Sunday, August 22, 2010

Friday's Studio Tours

I was particularly excited about what we where going to see today. After researching online Dreamworks and seeing their campus grounds I knew this company seemed to be the entire package. We would also be visiting Disney Studios. I was looking forward to this one as well. Given I probably wouldn't have chosen this career path if it wasn't for Disney. They where a big inspiration to me at a young age.
We grabbed a quick breakfast of a coffee and a bagel and headed to Dreamworks. Even their gate seemed impressive from first glance.
We make it through the gate and the first thing I see is a Starbucks!! They have their own starbucks.

We haven't even gone through the gate and you already see fountains, stoned walkways, and all kinds of plants. As soon as we begun our tour through the doors your greeted by a few Oscars in a glass case along with a giant or life size version of Po.

I love Kung Fu Panda. I was super excited. Our tour guide had told us they did quite a bit of motion capture for the fight scenes. Though it was still just used for reference. Everything was still animated. But just proves my point about Motion Capture. Die hard old fashion animators don't believe in it. But for scene's like that where in that movie, you can't expect an animator to be able to act that out. If anything, that little extra bit of research they did made for more believable fight scenes. I really thought I was watching kung fu.
We walked around through a few court yards and saw a room where the artists get down to the basics of lighting, drawing, and animation. They also learn from other areas in the pipeline as well. We would later see a chart of their entire pipeline. We continued through some cubes to what they call is their secret room. Apparently in the beginning some some the employees created a room just an open area on the other side if the wall. They cut a hole in the wall. They would have little parties in there that the owners didn't know about until one day. I can't remember if they got fired, but they did get in trouble. lol After that we made our way to have lunch with the animators and artists of Dreamworks. I thought how awesome is that to have lunch inside the walls of the studio as if I already worked there. I don't even know how many people get the privilege to do that, but I didn't care. I enjoyed every bit of it. I talked with our tour guide at lunch about internships and what they look for. Though he said a lot of their artists did animation mentor its not a requirement. Case in point, a Scad alumni who works there doing animation told me he didn't do animation mentor. Just a lot of long hours in the lab and a friend in the industry that gave him useful feedback. Granted, I felt the need to track these people down I've meet so far on facebook to keep that contact. Me and Ben have been chatting and he said he would look at my work and give me feedback on it. :)After lunch we went to the screening room just to see their process in doing lighting and animation on a shot. But that where speaking to us where Scad grads. One of whom I'm friends with now on facebook. I also friended the other grad that was sitting there but didn't speak. He's a lighter at Dreamworks now. Our conversation starter was how we have similar last names. Though I poked fun on how he's missing on f, and he said I had one too many. lol
I had also made a point of going to the gift shop before the end of our tour to get some souvenirs. You can't find anything Dreamworks animation studio online, so I got quite a few things. Along with some Shrek McDonalds toys they where handing out at lunch. After that it was time to head to Disney.
As we pulled up to Disney we had to get out as many pictures because after that they wont allow you to have a camera pass the door.

As soon as we got to the gate they where taking IDs for copies and signatures for if we decided to take anything we saw there and publicize it. But at any rate the studio seemed pretty quite to me. We saw a room where the animators brush up on their life drawing skills. They bring in live models on site. I thought that was pretty cool. I got to see John Lasseter's office. They had a lot of preproduction art work on the walls for the films they are working on right now. We made it down to a lower level where we could see the Disney time line. It basically went through all the films that Disney produced. This stretched down the hall. After receiving a few gifts our day had ended aside from grabbing dinner and getting ready for some more touristy things in the morning.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Thursday's Studio Tours and Alumni Dinner

We began our day with breakfast. We had three different studios we we’re going to visit that day, Motion Theory, Rhythm & Hues, and Method. This would also follow an awesome dinner with both Scad alumni and industry professionals.
Upon our visit to Motion Theory, I noticed a similar work environment to Psyop. They are both smaller companies that specialize in commercials and other projects like music videos. One popular music video that they created was Katy Perry’s California Girls. Having two hundred CG shots the company had a time crunch to complete this video. It’s now up for a few nominations.
The space for the artists for the most part was open which allowed for communication between the employees. There was also a basket ball court.

As soon as we approached the doors to Rhythm and Hues you notice a door for both pet and owner. I thought how awesome. It makes since to have your pet when you work long hours and have to deal with stressful situations at times. We walked to the building for the screening room. There we came across a few Scad Alumni, which apparently there are quite a few working at Rhythm. Close to 200 Scad Alumni work at Rhythm and Hues to be exact. They told us the best way to get our foot in the door is to get into the apprenticeship program there. After we talked with the alumnus and viewing some audio for their latest film we made it to the screening room. Rhythm definitely has an impressive demo reel. Effects and animation for a number of big films some of which the Incredible Hulk and Superman Returns. Right now they are work on two films which I can’t mention here. I promised not to. Both have CG characters in live action environments. Rhythm uses Maya for modeling. We were able to talk with one of the modelers and get to see some of the models they have made. High polygon models for film that is are to be close to photorealistic as possible. All the detailing is done in Z-brush and a high poly obj was outputted from that. Rhythm does not use displacements since their system doesn’t like it. Though having such a heavy model one would think it would crash the system. Most of the companies that we visited run Lenox since it’s a more stable operating system.
We would later end our tours with Method Studio. This studio struck me as more business corporate than anything else. The environment was very organized and clean. Most of the offices were in rooms rather than in open space. They seemed very serious about what they do. They had a Flames workstation. This workstation to purchase is a million dollars. This studio also produces commercials and music videos, but the environment seemed very different from Motion Theory or Psyope. After reviewing their demo reel and getting a copy of it, we left Method to get ready for our Alumnus/Industry dinner.
After walking around the open mall and doing a little break dancing with the street performers, we walked over to the restaurant. We had a reservation at a really nice Asian restaurant. We ate dinner with some professionals from Disney, Dreamworks, and Sony Pictures. We weren’t allowed to sit next to any fellow Scad trip attendees but next to the invited guests. I sat next to a guy by the name of Al who works at Sony Pictures. I asked him a few questions about how they did Alice and Wonderland. Another guy who sat across from us that worked at Disney also worked on Avatar and is now working on Tangled. I later decided to move around the table and talk with a few other people at the end of the table. One guy gave me a word of advice, “get the job first, then the t-shirt.” It was an awesome way to end the night. I feel more confident in talking with professionals now. I hope to continue to build upon this for the future when I’m out looking for a job.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wednesday @ Siggraph.

Wednesday started like tuesday did. Breakfast then Siggraph. This was our last day going to the convention. I was going to talk to as many people as I could and get as much free stuff as my bag could hold. lol After going to a couple of panels, spending more money at the book store on a dvd tutorial we left to go back to the job fair. This time Microsoft was going to interview us and review our reels. I was pretty nervous about this one. Though our interviewer seemed even more nervous. I received valuable feedback on my reel. Some a little bit different then from Psyop. But basically focusing my reel more. After our interview everyone wanted to see the "How to Train Your Dragon" panel. I felt it was important to stay in the job fair a bit longer and try to network. I ended up handing my information to Frame Store, Digital Domain, IGT, and a few other companies. From there I left to find the rest of the group at the Dreamworks panel. I waited till they came out. We had some time before the next panel. We soon would try one last trip to the job fair. I wanted to give some support to the undergrads nervous to talk to industry folks. As soon as we walked in a few Scad Alumni stopped us and talked with us over an hour. Both of which work for Rhythm and Hues. They where giving us a ton of advice. Specialize in one thing but know a lot of other things as well. They gave us their business cards and said they where willing to help us any way they could. Having such a huge support system from the Alumni at Scad has made me feel I've made the right decision in going for MFA. Its a higher quality of education that I didn't receive from my undergrad. Scad seemed to be pretty big in LA. There are a lot of alumni working in a lot of different studios.
Towards the end of the day we headed to the Animation Mentor after party. We had hoped to network but it wasn't at all that we expected. Everyone had their own clicks. We felt out of place and decided to leave. It wasn't a huge loss. Not to many professionals where there. Mostly students from the program. At this point we we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the next day. :)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Tuesday @ Siggraph and the after party

Tuesday we got to Siggraph fairly early. We stopped at the starbucks inside the convention center for some breakfast. Then a few of us went to the "Women in Animation" talk. As some know, this industry has mostly men in it. Not too many women, but its changing. After a while they split us up into groups to get to talk to people. A lot are grads looking for work. A few ladies looking to hire. One women had mentioned that I could do 3D for the army in making simulations. I thought that could be an interesting avenue to take. Then another was actually looking for women to take on her team to do games in New York City. She said it was near time square. I gave her my info. so will see. After that panel we headed to the Animation Breakdown panel where a few Disney and Pixar animators broke down their process on how they animate shots. Some challenges they faced and how they over came those challenges. It was pretty cool. There is a scene in toy story 3 where Mr. Potato head is a pita bread. Their reference for that was this, Hilarious. I saw this on the internet a while back and never thought it could be reference for an animation. They were focusing on the floppy movement of the guy that would work well for the pita bread. One guy who did the animation for the gator in The Frog Princess was showing his breakdown sheets. When the gator plays the trumpet the fingers for the notes are actually right fingerings. As they say research, research, and more research. Its not always best to pull something out of your head. Nine times out of ten its not going to look right if you go that route. After that panel we went to exhibition hall. This area all the different software companies show off there latest technologies. There also a few companies there that have job postings. A lot of free stuff. And you have to be quick about it too. Pixar was giving away these little toy tea pots. The line wrapped around the exhibition hall for that one. O_o At 2pm we made our way to the job fair in the exhibition hall. I was ready to talk to people for the most part. If anything useful feed back on my work. The companies in the job fair I was most interested in were Digital Domain, Frame Store, Lucas Films, IGT, and Ubisoft. There were some companies outside of the job fair that where looking too. It seemed to me that most of who where at the job fair looking where students or just graduated students. I talked to some of the recruiters at Frame Store. Their opening a new location in London and are looking for about 100 applicants. I had never heard of Frame Store till the conference. Most of my classmates didn't stay long. A making of How to train your Dragon had started. Though I loved that movie, I thought staying at the job fair a bit longer was more beneficial. IGT was looking for interns. They lady mentioned to me that they pull in new hire from interns. I already have experience in making slot style games. Why not? Though the weather in Vegas can be brutal. After networking a bit more I left to find my classmates. The panel was still going on. I just waited outside wishing I could get one of those cheap massages they where offering. lol With all the walking and what I was carrying in my bag was killing my back. I had reels, resumes, business cards, notebook, and a sketchbook in my bag. Doesn't sound much but it felt it. After the panel we met back up to head to the Side FX/ Houdini after party. As they say, most job opportunities come from these parties. I'm not a Houdini user yet, but I soon to be one. :) The place they had the venue was pretty fancy. Signed in and went up the elevator. More free shirts! lol! The Side FX folks launched their new release of Houndini 11. A few companies showed off some demo's using Houdini. Frame Store and Digital Domain from what I could remember. After the demo was food time and watching fire dancers. A few other companies where there and I grabbed there info as well. Not a bad day at all.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Siggraph Monday

After visiting Psyop on Monday we went to Siggraph. It was crowded. This is my first Siggraph and I didn't know what to expect. If your in the film industry or in school for it, and technology this is "the" nerd convention for that. lol This is smart/rich nerdy that were talking about. The things that seem to be big is mocap systems and these machines that take your 3d model from the computer and make a real representation of it. It creates it by layering. Creates a layer then glue, then another layer. It uses different materials too. Its pretty cool. I'm not sure how more effective it is then creating a mold then casting it from that. I know the lessor is cheaper.
They had a "Making of Avatar" panel there too. Some of the creators spoke about some of the techniques they used. I did a paper on mocap and read a lot about the making of Avatar through Cinfex. But some of the things they talked about I didn't even know. Even though they had facial capture on the helmets the actors wore they still did blend shapes on the model. I'm talking over 100 blend shapes for expressions. I did read that the camera for the facial capture created some weird perspective being that it was so close to the face. But using the two in conjunction from what we've seen from the film worked out those issues. Some other things they said like everything they did had to make since. They showed us breakdowns of shots for the film. It was really cool to hear this from the people who worked on this in person rather then from a youtube vid. which I did for my paper.
After that we walked around a bit. Found a area where they where taking pics for these circles that had pics of people around the convention. Of course we had to get in on that. And of course I had to do a split for them. lol And of course the nerds went wild over that one. :p After that we walked around looking at some other things. Apparently an animator from Pixar had been drawing on neon post-it notes a character and a web-site on the back and randomly sticking them on the Siggraph signs. It was a scavenger hunt to make sure everyone in our group ended up with one. After that we ate at a yard house then went back to the hotel to do it all over again the next day......THE END. ;p


So, Since we have been none stop for the past few days I'm kinda behind on updating my blog. I'll start on monday and work my way to wendesday. On monday we started off grabbing some breakfast then heading to Psyop studios. Psyop does commercials mostly. Some of which you've probably have seen on Tv. Like the hp commercials or coke. They are a smaller company, but they do pretty much everything in house. The staff was very friendly. They fed us, gave us free stuff. Totally awesome. 3 guys of which viewed our reels and gave us helpful feed back. Two of which went to Scad, including the art director. His suggestions he gave us was insightful. Go where the jobs are. Most of which are in California. Recruiters like to know if they hire you, your ready to go basically. The thing that I keep going back and forth with is that the cost of living is a lot higher in LA then Atlanta. You could be in LA and looking for well over a year and still not get anything. I don't know anyone enough out here that I could be comfortable enough to crash on their couch that long. And I really don't want to be one of those people who just mooch. I hate that, and I don't want to do it to anyone. If I had a way to give something back for using their water and sleeping there would be one thing. Its one of those things of taking a chance and see what happens. Like the guys at Psyop where saying, either sink or swim. Keep improving yourself while your looking. They told me that I need to focus my reel to models and put my other stuff to the back or in a separate vid in the menu. Put an Occlusion pass on the model to bring out detail. Visible wireframe in the turnaround. Stills of art work in a flatbook and not in the reel. I also interviewed with Microsoft. I got different feedback on my reel from them. The thing is what ever company you want to work most for you go back and do those specific changes for them. Or both. I plan on taking that feedback from the guys at Psyop and changing my reel for them. I believe that I would do better starting off in a smaller company. Though I'm still going to keep my options open. Why can't I still have my eye on working for Dreamworks some day?
Psyop also has a location in New York. The thing is they have good relations with Scad and their willing to help. Scad seems to be huge out here. I had no idea. There are over 100 Scad students who work at Rhythm and Hues. Insane! All the suggestions and info I've been getting I'm just absorbing. When I get home I have a lot to think about. What is that next step going to be?

Monday, July 26, 2010

So, yesterday...we started off at 8:30am. Got coffee at Tina's favorite coffee shop here. Its great to have a professor that likes coffee just as much as me. :) Then we headed to the Getty Center. More or less a big art museum. I enjoyed it a lot. They had a garden and plenty of art pieces for us art students to drool over. And unlike the High Museum back home, your allowed to take pictures of the piece save for the contemporary photography. It was a lot of walking that my knee bothered me. I'm trying to prevent that today. But at any rate, we headed to the Siggraph convention to pick up our badges. We walked around a bit there. Got a preview of things to come. We don't have a full conference pass so we can't see everything. For those who dont know, full conference = $800. Yeah, those nerds are rolling in the dough. Even hours was $400 each. We saw some animations, then headed to preview of papers or talks. Very, very, very nerdy. Like math meets, 3d animation and motion, meets art. All rolled up into one con. They had machines that will do a 3d rendering of your 3d model. Like if you where to make toys or needed a maquette. Very cool stuff. Then me and Miranda tried a little workshop of sewing thread that could carry a current to a battery that would light up a led. Inside of our button contained tool, and another conductive material that would also give the led a on and off state. You could apply these to your everyday clothes if you wanted. lol We went to the book store after that. I got an art of Up book and a tutorial for Dynamic figure drawing. I guess I'll save my other monies for souvenirs for people back home. And yes, everything is expensive here. Its LA/Holly Wood and the taxes are higher. Then we had dinner and came back to the hotel and crashed. Well, I stayed up and did homework then showered. Yep, bed 3:30sm GA time, and up @ 7:30am LA time.
Today where going back to Siggraph. But this time where bringing our demo reels to get feedback and hopefully a job or internship. Will see. This week is full of possibilities.