Friday, August 18, 2017

"Laughing Matters" Art Show

I'm excited to announce that this weekend my animation "Flexibly Indecisive" is going to be shown at the Studio Gallery at the 6th Street Playhouse as part of their 50th anniversary production of "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown."  The gallery show is called Laughing Matters and is with the Wine Country Arts Council.

What's fun is that the Charles M. Schulz Museum is in Santa Rosa (his hometown) and the Museum is helping celebrate with some special activities as well.  This includes an exhibit on the 50th anniversary that will also been shown in the Studio Gallery concurrently with the show.

This combines so many things I love - theater, comics, Charlie Brown, and art/animation - I'm very excited to be a part of it all!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Heather Plays The Game Of Thrones

Soooo excited to share some of the work Heather did for the Game Of Thrones episode this weekend!  We are huge fans - so it was unbelievably exciting to see not only her shots but her name in the credits as well.  Congrats Heather and all the Rodeo FX team!

Monday, August 7, 2017

FLASHBACK: PDI/DreamWorks Siggraph Interview

The annual Siggraph convention was this past week, and as I saw posts from lots of friends and former co-workers who were there I realized it has been 10 years since I last attended...

I'm often asked about how I got the job at DreamWorks.  Well it starts at Siggraph 2007 with one of my worst interviews ever. I had just graduated from the Academy of Art University that summer (literally turning in our thesis mere weeks before).  Heather stayed behind to keep working for a gig at Matte World Digital.  A bunch of us from the graduating class all planned to head down to San Diego and hit the convention floor - schmoozing with every recruiting booth we could manage.

Look at us - freshly graduated, slightly desperate, excited folks venturing forth into the "real world" for the first time.  They recruiting booths were busy and the convention floor hectic.  Luckily, I had a friend in Adam Ely who was already at PDI/DreamWorks in Redwood City.  He talked to one of the head recruiters, Debra O'Keefe, about me and I was able to get an interview during Siggraph.  DreamWorks wasn't officially taking reels/applications, but they had a giant interview suite built up on a balcony of the convention hall.

Excited and nervous I walk up to the interview suite and sign in - I even get a swag bag (with a shrek journal and Flushed Away dvd).  I was trying to become an effects artist at the time, so I interviewed with the FX Supe of Madagascar 2 along with one of the fx leads.  It was...a disaster.  The FX Supe - who would eventually turn out to sit behind me for about a year - liked to be blunt and kept asking about all the problems with my student reel.  For about half their questions I had no answer and admitted as much.  By the time I left (swag bag in hand) I called up Heather and just had to laugh.  "It was horrible" I told her on my cell phone from the second floor balcony, "There's no way I'm getting hired there"

About a month after Siggraph, I get a call that DreamWorks would like to do a followup interview at their PDI campus.  I'm beyond excited and terrified at the same time - I stayed up late the night before googling the answers (level-sets!) to everything I failed to answer in my first interview about effects work.  But I wasn't that nervous - I figured the interview couldn't go any worse than the first one.  So they day comes and I drive the hour south to Redwood City and arrive at the very silicon-valley style campus.  

I sit down for my interviews with Justin Onstine, Jono Gibbs, and Kevin Vassey (all who would eventually become my boss).  The first question comes from Justin who asks "So, why do you want to be a Crowds Artist?"

Crowds?  At no point did I realize this was an interview for crowds - I thought I was still going for an effects TD role.  Now crowds...I didn't even know there was a job just creating digital crowds.  And crowds work I knew - I had lucked into doing some crowds work for element fx, which led me to implementing crowds into our thesis.  I even wrote a MEL crowd script.  So I had a LOT of ideas and insight into crowds work.  It was a fantastic interview and within a week I was accepting a contract at PDI/DreamWorks.  

So you never know where life will take you.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Figure Drawing Workshop

Today I taught my first class/workshop in the new Art + Design building...and it was for Figure Drawing!  Jennifer Snyder put together the Art Teacher Professional Development Day up at APSU and I was able to jump in and help lead the drawing workshop today.  It was great to get the chance to draw again - it's easy to get so lost in doing digital art that you don't take the time to do some longer life drawing.

I was lucky enough to sit on on some amazing figure drawing workshops back at DreamWorks.  They were held over lunchtime and when I decided to make the leap to becoming an Animator I started attending - and it was intimidating as hell at first.  Everyone was nice and welcoming...but the amount of talent in that room was staggering.  It was out of my comfort zone, really pushed me, and I learned so much.

Most of the sessions were lead by Karl Gnass - who everyone should check out and is just an amazing talent and teacher.  He's taught figure drawing at DreamWorks and Disney for decades.  Gesture drawing was led by Dave Pimentel who was a great story artist that went on to becoming the Story Lead on Moana over at Disney.  It was great going back and remembering what I learned from these sessions and lead one of my own!

And it has cemented my decision that this semester my animation students are going to be doing LOTS more drawing homework :)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

My Shot In Racing Legends Promo Image

Looks like PortAventura World finally updated the Racing Legends portion of their WEBSITE - and the image they picked for the promo shot is one of the ones I worked on!

This is the start of the Rome section, which another animator had initially taken a pass at.  After client reviews there was extensive notes and I basically reworked the entire animation.  It became faster (and therefore a bit shorter) and more action packed.  I actually spent the most time on this section of the ride.  It was really fun to get in there and add in the "wow" factor.  I'm really excited to see the final renders of it - the assets and lighting teams really made this look amazing!

Here's a closer look at just the promo image:

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Bournemouth/UK Trip

Bournemouth hotel by the sea
I had an amazing opportunity last month to visit Bournemouth in England, and travel around a great deal of the U.K. as well.  My University wanted to send me to visit with a potential study abroad/exchange school - and it's just a few months away from Heather and I's 10th anniversary, so we made a 10 day trip out of it!

First and foremost was to travel to Bournemouth, a wonderful town on the southern coast of England. I spent some time at Arts University Bournemouth and met some great colleagues and see how their programs are structured.  It was the last week of their "student show" so I got to see a lot of the amazing work their students produce there.  Having backgrounds in art, film, theatre, and animation myself it was really great seeing how much collaboration goes on there!

Of course, if you're on the south coast, you have to do some day trips to Stonehenge, Salisbury (where I found a centuries old pub), New Forest, and the Jurassic Coast.  In fact, I seem to have found lots of centuries old pubs.

Part I matinee and Part II evening show
London was the next stop.  We got to meet up with our old college friends Bryon and Tiffany, who just moved to London with their daughter.  We only had time for a quick run through the National Gallery because we managed to get last minute tickets to the two part (i.e. all day) production of Harry Potter And The Cursed Child on the West End.  It was amazing and I could have gone back the very next day to watch it all over again.

With Buckbeak

Keeping with the Harry Potter theme, we visited the Warner Bros Studio tour of the sets and props from the films.  It was great to spend the day looking at all the craftsmanship that went into every single aspect of these films.  

Glencoe, Scotland
And if you've come this far, why not take a scenic 5 hour train ride up to Scotland!  Our flights meant we spent most of the time in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but we did get a 12 hour tour up into the Highlands to see Glencoe and Loch Ness.

Loch Ness.  Not pictured: Nessie
It was an amazing 10 days.  England and Scotland were just wonderful.  We already have a to-do list for a future visit.  I was impressed with AUB and Bournemouth in general, so hopefully there will also be an opportunity to return there as well!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Racing Legends LA Times Article

Today the LA Times had an INTERVIEW with the Creative Director at Mousetrappe behind the Ferrari Experience attractions.  They also posted a few photos of the rides.  The stills aren't from the scenes I worked on, but it's fun to finally see some hi-res images of the actual footage.  Here's a description of the experience from the article:

Racing Legends, Mousetrappe’s other Ferrari Land attraction, combines Universal’s Simpsons simulator ride experience with the test drive conceit of Epcot’s Test Track in Florida. Built by Britain-based Simworx, the domed screen and motion simulator attraction features wind, water and aroma effects.
Riders climb into one of 10 Ferrari F1 race cars arrayed before a 75-foot diameter domed screen.  The backstory places riders in a Ferrari racing simulator used to train up-and-coming drivers on race tracks from any era. 
The journey starts in present-day Spain behind the wheel of a Ferrari F1 on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Traveling back in time, the car company’s founder, Enzo Ferrari, battles up a bumpy and muddy 1919 hill-climb race in Parma, Italy. The time-traveling race continues in 1960 on the banked corners of Italy’s Autodromo Nazionale Monza, hopping over perilous hills at Germany’s Nürburgring in 1975 and ducking and weaving on the Circuit de Mónaco course in present day. Graphics-heavy computer transitions call up each new course. 
Theme park fantasy takes over near the end of the trip with a Formula 1 car speeding through several scent-centric near misses on the streets of Rome and a futuristic concept car trek on a Speed Racer-like looping course. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

FLASHBACK: Ray Harryhausen

From left:  Phil Tippet, Ray Harryhausen, Craig Barron
Enjoying the start of summer, today I finally cracked open my DVD of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.  I love this movie and can still remember the first time I saw it - actually, it's among my earliest movie-watching memories...along with Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  It was a summer night and my family had just returned to the house at night.  Coming up from the garage, my dad and I stayed in the basement and when we turned on the TV "The Beast" had just begun.  I was instantly sucked in and stayed in the basement glued to that television set till the last minute of the movie.  It was such impactful film for me that I even referenced it and showed a clip during my initial interview/lecture at APSU.

So naturally, one of the more amazing moments I've had in my career was being able to meet Ray Harryhausen, the man responsible for animating the stop-motion Beast along with dozens and dozen of classic movie creatures.  Back in 2006 Heather's boss at the time was Craig Barron at Matte World Digital.  He was friends with Harry and hosted a night with him at the San Rafael Theater screening The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.  Joining the two of them on stage was Phil Tippet, the also-legendary stop-motion animator from ILM and owner of Tippet Studios.  It was a great night - Ray brought one of the famous and original skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts and afterwards we got to meet him and get his autograph.

That's one of the biggest advantages of living in a big city where (at least at that time) a thriving vfx/animation industry is happening.  There's many opportunities to meet people who helped shape your history to the movies.  Being able to see them in person and shake their hand really brings the movies home.  You feel part of the history.

Ray with a stop-motion puppet
Meeting Ray and having Art of book signed

Monday, May 22, 2017

"Racing Legends" Ride Footage

There was a few articles going around about the company that built the vehicles for Racing Legends.  I've also seen a few videos getting posted of the ride footage.  I worked on the first scene, the Rome one, and the final futuristic one.  It's fun to see the final footage in context.  Apparently in additional to the vehicles moving, they also have "4D" effects like wind and water mist during the ride.  Pretty fun to get an idea of the omni theater setup.

I also ran across some promotional posters that a design company produced for Mousetrappe for use in the attractions.  It was a series of travel posters for many of the areas visited over the course of the attractions.  It's just fun to see all the peripheral design that goes on with any attraction.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Heather's "Happily Ever After"

Heather has been able to once again work on a theme park show - this time its the brand new nighttime fireworks show at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.  Called Happily Ever After it premiers tonight!

Check out more of the behind the scenes clips below - it looks like it's going to be one hell of a show. They are bringing in just about every disney character ever and creating original 2D animations for the show.  Heather has been helping Mousetrappe create the background projections that will be displayed on the castle.  This is as close as you can come to traveling back in time and getting the chance to work on Aladdin, Lion King, or the other classics of the "Disney Renaissance"

I'm so damn proud of her!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

End of the Semester and 2nd Year

Well, another semester (and year) at APSU has wrapped.  I'm still getting used to the idea of having months off of work in the summer!  It was quite the transition year - literally transitioning to our new building.  I think we all had a form of senior-itis trying to wrap up the semester in the old building knowing this awesome facility is empty and waiting just a few yards away. The last week of finals and the following week consisted of moving the equipment from the old Mac labs to the new ones.  My sons came with me one day and we played frisbee outside the new building - the quintessential college activity.

One last thing to share - something I ran across while cleaning out the old computer lab.  Drawn on the white board was this cartoon (yes, that character is me). As you can see, my students first semester diving into Maya was met with....a few technical hurdles and learning curve.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Golden Moose & Gaming

At the end of last year I had a wonderful time working with the new Golden Moose Studios on a game prototype.  It was going to be a stylized narrative-driven PC game.  While it was an amazing concept and looking great, for a variety of reasons it was put on hold.  Karin, the CEO, has posted a couple of insightful and fascinating blog posts about the development process and the subsequent shelving of the game. It's been interesting to be a part of this while also reading on the reflections and insights after the fact.

Read the posts HERE (Part 1: Prototype) and HERE (Part 2: Reboot)

I can't say enough wonderful things about working with them.  I'm excited to see where they go next and encourage everyone to follow their blog.  Speaking of which, Karin also posted another great blog post about applying for jobs and their thoughts after looking through over a hundred applications in just a few days.  I think it's essential reading for anyone in the video game, animation, or vfx business!

Check that one out HERE (Job Application Tips)

Friday, April 21, 2017

New Art & Design Building Move-In

The Main Entrance
Well, it was a long wait, but at last we have moved into the new Art & Design Building!  It's the last week of the semester, so we're only moving our offices right now.  But already we had our last faculty meeting of the academic year in the new conference room - everyone had a hard time not just staring out the window the whole time.

We just look more professional in this room
The second floor main hallway
A campus-side view of the building.  Grass coming soon.
The Animation Lab is starting to come together!
My first solo office

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Heather's Moana Test

There's some great behind-the-scenes stories about how Disney did a "water test" early in preproduction on Moana.  This is when Heather was put on the show.  The test had been seen early at a D23 convention, but this is the first time we get to see it.

Apparently this scene was cut early in the process, but everyone loved it so much they found a way to get it back into the movie.  It's fun to see the differences between this version and the one that ended up in the film.  Either way, I have to share any video clip that starts with a matte painting done by my wife!

Friday, April 7, 2017

"Racing Legends" Theme Park Attraction

This is the main show building at PortAventura World's new Ferrari Land expansion that opens today.  I had the chance to work with Tau Films to animate multiple racing scenes for the attraction Racing Legends.  The ride, which is an omni dome simulator experience, is located in the main Ferrari Experience show building seen above.  From the press release:
Racing Legends allows visitors the opportunity to put their driving skills to the test. They can drive a Ferrari through the streets of Rome and along the most famous racing circuits in the world. They can even drive around imaginary futuristic scenes. The Omnimax simulator experience begins with a call for ‘drivers of the future’ who will experience the adventure on one of 10 mobile platforms.
Starting from a previs, I amped up the action with the animated the cars and camera animation.  I took on the initial track of Barcelona, Rome, and the futuristic Tron-like final course.  You can read more about how Mousetrappe and Tau Films approached the ride HERE

I have always been a big nerd and fan when it comes to theme parks, so I loved the opportunity to work on one!  I just need to get to Spain now to go see it in person....

Friday, March 24, 2017

FLASHBACK: Hans Zimmer Parking Garage Concert

One of the more surreal and amazing nights while I was working at DreamWorks was the Hans Zimmer Parking Garage Rooftop Concert.  It's a strange setup, so a bit of backstory to what led to this crazy circumstance....

At the time, 2009, DreamWorks was expanding like crazy.  We were trying to go from releasing 2 films a year to 3.  We were still working on DVD bonus shorts and even some holiday specials.  It was busy.  And we were running out of space...especially parking space.  The solution was to expand our 5 story parking garage (complete with helipad) over onto the neighboring surface lot.  For most of a year, this made parking even more crazy during construction.  By the end they had to enlist valet parking to fit everyone into the remaining space.  You can see the new addition in the google-map view below (it has different colored concrete and no ivy growing up the sides).

So, Katzenburg wanted a way to celebrate the completion of the parking garage expansion, as a way to make up for all the inconvenience to the employees over the past year.  For some glorious reason I can't imagine they thought up - they held a rooftop concert after work one summer night.  Leading the charge was the film composer Hans Zimmer (who scored Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar for us).  Joining him was fellow composers (also for DreamWorks films) Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell.  Also, a bunch of other musicians covering everything from drums, winds, to ancient chinese instruments.  And a host of extra singers, including the gentleman who does the voice of King Julien now for the TV series.

So we all spent a night, sitting at tables drinking beer and wine, watching the summer sun set behind The Valley, listening to a greatest hits of DreamWorks music on the roof of a parking garage.  They played the DreamWorks intro music (also the opening to Shrek), Hallelujah, themes from KFP and Madagascar, and of course finished with a group dance to "I Like To Move-It Move-It"

An epic once-in-a-lifetime night.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Heather and LOTR

After months of rumors, WB finally announced the new Middle Earth: Shadow of War video game with an Announcement Trailer.  Heather was able to contribute to the big final shot you see above.  I'm so excited for Heather - to work on a Lord of the Rings property is just insanely fun.  We are the vfx generation that was in undergrad as these films came out and it really felt like a rebirth of the industry.  Also she got to work with Blur, doing some kick-ass cinematics work.  That's several pretty impressive accomplishments in one fell swoop!

Check out the game site HERE and see the whole announcement trailer below.