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 for more information and an archive of past shows.

This week’s CG Garage is a special episode because I got a chance to sit down with Alex McDowell, the founder of World Building Institute and Experimental Design. You might have seen his name pop up in Fast Company and Wired from time to time, and it’s no mystery why they want to talk to him. On top of his current roles, which we’ll get into in a minute, this is a man who helped set up the Sex Pistols first gig, made music videos with Depeche Mode, led production designs on Fight Club, and designed the entire world, including all of its rules and attributes, for Minority Report. And it’s in that last point, world building, where he can really offer all of us - architects, filmmakers and general 3D artists- some serious food for thought.

Instead of thinking about stories and digital experiences like linear elements, Alex approaches his designs spherically, like you would a VR space. He asks questions like “What are the conditions of the world and what is going to drive it forward?” and then figures out how elements like different types of humans will define or navigate this environment. An elderly person, for instance, could live in the same world as a Olympian, but endure radically different challenges. And from what Alex has learned, as the challenges and context around your focal points change, so do the stories you can tell. With world building, storytellers are encouraged to consider more possibilities, which in turn, open up a greater understanding of the environments and characters they create.

At first glance, you may think this only works for feature films. But consider the 3D world’s most common thread: storytelling. Architects also tell visual stories full of context and character, only they do it through spaces. So imagine what happens when architects apply world building concepts to their art. Designs can be influenced by wider factors than form and function, including how different types of people will navigate the space. Using these concepts, architects can also consider how the mechanisms of the city, or even society at large, will change the experience they are offering, even if that change resides at a granular or subconscious level. As elements are defined, they compound, helping an artist (or your team) gain an elevated knowledge of any design that incorporates narrative.

It really can be quite powerful, and like I said, is not limited to a single field. I hope you’ll give it a shot.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast162_AlexMcDowell.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:50pm PDT

Mobile games are big business — bigger, in fact, than their console counterparts. They’re cheaper to make, require smaller teams, and they can generate huge amounts of money. In the first part of this podcast, Chris talks to John “Cip” Cipriani, senior artist at enormously successful mobile games company Supercell (Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, Boom Beach).

Of course, mobile games have their own complications — hundreds are released every day, and established titles continually add new features. John tells Chris how Supercell has succeeded with quick but gratifying gameplay, distinctive art styles, and games which cater to gamers of all ages, no matter what device they’re using.

The increasing power of phones and tablets, combined with easy access to cloud resources and intuitive interfaces, make them an ideal candidate for 3D modelling and rendering. This topic comes up in a Chris’ second conversation, with artists Carlos Ortega and Lip Comarella.

As well as discussing the future of 3D, animation director Lip and character artist Carlos talk about their experiences at THU. At last year’s event, Lip posed an interesting personal question about relationships and art, while Carlos has previously served as a “Knight” at the festival.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast155_JohnCipriani_CarlosOrtega_LipComarella.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:17pm PDT

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 PDT

Polymath Rudy Rucker is the author of some 40 books, including a many science-fiction novels, and he’s a computer scientist, a painter, and a mathematician. In the 1980s his novels dealt with issues of identity and reality in an age increasingly dominated by computers, and helped found the cyberpunk movement.

Rudy is also a relative of podcast host Chris. As well as blood ties they have a lot in common: a love of computing, of storytelling, and careers which have sat on the cutting edge of future tech. It’s interesting to hear the differences and similarities between Chris and Rudy’s generations, such as Rudy’s thoughts on artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and quantum computing. He’s full of handy tips for writers, including the virtues of self-publishing, and how to get over that fear of the blank page.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast116_RudyRucker.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:25am PDT

Trojan Horse was a Unicorn - aka THU - isn’t like other digital arts gatherings. Rather than taking over a crowded convention center, it takes place in a luscious beach resort in Portugal. Headline speakers, or “Knights,” aren’t treated like VIPs, but instead mingle with crowds. And the emphasis for guests is on personal growth and development, as opposed to being wowed by technology or targeted by marketers.

One of the people behind this revolutionary festival is André Luís, and in this podcast he offers a peek behind the scenes at THU. He talks about his struggle to keep a globally-renowned festival small and intimate, and how it’s in competition with online information sources. Chris - who’s been Knighted for THU 2017 - also discusses how the festival and the architecture community could benefit immensely from one another.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast113_AndreLuis.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:52pm PDT

Chris’s guest for this ridiculously entertaining episode is Erick Schiele. Erick and Chris worked together at architectural studio Gensler, and then followed similar career paths into visual effects, with Erick working on “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” “Stealth,” and “Iron Man 2.”

Erick has an incredible array of stories from the worlds of visual effects and the music industry. He tells Chris how he almost incinerated Stephen Stills, chatted to Eric Clapton at a laundromat, and rearranged the Eagles’ Glenn Frey’s Internet Explorer bookmarks—for three days.

There’s some sound advice for creatives here, too, including how to avoid creative burnouts—and how not to make short films. There’s also a surreal but gruesome explanation of what it’s like to have cataract surgery under local anesthetic.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast103_ErickSchiele.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:55am PDT

Since November 2, 2014, Chris Nichols has interviewed 99 people for the CG Garage Podcast. Legendary photography Norman Seeff, architectural pioneer Art Gensler and director Wes Ball are among some of the big name guests who’ve graced the Chaos Group recording suite. But it’s also served as a platform to discuss the deeper and more esoteric nature of just about anything CG related, as well as Chaos Group’s new products.

For this extra special live episode, Chris’ guests are two of the hottest directors in Hollywood right now: Tim Miller (“Deadpool”) and Joseph Kosinski (“TRON: Legacy,” “Oblivion”). Both come from backgrounds in CGI and VFX, and they offer indispensable insights on how Hollywood works.

Tim talks about the casualties of Blur Studio’s Nerf battles, why he’s not involved in “Deadpool 2,” and the tantalizing animated sci-fi project he’s working on next. In his podcast debut, Joe tells us about his rise from architectural imagery to cutting-edge blockbusters, and “Granite Mountain,” his forthcoming feature film.

You should tune in whether it’s your first or your hundredth listen. And here’s to another 100 podcasts!


Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast100_TimMiller_JoeKosinski.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:02pm PDT

David Lee Strasberg is the son of Lee Strasberg, the acting coach who introduced the method theory of acting to Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Marlon Brando. David has followed in his father’s footsteps, serving as an acting coach and actor in his own right.

But why was he at this year’s THU festival in Portugal, and why did Chris record this podcast with him? It turns out that digital and 3D art has a lot in common with acting: it’s all about faking things. And they’re both about embracing passion, and changing your approach to art so you get it right.

Strasberg’s knowledge of all things theatrical has a lot of relevance to digital humans, too—especially when it comes to avoiding a trip down the uncanny valley. It’s a blindsider of a podcast, and David’s thoughts on how we recognize and interact with fellow humans are literally mind-blowing.

The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute []

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast98_DavidLeeStrasberg.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:32pm PDT

The internet, and its content, has become as precision-tooled and refined as a jet fighter—or a rendering engine. In this illuminating podcast, VFX writer and editor Ian Failes talks about creating articles and videos for an audience which is bombarded with information from the moment they wake up.

He and Chris talk at great length about the success of the CG garage podcast, what it means to be Fireballed, and how press releases have reshaped journalism. For video producers among you, Ian and Chris also share some secrets to making amazing filmed content. Newman from Seinfeld even gets a mention, which surely doesn’t happen enough these days.

Vfxblog, Ian’s site []
Masters of FX, Ian’s book []

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast97_IanFailes.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:10pm PDT

Mikki Willis joined Chris at THU festival for this surprisingly philosophical and anthropological podcast. Mikki had established himself as a music video director, with a career beckoning in feature films, when he found himself at the site of Ground Zero on September 11, 2001. The horrific events of that day caused him to completely re-evaluate his life and his career.

From that terrible experience, a deeply thoughtful man has emerged. He’s full of advice for artists, such as how to balance humankind’s innate desire to create with the 21st century’s demands of cashflow and celebrity status. He also talks to Chris about how to nurture talent in young children by destroying technology, and how ending up in a submarine – both metaphorically and literally – can be a good thing.
It’s a vital listen for CG artists who want to inject a little soul into their work.

Elevate, Mikki’s film festival []
Mikki’s official site []

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast96_MikkiWillis.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:04am PDT