Monday, May 30, 2011

The Art of Movie Title Design

  Click the player, and enjoy the video:

Julian Treasure: The 4 ways sound affects us

  Here is a short, 5 minute TED Talks video with some killer productivity tips:

  Playing sound effects both pleasant and awful, Julian Treasure shows how sound affects us in four significant ways. Listen carefully for a shocking fact about noisy open-plan offices.
  Click the player below, and enjoy the video:

To check out more TED Talks click here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Her Morning Elegance

This is lovely.
Pixilation by Yuval & Merav Nathan, for musician Oren Lavie.

  Click the player below, and enjoy the video:

Bonus feature:
Her Morning Elegance - Behind the Scenes:

  Click the player below, and enjoy the video:


  Here is something that I found inspiring, I think it is worth sharing, which Bobby Beck posted on his blog, a awhile back.  Enjoy.

  Thanks to Bobby for sharing this with us!

written by Bobby Beck 

  Today I wanted to take a moment to talk about life potential and "limiting beliefs." Limiting beliefs are those little voices in the back of your head that say "you can't do this, you don't deserve it" or "you are not good enough." I just wanted to tell you that despite what people tell you and despite what your little voices tell you, that you CAN achieve and DO just about anything you put your mind to.

  This is the stuff that makes me tick. I love being motivated and happy in life. I love that challenge as it IS a challenge to maintain and nurture. Is it just in my nature to be a happy energetic guy who sees that life has infinite potential? BOOM! No, it's a conscious decision to wake up every day with the thought that today will be a GREAT day and that I'm happy to be alive. I'm getting a bit personal here, but this is my core and this is what I want to share today.

  You see, there will be people in your life who are like anchors to the bottom of the ocean and it is important to NEVER believe their hurtful words or actions. And, if possible, it is important to evaluate the destruction that person may be causing to your life and your potential. In order to do this you have to build yourself to be stronger. Here are some things I've found helpful in doing this:

  #1. Realize when this is happening
  #2. Know why it is happening
  #3. Surround yourself with better people

Realizing when this is happening:
--- To realize when this is happening is the key. But first you have to know why this is happening.

Know why someone would do this to you:

--- When someone tries to hurt you they may do this because they feel threatened and they don't want to see you succeed. They may not know this consciously but people would rather see you "stay where you are" than to see you grow and become something better. If they are someone who is close to you, they may do this out of "love" because they don't want to "lose" you as you move onwards and upwards in life. It challenges their comfort level.

Surround yourself with better people:
--- I have a pop up window that comes up every Monday morning with a few quotes. This helps me start my work week on the right foot. Among the quotes is one from one of my great life mentors (I'll talk more about this in the future) which says, "Your life is a direct reflection of the expectations of your peer group." Basically this means the people you hang out with is who you will become like. If you hang out with people who do not believe in their capabilities be careful as you will find yourself dropping back from your full potential. In contrast if you hang out with other people who know where they are going and know they WILL get there then you will elevate to the next level of your potential.

  In life I find this lesson to be so important. It's tough as in one point in my life I used to sabotage my potential because I was afraid of losing friends or of what other people may think of me. Nowadays I care little about what people think of me and know it is more about being true to myself and being who I am. I pass this on as I hope you never have to be limited in your life or feel limited of your potential. Most anything in life is achievable, you first have to believe in your own ability and never doubt it. #3 will help support and strengthen this trait inside of you and it will become second nature in time.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

ILM - Industrial Light & Magic: Creating The Impossible

  Another great find I stumbled across - this is the Encore Special about how...  
ILM - Industrial Light & Magic...
...changed cinema...  
... forever.
  Part 1 of 6:

  Part 2 of 6:

  Part 3 of 6:

  Part 4 of 6:

  Part 5 of 6:

  Part 6 of 6:

Behind The Scenes at Blue Sky Studios

  Featuring work from Blue Sky Studios film Rio

  Click the player below, and enjoy the video:

  LOL! ---  Right on,... at around the half way point, I just spotted my old friend Chris Siemasko in the audience, when they are looking at the animatic, (Chris works in the Story Department at Blue Sky).  He is the one in the white coat... ummm,... with the facial hair... hehehe --- Keep rockin Chris!!!

  My last mentor (at Animation Mentor), Pete Paquette (who was kick-ass), is featured in this article on the making of Rio.   Click the image below to check out the article:

Behind The Scenes at DreamWorks Studios

  Featuring work from DreamsWorks Animation upcoming films Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots

  Click the player below, and enjoy the video:

  I've now had three amazing mentors (via Animation Mentor) from DreamWorks Animation: Martin Hopkins, Steve Cunningham, Drew Adams


  The Pirate is a one minute promo for Cartoon Network. Created by Swedish Meindbender Animation Studio

  I have to confess - at first I wasn't totally sure if this was stop-motion, live-action blend, CG or what...
... it turns out it is CG,...
... in any case, it is really well done, and a lot of fun ;o)

    Click the player below, and enjoy the video:

 See more of their work at

Bonus feature:
  Click the image below to check out a 'making of' posting on CG Society:

Google - Martha Graham

  More animation awesomeness from Ryan Woodward:

Director's note:
 "Hope you guys like the Google Doodle I did in commemoration of legendary Martha Graham. This was released on May 11, 2011 on It was really great to work with Dancers and Choreographers from the Martha Graham Dance Company in New York on this. Martha was an incredible artist!"

  Click the player below, and enjoy the video:

More of Ryan's animations at

Click here to check out related post: "Thought of You"
Click here to check out related post: "Thought of You - Making Of" 

Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity

  This TED Talks video has been around for a little while, but I came across it again today, (I think it was like my 3-4 time watching it), and I thought it was worth sharing:

  Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love" muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses -- and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person "being" a genius, all of us "have" a genius. It's a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

  Click the player below, and enjoy the video:

To check out more TED Talks click here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Unofficial Truth about The Animation Industry

  It is almost that time of year, again,... when animation hopefuls will soon graduate from their various animation schools, and people are looking to apply for animation jobs, etc., etc.  Schooled in technique and process.  ... Yet! ...
... for these individuals, and others, there are still MANY questions about the "animation industry" that have gone...
... unanswered!!!  

  So... to help answer these questions, and indeed many others, here is a TON of great info which answers a LOT of the typical questions about the animation industry one might ask, and more. ---- Which, for those interested, I thought I would share.
Copied from a forum post on CGTalk (, written by Joe Harkins
NOTE: This should be treated as opinion, and therefore not necessarily fact, but still... awesome.

I give you...

The Unofficial Truth about The Industry 
written by Joe Harkins 
(Originally posted 06/21/06, updated 09/13/10)

  Some of this will seem like information you’ve heard before, like common sense, like something someone should have sat down and told you. Maybe that’s the case, and maybe this is just affirmation of what you already know, but either way, I think you should read this.

   I realize that you might not be a full-time student, and you might be working in the industry. In fact, some of you I know from work, and you’re just here to brush up or learn a new skill. Your continued education is evidence of the dedication you have, and that’s such a great thing to have! I admire those who want more when they already have what they need.

   I believe that no matter what and where you choose to learn, be it at a public institute, a private school, or even in front of your computer at home, you should feel comfortable with your decision. You should feel like you're learning and that you've been given the tools you need to succeed in this extremely tough industry.

Do you need to go to college to get a job in this industry?
  --- No, but it doesn't hurt your chances to have a degree, and it won't be frowned upon if you don't.

Do employers require a degree to get a job?
--- Yes, some of the larger studios do require a degree for some of their more advanced TD, software engineering, and infrastructure related jobs.

What about non technical jobs, do those require a degree?
--- No. While some schools hold a certain amount of clout with many large studios and their degrees are in fact well respected, like Ringling or Cal Arts for example, artistic jobs do not require a degree.
(Blogger's note: "And of course Animation Mentor")

Do I need to be artistic?
--- Yes. Hands down it all comes down to your natural, raw, artistic talent, your eye for detail, your ability to take criticism for your own work, and your ability to critique others.

What if I’m technical though, do I still need to be artistic?
--- At the end of the day, the answer is yes. While it’s acceptable to not have any artistic talent and be completely scientific in many of the job functions, if you truly want to excel in Computer Graphics, you need at least basic artistic abilities to get by. It will only make you a stronger technical candidate.

So should I go to college or not?
--- Are you talented enough to get a job without it? Are you completely sure about your artistic ability and what you want to do? Do you need more time to work on your portfolio? Do you have the discipline and determination to get a job with your current abilities? Keep asking yourself questions, and eventually you’ll figure it out.

What if I get a degree in something else?
--- That’s fine if you want to have something to “fall back” on, so to speak. Conservative people recommend this option to avoid pigeonholing yourself. I personally think that you should get a degree in whatever it is you want to do as a career. You can minor in something else, like business, while still majoring in art or computer science, for example. Either way, it’s not a bad thing, but it does raise a question as to how determined are you to make it in this industry if you’re already making a backup plan?

How do I know if I am getting what I need out of school or not?
--- “I feel lost…” I’ve heard that one a lot. I honestly want to tell you to consider doing something else with your life if you feel lost and are already taking classes for your major. If you’re just wondering whether or not you’re getting what you need from school, then you should probably ask yourself what it is you expect. You’re only going to get out of it what you put in.

Should I focus on art or science?
--- That’s for you to decide. Unless you’re absolutely sure you want a technical job that requires a degree, the B.A. vs B.S. is not worth arguing over. You need to pick something that fits your goals, but remember that it’s probably irrelevant later on anyways.

My school seems more interested in my money, is this normal?
--- Many schools are cashing in on students desire to learn. They are almost all the same as far as what you end up with on paper. As far as actual teaching quality, instructor experience, and overall reputation, that all depends on your school.

If you feel like your school is just seeking a profit, then your hunch is right, it is. The difference will be in the graduating students. Look at where grads are working, not so called “job placement” numbers that the school puts out. Just remember, it’s your responsibility to teach yourself and get a job, not anyone else, no matter how much money you spend on school or how much they promise to help after graduation.

What software should I learn?
--- First and foremost, forget about the software for a minute. If you are interested in the technical side of things, then you are going to need a strong background in math and science. You'll also need programming experience.

If you're mainly an artist then you need to focus on traditional skills such as drawing, painting, and sculpting, among other things. Work on your 2D skills before trying your hand at 3D.

The software is only a tool.

To answer the question though, the software most commonly used for 3D in the industry is Maya and 3DSMax. PhotoShop is a standard application to know. For compositing you're best bet is to learn Nuke. For rendering, Renderman and Mental Ray have the strongest markets. Houdini and 3DSMax are popular with FX artists. Also, many larger studios have proprietary packages that are very unique to their pipeline.

It can matter what software you learn, because they are complicated packages that require training and time to understand. The less experience you have with the most commonly used software, the less valuable you will be.

I am about to graduate, what should I do?
--- There are a few steps to preparing for graduation and entering this industry.

  • Look at job openings and preparing your resume
  • Put together an online portfolio and/or demo reel
  • Make contacts who can review your work
What should I have when I graduate?
--- The most important thing you need is a demo reel and online portfolio with your work on it. You need a resume, obviously. Almost everyone gets reviewed solely on their demo reel, so, you’re going to need that demo reel. If you don’t have that when you graduate then you essentially have nothing to get a job with!

I graduated, now what?
--- Now is when you flood the market. You are new, you are unknown, and you need a job. Flood is the key word here. Send out as many hard copy reels and e-mails as you can. Take time and make cover letters for each one, and make them specific to each company. Don’t write generic cover letters. Don’t overdo it either, simple and to the point. Cover letter, resume, and demo reel, 3 things, that’s it.

As far as demo reels go, here are my rules:
  • 3 minutes or less, anything more is too long
  • Your best work goes first, never repeat anything
  • Don't focus on your soundtrack, it’s on mute, sorry.
  • Name, phone and email all over the place, don’t forget contact info.
What to put on it?
--- Only your best work. If you don’t think it’s great, no-one else will.
You should really get as much feedback from people as you can before you cut your demo reel. You need to find out what your best work really is. It could be that one piece that is really great that gets you a job, but if you throw in five others that are terrible, forget it.

Tailor your reel to the job that you would like.
  --- If you’re a modeler, show models. If you want to animate, show animations. Don’t try to show more than one or two skills, even if you want to do everything. You cannot possibly be good at everything, and your weakest areas are going to shine through, not your strongest. Be aware that all of your work shown is being judged, not just what you say you want to do. Not fair? Then don’t put it on your reel!

How much is your demo reel worth?
--- Technically, it’s priceless. A foot in the door in this industry is tough to get, and you are up against many willing and talented people who want that opportunity as bad if not worse than you do. So, it’s priceless. If you spend one week hacking together a reel, it’s obvious. All the talent in the world won’t make up for rushed work, laziness, or procrastination. Be proactive, and don’t doubt for a second – there is competition.

So, how much money can you make?
  --- It depends on the market that you’re in. Let’s take LA for example. An entry level artist at a 3D job might work for anywhere between $18 and $22 an hour, depending on the company, the work required, and your negotiating skills. That could be a 3D tracker, modeler, character TD, animator, lighter, or even a compositor. At this point, it’s almost all the same; you’re looking at equal pay across the board for most entry level jobs.

What if I don’t get a job right away?
--- That’s normal! You’re going to have to keep trying, and be persistent. Keep applying, keep making phone calls, writing e-mails, and keep refining your reel. Cut a new version of your reel every week if you have to, just keep making it better and better until you get that first job. The first job is so important and so hard to get, you have to really want it.

How long does it take to hear back once you’ve applied?
--- Unless they’re interested, you won’t hear anything. If they are, usually a couple of weeks at most unless there’s an enormous amount of candidates or someone else fell through. Calling HR a week after is acceptable, but don’t call everyday.

It’s been a really long time, should I send in another reel? --- Call them first, ask them what the status is of the position. Ask if you can reapply. If they say yes, then go for it! If not, then don’t waste the postage.

I got an interview…so what do I say?
--- Just be yourself, take extra reels and resumes and be on time and prepared. Most importantly, be honest; don’t lie about what you can do. Don’t dress up, but at least look presentable. Be confident, they’re interested in you; try to sound interested in them.

What should I ask for as far as money goes?
--- Ask them what the job pays when they ask you how much you want. Ask them what they feel is fair. If you feel it is just too low, then ask for more, but be careful with your approach. The ball is totally in their court, not yours. If this is your first job take what you can get, hope for more, but take what you can get!

Is it ok to take an unpaid internship?
  --- Yes, and in fact many colleges will give you credit for doing so. You should try to do this while you're still living off of student loans or are still living at home. Unpaid should be no longer than 6 months. If they ask you to work longer than that for free, then it's not really an internship. This is a good way to get your foot in the door, make contacts in the industry, find out how much you really know, and helps you build your experience and demo reel. Look at it this way - unpaid now equals paid later.

How do I get experience when all the job ads require experience and I have none?
--- This is the catch 22 of any industry. Students looking for work are two things to employers A) unknown B) cheap. Since you are cheaper than everyone else, you actually have a shot at filling in an entry level position, even if you have no experience and the ad says seeking experienced artists only. It's a way to weed out candidates, but companies know that students are still going to apply. Just make sure that whatever job you're applying for, you can actually do! Your unknown factor makes you a possible liability, and so they are taking a risk by giving you a chance. You should be thankful for the opportunity to prove yourself.

What about after this first job?
--- You can expect to suffer for a little while during your period of being a grunt. It will be hard. Don’t expect them to hand you anything important, and don’t expect them to give you a huge raise. Just do the best you can, everyday, and learn what you can. You’re building your resume, that’s it, bottom line. Live with roommates or friends or family if you can’t afford the market you’re in, but don’t quit just because you can’t afford it! The job experience is more valuable than your pay. Think about your career long-term, not the job short-term.

After your first few projects, you might have earned enough respect to do a few things. A) You might have enough experience on your resume to get a job at a different company with a better position or B) you might get a raise at your current company and more responsibilities or C) You might get to try something new at your current job that allows a shift in position. This could take anywhere from a year to two years, but you should see results within that time, otherwise you’re in a stale environment and need to move on.

What about later on? What is my earning potential?
--- Honestly, the sky is the limit. In LA there are unions for some of the larger shops, and the rest is pretty much standard hourly rates or salary. Many places require overtime to finish projects during deadlines. The lifestyle will be quite comfortable if you reach your earning potential. Supervisor and lead roles pay better, but also require very experienced talent, and companies are willing to pay for that experience.

Keep in mind there are dry spells, periods where you won’t have work. Almost all CG work is project based, even full time employees have to worry about projects at their place of employment, because if there’s not projects coming in, it could mean staff layoffs. It’s not uncommon to save two or more months of rent and other living expenses just in case. In fact, you’re playing a risky game if you don’t. Even the most talented artists get laid off from time to time.

The result is a tighter knit community. Many of your future job opportunities will come from past relationships with other employees. As you work at other companies, so are they and you will likely cross paths again. Remember that burning bridges in this industry can hurt your career, not just your current job. Chances are good that you’ll work with many different people, and many of them will know you and each other quite well.

What are people looking for in a candidate?
--- We don't care where you went, how long you went there, if you were top or bottom of your class. Show us you can do it by showing us a great demo reel and portfolio. Follow that up with a great humble attitude that shows a willingness to learn and the ability to take direction. Then, show up everyday, on time, and do the best you can until it’s time to go home. Show us that you are resourceful and can find answers to problems on your own before asking those around you. Show us you how bad you really want it, and above all, show us the passion, and remind us of how we felt when we were first looking for a job, were filled with energy, and didn’t know what was going on. That’s what everyone really wants in a candidate, entry level or not.

It’s all about your demo reel, your attitude, and of course your talent.

====== UPDATE: 09/13/10 =====

I am always amazed that this thread continues to live and thrive on CG Talk, and am glad it may have helped you along the way. While some of the information never changes, there is some that needs updating, and so I am going to go through my original post and make some tweaks here and there to try and keep it as current as possible. Since the original title was “unofficial truth”, I wanted to add a few more observations I have had over the last few years in this business.

Our industry is shrinking
Over the last few years, the amount of places that create Computer Graphics work has diminished, and has become a more difficult business to break into. Those places that are established, and have reputations, are in a position to grow with the changes that are in store for the future. There were many smaller shops that were doing commercials, and small amounts of FX work, and they are now gone. When money for advertising was crunched by Wall Street, this market essentially was cut off at the knees, and some buckled. What is left are well-established places that are doing great work, but there are some big changes.

The industry is world wide
Los Angeles and San Francisco might be the two places with the most employers related to Computer Graphics, both in film, and in video games, but the reality is that more companies are going international. Vancouver now holds divisions for most of the major U.S. film companies, and some game companies. London is now home to a large branch of VFX houses that are now working together to get large projects and complete work. New Zealand and Australia have a strong footing as well. Ironically, the foreign shops now have smaller shops in the US that are supplementing them, and also obtaining new work, giving back some of the jobs that have moved.

Pay scale changes
There is not much of a middle-class artist or technician these days. You are either very senior, and therefore expensive, or you are cheap, and able to work more for less. The middle-of-the-road artists are gone. They have been replaced by Jr level talent that can exceed most mid-level workers. Sr. level and lead level workers are now ensuring the work is completed. A team comprised of all veterans, and no Jr’s would be an exception, not the rule, in today’s industry. This in turn creates a wide pay gap. Artist rates are suffering as a result, as middle-class workers are squeezed out, and Sr. level workers are having to go longer between projects. The irony is that Sr. level workers are able to get a higher rate than usual, as there are less of them.

Time vs Money
Work is now expected to be completed faster and faster, and for cheaper and cheaper. This continues to push smaller places out of the industry. An acceptable quality can be achieved in less time, and therefore has caused those paying for the work to demand it be done cheaper, because it is being completed faster. Anything to the contrary would again be the exception, not the rule.

Supply vs. Demand
There is an overwhelming number of graduates who are finding it difficult to obtain employment. There is, equally, an overwhelming number of highly skilled artists and technicians who are currently unemployed, and/or have changed industries altogether. It is a direct result of the current economy, and the above mentioned issues. They all add up to equal less jobs and more skilled workers out of work.

Entry-level work has shifted

As of today, entry-level does not mean what it used to. I now expect an entry level artist to be able to do the work that a Senior Artist of 5+ years ago was doing. This is especially true of modeling. Because the tools are difficult to keep up with, students are now being exposed and learning technology, and surpassing their Sr. level counterparts. They are, in turn, replacing them.

Less skilled technicians
Similarly, there are now less skilled technicians available, and the entry-level market for this arena has diminished significantly. There are plenty of artists coming out of schools, but very few scientists and technicians who are interested in more technical jobs. Therefore, those technical jobs are difficult to break into, as they are held by more Sr. counterparts with a vast amount of experience that is difficult to match in most instances. It is assumed that technical people are more difficult to replace than artists, but more-so lately, as artists seem to be piling up and becoming more and more talented and effective.

Too much experience can hurt
Those artists that are “set in their ways” and have too much experience on their resume, are now having a difficult time finding work. Those Sr. artists/technicians that are choosing their colleagues are now opting for less experienced, more moldable candidates, and generally are shying away from those that are as or more experienced, as they do not want competition for their own job.

Apply online ONLY
There is now an online application process for almost every studio. E-mail and web based portfolios are standard. Mailed-in DVD’s and resume’s are piling up in the “never gonna see it” pile, and those candidates that stick out in their “electronic profile” will most likely be forwarded around (again, now via e-mail), for review and consideration. Those candidates that make the cut, again, will be e-mailed about a possible job interview. Sometimes, not even until the actual interview, is there a real conversation. Most candidates are screened out long before they get the chance to make an impression over the phone or in-person.

Interviews are different
There used to be several rounds of interviewing that would occur, and then several more rounds of recruitment, and excitement from recruiters to get new candidates. This has also changed. Interviews are now short, to the point, and because candidates are so well screened before ever making it in, there is little to talk about. Mostly it is a meeting to see if people actually like each other, or if it’s a bad fit. Employers are not interested in discussing their benefits and other incentives anymore, and do not use that to entice. They assume they have the upper hand (they do) and that whatever benefits they have you will gladly accept (and you will).

Just because you’re hired doesn’t mean you’re hired
There is now this weird thing happening where people are being “tried out”, instead of hired. It is more frequent and causes some confusion. Also, sometimes 2 or 3 people may be hired for the same job, only to find out later that only 1 of them will be kept. It has become somewhat brutal at some smaller places who are looking for the best of the best entry level candidates, and are willing to pit people against each other in order to find a match.

Ground-breaking work still exists!
There is a common myth that no boundaries are being broken anymore in CG. This is simply not true. The industry continues to do more complex and difficult work, and so there is ample opportunity out there for those who want to be truly challenged. There is no reason the work will stop continuing to break new grounds and continue to impress us all, and that to me, is the best reason to keep doing what we do. If we can do something that you did not think was possible, then it must be done. We can only hope for a stronger industry, filled with more opportunity in the future for all.

Either way, “the show must go on“, as they say…

Good luck out there,
Joe Harkins
If you wish to check out more from the original CGTalk forum thread, here again is the link: