Day in the life
Jennifer Mcspadden breaks down a typical day working in the field of virtual production at Goodbye Kansas Studios
Jennifer Mcspadden currently works as the senior motion capture supervisor for Goodbye Kansas Studios, based in Los Angeles. Mcspadden’s background centres around motion capture, with Lightstorm Technology at the forefront of her skill set. On stage, she is responsible for calibrating and maintaining the capture software and gathering live performance capture data. Mcspadden also considers herself a virtual production specialist, with a working understanding of virtual cameras, LED walls, and virtual set integration. Among her credits are blockbusters like Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, as well as previs and R&D for Black Panther and The Mandalorian.
I’m brewing green tea and checking my email. The majority of my company is based in Stockholm, so with a nine-hour time difference, the start of my day is the end of everyone else’s. This is also a good time for me to catch my Swedish colleagues before they go home, so I often have meetings first thing in the morning. This sets the tone for the rest of my day.
By 09:30am, I’ve settled into work. If I am working from home, I am usually sorting out pipeline solutions for virtual production and motion capturecentric projects. Due to my knowledge of Unreal Engine, I am sometimes tasked with developing training content for colleagues, to review how to use the engine for virtual production content creation. If I am working from the office, I am focused on a Lightstorm-driven motion capture workflow, finessing character mapping scenarios and testing different equipment combinations.
Work continues. I try to fit in half an hour to an hour of fitness before lunch. I don’t often have time to work out in the evening, so this is the best time I can find in the day. When it’s time to break, I spend some time on the mat, focusing on yoga and bodyweight exercises.
Time to decide what’s for lunch! Depending on the day’s workload, I may have something delivered, or if I’m still at home, whip up something quick. Usually something salad-related. There are times when I’m on stage, shooting for a client, and my lunch break
can tend to be cut short, in order to prep for the afternoon. I’ve learned to be flexible with the mid-day meal and to be satisfied with taking lunch ‘at my desk’.
Mid-afternoon is when I take my West Coast meetings. I have weekly check-ins with my immediate team to discuss office needs and any matters that require input from our team in Stockholm. This way, we can send updates for them to see first thing in the morning (our midnight). I also maintain regular correspondence with a few other studios, so I check in with them to make sure that plans are proceeding on any projects underway.
If I am actively working on shots for a client, this is when I would queue tasks to run overnight. This can include batch processing and retargeting motion capture data, transcoding witness camera footage that corresponds with motion data selects, or finalising any data or requests that need to go to our Stockholm office for processing in our off-hours.
From my years of working on set, I am now used to working a little bit later in the day, so my workday often ends closer to 6pm (or later). After work, and after dinner, I often like to catch up with my family, knit and crochet, and play video games with my boyfriend. As I get older, I find myself appreciating sleep more and more, so I’m not often up very late. By 11pm, I’m already dead to the world.
“YOU HAVE TO REACT QUICKLY TO CHALLENGES ON STAGE, OFFERING CLEAR AND SUCCINCT DIRECTIVES TO YOUR TEAM”