Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Design (and Animate) Like a Rockstar

Eugene Riecansky, founder and CEO of Rockstar, a motion graphics company based in Norwich, East Anglia, gave a superb talk at the recent BlueGFX Expo in London titled "How to Design like a Rockstar". 

It was an excellent talk because it brought to life the extraordinarily fast-paced nature of doing video work for clients, working to insane deadlines to create unique video content for bands doing live gigs and performances.

Norwich, East Anglia
Rockstar logo
Eugene described Norwich as a "great place to live, but a terrible place to run a company". Without a large local talent pool, they use "lots of freelancers", often working from home, and are constantly on the lookout for animation and VFX talent.

At Rockstar, Eugene and his team "love creating beautiful moving imagery." Those images can part of a film, a cool motion graphics sequence for tour visuals (especially bands on tour), or 3D animation used on a music video.

Rockstar got their start in the late 1990s doing websites for bands like the Sugar Babes, which they described as "a great way to get in with bands", because at the time, everyone needed a website. And, because of slow download speeds (remember dial-up?) Rockstar started to create simple video games to play online, "just so you had something to do while you waited for the site to load up".

Rockstar work to crazy deadlines, "making the very best imagery we can" in the time available. Over the last 18 years in the business their clients have included Madonna, Pixar, Autodesk, TBWA, Universal Records, Vivienne Westwood, Mission, and The Prodigy.  Lots of their work is visuals for live projections at concerts and gigs.  They have to be good, and fast, and deliver a great product in a big hurry.

They have to turn work around incredibly fast, with ridiculous deadlines, often getting a brief on Friday afternoon for delivery on Monday morning. As Eugene put it: "yes, it’s nuts, but that’s our industry". And, "if you don’t want to work hard and fast, don’t get into this business".

Old Tech, New Tech
Part of their visual style is that they "try to make it [the work] look different". They "use Letraset, fax machines, photocopies, typewriters – using old tech to mix it up, now that everyone is using digital tools". If everyone else is using "the same digital tools", then you need to do something different so it doesn't all look the same.

The process
Rockstar "start off building stuff in Maya". As ever, "you start with the blank canvas. What are we gonna make? Clue: "it’s always a skull".  Rendering is done in RenderMan.

"Make something in Maya, run it through Nuke, and make a bunch of different clips. Add hue shifts and flickers". Clients want “as much stuff as they can get their hands on”; they "give the clips to the travelling Veejay, and then re-purpose that material".

So it’s all about creating multiple variations on their work.

They edit in Premiere, and always "cut on the beat". They do tons of stuff with neon signs - "everyone wants neon signs, it seems".  They end up doing an Instagram version, a 16/9 version....multiple edits.

The work tends to be "fast and frantic", with rapid cuts.

You can see their Demo Reel here:

Rockstar are "always looking for talent". They hire versatile artists who love 3D, motion graphics, video editing, and can work to tough deadlines. A love of bands and Rock and Roll is a big plus. To apply for a position, follow this link.

Companies like Rockstar are a reminder of how big and broad our industry has become in recent years. Animation is everywhere, and the skills our students learn can be applied to a wide variety of media in many different industries. Character animation, creature animation, motion graphics, surgical animation - and even creating content for rock bands.

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