production

Nike

Two of 3 spots. “Evolution” was a small team, 3 weeks, lighting and effects with Softimage and Arnold.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/70825432[/vimeo]

I love small but intense projects like this.

“Run” was primarily Maya/Vray with a touch of ICE. The studio (Royale) is only 6 years old but advancing fast, and it’s been a real pleasure working with them. For their first exploration of ICE, Royale invited in some familiar SI friends – Ciaran Moloney, Steven Caron, Leonard Kotch, Billy Morrison and yours truly doing a first gig start to finish as a CG sup (which with guys like this mostly involved saying “go for it.”)

[youtube]http://youtu.be/nsDOqJJmTa8[/youtube]

Like the Psyop “Telstra” spot, this commercial essentially required us to create a system for knitting cloth from massive numbers of strands. Leonard Kotch wrote a system which performs many of the same tasks as the Psyop “Entwiner” tool, but he took a slightly different direction, it was fascinating to compare how the two diverged. The progressive animation required for these two shots resulted in a pretty flexible and broad system, which we are currently using for the last of the three spots, which will wrap in production soon.

strandlayoutb_s40_062613 NikeEvo_shoe_comp_v001 NIKE_evolution_shot40

Royale has been an enthusiastic and fun group to work with and it’s been great getting to show a studio as strong as they are in design some of the possibilities ICE can bring to jobs like this. Expect to see some version of Leonard’s “LKFabric” system gifted to the community before long – very cool Royale, thanks! (They also throw good parties, their 6’th birthday celebration was impressive and… unusual.)

 

 

Progression of a shot

I had nothing to do with the making of Tangled, but it’s a great Disney film which blew me away, and I always like “making of” breakdowns. So I took a look at this, and felt it did such a good job of showing how a sucessful final result comes from a steady progression of improvements. Whether you’re making a fully animated film or a live action sequence, the best results come from a back-and-forth iterative process of test images to build up the final product.

 

[vimeo]http://www.vimeo.com/44181679[/vimeo]

In today’s “faster/cheaper” production mentality there is often significant pressure to reduce iterations and the time spent making a shot – if you watch through this sequence and imagine cutting out a lot of the improvements you see which are made over time you can get a feel for how the extra time and effort makes all of the difference. The flip side of this, of course, is that without good artistry and good direction all the time in the world won’t make a difference.

Too many great ideas are killed by a rush to minimize costs and get stuff out fast. This may make profits for those who deal with high-volume-low-quality kinds of projects, but I note that the giants with some of the most incredible work (and full coffers) tend to follow a mentality where extra time, effort and resources are spent to make a final product which is clearly of superior quality.

In the end, quality pays, and its the result of investing in talent, tools, and organization.

In this sequence we see a lot of things being done right…

  • Time taken for previsualization.
  • Tools available to allow communication via painting on frames, showing thought and investment in pipeline.
  • An area set aside for the artist to make reference, showing insight into artistry and the willingness to spend money to enable it.
  • Many iterations, showing time was spent to get the shot right, and the production was organized with regular milestones in place (and time set aside to achieve them).

The final result, a great film which not only was a creative success but one which did well financially ($590 mil box office revenue and a new and lasting Disney heroine providing decades of continuing income.)

Garman posts some thoughts about dailies

Garman Herigstad once gave me a slew of advice years ago, and every bit of it has proven useful to me over the years. So when he voices an opinion, I listen. Such is the case in his most recent blog post where he discusses dailies.

Dalies are at the heart of VFX. It’s where artists get feedback and develop their eye. It’s where production is kept on track. It’s also where seniors develop opinions on their artists, where directors evaluate their teams, and where critical choices are made.

My best advice for artists attending dailies for the first time is to be quiet and pay full attention. Take notes, as Garman suggests. Keep your mouth shut unless your input is needed or asked for. Never lie, never try to spin anything, never be defensive or explanatory – just listen to the instructions that are given, ask questions if anything is unclear, and be professional.

20120107-100501.jpgThe people evaluating the work are almost always aware of issues or concerns an individual artist is not exposed to – a VFX sup may be thinking about continuity with other shots, upcoming changes, or criteria passed down from a director. The leadership attending or running the dailies may also not have much time, or the viewing theatre may have other teams waiting, so the general rule is to let the person(s) making decisions quickly and accurately evaluate what they are being shown, make a decision, and convey that decision as directives for action.

And always, always as an artist address the notes you are given. The people giving notes remember what they ask for, and nothing infuriates a director or VFX sup more than to give the same notes over and over. If you are dialing in towards a result, ie if the notes are on the order of “more” or “less,” that’s ok. But if the notes keep coming back as “where’s the fix?” then you are probably pissing someone off.

Anyway, it’s a good read, on an important subject, from a knowledgable source worth listening to.