Join Rob Garrott for an in-depth discussion in this video Part 2: The Pipeline, part of Artists and Their Work: Conversations about Mograph VFX and Digital Art.
- The uh, pipeline that you guys have in there is based primarily on Nuke? Or is there a different, or is it a compositor based on the different jobs that you work on? - So work exclusively in Nuke for all of our 3D and 2D compositing. - Mmhmm. - We do a bit of after effects work for motions graphics and stuff like that, but even then, there's a lot of that that we've seen benefit to transitioning into Nuke. Just in terms of the way it can be set up with the 3D system and how all that works.
So that's even starting to be 70, 30. We use 3D Studio Max for all of our 3D. - Mmhmm. - And then we render everything out in Vray or Maxwell. Those are like the two big renderers that we us. And deep helps with that as well. Like we just did a car commercial where we rendered the cars out of Maxwell and, but you can't render a fume or volume metrics or anything in there. So we render the fume in Vray and then you render both deep, and deep merge is just, they just go together and look great.
- Yeah. - Instead of trying to get the hold outs to line up. - Yeah. - And it just never really looks right. - That would be terrible actually. (laughing) Do the projects you're doing inside of Nuke, what are the render times? Like, give me an example of a typical shot from the time you get the plate from the editor. - Mmhmm. - To the time you give them the finished pro-- So let's take review and changes out of it. And let's imagine that didn't happen and you just get one shot.
How long would that take to get through the pipeline? - One shot of maybe that Britta stuff. - Yeah. - So, someone, typically we're doing two shots a day of placing cans and doing preview renders of that stuff, and then animating and checking and doing like a low res render of that and making sure those looked right. So that was kind of half a day per shot. - Ok. - And then the roto process for each one of those was a solid day. The thing about the deep though was that we could do looser roto and then just kind of go fix the few mistakes once the-- - Oh, I see.
Once you know what it looks like. - locked animation was there. It's like "Oh, this one can on this one frame "kinda needs to be behind her hair." - Mmhmm. - From there, so half day of that. A full day of roto by the time you add it up. - Mmhmm. - And then, probably another half day of comp. The comp was not terribly difficult. We kind of had the look of how the cans are supposed to fall and all the passes to make them realistically kind of lay 'em on the ground and stuff. It's fine. You know there's a million cans and a ton of stuff going on and you don't really notice it. And we had shot a few cans on set, kinda hero against black.
- Right. - And that really helped sell it too. If you can have, if you can have one or two real ones the other fake ones are "yeah, this is fine". - Do you know which ones are real and fake? - Who knows? - Ahh. - I couldn't pick them out, honestly. - That means you did a good job. - Even in that shot, there's real cans falling. Like they would throw, they would throw cans up and then have them fall in the shot and it's really tough to tell. - That's funny, wow. - But we had all the resources to be able to make that happen.
Uhm, we had really good reference photography, really good measurements, good HGRI's and stuff like that. And that's what it really takes. There's a lot of, there's a lot of prework that goes in that I don't think people really realize. You know, I'm on set working the entire time. To make sure that we have the information that we need when we go back. - Mmhmm. Now, your involvement in the process, your title is Creative Director, right? - Yeah Creative Director, Visual Effects Supervisor. - So your job is really to sort of shepherd the project through the pipeline.
- Yeah, there's two of us that share that same title at Ingenuity and we each take a project all the way through. So if-- - Start to finish. - Start to finish, this is my project and I'm the one that's-- And we both do a lot of time on the box, as well. So we do a lot of work. But it's important that, when the project's not mine, I'm listening to my business partner David, who started the company, you know he has a note on this, it's his job, it's his note. That's, you know, and I'll give feedback on that and we'll certainly talk about it, but at the end of the day, that's the important part.
You can't have too many cooks in the kitchen. I mean, it really, I see a lot of group projects in schools and stuff like that fail because they don't have a director. I mean there's a reason you have one guy directing a movie and not a committee. - Right, right. - For better or worse, it doesn't work. - Somebody has to make a decision. - Yeah, exactly. - And stick with it. - And you need someone to make a decision. - Mmhmm. So how did you get started in the business? You're Creative Director now, but how did you start out? - I never was an art kid.
I was not the kid that was in our class in high school or the kid that was in drama or whatever. I was kind of a jock and was on the swim team and was, you know just not, I was not into that at all. But I had programmed in high school and I played a lot of video games at the time. And I had started to kind of mess around with the level editors for video games and you know thought "someone has this job". And that's what it really was for me. I came back from MU and thought "I don't know what I'm supposed to do with my life." What I thought I was supposed to do 'cause no one really tells you in school that you can do whatever and I think that's important.
Uhm, you know if you like something and enjoy doing it, you can make a job of it. - Mmhmm. - I mean there's so much more opportunity than just kind of these five categories that it feels like that when you're a junior or a senior in high school, it seems like there are eight jobs in the world that you can do and really there's like eight million jobs in the world you can do. Uhm, so I thought "Someone's making these video games, "I could go do that as a job." I'm decent enough at programming and decent enough at, you know, kind of doing this stuff and making levels and whatever.
I could, I could do this as a job. So I looked around for art schools and found this program in Phoenix that seemed like it was a good fit. It's in sunny Phoenix and that was nice. So I went down there and really just, I had a lot of credits from high school. I took a lot of AP classes and stuff like that. Which I can't, I mean you should 100% be in every one of those classes you can possibly be in since it's so cheap. - Yeah. - I was done with math and science and all of my English by the time I got to college 'cause I had three years of that stuff in high school.
And you know, it's 300 bucks a credit, instead of 3,000. - Yeah. (laughing) - So, I went year 'round at UAT and took like 24 credits a semester and was just out in no time. It was really good timing because by the time, I moved to Los Angeles after school and started looking for a job. And it was a good time to be looking for a job. The industry was kind of up and up. - What year was this? - Uh, 2006. - Ok, yeah. - Yeah. - What was the first place you worked at once you got out of school? - Uhm, so I worked at Naked Sky.
A little game studio in downtown Los Angeles. Working on Destroy All Humans. - Oh, yeah. I love that game; that was good. - And I was just doing tons of modeling. I was just modeling, modeling, modeling, modeling, everything and it really... It was nice 'cause it just, it was just speed and modeling. You know it was kinda training to just do that. - Right. - And then I went and worked at EA, in the Marina. - Yup. - And then my first real kind of supervisor position was at Meteor Games. I started out as the Lead Technical Artist and then was pretty quickly promoted to Lead 3D Artist and then just Lead Artist of kind of the whole studio over the course of a year and a half.
- Wow, that's a rapid rise. - And I really, I enjoyed games, I enjoyed the game space. It's nice to run around in a world that you've created and look at things and... But we never actually finished that game. The project got cancelled before... And they laid off their entire 3D department. - Mmhmm. - And it's just such a long turnaround. It's like you know, you make a game and you work for two years and it may not actually ever be released. Or if it does, it might be a dud and no one really plays it.
You know so, that part really kind of, that job really tainted my view on that. So a guy who'd worked for me there, left and came back to Ingenuity. - Oh wow. - And we got let go, laid off on a Friday, and I got a call from Ingenuity on a Saturday that said "Hey, John says you're really great." "Would you want to come in on Monday and work?" - Wow. - And like "yeah". "Do you like have a reel or anything?" And I was like "No, I don't have anything." Hopefully John is right.
(both laughing) And fortunately he was, but honestly at the time I had no idea what I was doing. I mean I didn't know, I'd never done visual effects before. I would just, gone to school for games. - Yeah. - Uhm, you know, so it was here's all of these tools and all of this stuff that you have no idea about. So every night, it felt like I was going home and going online, just watching tutorials. Figuring out how to do 3D tracking. How to composite in Nuke. How to do realistic rendering and offline rendering instead of just, you know, we just did texture maps and oral maps and rendered it in the game engine.
I'd never pushed render on global lumination before. So, it's a lifelong learning process. You know I mean, it's one of the things I... You know if you stop learning in this industry, you're just going to dinosaur out in like two years' time. - Right. - 'Cause the tools we use now even, are drastically different than the tools we used two years ago. - They really are. - Uhm, you know, even if it is the same tool. It's got twenty new features that you could be saving hundreds of hours of time with if you would just learn how to use 'em. People're like "Oh I know Maya or I know Max." "And I've been using it since Maya 7." And you're only using Maya 7's features? Like, you're not using Maya.
(both laughing) You're using, you know, a butter knife when you have a chainsaw. - Yeah. (laughing) - So, you know, that sort of stuff is really, I think important to kinda take away. - Is there one piece of advice that a kid coming out of college or not going to college and learning themselves, what's the one thing that you would tell them? - Internships. I mean you really, you cannot, I cannot speak highly enough for finding a place that will let you do work in production. And there's good internships and there's bad internships.
I know some guys that have worked at other studios, that I won't name, that are just running to get coffee and doing drives and drops, - Not learning. - and taking tapes to the place. And then there's our internship, which we, you know it's a paid internship. It's very selective in terms of your portfolio coming in. You have to prove that, to me, that I'm not going to waste my time on someone who doesn't have any sense. But once you're in there, you're learning. I mean you're around a bunch of people who do this stuff and know and can answer questions.
And you're not doing, "let's do a sky replacement "on this perfectly clean blue sky." It's like no, that sky's got-- - That never happens. - a ladies hair in front of it and an explosion in the background and you're going to replace it anyway. - Yeah. - You know, that's really the thing that working in production gets you. And you know, over the course of three months, three months for us is five or six projects or seven or eight commercials that you'll have on your reel. So even if we don't hire you, someone else will. You know, and that's the thing. You need to have work on your reel that looks like you know what you're doing.
And that's really what an internship provides. So, you know, I would highly recommend people take those opportunities as much as they can. And then get themselves in a position to get those opportunities. Go to industry events. Meet people. I was presenting at Sig Raf and people walk up to me afterwards and say "Hey, I really liked your presentation." "I'm based in Los Angeles." And I have a face with a name. I already know that you're not a weirdo. That you can speak to me. That you sound like you might be intelligent.
So, you know, your foot's in the door there. And there's a lot of those opportunities. I mean there's so many meet ups and events and stuff that you can go to and just really pound the pavement, you know. - Is there a, for people coming in, is there something, like once they get, they do get to that process, is there some advice you can give them for, you know, sitting across the table from you, and like, selling themselves? I think the most important thing is just being honest. You know, people try to lie about their skill set and say they're all capable of doing all this great stuff.
I would rather hear that you're intelligent and able to learn, because the fact is, you might be capable of doing one thing, but we might need you to do another, and as long as you can pick that up, like I did over a course of an evening of tutorials, and come back and do it the next day, then you're fine. - Yeah. - And it's not the sort of environment-- I mean people watch stuff at work. If you don't know how to do something, take a couple hours out, go online, watch a tutorial about how to do it and then make it happen. That's fine. And I'm happy to, I'm happy to pay our guys for that, because they're all staff so-- - Yeah. - We're paying for the future.
- They're going to bring that back. - Yeah, you know, I'm paying for that knowledge, and I'm happy to do so. - Yeah. - Uhm, and I think that's the most important thing is really just being capable to go into a new piece of software that maybe you haven't learned or haven't figured out yet, and get the thing you need to do - Yeah. - accomplished.
- Nick Campbell, motion graphics artist, photographer, and entrepreneur
- Marc Potocnik, designer and 3d artist
- Tim Clapham, VFX artist and educator
- Alan Torres and Stephen Morton (Cantina Creative), design and visual effects artists
- Aaron Limonick, concept artist
- Mike Lowes, 3D animator and technical director
- Lorcan O'Shanahan, motion graphics artist
- Scott Keating, 3D artist and illustrator
- Clear Menser, visual effects artist
- John Robson, motion graphics artist and filmmaker
- Grant Miller, VFX supervisor
- Tomasz Opasinski, creative director and movie poster artist
Watch for fresh insights into the careers and creative processes of these working professionals.