Visual FX are a Big Pain – But They Accomplish Amazing Things

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Julien immediately picked up from our defeat last week with the SIFF thing. See here to find out what that was all about, but we basically didn’t get the job because they didn’t think we had the graphic design chops. He was slated to be the director on this, so he was probably as bummed as anyone. However, Julien does not stay down. He opened the meeting with these quotes:

I think the main thing is to be clear on your own goals. If you don’t know who you want to be, it will be hard to tailor your learning.

If you don’t know what your goals are, ask yourself what you are good at? You’re probably good at it because you enjoy doing it.

So get better at whatever it is that you enjoy, and I promise you that great things will happen, Before you know it, you’re hired for it. (Or, worst case scenario: you will at least have fun.)

Julien then took it upon himself to do a quick study of popular visual fx houses and the work they’ve created. Quick note here: Julien is by FAR our most accomplish VFX director – he can actually do a lot of this stuff, while most of the rest of us can only hire it out (often to Julien). At one time, HandCrank was VERY into VFX, even going so far as to produce this little gem of a concept trailer for a feature we wanted to make:

We got out of VFX partly because Lars Simkins, the guy responsible for that trailer left us to go work for JJ Abrahms, and mostly because the work was incredibly time-consuming and hard to budget for. It also really put our people through the ringer. The hours of work you need to put in slaving to the computer are just insane. There’s a reason why so many VFX houses that seem to be doing great, ultimately fall apart. I just found out that Lars actually works at Microsoft now – I’m guessing doing VFX got old for him, too.

Anyhow, Julien is still young enough to be interested in these crazy things and he found a wonderful VFX company called ManvsMachine.

Here’s a note from Julien as to why he chose to highlight this company:

I decided to go with a VFX house this time, both because it’s something I’ve been getting more interested in, and because they provide an incredible example of people who try and fail more than anyone else. Also they just launched an incredible campaign for squarespace. One thing I really love about MvM is how they take a core conceit (similar to what we’ve been talking about) and then take it in a really unique direction, often times simply capturing just the emotion.

As proof positive of evoking emotion through VFX he shared this Nike ad:

Julien loved the ad because through the gorgeous visuals they led to a nearly tactile emotional feeling wherein you could actually “feel” what it was like to use the shoe. As someone who usually thinks of emotions as just “am I laughing or crying?”, this was a new way of thinking about emotions for me. I think he’s quite right though. He pointed out how much a role the SFX (sound effects) play in this as well.

Another example he shared was of their recent SquareSpace campaign. 

Julien loved this one because of the way the graphics interacted with the physical world. We argued for awhile about what was physical and what was digital in this. We decided a lot was actually physical. Personally, I just loved the cool shadow on the URL when it was typed. A small thing, but really different and noticeable.

In the end, Julien has vowed to make an “Ugly Baby” concept around something either entirely VFX or very VFX heavy for a spec production for HandCrank to consider this year. I hope he does. I really want to see it!

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We’re going for the emotions. Joy, sorrow, laughter, love - we want it all. And we want to work with people that understand that language. Partners who will challenge us to be better and push us to grow, so when we share it with the world, we've made something that matters.