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.

Few people have seen the rise of VFX like Kelly Port and Matt Butler. Over the course of 25 years, they’ve risen from digital artists to VFX supervisors at effects powerhouse Digital Domain. The watershed moment for both was their work on Titanic, and they discuss the million-dollar computers used to generate the 2TB of effects in the film.

Of course, software and hardware have moved on a great deal since Jack and Rose's perilous adventure. Kelly talks about the groundbreaking technology and performance capture which made Avengers: Infinity War’s CG supervillain Thanos a reality, and Matt discusses his input on Ender’s Game and Ready Player One. They also muse about what makes Digital Domain a great place to work and their tactics for avoiding conflict and nurturing talent.

Kelly and Matt have great chemistry with one another and Chris, and you’ll hear about their experiences of working with actors Dan Stevens and Josh Brolin, and directors Steven Spielberg and Gavin Hood. Plus, there’s a bonus pearl of wisdom from none other than Ron Howard.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast202_MatthewButler_KellyPort_DD.mp3
Category:VFX -- posted at: 10:47am PST

Games have compelling narratives worthy of Hollywood movies — so it should come as no surprise that cinematic talent is swapping cameras for controllers. Joining Chris this week are two men who've made the leap and now work on EA's blockbuster Madden sports franchise.

Producer Robin Cowie went from Nickelodeon idents to box office phenomenon The Blair Witch Project, which taught him how to tell a first-person narrative on a tight budget. Animation director Tony Stanley cut his teeth on Disney classics The Lion King, Lilo and Stitch, and Mulan, the latter of which has just turned 20 — and had an enduring legacy in the Chinese animation industry.

The pair tell Chris how they created Madden NFL 18: Longshot and Madden NFL 19: Longshot Homecoming campaigns, which seamlessly mix dramatic player-driven branching stories with action from the gridiron. You’ll find out about the technology and techniques Robin and Tony use to create and edit in-game cinematics, how they fashion game design documents into scripts and why motion capture has become a vital part of the realism of modern games.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast201_RobinCowie_TonyStanley_EA.mp3
Category:Games -- posted at: 11:38am PST

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 PST

One of the best things about THU is having so many world-class experts in one place — something Chris took advantage of when he assembled this panel for a discussion on digital humans. The superstar lineup consisted of digital Rembrandt Ian Spriggs, CG pioneer Paul Debevec, ILM’s chief re-animator Hal Hickel, acclaimed anatomy artist Scott Eaton, and Naughty Dog lead character artist Frank Tzeng.

This debate tracks the evolution of digital characters through movies such as Spider-Man 2, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Wall-E, and The Incredibles. Chris and his guests tackle the challenges of building realistic digital humans, the shortcuts games take to present convincing characters on limited hardware, and how subtle artistic decisions can help inject personality and story. They also talk about the ethical conundrums of creating virtual people, and how the film stars of tomorrow might be AI-driven algorithms.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast199_THU2018_Humans.mp3
Category:CGI -- posted at: 11:08am PST

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

Recorded at THU, this week’s podcast guest is ILM Animation Director Hal Hickel. Inspired by Star Wars and Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion work on King Kong, Hal became an animator on hugely successful California Raisins advertisements of the 1980s. Despite initial reservations, Hal switched clay for computers on Pixar’s breakthrough CG movie Toy Story, then moved to ILM for the Star Wars prequels, A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Rango.

Thanks to his wealth of experience in character animation, Hal has become an expert on digital humans. He goes into detail on how ILM created a CG Grand Moff Tarkin for Rogue One and explains why, in this case, there were no ethical issues with digitally recreating the late Peter Cushing. He also talks about the tiny tweaks his team made to make the character look as real as possible and the dangers of getting stuck in the swamp of opinions at the bottom of the uncanny valley.

This podcast serves as a concise guide to how digital characters have evolved — and where they’re headed next.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast197_HalHickel_ILM.mp3
Category:VFX -- posted at: 11:33am PST

Alex's early career combined his passion for architecture with his love of theater, but an early experience with an Oculus Rift inspired him to move into the virtual arena. His company, Agile Lens, produces everything from quick virtual sketches to immersive photorealistic visualizations for the AEC industry.

In this podcast, Alex tells Chris why it's important to fasten your headset early on in the development process, some of the subtle cues he uses to guide participants around VR experiences, and the pros and cons of cutting-edge augmented reality gear such as the Microsoft Hololens and Magic Leap One. It concludes with an impassioned geek-out on favorite architects and dream VR architecture, as well as Alex's plans for XR Dads, a podcast on parenthood in the virtual age.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast196_AlexCoulombe_AgileLense.mp3
Category:CGI -- posted at: 2:06pm PST

THU festival is a wonderful place filled with inspiring things; among them this year was this deep-dive panel discussion on the relationship between artists and their tools.

The superstar participants include famed traditional-leaning Visual Artist Phil Hale, visionary Gnomon School Founder Alex Alvarez, and prestigious Hollywood Concept Artist and Production Designer Dylan Cole. Representing the advanced tools today’s creators use to build worlds are Lenovo’s Media & Entertainment Manager Rob Hoffmann, and Chaos Group’s Co-Founder and CEO Peter Mitev.

Chris does a great job of steering the conversation and involving all his guests, and it covers everything from the relationship between traditional and digital art, the evolution of mediums from cave paintings to Zbrush, and how AI and accurate skin shaders are changing the role of the artist. You’ll find out about the development process behind V-Ray, and how building software and hardware has many similarities with creating art.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast195_THU2018_Tools.mp3
Category:CGI -- posted at: 1:12am PST

Geoffrey Baumann’s career has propelled him around the world on some of Hollywood’s biggest movies, including his most recent role as VFX supervisor on Marvel’s record-breaking Black Panther.

Having spent time in Europe and America as a child, Geoffrey majored in public relations before becoming a PA at Digital Domain. His linguistic skills landed him a job in on-set survey and digital integration for the movie xXx — and he hasn’t stopped working on movies since.

In this podcast, recorded at THU festival, Geoffrey discusses how he’s gone from the bottom to the top of the VFX industry via movies such as The Time Machine, Real Steel, and Iron Man 3. He talks about how he’s seen projects go from film to digital, and from a few hundred effects shots to thousands.


You’ll discover what it’s like to work with the characters behind the scenes of Black Panther, the importance of his PR training, and how he’s rapidly becoming an important part of the Marvel family.

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast194_GeoffreyBaumann.mp3
Category:VFX -- posted at: 11:31am PST

At Google’s Cloud Next ‘18 event in San Francisco earlier this year, a small team of CG artists and Google technicians took part in an audacious experiment: to create a Hollywood-quality animated short film in just three days. Fortunately, the team had a little help from Google’s Cloud Platform, a scalable and versatile system which gave them a huge amount of remote computing power.

In this enlightening podcast, Google Cloud Platform’s Adrian Graham and CG artist D. Ryan Reeb talk about the various pieces of technology which made Robot Dance Party possible: Teradici’s PCoIP remote workstations, Bebop’s orchestration layer, and Zync’s queue manager, as well as Maya, V-Ray for Maya and After Effects.

Adrian does a fantastic job of breaking down each component and explaining how it fits into Google Cloud’s slick infrastructure, while Ryan is a living testament to how it can save vital time on the front line of visual effects. Both also offer their thoughts on the future of cloud rendering, and how it will dramatically change the way the studios of tomorrow will be set up.

Want to try rendering on the cloud? Chaos Group is currently offering free rendering credits for anyone who takes part in our Google-powered V-Ray Cloud beta. Try it now!

Direct download: CGGarage_Podcast193_AdrianGraham_RyanReeb_GoogleCloud.mp3
Category:CGI -- posted at: 4:07pm PST