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.

You may not have heard of Donna Smith — but she’s one of the most important players behind the scenes in Hollywood. Over the course of almost 40 years, she’s been instrumental in the production of 157 movies, including Raging Bull, The Terminator, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List and The Matrix. She’s also the first woman to serve as President of Physical Production and Post Production at Universal Pictures.

Despite her enviable career and powerful position, Donna is down-to-earth and affable in this podcast. She offers invaluable advice for anyone looking to get ahead in the film industry, including who you should get to know, the importance of the “business” in show business, and getting started in the seven-year process from script to screen.

This is a must-listen for movie fans, and Donna’s tales of working with Marty (Scorsese), Bobby (DeNiro) and Sly (Stallone) are every bit as inspirational as the films she’s helped bring to the silver screen.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast198_DonnaSmith.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:27am PST

This podcast features Aaron Kupferman, an expert on the intertwined fields of CGI and photography. He's served as compositor on movies such as Avengers: Infinity War, Alice in Wonderland, and upcoming Statham vs. Shark film The Meg. But he’s also an unbelievably talented photographer, effortlessly shifting between shiny automobiles, expansive land and cityscapes, and dwarfing time-lapse photos of the night sky.

Despite having a lot of photography equipment, Aaron highlights the importance of good technique over tech. He explains how imaginative photographers can compose and light great pictures with little more than a sheet of paper and a lamp, he delves into his dramatic shots of fast-moving cars, and describes his home-made time-lapse kit for capturing the night sky.

Aaron also gives insight into his life in technology and CG, from an early start in radio communications with a space shuttle, to how to render shots for action movies.

If you want to know what to do - and what not to do - to create amazing photographs and renders, this is the podcast for you.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast182_AaronKupferman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:22pm PST

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 PST

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 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

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 PST

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 PST

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 PST

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 PST

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 [http://www.methodactingstrasberg.com/]

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


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 [https://vfxblog.com/]
Masters of FX, Ian’s book [https://www.amazon.com/Masters-FX-Geniuses-Special-Effects/dp/1138845965/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1478277617&sr=8-1&keywords=masters+of+fx]

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

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 [http://elevate.us/]
Mikki’s official site [http://www.mikkiwillis.com/main.html]

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

It’s hard to imagine what games would be like without “Half-Life 2.” Released in 2004, Valve’s sci-fi shooter set a new precedent in game design, marrying realistic characters with an involving story which propels the player through awe-inspiring environments.

As a concept artist and character designer at Valve, Moby Francke was a driving force behind the game’s groundbreaking look and feel. He found himself working at the company almost accidentally, and he had to adjust to a new world of digital art and gaming. But he became a key player on the company’s games, including “Team Fortress 2,” “Portal,” and “Left 4 Dead.”

In this podcast, Moby tells Chris about his unconventional career, and his early years in the hinterland of Washington DC and the lush tropics of the Virgin Islands. He also chats about his thoughts on character versus environment design, the influence of Eastern European architecture on “Half-Life 2,” and the joys of inspiring a new generation of talent at the THU festival.

Moby’s official site http://mobyfrancke.com/
Moby’s profile on THU https://trojan-unicorn.com/main-event/knights/moby-francke

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast95_MobyFrancke.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:06am PST

Any film buff will know the name Stan Winston. The special effects legend created the titular monsters from “The Terminator,” “The Thing,” and “Predator.” He was a key player in Hollywood’s transition from practical to digital effects in the early 90s, and he constantly pushed the boundaries of his craft.

Sadly, Stan passed away in 2008, but his legacy lives on through a formidable collection of blockbuster films—and his son, Matt. In this podcast, recorded at THU, Matt reveals a more human side to the man who made monsters, describing him as a cross between Father Christmas and Dr Frankenstein. He also discusses the blend of art and technology in both practical and digital effects, how his father performed an autopsy on Chewbacca’s head, and why “Jurassic Park’s” T-Rex was even scarier on set.

As Matt mentions, Stan’s deep knowledge of effects has inspired the founding of the Stan Winston School of Character Arts, an online university with courses in everything from makeup to marionettes to miniature cities. It’s an awesome resource—even if all your sculpting is done digitally.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast92_MattWinston.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PST

Many people think of a Hollywood director as someone who’s egotistical, brash and shouty. That’s not the case with Brenda Chapman. The artist turned writer turned director comes across as humble, unassuming and honest in her conversation with Chris. And maybe her personality has had a big part in her success as a director of “The Prince of Egypt” and “Brave,” the latter of which made her the first female director to receive the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.

The idea of women working in such a notoriously male-dominated industry is something Brenda talks about a lot, and she shares some horrific tales of casual sexism in the Hollywood studios. But she also talks about learning from some of the industry’s unsung heroes, the differences between directing live action and animation, and how her relationship with her daughter inspired “Brave’s” storyline.

This episode is an absolute treat which is both informative and touching.

Brenda's official website http://brenda-chapman.com/
Brenda's IMDb page http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0152312/

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast91_BrendaChapman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:45pm PST

No podcast this week but I figured I would give people a preview of some of the amazing ones we have that will be coming up soon.

 

Direct download: Podcast_THU2016Preview.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:52pm PST

In 1979, George Miller’s directorial debut Mad Max shocked cinema audiences around the world. It existed at a perfect intersection of blockbuster and Australian new wave cinema, knitted together with a punkish spirit and comic book aesthetic. Its sequel, 1981’s The Road Warrior, heightened the action and established Max as a true action hero, while 1986’s Beyond Thunderdome explored the fringes of the franchise’s crazy apocalyptic world. After an almost 30-year-hiatus Max returned to the big screen last year in the universally acclaimed Fury Road.

For this podcast, living movie database Daniel Thron discusses what works and what doesn’t in this hugely popular and influential series of movies, whether Tina Turner can ever play anyone other than Tina Turner, and how the films’ tight edits and dramatic scores create horror and excitement.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast81_DanThron2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:20pm PST

Starting a new CG Garage series, Dan Thron and Christopher Nichols discuss movies. We start with an in depth look at the Star Wars saga. We discuss why we each think that Empire is the best of all present 7 movies. Daniel also tells us his version of that Episode 6 should have been and why they have been trying to correct from their "mistake" ever since. We hope to do many more of these.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast60_DanThron_02_2016.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:23pm PST

Last week we spoke to Norman Seeff about his response to our discussion on the Uncanny Valley. This week, we spoke to Oleg Alexander, a member of the Digital Human League about his work at the Institute of Creative Technology and his response and feelings on Norman's point of view of the subject. We are also joined by Stephen Parker who is also a member of the Digital Human League.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast47_OlegAlexander.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00am PST

There are those moments in your life where you feel lucky to have met someone special. I got a chance to sit down with Norman Seeff one on one for over an hour which was was one of those moments for me. While many people may not know his name, everyone knows his work. He has made his fame through the most honest and real photographs he took of celebrities over the last several decades. He managed to capture so much life in each photograph that I felt compelled to ask him about the Uncanny Valley. His very diverse careers made him the perfect person to explore what is missing in the valley. The short answer is: consciousness.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast46_NormanSeeff.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:06pm PST

Director Ruairi Robinson recently made the news when Fox picked up Leviathan, based on the teaser that he put out on the internet. Ruairi, a member of our Digital Film League, has a long history in filmmaking and CG. He was nominated for an Oscar for his short Fifty Percent Gray in 2002 and has produced several other great pieces such as his short Blinky.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast30_RuairiRonbinson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:14pm PST

How often to you hear people say: "It was so much better in the old days of special effects, now it is just all done on computers." There is a perception that VFX is easy, and that we, the artists, simply push a few buttons and it is all done. One of the places I often hear this is a place I actually have a huge respect for: the Nerdist podcast. I'd like to call on our listeners to listen to this podcast, then help us let Nerdist know, as follow nerds, we need their help to teach the world to #RespectVFX.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast17_RespectVFX_01.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:27am PST

There are several people at Chaos Group that have actual Architecture Degrees. We figured that since three of us happen to be in LA at the same time, lets have a chat about it. Corey Rubadue is the Director of our Baltimore Office, Lon Grohs is our Chief Commercial Officer, and Christopher Nichols is the Creative Director. We chat about our history, we chat about how the art of architectural illustration. We chat about how CG changed things and now has become the norm. We even chat about the future.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast8_01.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:13pm PST

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