Anki Vector: “The Good Robot: The Decision”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: The Mill
AGENCY: Wieden + Kennedy
DIRECTOR: Nick Gordon

This company went out of business earlier this year. Not sure what that says about the marketing behind this unusual product. But the spot I worked on delivered the VFX goods, nonetheless.

Think of Siri as a mini-tractor-like robot that mostly makes a lot of R2-D2 noises and moves around. Hmmm … now, that I think about it, maybe its failure was written from the start.

Anyway, I enjoyed contributing to this one, mainly due to the “Get Out” vibe, as well as the Skynet references, and all manner of technophobia. Lots of clean up, product beauty, and CG robot dogs and drones.

IBM: “Smart Drive”

ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / VFX Compositor & Finisher
VENDOR: The Mill
AGENCY: Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide – NY

Fairly straightforward racing spot that somehow acts as metaphor for IBM’s latest tech. Real cars and CG crowds. Lots of retimes, with accompanying time warp cleanup. And a few logo removals here and there – mainly cars and helmets.

Comcast Xfinity: “Summer Project” | “Long Distance Relationship” | “When 2 Becomes 5”

Comcast Xfinity: “Summer Project”

Comcast Xfinity: “Long Distance Relationship”

Comcast Xfinity: “When 2 Becomes 5”

ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / VFX Compositor & Finisher
VENDOR: The Mill
AGENCY: Goodby Silverstein & Partners

The gag for these Xfinity spots is the continuous and seamless “one-take” shot. Of course, each is comprised of many shots, not all continuous, nor seamless, with all types of nudging and fudging to get the transitional moments to align. Consequently, some spots flow more smoothly than others, each relying on their own visual techniques to tell the story – time-lapse, wipes, screens, morphs, etc.

The conforms were a bit tricky, getting all these elements to sync correctly, requiring a lot of counter-animation, repo’s and timewarp/speedramps, with the accompanying cleanup. Plus, an assortment of screen comps, and in some instances, rebuilding of background plates to align foreground elements.

These three spots come from a larger campaign, amounting to six in total. I chose these three, because I was the 2D lead for each. I contributed to the others, but only in a support capacity.

Intel: “The Future of Retail”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: The Mill
PRODUCTION CO: Imperial Woodpecker
DIRECTOR: Stacy Wall

The Future gets personified in this somewhat humorous spot for Intel, one of a dozen that showcases how their tech aids business and personal experiences.

My big takeaway from this project wasn’t so much the final result, as it was the techniques that went into creating it. The Future was originally supposed to be depicted as a simple glowing person, radiating Intel blue. And that’s how the project was bid and shot. Somewhere along the way, the concept changed, and The Future assumed a more hi-tech appearance.

The problem started with the absence of facial and body tracking markers, which were necessary for the hi-tech animated graphics to adhere to his skin. And of course, since the project wasn’t bid or scheduled for this change, there were no assets in place to handle the task in the given schedule. So a decision was made to tackle these tracks in Flame, using UV tracking and stabilizing techniques, and rendered unwraps with graphics assembled in After Effects.

Overall, probably not the most efficient approach to the problem, given the 12 spots, and the sheer amount of facial and arm articulation in The Future’s movements. But an interesting challenge nonetheless. It took about 2-3 weeks to handle everything, of which I was tasked with leading the charge. And honestly, it was pretty painful. But at the end of it, I had a new set of tricks to apply to any and all future projects (no pun intended).

I also handled some look development on The Future. But that task went through many hands, until The Future’s appearance was agreed upon by agency and client.

Comcast Business: “Going Up”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: The Mill
AGENCY: Ogilvy & Mather (New York)
DIRECTOR: Oskar Holmedal

I really like the technical and creative challenges of this Comcast spot. Unfortunately, I was only able to assist for the latter half of its schedule, so I didn’t get to contribute as much as I’d hoped.

That said, I handled a number of screen comps in the various rooms that are seen as the camera ascends the building. These were a bit tricky, due to the extreme nature of the camera move, as well as the accompanying lens distortion. For the most part, the standard plate undistorts and 3D tracks proved ineffective, meaning most of it had to be hand-tracked. The exterior window glass didn’t help either.

I also handled roof extensions and transitional wall patches for the opening ground level shot, up until the camera reaches the first visible office. There was a lot of give and take here, since this opening movement set the pace for the remainder of the spot.

The most exciting task I handled was the entire concluding rooftop sequence, which was shot practically, but needed extensive augmentation. All the buildings needed to be straightened, due to the natural curvature caused by the camera lens. The sky needed to be replaced, with all the integration issues that come with it – reflections, grading, lightwrap, etc. Birds were added, just because … And timing and camera movement needed additional adjustment to work seamlessly with the one-take motif utilized throughout.

Google Nest: “Talking Houses”

Google Nest: “Talking Houses: 127 Willow Lane”

Google Nest: “Talking Houses: 36 Spring Street”

Google Nest: “Talking Houses: 208 Ridge Road”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: The Mill
AGENCY: Google
PRODUCTION CO: Park Pictures
DIRECTOR: Chris Wilcha

To promote their Smart Home initiative, Google Nest opted to let the homes tell their own stories, literally. The personification of these three houses reflect memories of the families and events that have taken place within their walls. You might even recognize some of the talent lending their voices to these homes.

All three were exercises of subtlety in storytelling, crafting an idyllic and naturalistic visual narrative that signified familiarity. This meant beautifying home exteriors, landscaping yards, and augmenting various rooms, all through the wonders of 2D compositing and clean-up. The idea was to present a home that could be your own, if not in actuality, than in spirit.

Specific vignettes required additional comp work. “36 Spring Street” featured a pseudo-timelapse of its exterior remodels, as well as depictions of seasonal changes. “127 Willow Lane” had a shaggy dog that needed to blend into a shag carpet, and a load of period-related interior adjustments, particularly the conversation room. And “208 Ridge Road” had a racoon bandit, shot practically, that needed a bit of retiming and clean-up.

Also, each spot had Nest devices that required product beauty and screen comps for the given displays. The round UI for the thermostat was a bit tricky to make stick. And the background wallpaper for each house needed styling to make the device stand-out.

HP Hands: “Fergie the Digital Dutchess”

ROLE: Senior Nuke Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Motion Theory
CLIENT: Hewlett-Packard
AGENCY:  Goodby Silverstein & Partners
DIRECTOR: Mathew Cullen

As the latest in a series of HP commercials based around the clever use of hands, this Fergie spot signified a return to a visual concept that Motion Theory first pioneered for the technology company.

Except this time, the visual parameters could be expanded beyond what had been achieved before – namely, with previous hands spots featuring Mark Burnett (reality-TV based pioneer), Mark Cuban (billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner), and Pharrell Williams (musician/producer).

With Fergie as featured talent, the Black Eyed Peas vocalist brought a whole rhythmic aspect to the spot, opening the door for a more elaborate visual punctuation and sophistication.

My role as Flame Artist was tackling the beauty work on Fergie’s hands and arms, and occasionally her chin. As Nuke artist, I handled the greenscreen extraction and preliminary comp work on the spot’s first half, all the way until Fergie joins the dancers.

An amazing team of After Effects artists handled the expanding laptop and water sequences., which I also aided in compositing.

Digital Digs

ROLE: Lead Flame Artist | Senior Broadcast Designer
VENDOR: G4 Media | Comcast
ART DIRECTOR: Julie Fields

In an effort to involve their audience more directly in the programming, but not succumbing to the “reality” approach, TechTV came up with the idea of giving a lucky viewer a $100,000 tech makeover for their home, and consequently filming the process from start to completion.

When TechTV was acquired by G4, the show carried over to the more youth-oriented network. As a result, the tech makeover had a few more X-Boxes and Playstation’s attached to the prize.

The design directive was to update the existing graphics to fit the G4 tech-savvy youth aesthetic. This wasn’t so much a redo as it was a revision, keeping the general structure of the graphics package, while updating the palette, fonts, and coating it all with a bit more gloss.

The walking house that begins the clip is actually taken from a promo that occurred after the initial airing of the G4 version of “Digital Digs.” I had a bit more freedom to create on this one, since it was an entirely new deal. And since I’m a fan of collage animation, and I was asked to do something with a house, I came up with a silly transformer-style arachnid mobile home.


ROLE: Senior Flame Artist | VFX Compositor
VENDOR: G4 Media | Comcast
ART DIRECTOR: Julie Fields

Following G4’s acquisition of TechTV, the latter network’s classic tech-variety show “Screensavers” was the first to get retooled and updated.

Being less tech, and more tech-entertainment, G4’s brand of video game-centric ideas permeated the new “Screensavers,” giving them a new day-glow, romper-rhumba-room colored set, and a new list of topics to cover – comics, movies, and of course, video games.

As G4 was already abounding in enough video game imagery, the creative direction went towards comic book language instead. The idea was to keep the existing logo and narrative structure from the old show. But update it with a new pop-art comic look and So-Cal setting (vs. the old San Francisco setting).

The Tech of:

ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / Lead Broadcast Designer

This remarkably in-depth TechTV documentary of “how things work” focused on just about everything: newspapers, oil tankers, high-rise demolition, football strategies, bridges, ice breakers, paper clips, etc.

For the show’s on-air design, the visual concept was based on the digital analysis of the everyday world. In this case, a building, a car, a newspaper, and a train. Oil tankers and ice breakers were tempting, but none were immediately accessible for filming. And although the paper clip would’ve been classic, it just didn’t have the immediacy we were looking for.

My clearest memory was shooting without permits in Oakland’s BART station. It was a year after 9/11. Tensions were still high. We were almost arrested. Luckily, our producer knew how to run interference.