Fish­ing Your Mar­ket

Animation Magazine - - Opportunities - By Martin Gre­bing

SProper and con­sis­tent use of mar­ket­ing is es­sen­tial to en­sur­ing you find a steady flow of busi­ness.

o you’ve filed all the doc­u­ments, done your research, put in beau­coup hours of sweat eq­uity to get your small busi­ness launched, and of­fi­cially opened your doors for busi­ness. So what can you ex­pect from this point on?

Fright­en­ingly, a stag­ger­ing 80 per­cent of all en­trepreneurs fail within the first 18 months of start­ing a busi­ness. More­over, 96 per­cent of all busi­nesses never make it to the 10-year mark. With more than 20 mil­lion busi­nesses in the United States alone, that’s more than 19 mil­lion busi­nesses that will go belly up in less than a decade.

With statistics like th­ese, it’s no won­der a vast ma­jor­ity of the work­force marches to the beat of the 9-to-5 drum. To con­firm their fears, those few who dare ven­ture into the un­known for a chance to live their dreams are al­most guar­an­teed to fail. Con­fus­ingly enough, many of th­ese peo­ple have done their research, found in­vestors, de­vel­oped ro­bust busi­ness plans and ac­quired enough seed money to launch their new en­deavor. Mar­ket­ing Is Es­sen­tial So what’s go­ing wrong? Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, the main cause of failed busi­ness ven­tures is not un­der­cap­i­tal­iza­tion or gloomy geo-eco­nom­ics. It can all be boiled down to a sin­gle word that has the power to make or break vir­tu­ally any busi­ness: mar­ket­ing.

One of the bet­ter def­i­ni­tions of this um­brella term is from the Amer­i­can Mar­ket­ing As­so­ci­a­tion: “The ac­tiv­ity, set of in­sti­tu­tions and pro­cesses for cre­at­ing, com­mu­ni­cat­ing, de­liv­er­ing and ex­chang­ing of­fer­ings that have value for cus­tomers, clients, part­ners and so­ci­ety at large.”

You can have the great­est prod­uct or ser­vice in the known uni­verse, but with­out mar­ket­ing, no one will know about it. I shud­der to think how many amaz­ing in­de­pen­dent movies have been pro­duced that never saw the light of day be­cause no one knew about them.

With­out mar­ket­ing, you can’t be found. Imag­ine hav­ing the big­gest, bad­dest fish­ing pole in the uni­verse. This thing is a tech­no­log­i­cal marvel, greater than any other rod and reel ever cre­ated or even con­ceived. Fish trem­ble within fathoms of its pres­ence. But what hap­pens if you’re in the wrong pond? Your ACME 5000 Fish Dom­i­na­tor sud­denly be­comes use­less.

Or maybe you plot a course to the per­fect spot in Cabo San Lu­cas to catch your first mar­lin, but re­al­ize too late that you set out to sea in a rick­ety skiff.

And what hap­pens if you have the right rod and reel, the right boat, the right lo­ca­tion, but have no crew? Who’s go­ing to steer while you’re try­ing to land the catch of the day? If you’re skip­per­ing a crew of one, there’s only so many mouths you can hook be­fore ex­haus­tion takes over and you’re forced to re­turn to shore.

All fish­ing metaphors aside, with­out a well-de­vel­oped mar­ket­ing strat­egy, you do not have a busi­ness — you have a hobby where some­times peo­ple pay you.

On the con­trary, with a well-de­vel­oped, in- no­va­tive mar­ket­ing strat­egy com­bined with the tac­tics re­quired to carry out said strat­egy, even the most mod­est of prod­ucts and ser­vices can gen­er­ate mas­sive prof­its for years to come.

Seed money means noth­ing to the longterm suc­cess of a busi­ness with­out in­no­va­tion and mar­ket­ing. I’ve known more than a few wealthy in­di­vid­u­als who thought they were bul­let­proof be­cause they had plenty of cash to start a new busi­ness. In­evitably, they ended up join­ing the 80 per­cent club men­tioned above.

Tried and True On the other hand, I’ve known more than a few peo­ple who have started with vir­tu­ally noth­ing — no in­vest­ment cap­i­tal, no con­nec­tions, no in­her­ent priv­i­leges and no bricks and mor­tar — but used sound mar­ket­ing tech­niques and lever­age to build prof­itable busi­nesses that have stood the test of time.

Some of the most suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs in the world refuse to launch new busi­nesses that cost more than a cou­ple of grand to get started. Not merely out of spite or prin­ci­ple, but be­cause it’s sim­ply not nec­es­sary if you un­der­stand mar­ket­ing and lever­age.

If you want to start liv­ing your dreams but think you don’t have the money to do so, fear not. In­no­va­tive mar­ket­ing means not need­ing tons of cash to do so. Study, research, buy and bor­row books, at­tend work­shops, hire a guru, find a men­tor, com­pletely im­merse your­self in high-level mar­ket­ing strate­gies and the world will be your oys­ter. Or mar­lin. [ Martin Gre­bing is a mul­ti­ple-award-win­ning an­i­ma­tion pro­ducer, small-busi­ness con­sul­tant and pres­i­dent of Fun­ny­bone An­i­ma­tion. Reach him at www.fun­ny­bonean­i­ma­tion.com.

There are some spec­tac­u­lar bat­tles in Zack Sny­der’s ex­pan­sion of the DC Comics cine­matic uni­verse in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Jus­tice, par­tic­u­larly Batman’s bizarre dream, the cli­mac­tic show­down be­tween the two su­per­heroes, and the mas­sive fight with Dooms­day in­volv­ing Batman (Ben Af­fleck), Superman (Henry Cav­ill) and Won­der Wo­man (Gal Gadot).

The dream is the most spec­tac­u­lar se­quence and in­cludes a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic desert vibe that looks like some­thing out of Mad Max: Fury Road.

In the dream, Batman seeks to find Kryp­tonite in a world run by an op­pres­sive Superman with a le­gion of sol­diers and fly­ing demons (called pa­rademons and tied to over­ar­ch­ing vil­lain Dark­seid, whose Omega sym­bol can be glimpsed in the dis­tance).

“There are lit­tle Easter eggs that get pop­u­lated along the way,” says pro­duc­tion VFX su­per­vi­sor John “DJ” DesJardin.

Shot on the Warner Bros. back lot, the se­quence evolved into a trippy bit of phan­tas­mago­ria that links the DC uni­verse with Batman’s worst fears about Superman’s god-like pow­ers. It’s nearly all vir­tual, with ef­fects work di­vided be­tween Weta Dig­i­tal and Dou­ble Neg­a­tive and then stitched to­gether. And DesJardin once again makes great use of the “En­viro-cam” from Man of Steel: a Canon EOS 5D mounted on a cam­era rig that cap­tures a 360-de­gree panoramic per­spec­tive.

“Weta did the in­tro, with Batman look­ing at the vista, the fire pits and a large piece of tech that starts to cover the sky,” DesJardin says. “I’ll leave it to fans to fig­ure out what that is. They also did the stuff in­side the bunker when Superman con­fronts Batman and un­leashes his heat vi­sion. “Dou­ble Neg­a­tive did the roundy round (fight), in­clud­ing the demons. That roundy round was com­pli­cated. It was de­signed by (as­sis­tant art di­rec­tor) Da­mon Caro to be one long fight, but be­cause of the lim­i­ta­tions of the tech­nocrane, we had to shoot the fight in three pieces. And be­cause of the lim­i­ta­tions of how many peo­ple we had, they had to be the stunt play­ers on both sides (the Superman sol­diers and the Batman sol­diers).”

Un­der the VFX su­per­vi­sion of Guil­laume Rocheron, MPC’s pri­mary task was to cre­ate a dig­i­tal Gotham City, which re­quired months of plan­ning and de­tailed map­ping. To ground Gotham in a dis­tinc­tive re­al­ity, pro­duc­tion de­signer Pa­trick Tatopou­los cre­ated an in­te­rior U shape and MPC adapted the ar­chi­tec­ture and lay­out to fit the model, us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of Hell’s Kitchen and a port and oil re­fin­ery in Detroit. MPC’s pho­togram­me­try pipe­line was used to fashion ge­om­e­try and tex­tures for each city sec­tion, made pos­si­ble by rendering with the new RIS ver­sion of Ren­derMan with path trac­ing. High-Res­o­lu­tion Show­down For the show­down be­tween Batman and Superman, MPC cre­ated highly de­tailed dig­i­tal dou­bles, which had to hold up to IMAX res­o­lu­tion, and the fight scenes switched back and forth from real to dig­i­tal. Also, us­ing nu­mer­ous 3D scans and pho­to­graphic in­put, MPC’s as­sets and rig­ging team de­vel­oped new tools and tech­niques to max­i­mize the use of the data on the ac­tor’s faces at the high­est fidelity un­der any pose or light­ing con­di­tion.

The fi­nal bat­tle with Dooms­day was quite the lay­out and rendering chal­lenge, due to terra-formed ground sec­tions, de­stroyed street props along with the rest of Gotham, vol­u­met­ric 3D fires and smoke fluid caches. The rendering team also de­vel­oped tech­niques to han­dle hun­dreds of vol­u­met­ric fire light sources that had to light both the char­ac­ters and en­vi­ron­ments ac­cu­rately in or­der to photo-re­al­is­ti­cally ren­der the fi­nal act.

One of the big­gest de­mands was perfecting the Dooms­day fight. The ini­tial plan was to do it as one shot, but the su­per­heroes were too small in com­par­i­son to the 20-foot beast and it was too long a shot to make any ed­i­to­rial changes, so DesJardin went for a “slash and burn” ap­proach mod­eled on The Em­pire Strikes Back.

The Fi­nal Round Dooms­day’s ex­posed mus­cles, ten­dons and bones nat­u­rally re­quired the CG model to be built from the in­side out. Both body and fa­cial per­for­mance cap­ture were used with key frame an­i­ma­tion.

Mean­while, Scan­line par­tic­i­pated in sev­eral se­quences (su­per­vised by Bryan Hirota), in­clud­ing the Bat­mo­bile chase. “A chal­lenge in this se­quence was the mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions that made up the chase,” said Hirota. “We tried to help bring a sense of co­he­sive­ness by adding in de­tails from the pre­vi­ous lo­ca­tions in the back­ground of the cur­rent lo­ca­tion. Ad­di­tion­ally, through­out the en­tire se­quence, we added ad­di­tional in­dus­trial el­e­ments: re­finer­ies, fac­to­ries and smoke­stacks to help turn Detroit into Gotham.

“For the shot of the Bat­mo­bile crash­ing through the boats and end­ing up em­bed­ded in the large boat, we shot a plate for it us­ing the proxy Bat­mo­bile crash­ing into the smaller boats and the large boat was go­ing to be CG. As we went through post, it be­came clear that the orig­i­nal pho­tog­ra­phy wasn’t go­ing to be able to achieve the dy­namic move that Zack wanted, so we ended up re­build­ing the en­tire en­vi­ron­ment in CG along with all of the boats and bad guy ve­hi­cles.”

Ac­cord­ing to DesJardin, Sny­der made a po­lit­i­cal thriller, “only with su­per­heroes.” [ Bill De­sowitz is crafts edi­tor of Indiewire (www. indiewire.com) and the author of James Bond Un­masked (www.james­bon­dun­masked.com).

As some­one who jumps back and forth be­tween the me­dia I an­i­mate in, I am a bit of a fan of Toon Boom stuff for my 2D an­i­ma­tion needs. And as some­one who sto­ry­boards the films he shoots or the visual ef­fects he de­signs, I re­ally like Toon Boom’s Sto­ry­board Pro. Their lat­est ver­sion is no ex­cep­tion.

One of the things I like most about Sto­ry­board Pro is the in­te­gra­tion be­tween 2D and 3D as­sets. Ver­sion 5 boosts some of that func­tion­al­ity by in­clud­ing Alem­bic and Col­lada file for­mats to im­port — adding to the list of FBX, 3DS, OBJ and OSB. Once the model is in your scene, you can now an­i­mate sub-ob­jects on the model, like a door open­ing, for in­stance. Fur­ther in­te­gra­tion be­tween 2D and 3D is shown through the abil­ity to snap el­e­ments to 3D ob­jects — a screen on a cell phone, 2D flow­ers in a 3D flower pot, that kind of thing. The cam­era is 3D as well, so when it moves, ev­ery­thing sticks in place.

As far as edit­ing the sto­ry­board into an an­i­matic, Sto­ry­board Pro has a time­line, which can be man­u­ally as­sem­bled. Or, you can im­port an ap­pro­pri­ately tagged Fi­nal Draft file and Sto­ry­board Pro will auto-cre­ate an as­sem­ble cut based on the script. Once you get a cut, you can conform it to Fi­nal Cut Pro or Premiere. Or, you can ex­port frames to Pho­to­shop, re­tain­ing the layer in­for­ma­tion so you don’t end up with a flat piece of art­work. As I was writ­ing, Toon Boom pushed a 5.1 ver­sion out which added the abil­ity to make and con­trol an­i­ma­tion on a layer ba­sis. While an ani- mated cam­era has al­ways been there, this kind of gran­u­lar con­trol is new.

I do have a quib­ble with the time­line edi­tor. While it’s to­tally func­tional, I would pre­fer to have a more typ­i­cal non-lin­ear edi­tor for­mat with mul­ti­ple tracks of video. SBP5 does have mul­ti­ple tracks of au­dio, which is fan­tas­tic — but that extra lit­tle func­tion would just make things eas­ier to work with. Or per­haps I just need to stop be­ing lazy in my ways and get used to it.

From a strictly as­set man­age­ment per­spec­tive, Sto­ry­board Pro, like other Toon Boom prod­ucts, is a bit messy and di­rec­tory struc­ture de­pen­dant. So, mi­grat­ing projects be­comes an is­sue. If you don’t trans­fer all of your de­pen­den­cies, then the project breaks. To al­le­vi­ate this, a pack­ing func­tion has been added to sav­ing, so that you can es­sen­tially save out to an archived, self-con­tained file that can be ex­tracted later. So much cleaner.

Lots of good stuff, and Toon Boom is ac­tively devel­op­ing and push­ing new ver­sions to keep up with new fea­tures and fix old bugs. Like most other soft­ware, you have the op­tion of a desk­top sub­scrip­tion on an an­nual or monthly ba­sis, so you can re­ceive your up­dates — for­ever! IM­AGE CREDIT:

Thinkbox Soft­ware is well known for Kraka­toa, the par­ti­cle ren­derer that can man­age a gazil­lion par­ti­cles. It’s also known for Frost — a mesher that will take par­ti­cles and make a co­he­sive sur­face, like water. So they had th­ese two tech­nolo­gies in their hands and said, “Hmm, lots of points. Make sur­faces. What other in­dus­try or tech­nique could use this?”

This was the in­cep­tion of Se­quoia — or, at least, how my screen­writer brain en­vi­sioned it. You see, Se­quoia is quite lit­er­ally a point cloud mesh­ing tool. The points can be from any num­ber of sources: LI­DAR scans, pho­togram­me­try, geo data, etc. Se­quoia will then mesh the points into sur­faces us­ing the ra­dius, or culling out stray points based on num­ber of faces or the sur­face ar­eas they take up — mean­ing, if you have points that are sit­ting off by them­selves, they prob­a­bly don’t need to be there. The re­sult­ing meshes are gen­er­ally water-tight, be­cause of the Frost al­go­rithms to mesh like it’s a fluid. But, Se­quoia has ad­vanced meth­ods of strip­ping the back faces, if that’s what you need.

Ad­di­tional tools are pro­vided for pro­ject­ing images onto the points or mesh — if the points didn’t al­ready come with color data. One can align the pro­jec­tion cam­era by as­so­ci­at­ing points in the im­age to points in the data cloud.

This is all well and good, and quite im­pres­sive on its own. But what is more im­pres­sive is what is tak­ing place un­der the hood. The dataset are in­vari­ably enor­mous. There is a lot of data we are talk­ing about. Se­quoia takes that data and saves it into an ef­fi­cient cache file. Once con­verted, you can cull out ar­eas of points — in­clud­ing meshes — as well as com­bine culling ar­eas to see just what you want. But Se­quoia is also dy­nam­i­cally load­ing and un­load­ing data based on what you are do­ing; a process so ef­fi­cient that you can view data on a laptop or a tablet.

Fur­ther­more, the pro­cess­ing of all this data is han­dled by Se­quoia in an asyn­chro­nous man­ner — a mini-queue of tasks is cre­ated, and it’s con­sis­tently pro­cess­ing dif­fer­ent func­tions on the data — set up as a node tree that can be changed and mod­i­fied in a pro­ce­dural way. De­spite the pro­cess­ing go­ing on, the bal­ance al­ways keeps your in­ter­face re­spon­sive. You can even have mul­ti­ple doc­u­ments open pro­cess­ing mul­ti­ple point clouds, or even dif­fer­ent it­er­a­tions of the same point cloud for test­ing set­tings.

Not sur­pris­ingly, Se­quoia will save out to Thinkbox’s XMesh for­mat (among oth­ers), and it im­me­di­ately hooks into Thinkbox’s ren­der man­ager, Dead­line, for pro­cess­ing meshes on a farm.

It’s not needed by ev­ery­one, and it’s not as sexy as Kraka­toa, but with LI­DAR be­com­ing more and more ubiq­ui­tous in the visual ef­fects in­dus­try, the need for tools like this is only go­ing to in­crease. [

“And the crea­ture which Freya rides that’s part snow leop­ard, part po­lar bear (also over­seen by Troyan) had to be built quickly to get a walk cy­cle. Other char­ac­ters in a sanc­tu­ary area in­clude such one-offs as mag­pies, crows and fairies.”

Cre­at­ing ‘Raven­na­cles’ The cen­ter­piece, though, was the re­turn of the Mir­ror Man, but with a com­pli­cated twist in­volv­ing Ravenna.

“We had the scene where Ravenna first ap­pears, and the idea was based on the first movie with the Mir­ror Man where you have this gold cloth, which is part liq­uid fall­ing out of the mir­ror. This was re­vis­ited, only this time we had Ravenna’s body slowly ap­pear­ing through this cloth to the point where you can see fea­tures. And then it peels off and re­veals Ravenna un­der­neath. That scene was pre­vised by Nvis­age.

“The guys came up with a novel way to use a fan shader and cloth shader com­bined to get the flow­ing mo­tion. And when she comes out of it, you see that she’s made of the ob­sid­ian black shards from the first movie but sur­rounded by gold from the mir­ror. Later on, she’s able to make th­ese solid, shiny ten­ta­cles from the black ooze that we called ‘Raven­na­cles.’ And you get liq­uid mem­branes join­ing parts of it, which gives a very in­ter­est­ing look.”

It’s a Hou­dini fluid sim­u­la­tion that be­gins with the ten­ta­cles com­ing out of the ground, but then the mem­brane ac­tion be­tween ten­ta­cles was like an­other ef­fects setup where they had con­trol over it.

“And the ten­ta­cles ap­pear again when she has a wound in the back,” Lam­bert says. “The first it­er­a­tion of this had a lot more ten­ta­cles com­ing out, which was a strik­ing im­age, but it was cum­ber­some so they ended up with only two wrap­ping around her.” [

Dis­ney’s first fea­ture foray into its dearly bought Star Wars fran­chise more than paid off for both the stu­dio, which raked in some $2 bil­lion world­wide in box of­fice, and for fans, who got an ex­cit­ing, orig­i­nal story and dy­namic new char­ac­ters to ad­mire in a film that aligned bet­ter vis­ually with the orig­i­nal tril­ogy than the ul­tra-sleek CG of the pre­quels.

Fans may be less im­pressed by the ini­tial home en­ter­tain­ment re­lease. Even on the Blu-ray ver­sion ($39.99) there’s no com­men­tary for the movie, and as An­imag Edi­tor Tom McLean put it in his on­line re­view, the bonus fea­tures disc is ba­si­cally “safe.” There is a full-length mak­ing-of doc­u­men­tary (fea­tur­ing exec pro­ducer Kath­leen Kennedy, di­rec­tor J.J. Abrams, writer Lawrence Kas­dan and as­sorted cast and crew), deleted scenes, and fea­turettes on the first ta­ble read, cre­at­ing BB-8, crea­ture craft­ing, the cli­mac­tic fused with the fe­male box­ing champ), and orig­i­nally pre­miered at Cannes in 2010. The film was re­worked in stereo­scopic 3D from el­e­ments from the 1970s Pol­ish TV se­ries, with Moomin pup­pets filmed against an­i­ma­tion on glass plates in the fore­ground and back­ground.

The film cen­ters on the lov­able Moom­introll (voiced by Alexan­der Skars­gård), who with the help of his fa­ther Moom­in­pappa (Stel­lan Skars­gård) and some con­cerned friends, em­barks on a jour­ney to pro­tect Raven from the over-cau­tious League, while try­ing to thwart Trigon’s plans to cre­ate hell on Earth. (And you thought your par­ents were em­bar­rass­ing.)

Jus­tice League vs. Teen Ti­tans is di­rected by Sam Liu ( Jus­tice League: Gods and Mon­ster) from a script by Alan Bur­nett and Bryan Q. Miller, and fea­tures the voices of Stu­art Al­lan (Robin), Taissa Farmiga (Raven), Bran­don Soo Hoo (Beast Boy), Kari Wahlgren (Starfire), Jake T. Austin (Blue Bee­tle), Jon Bern­thal (Trigon), Ja­son O’Mara (Batman), Sean Ma­her (Nightwing), Jerry O’Con­nell (Superman), Rosario Daw­son (Won­der Wo­man), Christo­pher Gorham (Flash) and She­mar Moore (Cy­borg).

The DVD in­cludes a sneak peek at the highly an­tic­i­pated Batman: The Killing Joke, while the BD ($24.98) boasts ex­clu­sive fea­turettes “Grow­ing Up Ti­tan,” “He­roes and Vil­lains: Raven” and “He­roes and Vil­lains: Trigon” as well as two bonus car­toons from the DC vault.

[Re­lease date: April 12]

Batman and Superman have a dif­fer­ence of opin­ion in Zack Sny­der’s Dawn of Jus­tice.

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Pierre Siss­mann

Wendy Spinks

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Michael Hirsh

Eric Ho­man

Rich Ma­gal­lanes

Feng Yi

Fred­er­ick Fauber

Chuck Peil

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David Ten­zer

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Ken Kat­sumoto

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Clark Peter­son

Tara Sorensen

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