September 2005 Archives

It's definitely Friday.

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Wow. I'm hot. And I'm also a celebrity? Did you know that I came in 16th in RallyBC as a navigator? Or that my swimming records from 10 years ago are still standing?

Month's End

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Ah, the last day of September. The week has been fairly eventful, with our Monday Chevy delivery, ramping up on the new spot, and getting another shot for the old spot! It looks like we'll have another week to add to the other commercial, but I am still aware that one version will air in three days.


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Tomorrow is the third swarm night! I missed the last two due to packing up and moving to a new place, and my bike was in transit. And my derailleur was broken. And I was moving. And I was tired. I should stop procrastinating.

Over the weekend I fixed up my bike, replaced the chain, mended any broken pieces, and charged the light. I still can't gear into my big ring, unfortunately. I've gotta figure that one out. I'm hoping it's the derailleur and shifters and not the crank.

Swarm is a weekly occurrence here at Tippett, and only recently have we started back up. Once a week, a bunch of us gather together to ride trails in the Bay area at night. Starting around 7, we tackle a local East Bay trail (or sometimes a wicked North Bay one), and mountain bike until 10pm or so. It's a great thrill, with the temperatures much cooler, and the lack of people on the trails makes everything much nicer.

My first swarm several years ago was great. We had about fourteen people out that night, with head lights and bike lights flickering in the darkness, with no sound save for the clicking of derailleurs, the squeal of brakes, and the occasional crash. It gave me the opportunity to meet new people at Tippett that I didn't see before, or had never worked with.

Given that we work almost ten hours every day in front of a computer, it's imperative that we get out there and exercise the body! At a previous employer in Vancouver, I was able to bike to work in 15 minutes, and get home in 10. They had a shower facility, and it made it quite easy for commute! Here at Tippett we have a shower in one of the buildings, so hopefully now that I'm closer I will be able to cut down on gas (whatever gas I use up in two miles) and bike to work.


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Well, it's been about a week and a half since I last posted. Everything's just been flying by! There's definitely more to do these days. Our most recent commercial was finally delivered over the weekend. Yesterday we were theoretically supposed to get feedback if anything went wrong, but we received no notes! Here's to hoping that we don't get anything back this morning!

The client watched the commercial yesterday, and the air date is potentially the 3rd of October. We have one more Impala spot to complete in the next two weeks. This last spot is a little bit easier than the previous two. No sky replacements and minimal extravagant camera work. Except for one extremely tough shot that one of the compers is doing, pretty much requiring a complete stitch of a 1000 frame pullback into a 200 frame push in. At 2k. With a sky replacement. Fun. All the compers on the show have been doing their due diligence. Sometimes I feel that not all of them are taking my notes into consideration, but that's something I have to deal with and emphasize that they DO need to hit them. It's definitely a change from being a peer to being a lead! I hope I can make it work.

I'm scheduled to go back onto Charlotte's Web as soon as these spots are done. That's about the middle of the month. Yay! The work that has been coming out of the Charlotte team has been amazing. We're creating one of the hero characters in the film, with roughly 260 shots (at my last guesstimate). That may rise to 300, but I won't know until I get on. I'm not sure if I will be jumping in as a lead comper or a regular comper on the show either. There is one lead currently on the show (Colin, who was also the lead on Hellboy), and several others that have been leads in the past and are regular compers for this show at the moment. The gods above have been informed of my interest in other leading responsiblities, so we'll see if I get a chance to have that on Charlotte's or a future show. I haven't received a pay raise in the last two and a half years that I've been here, so I'm hoping that my time will come soon.

The First Week

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Well. It's been a full week of additional work that I've had to undertake as a comp lead. It's exciting, yet tiring at the same time.

Like I mentioned last week, the responsibilities of a lead are two fold. Make sure you do your work, and make sure the other artists on your watch are doing their work. Luckily the artists that are working on our Chevy commercials know what they're doing, so very little handholding is necessary. It is a commercial project, so we have yet another deadline to meet this Saturday, as well as next Saturday, and then the Saturday after. Out of the fourteen shots that we're doing for our next spot, I'll be comping three of them, while the other 11 will be divided up fairly equally on to the other three guys.

A fairly small, good, crew for these three Chevy spots. I'm having a great time leading. It's pushing more of my brain cells in the direction that I want them to go. I'm now looking at the shots as a whole, instead of just a particular one at a time. One of the drawbacks of being a lead and comping at the same time, is that I can't just sit down and comp on a shot and not be bothered! I've got to constantly check how other people are doing, making sure the other compers have what they need to do their shots, as well as make sure that they're not encountering any roadblocks in their comps.

Gojira tai Mekagojira

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A totally different review this evening.. Or morning.. However you want to look at it! I was recommended this film from a coworker, and decided to spend an hour and a half with this interesting Japanese film.

Godzilla vs Mechagozilla is the english translation for this film. I'm not going to go into too much detail with the plot. Basically it's just another Godzilla versus another creature movie.

What is cool about this film are the extravagant amounts of miniature work created, and the men-in-suits versions of Godzilla and Mechagodzilla. It's almost laughable, and it probably is laughable in the end, but oh so well done. Cheese, but nice cheese. Some really horrible visual effects, along side some really excellent visual effects. It was a toss up in that department. The actual physical effects and sets created for these two monsters to battle it out were pretty elaborate. I'm sure that the guys in the suits had an awesome time causing mayhem among the miniature cities, and lighting up fireworks and explosives all around them! Some pretty sweet monster and environment lighting. Definitely cool. Some of the buildings didn't look as large as they should be. They're all going to get demolished anyway by Godzilla or his foe.

Story? Uh.. No story. Something about live and death and the struggle in between. But it's got Godzilla and its mechanised foe!

What do I rate this one? I give it a 5 out of 10. Watchable maybe once if you're really into the men in costumes and pyrotechnics and miniature work.

Worst VFX Studios

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I'm sure everyone that reads this site has already encountered the survey outlining the worst vfx studios to work for. I'm not going to point you to that site, as it's easy enough to find.

After reading several pages (not all twenty, I got bored halfway through) over the weekend, there's something to be said about anonymous surveys that have no merit and allow anonymous and juvenile posts.

Colin Strause said it best on CGtalk,

"It is also funny how really negative people can get to all the other companys too, and thats show the same immaturity that most likely got them fired in the first place. There are so many people that "think" they are better than everyone else, and when they get fired for not being talented enough, they spit posion every direction they can. After seeing all the terrible demo reels out there, as well as seeing so many cocky jerks in job interviews, I totally understand why there are some many over-the-top pissy posts on that site. I think our industry is overstaturated with the wrong people."

After working and hearing from former coworkers from around the globe, we, too, have come to a similar consensus. All the artists that have been around from the beginning of the digital film era that have made it so far on tenure alone will soon be replaced by artists that actually have the skills to accomplish their goals. No longer will just seniority reign. That seniority must be coupled with talent, drive, charisma, and authority. The leads and senior artists that I've so far encountered (here, and at other companies) were there for a reason. They had the above qualities that made working on the film go smoothly. I have yet to work with, or under, an incompetent artist. Well, now that I have said that, I think there were a couple, but I'm not going to be juvenile by sharing their names.

I'm one of a few visual effects artists that have a blog, and do you know why I do it? To put my thoughts out there, and to receive feedback from around the world and hopefully help the up-and-coming artists that want our jobs. This blog is read around the world, and from drastically different studios. It's a small part of my day to update this site, and the feedback I get is worth it. I didn't waste my time adding to the dribble that's on the survey site, as I have my own website here to vent any frustrations I have with the industry. Luckily at the moment, I don't have any qualms with the industry. And if I did, you know where to find me and who I am.

The Brothers Grimm

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Ah.. A movie review. It's been a while since I've done one of these, because, basically, I figured all of you out there have already read so many reviews! Here's mine of the new Terry Gilliam movie, The Brothers Grimm.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this film by Mr. Gilliam. I recall watching Brazil with both trepidation and awe. It was mindblowing, to say the least! The Brothers Grimm combines a slew of fairy tales, while trying to remain original. His previous films, 12 Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, are some of my favorites. Needless to say, both Fear and Loathing and Brazil are in the Criterion Collection of groundbreaking movies!

Back to the film.. The visuals and cinematography was wonderful. Fairly muted colors, save for the princess in the tower and other icon figures, for example, Little Red Riding Hood. Some nice sets, and some decent miniature work. Terry Gilliam manages to infuse several of the more popular fairy tales, like I mentioned above, into a story about the Grimm brothers, a pair of con artists out to make a living rescuing villagers from their fake demons and witches. All the while, Jacob, the more intellectual of the two, writes down all the stories that they encounter, which weaves the tales and fables told to us when we were kids. Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretal, Rapunzel, and several more.


The visual effects are nothing to get wet about. They are fairly nice. The only house that I recall seeing was the Peerless Camera Company. Several of the scenes which involves bugs weren't as well done as they could have been. I blame this on basic bug development. How do you make bugs sink into their environment? Especially when they're iridescent and translucent all at the same time? We had similar problems when creating bugs for Constantine. The big bad wolf was fairly well done. Can't say much more than that. Didn't see any horrible black density problems, and most of the effects with the wolf were during the night. Overall, a good looking film, with good effects (not awesome, but not horrible either).

It's interesting to note that this film was filmed in Prague. The city and surrounding countryside is definitely the look that Terry Gilliam was after. Prague has also been the site of several other dark movies, such as Blade 2 and Van Helsing.

A decent movie. I give this one a 7 out of 10.


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Sort of big news to round out this week. There have been lots of changes happening here, and I've expressed interest in taking more of a supervisory role.

Due to several changes in personnel over the past weeks and in the near future, I've been given the chance to try my hand as a comp lead. I won't be giving up my regular compositing duties as of yet, but in addition, I will be assisting fellow compers in the daily activities that happen from show to show. I've become a comp lead in training, working with a good friend and coworker who is currently leading our Chevrolet commercials. He is slowly seguing out of leading here at Tippett and will be going to Blue Sky.

This is a huge step for me, and, oh so intimidating and exciting! On Ghost Ship it was fairly straightfoward. Just delegate responsibility and make sure the shots look good. That was ages ago, and I've learned a lot in the interim. It's going to be fun tackling this challenge! Of course, I hope to continue to update this blog on a regular basis, and contribute to the forums at VFXTalk!

For those of you reading that aren't familiar with what exactly a compositing lead is responsible for, here are some of the duties that I've seen previous and current leads undertake.

  • Oversee and delegate shots to compositors based on experience and timeframe with the production department

  • Create and coordinate look development with the VFX supervisor

  • Coordinate with other departments (FX, TD, Anim, Film I/O, etc) to establish a pipeline with the show sequences

  • Communicate problem areas with sequences to supervisors and production

  • Introduce alternative or quicker techniques for finishing or creating a shot

I'm sure I'm missing some duties, which I will probably encounter! I'm definitely looking forward to this next step in the saga. I think a lot of my inspiration comes from the supervisors I have here at Tippett. Craig, Blair and Frank (the three dedicated supervisors I've had on the shows here so far), are great to work with, and for. All of these supervisors have backgrounds in other areas of visual effects, and working at a studio like Tippett greatly increases my proficiency in this field. I've talked about Craig and Blair's past before here on digitalGypsy, but just do a search on IMDB, and you'll find their past just as interesting as I did! At what other studio can you find ED-209 presiding over the shooting stage, or original Star Wars work strewn about the facility?

So what's happening..

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Well, it's been a couple weeks, I think, that I haven't been updating the blog here. Lots and lots of things are going through my mind, and recently my wife has finally come down from the great white north. Canada. All sorts of personal issues are being addressed at the moment, moving into a new place, working hard on our second Chevrolet spot, and so forth. It's been tough, and there's only less time to do all the things I want to do!

Our first Impala spot aired a week or so ago, and I recently saw it on TV two days ago! It's called Arrival, and showcases the new Impala SS. We were responsible for creating the Impalas (the animals, not the car) and sky background replacements. Unfortunately they really stepped on the colors in post, so what you see in the commercial is actually not what we delivered colorwise! Ah well. This seems to happen on almost every spot or film that gets put out there. The spot is 30 seconds long, with about 14 to 20 visual effects shots in it. Everything goes by so quickly, even though you want to see more of the cool work that we did! Luckily I was recording a TV show at the time, so I have the spot eternally on my PVR. :) Our next several spots are less complex, but still quite fun and interesting. We are working at TV resolution for final output, which is indeed quite different (and faster!) than working for film. Come to think of it, I haven't worked on a film all year! Well, real film, not HD for film (like Sharkboy).

Our Milka commercial will air sometime in Europe starting this month. I have heard a date of September 15th, but again, I am not sure. If you've seen a new Milka commercial over in Europe, let me know! It's the one with the animated fuzzy creatures. We did two, and both are 30 second spots.

There's a small possibility that I will be doing some mentoring and/or lecturing over at the Academy of Art in San Francisco in the future. I'm still talking with one of the instructors there, so we will see how far that progresses. It's been a while since I gave my last lecture/luncheon, which was an impromptu gathering at the Library of Congress earlier this year during the summer months. The LoC has requested that I do another lecture/presentation, which they will be able to give more notice to the rest of the public. I find it extremely fun and gratifying to give some knowledge back to the community from which I came! Especially in front of students that want to know. I had spoken before in front of a group of students in Vancouver at the Bodwell Institute a couple years ago, which was nice, but it was definitely a different crowd. Not a lot of interested students it seemed, and only a couple of questions. It was also my first time speaking in front of a crowd, and was unsure as to their skill level, what exactly I would be talking about, and what I could show of my past work. Regardless, it was a learning experience, and I am eager to do it again. I've also begun the process to become a part of the ATAS Education Committee, where I'm put on a list of available people to be contacted for lecturing and mentoring throug the Academy. All I have to do is finish filling out the paperwork and sending it in, which has taken me the better part of a year to get around to doing!

The Title Design and Special Visual Effects Bake-Off is this Friday, down in LA. It is open to public (I am surprised by this as you are). Unfortunately I don't think I'll be down to vote for my peers this time. It's a bummer. Unlike the VES, which allows voting from around the globe via a secure website, the SVE group hasn't decided to do that. I'm not sure if they want to keep the votes local or what. It's very wierd, because I just finished voting on two separate sections for the Emmys, Outstanding Special and Outstanding Comedy Series.

Lots of things happening, and not a lot of time to document them! I'm planning on doing another Case Study over at VFXTalk for Constantine, so keep checking over there!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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