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.

Chris’s guest this week is Neil Huxley, a director whose story is worthy of its own movie. Early exposure to The Terminator inspired Neil to follow a career in the film industry but fighting back against bullies at his South London school almost lead him off the rails, until his bouncer-artist dad intervened. In a spectacular comeback, Neil studied multimedia at university and graduated with a first-class honors degree thanks to his short film.

Recorded ahead of his talk at THU, Neil recounts how his career has taken him through title design for movies such as Watchmen and Gamer, creating holographic displays for Avatar and on to Digital Domain offshoot Mothership and then production company Ruffian to direct spectacular and well-received videogame cinematics, including an epic interactive trailer for Middle-earth: Shadow of War. Now, Neil plans to make a feature film that will take him back to the South London locales where his tale began.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast244_NeilHuxley.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 10:26pm PDT

Mike Hill’s enviable career has seen him wear many hats on big projects in film, TV and games. He designed the formidable Retribution spaceship for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, helped conceptualize some of Game of Thrones’ most iconic sets and scenes, created the intricate Memory Orb device for Blade Runner 2049, and worked out how to unite 18 disparate episodes of Netflix series Love, Death & Robots.

But that’s not all this multifaceted film fanatic does — he’s also becoming renowned for his in-depth lectures on storytelling and visual language in films. In this podcast, he gives a concise version of his theories on Jurassic Park and its theme of parental responsibility, explains how these seep into Spielberg’s other films such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Hook, and even talks about what makes Jurassic World so morally bankrupt.

This is a fascinating podcast for anyone who looks for a deeper meaning in movies, and you’ll also find out which big-budget movie Mike’s working on next.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast231_MikeHill.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 10:48am PDT

Gray Marshall has always wanted to tell stories. In his youth, he was inspired to pursue CG by Tron and Pixar’s Luxo Jr., but when he studied film at USC he fell in love with the physical process of filmmaking. After dabbling in motion control cameras, he joined Digital Domain as a VFX supervisor and then founded his own company, Gray Matter FX.

Today, Gray has brought all his industry experience together in his role as a colorist at the Deluxe-owned Company 3. As Gray explains, this oft-overlooked but fascinating job adds a crucial finishing touch to films, uniting scenes provided by different VFX vendors or film crews, correcting visual continuity mistakes and providing a bridge between the editor, director of photography and director.

Using examples from Ant-Man and The Wasp, Roma and Avengers: Endgame, Gray goes into a deeper technical level on the current standards of film production and distribution, and tells Chris how colorists make sure their work looks good on everything from your home TV to a state-of-the-art laser projector.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast226_GrayMarshall.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 11:13am PDT

The Animatrix, Liquid Television, Ren & Stimpy - there have always been blips of mature content on the animation spectrum, but never anything like Love, Death & Robots. This new anthology kicks open the doors for adult storytelling in the medium, taking Tim Miller and David Fincher’s unique influences, and letting over 14 studios run wild through topics like racism, war, free will and human nature, as they collectively produced 18 jaw-dropping shorts.

This week, series’ VFX supervisor Jerome “Jed” Denjean stops by the podcast to talk about his own history, as well as explain how this project came together, from Tim’s initial ideas to how Blur brought in competing studios to join in on the fun. As the discussion continues, they get into bigger topics like what Love, Death & Robots means for the entertainment industry as a whole, why we could be moving away from longer-form storytelling and into bite-size chunks, and the chances of a second season.

Love, Death and Robots is streaming now.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast216_JeromeDenjean.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 10:16pm PDT

Film and art have fascinated Loic Zimmermann from a young age: he drew all the time and built rocket ship sets in his back garden during his childhood in rural France. His fascination drew him towards studying CG at university, then onto work for innovative game studio Quantic Dream, and his clever method of getting the perfect tattoo won him a job at Luma Pictures in Los Angeles.

As well as working on visual effects for Marvel movies and many more, Loic has directed fascinating documentaries on modern art masters William Wray (Gamma Wray) and Jeremy Mann (A Solitary Mann). He tells Chris how he gets under the skin of these characters without getting in their way, geeks out about video cameras, and gives a little insight into his upcoming documentary Larry.

It’s a fascinating podcast which dives deep into the way artists and filmmakers work, and reveals the numerous connections and passions Chris and Loic have in common.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast215_LoicZimmermann.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 11:48am PDT

Robh Ruppel has been on Chris’s most-wanted podcast guest list for a long time — and it’s not hard to see why. This talented designer, concept and visual development artist has a wealth of knowledge and experience, which makes this podcast utterly enthralling from start to finish.

Robh tells Chris about his adventurous career so far. From his early movie experience at effects shop Boss Film Studios to a sojourn to Wisconsin for Dungeons and Dragons; his tenure at Disney and his work at Uncharted games studio Naughty Dog; the roles he played on masterful comic-book movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and David Fincher and Tim Miller’s upcoming Love, Death, and Robot.

It’s Robh’s insight into the creative process that truly makes this podcast stand out. Referencing everyone from Sergei Eisenstein to Sergio Leone to Alfonso Cuaron, Robh delves into the technical and artistic choices which produce iconic cinematic imagery. He also talks about how big TVs and streaming services have changed the way entertainment is created and consumed and offers plenty of solid advice to up-and-coming artists.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast212_RobhRuppel.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 9:15am PDT

This week, Chris is joined by the versatile talent of John Hewitt. As a child, John was addicted to sketching and drafting everything he saw on TV, and this drove him into automobile design. After helping out on Schwarzenegger movie Eraser, John moved into visual effects and his impressive IMDb page includes credits on Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Star Trek Beyond and Alice Through the Looking Glass.

John’s career has taken him from visual effects in post-production to the movie-planning stages in previz. He discusses the differences between the two: the time-consuming and intricate crafting of beautiful FX shots versus the fast and furious timelines of previz. He also talks about his infamous shader networks for movies such as I, Robot and Transformers: Dark of the Moon, as well as how great previz can help directors make confident decisions and the future of film production.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast210_JohnHewitt.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 11:05am PDT

From the age of two, Colin Aguiar has been fascinated by music. It’s an obsession which has paid off: over the past 20 years he’s scored numerous projects and worked with mentor Mychael Danna on films including Life of Pi. His talent caught the attention of Construct director Kevin Margo who called on his abilities to create an experimental score for his groundbreaking short film.

In this podcast, Colin joins Construct producer Chris Nichols for a chat about the process of creating its score, including some of the challenges of adding dubstep elements, creating themes for specific characters, and working from a temp score. The discussion opens up into a wider discussion of music in general where Colin reveals how he loves everything from North African to German experimental to US industrial styles, and talks about some of his all-time favorite composers.

Scores are an oft-overlooked part of cinema, and Colin gives a huge amount of insight into the most important elements of movie music.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast209_ColinAguiar.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 4:27pm PDT

Virginie Bourdin’s astonishing career whisked her from a small town in France to art director on blockbusters including X-Men: Days of Future Past, Harry Potter movies, and the upcoming Captain Marvel. In this podcast, recorded at the THU festival, Virginie explains how she’s become one of the most sought-after art directors in the VFX industry.

Virginie talks about her work on the otherworldly villains of Wrath of the Titans and Edge of Tomorrow, how she uses mood boards and the importance of keeping everything loose and fluid. She goes into detail on her French origins and the reasons behind its supercritical national stereotypes.

Virginie is a tour de force, and you'll come away from this podcast with lots of inspiration on how to generate great ideas.

Direct download: Podcast_VirginieBourdin_01_mixdown.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 11:14am PDT

This is the 200th CG Garage Podcast — and the first Martini Giant spinoff episode. To commemorate reaching this huge milestone, Chris, Dan and Erick look at films about reaching huge stones: Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Peter Hyams’ sequel 2010: The Year We Make Contact.

The first is a true masterpiece of cinema, with Kubrick employing then state-of-the-art visual effects, smart set design and clever editing to tell a prophetical story about the dehumanizing effects of technology. The trio compare and contrast this with Hyams’ vision of a leathery Roy Schieder fixing a giant hinge in the sequel.

In typical Martini Giant fashion there are many hilarious tangents, from Lionel Richie’s relationship with 2001, to The Abyss and Chris’ wedding ring, to Dan’s nostalgia for a time when all we had to worry about was being nuked by Russia.

Just as Kubrick’s movie depicts the birth of a new form of human, this episode includes the birth of a new form of podcast: a dedicated spin-off series of Martini Giant podcasts. They talk about some of the subjects they’d like to discuss in future episodes — and you’re invited to let them know your ideas in the comments.

 

Here’s to another 200 CG Garage podcasts. Cheers!

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast200_MartiniGiant_2001_2010.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 10:14am PDT

For a short film, Construct’s production has taken a long time. But, as Director Kevin Margo explains there have been many good reasons for the delays. Conceived as a way to push the boundaries of ray tracing and virtual production, Construct become a perfect test subject for cutting-edge VFX techniques. It’s been cloud rendered via an NVIDIA cluster some 500 miles away, rejigged as a VR experience, and even presented in 120 hz via Douglas Trumbull’s Magi system.

But Construct is much more than just a tech demo. Despite its mechanical CG characters, the film tells a very human story, and there’s much more here than meets the eye. Actor Darren Ross explains how his motion-captured performance adds depth to the main character, and how they worked with Hollywood stunt coordinators to create the film’s elaborate fight scenes.

If you’re a regular listener, you’ll know that Construct has been a long and exciting journey for Kevin, Darren, Chris, and the many other collaborators who’ve helped make it a reality. It’s incredible to see Kevin’s vision finally come to life, and he discusses how the film could even be headed to the big screen.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast192_KevinMargo_DerronRoss_Construct.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 8:41am PDT

This week, Chris, Dan, and Erick finally get round to discussing Alien. It’s one of the most-requested topics for the podcast, and it’s not hard to see why: Ridley Scott’s 1979 movie is still terrifying today, and it gave birth to one of the silver screen’s most memorable monsters.

But Alien also gave us Ripley, the plucky, punky feminist hero who rises up against both the xenomorph and the patriarchal hierarchy of the Nostromo. Her story arc is examined by the podcast, as well as the film’s meticulous production design, and the Freudian nightmare of its imagery.

Just like the Nostromo, this is a podcast which goes on some pretty significant diversions. Alien sequels including James Cameron’s expansive Aliens, David Fincher’s flaccid Alien 3, and Scott’s own prequels Prometheus and Alien: Covenant are all put under the microscope. The trio also covers the way the movie industry works today, and directors from Gasper Noe to Russ Meyer, with some very funny anecdotes along the way.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast191_MartiniGiant_Alien.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 11:35pm PDT

Dan Thron joins Chris for another epic discussion of a groundbreaking movie — with special guest star Erick Schiele.

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws marked a turning point when it was released in 1975, blending believable characters and a relatable setting with an unstoppable monster. It built on movies of the time, like Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Godfather and Bonnie and Clyde, and heralded a new era of profitable blockbusters such as Star Wars, E.T., and Jurassic Park.

Dan, Chris, and Erick discuss pre and post-Jaws movies, from T-Men and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul to Blue Velvet and L.A. Confidential. They talk about how the Marvel movies could learn from Spielberg’s well-crafted storytelling and ponder what the Millennial equivalent of Easy Rider will be.

Listen to find out how Erick accidentally injured a film star’s mother, how Chris helped change the movie Splinter and stay tuned to the end to hear Dan’s thoughts on Ready Player One.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast175_DanThron_ErickSchiele.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 8:54am PDT

Avengers: Infinity War is full of wonderful things, but a particular highlight is Thanos, the movie’s purple antagonist. In this week’s podcast, Digital Domain’s Darren Hendler and Ron Miller join Chris to explain how they turned actor Josh Brolin’s nuanced performance into one of the most impressive digital characters ever to hit the big screen.

Darren and Ron break down the steps of creating Thanos, from the accurate capture of Josh Brolin’s face, the on-set techniques to record his movements and expressions, and the extra work needed to translate everything into a photorealistic CG character. They talk about the numerous systems and human beings involved in this two-year process, as well as the ethics of digital performances and characters. You’ll even find out what color Thanos’ blood is.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast174_DarrenRon_DD.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 3:15pm PDT

Jesse James Chisholm’s illustrious movie career has spanned work from The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons to upcoming Marvel blockbuster Ant-Man and the Wasp. Along the way, he’s done everything from sweeping set floors, to supervising effects shots alongside legendary directors David Fincher, Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg.

In this candid podcast, Jesse reveals all about the pressures of working on set on projects that can cost $300,000 a day. He shares some incredible anecdotes about stars such as Tom Cruise, Hugh Jackman and Brad Pitt. You’ll hear about some of the cool parts of his job, like hanging out of helicopters over a closed-down Chicago to get shots for Suicide Squad, and how major sequences in Black Panther and Ready Player One were achieved.

Despite his awesome job and daily brushes with fame, Jesse acknowledges how lucky he is to do what he does, and discusses how he juggles his globe-trotting role with his young family.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast172_JesseChisholm.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 10:23pm PDT

Colin Green took the computer graphics skills he learned from his architecture education to help start Pixel Liberation Front. While the company is no longer around, it was one of the first to focus on envisaging movies with an art form known as previsualization. Colin talks about how previs was pioneered in films such as Fight Club, Panic Room, and Minority Report, how it’s become an essential part of the filmmaking process today, and how it’s forming the backbone of what is becoming virtual production.

Chris and Colin talk about some of the challenges of previs, such as how it can influence choices without locking people into them, and its effects on post production. Colin also mentions the huge respect he has for directors like David Fincher, who use previs to better communicate their vision to those around him.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast171_ColinGreen.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 10:59am PDT

A bottle of Trader Joe’s Blended Scotch Whisky fuels Chris and Dan Thron for this in-depth discussion of Blade Runner 2049. Like its 1982 predecessor, 2049 is an eye-catching and thought-provoking movie which tackles themes of identity, emotion and mortality in a dystopic, dysfunctional metropolis. And, like its forebear, it’s underperformed at the box office — although it’s clearly destined for cult status.

In typical Dan and Chris fashion, Blade Runner 2049 is thoroughly dissected, leaving no stone unturned and no replicant unretired. They talk about how the iconography, ideology and characters of Blade Runner are updated to reflect contemporary concerns. Dan discusses his work on the movie, its success in the visual effects category at the Oscars, and how it compares to competing sci-fi films Star Wars: The Last Jedi and The War for the Planet of the Apes.

There are inevitably a few spoilers, but Dan and Chris have some interesting theories about the film’s more ambiguous moments. By the end, you’ll want to step into 2049’s world again.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast166_DanielThron_BladeRunner2049.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 10:15am PDT

They’re back! Star Wars aficionados, film buffs and visual effects artists Dan Thron and Justin Fields join Chris for the second part of this follow-up to the original, divisive Last Jedi podcast. This episode continues to pore over The Last Jedi to work out if the good bits outweigh the bad, and whether director Rian Johnson can shake off the franchise’s excessive baggage and build a fresh universe for a new audience.

It’s a podcast that packs as many twists, crises of confidence and character arcs as the movie itself, and Dan, Justin and Chris discover their opinions are more in line than they first thought. They also delve into the other Star Wars movies, and films including Pulp Fiction, Blade Runner 2049, The Goonies and Justice League. You’ll find out what effects industry acronym CBB stands for, a surefire way to tell when Yoda is being goofy, and how Hitchcock’s The Birds cleverly creates a sense of tension and unease.

Dan will return for another discussion of a classic film. As for young Justin, we’ll watch his career with great interest.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast161_DanThron_JustinFields_part2.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 9:01pm PDT

Chris, Dan and David’s take on The Last Jedi in podcast #156 stirred up many emotions on social media – especially among listener Justin Goby Fields. In fact, Justin posed such a good take on why The Last Jedi is a good movie that Chris invited him to appear on the podcast for a two-episode discussion.

In part one, Justin points out the clever ways The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi break down characters and ideas from previous Star Wars movies and reconfigure them to feel diverse and fresh. And he raises some interesting questions: could Poe Dameron become Star Wars’ best hero? And is Kylo Ren its best, and bustiest, villain?

In this occasionally heated discussion, the trio also branch out into other franchises, like Logan and Deadpool’s brutal, potty-mouthed diversions from the X-Men universe, and talk about what DC, Marvel and Lucasfilm can learn from big budget TV series such as The Handmaid’s Tale and Mindhunter.

No matter what you think of The Last Jedi – and your opinion will almost certainly change a little by the end of the podcast – this is an in-depth discussion of the movie’s successes and failings, and the current state of movie making in general.

Justin, Chris and Dan will return in a couple of weeks for Episode Two: Martini Giant Strikes Back.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast159_DanThron_JustinFields.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 3:42am PDT

As the dust settles on 2017, one question lingers on everyone’s minds: was Star Wars: The Last Jedi a good movie? The critics have embraced indie auteur Rian Johnson’s continuation of the new Star Wars universe, but the response from audiences and internet nerds has ranged from ecstatic, to meh, to Kylo Ren-like levels of rage.

To dissect this divisive movie, Chris is joined by Star Wars revisionist and podcast regular Dan Thron, Chaos Group’s Communications Director David Tracy — and a bottle of Colorado’s finest whisky. They talk about what makes the film work: the incredible visuals, the performances and chemistry, and the ways it wipes the slate clean and takes apart what Star Wars means for younger audiences. But they also highlight the film’s negatives: the goofy humor, tonal inconsistencies, and Death Star-sized plot holes.

It’s an thought-provoking and increasingly drunk conversation which touches on Dan’s arguments about the original trilogy, David’s formative experiences with Darth Vader, and the future of both the Star Wars universe and colossal movie franchises.

Whether you loved or hated The Last Jedi, this is a great way to spend two hours of 2018.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast156_DanielThron_TheLastJedi.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 7:49pm PDT

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 PDT

Multiple Oscar winner, modern musical and box office smash La La Land has divided audiences. Is it a shameless and unsubtle Happy Meal of nostalgia? Or does it use cinema, musicals and popular culture as a launchpad to tell a human story of growth and transformation?

In this podcast, Chris and film buff Dan Thron (aka the Martini Giant) talk about the film’s successes and failings. In doing so, they discuss a range of other movies, from classic musicals Singin’ in the Rain and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, to modern classics Pulp Fiction, LA Confidential, Brokeback Mountain and Inception. It’s a fascinating discussion which examines our relationship with the past, and one which potentially reaches the same conclusions as La La Land.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast127_DanielThron_Lalaland.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 8:59pm PDT

An early start in stop motion 8mm film making propelled Aaron Sims on a career trajectory through Hollywood. He assisted with the gooey practical effects for cult 80s movies such as “From Beyond,” “Evil Dead 2,” and “Gremlins 2.” The sleazy, show-stealing worms for “Men in Black,” were created by Aaron, and he applied his knowledge of prosthetics and puppetry to the CGI robots in Steven Spielberg’s “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.”

Now Aaron heads up Aaron Sims Creative, a concept art and VFX company which has designed creatures and locations for movies such as “Independence Day: Resurgence,” “Logan,” and “Wonder Woman.” In this entertaining podcast, Aaron talks about creating the terrifying Demogorgon for Netflix series “Stranger Things,” choosing between practical effects and CGI, and the importance of always moving forwards.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast123_AaronSims.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 3:18pm PDT

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