Fishing Your Market
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]