Prospecting For Gold
How to generate leads, convert them into new business and create a loyal customer base for your services.
Now that your niche-rich website is up and running, your presentation is prepared, and your subcontractors are waiting in the wings, it’s time to make it rain with new clients and projects.
Before taking your first step, you need to remove the word “sell” or “sales” from your internal dictionary. The goal is not to bludgeon a prospect into submission, but rather find highly qualified prospects who can benefit greatly from your services and who want and/or need what you have to offer.
The Starting Line
The single best place to start is online. The number of targeted, quality prospects you can generate in mere seconds from an effortless online search could have taken weeks and cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars just a few decades ago. Simply go to your favorite search engine, type in your city and the type of client you want to have. For example, “St. Louis, Mo., dentist.” If you live in a very small town where businesses and potential clients are sparse, use the nearest, biggest city in your search.
In a fraction of a second, your screen will be filled with page after page of prospects. Start visiting these sites, jotting down the contact phone numbers along with a short sentence describing how they could benefit from your services. Repeat until you have approximately 12 leads.
Permission Before Submission
Take your list somewhere quiet and comfortable. If you don’t have a land line, be sure to find a place where you get excellent reception.
When speaking to a prospect, remember you are not selling anything. You are only asking permission to send your information. This is usually a quick, two-step process. Introduce yourself and your niche and ask if it would be OK for you to send them a short email introducing your company and how the prospect could benefit from your services.
The receptionist (who also doubles as a gatekeeper) may forward your call to someone else in the company that might be interested or normally handles this type of request. If so, home run. Introduce yourself and your niche to the new person and ask if you can email them your information. If, on the other hand, the receptionist sounds a bit leery about forwarding a stranger to their boss or giving out their email address, say you completely understand and would be more than happy to send your information directly to the receptionist and then it can be forwarded internally from there. Reassure the gatekeeper that this is not a sales call and you will not be bugging anyone, you are only interested in sharing your information because you feel strongly that they could benefit from your services.
Follow-Up Makes It Happen
When crafting your email, keep it short and sweet. Include your business name and website address, how the prospect could benefit from your services, and that you would be happy to give a brief presentation to their directors, project managers and owners at their convenience. This should take no more than three to four sentences. If you have any other small documents such as a digital brochure or an eye-catching image, feel free to attach that to the email, but keep the file size to a minimum (less than 2 MB total), to reduce the chances of the email getting lost in the ether.
Toward the end of the email, mention that you will follow up in about a week. This prequalifies you to contact them again and also allows plenty of time for them to review your site and hopefully talk about you with the rest of their team.
When you follow up, ask them what they thought of your work. Thank them for the positive feedback and then ask what kind of projects they have in development that could benefit from your services. If they come up empty, you can politely suggest any of the great ideas you’ve been cultivating since your initial contact.
Whether you land a project at this point or not, try to schedule a presentation sometime soon because getting face time with the decision makers in a business is invaluable.
Generate a detailed log of each interaction in a text document or simple spreadsheet. Before you know it, you’ll have a list of dozens of leads, some of which have turned into loyal clients, thereby providing your initial conversion rate. You can use this spreadsheet and conversion rate to further develop your proprietary marketing system, which can then be passed on to your future marketing director. Martin Grebing is an award-winning animation director and producer who has focused his career on smaller studios and alternative markets. Today, he provides private consulting and is the president of Funnybone Animation, a boutique studio that produces animation for a wide range of clients and industries. He can be reached via www.funnyboneanimation.com.
It’s not surprising that Christopher Nolan’s first science-fiction adventure, Interstellar, uses a combination of old school and new school VFX techniques.
Think 2001: A Space Odyssey meets The Right Stuff.
The story follows an engineer and pilot, played by Matthew McConaughey, who leaves his kids behind to save humanity by traveling through a wormhole to find a habitable planet in another galaxy. When it came to wormholes and black holes, Nolan wanted to be more physically realistic than any other film and relied on well-known Caltech theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who served as a consultant and executive producer on the movie.
“Kip Thorne calculated the light-ray paths around and through wormholes, which are like tunnels that have been punched through high-dimensional space, and around a black hole, which is a three-dimensional sphere that traps everything within it,” says Oscarwinning VFX supervisor and Double Negative co-founder Paul Franklin ( Inception). “Space has a fabric to it, which can be observed, and gravity warps spacetime.”
Thorne worked with the research and development team at London-based Double Negative, which developed a new renderer called the worm renderer that calculates the relativistically warped space around the black hole and ray-traced all the light paths around it. “When we saw the test versions of the renderers, I realized that we didn’t have to embellish the shots,” Franklin says about the results of the standalone ray tracer.
“We set up the shots in a fairly traditional fashion: Previz, proxy objects standing in as the wormhole. But there was a lot of trial and error because shots in the renderer didn’t behave the way you would intuitively expect. As we approached the wormhole, the object didn’t necessarily maintain its size and weight. The closer you got to the warped space around the wormhole, you would actually shrink in size in terms of how it was presented to the camera. Also, as you got closer, the distortions behaved very unexpectedly. We ran the renders and would see what came out at the other end.” The visual effects team at Double Negative worked with physicists to develop renderers that accurately portray wormholes.
Limits on the CG
There’s not a lot of CG for Interstellar, 70 percent of which was shot with large-format IMAX cameras. Nolan screened a print of The Right Stuff at Warner Bros. for Franklin and the rest of the crew and Franklin took inspiration in how they built miniatures and 45 feet across. These were lighted by New Deal with realistic exposure ratios.
“When we had the key light from the sun, we just used the reflected light from the stage to fill the side of the spacecraft, and were also scrupulous about exposure ratios with the background star scapes, particularly for the sequences set within our own solar system,” Franklin says.
Nolan wanted space to look as realistic as possible, so Double Negative got ahold of a NASA database of stars with correct position, magnitude and color temperature, and built a special star field renderer for determining the size of the points. The renderer had to be spot on and hold up to IMAX resolution. The info was then passed on to the other renderer so that the star fields would be correctly lensed by the gravitational pull of the black hole.
Local Alien Locales
Nolan also wanted to use real locations for the alien water and ice planets and so they filmed in Iceland. For the water planet, which contains 4,000-foot tidal waves, Double Negative created a series of animated waves using basic deformers but then there was painstaking, detailed simulation work on top of it. For the ice planet, they created a lattice effect with CG and matte paintings similar to a honeycomb along with cloudscapes that were shot from Los Angeles to Louisiana with IMAX cameras mounted on a modified Lear jet.
“Everything is grounded in the gritty, hand-held photography of Hoyte van Hoytema,” says Franklin. “You get a level of tactile reality that puts us right there.” Bill Desowitz is owner of Immersed in Movies (www.billdesowitz.com), author of James Bond Unmasked (www. jamesbondunmasked.com) and a regular contributor to Thompson on Hollywood and Animation Scoop at Indiewire.
out some color tools to allow one to bring in LUTs and color profiles into the system so that when you rendered, you’d kind of get close to where the production needed to be. But they didn’t stop there. They took steps by using the Viewport 2.0 technology to let artists visualize how their scene is going to end up — in the viewport. It may not seem like much, but it’s got it where it counts.
Not to be upstaged by the eccentricities of color science, the technical directors get another tool to make them happy in the form of a Performance Profiler. You know when you have a scene that it playing back just fine, and the something small changed and Maya’s performance plummets. Troubleshooting is a problem. So Autodesk threw in an analysis system that charts the activity of the scene as it plays back and gives you a rundown of what resources were doing what, when and for how long, thus providing a snapshot to TDs so they can go back to the animator and say “try turning that off.” Again, may not seem like much, but you multiple the number of seconds wasted by the number of animators by the number of days on a project, and it adds up.
Good job, Autodesk, for making strides in solving some very deep-seated problems in lieu of fancy stuff that looks cool but doesn’t add much. I promise I’ll get to the sexy features on the 2016 release. colors in which the swatches of color filling your character are vectors. Or vice versa, with a very clean vector line, but a painterly bitmap color fill. Each combination is smashed into your working layer as two sublayers – just so things don’t get too crazy trying to manage those layers if your line and fill were separate.
Layers aren’t absolutely dedicated to their style as there are tools to convert bitmaps into vector layers, along with ways to reduce the number of control points after the trace happens. Anyone familiar with tracing in Adobe Illustrator knows exactly what I’m talking about.
The other tool I know will be extremely beneficial to animators is the mesh warp tool. I know because I use the same tool with reckless abandon in my comps in Nuke. Essentially, you have a grid of points, the density of which is user dependent, which can be used to push and pull your artwork … and animate those changes. Large, gross movements to subtle changes of a facial expression can be tweaked without having to go back and change the drawing itself.
Additional features in Harmony 11 include new UI changes to more clearly indicate frame parameters within the timeline itself — like the difference between key frames and in-betweens. Custom coloring is present all over the interface, but specifi- cally in the network view — and by network view, I mean the node system that Harmony uses which will be completely familiar to Nuke, Fusion and Houdini users.
Harmony is a robust, full-featured animation system with all the bells and whistles. And those bells and whistles come at a price. If you are really serious about your animation production, however, and have a team of animators, definitely look into it for your next animated short or feature.
Now that you’ve gotten your animated pregame on with the Diamond Edition of Sleeping Beauty, you should be psyched up to tackle the live-action, villain-centric retelling of the classic tale that took audiences by storm this year. Starring Angelina Jolie as the titular