Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Trolls Full Trailer

And here is the first big look at Trolls.  It's really our first good look at the environments, which were just going thru the first lighting tests when I left DreamWorks.  I remember being in the new-crew-touchbase meeting and having the production designer Kendall (which marked my 4th film with her) pitching her concept of everything feeling like it was made out of felt.  It's a crazy perfect idea for this film - and I love seeing the final look.

We were only about 2 sequences into production when I left, but a few quick shots of trolls dancing in place and running around look familiar :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Bink: New Arrival

The first short of the web series Bink I animated on was released today!  It was really fun to get to work (virtually) with some ol' DreamWorks colleagues again.  I know Eric was using this as a way to show what his new company was capable of producing, and I hope it goes over well so we all get a chance to work on the next batch of shorts.

You can check out more thinks Bink-related HERE

Monday, June 27, 2016

Trolls First Poster

I love that Trolls doesn't seem to be losing it's freak-flag anytime soon.  Good for DreamWorks letting this baby be the insane rainbow-dipped madhouse it was meant to be.

Crazy to think this will be the last animated film released by DreamWorks as an independent movie studio.  Actually, as Katzenberg was always proud to remind us, the LAST independent movie studio in Hollywood.  End of an era I guess.  But just as Shrek was very subversive for it's time, I think it's appropriate that Trolls be it's swan song.  Find your happy place :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Bink Promotional Poses

I got word today that Bink has wrapped in lighting, and just has a few last min details in editing - which means a premiere date has been set.  One week from today it'll come out on Eric Miller Animation Studios YouTube page.

A fun aspect of working on Bink was the opportunity to also create some "promotional" poses for Eric.  I did around a dozen that he requested, such as the one you see above.  I remember all the scrutiny that went on at DreamWorks when they were creating promo poses for their films - so it was fun to indulge for a bit and really fine tune the poses to make the most appealing and interesting character possible.

Till next week...

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Heather's Interview with CGSociety

I'm super excited for Heather's interview and article with CGSociety.  She talks about her experiences at Disney Animation and some insight to the general world of being a production matte painter.

Check the full interview with some great production images at:

Heather is a senior matte painter with over 11 years of experience in the visual effects industry. Her work encompasses live-action blockbusters, animated feature films, national advertising campaigns, cutting-edge VR, and concept work. She has worked at top studios including Walt Disney Animation, Blur Studios, Weta Digital, Matte World Digital, The Orphanage, and Rhythm & Hues. We sat down with Heather to talk about matte painting and her role on Disney Feature films like Zootopia and Big Hero 6. 
CGS: To start us off, what inspired you to become a matte painter and work in entertainment?  
My passion for movie effects first started when I saw Jurassic Park at the age of 13 with my family. I was amazed by how realistic the dinosaurs were.  Not long after I caught some episodes of the tv show “Movie Magic” that aired from 1994-1997 on Discovery Channel. There were dozens of artists and craftsmen whose job was to create these amazing epic film moments! While I was completely fascinated by this world of movie magic, it wasn’t until Toy Story came out that I realized that these things were created with computers.Then I found an issue of Cinefex (featuring Small Soldiers on the front), and I realized that this could be a legitimate career path for me.  Having absolutely no computer experience, I sought out a school where I could learn how to create 3d art on a computer.   It took me many more years to realize that my passion was in matte painting. I knew that I loved creating environments. I loved looking at and creating textures, modeling and painting in photoshop, but it was at least 10 years after my initial interest in visual effects was sparked before I realized what matte painting was, and that matte painting was my true passion. 
CGS: What an incredible journey! For those of us who might be not be as familiar with the craft, what does it mean to be a matte painter in your industry today?  
The job title “matte painter” has evolved so much - even from the time I discovered what matte painting is. Back when I was watching “Movie Magic”, Matte Painting was done on glass and filmed in camera.  Now you’ll find a lot of different titles encompass the role of today’s matte painter. Digi-matte, Set Extension, Background Artist, Environment Artist, Matte Painter. The new names indicate a shift in the technical demands of the job. Today’s matte painter needs to be able to create backgrounds that hold up to modern camera moves and stereo films. Today we use not only photoshop, but projection software and 3d software to create full 3d environments. 
CGS: When people go to watch feature films the story and the characters take precedence, but what’s going on behind the characters is just as important. How does the world and settings you create in a film impact the film and what do you enjoy most about your role in bringing a space to life? 
There’s a reason that matte painting is called “the invisible art”. If we’ve done our job right, the characters on screen are transported to a new location or world. Matte painting can set up and transport the viewer to enhance the film experience. The background should never be distracting or upstage the actors.  That’s what I’ve always loved about matte painting. I’ve always loved researching and creating an environment of rich textures, studying how the light plays on different surfaces. I love how the lighting and color temperature of a shot can change the emotional impact of the scene. When you create a matte painting for a show, you are trying to execute someone else’s vision (the director or supervisors), but you really have a lot of creative control on the direction of that shot and the final pixels on the screen. I love seeing my pixels and painting up on the silver screen. I imagine that’s how broadway actors feel when they see their name up in lights. 
CGS: It sounds like your work requires you to be very versatile as an artist, what are the different positions a matte painter can take on in a production pipeline other than the traditional matte work? 
In our regular roles as matte painters, matte painters utilize concept painting skills, modeling, texturing, lighting and compositing. Depending on each particular matte painter, many roles could easily be filled when the matte work is done. In a lot of studios, it pays to at least be familiar with matte painting and projection techniques, because they are incredibly versatile tools that transcend matte work. In the past, I’ve helped out with modeling, lighting, concept art, look development and final layout. It’s really a great thing to be able to jump into different roles, and gives you a greater appreciation for all the other artists you work with. 
CGS: We understand that you held different roles between working on Big Hero 6 and Zootopia, can you tell us how you fit into the pipeline on each project and how your experiences varied? 
My role at Disney was the same for both shows, but the technical needs change. A Set Extension artist at Disney is part of the Look Development department. Matte painting (the set extension part), is a role that comes on later in the production pipeline after cameras and environments are built, and lighting has been started. Until that stage of the movie, set extension artists will help out by doing environment tests, modeling, and joining the look development team with environment assets. Every show is different - supervisors and art directors change, technology and environments evolve with the story, and we adapt along with all those changes to contribute to the final film. 
CGS: Can you tell us more about the importance of things like environment tests? How do the earlier stages of development, such as working on a test shot for Zootopia, shape the rest of a film? 
Test shots are particularly important for big animated features and vfx work using new technology. The work at big companies like Disney are always at the cutting edge of technology. There are teams of people devoted to overcoming technical hurdles to better support the story on screen. This could be creating a new renderer (Disney’s Hyperion), new hair and fur technology (Life of Pi, Zootopia), or finding a new way to populate a 3d city (Big Hero 6). Each and every visual effects film has its own set of hurdles, and sometimes the best way to test those challenges is with a test shot where some of the kinks can get ironed out early. Ask any supervisor working on a big animated feature or blockbuster vfx show how they are going to make that movie, and they’ll say “We’ll tell you when we are done”. 
CGS: I know that Zootopia, like a lot of animated feature films, went through many changes over the course of development, can you give us an idea for how many iterations an environment might go through over the course of creation? 
Sometimes with animated features, as the story develops and changes whole characters and environments are cut from the film. You read about it happening all the time in live action as well. I worked extensively on the background buildings in Zootopia for Sahara Square, and after seeing the movie in theaters realized that the whole sequence was cut. It’s all about supporting the story. As for how many iterations an environment might go through, it’s impossible to say. A lot of visual effects and animation work is about iterating until the final look is achieved. I’ve had matte paintings that were finaled on the first version, and then shots that have stretched out months and gone through story and lighting changes, camera changes, and indecisive directors and supervisors. In truth, I like to save a version of each one of my iterations so that I can remind myself when I’m tired of a shot that each version does indeed improve on the previous version.  
CGS: It’s our understanding that you are teaching a masterclass with CGWorkshops, how does the content you teach in your class compare to the work a professional would be doing in a studio like Disney Feature? 
The content from my class comes directly from my experience over the last 10 years. All the techniques and tips I teach directly relate to shots I’ve worked on, and techniques I’ve come up with to make working on shots easier. All the techniques I teach in this class are the same ones I taught to other artists at both Rhythm & Hues and Disney. There’s a subtle art to finding a 2d/3d matte painting hybrid solution. My class focuses on building a foundation for these hybrid techniques. 
CGS: Do you have any advice for students or peers that want to get into matte painting? 
Follow your passion.  Be versatile and humble.  Do your research and know what you are getting into.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Contributing to 3D World's "Bink" Article

Here's a preview of the nice writeup on Bink in the latest issue of 3D World magazine!  There's a few quotes and tips from your truly in there.  There's some nice insight from the creator/director Eric Miller on bringing Bink to life.  I enjoyed the chance to contribute and share some of my experiences on the short.  I also got to throw a handful of helpful maya/animation tips in there - looks like 4 of them were picked for the final article.  It's great to see Bink get some nice coverage before it debuts in the next few weeks...

You can preview and buy a copy of the magazine at 3D World 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Heather's "Moana" Shot!

So excited to finally see what Heather was working on for this film!  That's her shot above.

The whole movie is looking amazing.  Fun 2d animation, impressive 3d animation, amazing art direction, songs by Lin-Manuel Mirada - I can't wait to see how it all comes together.  Here's the whole teaser trailer: