COMPANY: Splice (www.splice.tv, @splice_here)
NAMES: Ben Watne and Chris Averbeck
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Chris: Splice is a Minneapolis-based studio that specializes in VFX, Design, Edit, Sound, and Color…and production.
WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Ben: VFX Lead
Chris: Art Director
WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Ben: Working out potential effects shots in pre-production, supervising the shooting of those effects, and working with a team to execute them in post. It also means creating workflows and systems to support the VFX team — things like managing a renderfarm, and figuring out the quirks of moving data between applications.
Chris: I make sure that visual graphics look as good as they can.
WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER YOUR JOB TITLES?
Ben: I think what’s surprising to most people is how much variety there is to my job. Splice works on a diversity of projects. It’s not uncommon for me to be on the phone with a client one minute, setting up a simulation the next, and rotoscoping something else while I wait for it to cook. Working this way has its ups and downs for sure, but it gives you a lot of ownership over the shots you do, which I love. Getting to do a lot of things keeps the job fresh for me.
Chris: Splice is pretty unique in that we work very closely with clients from the very beginning of their projects. Ben and I are not only collaborating with each other and our teams, but we are talking with producers and clients to make sure every frame is exactly right. When you hire one of us, you tend to get all of us.
Ben: Whether you want to or not!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Ben: I love doing the research and testing on a set-up to see if it’ll work. We have a DSLR here, and it’s become one of my favorite pieces of gear. If I think something will work in theory, the next step is to grab the camera and some poor souls that work here and run a test. So if you see a couple guys walking through an alley in Minneapolis carrying what looks to be a spray-painted Ark of the Covenant, that’s probably what’s going on. It’s a great way to brainstorm and collaborate with each other, and a lot of times just going through the process reveals an easier approach to finishing a shot.
Chris: In a sense it’s the same for me. I love sitting down to a blank canvas and designing styleframes/storyboards from scratch. I want to see if the looks I see in my head will translate onto the screen.
WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Chris: Sitting down to a blank canvas and designing styleframes/storyboards from scratch.
Ben: Managing all the boring stuff like software installation and licensing, renderfarm issues, etc. It can easily eat up a lot of time. I try to look for ways to make those things simple wherever I can. I love floating licenses for example, because they’re a lot easier to manage.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Ben: I love sitting down in the morning with a very, very large mug of coffee and turning on the screens. That’s always a good moment. Nothing’s gone wrong yet.
Chris: It’s the morning for me too.
IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Chris: Scuba diving
Ben: I wish I could say backpacking through Europe, but probably eating chips and watching infomercials all day is more accurate. It wouldn’t be good.
CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Chris: Show packaging for Travel Channel and Science Channel through Sharp entertainment. We worked client-direct with Target on a campaign of web spots. I also just directed and art directed a live-action spot for Cox Communications through their agency Periscope – that was a lot of fun.
Ben: We do a ton of VFX work with Committee Films on their hit series for H2, and other networks. I also worked on great stop-motion spot we animated for Toro. A lot of my time has been testing shots for a super-top-secret network pitch. You do not have clearance for that one.
NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Ben: The Canon 5D, a Roku player, and air conditioning
Chris: An up-to-date computer, iPhone, and a leaf blower
Ben: Good point. Could I swap the air conditioner for a snow blower?