each morning to kick off the day with an inspirational talk. These speakers are Tony Derose, a senior scientist from Pixar; Daniel Szecket, VP of design for Quantitative Imaging Systems; and Bob Nicoll, dean of Blizzard Academy.

There will be a 25th anniversary showing of the original Jurassic Park movie, being hosted by “Spaz” Williams, a digital artist who worked on that film.

Can you talk about this year’s keynote and why he was chosen?
We’re thrilled to have ILM head and senior VP, ECD Rob Bredow deliver the keynote address this year. Rob is all about innovation — pushing through scary new directions while maintaining the leadership of artists and technologists.

Rob is the ultimate modern-day practitioner, a digital VFX supervisor who has been disrupting ‘the way it’s always been done’ to move to new ways. He truly reflects the spirit of ILM, which was founded in 1975 and is just one year younger than SIGGRAPH.

A large part of SIGGRAPH is its slant toward students and education. Can you discuss how this came about and why this is important?
SIGGRAPH supports education in all sub-disciplines of computer graphics and interactive techniques, and it promotes and improves the use of computer graphics in education. Our Education Committee sponsors a broad range of projects, such as curriculum studies, resources for educators and SIGGRAPH conference-related activities.

SIGGRAPH has always been a welcoming and diverse community, one that encourages mentorship, and acknowledges that art inspires science and science enables advances in the arts. SIGGRAPH was built upon a foundation of research and education.

How are the Computer Animation Festival films selected?
The Computer Animation Festival has two programs, the Electronic Theater and the VR Theater. Because of the large volume of submissions for the Electronic Theater (over 400), there is a triage committee for the first phase. The CAF Chair then takes the high scoring pieces to a jury comprised of industry professionals. The jury selects then become the Electronic Theater show pieces.

The selections for the VR Theater are made by a smaller panel comprised mostly of sub-committee members that watch each film in a VR headset and vote.

Can you talk more about how SIGGRAPH is tackling AR/VR/AI and machine learning?
Since SIGGRAPH 2018 is about the theme of “Generations,” we took a step back to look at how we got where we are today in terms of AR/VR, and where we are going with it. Much of what we know today couldn’t have been possible without the research and creation of Ivan Sutherland’s 1968 head-mounted display. We have a fanatic panel celebrating the 50-year anniversary of his HMD, which is widely considered and the first VR HMD.

AI tools are newer, and we created a panel that focuses on trends and the future of AI tools in VFX, called “Future Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning Tools for VFX.” This panel gains insight from experts embedded in both the AI and VFX industries and gives attendees a look at how different companies plan to further their technology development.

What is the process for making sure that all aspects of the industry are covered in terms of panels?
Every year new ideas for panels and sessions are submitted by contributors from all over the globe. Those submissions are then reviewed by a jury of industry experts, and it is through this process that panelists and cross-industry coverage is determined.

Each year, the conference chair oversees the program chairs, then each of the program chairs become part of a jury process — this helps to ensure the best program with the most industries represented from across all disciplines.

In the rare case a program committee feels they are missing something key in the industry, they can try to curate a panel in, but we still require that that panel be reviewed by subject matter experts before it would be considered for final acceptance.

 


Boxx’s Apexx SE capable of 5.0GHz clock speed

Boxx Technologies has introduced the Apexx Special Edition (SE), a workstation featuring a professionally overclocked Intel Core i7-8086K limited edition processor capable of reaching 5.0GHz across all six of its cores.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Intel 8086 (the processor that launched x86 architecture), Intel provided Boxx with a limited number of the high-performance CPUs ideal for 3D modeling, animation and CAD workflows.

Available only while supplies last and custom-configured to accelerate Autodesk’s 3ds Max and Maya, Adobe CC, Maxon Cinema 4D and other pro apps, Apexx SE features a six-core, 8th generation Intel core i7-8086K limited edition processor professionally overclocked to 5.0GHz. Unlike PC gaming systems, the liquid-cooled Apexx SE sustains that frequency across all cores — even in the most demanding situations.

Featuring a compact and metallic blue chassis, the Apexx S3 supports up to three Nvidia or AMD Radeon pro graphics cards, features solid state drives and 2600MHz DDR4 memory. Boxx is offering a three-year warranty on the systems.

“As longtime Intel partners, Boxx is honored to be chosen to offer this state-of-the-art technology. Lightly threaded 3D content creation tools are limited by the frequency of the processor, so a faster clock speed means more creating and less waiting,” explains Boxx VP, marketing and business development Shoaib Mohammad.

Luke Scott to run newly created Ridley Scott Creative Group

Filmmaker Ridley Scott has brought together all of his RSA Films-affiliated companies together in a multi-business restructure to form the Ridley Scott Creative Group. The Ridley Scott Creative Group aims to strengthen the network across the related companies to take advantage of emerging opportunities across all entertainment genres as well as their existing work in film, television, branded entertainment, commercials, VR, short films, documentaries, music video, design and animation, and photography.

Ridley Scott

Luke Scott will assume the role of global CEO, working with founder Ridley Scott and partners Jake and Jordan Scott to oversee the future strategic direction of the newly formed group.

“We are in a new golden age of entertainment,” says Ridley Scott. “The world’s greatest brands, platforms, agencies, new entertainment players and studios are investing hugely in entertainment. We have brought together our talent, capabilities and creative resources under the Ridley Scott Creative Group, and I look forward to maximizing the creative opportunities we now see unfolding with our executive team.”

The companies that make up the RSCG will continue to operate autonomously but will now offer clients synergy under the group offering.

The group includes commercial production company RSA Films, which produced such ads such as Apple’s 1984, Budweiser’s Super Bowl favorite Lost Dog and more recently, Adidas Originals’ Original is Never Finished campaign, as well as branded content for Johnnie Walker, HBO, Jaguar, Ford, Nike and the BMW Films series; the music video production company founded by Jake Scott, Black Dog Films (Justin Timberlake, Maroon 5, Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, Coldplay, Björk and Radiohead); the entertainment marketing company 3AM; commercial production company Hey Wonderful founded by Michael Di Girolamo; newly founded UK commercial production company Darling Films; and film and television production company Scott Free (Gladiator, Taboo, The Martian, The Good Wife), which continues to be led by David W. Zucker, president, US television; Kevin J. Walsh, president, US film; and Ed Rubin-Managing, director, UK television/film.

“Our Scott Free Films and Television divisions have an unprecedented number of movies and shows in production,” reports Luke Scott. “We are also seeing a huge appetite for branded entertainment from our brand and agency partners to run alongside high-quality commercials. Our entertainment marketing division 3AM is extending its capabilities to all our partners, while Black Dog is moving into short films and breaking new, world-class talent. It is a very exciting time to be working in entertainment.”

 

 

 

 

 

Carbon creates four animated thrill ride spots

Carbon was called on once again by agency Cramer-Krasselt to create four spots — Railblazer, Twisted Timbers, Steel Vengeance and HangTime — for Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, which owns and operates 11 amusement parks across North America.

Following the success of Carbon’s creepy 2017 teaser film for the ride Mystic Timbers, Cramer-Krasselt senior art director David Vaca and his team presented Carbon with four ideas, each a deep dive into the themes and backstories of the rides.

Working across four 30-second films simultaneously and leading a “tri-coastal” team of artists, CD Liam Chapple shared directing duties with lead artists Tim Little and Gary Fouchy. The studio has offices in NYC, LA and Chicago.

According to Carbon executive producer/managing director Phil Linturn, “We soaked each script in the visual language, color grades, camera framing and edits reminiscent of our key inspiration films for each world — a lone gun-slinger arriving to town at sundown in the wild west, the carefree and nostalgic surf culture of California, and extreme off-roading adventures in the twisting canyons of the southwest.”

Carbon’s technical approach to these films was dictated by the fast turnaround and having all films in production at the same time. To achieve the richness, tone and detail required to immerse the viewer in these worlds, Carbon blended stylized CGI with hyper-real matte paintings and realistic lighting to create a look somewhere between their favorite children’s storybooks, contemporary manga animation, the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone and one or two of their favorite Pixar films.

Carbon called on Side Effects Houdini (partially for their procedural ocean toolkit), Autodesk Maya’s nCloth and 3ds Max, Pixologic’s Zbrush for 3D sculpting and matte painting, Foundry’s Nuke and FilmLight’s Baselight for color.

“We always love working with Cramer-Krasselt,” concludes Linturn. “They come with awesome concepts and an open mind, challenging us to surprise them with each new deck. This was a fantastic opportunity to expand on our body of full CGI-direction work and to explore some interesting looks and styles. It also allowed us to come up with some very creative workflows across all three offices and to achieve two minutes of animation in just a few weeks. The fact that these four films are part of a much bigger broadcast campaign comprising 70-plus broadcast spots is a testament to the focus and range of the production team.”

Behind the Title: Versus Partner/CD Justin Barnes

NAME: Justin Barnes

COMPANY: Versus (@vs_nyc)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We are “versus” the traditional model of a creative studio. Our approach is design driven and full service. We handle everything from live action to post production, animation and VFX. We often see projects from concept through delivery.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Partner and Creative Director

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I handle the creative side of Versus. From pitching to ideation, thought leadership and working closely with our editors, animators, artists and clients to make our creative — and our clients’ creative vision — the best it can be.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
There’s a lot of business and politics that you have to deal with being a creative.

Adidas

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Every day is different, full of new challenges and the opportunity to come up with new ideas and make really great work.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
When I have to deal with the business side of things more than the creative side.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
For me, it’s very late at night; the only time I can work with no distractions.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Anything in the creative world.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
It’s been a natural progression for me to be where I am. Working with creative and talented people in an industry with unlimited possibilities has always seemed like a perfect fit.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
– Re-brand of The Washington Post
– Animated content series for the NCAA
– CG campaign for Zyrtec
– Live-action content for Adidas and Alltimers collaboration

Zyrtec

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I am proud of all the projects we do, but the ones that stick out the most are the projects with the biggest challenges that we have pulled together and made look amazing. That seems like every project these days.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My laptop, my phone and Uber.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I can’t live without Pinterest. It’s a place to capture the huge streams of inspiration that come at us each day.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
We have music playing in the office 24/7, everything from hip-hop to classical. We love it all. When I am writing for a pitch, I need a little more concentration. I’ll throw on my headphones and put on something that I can get lost in.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Working on personal projects is big in helping de-stress. Also time at my weekend house in Connecticut.

Foundry intros Mari 4.0

Foundry’s Mari 4.0 is the latest version of the company’s digital 3D painting and texturing tool. Foundry launches Mari 4.0 with a host of advanced features, making the tool easier to use and faster to learn. Mari 4.0 comes equipped with more flexible and configurable exporting, simpler navigation, and a raft of improved workflows.

Key benefits of Mari 4.0 include:
Quicker start-up and export: Mari 4.0 allows artists to get projects up-and-running faster with a new startup mechanism that automatically performs the steps previously completed manually by the user. Shaders are automatically built, with channels connected to them as defined by the channel presets in the startup dialog. The user also now gets the choice of initial lighting and shading setup. The new Export Manager configures the batch exporting of Channels and Bake Point Nodes. Artists can create and manage multiple export targets from the same source, as well as perform format conversions during export. This allows for far more control and flexibility when passing Mari’s texture maps down the pipeline.

Better navigation: A new Palettes Toolbar containing all Mari’s palettes offers easy access and visibility to everything Mari can do. It’s now easier to expand a Palette to fullscreen by hitting the spacebar while your mouse is hovered over it. Tools of a similar function have been grouped under a single button in the Tools toolbar, taking up less space and allowing the user to better focus on the Canvas. Various Palettes have been merged together, removing duplication and simplifying the UI, making Mari both easier to learn and use.

Improved UI: The Colors Palette is now scalable for better precision, and the component sliders have been improved to show the resulting color at each point along the control. Users can now fine tune their procedural operations with precision keyboard stepping functionality brought into Mari’s numeric controls.

The HUD has been redesigned so it no longer draws over the paint subject, allowing the user to better focus on their painting and work more effectively. Basic Node Graph mode has been removed: Advanced is now the default. For everyone learning Mari, the Non-Commercial version now has full Node Graph access.

Enhanced workflows: A number of key workflow improvements have been brought to Mari 4.0. A drag-and-drop fill mechanism allows users to fill paint across their selections in a far more intuitive manner, reducing time and increasing efficiency. The Brush Editor has been merged into the Tool Properties Palette, with the brush being used now clearly displayed. It’s now easy to browse and load sets of texture files into Mari, with a new Palette for browsing texture sets. The Layers Palette is now more intuitive when working with Group layers, allowing users to achieve the setups they desire with less steps. And users now have a shader in Mari that previews and works with the channels that match their final 3D program/shader: The Principled BRDF, based on the 2012 paper from Brent Burley of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Core: Having upgraded to OpenSubdiv 3.1.x and introduced the features into the UI, users are able to better match the behavior of mesh subdivision that they get in software renderers. Mari’s user preference files are now saved with the application version embedded in the file names —meaning artists can work between different versions of Mari without the danger of corrupting their UI or preferences. Many preferences have had their groups, labels and tooltips modified to be easier to understand. All third-party libraries have been upgraded to match those specified by the VFX Reference Platform 2017.
Mari 4.0 is available now.

House of Moves add Selma Gladney-Edelman, Alastair Macleod

Animation and motion capture studio House of Moves (HOM) has strengthened its team with two new hires — Selma Gladney-Edelman was brought on as executive producer and Alastair Macleod as head of production technology. The two industry vets are coming on board as the studio shifts to offer more custom short- and long-form content, and expands its motion capture technology workflows to its television, feature film, video game and corporate clients.

Selma Gladney-Edelman was most recently VP of Marvel Television for their primetime and animated series. She has worked in film production, animation and visual effects, and was a producer on multiple episodic series at Walt Disney Television Animation, Cartoon Network and Universal Animation. As director of production management across all of the Discovery Channels, she oversaw thousands of hours of television and film programming including TLC projects Say Yes To the Dress, Little People, Big World and Toddlers and Tiaras, while working on the team that garnered an Oscar nom for Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World and two Emmy wins for Best Children’s Animated Series for Tutenstein.

Scotland native Alastair Macleod is a motion capture expert who has worked in production, technology development and as an animation educator. His production experience includes work on films such as Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, 2012, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 and Kubo and the Two Strings for facilities that include Laika, Image Engine, Weta Digital and others.

Macleod pioneered full body motion capture and virtual reality at the research department of Emily Carr University in Vancouver. He was also the head of animation at Vancouver Film School and an instructor at Capilano University in Vancouver. Additionally, he developed PeelSolve, a motion capture solver plug-in for Autodesk Maya.

Storage in the Studio: VFX Studios

By Karen Maierhofer

It takes talent and the right tools to generate visual effects of all kinds, whether it’s building breathtaking environments, creating amazing creatures or crafting lifelike characters cast in a major role for film, television, games or short-form projects.

Indeed, we are familiar with industry-leading content creation tools such as Autodesk’s Maya, Foundry’s Mari and more, which, when placed into the hands of creatives, the result in pure digital magic. In fact, there is quite a bit of technological magic that occurs at visual effects facilities, including one kind in particular that may not have the inherent sparkle of modeling and animation tools but is just as integral to the visual effects process: storage. Storage solutions are the unsung heroes behind most projects, working behind the scenes to accommodate artists and keep their productive juices flowing.

Here we examine three VFX facilities and their use of various storage solutions and setups as they tackle projects large and small.

Framestore
Since it was founded in 1986, Framestore has placed its visual stamp on a plethora of Oscar-, Emmy- and British Academy Film Award-winning visual effects projects, including Harry Potter, Gravity and Guardians of the Galaxy. With increasingly more projects, Framestore expanded from its original UK location in London to North American locales such as Montreal, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, handling films as well as immersive digital experiences and integrated advertisements for iconic brands, including Guinness, Geico, Coke and BMW.

Beren Lewis

As the company and its workload grew and expanded into other areas, including integrated advertising, so, too, did its storage needs. “Innovative changes, such as virtual-reality projects, brought on high demand for storage and top-tier performance,” says NYC-based Beren Lewis, CTO of advertising and applied technologies at Framestore. “The team is often required to swiftly accommodate multiple workflows, including stereoscopic 4K and VR.”

Without hesitation, Lewis believes storage is typically the most challenging aspect of technology within the VFX workflow. “If the storage isn’t working, then neither are the artists,” he points out. Furthermore, any issues with storage can potentially lead to massive financial implications for the company due to lost time and revenue.

According to Lewis, Framestore uses its storage solution — a Pixit PixStor General Parallel File System (GPFS) storage cluster using the NetApp E-Series hardware – for all its project data. This includes backups to remote co-location sites, video preprocessing, decompression, disaster recovery preparation, scalability and high performance for VFX, finishing and rendering workloads.

The studio moved all the integrated advertising teams over to the PixStor GPFS clusters this past spring. Currently, Framestore has five primary PixStor clusters using NetApp E-Series in use at each office in London, LA, Chicago and Montreal.

According to Lewis, Framestore partnered with Pixit Media and NetApp to take on increasingly complicated and resource-hungry VR projects. “This partnership has provided the global integrated advertising team with higher performance and nonstop access to data,” he says. “The Pixit Media PixStor software-defined scale-out storage solution running on NetApp E-Series systems brings fast, reliable data access for the integrated advertising division so the team can embrace performance and consistency across all five sites, take a cost-effective, simplified approach to disaster recovery and have a modular infrastructure to support multiple workflows and future expansion.”

BMW

Framestore selected its current solution after reviewing several major storage technologies. It was looking for a single namespace that was very stable, while providing great performance, but it also had to be scalable, Lewis notes. “The PixStor ticked all those boxes and provided the right balance between enterprise-grade hardware and support, and open-source standards,” he explains. “That balance allowed us to seamlessly integrate the PixStor into our network, while still maintaining many of the bespoke tools and services that we had developed in-house over the years, with minimum development time.”

In particular, the storage solution provides the required high performance so that the studio’s VFX, finishing and rendering workloads can all run “full-out with no negative effect on the finishing editors’ or graphic artists’ user experience,” Lewis says. “This is a game-changing capability for an industry that typically partitions off these three workloads to keep artists from having to halt operations. PixStor running on E-Series consolidates all three workloads onto a single IT infrastructure with streamlined end-to-end production of projects, which reduces both time to completion and operational costs, while both IT acquisition and maintenance costs are reduced.”

At Framestore, integrating storage into the workflow is simple. The first step after a project is green-lit is the establishment of a new file set on the PixStor GPFS cluster, where ingested footage and all the CG artist-generated project data will live. “The PixStor is at the heart of the integrated advertising storage workflow from start to finish,” Lewis says. Because the PixStor GPFS cluster serves as the primary storage for all integrated advertising project data, the division’s workstations, renderfarm, editing and finishing stations connect to the cluster for review, generation and storage of project content.

Prior to the move to PixStor/NetApp, Framestore had been using a number of different storage offerings. According to Lewis, they all suffered from the same issues in terms of scalability and degradation of performance under render load — and that load was getting heavier and more unpredictable with every project. “We needed a technology that scaled and allowed us to maintain a single namespace but not suffer from continuous slowdowns for artists due to renderfarm load during crunch times or project delivery.”

Geico

As Lewis explains, with the PixStor/NetApp solution, processing was running up to 270,000 IOPS (I/O operations per second), which was at least several times what Framestore’s previous infrastructure would have been able to handle in a single namespace. “Notably, the development workflow for a major theme-park ride was unhindered by all the VR preprocessing, while backups to remote co-location sites synched every two hours without compromising the artist, rendering or finishing workloads,” he says. “This provided a cost-effective, simplified approach to disaster recovery, and Framestore now has a fast, tightly integrated platform to support its expansion plans.”

To stay at the top of its game, Framestore is always reviewing new technologies, and storage is often part of that conversation. To this end, the studio plans to build on the success it has had with PixStor by expanding the storage to handle some additional editorial playback and render workloads using an all-Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) flash tier. Other projects include a review of object storage technology for use as a long-term, off-premises storage target for archival data.

Without question, the industry’s visual demands are rapidly changing. Not long ago, Framestore could easily predict storage and render requirements for a typical project. But that is no longer the case, and the studio finds itself working in ever-increasing resolutions and frame rates. Whereas projects may have been as small as 3TB in the recent past, nowadays the studio regularly handles multiple projects of 300TB or larger. And the storage must be shared with other projects of varying sizes and scope.

“This new ‘unknowns’ element of our workflow puts many strains on all aspects of our pipeline, but especially the storage,” Lewis points out. “Knowing that our storage can cope with the load and can scale allows us to turn our attention to the other issues that these new types of projects bring to Framestore.”

As Lewis notes, working with high-resolution images and large renderfarms create a unique set of challenges for any storage technology that’s not seen in many other fields. The VFX will often test any storage technology well beyond what other industries are capable of. “If there’s an issue or a break point, we will typically find it in spectacular fashion,” he adds.

Rising Sun Pictures
As a contributor to the design and execution of computer-generated effects on more than 100 feature films since its inception 22 years ago, Rising Sun Pictures (RSP) has pushed the technical bar many times over in film as well as television projects. Based in Adelaide, South Australia, RSP has built a top team of VFX artists who have tackled such box-office hits as Thor: Ragnarok, X-Men and Game of Thrones, as well as the Harry Potter and Hunger Games franchises.

Mark Day

Such demanding, high-level projects require demanding, high-level effects, which, in turn, demand a high-performance, reliable storage solution capable of handling varying data I/O profiles. “With more than 200 employees accessing and writing files in various formats, the need for a fast, reliable and scalable solution is paramount to business continuity,” says Mark Day, director of engineering at RSP.

Recently, RSP installed an Oracle ZS5 storage appliance to handle this important function. This high-performance, unified storage system provides NAS and SAN cloud-converged storage capabilities that enable on-premises storage to seamlessly access Oracle Public Cloud. Its advanced hardware and software architecture includes a multi-threading SMP storage operating system for running multiple workloads and advanced data services without performance degradation. The offering also caches data on DRAM or flash cache for optimal performance and efficiency, while keeping data safely stored on high-capacity SSD (solid state disk) or HDD (hard disk drive) storage.

Previously, the studio had been using an Dell EMC Isilon storage cluster with Avere caching appliances, and the company is still employing the solution for parts of its workflow.

When it came time to upgrade to handle RSP’s increased workload, the facility ran a proof of concept with multiple vendors in September 2016 and benchmarked their systems. Impressed with Oracle, RSP began installation in early 2017. According to Day, RSP liked the solution’s ability to support larger packet sizes — now up to 1MB. In addition, he says its “exceptional” analytics engine gives introspection into a render job.

“It has a very appealing [total cost of ownership], and it has caching right out of the box, removing the need for additional caching appliances,” says Day. Storage is at the center of RSP’s workflow, storing all the relevant information for every department — from live-action plates that are turned over from clients, scene setup files and multi-terabyte cache files to iterations of the final product. “All employees work off this storage, and it needs to accommodate the needs of multiple projects and deadlines with zero downtime,” Day adds.

Machine Room

“Visual effects scenes are getting more complex, and in turn, data sizes are increasing. Working in 4K quadruples file sizes and, therefore, impacts storage performance,” explains Day. “We needed a solution that could cope with these requirements and future trends in the industry.”

According to Day, the data RSP deals with is broad, from small setup files to terabyte geocache files. A one-minute 2K DPX sequence is 17GB for the final pass, while 4K is 68GB. “Keep in mind this is only the final pass; a single shot could include hundreds of passes for a heavy computer-generated sequence,” he points out.

Thus, high-performance storage is important to the effective operation of a visual effects company like RSP. In fact, storage helps the artists stay on the creative edge by enabling them to iterate through the creative process of crafting a shot and a look. “Artists are required to iterate their creative process many times to perfect the look of a shot, and if they experience slowdowns when loading scenes, this can have a dramatic effect on how many iterations they can produce. And in turn, this affects employees’ efficiency and, ultimately, the profitability of the company,” says Day.

Thor: Ragnarok

Most recently, RSP used its new storage solution for work on the blockbuster Thor: Ragnarok, in particular, for the Val’s Flashback sequence — which was extremely complex and involved extensive lighting and texture data, as well as high-frame-rate plates (sometimes more than 1,000fps for multiple live-action footage plates). “Before, our storage refresh early versions of this shot could take up to 24 hours to render on our server farm. But since installing our new storage, we saw this drastically reduced to six hours — that’s a 3x improvement, which is a fantastic outcome,” says Day.

Outpost VFX
A full-service VFX studio for film, broadcast and commercials, Outpost VFX, based in Bournemouth, England, has been operational since late 2012. Since that time, the facility has been growing by leaps and bounds, taking on major projects, including Life, Nocturnal Animals, Jason Bourne and 47 Meters Down.

Paul Francis

Due to this fairly rapid expansion, Outpost VFX has seen the need for increased capacity in its storage needs. “As the company grows and as resolution increases and HDR comes in, file sizes increase, and we need much more capacity to deal with that effectively,” says CTO Paul Francis.

When setting up the facility five years ago, the decision was made to go with PixStor from Pixit Media and Synology’s NAS for its storage solution. “It’s an industry-recognized solution that is extremely resilient to errors. It’s fast, robust and the team at Pixit provides excellent support, which is important to us,” says Francis.

Foremost, the solution had to provide high capacity and high speeds. “We need lots of simultaneous connections to avoid bottlenecks and ensure speedy delivery of data,” Francis adds. “This is the only one we’ve used, really. It has proved to be stable enough to support us through our growth over the last couple of years — growth that has included a physical office move and an increase in artist capacity to 80 seats.”

Outpost VFX mainly works with image data and project files for use with Autodesk’s Maya, Foundry’s Nuke, Side Effects’ Houdini and other VFX and animation tools. The challenge this presents is twofold, both large and small: concern for large file sizes, and problems the group can face with small files, such as metadata. Francis explains: “Sequentially loading small files can be time-consuming due to the current technology, so moving to something that can handle both of these areas will be of great benefit to us.”

Locally, artists use a mix of HDDs from a number of different manufacturers to store reference imagery and so forth — older-generation PCs have mostly Western Digital HDDs while newer PCs have generic SSDs. When replacing or upgrading equipment, Outpost VFX uses Samsung 900 Series SSDs, depending on the required performance and current market prices.

Life

Like many facilities, Outpost VFX is always weighing its options when it comes to finding the best solution for its current and future needs. Presently, it is looking at splitting up some of its storage solutions into smaller segments for greater resilience. “When you only have one storage solution and it fails, everything goes down. We’re looking to break our setup into smaller, faster solutions,” says Francis.

Additionally, security is a concern for Outpost VFX when it comes to its clients. According to Francis, certain shows need to be annexed, meaning the studio will need a separate storage solution outside of its main network to handle that data.

When Outpost VFX begins a job, the group ingests all the plates it needs to work on, and they reside in a new job folder created by production and assigned to a specific drive for active jobs. This folder then becomes the go-to for all assets, elements and shot iterations created throughout the production. For security purposes, these areas of the server are only visible to and accessible by artists, who in turn cannot access the Internet; this ensures that the files are “watertight and immune to leaks,” says Francis, adding that with PixStor, the studio is able to set up different partitions for different areas that artists can jump between easily.

How important is storage to Outpost VFX? “Frankly, there’d be no operation without storage!” Francis says emphatically. “We deal with hundreds of terrabytes of data in visual effects, so having high-capacity, reliable storage available to us at all times is absolutely essential to ensure a smooth and successful operation.”

47 Meters Down

Because the studio delivers visual effects across film, TV and commercials simultaneously, storage is an important factor no matter what the crew is working on. A recent film project like 47 Meters Down required the full gamut of visual effects work, as Outpost VFX was the sole vendor for the project. So, the studio needed the space and responsiveness of a storage system that enabled them to deliver more than 420 shots, a number of which featured heavy 3D builds and multiple layers of render elements.

“We had only about 30 artists at that point, so having a stable solution that was easy for our team to navigate and use was crucial,” Francis points out.

Main Image: From Outpost VFX’s Domestos commercial out of agency MullenLowe London.

Saddington Baynes adds senior lighting artist Luis Cardoso

Creative production house Saddington Baynes has hired Luis Cardoso as a senior lighting artist, adding to the studio’s creative team with specialist CGI skills in luxury goods, beauty and cosmetics. He joins the team following a four-year stint at Burberry, where he worked on high-end CGI.

He specializes in Autodesk 3ds Max, Chaos Group’s V-Ray and Adobe Photoshop. Cardoso’s past work includes imagery for all Burberry fragrances, clothing and accessories and social media assets for the Pinterest Cat Lashes campaign. He also has experience under his belt as senior CG artist at Sectorlight, and later in his career Assembly Studios.

At Saddington Baynes, Cardoso will be working on new motion cinematic sequences for online video to expand the beauty, fragrance, fashion and beverage departments and take the expertise further, particularly in regards to video lighting.

According to executive creative director James Digby-Jones, “It no longer matters whether elements are static or moving; whether the brief is for a 20,000-pixel image or 4K animation mixed with live action. We stretch creative and technical boundaries with fully integrated production that encompasses everything from CGI and motion to shoot production and VR capability.”

Behind the Titles: Something’s Awry Productions

NAME: Amy Theorin

NAME: Kris Theorin

NAME: Kurtis Theorin

COMPANY: Something’s Awry Productions

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We are a family owned production company that writes, creates and produces funny sharable web content and commercials mostly for the toy industry. We are known for our slightly offbeat but intelligent humor and stop-motion animation. We also create short films of our own both animated and live action.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Amy: Producer, Marketing Manager, Business Development
Kris: Director, Animator, Editor, VFX, Sound Design
Kurtis: Creative Director, Writer

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Amy: A lot! I am the point of contact for all the companies and agencies we work with. I oversee production schedules, all social media and marketing for the company. Because we operate out of a small town in Pennsylvania we rely on Internet service companies such as Tongal, Backstage.com, Voices.com, Design Crowd and Skype to keep us connected with the national brands and talent we work with who are mostly based in LA and New York. I don’t think we could be doing what we are doing 10 years ago without living in a hub like LA or NYC.

Kris: I handle most of production, post production and some pre-production. Specifically, storyboarding, shooting, animating, editing, sound design, VFX and so on.

Kurtis: A lot of writing. I basically write everything that our company does, including commercials, pitches and shorts. I help out on our live-action shoots and occasionally direct. I make props and sets for our animation. I am also Something Awry’s resident voice actor.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Amy: Probably that playing with toys is something we get paid to do! Building Lego sets and setting up Hot Wheels jumps is all part of the job, and we still get excited when we get a new toy delivery — who wouldn’t? We also get to explore our inner child on a daily basis.

Hot Wheels

Kurtis: A lot of the arts and crafts knowledge I gathered from my childhood has become very useful in my job. We have to make a lot of weird things and knowing how to use clay and construction paper really helps.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Amy: See above. Seriously, we get to play with toys for a living! Being on set and working with actors and crew in cool locations is also great. I also like it when our videos exceed our client’s expectations.

Kris: The best part of my job is being able to work with all kinds of different toys and just getting the chance to make these weird and entertaining movies out of them.

Kurtis: Having written something and seeing others react positively to it.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Amy/Kris: Working through the approval process with rounds of changes and approvals from multiple departments throughout a large company. Sometimes it goes smoothly and sometimes it doesn’t.

Kurtis: Sitting down to write.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
Amy: Since most of the companies we work with are on the West Coast my day kicks into high gear around 4:00pm East Coast time.

Kris: I work best in the morning.

Kurtis: My day often consists of hours of struggling to sit down and write followed by about three to four hours where I am very focused and get everything done. Most often those hours occur from 4pm to 7pm, but it varies a lot.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Amy: Probably helping to organize events somewhere. I am not happy unless I am planning or organizing a project or event of some sort.

Kris: Without this job, I’d likely go into some kind of design career or something involving illustration. For me, drawing is one of my secondary interests after filming.

Kurtis: I’d be telling stories in another medium. Would I be making a living doing it is another question.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
Amy: I have always loved advertising and creative projects. When I was younger I was the advertising manager for PNC Bank, but left the corporate world when I had kids and started my own photography business, which I operated for 10 years. Once my kids became interested in film I wanted to foster that interest and here we are!

Kris: Filmmaking is something I’ve always had an interest in. I started when I was just eight years old and from there it’s always something I loved to do. The moment when I first realized this would be something I’d follow for an actual career was really around 10th grade, when I started doing it more on a professional level by creating little videos here and there for company YouTube channels. That’s when it all started to sink in that this could actually be a career for me.

Kurtis: I knew I wanted to tell stories very early on. Around 10 years old or so I started doing some home movies. I could get people to laugh and react to the films I made. It turned out to be the medium I could most easily tell stories in so I have stuck with it ever since.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Amy: We are currently in the midst of two major projects — one is a six-video series for Hot Wheels that involves creating six original song music videos parodying different music genres. The other is a 12-episode series for Warner Bros. Scooby Doo that features live-action and stop-motion animation. Each episode is a mini-mystery that Scooby and the gang solve. The series focuses on the imaginations of different children and the stories they tell.

We also have two short animations currently on the festival circuit. One is a hybrid of Lovecraft and a Scooby-Doo chase scene called Mary and Marsha in the Manor of Madness. The other is dark fairytale called The Gift of the Woods.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Amy: Although I am proud of a lot of our projects I am most proud of the fact that even though we are such a small company, and live in the middle of nowhere, we have been able to work with companies around the world like Lego, Warner Bros. and Mattel. Things we create are seen all over the world, which is pretty cool for us.

Lego

Kris: The Lego Yellow Submarine Beatles film we created is what I’m most proud of. It just turned out to be this nice blend of wacky visuals, crazy action, and short concise storytelling that I try to do with most of my films.

Kurtis: I really like the way Mary and Marsha in the Manor of Madness turned out. So far it is the closest we have come to creating something with a unique feel and a sense of energetic momentum; two long term goals I have for our work. We also recently wrapped filming for a twelve episode branded content web series. It is our biggest project yet and I am proud that we were able to handle the production of it really well.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Amy: Skype, my iPad and the rise of online technology companies such as Tongal, Voices.com, Backstage.com and DesignCrowd that help us get our job done.

Kris: Laptop computers, Wacom drawing tablets and iPhones.

Kurtis: My laptop (and it’s software Adobe Premiere and Final Draft), my iPhone and my Kindle.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Amy: Being in this position I like to know what is going on in the industry so I follow Ad Age, Ad Week, Ad Freak, Mashable, Toy Industry News, iO9, Geek Tyrant, and of course all the social media channels of our clients like Lego, Warner Bros., Hot Wheels and StikBots. We also are on Twitter (@AmyTheorin) Instagram (@Somethingsawryproductions) and Facebook (Somethingsawry).

Kris: Mostly YouTube and Facebook.

Kurtis: I follow the essays of Film Crit Hulk. His work on screenwriting and story-telling is incredibly well done and eye opening. Other than that I try to keep up with news and I follow a handful of serialized web-comics. I try to read, watch and play a lot of different things to get new ideas. You never know when the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone might give you the idea for your next toy commercial.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
Amy: I don’t usually but I do like to listen to podcasts. Some of my favorites are: How I Built This, Yeah, That’s Probably an Ad and Fresh Air.

Kris: I listen to whatever pop songs are most popular at the time. Currently, that would be Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do.”

Kurtis: I listen to an eclectic mix of soundtracks, classic rock songs I‘ve heard in movies, alternative songs I heard in movies, anime theme songs… basically songs I heard with a movie or game and can’t get out of my head. As for particular artists I am partial to They Might Be Giants, Gorillaz, Queen, and the scores of Ennio Morricone, Darren Korb, Jeff Williams, Shoji Meguro and Yoko Kanno.

IS WORKING WITH FAMILY EASIER OR MORE DIFFICULT THAN WORKING/MANAGING IN A REGULAR AGENCY?
Amy: Both! I actually love working with my sons, and our skill sets are very complimentary. I love to organize and my kids don’t. Being family we can be very upfront with each other in terms of telling our opinions without having to worry about hurting each other’s feelings.

We know at the end of the day we will always be there for each other no matter what. It sounds cliché but it’s true I think. We have a network of people we also work with on a regular basis who we have great relationships with as well. Sometimes it is hard to turn work off and just be a family though, and I find myself talking with them about projects more often than what is going on with them personally. That’s something I need to work on I guess!

Kris: It’s great because you can more easily communicate and share ideas with each other. It’s generally a lot more open. After a while, it really is just like working within an agency. Everything is fine-tuned and you have worked out a pipeline for creating and producing your videos.

Kurtis: I find it much easier. We all know how we do our best work and what our strengths are. It certainly helps that my family is very good at what they do. Not to mention working from home means I get to set my own hours and don’t have a commute. Sometimes it’s difficult to stay motivated when you’re not in a professional office setting but overall the pros far outweigh the cons.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Amy: I try to take time out to walk our dog, but mostly I love it so much I don’t mind working on projects all the time. If I don’t have something to work on I am not a happy camper. Sometimes I have to remember that not everyone is working on the weekends, so I can’t bother them with work questions!

Kris: It really helps that I don’t often get stressed. At least, not after doing this job for as long as I have. You really learn how to cope with it all. Oftentimes, it’s more just getting exhausted from working long hours. I’ll often just watch some YouTube videos at the end of a day or maybe a movie if there’s something I really want to see.

Kurtis: I like to read and watch interesting stories. I play a lot games: board games, video games, table-top roleplaying. I also find bike riding improves my mood a lot.

Renegade Animation ups Brittney Jorgensen, focuses on original programming

With 12 series in its development pipeline targeting demographics from pre-school through teenagers, Renegade Animation has promoted Brittney Jorgensen to the newly-created post of head of marketing and development. Jorgensen will work with creators, writers and animators in developing concepts for animated television series and features, and serve as liaison with studios, broadcasters and streaming services.

Jorgensen, who joined Renegade in 2012 on the production side, also recently served as production manager on Being by Yourself, an animated short for the Imaginary Friend Society designed to help children with cancer cope with hospitalization. Previously, she was a production manager at Bento Box Entertainment. She also served in a production role at Disney Animation on Tron: Uprising.

Demand for quality, animated content is strong, says Renegade Animation creative director Darrell Van Citters. “With the growth in television and streaming production, now is the right time to focus attention on original programming.”

Renegade Animation has the resources to take shows from concept through delivery in-house. “We love to be involved from the very beginning,” says Jorgensen. “Talent may come to us with a script, a storyboard, a show bible, or just the germ of an idea. We work with creators to develop ideas so that they conform to our style and fit market demand.”

Behind the Title: Postal director of operations Jason Mayo

NAME: Jason Mayo

COMPANY: Postal

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Postal is a VFX and animation studio made up of artists and producers that like to make cool shit. We experiment and push the envelope, but we’re also adults, so we get it done on time and on budget. Oh and we’re not assholes. That would be a cool t-shirt. “Postal: We’re not assholes.”

Postal is a creative studio that believes everything starts with great design. That’s our DNA. We believe that it’s always about the talent and not the tools. Whether it’s motion graphics, animation, visual effects, or even editorial, our desire to create transcends all mediums.

Postal’s live-action parent company, Humble is a NY- and LA-based home for makers —directors, writers, creatives, artists and designers — to create culture-defining content.

Coke Freestyle

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Director of Operations

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I spend a lot of my time on biz dev, recruiting interesting talent and developing strategic partnerships that lead to new pipelines of business.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Probably picking up garbage. Creatives are pretty messy. They leave their stuff all over the place. The truth of the matter is, it’s a small company so no matter what your title is, you’re always on the front lines. That’s what makes my days interesting.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Definitely competing for projects we’re passionate about. I love the thrill of the chase. Also I love trying to keep our artists and producers inspired. Not every project needs to win awards but it’s important to me that my team finds the work interesting and challenging to tackle.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Probably the picking up the garbage part. I’ve ruined a lot of shirts. I also hate seeing content on TV or on the web that could have been produced by us. Especially if it turned out killer.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
I have two daughters and a puppy so by 8am I’m basically a broken man. But as soon as I hit the office with my iced coffee in hand, I’m on fire. I love the start of the workday. Endless possibilities abound.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Probably a cool middle school English teacher. The kids would call me Jay and talk to me about their problems. Honestly though, when I’m done working I’ll probably just disappear into the woods or something and chase possums with a BB gun.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
It was an accident. I wanted to be an actor. My mom’s best friend’s, ex-husband owned a small post house and he hired me as a receptionist. I was probably the greatest receptionist of all time. I thought being in “entertainment” would get me to Hollywood through the back door. I still have about 500 headshots that I never got to use.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We’ve had such a crazy year. We’ve done projects for Pepsi, Coke, Panera, Morgan Stanley, TED, Canon, Billboard and Nike.

TED Zipline

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I really love the TED stuff we do. They are a dream client. They come to us with a challenge and they allow us to go away, come up with some really imaginative stuff and then present them with a solution. As long as it’s on brief, it can be any style or any execution we think is right. We love that type of open collaboration with our clients.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
If we’re talking about apps, as well as hardware, then that’s easy. Sonos because it’s all about the music, Netflix because… zombies, and ride sharing apps because cabs are dirty and they make me nauseous.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
In general, I’m pretty active on social media and we actually just launched Facebook and Instagram pages for Postal. In a parallel universe I’m a dad blogger so I’ve always been big on community via social media. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are the standards for me, but I’ve been Snapchatting with my daughter for years. I do have a Pinterest page somewhere, but it’s devoted solely to Ryan Gosling.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
I’m a heavy metal guy so pretty much anything heavy. I do also love me some Jackson Browne and some Dawes. Oh, and the Pretty in Pink soundtrack, of course.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I try not to let it get to me. It’s way tougher raising two daughters and two dogs. The rest is a cakewalk. I do binge eat from time to time and love to watch horror movies on the train. Always a good way for me to decompress.

Quick Chat: Creating graphics package for UN’s Equator Prize ceremony

Undefined Creative (UC) was recently commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to produce a fresh package of event graphics for its Equator Prize 2017 Award Ceremony. This project is the latest in a series of motion design-centered work collaborations between the creative studio and the UN, a relationship that began when UC donated their skills to the Equator Prize in 2010.

The Equator Prize recognizes local and indigenous community initiatives from across the planet that are advancing innovative on-the-ground solutions to climate, environment and poverty challenges. Award categories honor achievement and local innovation in the thematic areas of oceans, forests, grasslands and wildlife protection.

For this year’s ceremony, UNDP wanted a complete refresh that gave the on-stage motion graphics a current vibe while incorporating the key icons behind its sustainable development goals (SDGs). Consisting of a “Countdown to Ceremony” screensaver, an opening sequence, 15 winner slates, three category slates and 11 presenter slates, the package had to align visually with a presentation from National Geographic Society, which was part of the evening’s program.

To bring it all together, UC drew from the SDG color palettes and relied on subject matter knowledge of both the UNDP and National Geographic in establishing the ceremony graphics’ overall look and feel. With only still photos available for the Equator Prize winners, UC created motion and depth by strategically intertwining the best shots with moving graphics and strategically selected stock footage. Naturally moving flora and fauna livened up the photography, added visual diversity and contributed creating a unique aesthetic.

We reached out to Undefined Creative’s founder/creative director Maria Rapetskaya to find out more:

How early did you get involved in the project, and was the client open to input?
We got the call a couple of months before the event. The original show had been used multiple times since we created it in 2010, so the client was definitely looking for input on how we could refresh or even rebrand.

Any particular challenges for this one?
For non-commercial organizations, budgets and messaging are equally sensitive topics. We have to be conscious of costs, and also very aware of Do’s and Don’t’s when it comes to assets and use. Our creative discussions took place over several calls, laying out options and ideas at different budget tiers — anything from simply updating the existing package to creating something entirely different. In case of the latter, parameters had to be established right away for how different “different” could be.

For example, it was agreed that we should stick with photography provided by the 2017 award winners. However, our proposal to include stock for flora and fauna was agreed on by all involved. Which SDG icons would be used and how, what partner and UN organizational branding should be featured prominently as design inspiration, how this would integrate with content being produced for UNDP/Equator Prize by Nat Geo… all of these questions had to be addressed before we started any real ideation in order for the creative to stay on brand, on message, on budget and on time.

What tools did you use on the project?
We relied on Adobe CC, in particular, After Effects, which is our staple software. In this particular project, we also relied heavily on stock from multiple vendors. Pond5 have a robust and cost-effective collection of video elements we were seeking.

Why is this project important to you?
The majority of our clients are for-profit commercial entities, and while that’s wonderful, there’s always a different feeling of reward when we have the chance to do something for the good of humanity at large, however minuscule our contribution is. The winners are coming from such different corners of the globe — at times, very remote. They’re incredibly excited to be honored, on stage, in New York City, and we can only imagine what it feels like to see their faces, the faces of their colleagues and friends, the names of their projects, up on this screen in front of a large, live audience. This particular event brings us a lot closer to what we’re creating, on a really empathetic, human level.

Tobin Kirk joins design/animation house Laundry as EP

Tobin Kirk has joined LA-based design and animation studio Laundry as executive producer. Kirk brings nearly 20 years of experience spanning broadcast design, main title sequences, integrated content, traditional on-air spots, branded content, digital and social. At Laundry, he will work closely with executive producer Garrett Braren on business development, as well as client and project management efforts.

Kirk was most recently managing executive producer at Troika, where he oversaw all production at the entertainment brand agency’s 25,000-square-foot facility in Hollywood, including its creative studio and live-action production subsidiary, Troika Production Group. Prior to that, he spent nearly five years as executive producer at Blind, managing projects for Xbox/Microsoft, AT&T, ancestry.com and Sealy Mattress, among others.

As a producer, Kirk’s background is highlighted by such projects as the main title sequence for David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo at Blur Studio, commercials for Chrysler and Gatorade at A52 and an in-flight video for Method/Virgin America at Green Dot Films. He also spent three years with Farmer Brown working for TBS, CBS, Mark Burnett Productions, Al Roker Productions, The Ant Farm, Bunim/Murray and Endemol USA.

In addition, Kirk collaborated with video artist Bill Viola for over six years, producing projects for the London National Gallery, Athens Olympics, the Getty Museum, Opera National de Paris, Guggenheim Museum, Munich’s E.ON Corporation and Anthony d’Offay Gallery.

More speakers added for Italy’s upcoming View Conference

More than 50 speakers are confirmed for 2017’s View Conference, a digital media conference that takes place in Turin, Italy, from October 23-27. Those speakers include six visual effects Oscar winners, two Academy Sci-Tech award winners, animated feature film directors, virtual reality pioneers, computer graphics researchers, game developers, photographers, writers and studio executives.

“One of the special reasons to attend View is that our speakers like to stay for the entire week and attend talks given by the other speakers, so our attendees have many opportunities to interact with them,” says conference director Dr. Maria Elena Gutierrez. “View brings together the world’s best and brightest minds across multiple disciplines, in an intimate and collaborative place where creatives can incubate and celebrate.”

Newly confirmed speakers include:

Scott Stokdyk- This Academy Award winner (VFX supervisor, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets) will showcase VFX from the film – from concept, design and inspiration to final color timing.

Paul Debevec – This Academy Award winner (senior staff engineer, Google VR, ICT) will give attendees a glimpse inside the latest work from Google VR and ICT.

Martyn Culpitt – A VFX supervisor on Logan and at Image Engine company, he will breakdown the film Logan, highlighting the visual effects behind Wolverine’s gripping final chapter.

Jan-Bart Van Beek – This studio art director at Guerrilla Games will take attendees through the journey that Guerrilla Games underwent to design the post-apocalyptic world of the game franchise, Horizon Zero Dawn.

David Rosenbaum – This chief creative officer at Cinesite Studios along with Cinesite EP Warren Franklin will present at talk titled, “It’s All Just Funny Business: Looking for IP, Talent ad Audiences.”

Elisabeth Morant – This product manager for Google’s Tilt Brush will discusses the company’s VR painting application in a talk called, “Real Decisions, Virtual Space: Designing for VR.”

Donald Greenberg – This professor of computer graphics at Cornell University will be discussing the “Next-gen of Virtual Reality”

Steve Muench – He will present “The Labor of Loving Vincent: Animating Van Gogh to Solve a Mystery.”

Deborah Fowler – This professor of visual effects at Savannah College of Art and Design/SCAD will showcase “Procedural and Production Techniques using Houdini.”

Daniele Federico: This co-founder and developer at Toolchefs will present “Make us Alive. An In-Depth Look at Atoms Crowd Software.”

Jason Bickerstaff – This character artist from Pixar Animation Studios) will present “Crossing The Dimensional Rift.”

Steve Beck – This VFX art director from ILM will discuss “The Future of Storytelling.”

Nancy Basi – She is executive director of the Film and Media Centre – Vancouver Economic Commission.

For a complete listing of speakers visit http://www.viewconference.it/speakers

 

Quick Chat: The making of Big Chicken Small Movie

Big Chicken Small Movie is an animated short film that pays homage to Marietta, Georgia’s beloved 56-foot-tall steel fowl. This iconic attraction is part of the local KFC franchise that recently underwent a massive renovation. In the film, a young boy, who is a bit of an outcast, finds a friend in the gigantic chicken and they go on an adventure in North Georgia.

We reached out to agency W+K, animation company Awesome Inc and music company Bluetube about this unique opportunity to honor the local monument in a charming, design-driven tale of friendship.

How did the idea for a film celebrating the Big Chicken come about? What was your inspiration?
Matthew Carol and Mike Egan, Wieden+Kennedy: We wanted to celebrate the re-opening of the Big Chicken KFC with something that locals would love because they’ve given this big steel vaguely chicken-like structure a lot of love since it was built in 1956. It is such an imposing steel structure it seemed funny that it could come to life, befriend a boy and go on a fun adventure while inadvertently leaving a path of destruction in its wake. We were inspired by animation classics from our childhood and, of course, The Iron Giant was mentioned a couple times when we were developing the concept.

Why was animation your favored route to bring it to life?
Matthew Carol and Mike Egan, Wieden+Kennedy: Our first plan was to bring the Big Chicken to life using artificial intelligence and Japanese robotics, but it turns out that an animated film was way more feasible and less dangerous for restaurant visitors.

How did you select Awesome Inc was the right partner for the project?
Matthew Carol and Mike Egan, Wieden+Kennedy: While we did have an Atlantan on our team, we’re way up in Portland, Oregon, so we hoped we would find an Atlanta-based studio who would put some passion and local insights into the project. Awesome Inc really took ownership of the story, character design and all the little details that help the story feel like a celebration of Marietta and the Big Chicken’s place there.

Tell us a little about the style inspiration?
Craig Sheldon, Awesome Inc: With almost all of our projects, color scheme and style are the first things we begin to sort out. We knew that this was a simple story with a lot of emotion, so we chose a limited but bold color palette to bring it to life. Using basic shapes in an illustrative style seemed to aid in our storytelling as well, so we looked to examples with a like-minded philosophy for inspiration, some newer and some more classic.

What did you learn along the way?
Craig Sheldon, Awesome Inc: As far as animation technique, we learned a great deal. We tried out new methods of character rigging and integrating 3D in a seamless way that we hadn’t before. We learned some valuable storytelling techniques during the boarding and animatic phase that we’d not yet encountered on previous projects. We also learned that not only is the phrase “less is more” true in style, but also in storytelling, as we ended up deciding to take out a number of almost completed scenes that weren’t advancing the overall narrative of the piece. It is tough to see so many hours of work hit the cutting room floor, but in the end it made for a better film.

How did you decide on the style of music for the film?
Michael Kohler, Bluetube: I think with most scoring situations, the style of the composition is heavily influenced by the content, look and execution of a scene. With Big Chicken, the character design and animation really helped shape the story, and without any dialogue the music had to complement that feel. The only track that was written before seeing any moving animation was the one that plays as the boy and chicken go on their adventures — that track was the first piece created for this project, and it was started based only on the amazing storyboards.

Can you talk a little about your balance of traditional instruments to digital tools/plug-ins used for the soundtrack?
Michael Kohler, Bluetube: I’ve always been a fan of using both traditional and digital instrumentation when the opportunity presents itself. I think both have positive and negative aspects depending on the situation. For this particular genre of music I tend to start with and almost always incorporate guitar. That was my first instrument and still the one I’m most comfortable with. After that, the sky is the limit with the amazing digital instruments and tools we have at our disposal, giving us opportunities we didn’t have previously.

What was the collaboration like with the W&K team?
Allison Sanders, Awesome Inc: W+K approached us with strong ideas and open minds, presenting an excellent platform for collaboration. They gave us a great deal of creative freedom while at the same time providing the bedrock concept that made this short great. They provided quality feedback if something wasn’t quite working, with the added bonus of positive encouragement along the way. With their understanding of the client’s goals and our first-hand knowledge of the surrounding area, we were able to create a film that sparked interest in the refurbished franchise, while evoking a fond sense of nostalgia for Georgia residents and Big Chicken devotees.

Behind the Title: Alma Mater EP/producer Ben Apley

NAME: Ben Apley

COMPANY: Alma Mater

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Alma Mater is a visual studio dedicated to design, live action and animation. Our work has a strong foundation in design, and includes projects in traditional commercial advertising, as well as entertainment, and often includes digital extensions, branding and experiential executions.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Executive Producer/Producer

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
As executive producer, I target new opportunities, work with sales reps to strategically figure out how to pursue new business and manage the overall flow of the office from a business and resource standpoint. As producer, I manage production workflow and communicate project goals, needs, etc. to our clients.

My primary responsibility is putting the creative team in the best possible place to succeed. If you do that, then everything else kind of falls into place.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
There isn’t an established “right way” to try to do this job. The role really does shift around a lot based on where you are in the sales and production cycle, and you have to be comfortable adapting to immediate needs while still planning for longer-term business strategies.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Closing on new business.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Turning down new opportunities when we’re too busy. That kills me.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
After my children go to sleep.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Pursuing a career as a professional basketball player.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
When I was in college, I had a journalism internship at a news agency based in Washington, DC, one spring, and then a production internship in Chicago later that summer. I realized during the production internship that everyone on the crew appeared to be pretty happy while the journalists I followed always seemed kind of angry. So I decided to pursue production.

Rough Night

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We just finished a campaign for Lennox, the title sequence for the movie Rough Night and a series of commercials launching the 2018 Ford F-150.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Early on in my career, I produced the original Marvel theatrical logo animation. I remember being so excited to see something I had worked on in the movie theater.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My phone, my computer, and my car.

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

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK? CARE TO SHARE YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC TO WORK TO?
Sometimes I like to play “Everyday I’m Hustlin’” by Rick Ross while I work on bids.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I have three children who bring me back to reality on a regular basis.

Calabash animates characters for health PSA

It’s a simple message, told in a very simple way — having a health issue and being judged for it, hurts. An animated PSA for The Simon Foundation, titled Rude2Respect, was animated by Chicago’s Calabash in conjunction with the creative design studio Group Chicago.

Opening with typography “Challenging Health Stigma,” the PSA features two friends — a short, teal-colored tear-dropped blob known simply as Blue and his slender companion Pink — taking a walk on a bright sunny day in the city. Blue nervously says, “I’m not sure about this,” to which Pink responds, “You can’t stay home forever.” From there the two embark on what seems like a simple stroll to get ice cream, but there is a deeper message about how such common events can be fraught with anxiety for those suffering from an array of health conditions that often results in awkward stares, well-intentioned but inappropriate comments or plain rudeness. Blue and Pink decide it’s the people with the comments that are in the wrong and continue on to get ice cream. The spot ends with the simple words “Health stigma hurts. We can change lives” followed by a link to www.rude2respect.org.

“We had seen Calabash’s work and sought them out,” says Barbara Lynk, Group Chicago’s creative director. “We were impressed with how well their creative team immediately understood the characters and their visual potential. Creatively they brought a depth of experience on the conceptual and production side that helped bring the characters to life. They also understood the spare visual approach we were trying to achieve. It was a wonderful creative collaboration throughout the process, and they are a really fun group of creatives to work with.”

Based on illustrated characters created by Group Chicago’s founder/creative director Kurt Meinecke, Calabash creative director Wayne Brejcha notes that early on in the creative process they decided to go with what he called a “two-and-a-half-D look.”

“There is a charm in the simplicity of Kurt’s original illustrations with the flat shapes that we had to try very hard to keep as we translated Blue and Pink to the 3D world,” Brejcha says. “We also didn’t want to overly complicate it with a lot of crazy camera moves rollercoastering through the space or rotating around the characters. We constrained it to feel a little like two-and-a-half dimensions – 2D characters, but with the lighting and textures and additional physical feel you expect with 3D animation.

“We spent a good deal of time with thumbnail boardomatics, a scratch track and stand-in music as it began to gel,” he continues. “Kurt searched out some piano music for the intro and outro, which also set tone, and we cast for voices with the personalities of the figures in mind. After a few conversations with Kurt and Barb we understood the personalities of Blue and Pink very well. They’re archetypes or incarnations of two stages of dealing with, say, going out in public with some medical apparatus you’re attached to that’s plainly visible to everyone. The Blue guy is self-conscious, defensive, readily upset and also ready to bring a little push-back to the folks who call out his non-normative qualities. Pink is a little further along in accepting the trials. She can shake off with equanimity all the outright insults, dopey condescension and the like. She’s something of a mentor or role model for Blue. The characters are made of simple shapes, so animator Nick Oropezas did a lot of tests and re-animation to get just the right movements, pauses, timing and expressions to capture those spirits.”

For Sean Henry, Calabash’s executive producer, the primary creative obstacles centered on finding the right pacing for the story. “We played with the timing of the edits all the way through production,” he explains. “The pace of it had a large role to play in the mood, which is more thoughtful than your usual rapid-fire ad. Also, finding the right emotions for the voices was also a major concern. We needed warmth and a friendly mentoring feel for Pink, and a feisty, insecure but likeable voice for Blue. Our voice talent nailed those qualities. Additionally, the dramatic events in the spot happen only in the audio with Pink and Blue responding to off-screen voices and action, so the sound design and music had a major storytelling role to play as well.”

Calabash called on Autodesk Maya for the characters and Foundry’s Nuke for effects/compositing. Adobe Premiere was used for the final edit.

Disney Animation legend Floyd Norman keynoting SIGGRAPH 2017

Floyd Norman, the first African-American animator to work for Walt Disney Animation Studios, has been named SIGGRAPH 2017’s keynote speaker. The keynote session featuring Norman will be presented as a fireside chat, allowing attendees the opportunity to hear a Disney legend discuss his life and career within an intimate setting. SIGGRAPH 2017 will be held July 30-August 3 at Los Angeles.

Norman was the subject of a 2016 documentary called Floyd Norman: An Animated Life from filmmakers Michael Fiore and Erik Sharkey. The film covers Norman’s life story, also includes interviews with from voice actors and former colleagues.

Norman was hired as the first African-American animator at Walt Disney Studios in 1956 and was later hand-picked by Walt Disney himself to join the story team on The Jungle Book. After Walt’s death, Norman left Disney to start his own company, Vignette Films and produce films on the subject of black history for high schools. He and his partners would later work with Hanna-Barbera to animate the original Fat Albert TV special Hey, Hey, Hey, It’s Fat Albert, as well as the opening title sequence for the TV series Soul Train.

Norman returned to Disney in the 1980s to work in their publishing department, and in 1998 moved to the story department to work on Mulan. After all this, an invite to the Bay Area in the late ‘90s became a career highlight when Norman began working with leaders in the next wave of animation — Pixar and Steve Jobs — adding Toy Story 2 and Monsters, Inc. to his film credits.

Though he technically retired at the age of 65 in 2000, Norman is not one to quit and chose, instead, to occupy an open cubicle at Disney Publishing Worldwide for the last 15 years. As he puts it, “I just won’t leave.”

While not on staff, Norman’s proximity to other Disney personnel has led him to pick up freelance work and continue his impact on animation as both an artist and a mentor. As to his future plans, he says, “I plan to die at the drawing board!

“I’ve been fascinated by computer graphics since I purchased my first computer. I began attending SIGGRAPH when a kiosk was all Pixar could afford,” he says. “Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of working for this fine company and being a part of this amazing technology as it continues to mature. I’ve also enjoyed sharing insights I’ve garnered over the years in this fantastic industry. In recent years, I’ve spoken at several universities and even Apple. Creative imagination and technological innovation have always been a part of my life, and I’m delighted to share my enthusiasm with the fans at SIGGRAPH this year.”

Images courtesy of Michael Fiore Films

Atomic Fiction hires Marc Chu to lead animation department

Atomic Fiction has welcomed animation expert Marc Chu to lead the studio’s animation efforts across its Oakland and Montreal locations. Chu joins Atomic Fiction from ILM, where he most recently served as animation director, bringing more than 20 years of experience animating and supervising the creation of everything from aliens and spaceships to pirates and superheroes.

Based out of Atomic Fiction’s Oakland office, Chu will oversee animation company-wide and serve as the principal architect of initial studio production, including the expansion of Atomic Fiction’s previs and digital creature offerings. He’s already begun work on The Predator and is ramping up activity on an upcoming Robert Zemeckis feature.

“Atomic Fiction is already well-established and known for its seamless work in environments, so this is an amazing opportunity to be a part of their journey into doing more animation-driven work,” said Chu. “My goal is to help grow an already-strong animation department to the next level, becoming a force that is able to tackle any challenge, notably high-level creature and character work.”

Chu established and built his career at ILM, creating and supervising work for some of the biggest film franchises of the last 20 years. For 2009’s Iron Man, he worked to define the characters and animation through the sequel and on the first two Avengers films. His extensive credits also include Star Wars franchise continuations The Force Awakens and Rogue One, and the original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, which earned Best VFX Oscar nominations, and won for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men’s Chest.

Chu also has two VES Award wins for his Davy Jones CG character work.

Speakers set for VIEW Conference 2017

This year, the VIEW Conference is once again taking place in Torino, Italy. Focusing on computer graphics, digital media and games, the conference spans five days (October 23-27) and features talks, workshops, panel discussions, interactive sessions, awards and more. An audience of 6,000 professionals and students is expected.

Here are the expected speakers so far:
Rob Pardo – CEO, Bonfire Studios. Videogame designer (World of Warcraft); Eric Darnell – chief creative officer, Baobab Studios. Co-director/co-writer all DreamWorks’ Madagascar films and projects including Invasion, Asteroids, Rainbow Crow; Phil Chen – co-founder, HTC Vive. Managing partner of Presence Capital VR/AR Venture Fund and partner of Horizons Ventures, which invests in VR/AR/AI; Joe Letteri – senior VFX supervisor, four-time Oscar winner, Weta Digital; Debevec – senior staff engineer, Google VR and Oscar winner; Kevin Lin – COO, Twitch.TV; Christopher Townsend – Overall VFX supervisor, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2; Vicki Dobbs Beck – executive in charge of ILM x LAB; Mark Osborne – The Little Prince and Kung Fu Panda, DreamWorks Animation; Kris Pearn – director The Willoughbys, Bron Animation and Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 co-director, Sony Pictures Animation; Shannon Tindle – director/writer, Sony Pictures Animation, Disney, Laika, Google Spotlight Story On Ice; Cinzia Angelini – director, upcoming CG Animated short Mila; Hal Hickel – animation director, Rogue One, ILM. Oscar and BAFTA Winner; Rob Coleman – head of animation, Lego Batman Movie, Animal Logic. Two-time Oscar nominee for his work on Star Wars; Kim White – DP, lighting, Cars 3, Pixar Animation; Noelle Triaureau – production designer, Smurfs: The Lost Village, Sony Pictures Animation; Mike Ford – VFX supervisor, Smurfs: The Lost Village, Sony Pictures Imageworks; Carlos Zaragoza – production designer, The Emoji Movie, Sony Pictures Animation; Maureen Fan – CEOfficer, Baobab Studios, VR; Larry Cutler – CTO, Baobab Studios; Eloi Champagne – technical director, National Film Board of Canada, VR; Claudio Pedica – senior interaction designer, Sólfar Studios & AI researcher at Reykjavik University; Michael Rubin – founder/chief photo officer, Neomodern; David Putrino – director of rehabilitation innovation, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Director of Telemedicine and Virtual Rehabilitation Medicine at Weill-Cornell Medical College. Chief mad scientist, Not Impossible Labs; Victor Perez – VFX supervisor, Gabriele Salvatores Invisible Boy sequel; Francesco Filippi – director, Mani Rosse (Red Hands), Studio Mistral; and Ed Hooks – mMulti-faceted theatrical professional, actor, author and acting teacher.

VIEW has also announced the opening of submissions for the show’s VIEW Awards. Celebrating the best in animation and video games, each year this competition receives hundreds of entries, vying for recognition in four categories for animated short films or videogames.

The VIEW Conference’s awards competition recognizes animated short films and videogames created between January 1, 2015 and September 15, 2017. Entry is available online here.

The awards categories are:
Best Short– category for those creating and animating shorts, music videos or commercials using 2D/3D animation.  The contest is open to students and professionals with a maximum length of 30 minutes. The best short will be evaluated based on design, environments and best character. First prize is 2,000 Euros.
• Social Contest – a short video clip or commercial focusing on social themes. First prize is 500 Euros.
• Game Contest – an award recognizing the best gameplay, design and mechanics. First prize is 500 Euros.
• ItalianMix – dedicated to the work of Italian artists, the work can be animated, experimental or documentary. Maximum length of 30 minutes. First prize is 500 Euros.

Behind the Title: Flavor LA director/CD Jason Cook

Name: Jason Cook (@jcookerama)

Company: Flavor LA

Can you describe your company?
We are a narrative-driven company that uses design, animation, CG, visual effects and live action to tell stories for our clients. Flavor LA serves the West Coast territories for our parent company, Cutters Studios in Chicago.

What’s your job title?
I am both a director and creative director for this office.

What does that entail?
It really depends on the project, but I tend to wear many hats. From a creative direction perspective, I am involved with the cultivation and management of all of the creative that we do here in LA. I have a strong design background, which helps me lead our team through pitching, production and finish. We pride ourselves on highly conceptual and thoughtful storytelling in our work, so I spend a large part of my days with the headphones on writing treatments. I love when the job involves live-action opportunities. Here, I can use a completely different medium and skill set to accomplish our creative goals. My sensibility is very design-driven, so most of the stuff I shoot tends to have a CG or VFX component, which is always so exciting.

What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
It’s funny. As I came up as a designer, I always swore to myself I would never stop designing, and I kept that promise up until the last couple of years. I love designing, but as I get busier, my bandwidth gets smaller. I have grown into a true leadership role and have come to accept that my time is better served looking at the bigger picture instead of being consumed by the intricacies of the process. This allows me to manage projects with greater quality control and leaves my brain and creative flow available for new things as they come in. As a leader, I’ve found that giving artists space, and not micro-managing their development, brings me greater results.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
Seeing a plan come together is the most gratifying part of this business. It’s exciting when we are given a brief, we pitch an idea, and we win. There’s also a moment of, “Ok how to do we pull this off?” For me, putting my head together with my team, allowing for experimentation, encouraging outside thinking and following the creative where it leads us is such a fun part of this process. When all the elements start to coalesce and you see the first dailies comped and your previs edit starts to get replaced with real shots… that’s when things get awesome.

What’s your least favorite?
I try to work very efficiently and sometimes communications break down, which can be frustrating. This is for any number of reasons, but it gets in the way of the process and that can slow momentum.

What is your favorite time of the day?
Not the morning! I’m more of a night owl. I tend to stay up a bit later and write when it’s nice and quiet.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
I think my internal drive to tell stories would have translated into straight-up filmmaking. I chose a graphic design path, but I also focused my intention on motion graphics, which incorporates live action a lot of the time. I really believe that everything I’ve done up to this point has led me to where I am today.

How early on did you know this would be your path?
It seems so trite now because so many people have a similar story, but I remember watching the film title of Seven and it blew my freaking mind. I was just graduating high school at the time, and I knew right there that I wanted to do that, even though I didn’t really understand at the time what “that” was.

Arrow Electronics

Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
I recently shot a few spots that I’m really happy with. Two for Arrow Electronics and a spec spot for water conservation that involves a cute CG water drop character that lightly shames people for wasting water. In April, I directed and creative directed a live, site-specific show for over 3,000 Detroit Lions fans to reveal the team’s new uniforms.

What is the project that you are most proud of?
I really love the Be Pro-H20 spec I shot. It was a complete labor of love and a self-financed production that I wrote, cast and directed. The Lions event was absolutely crazy and something I’ve never done before. Somehow I sold the Lions on creating a giant geometric lion head installation that we projection-mapped visuals onto. It was madness! I learned so much on that project and I hope to do more live events like that down the road.

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
I think my phone is clearly one, followed by the Internet and cameras.

What social media channels do you follow?
I’ve been weening myself off of Facebook these days. I have a Twitter and Instagram account as well.

Do you listen to music while you work? Care to share your favorite music to work to?
It depends on the task at hand, but I have a hard time writing to music with lyrics. My go-to is the composer Cliff Martinez. Something about his scores just gets me so focused and the words spill out. If I don’t need to focus, my musical tastes span from hip-hop to house music. I’ll throw on some Motley Crüe sometimes, too.

This is a high stress job. What do you do to de-stress from it all?
It can be a very high stress job for sure, and sometimes it’s easy to take it with you when you leave the office. I try to make a conscious effort not to get pulled into the chaos of the process. Even when we are in the weeds, we have to remember it always works out in the end. To unwind, I love hanging with my wife and our two pups and watching a movie at home, going out with friends or traveling. My PS4 comes in handy sometimes too.

Nice Shoes Creative Studio animates limited-edition Twizzlers packages

Twizzlers and agency Anomaly recently selected 16 artists to design a fun series of limited edition packages for the classic candy. Each depicts various ways people enjoy Twizzlers. New York’s Nice Shoes Creative Studio, led by creative director Matt Greenwood, came on board to introduce these packages with an animated 15-second spot.

Three of the limited edition packages are featured in the fast-paced spot, bringing to life the scenarios of car DJing, “ugly crying” at the movies, and studying in the library, before ending on a shot that incorporates all of the 16 packages. Each pack has its own style, characters, and color scheme, unique to the original artists, and Nice Shoes was careful to work to preserve this as they crafted the spot.

“We were really inspired by the illustrations,” explains Greenwood. “We stayed close to the original style and brought them into a 3D space. There’s only a few seconds to register each package, so the challenge was to bring all the different styles and colors together within this time span. Select characters and objects carry over from one scene into the next, acting as transitional elements. The Twizzlers logo stays on-screen throughout, acting as a constant amongst the choreographed craziness.”

The Nice Shoes team used a balance of 3D and 2D animation, creating a CG pack while executing the characters on the packs with hand-drawn animation. Greenwood proposed taking advantage of the rich backgrounds that the artists had drawn, animating tiny background elements in addition to the main characters in order to “make each pack feel more alive.”

The main Twizzlers pack was modeled, lit, animated and rendered in Autodesk Maya which was composited in Adobe After Effects together with the supporting elements. These consisted of 2D hand-drawn animations created in Photoshop and 3D animated elements made with Mason Cinema 4D.

“Once we had the timing, size and placement of the main pack locked, I looked at which shapes would make sense to bring into a 3D space,” says Greenwood. “For example, the pink ribbons and cars from the ‘DJ’ illustration worked well as 3D objects, and we had time to add touches of detail within these elements.”

The characters on the packs themselves were animated with After Effects and applied as textures within the pack artwork. “The flying books and bookcases were rendered with Sketch and Toon in Cinema 4D, and I like to take advantage of that software’s dynamics simulation system when I want a natural feel to objects falling onto surfaces. The shapes in the end mnemonic are also rendered with Sketch and Toon and they provide a ‘wipe’ to get us to the end lock-up,” says Greenwood.

The final step during the production was to add a few frame-by-frame 2D animations (the splashes or car exhaust trail, for example) but Nice Shoes Creative Studio waited until everything was signed off before they added these final details.

“The nature of the illustrations allowed me to try a few different approaches and as long as everything was rendered flat or had minimal shading, I could combine different 2D and 3D techniques,” he concludes.

Exceptional Minds: Autistic students learn VFX, work on major feature films

After graduation, these artists have been working on projects for Marvel, Disney, Fox and HBO.

By Randi Altman

With an estimated 1 in 68 children in the US being born with some sort of autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring, I think it’s fair to say that most people have been touched in some way by a child on the spectrum.

As a parent of a teenager with autism, I can attest to the fact that one of our biggest worries, the thing that keeps us up at night, is the question of independence. Will he be able to make a living? Will there be an employer who can see beyond his deficits to his gifts and exploit those gifts in the best possible way?

Enter Exceptional Minds, a school in Los Angeles that teaches young adults with autism how to create visual effects and animation while working as part of a team. This program recognizes how bright these young people are and how focused they can be, surrounds them with the right teachers and behavioral therapists, puts the right tools in their hands and lets them fly.

The school, which also has a VFX and animation studio that employs its graduates, was started in 2011 by a group of parents who have children on the spectrum. “They were looking for work opportunities for their kids, and quickly discovered they couldn’t find any. So they decided to start Exceptional Minds and prepare them for careers in animation and visual effects,” explains Susan Zwerman, the studio executive producer at Exceptional Minds and a long-time VFX producer whose credits include Broken Arrow, Alien Resurrection, Men of Honor, Around the World in 80 Days and The Guardian.

Since the program began, these young people have had the opportunity to work on some very high-profile films and TV programs. Recent credits include Game of Thrones, The Fate of the Furious and Doctor Strange, which was nominated for an Oscar for visual effects this year.

We reached out to Zwerman to find out more about this school, its studio and how they help young people with autism find a path to independence.

The school came first and then the studio?
Yes. We started training them for visual effects and animation and then the conversation turned to, “What do they do when they graduate?” That led to the idea to start a visual effects studio. I came on board two years ago to organize and set it up. It’s located downstairs from the school.

How do you pick who is suitable for the program?
We can only take 10 students each year, and unfortunately, there is a waiting list because we are the only program of its kind anywhere. We have a review process that our educators and teachers have in terms of assessing the student’s ability to be able to work in this area. You know, not everybody can function working on a computer for six or eight hours. There are different levels of the spectrum. So the higher functioning and the medium functioning are more suited for this work, which takes a lot of focus.

Students are vetted by our teachers and behavioral specialists, who take into account the student’s ability, as well as their enthusiasm for visual effects and animation — it’s very intense, and they have to be motivated.

Susie Zwerman (in back row, red hair) with artists in the Exceptional Minds studio.

I know that kids on the spectrum aren’t necessarily social butterflies, how do you teach them to work as a team?
Oh, that’s a really good question. We have what’s called our Work Readiness program. They practice interviewing, they practice working as a team, they learn about appearance, attitude, organization and how to problem solve in a work place.

A lot of it is all about working in a team, and developing their social skills. That’s something we really stress in terms of behavioral curriculum.

Can you describe how the school works?
It’s a three-year program. In the first year, they learn about the principles of design and using programs like Adobe’s Flash and Photoshop. In Flash, they study 2D animation and in Photoshop they learn how to do backgrounds for their animation work.

During year two, they learn how to work in a production pipeline. They are given a project that the class works on together, and then they learn how to edit using Adobe Premiere Pro and compositing on Adobe After Effects.

In the third year, they are developing their skills in 3D via Autodesk Maya and compositing with The Foundry’s Nuke. So they learn the way we work in the studio and our pipeline, as well as preparing their portfolios for the workplace. At the end of three years, each student completes their training with a demo reel and resume of their work.

Who helps with the reels and resumes?
Their teachers supervise that process and help them with editing and picking the best pieces for their reel. Having a reel is important for many reasons. While many students will work in our studio for a year after graduation, I was able to place some directly into the work environment because their talent was so good… and their reel was so good.

What is the transition like from school to studio?
They graduate in June and we transition many of them to the studio, where they learn about deadlines and get paid for their work. Here, many experience independence for the first time. We do a lot of 2D-type visual effects clean-up work. We give them shots to work on and test them for the first month to see how they are doing. That’s when we decide if they need more training.

The visual effects side of the studio deals with paint work, wire and rod removal and tracker or marker removals — simple composites — plus a lot of rotoscoping and some greenscreen keying. We also do end title credits for the major movies.

We just opened the animation side of the studio in 2016, so it’s still in the beginning stages, but we’re doing 2D animation. We are not a 3D studio… yet! The 2D work we’ve done includes music videos, Websites, Power Points and some stuff for the LA Zoo. We are gearing up for major projects.

How many work in the studio?
Right now, we have about 15 artists at workstations in our current studio. Some of these will be placed on the outside, but that’s part of using strategic planning in the future to figure out how much expansion we want to do over the next five years.

Thanks to your VFX background, you have many existing relationships with the major studios. Can you talk about how that has benefitted Exceptional Minds?
We have had so much support from the studios; they really want to help us get work for the artists. We started out with Fox, then Disney and then HBO for television. Marvel Studios is one of our biggest fans. Marvel’s Victoria Alonso is a big supporter, so much so that we gave her our Ed Asner Award last June.

Once we started to do tracker marker and end title credits for Marvel, it opened doors. People say, “Well, if you work for Marvel, you could work for us.” So she has been so instrumental in our success.

What were the Fox and Marvel projects?
Our very first client was Fox and we did tracker removals for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — that was about three years ago. Marvel happened about two years ago and our first job for them was on Avengers: Age of Ultron.

What are some of the other projects Exceptional Minds has worked on?
We worked on Doctor Strange, providing tracker marker removals and end credits. We worked on Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, Pete’s Dragon, Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Road Chip and X-Men: Apocalypse.

Thanks to HBO’s Holly Schiffer we did a lot of Game of Thrones work. She has also been a huge supporter of ours.

It’s remarkable how far you guys have come in a short amount of time. Can you talk about how you ended up at Exceptional Minds?
I used to be DGA production manager/location manager and then segued into visual effects as a freelance VFX producer for all the major studios. About three years ago, my best friend Yudi Bennett, who is one of the founders of Exceptional Minds, convinced me to leave my career and  come here to help set up the studio. I was also tasked with producing, scheduling and budgeting work to come into the studio. For me, personally, this has been a spiritual journey. I have had such a good career in the industry, and this is my way of giving back.

So some of these kids move on to other places?
After they have worked in the studio for about a year, or sometimes longer, I look to have them placed at an outside studio. Some of them will stay here at our studio because they may not have the social skills to work on the outside.

Five graduates have been placed so far and they are working full time at various productions studios and visual effects facilities in Los Angeles. We have also had graduates in internships at Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon.

One student is at Marvel, and others are at Stargate Studios, Mr. Wolf and New Edit. To be able to place our artists on the outside is our ultimate goal. We love to place them because it’s sort of life changing. For example, one of the first students we placed, Kevin, is at Stargate. He moved out of his parents’ apartment, he is traveling by himself to and from the studio, he is getting raises and he is moving up as a rotoscope artist.

What is the tuition like?
Students pay about 50 percent and we fundraise the other 50 percent. We also have scholarships for those that can’t afford it. We have to raise a lot of money to support the efforts of the school and studio.

Do companies donate gear?
When we first started, Adobe donated software. That’s how we were able to fund the school before the studio was up and running. Now we’re on an educational plan with them where we pay the minimum. Autodesk and The Foundry also give us discounts or try to donate licenses to us. In terms of hardware, we have been working with Melrose Mac, who is giving us discounts on computers for the school and studio.


Check out Exceptional Minds Website for more info.

Aardman creates short film, struts its stuff

By Randi Altman

All creative studios strive for creative ways to show off their talent and offerings, and London-based Aardman is no exception. Famous for its stop-motion animation work (remember the Wallace and Gromit films?), this studio now provides so much more, including live-action, CG, 2D animation and character creation.

Danny Capozzi

In order to help hammer home all of their offerings, and in hopes of breaking that stop-motion stereotype, Aardman has created a satirical short film, called Visualize This, depicting a conference call between a production company and an advertising agency, giving the studio the ability to show off the range of solutions they can provide for clients. Each time the fictional client suggests something, that visual pops up on the screen, whether it’s adding graffiti to a snail’s shell or textured type or making a giant monster out of CG cardboard boxes.

We reached out to Aardman’s Danny Capozzi, who directed the short, to find out more about this project and the studio in general.

How did the idea for this short come about?
I felt that the idea of making a film based on a conference call was something that would resonate with a lot of people in any creative industry. The continuous spit balling of ideas and suggestions would make a great platform to demonstrate a lot of different styles that myself and Aardman can produce. Aardman is well known for its high level of stop-motion/Claymation work, but we do CGI, live action and 2D just as well. We also create brand new ways of animating by combining styles and techniques.

Why was now the right time to do this?
I think we are living in a time of uncertainty, and this film really expresses that. We do a lot of procrastinating. We have the luxury to change our minds, our tastes and our styles every two minutes. With so much choice of everything at our fingertips we can no longer make quick decisions and stick to them. There’s always that sense of “I love this… it’s perfect, but what if there’s something better?” I think Visualize This sums it up.

You guys work with agencies and directly with brands — how would you break that up percentage wise?
The large majority of our advertising work still comes through agencies, although we are increasingly doing one-off projects for clients who seek us out for our storytelling and characters. It’s hard to give a percentage on it because the one-offs vary so much in size that they can skew the numbers and give the wrong impression. More often than not, they aren’t advertising projects either and tend to fall into the realm of short films for organizations, which can be either charities, museums or visitor attractions, or even mass participation arts projects and events.

Can you talk about making the short? Your workflow?
When I first pitched the idea to our executive producer Heather Wright, she immediately loved the idea. After a bit of tweaking on the script and the pace of the dialogue we soon went into production. The film was achieved during some down time from commercial productions and took about 14 weeks on and off over several months.

What tools did you call on?
We used a large variety of techniques CGI, stop-motion, 2D, live action, timelapse photography and greenscreen. Compositing and CG was via Maya, Houdini and Nuke software. We used HDRI (High Dynamic Range Images). We also used Adobe’s After Effects, Premiere, Photoshop, and Illustrator, along with clay sculpting, model making and blood, sweat and, of course, some tears.

What was the most complicated shot?
The glossy black oil shot. This could have been done in CGI with a very good team of modelers and lighters and compositors, but I wanted to achieve this in-camera.

Firstly, I secretly stole some of my son Vinny’s toys away to Aardman’s model-making workshop and spray painted them black. Sorry Vinny! I hot glued the black toys onto a black board (huge mistake!), you’ll see why later. Then I cleared Asda out of cheap cooking oil — 72 litres of the greasy stuff. I mixed it with black oil paint and poured it into a casket.

We then rigged the board of toys to a motion control rig. This would act as the winch to raise the toys out of the black oily soup. Another motion control was rigged to do the panning shot with the camera attached to it. This way we get a nice up and across motion in-camera.

We lowered the board of toys into the black soup and the cables that held it up sagged and released the board of toys. Noooooo! I watched them sink. Then to add insult to injury, the hot glue gave way and the toys floated up. How do you glue something to an oily surface?? You don’t! You use screws. After much tinkering it was ready to be submerged again. After a couple of passes, it worked. I just love the way the natural glossy highlights move over the objects. All well worth doing in-camera for real, and so much more rewarding.

What sort of response has it received?
I’m delighted. It has really travelled since we launched a couple of weeks ago, and it’s fantastic to keep seeing it pop up in my news feed on various social media sites! I think we are on over 20,000 YouTube views and 40,000 odd views on Facebook.

The new Tom and Jerry Show score combines vintage and modern sounds

By Jennifer Walden

Tom and Jerry have been locked in conflict since the 1940s when animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera pitted cat against mouse in a theatrical animated series for MGM’s cartoon studio. Their Academy Award-winning Tom and Jerry short films spurred numerous iterations over the years by different directors and animation studios.

The latest reboot, The Tom and Jerry Show, produced by Warner Bros. Animation and Renegade Animation, and directed by Darrell Van Citters, started airing on Cartoon Network in 2014. It didn’t really come into its own until Season 2, which began airing in 2016.

Vivek Maddala

Vivek Maddala is co-composer on the series. “The storytelling is getting better and better. Ostensibly, it’s a children’s show but what I’m finding is the writers seem to be having a lot of fun with allegorical references. It features layered storytelling that children probably wouldn’t be able to appreciate. For example, Tom’s love interest, a cat named Toodles, is an aspiring dancer by night but her day job is being a spot welder for heavy construction. Obviously, this is a Flashdance reference, so I was able to thread oblique references to Flashdance in the score.”

New episodes of The Tom and Jerry Show are currently airing on Cartoon Network, and Maddala will be composing 39 of the episodes in Season 3.

As with Hanna-Barbera’s animated theatrical shorts, the characters of Tom and Jerry rarely talk, although other recurring characters are voiced. Music plays an essential role in describing the characters’ actions and reactions. Maddala’s compositions are reminiscent of composer Scott Bradley’s approach to the original Tom and Jerry animations. Comfortable cartoon tropes like trumpet blasts and trombone slides, pizzicato plucks and timpani bounces punctuate a string-and woodwind-driven score. “Scott Bradley’s scoring technique is the gold standard. It is beautiful writing,” he says.

In their initial conversations, director Van Citters regularly referenced Bradley’s scoring technique. Maddala studied those scores carefully and frequently revisits them while writing his own scores for the show. Maddala also listens to “music that is completely unrelated, like Led Zeppelin or Marvin Gaye, to help jog my imagination. The music I’m writing for the show very much sounds like me. I’m taking some of the approaches that Scott Bradley used but, ultimately, I am using my own musical vocabulary. I have a certain way of hearing drama and hearing action, and that’s what the score sounds like.”

Maddala’s vintage-meets-modern compositions incorporate contemporary instrumentation and genres like blues guitar for when the cool stray cat comes onto the scene, and an electro-organ of the muziak persuasion for a snack food TV commercial. His musical references to Flashdance can heard in the “Cat Dance Fever” episode, and he gives a nod to Elmer Bernstein’s score for The Magnificent Seven in the episode “Uncle Pecos Rides Again.”

Each new musical direction or change of instrument doesn’t feel abrupt. It all melts into the quintessential Tom and Jerry small orchestra sound. “Darrell Van Citters and Warner Bros. are giving me quite a bit of autonomy in coming up with my own musical solutions to the action on-screen and the situations that the characters are experiencing. I’m able to draw from a lot of different things that inspire me,” explains Maddala.

Instruments & Tools
His score combines live recordings with virtual instruments. His multi-room studio in Los Angeles houses a live room, his main composing room and a separate piano room. Maddala keeps a Yamaha C3 grand piano and a drum kit always mic’d up so he can perform those parts whenever he needs. He also records small chamber groups there, like double-string quartets and woodwind quartets. The string ensembles sometimes consist of seven violins (four first and three second), three violas and three cellos, captured using a Blumlein pair recording configuration (a stereo recording technique that produces a realistic stereo image) with ribbon mics to evoke a vintage sound. He chooses AEA N8 ribbon mics matched with AEA’s RPQ 500 mic pre-amps.

Maddala also uses several large diaphragm tube condenser mics he designed for Avid years ago, such as the Sputnik. “The Sputnik is a cross between a classic Neumann U47 capsule with the original M7 design, and an AKG C 12 mic with the original CK12 capsule. The capsule is sort of like a cross between those two mics. The head amp is based on the Telefunken ELA M 251.”

Maddala’s composing room.

Maddala uses three different DAWs. He composes in Cakewalk’s Sonar on a PC and runs video through Steinberg’s Cubase on a Mac. The two systems are locked together via SMPTE timecode. On the Mac, he also runs Avid Pro Tools 12 for delivering stems to the dub stage. “The dub is done in Pro Tools so they usually ask to have a Pro Tools session delivered to them. Once the score is approved, I copy the stems into a Pro Tools session so it’s self-contained, save that and post it to the FTP server.”

Maddala got his start in composing for film by scoring classic silent films from the 1920s, which Warner Bros. and TCM restored in order to release them to today’s audiences. He worked with recording/mix engineer Dan Blessinger on those silent films, and Blessinger — the sound designer on The Tom and Jerry Show, recommended Maddala for the gig. “A lot of the classic silent films from the 1920s never had a score associated with them because the technology didn’t exist to marry sound and picture. About 10 or 15 years ago, when TCM was releasing these films to modern audiences, they needed new scores. So I started doing that, which built up my chops for scoring something like a Tom & Jerry cartoon where there is wall-to-wall music,” concludes Maddala.


Jennifer Walden is a New Jersey-based writer and audio engineer.

Behind the Title: Artist/Creative Director Barton Damer

NAME: Barton Damer

COMPANY: Dallas-based  Already Been Chewed

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
AlreadyBeenChewed is a boutique studio that I founded in 2010. We have created a variety of design, motion graphics and 3D animated content for iconic brands, including Nike, Vans, Star Wars, Harry Potter and Marvel Comics. Check out our motion reel.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Owner/Founding Artist/Creative Director

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
My job is to set the vibe for the types of projects, clients and style of work we create. I’m typically developing the creative, working with our chief strategy officer to land projects and then directing the team to execute the creative for the project.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
When you launch out on your own, it’s surprising how much non-creative work there is to do. It’s no longer good enough to be great at what you do (being an artist). Now you have to be excellent with communication skills, people skills, business, organization, marketing, sales and leadership skills. It’s surprising how much you have to juggle in the course of a single day and still hit deadlines.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Developing a solution that will not only meet the clients needs but also push us forward as a studio is always exciting. My favorite part of any job is making sure it looks amazing. That’s my passion. The way it animates is secondary. If it doesn’t look good to begin with, it won’t look better just because you start animating it.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Dealing with clients that stress me out for various reasons —whether it’s because they are scope creeping or not realizing that they signed a contract… or not paying a bill. Fortunately, I have a team of great people that help relieve that stress for me, but it can still be stressful knowing that they are fighting those battles for the company. We get a lot of clients who will sign a contract without even realizing what they agreed to. It’s always stressful when you have to remind them what they signed.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Night time! That’s when the freaks come out! I do my best creative at night. No doubt!

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Real estate investing/fixing up/flipping. I like all aspects of designing, including interior design. I’ve designed and renovated three different studio spaces for Already Been Chewed over the last seven years.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I blew out my ACL and tore my meniscus while skateboarding. I wanted to stay involved with my friends that I skated with knowing that surgery and rehab would have me off the board for at least a full year. During that time, I began filming and editing skate videos of my friends. I quickly discovered that the logging and capturing of footage was my least favorite part, but I loved adding graphics and motion graphics to the skate videos. I then began to learn Adobe After Effects and Maxon Cinema 4D.

At this time I was already a full-time graphic designer, but didn’t even really know what motion graphics were. I had been working professionally for about five or six years before making the switch from print design to animation. That was after dabbling in Flash animations and discovering I didn’t want to do code websites (this was around 2003-2004).

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We recently worked with Nike on various activations for the Super Bowl, March Madness and got to create motion graphics for storefronts as part of the Equality Campaign they launched during Black History Month. It was cool to see our work in the flagship Niketown NYC store while visiting New York a few weeks ago.

We are currently working on a variety of projects for Nike, Malibu Boats, Training Mask, Marvel and DC Comics licensed product releases, as well as investing heavily in GPUs and creating 360 animated videos for VR content.

HOW DID THE NIKE EQUALITY MOTION GRAPHICS CAMPAIGN COME TO FRUITION?
Nike had been working on a variety of animated concepts to bring the campaign to life for storefronts. They had a library of animation styles that had already been done that they felt were not working. Our job was to come up with something that would benefit the campaign style.

We recreated 16 athlete portraits in 3D so that we could cast light and shadows across their faces to slowly reveal them from black and also created a seamless video loop transitioning between the athlete portraits and various quotes about equality.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE MOTION GRAPHICS SCOPE OF THE NIKE EQUALITY CAMPAIGN, AND THE SOFTWARE USED?
The video we created was used in various Nike flagship stores — Niketown NYC, Soho and LA, to name a few. We reformatted the video to work in a variety of sizes. We were able to see the videos at Niketown NYC where it was on the front of the window displays. It was also used on large LED walls on the interior as well as a four-story vertical screen in store.

We created the portrait technique on all 16 athletes using Cinema 4D and Octane. The remainder of the video was animated in After Effects.

The portraits were sculpted in Cinema 4D and we used camera projection to accurately project real photos of the athletes onto the 3D portrait. This allowed us to keep 100 percent accuracy of the photos Nike provided, but be able to re-light and cast shadows accordingly to reveal the faces up from black.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
That’s a tough one. Usually, it’s whatever the latest project is. We’re blessed to be working on some really fun projects. That being said… working on Vans 50th Anniversary campaign for the Era shoe is pretty epic! Especially since I am a long time skateboarder.

Our work was used globally on everything from POP displays to storefronts to interactive Website takeover and 3D animated spots for broadcast. It was amazing to see it being used across so many mediums.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
A computer, my iPhone and speakers!

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I’m very active on Instagram and Facebook. I chose to say “no” to Snapchat in hopes that it will go away so that I don’t have to worry about one more thing (he laughs), and twitter is pretty much dead for me these days. I log in once a month and see if I have any notifications. I also use Behance and LinkedIn a lot, and Dribbble once in a blue moon.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK? IF SO, WHAT KIND?
My 25-year-old self would cyber bully me for saying this but soft Drake is “Too Good” these days. Loving Travis Scott and Migos among a long list of others.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
First I bought a swimming pool to help me get away from the computer/emails and swim laps with the kids. That worked for a while, but then I bought a convertible BMW to try to ease the tension and enjoy the wind through my hair. Once that wore off and the stress came back, I bought a puppy. Then I started doing yoga. A year later I bought another puppy.

Behind the Title: Director/Designer Ash Thorp

NAME: Ash Thorp (@ashthorp)

COMPANY: ALT Creative, Inc.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
ALT Creative is co-owned by my wife Monica and myself. She helps coordinate and handle the company operations, while I manage the creative needs of clients. We work with a select list of outside contractors as needed, mainly depending on the size and scale of the project.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
I fulfill many roles, but if I had to summarize I would say I most commonly am hired for the role of director or designer.

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Directing is about facilitating the team to achieve the best outcome on a given project. My ability to communicate with and engage my team toward a visionary goal is my top priority as a director. As a designer, I look at my role as an individual problem solver. My goal is to find the root of what is needed or requested and solve it using design as a mental process of solution.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I believe that directing is more about communication and not how well you can design, so many would be surprised by the amount of time and energy needed outside of “creative” tasks, such as emails, critiques, listening, observation and deep analysis.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
As a director, I love the freedom to expose the ideas in my mind to others and work closely with them to bring them to life. It’s immensely liberating and rewarding.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Redundancy often eats up my ambitions. Instructing my vision repeatedly to numerous teammates and partners can be taxing on my subconscious at times.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
The late evening because that is often when I have my mind to myself and am free of outside world distractions and noise.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Nothing. I strongly believe that this is what I was put on earth to do. This is the path I have been designed and focused on since I was a child.

SO YOU KNEW EARLY ON THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I grew up with a very artistic family; my mother’s side of the family displays creative traits in one media or another. They were and still are all very deeply committed to supporting me in my creative endeavors. Based on my upbringing, it was a natural progression to also be a creative person.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
As for client projects that are publicly released, I most recently worked on the Assassin’s Creed feature film and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare video game.

For my own projects, I designed and co-directed a concept short for Lost Boy with Anthony Scott Burns. In addition, I released two personal projects: None is a short expression film devised to capture a tone and mood of finding oneself in a city of darkness, and Epoch
is an 11-minute space odyssey that merges my deep love of space and design.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
With Epoch being the most recently released project, I have received so many kind and congratulatory correspondences from viewers about how much they love the film. I am very proud of all the hard work and internal thought, development and personal growth it took to build this project with Chris Bjerre. I believe Epoch shows who I truly am, and I consider it one of the best projects of my personal career to date.

WHAT SOFTWARE DID YOU RELY ON FOR EPOCH?
We used a pretty wide spectrum of tools. Our general production tool kit was comprised of Adobe Photoshop for images and stills, texture building and 2D image editing; Adobe Bridge for reviewing frames and keeping a clear vision of the project; Adobe Premiere for editing everything from the beginning animatic to the final film; and, of course, our main staple in 3D was Maxon Cinema 4D, which we used to construct all of the final scenes and render everything using Octane Renderer.

We used Cinema 4D for everything — from building shots for the rough animatic to compiling entire scenes and shots for final render. We used it to animate the planets, moons, orbits, lights and the Vessel. It really is a rock-solid piece of software that I couldn’t imagine trying to build a film like Epoch without it. It allowed us to capture the animations, look, lighting and shots seamlessly from the project’s inception.

WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION FOR THIS WORK?
I am personally inspired by so many things. Epoch was a personal tribute to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, Carl Sagan, my love of space and space travel, classical sci-fi art and literature, and my personal love of graphic design all combined into one. We put tremendous effort into Epoch to pay proper homage to these things, yet also invite a new audience to experience something uniquely new. We hope you all enjoyed it!

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
The Internet, computers and physical traveling devices (like cars, planes).

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I try and limit my time spent on social media, but I have two Facebooks, Instagram, Twitter and a Behance account.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
I frequently listen to music while I work as it helps me fall deep into my mentally focused work state of mind. The type of music varies as some genres work better than others because they trigger different emotions for different tasks. When I am in deep thought, I listen to composers that have no lyrics in their work that may pull away my mind’s focus. When I am doing ordinary tasks or busy work, I listen to anything from heavy metal to drum and bass. The scale of music really varies for me as it’s also often based on my current mood. Music is a big part of my workday and my life.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I actually let the stress in and let it shape my decision making. I feel if I run away from it or unwind my mind, it takes double the effort to go back in to work. I embrace it as being a part of the high consumption industry in which I have chosen to work. It’s not always ideal and is often very demanding, but I often let it be the spark of the fire of my work.

Digging Deep: Helping launch the OnePlus 3T phone

By Jonathan Notaro

It’s always a big deal when a company drops a new smartphone. The years of planning and development culminate in a single moment, and the consumers are left to judge whether or not the new device is worthy of praise and — more importantly — worthy of purchase.

For bigger companies like Google and Apple, a misstep with a new phone release can often amount to nothing more than a hiccup in their operations. But for newer upstarts like OnePlus, it’s a make or break event. When we got the call at Brand New School to develop a launch spot for the company’s 3T smartphone, along with the agency Carrot Creative, we didn’t hesitate to dive in.

The Idea
OnePlus has built a solid foundation of loyal fans with their past releases, but with the 3T they saw the chance to build their fanbase out to more everyday consumers who may not be as tech-obsessed as their existing fans. It is an entirely new offering and, as creatives, the chance to present such a technologically advanced device to a new, wider audience was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.

Carrot wanted to create something for OnePlus that gave viewers a unique sense of what the phone was capable of — to capture the energy, momentum and human element of the OnePlus 3T. The 3T is meant to be an extension of its owner, so this spot was designed to explore the parallels between man and machine. Doing this can run the risk of being cliché, so we opted for futuristic, abstract imagery that gets the point across effectively without being too heavy handed. We focused on representing the phone’s features that set it apart from other devices in this market, such as its powerful processor and its memory and storage capabilities.

How We Did It
Inspired by the brooding, alluring mood reflected in the design for the title sequence of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, we set out to meld lavish shots of the OnePlus 3T with robotically-infused human anatomy, drawing up initial designs in Autodesk Maya and Maxon Cinema 4D.

When the project moved into the animation phase, we stuck with Maya and used Nuke for compositing. Type designs were done in Adobe Illustrator and animated in Adobe After Effects.

Collaboration is always a concern when there are this many different scenes and moving parts, but this was a particular challenge. With a CG-heavy production like this, there’s no room for error, so we had to make sure that all of the different artists were on the same page every step along the way.

Our CG supervisor Russ Wootton and technical director Dan Bradham led the way and compiled a crack team to make this thing happen. I may be biased, but they continue to amaze me with what they can accomplish.

The Final Product
The project was two-month production process. Along the way, we found that working with Carrot and the brand was a breath of fresh air, as they were very knowledgeable and amenable to what we had in mind. They afforded us the creative space to take a few risks and explore some more abstract, avant-garde imagery that I felt represented what they were looking to achieve with this project.

In the end, we created something that I hope cuts through the crowded landscape of product videos and appeals to both the brand’s diehard-tech-savvy following and consumers who may not be as deep into that world. (Check it out here.)

Fueled by the goal of conveying the underlying message of “raw power” while balancing the scales of artificial and human elements, we created something I believe is beautiful, compelling and completely unique. Ultimately though, the biggest highlight was seeing the positive reaction the piece received when it was released. Normally, reaction from consumers would be centered solely on the product, but to have the video receive praise from a very discerning audience was truly satisfying.


Jonathan Notaro is a director at Brand New School, a bicoastal studio that provides VFX, animation and branding. 

Alkemy X adds creative director Geoff Bailey

Alkemy X, which offers live-action production, design, high-end VFX and post services, has added creative director Geoff Bailey to its New York office, which has now almost doubled in staff. The expansion comes after Alkemy X served as the exclusive visual effects company on M. Night Shyamalan’s Split.

Alkemy X and Bailey started collaborating in 2016 when the two worked together on a 360 experiential film project for EY (formerly Ernst & Young) and brand consultancy BrandPie. Bailey was creative director on the project, which was commissioned for EY’s Strategic Growth Forum held in Palm Desert, California, last November. The project featured Alkemy X’s live-action, VFX, animation, design and editorial work.

“I enjoy creating at the convergence of many disciplines and look forward to leveraging my branding knowledge to support Alkemy X’s hybrid creation pipeline — from ideation and strategy, to live-action production, design and VFX,” says Bailey.

Most recently, Bailey was a creative director at Loyalkaspar, where he creatively led the launch campaign for A&E’s Bates Motel. He also served as creative director/designer on the title sequence for the American launch of A&E’s The Returned, and as CD/director on a series of launch spots for the debut of Vice Media’s TV channel Viceland.

Prior to that, Bailey freelanced for several New York design firms as a director, designer and animator. His freelance résumé includes work for HBO, Showtime, Hulu, ABC, Cinemax, HP, Jay-Z, U2, Travel Channel, Comedy Central, CourtTV, Fuse, AMC Networks, Kiehl’s and many more. Bailey holds an MFA in film production from Columbia University.

Behind the Title: Audiomotion managing director Brian Mitchell

NAME: Brian Mitchell

COMPANY: Oxford, UK-based Audiomotion

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Audiomotion has been around nearly 20 years, providing motion-captured character animation to video games, film, TV and a whole host of other applications.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Managing Director

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
The job consists of many disciplines. All the usual forecasting and planning requirements, working closely with the management team to ensure we maintain the quality of service. I also get involved with the day-to-day running of the studio itself when time allows. I enjoy being part of the team especially on location shoots. We have a wide range of regular clients who are based all over the UK, Europe and beyond. I also like to get out and pay them a visit from time to time to maintain the relationship and make sure we’re aware of any new workflows and of any new opportunities for evolving our collaboration.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I’m not sure if it’s a surprise but as a small company we all get to wear several hats, which means there might be an odd occasion when I can sneak off to the workshop and help build some crazy props. Last time it was a full-size “mocap-friendly” helicopter.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
The thing that gives me the most pleasure is the wide variety of characters, creatives, sports celebrities and actors that we work with. Whilst on screen the workflow appears very similar, the final results are pretty amazing. I have to say that on most occasions no two shoots are the same.

We have worked with the likes of Liam Neeson, Brian Cox and Andy Sirkis. Sport stars such as Lionel Messi, Gareth Bale and Harry Kane, as well as Robbie Williams, Take That and Will.i.am to name a few, and I have to say that every one of them has been a pleasure to work with. We make it our business to ensure every client, actor and crew are supported and looked after from pre-production through the whole process to delivery and beyond if necessary.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
I would say the admin. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good spreadsheet, I’m just not a fan of spending lots of time wading through a flood of emails or coming up with answers to this type thing!

From a shoot perspective, packing up from a horse capture location shoot. There’s a lot to do even though the party is over and you never know what you might step in!

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
I think for me it has to be first thing in the morning because I can get in early and get the jump on the day. I achieve far more that way.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I constantly have a list of alternative ventures floating around that occasionally get discussed over a beer with friends. I’m sure I would pick one of these to develop into something. There’s no shortage of ideas and opportunity, just a lack of time.

Liam Neeson, on set.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I had no idea until the opportunity presented itself some time back. I had shared the running of the company with one Mr. Michael Morris since 2003. Now I’m flying solo.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
A Monster Calls, which opened in the US in October, 2016, was a great production to be a part of. We had Liam Neeson in the studio for two weeks and he was great to work with. There’s a real buzz when everything is in full swing: streaming realtime characters on screen and having the director, JA Bayona, exploring the virtual world with the virtual camera.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT?
Our in-house tracking software is very cool, my damn phone is a love-hate relationship, although I’d be lost without it, and the Bluetooth in the car makes life easy.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
The “usual suspects” — LinkedIn, Twitter and a little bit of Facebook

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
The tunes get cranked up during studio set-ups and location shoots, and my dancin’ trousers get pulled on for an after party. Other than that, I resort to an audio book in the car, which has become commonplace.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I enjoy a spot of golf now and again, and heading off to the coast as much as possible. I play FIFA with my 11-year-old son who beats me every time! I’m quite fond of a charity run followed by a charity beer. Happy days.

The A-List: Lego Batman Movie director Chris McKay

By Iain Blair

Three years ago, The Lego Movie became an “everything is awesome” monster hit that cleverly avoided the pitfalls of feeling like a corporate branding exercise thanks to the deft touch and tonal dexterity of the director/writer/animator/producer team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

Now busy working on a Han Solo spinoff movie, they handed over the directing reins on the follow-up, The Lego Batman Movie, to Chris McKay, who served as animation director and editor on the first one. And he hit the ground running on this one, which seriously — and hilariously — tweak’s Batman’s image.

Chris McKay

This time out, Batman stars in his own big-screen adventure, but there are big changes brewing in Gotham City. If he wants to save the city from The Joker’s hostile takeover, Batman may have to drop the lone vigilante thing, try to work with others and maybe, just maybe, learn to lighten up (somber introspection only goes so far when you’re a handsome billionaire with great cars and gadgets, who gets to punch people in the face with no repercussions).

Will Arnett voices Batman, Zach Galifianakis is The Joker, Michael Cera is orphan Dick Grayson, Rosario Dawson is Barbara Gordon, and Ralph Fiennes voices Alfred.

Behind the scenes, production designer Grant Freckelton and editor David Burrows also return from The Lego Movie, joined by editors Matt Villa and John Venzon. Lorne Balfe was composer, and feature animation was, again, by Animal Logic. The Warner Bros. film was released in 3D, 2D and IMAX.

I recently talked to McKay about making the film and how the whole process was basically all about the post.

The Lego Movie made nearly half a billion dollars and was a huge critical success as well. Any pressure there?
(Laughs) A lot, because of all that success, and asking, “How do we top it?” Then it’s Batman, with all his fans, and DC is very particular as he’s one of their crown jewels. But at the same time, the studio and DC were great partners and understood all the challenges.

So how did you pitch the whole idea?
As Jerry Maguire, directed by Michael Mann, with a ton of jokes in it. They got on board with that and saw what I was doing with the animatic, as well as the love I have for Batman and this world.

Once you were green-lit, you began on post, right?
Exactly right, because post is everything in animation. The whole thing is post. You start in post and end in post. When we pitched this, we didn’t even have a script, just a three- to four-page treatment. They liked the idea and said, “OK, let’s do it.” So we needed to write a script, and get the storyboard and editorial teams to work immediately, because there was no way we could get it finished in time if we didn’t.

It was originally scheduled to come out in May — almost three years from the time we pitched it, but then they moved the release date up to February, so it got even crazier. So we began getting all the key people involved, like [editor/writer] Dave Burrows at Animal Logic, who cut the first one with me, and developing the opening set piece.

You got an amazing cast, including Will Arnett as Batman again, and such unlikely participants as Mariah Carey, Michael Cera, Ralph Fiennes and Apple’s Siri. How tough was that?
We were very lucky because everyone was a fan, and when they saw that the first one wasn’t just a 90-minute toy commercial, they really wanted to be in it. Mariah was so charming and funny, and apart from her great singing voice, she has a really great speaking voice — and she was great at improv and very playful. Ralph has done some comedy, but I wasn’t sure he’d want to do something like this, but he got it immediately, and his voice was perfect. Michael Cera doesn’t do this kind of thing at all. Like Ralph, he’s an artist who usually does smaller movies and more personal stuff, and people told us, “You’re not going to get Ralph or Cera,” but Will reached out to Cera (they worked together on Arrested Development) and he came on.

As for Siri, it was a joke we tried to make work in the first movie but couldn’t, so we went back to it, and it turned into a great partnership with Apple. So that was a lot of fun for me, playing around with pop culture in that way, as the whole computer thing is part of Batman’s world anyway.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller have been very busy directing the upcoming, untitled Han Solo Star Wars movie, but as co-producers on this weren’t they still quite involved?
Very. I’d ask them for advice all the time and they would give notes since I was running a lot of stuff past them. They ended up writing several of my favorite lines in this; they gave me so much of their time, pitched jokes and let me do stuff with the animation I wanted to do. They’re very generous.

Sydney-based Animal Logic, the digital design, animation and effects company whose credits include Moulin Rouge!, Happy Feet and Walking With Dinosaurs did all the animation again. What was involved?
As I wanted to use Burrows, that would require us having an editorial team down there, and the studio wasn’t crazy about that. But he’s a fantastic editor and storyteller, and I also wanted to work with Grant Freckelton, who was the production designer on the first one, as well as lighting supervisor Craig Welch — all these team members at Animal Logic who were so good. In the end, we had over 400 people working on this for two and a half years — six months faster than the first one.

So Animal Logic began on it on day one, and I didn’t wait for a script. It was just me, Dave and the storyboard teams in LA and Sydney, and Grant’s design team. I showed them the treatment and said, “Here’s the scenes I want to do,” and we began with paintings and storyboards. The first act in animatic form and the script both landed at the same time in November 2014, and then we pitched where the rest of the movie would go and what changes we would make. So it kept going in tandem like that. There was no traditional screenwriting process. We’d just bring writers in and adjust as we went. So we literally built the screenplay in post — and we could do that because animation is like filmmaking in slow motion, and we had great storytellers in post, like Burrows.

You also used two other editors — Matt Villa and John Venzon. How did that work?
Matt’s very accomplished. He’s cut three of Baz Luhrmann’s films — The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge! and Australia — and he cut Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner as well as
the animated features Happy Feet Two and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, so he came in to help. We also brought in other writers, and we would all be doing the voices. I was Batman and Matt would do the side characters. We literally built it as we went, with some storyboard artists from the first film, plus others we gathered along the way. The edit was crucial because of the crazy deadline.

Last summer we added John, who has also cut animated features, including Storks, Flushed Away, Shark Tale and South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, because we needed to move some editorial to LA last July for five months, and he helped out with all the finishing. It was a 24/7 effort by that time, a labor of love.

Let’s talk about the VFX. Fair to say the whole film’s one big VFX sequence?
You’re right. Every single frame is a VFX shot. It’s mind blowing! You’re constantly working on it at the same time you’re writing and editing and so on, and it takes a big team of very focused animators and producers to do it.

What about the sound and music? Composer Lorne Balfe did the scores for Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, the animated features Penguins of Madagascar and Home, as well as Terminator Genisys. How important was the score?
It was crucial. He actually worked on the Dark Knight movies, so I knew he could do all the operatic, serious stuff as well as boy’s adventure stuff for Robin, and he was a big part of making it sound like a real Batman movie. We recorded the score in Sydney and Vienna, and did the mix on the lot at Warners with a great team that included effects mixer Gregg Landaker and sound designer Wayne Pashley from Big Bang Sound in Sydney.

Did the film turn out the way you hoped?
I wish we had those extra two months, but it’s the movie I wanted to make — it’s good for kids and adults, and it’s a big, fun Batman movie that looks at him in a way that the other Batman movies can’t.


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.

Project Arachnid short targets online images of child sexual abuse

Early this year, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (CCCP) launched Project Arachnid, a new tool that detects and helps remove images of child sexual abuse on the Internet. The centre, which operates in partnership with police forces across Canada, recently posed questions to 128 adults who had been sexually exploited as children and whose abuse had been recorded on camera. Almost three-quarters of respondents said they were worried about being recognized years later, because the images continue to spread online.

To bring to life how Project Arachnid helps victims break the endless cycle of abuse, the organization enlisted agency No Fixed Address and Nice Shoes Creative Studio to craft a brief, but powerful animated short film that features a B&W hand-drawn look.

“It was very important to us to find a way to reflect the gravity of the matter, but not make people look away. We didn’t want the problem to seem insurmountable,” says Shawn James, creative director at No Fixed Address.

Nice Shoes creative directors Gary Thomas and Matt Greenwood, along with design director Stefan Woronko, developed style frames, taking the piece into an illustrative, textured direction inspired by Manga, graphic novels and the work of Frank Miller and Edward Gorey.

As the teams explored the concept, they quickly found they were on the same page, and worked closely to animate the dramatic and powerful story. “We felt the narrative should drive the visuals and presented a solution where only simple animation was needed to emphasize the story,” says Thomas, adding that they were brought in almost from the beginning. “We had reference from the creative team, but we really came back with the look and feel, and worked closely with the team to refine elements.”

Nice Shoes used Adobe Photoshop for all the illustrations in order to get a handmade quality. Everything was assembled in Adobe After Effects. “We composited the scenes and gave it a paper-like, distressed texture,” says Thomas. “We used Maxon Cinema 4D to do the spiders and globe sequences. We had a great character animator, Rob Findlay, come in for a few days and add the animated touches to the characters.”

In terms of challenges, Thomas says the only major one was a quick turnaround of three weeks. “The piece was tied to a big media launch for the CCCP, so we had a firm deadline to work with. It wasn’t really onerous, because we were careful at the outset to do as much as we could at the beginning to make sure the creatives at No Fixed Address were part of the process, and they in turn were able to keep their clients at CCCP in the loop.”

Photo: Mike Scott

Behind the Title: Flaunt executive producer Andrew Pearce

NAME: Andrew Pearce

COMPANY: Flaunt Productions (@flauntanimation)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Flaunt is a Scottish studio that creates high-quality animation for features, TV, commercials and games. Flaunt is part of the Axis group, which is made up of three collaborating studios with distinct goals, strategies and talent bases.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Executive Producer

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
As EP, I’m one of the first points of contact in the studio. That means attending events, making new relationships, talking to clients and creatives and pitching and planning projects. My next trip is to Kidscreen Miami in February.

The EPs take the “thousand-foot-view” of projects. First, that’s about helping to assemble the right team and working with the director to develop creative and story. Then it’s about making a solid plan. When a producer takes over, it’s about ensuring that we’re exceeding clients’ expectations, and following the studio’s general strategy.

PHOTO: MIKE SCOTT

Flaunt headquarters. Photo: Mike Scott

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
How much we have to adapt to the changing market. There are no right answers to where we place our efforts; it’s a tricky combination of research, intuition, creativity and strategy.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
The magic part! When the team comes up with something brilliant. Everyone knows when you’ve got something special, be that a design, a piece of music, an iconic performance or a beautiful shot.

I would also say the sense of excitement: since starting at Axis seven years ago, there has always been a feeling that anything is possible. The founders continue to be supportive of artists and producers who’re keen to push the envelope.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
So much to do, so little time. We see a million opportunities, both in creative and market terms. Our main impediment to trying everything is lack of time and people to explore.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Random meeting time! There is no set time, but it’s often at the lunch table. We have around 150 people in the studio right now and are planning to peak at 200 mid-year. So there are lots of opportunities for meeting interesting folks and hearing new things.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
A lot of our games clients have great companies — I would love to be part of the casual games explosion.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I think that for the most part, the profession chose me. I’ve always been keen on business development and strategy. I guess after about three years in the industry my path became clear.

Lost in Oz

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We’ve just wrapped up a second feature for Mattel’s Monster High brand, and we are looking forward to the release in spring. Season One of Amazon Studios’ series Lost in Oz is in production now, for which we’re taking care of design and art direction. Our current production is a super-high quality series, about 80 minutes, due for release in summer. We are doing design and animation for the BBC show Dixi and television commercials for Goodgame’s Goodgame Empire.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Almost every project has some aspect that stood out, but I’d pick our Monster High features. We worked closely with Mattel to create a fresh, bold interpretations of the new toy line. The challenge was in retaining the iconic look of the characters, while updating them to better suit animation.

Mattel was aligned with our goal to create fun stories, packed with humor and charm. The characters weren’t just dolls; we created real, breathing characters that could connect emotionally with kids. Watch out for our making-of video later this month.

Monsters High

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
I’ll go for three research tools here, all of which I use daily: LinkedIn, IMDB and Vimeo.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Vimeo, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
If I really have to concentrate, I listen to classical music on headphones.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Stupid fun projects that have no deadlines or client expectations — the last one was a wall-mounted Hot Wheels track for my four-year-old, which wraps around his bedroom. I play on it a lot more than he does.

Jim Hagarty Photography

Blue Sky Studios’ Mikki Rose named SIGGRAPH 2019 conference chair

Mikki Rose has been named conference chair of SIGGRAPH 2019. Fur technical director at Greenwich, Connecticut-based Blue Sky Studios, Rose chaired the Production Sessions during SIGGRAPH 2016 this past July in Anaheim and has been a longtime volunteer and active member of SIGGRAPH for the last 15 years.

Rose has worked on such film as The Peanuts Movie and Hotel Transylvania. She refers to herself a “CG hairstylist” due to her specialization in fur at Blue Sky Studios — everything from hair to cloth to feathers and even vegetation. She studied general CG production at college and holds BS degrees in Computer Science and Digital Animation from Middle Tennessee State University as well as an MFA in Digital Production Arts from Clemson University. Prior to Blue Sky, she lived in California and held positions with Rhythm & Hues Studios and Sony Pictures Imageworks.

“I have grown to rely on each SIGGRAPH as an opportunity for renewal of inspiration in both my professional and personal creative work. In taking on the role of chair, my goal is to provide an environment for those exact activities to others,” said Rose. “Our industries are changing and developing at an astounding rate. It is my task to incorporate new techniques while continuing to enrich our long-standing traditions.”

SIGGRAPH 2019 will take place in Los Angeles from July 29 to August 2, 2019.


Main Image: SIGGRAPH 2016 — Jim Hagarty Photography

Chaos Group and Adobe partner for photorealistic rendering in CC

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reel FX hires Chad Mosley as senior designer

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

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

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

Rogue One/ILM

VES nominees announced, Rogue One gets most nods for features

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

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

The nominees in the 24 categories are:

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A PHOTOREAL FEATURE

Doctor Strange

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

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

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

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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

The Jungle Book

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

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature

Allied

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

Deepwater Horizon

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

Jason Bourne

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

Silence

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

Sully

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

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN AN ANIMATED FEATURE

Finding Dory

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

Kubo and the Two Strings

Travis Knight, Arianne Sutner, Steve Emerson, Brad Schiff

Moana

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

The Little Prince

Mark Osborne, Jinko Gotoh, Pascal Bertrand, Jamie Caliri

Zootopia

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

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A PHOTOREAL EPISODE

Black Mirror: Playtest

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

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards

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

Stranger Things: Demogorgon

Marc Kolbe, Aaron Sims, Olcun Tan

The Expanse: Salvage

Robert Munroe, Clint Green, Kyle Menzies, Tom Turnbull

Westworld: The Bicameral Mind

Jay Worth, Elizabeth Castro, Bobo Skipper, Gustav  Ahrén 

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A PHOTOREAL EPISODE

Black Sails: XX

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

Penny Dreadful: The Day Tennyson Died

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

Roots: Night One

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

The Man in the High Castle: Volkshalle

Lawson Deming, Cory Jamieson, Casi Blume, Nick Chamberlain

Vikings: The Last Ship

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

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A REALTIME PROJECT

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Brian Horton, Keith Pope, David Johnson, Tobias Stromvall

Dishonored 2: Crack in the Slab

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

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Virtual Reality

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

Gears of War 4

Kirk Gibbons, Zoe Curnoe, Aryan Hanbeck, Colin Penty

Quantum Break

Janne Pulkkinen, Elmeri Raitanen, Matti Hamalainen, Ville Assinen

Uncharted 4

Bruce Straley, Eben Cook, Iki Ikram

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A COMMERCIAL

Coke Mini; A Mini Marvel

Vincent Cirelli, Michael Perdew, Brendan Seals, Jared Simeth

For Honor

Maxime Luere, Leon Berelle, Dominique Boidin, Remi Kozyra

John Lewis; Buster the Boxer

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

Titanfall 2: Become One

Dan Akers, Tiffany Webber, Chris Bedrosian

Waitrose: Coming Home

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

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A SPECIAL VENUE

Dream of Anhui

Chris Morley, Lee Hahn, Alex Hessler, Kent Matheson

Pirates of the Caribbean; Battle for the Sunken Treasure

Bill George, Amy Jupiter, Hayden Landis, David Lester

Soarin’ Over the Horizon

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

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

John Gibson, Arish Fyzee, Sachin Shrestha, Anshul Mathuria

Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience

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

OUTSTANDING ANIMATED PERFORMANCE IN A PHOTOREAL FEATURES

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Niffler

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

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; Grand Moff Tarkin

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

The Jungle Book: King Louie

Paul Story, Dennis Yoo, Jack Tema, Andrei Coval

The Jungle Book: Shere Khan

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

Warcraft: Durotan

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

OUTSTANDING ANIMATED PERFORMANCE IN AN ANIMATED FEATURE

Finding Dory: Hank

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

Kubo and the Two Strings: Kubo

Jeff Riley, Ian Whitlock, Adam Lawthers, Jeremy Spake

Kubo and the Two Strings: Monkey

Andy Bailey, Dobrin Yanev, Kim Slate, Jessica Lynn

Moana: The Mighty Maui

Mack Kablan, Nikki Mull, Matthew Schiller, Marc Thyng

Outstanding Animated Performance in an Episode or Real-Time Project

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare; Omar

Bernardo Antoniazzi

Aaron Beck

Jason Greenberg

Chris Barnes

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

John Montefusco

Michael Cable

Shayne Ryan

Andy Rowan-Robinson

Game of Thrones; Battle of the Bastards: Drogon

James Kinnings, Michael Holzl, Matt Derksen, Joeseph Hoback

Game of Thrones; Home: Emaciated Dragon

Sebastian Lauer, Jonathan Symmonds, Thomas Kutschera, Anthony Sieben

OUTSTANDING ANIMATED PERFORMANCE IN A COMMERCIAL

John Lewis: Buster the Boxer

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

Opel Motorsport: Racing Faces; Lion

Jorge Montiel, Jacob Gonzales, Sauce Vilas, Alberto Lara

SSE: Neon House: Baby Pixel

Jorge Montiel, Daniel Kmet, Sauce Vilas, Peter Agg

Waitrose: Coming Home

Jorge Montiel, Nick Smalley, Andreas Graichen, Alberto Lara

Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature

Deadpool: Freeway Assault

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

Doctor Strange: London

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

Doctor Strange: New York City

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

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Scarif Complex

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

OUTSTANDING CREATED ENVIRONMENT IN AN ANIMATED FEATURE

Finding Dory: Open Ocean Exhibit

Stephen Gustafson, Jack Hattori, Jesse Hollander, Michael Rutter

Kubo and the Two Strings: Hanzo’s Fortress

Phil Brotherton, Nick Mariana, Emily Greene, Joe Strasser

Kubo and the Two Strings: Waves

David Horsley, Eric Wachtman, Daniel Leatherdale, Takashi Kuboto

Moana: Motonui Island

Rob Dressel, Andy Harkness, Brien Hindman, Larry Wu

OUTSTANDING CREATED ENVIRONMENT IN AN EPISODE, COMMERCIAL OR REALTIME PROJECT

Black Sails: XXVIII: Maroon Island

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

Dishonored 2: Clockwork Mansion

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

Game of Thrones; Battle of the Bastards; Meereen City

Deak Ferrand, Dominic Daigle, François Croteau , Alexandru Banuta

Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter: Citadel

Edmond Engelbrecht, Tomoka Matsumura, Edwin Holdsworth, Cheri Fojtik

The Man in the High Castle: Volkshalle

Casi Blume, David Andrade, Nick Chamberlain, Lawson Deming

OUTSTANDING VIRTUAL CINEMATOGRAPHY IN A PHOTOREAL PROJECT

Doctor Strange: New York Mirror Dimension

Landis Fields, Mathew Cowie, Frederic Medioni, Faraz Hameed

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards

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

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Space Battle

John Levin, Euisung Lee, Steve Ellis, Barry Howell

The Jungle Book

Bill Pope, Robert Legato, Gary Roberts, John Brennan

OUTSTANDING MODEL IN A PHOTOREAL OR ANIMATED PROJECT

Deepwater Horizon: Deepwater Horizon Rig

Kelvin Lau, Jean Bolte, Kevin Sprout, Kim Vongbunyong

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Princess Leia

Paul Giacoppo, Gareth Jensen, Todd Vaziri, James Tooley

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Star Destroyer

Jay Machado, Marko Chulev, Akira Orikasa, Steven Knipping

Star Trek Beyond: Enterprise

Daniel Nicholson, Rhys Salcombe, Chris Elmer, Andreas Maaninka

OUTSTANDING EFFECTS SIMULATIONS IN A PHOTOREAL FEATURE

Alice Through the Looking Glass; Rust

Klaus Seitschek, Joseph Pepper, Jacob Clark, Cosku Turhan

Doctor Strange; Hong Kong Reverse Destruction

Florian Witzel, Georges Nakhle, Azhul Mohamed, David Kirchner

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Jedha Destruction

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

The Jungle Book: Nature Effects

Oliver Winwood, Fabian Nowak, David Schneider, Ludovic Ramisandraina

OUTSTANDING EFFECTS SIMULATIONS IN AN ANIMATED FEATURE

Finding Dory

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

Kubo and the Two Strings; Water

David Horsley, Peter Stuart, Timur Khodzhaev, Terrance Tornberg

Moana

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

Zootopia

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

OUTSTANDING EFFECTS SIMULATIONS IN EPISODE, COMMERCIAL OR REALTIME PROJECT

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards

Kevin Blom, Sasmit Ranadive, Wanghua Huang, Ben Andersen

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards: Meereen City

Thomas Hullin, Dominik Kirouac, James Dong, Xavier Fourmond

John Lewis: Buster the Boxer

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

Sky: Q

Michael Hunault, Gareth Bell, Paul Donnellan, Joshua Curtis

OUTSTANDING COMPOSITING IN A PHOTOREAL FEATURE

Doctor Strange: New York City

Matthew Lane, Jose Fernandez, Ziad Shureih, Amy Shepard

Independence Day: Resurgence: Under The Mothership

Mathew Giampa, Adrian Sutherland, Daniel Lee, Ed Wilkie

The Jungle Book

Christoph Salzmann, Masaki Mitchell, Matthew Adams, Max Stummer

X-Men: Apocalypse: Quicksilver Rescue

Jess Burnheim, Alana Newell, Andy Peel, Matthew Shaw

OUTSTANDING COMPOSITING IN A PHOTOREAL EPISODE

Black Sails: XX: Sailing Ships

Michael Melchiorre  , Kevin Bouchez, Heather Hoyland, John Brennick

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards: Meereen City

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

Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards: Retaking Winterfell

Dominic Hellier, Morgan Jones, Thijs Noij, Caleb Thompson

Game of Thrones: The Door: Land of Always Winter

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

OUTSTANDING COMPOSITING IN A PHOTOREAL COMMERCIAL

Canal: Kitchen

Dominique Boidin, Leon Berelle, Maxime Luere, Remi Kozyra

John Lewis; Buster the Boxer

Tom Harding, Alex Snookes, David Filipe, Andreas Feix

Kenzo: Kenzo World

Evan LangleyBenjamin Nowak  , Rob Fitzsimmons, Phylicia Feldman

LG: World of Play

Jay Bandlish, Udesh Chetty, Carl Norton

Waitrose: Coming Home

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

OUTSTANDING VISUAL EFFECTS IN A STUDENT PROJECT

Breaking Point

Johannes Franz, Nicole Rothermel, Thomas Sali, Alexander Richter

Elemental

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

Garden Party

Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon, Théophile Dufresne, Lucas Navarro

Shine

Mareike Keller, Dennis Mueller, Meike Mueller

ESPN’s NBA coverage gets a rebrand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Famous Grouse

Putting The Famous Grouse into CG environs for holiday spots

By Randi Altman

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

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

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

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

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

Photo:Mike Scott

Andrew Pearce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the making of the video here.

Splenda Naturals gets the stop-motion treatment in new spot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAME: London-based Sophia Kyriacou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking for Safe Shores

“Looking for Safe Shores” courtesy of the UNHCR.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paper Town

Paper Town – Courtesy of BBC News

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

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

The Human Rights Zoetrope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out my reel!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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