Hosted by Christopher Nichols, the CG Garage podcast is part of the Chaos Group Labs. We talk to our friends, find out what they are doing, talk about what we are doing, and generally look at all things that interest us including CGI, VFX, Design, Rendering, Raytracing, and any other CG Nerdy stuff.

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Syndication

Eric Durst’s career path has gone hand-in-hand with the evolution of visual effects from the early 80s to the present day. This CalArts animation graduate’s first job was in commercials in New York, which proved to be a hotbed of early visual effects techniques. He moved to Los Angeles, where he animated the disc battle for landmark 1982 movie “Tron,” and became a key employee at Dream Quest, one of the very first visual effects houses.

In this thought-provoking interview, Eric talks about the pain and pleasure of the early days of visual effects, through to his supervision work on “Spider-Man 2,” “Snowpiercer,” and “Gods of Egypt.” If you’ve ever wondered why some effects shots use green screens and some use blue, Eric has your answer, and he discusses how vain actors can create a lot of headaches for visual effects artists.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast114_EricDurst.mp3
Category:VFX -- posted at: 5:08pm PDT

Chris Wells has worked on some of the biggest films of the past 20 years, including “300,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Although Chris wanted to be a park ranger, he was drawn to computing in the most 80s way possible: a nerd friend, Sigue Sigue Sputnik albums, and software pirated via BBS and five-and-a-quarter floppies. A chance encounter with SGI machines, and a love for early CGI videos on TV show “Night Flight,” gave Chris the impetus to follow his dreams.

In this podcast, Chris offers some amazing insight into the best practices for working on movies. He explains why it’s best to talk directors and producers out of relying on CGI, and how crucial it is to thoroughly prepare for post-production when you’re in the pre-production phase. He finishes with an exclusive behind-the-scenes discussion of his upcoming movie “Vague City.”

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast112_ChrisWells.mp3
Category:VFX -- posted at: 3:33pm PDT

This candid, illuminating podcast is two hours of pure heaven for anyone interested in the history of special and visual effects. Michael Fink’s career began almost 40 years ago, when he created the computers for nuclear thriller “The China Syndrome.” Over the next few years, he’d sit in a darkened room with a tesla coil for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” raid components store Apex Electronics to build “Blade Runner’s” Voight-Kampff machine, and sync multiple projectors, monitors and cameras for “WarGames.”

In the digital era, Mike talks about how “Batman Returns’” effects are an underappreciated milestone in the history of CG, tight post-production periods on the first two “X-Men” movies, and the trials and tribulations of “The Golden Compass’” effects.

Mike currently serves as a professor at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, where he’s passing on his years of experience to a new generation of filmmakers. His thoughts on digital humans are an invaluable end to an interview with a true legend of the visual effects industry.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast111-MikeFink.mp3
Category:VFX -- posted at: 8:02pm PDT

Steven Lisberger’s 1982 movie Tron was way ahead of its time. As the first film to have major CG set replacement and full CG shots, it paved the way for the likes of “Jurassic Park,” “Toy Story,” “Avatar,” and many more. Its story investigated ideas of cyberspace and simulated worlds a long time before the internet and virtual reality became part of popular culture.

One of the men behind “Tron” was its computer effects supervisor Richard Taylor. Aptly, Chris joined Richard for a drink at the real-world location which served as Flynn’s bar in “Tron” before recording this illuminating podcast.

Richard is a fascinating character with a sly sense of humor and a vast catalog of stories from the early days of CGI in Hollywood. He tells Chris about how a piece of stationery proved to be key to his career, arguments with “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry about the practicality of the Starship Enterprise’s doors, and utterly baffling the Academy with “Tron’s” CG effects.

The podcast finishes with Richard talking about Eymerce, a headset free immersive reality system which sounds well suited to some “Tron”-like experiences.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast107_RichardTaylor.mp3
Category:VFX -- posted at: 9:31pm PDT

Inspired by effects magazine Cinefex and repeated viewings of “Star Wars,” Dutch compositor and environments artist Justin van der Lek used professional breakdancing to fund a degree in graphic design. Then he jetted to LA to follow his dreams.

As Justin discusses with Chris, his first role was in the mysterious world of integration, which receives a comprehensive explanation. As his career progressed, he discovered an affinity for NUKE, using it to develop a facial projection rig for Jet Li’s face in “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.” From here, he went on to create groundbreaking environments for “Real Steel” and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," as well as compositing on "The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies" and much more.

This is an essential listen if you want to know more about the technical aspects of compositing, and how it’s shifted from a 2D to a 3D tool. But, more than this, the podcast tells Justin’s story, which wraps ups nicely with his “Star Wars” fandom and breakdancing skills both coming into play.

Justin van der Lek on IMDb
Justin van der Lek’s 2011 showreel

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast105_JustinvanderLek.mp3
Category:VFX -- posted at: 4:05pm PDT

Chris’ guest for this episode is Ed Ulbrich, President and General Manager, Deluxe VFX and VR. He’s Digital Domain’s former CCO and CEO, and when the effects company faced financial difficulties a few years ago, Ed did a heroic job of reassuring staff and providing transparent answers to difficult questions.

Ed also spearheaded the VFX industry’s experiments with digital head replacements. Back in 1999 he helped transplant James Brown’s digital visage onto a younger dancer for Seattle’s Experience Music Project back in 1999. He led the team which reanimated Orville Redenbacher for the unintentionally creepy commercial, then perfected the tech with a digitally-aged Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and the late Tupac Shakur’s CG headline performance at Coachella in 2012.

Ed talks about his new role at Deluxe, which is arguably the biggest effects company in LA. He also discusses his role as VFX producer on “Suicide Squad,” and the potential of virtual reality in movie making

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast104_EdUlbrich.mp3
Category:VFX -- posted at: 5:19pm PDT

Ever since the T-Rex stomped onto the screen in 1993, audiences have been captivated by “Jurassic Park.” Steven Spielberg’s film heralded a new era of family-oriented event movies, and Chris has already discussed the film’s groundbreaking effects with Matt Winston and Steve “Spaz” Williams and Mark Dippe.
In this podcast, Dan and Chris thoroughly eviscerate the franchise in velociraptor-like fashion. They examine the good and bad of each film, from “Jurassic Park’s” fresh take on ageing tropes, to “The Lost World’s” incredible set pieces, to “Jurassic Park III’s” competent adventure, and “Jurassic World’s” attempt to re-engineer the story and themes for a modern audience.
In doing so, they cover the way the MPAA has shaped movie making, the joys of musicals, and the dearth of creativity in franchise films. And there’s a hilarious moment where you can literally hear Chris’ jaw drop at the mention of Brett Ratner’s name.

 

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast101_DanielThron_JurassicPark.mp3
Category:VFX -- posted at: 5:07pm PDT

Steve “Spaz” Williams and Mark Dippe’s story is Hollywood material in itself. The pair found themselves working at ILM to create the watery creatures in James Cameron’s “The Abyss,” and they worked with the director again on the menacing liquid metal T-1000 in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

But the crux of their story comes behind the scenes at Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park.” The pair were met with scepticism when they said the dinosaurs could be rendered with CG technology, and had to work in secret to create test renders. But they ultimately won the team over with their realistic creatures, which stand up to scrutiny to this day.

It’s a hugely enjoyable podcast. Steve and Mark are tremendous characters who bonded over a love of Alice Cooper, and they come across as part rebellious teens, part buddy cop partners, and part bickering elderly couple. In the nicest possible way.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast93_SpazAndMark.mp3
Category:VFX -- posted at: 6:58pm PDT

Darin Grant’s hugely important career in the visual effects industry has been one of choices. When he started at Digital Domain in the early 90s he had to choose between its gaming and visual effects departments. He discusses the differences between the Perl and Python programming languages. And, in his role on the committee of the Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards, he has to jostle the merits of production ray-tracing renderers against life-size animatronic horses.

As one of the industry’s key players, and he’s happy to share the immense knowledge he’s gained from working at companies including Google, Method Studios, and Autodesk. Listen to find out how Darin’s grandmother understood his work on What Dreams May Come, his thoughts on the future of cloud-based rendering how it lowers the barriers to entry, and his fascination with video conferencing technology.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast88_DarinGrant.mp3
Category:VFX -- posted at: 9:52pm PDT

Roland Emmerich has carved a career for himself in Hollywood as the guy who destroys cities and envisages the end of the world. In films such as “Independence Day,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” and “Godzilla,” he depicts aliens, climate change and giant lizards wreaking havoc around the world. He’s often overlooked as a major force who completely changed the sheer scale of Hollywood movies.

Fellow German Volker Engel has been behind Roland most of the way. He started out overseeing the practical effects in Roland’s early movies “Moon 44” and “Universal Soldier,” before providing the large-scale destruction for “Independence Day.” At the same time, Volker and fellow German effects guru Marc Weigert founded Uncharted Territory, an innovative pop-up visual effects studio which has even made its own movies.

Here, Volker talks to Chris about everything from his early days in Super 8 animation to realtime visual effects via ncam, and the challenges of scaling back production for Roland’s (comparatively) low-budget 2011 film “Anonymous.”

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast86_VolkerEngel.mp3
Category:VFX -- posted at: 9:16pm PDT