August 2009 Archives
Yesterday I got a chance to help interview several potential compositing interns for a position here at Digital Domain. It was the first time I've been a part of the hiring process, albeit an intern position. Just to give you an idea, each session was about 30 minutes long, and we delved into all aspects of the work we do, and what the intern might be tasked to do over the course of their internship. These phone interviews are a vital step in describing your talents, hopes and dreams to the recruiters as well as senior artists which may be conversing with you. They are also very fluid, and while there are a set of questions I set up to gauge the level of commitment from the intern, they do vary based on the responses that they give. We'll be calling the selected interns this week, for a start in two weeks! It's going to be pretty interesting.
My fancy Drobo (2nd Gen) came last night in the mail, along with two terabytes of storage (effectively one terabyte when used in the system), and it was a cinch to set up. Very plug and play, which I have started to like over time. Basically, you take your SATA II HDs, put them into the drive bays of the Drobo, and use FW800 or USB2.0 to connect it to your computer. From there it's just another external drive recognized by the system. I really like the redundancy it provides, and the simplicity of its upgradability. One of the drawbacks, for me, is the lack of an ethernet connection. This can be solved by buying the DroboShare product, but unfortunately that connects to the Drobo via USB2.0, not FW800. USB2.0 is the bottleneck here. The Drobo itself is very much a JBOD, and the firmware (hardware?) of the product seems to do a good job of providing RAID 5 performance and managing the data redundancy without much user intervention. Here's a review from two years ago that Engadget did with the first gen Drobo.
Here we are yet again, at another payday. The visual effects work on the film I'm working on is coming along nicely! We've still got a lot to do, but the production on this show is going very well. Just regular hours at the moment, which is nice! No 12 hour days, yet. I'm sure that'll happen eventually. We'll see!
Last Sunday, we hit up the theater to see District 9. Let me tell you, it's my new favorite film, and I think one of the first I'll actually buy on BluRay. Great acting, great story, great vfx! I'm still thinking about bits and pieces of the story even now! It just keeps with you, and the character work and direction are top notch. Neill is one to watch out for in the future. I'm really glad he did this instead of Halo.
A couple weeks ago, on a social site I frequent called SE, there was a comment about a beatbox artist who had an embedded Youtube link. I had never really heard about this artist (like most), but the music on Youtube had be rocking out, the beats are sick! I listened to his other tracks. He's a new favorite of mine. Check out DubFX.
The passion and dedication that he puts into his vocal work is truly great. Be sure to listen to Flow, which has some great sax work. If you go to his website, dubfx.net, he has his full album available for streaming. I liked it so much, I ended up purchasing it, as well some other CDs that they've put out. Speaking of other independent musicians, I listen to aurgasm.us quite a bit to get a feel on new artists or ones I've never heard about.
I was introduced last weekend to a new arcade game, Trials HD on XBLA. It's a new time waster! But my oh my, it's so much fun.
Early in the week I sat in on some reels for our first internship program at Digital Domain in a while. This is the first time that I really had a chance to see what kinds of reels a big studio receives. I was quite surprised that there weren't as many compositing reels. Most of the ones were generalist, which is a detriment to the applicant. While it's good to know a wide variety of skills, it's best to focus on one when submitting a reel to any large company. We'll be selecting several in the next week or so. Like I mentioned in my recruitment post four years ago, artists at larger companies are specialists in their chosen profession. There is seldom a jack-of-all-trades. I started posting a bunch of tips on twitter called #vfxprotip, so do a search for them, check it out, and subscribe. Right now I'll most likely post demo reel tips, but over time I'm sure other people will contribute and post greenscreen tips, keying tips, and the like in 140 characters or less.
As a little break from the monotony of visual effects, this DigitalGypsy post will be totally unrelated. Over the past couple of months, I've been thinking of picking up a new phone. First I was looking at the Nokia N97, and then the Palm Pre. Because I can't make up my mind, at all, I haven't gotten either. So I am still hanging out with my dilapidated Samsung e105. I'm not big on the iPhone, even though it's pretty, it's an Apple, and there's some neat stuff on it. I also didn't want to switch networks. I'd go from a $20/month plan, to something like $100+/month. It's just not worth it for me. So I'm still waiting.. The next phone I might pick up won't be a smart phone, or a fancy media player phone. It'll most likely be very similar to my current one, a simple clamshell, with excellent battery life and sound quality. Because of this, I decided to focus on a media player, and get a decent one that does everything that I want it to do. Enter, the iPods, Zunes, Sansas, and so forth.
I looked at the iPods Touchs. Very nice, but I couldn't imagine shelling out more for a little logo, when a Sansa would do the same. All I want was something that would play quality music files, maybe video. The Zunes were not for me. Didn't have the functionality I wanted. Then I looked at the Sansa SlotRadio. Pretty nice. It could take a SD card, so I could switch whatever I wanted into the machine. And then the ZuneHD was announced, and I thought to myself, I'll wait.
The ZuneHD, if you haven't been following the gadget blogs and tech news, is Microsoft's latest entry into the field of PMPs (Personal Media Players), like the iPod, Sansa SlotRadios, regular Zunes, Samsungs Yepp, and so forth. Their entry is pretty amazing, a great competitor to say the least. Here's why I think I've chosen this as my next tech purchase. OLED screen (nice, contrasty blacks, great viewing angle!). I still want to see how it fairs in the sun, since I've heard that OLED doesn't do so hot outside. Tegra chip. If you've seen the UI of the ZuneHD, it's an amazing processor! Fluid animations, hardware acceleration, to name a few. With the Tegra, it allows 720p playback to a HDTV! Nice, nice. Wireless sync and transfer. This was a big one. I know there's an app for that for the iPod Touch, but on the ZuneHD, it's part of the package. I can have all my music on my main machine, and sync wirelessly to it from the ZuneHD, and just stream music. I'll reserve judgement until I play with one in stores on September 15th, but I think it'll be my first portable music/video player. Seeing that Netflix and Microsoft now have an exclusive deal with Netflix on the Xbox 360, I have a feeling that in the future, we'll be seeing Netflix streaming via wi-fi to this little device! Can you imagine, 720p streaming wherever you are that has an internet connection? Nice.
This month I've been trying something new at the gym, Wendler's 5/3/1 Program. It's a four day a week program, focusing on the big, compound lifts. The deadlift, squat, bench press, and military overhead press. So far (I'm only in week 2) it feels good. Last week I was able to push out a lot more reps, and I think it'll help to increase my volume. The first week of squats I ended up doing 245lbs by 12, and this Saturday I'm hoping to match it at 265. Every workout is less than an hour, and I still get a lot of volume done, and it definitely feels good. Do I feel stronger? I guess. It's a long and arduous road, and I've got plenty of time to build up to my goals! My hope is that I'll be doing 315lb squats, 405lb deadlifts, and 315lb bench for reps, sometime in the future.
A month of two ago, I did an interview with 3D World Magazine, covering my company, Industry Wages. Like I mentioned previously on this blog, we're focusing on creative industries, and will be branching out into other ones eventually. This interview has now been printed, and is in the August issue, #119. I'm still hard at work writing the business proposal, and my frequent meetings with my SCORE counselor are helping. We'll hopefully have a decent proposal by the end of the week, and I want to start sending it out to VCs by the end of the month.
In other Inversin company news, my brothers company, Coin App, just entered their first game, Max Blastronaut, into Microsofts 2009 Dream Build Play contest, with the possible prize of being on the XBox! Pretty fancy. I'm hoping that they make a splash.
It is now August, the eighth month of the year, and it seems like 2009 is just flying by! Time just gets shorter and shorter, and I feel that the work I have left to do just keeps growing. Two weekends ago I got together with Saeed, who some of you may remember from 2007, when we presented the VFXTalk Users Group at the Santa Monica library. We caught up as much as we could, talked about the work that lay before us, and hoped that the recession would pass us by quickly! With several of our coworkers out of commission and looking for work, it's a tough time, as evident by my six weeks off as well. Last week I got a chance to sit down with Donald, a vfxer I met online (from VFXTalk and Twitter), who came out from Florida and Full Sail to come work on the West Coast at Luma Pictures. I gave him a quick tour of Digital Domain, and we headed out to lunch to talk shop, and just shoot the breeze. It's very interesting to see how people start their careers, what they look forward to doing, and how they plan on accomplishing the tasks that lay before them.
We saw a couple movies since I last wrote.. They include Coraline, which came out earlier this year, and the cast and crew screening of G.I. JOE. Coraline was visually amazing. It definitely felt like a Gaiman film, the tone was surreal, and I was a little put off by the button eyes, which freaked me out for a bit. I mean, look at this. Doesn't that scream crazy? Overall, I got used to it, and the animation was wonderful. The traditional stop motion was quite nice to see again. I'm eager to see a new Aardman film!
On Sunday we saw G.I. Joe on the Paramount lot, and I didn't have high hopes for this movie. I was expecting something crass, unexciting, and just very cheesy. It did not meet those expectations. It was actually pretty good. Dialog was solid, acting was decent, and most of the FX were great (well, yeah :)). The action sequences were pretty well done, and the sound design for a lot of what we did was excellent. The majority of our work was at the beginning of the movie, which I'll mention more of when the film actually comes out on Friday! I'm looking forward to it doing pretty well this weekend. There's really nothing else up against it. If it does well, this year will be a trifecta! Three movies I worked on this year with amazing box office returns! Star Trek (Latest gross: $379,661,846), Transformers 2 (Latest gross: $810,189,320), and GI Joe (we'll see!). If it does pretty well, expect to see a sequel! The studios that worked on it include Digital Domain, MPC, CIS Hollywood, Frantic Films, Framestore, and CIS Vancouver. Speaking of Vancouver, a former classmate from VFS was featured in Sundays LA Times for his upcoming film, District 9. Neill was also an artist in Vancouver, and we were nominated the same year for different shows that we had worked on in Vancouver. I am eager to see how the work from Vancouver looks in this film. You may remember Neill's short, Alive in Joburg, which was the basis for this new film.
Here he is, pictured below, standing next to me back in 2001. I'm behind the beautiful lady in blue, he's standing to my left, with the white tie.
I sincerely hope that the work done for District 9 by The Embassy and Image Engine will continue to put Vancouver on the map as a place to accomplish significant VFX work. From the numerous Emmy nominations in VFX (and its first win in 2007 for Battlestar Galactica), Vancouver is creeping forward!
On the Industry Wages front, I am extremely close to finishing this primary proposal with numbers gleaned from the web and government documents. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is extremely helpful! Hopefully sometime this week I'll be able to send it for review by a SCORE counselor, and then hopefully ship it off early next week to VCs and angels. I'm anticipating that we receive funding for 2010, which will allow an accelerated rate of growth for the company and its sites!
This week is also Siggraph in New Orleans! Lots of great stuff there this year at the Nuke UG, which happened last night. FXGuide has a Day 1 review, check it out!