Interviews that focus on the CG creative in visual effects, architecture and beyond. Christopher Nichols of Chaos Group sits down with directors, artists, photographers and developers for candid discussions on technology and art, all with a focus on computer graphics. Visit chaosgroup.com/cg-garage for more information and an archive of past shows.

Maxx Burman was destined for a career in the film industry — but how he got there is surprising. His grandfather and parents were practical effects artists, creating the groundbreaking makeup for The Wolfman and The Planet of the Apes, respectively.

Helping his parents out on all-nighters gave Maxx a strong worth ethic, and a hard-earned knowledge of what happens behind the scenes in Hollywood. But an early viewing of The Matrix inspired him to carve out his own career path in the less-messy world of VFX.

After establishing himself as a freelance matte painter and VFX supervisor, Maxx’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked in. His most recent venture is Kitbash3D, a handy online repository of professional, optimized 3D models of different styles of architecture, from “Victorian” to “Neo Tokyo,” ready to be “bashed” into backdrops, matte paintings and 3D environments. It takes the guesswork, and hard work, out of creating believable cityscapes.

As Maxx reveals in this podcast, that’s not all he’s working on. He’s creating a game for Nintendo, still working as a freelance matte artist, and even starting a company to manage all his endeavours. He and Chris talk about adventures in Digital Domain's keyboard graveyard, how Maxx has gone from artist to businessman, and how he ensures his projects succeed.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast154_MaxxBurman.mp3
Category:CGI -- posted at: 8:52pm PST

Summer 1993. Jurassic Park is about to be unleashed in theatres. Meanwhile, at the Rice School of Architecture in Houston, Texas, a young student named Chris Nichols is learning how to use AutoCAD, 3dstudio v2, and Wavefront. Overseeing Chris is Shisha van Horn, a paleontologist turned architecture student, then lecturer.

Chris and Shisha are reunited for this trip down memory lane. Shisha talks about how she set up the school’s first computer network, and cajoled Chris into creating 3dstudio online manuals using nothing more than notepad and HTML tags.

It’s a reminder of how much has changed. Most of Chris’ portfolio from the time now fits on a single SD card, but in 1993 it would have filled a hard drive. The arch viz industry didn’t exist. The department used a dye-sublimation printer which cost $6,300, Gopher and Mosaic were the only ways to look at web content, and Chris even built his own render farms so he could get his thesis done in time.

It’s also testament to the talent and energy Chris brought to the university, then the architecture and VFX industries, and now to Chaos Group. And it’s nice to hear from Shisha, who was an instrumental and influential part of Chris’ life and career.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast153_ShishaVanHorn.mp3
Category:Architecture -- posted at: 2:11pm PST

Chaos Group has been involved in The Ningyo for about four years now, and it’s finally come to fruition. The ambitious 27-minute film tells the story of Professor Marlowe, an Indiana Jones-esque cryptozoologist, as he hunts for the titular aquatic creature from Japanese folklore.

In this podcast, director Miguel Ortega tells Lon and Chris about the trials and tribulations of making his movie. He and partner Tran Ma came up with the story, funded it on Kickstarter, turned their house into a film set, and learned VFX software as they went along. He talks about how the clever and occasionally risky ways they cut costs, but produced something so good that it even surprised the crew who worked on it.

This is essential listening for behind the scenes geeks, and it shows how movie budgets can spiral out of control so quickly. Miguel also talks about the exciting future plans for The Ningyo, and his career. One to watch.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast152_MiguelOrtega.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 7:10pm PST

For this THU double bill, Chris is joined by friends old and new.

In the first part, he chats with VFX artist turned arch viz expert Keely Colcleugh, and CG Architect founder Jeff Mottle — both of whom have previously featured on podcasts. They’re perfect examples of how this year's THU festival embraced architectural professionals and the crucial knowledge they can bring to concept art and character design.

Using films like Minority Report and Blade Runner as examples, they talk about how movies can blend architectural design and futurism to provide evocative backdrops for their characters. They also ponder the importance of IP in architectural visualization images.

User experience (UX) design doesn’t sound like something that would be tied to architectural visualization. But in the second part of this podcast, a discussion with designer Jessica Rudzewicz highlights many parallels.

In essence, UX design is about hiding technical aspects in a way which is aesthetically pleasing and easy to understand — which is quite a lot like architecture. But Jessica also talks about systems without a visual interface, like Siri or Alexa, or bridging the virtual and physical worlds on the HTC Vive. It’s interesting to hear how much hard work goes into making something as unnoticeable as possible.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast151_THU2017_04.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00pm PST

In this podcast, Chris talks to Corey Harper and Ramy Hanna, the co-founders of Tiltpixel. This Houston-based arch viz company has gone from two people working from home, to a thriving office filled with the latest kit - and lots of LEGOs.

Corey also serves as the 2017 president of the American Society of Architectural Illustrators (ASAI), a role which will be filled in 2018 by Chaos Group CCO Lon Grohs. Corey talks about the history of the society, its Architecture in Perspective event, and this year’s unusual winner of the prestigious Hugh Ferriss Memorial Prize.

The duo also discuss how they balance client expectations with artistic freedom, death-defying flights around Houston with crazy helicopter pilots, and using cutting-edge tech such as drones, 8K 360-degree cameras and green screens to create VR experiences.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast150_Tiltpixel_01.mp3
Category:Archviz -- posted at: 5:30pm PST

For this podcast, Chris is joined by a quartet of artists, directors and filmmakers at THU festival in Portugal.

The first is Manny “MANu” Carrasco. This sweet and humble artist started out in traditional animation, before going 3D for the Turok video games, and then moving into concept art for movies such as Anastasia, Prince of Egypt and Space Jam.

Throughout his career, Manny has always found solace in nature, and he’s turned a love of animals into a new venture: Expedition Art. This NGO invites artists from the visual effects and gaming industries to contribute works to help protect endangered species around the world.

One of Expedition Art’s panel members is David Levy, who joins Chris in part two, alongside director Ruari Robinson and concept artist/filmmaker Ryan Woodward. Each has experience of making short films, from Ruari’s high-concept Leviathan pitch, to David’s award-winning short Plug, to Ryan’s beautiful animated passion project Thought of You.

David talks about taking a step back from the industry and spending time with his family in North Carolina, Ruari discusses the intense hard work which went into Leviathan and Ryan goes behind the scenes on how he created 20,000 drawings for his short.

This is an essential listen if you want to hear about the extraordinary pressure the entertainment industry can put on artists, as well as the coping methods they employ to get through tough times.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast149_THU2017_03.mp3
Category:CGI -- posted at: 7:18pm PST

Some 20 years ago, Chris graduated with a master’s in architecture from Rice University in Houston, Texas. His thesis advisor and dean at the time was Lars Lerup, himself an esteemed architectural professor, author, artist, and designer.

For this podcast, Chris and Lars are reunited in the hallowed halls of Rice School of Architecture. As someone who’s seen architecture and its students completely change over the last few decades, dean emeritus Lerup knows what he’s talking about. Lars discusses the immeasurable impact of the human race on the planet, and the how it’s now the responsibility of architects to think on a global scale.

At the same time, he argues that there’s a dearth of imagination and risk taking in the industry, which isn’t helped by stark cultural, generational and financial divisions. Which begs the question: why isn’t architecture more fun? Together, Chris and Lars tackle this question in a conversation which takes in teaching methods, Lars’ new book The Continuous City, and the role of 3D software in real and imagined spaces.

Lars is bursting with knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject, and by the end you’ll realize that the people involved in architecture make it an interesting, innovative and fun medium.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast148_LarsLerup.mp3
Category:Architecture -- posted at: 7:02pm PST

Here’s another pair of podcasts Chris recorded at this year’s THU festival in Portugal.

Kevin the Dane:
The first podcast features Kevin Gøhler, better known as Kevin the Dane to V-Ray fans thanks to the tutorials and reviews on his popular YouTube channel. He also works as technical director at architectural visualization company Dimension Design ApS, and he’s currently designing his own VR video game.

Pedro Fernandes, Arqui9:
Like Kevin, Pedro currently works in arch viz, as founder and creative director of the renowned Arqui9 visualization. He returned from the UK to his native Portugal especially for THU.

Both recordings are testament to the power of THU in bringing like-minded and talented artists together. Among other things, Kevin talks about how to build the brand of a YouTube channel, while Pedro dives into the deep end of the theory behind architectural visualization.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast147_KevinGoehler_PedroFernandes.mp3
Category:Archviz -- posted at: 7:33pm PST

We’re only just starting to tap into the power of VR for collaboration in architecture — but there are many, many hurdles along the way. For instance: How do you get everyone into the same shared space? How do you represent attendees? How do you point things out within this virtual space? And how do you get tech-phobic participants to embrace the medium without getting scared or frustrated?

Entrepreneur, strategist, inventor — and former Ninja Turtle — John San Giovanni’s company Visual Vocal is revolutionizing this meeting space by making things as simple as possible. Download the app and it syncs with others via clever audio fingerprint tech. Pop your phone into a Homido Mini VR headset and you can look around with other people, and even point out issues. It makes VR meetings as easy as entering an internet chatroom.

In this enjoyable podcast, John helps Lon and Chris grok with Visual Vocal’s concept. And it gazes into the crystal ball of the future of VR, AR and XR, drawing on the video game Myst, “productive hallucinations,” Lon’s hatred of QR codes, and the fascinating Never Built NYC and LA projects.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast146_JohnSanGiovanni.mp3
Category:VR -- posted at: 6:46pm PST

Chris recorded a lot of podcasts at THU — and this episode treats you to not one, but two 25-minute recordings.

In the first, Chris chats with celebrated CG portrait artist Ian Spriggs, and digital anatomy expert Scott Eaton. They discuss the history of portraits, and how the fundamental idea of representing humans hasn’t really changed from cave paintings, to paintings, to photographs, and now the world of CG. And they talk about the tech which has got us here, from early days of editing vertices in C, to the seamless artistry made possible with packages such as ZBrush and Mudbox.

Chris’s talk with Steven Wang and Phil Liu nicely complements the first part. Steven now works as a concept artist a Microsoft’s The Coalition game studios, but his prior role was alongside Ian Spriggs at Neill Blomkamp’s Oats Studios — Steven even posed for a portrait for Ian. Phil, meanwhile, serves as world artist at Monolith Productions. They discover a shared history in product design, and talk about how ArtStation, Instagram and Facebook have given artists invaluable exposure — but made the industry more competitive than ever.

They’re both engaging discussions, and Chris does a great job of packing important questions into a short amount of time.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast145_IanSpriggs_ScottEaton_StevenWang_PhilLiu.mp3
Category:CGI -- posted at: 11:52am PST