Prospect­ing For Gold

How to gen­er­ate leads, con­vert them into new business and cre­ate a loyal cus­tomer base for your ser­vices.

Animation Magazine - - Opportunities - By Martin Gre­bing

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

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