Thursday, 28 June 2012

REVERSION: Production Focus Interview @ BlenderNews

Recently completed an interview for BlenderNews regarding our film REVERSION. You can read about the interview here: PRODUCTION FOCUS: REVERSION

The editors must have felt my original answer detailing the team members was too long.  At any rate, you can finally read all about the principal team members in detail here.

N.B.: To all the fans and the faithful who have been checking in regularly... 
You won't have to wait long now.
Start counting down those days, my friends....
(Magic Movie Machine Team Roster profiles after the Page Break) 

Principal Team Members

Under Artwork, Visual Effects and Animation:  
Sidney Carlos Moraes, Jr. - Sid is from Brazil and he's actually quite
experienced.  In many ways he was our mentor throughout this project
but surprisingly he joined in much later - after Pre-Production had
started.  Sid had worked on the Blender Institute project "Yo! Frankie".  
I wasn't aware of his experience at the time and what we were really
looking for was a person who could do Rigging and Animation to a level
required for the 1 minute Pre-Production test reel.  The Rigging and
Animation wasn't really working and I saw his reel and thinking he was
"another student", I emailed him and pitched to him REVERSION.  I
still thought he was a student after he joined because he joined
rather quickly and was very eager to volunteer.  It only dawned upon
me later that he was actually quite experienced.  But because he was
also doing TV ads in Brazil he couldn't actually do more for REVERSION
except give advice on the File structure, the project management
structure, and most importantly, to give us some real working
information on how Blender's Linked Group system worked.  Our group
had previously assumed the technology was not functioning properly but
Sid advised us on this and it became the key technology behind
REVERSION.  Sid also did a lot of the Creature Rigging and upgraded
our Ethercorp Soldier rig to include control shapes and IK features.
Sid was very assertive about bringing the project up to speed by using
online storage media and by making sure the rigs were as close to
standard as he could get them within his spare time.  In the end, Sid
didn't get to do a lot of the animation which I think he would have
been superb at.  But he was very instrumental in really upgrading the
production from the inside and enabling the less-experienced members
of this team to reach a respectable result.

Mitchell Sahl - Our story with Mitch is not unlike those stories you
hear about how people got into the Visual Effects field.  Mitch is an
Architecture student in Australia.  In his spare time he was playing
around with Blender and, oddly enough, he was doing explosions and
other visual effects of the destructive kind using mostly World War II
planes and vehicles that he modeled himself.  Around February or March
2010, me and a colleague were looking at the script for what became
REVERSION and we were set to begin Pre-Production.  Remember, we knew
nothing about how this project was even going to be possible at the
"student level".  The script called for some gunfire and explosions.
And that is when I started looking at various forums.  
Then I spotted a video Mitch was sharing featuring a fighter
plane doing a strafing run on a destroyer or some other craft.  It had
an explosion in it which I felt was a good fit for what we wanted in
REVERSION.  So I pitched REVERSION to Mitch and the concept was that
instead of doing spare time blowing up stuff at random, he could blow
up stuff while following the script and storyboard.  Mitch is one of
those students that really shifted into high gear as REVERSION
progressed.  Originally we thought that Mitch would do the explosions
and pyrotechnics and we'd assemble other people to do other aspects.
But it soon became apparent Mitch had a real flair for a lot of the
things that constitute a VFX strategy for animated films.  He was
sensitive to lighting, colors, shadows.  Many of these things he
wasn't able to test or discover without working on REVERSION.
Importantly, Mitch is also very organized and very good at managing
his own time.  When I see parts of the film, I can see the areas where
Mitch's ambition for the images exceeded my own risk-controlled view.
It is not that I wasn't ambitious, but I had already worked out which
shots were going to be risky.  But as the project developed, and Mitch
grew into the role of VFX Technical Director for the film, he became
more and more daring in how to attack the riskier shots.  In time, I
too became confident in his assessment of shots that previously seemed
risky.  And in that way, Mitch's role in this film is very important.

William Oglesby - Will is the very first collaborator on REVERSION and
he had worked with me before on a previous animated short.  When
REVERSION started, among the members of the group who were students,
Will was I believe, the only one who wanted to really pursue the field
of CG animation as a profession.  A lot of REVERSION was about young
people getting onboard where we would try to fit them into a role.
Will fit naturally in the role of hard surface modeler, Compositor and
VFX co-Technical Director.  But Will's single most regular
contribution was something akin to his VFX role in that he was
constantly pushing REVERSION to be as close as possible to the standard of
professionally made CG animation.  The best thing about Will was that
he wasn't satisfied with just sitting there and harping about it.  He
would fire up Blender and demonstrate what he felt was a good
direction.  So while he spent the last 2 years basically deriding
everything in REVERSION that didn't look good, he also did his share
in exploring directions to make it better.  This combined with some
very good hard-surface modeling and detailing in the sets and props
makes it clear that Will has his mark on this picture.  Will also
completed the modeling of the creature for REVERSION when Ravi
couldn't complete the character's model.

Stefano Marcias - Stefano was the last team member to join us and his
role was focused on VFX, Lighting, and Rendering.  He came in at a
critical time when Mitch and Will had both become loaded with family
and University responsibilities.  Stefano essentially had to come
onboard relying mostly on documentation that Mitch had written based
on the lessons learned from REVERSION's Pre-Production and VFX work.
Stefano's true strength was in doing still renders.  He had never
worked on an animated project prior to REVERSION, but within a week or
so, he had a very good grasp of how we were lighting the sets and
actors and pretty soon Stefano was already up to speed.  This
crucially meant that important sequences that Mitch and Will couldn't
help with completing and rendering were now on-the-move in the hands
of someone else.  All three basically working from a set of solutions
directed into producing images of the same consistency.  Stefano works
as a programmer most of the time, and he eventually helped in
providing us with an FTP facility that was important in storing and
transmitting the HD images for the film.  When Mitch and Will
eventually came back later they found that Stefano had actually
completed, to a very good standard, a significant part of the film's
lighting and VFX work.  The August 8, 2012 date would not have been
possible without Stefano's arrival.

Brian Truhlar - I think the best description for Brian Truhlar is that
he is almost a "Guest Artist".  Truhlar built an incredible set that I
cannot describe here because it is actually in a part of the film we
are not yet revealing.  People should check out his Cinderella Castle
over at Vimeo.  He's that good.

Anton Victor Espelita - Anton is the person who, in combination with
some of his own rigging and the rigging done by Sid, finally hit the
mark we were looking for with the motion of the actors for REVERSION.
Anton is from the Philippines and together, he and I constitute the
only Filipino team members on REVERSION.  Anton's method of animation
primarily involves video footage and thumbnails.  But Anton's true
gift is the incredible speed at which he can key-frame animation.
Frequently his motion output requires only minor fixes if any fixes
are needed at all.  You can see more of Anton's work on
where he does some short animation "just for kicks".
REVERSION is the first time Anton had to animate motion of a
complexity higher than the run-and-gun material that he was accustomed
to and REVERSION is the longest film he has worked on to date.

Ravi Sampath - Ravi is a talented artist from Sri-Lanka.  When
REVERSION started Ravi was still in school, but by the time REVERSION
was in the middle of production, Ravi found himself joining the
workforce in Sri Lanka.  This cut short his active participation in
the film, but his contribution to the movie is something memorable -
He created the "face" of the creature featured in REVERSION.  Ravi was
adamant about making sure the creature had the proper topology and to
that end the resulting topology in the face and head area is very
intricate.  It also provided a very strong launchpad for Will and
others who helped complete the final creature actor.

Wes Talbott - Wes was studying art in Colombus, Ohio when he joined
REVERSION as the main Concept Artist and Texture Painter.  Wes quickly
became very busy with actual commissions as REVERSION progressed, but
fortunately that didn't stop him from producing some very nice texture
maps, particularly for the creature.  
While I provided the initial concept artwork for 
the characters, Wes was the one who made them more solid and added his 
own input to the armored suit and to the creature's scale patterns and 
colors.  His parting shot on this film is
the promotional artwork and poster that really represents his strong
sense of the image.  

Ben Hansen - Ben is a friend of Mitch's who was brought in to help out
with some of the animation and other tasks.  Ben fulfilled his role
quietly.  His involvement gradually decreased when he became more
involved in his life as a firefighter.

Music, Audio, and Other Talent:
Jeffrey Alan Pitts - Jeff is actually a very experienced Sound Designer
 who has worked on programs for Spike TV, LEGO promos, and the
web series "RCVR" over at  I first met Jeff when he
answered a posting I left behind in a forum looking for a Composer.
Jeff had become interested in REVERSION due to its unusual and
action-oriented nature and agreed to volunteer.  Jeff combines a very
professional outlook on the project with an additional perspective in
that Jeff truly believes in helping to tell the story around the
images through the use of sound.  Jeff is also extremely efficient and
clever with the use of his tools.

Daniela Hummel - Jeff's girlfriend.  She is part of Jeff's Sound Design team.
 She is also a fine actress while away from REVERSION.  Jeff should
not have been so lucky to have an actress girlfriend.  But he is.

Dan Eckert - A young German Composer, we spotted Dan Eckert on
YouTube replacing the musical scores on short scenes in blockbuster
films probably because he thought it was good fun.  We felt it would
be more fun for him to do musical scores for us to expand his
learning.  He agreed and the rest is history.

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