KEEP ON CREATING
Sam Lazarus discusses his career and shares top tips for those looking to work with motion capture technology
Can you tell us about your journey through the industry so far?
I started as an editor – I love the process of building up an edit, matching cuts with music and slowly weaving the threads of a story into a powerful beginning, middle and end. I was lucky enough to start at Gopro when it was small. I got to travel the world, manage a team of talented artists and work on high-profile videos. I eventually started gravitating towards VFX, particularly dynamic simulation, so I left Gopro and started working as a freelance VFX artist while I pursued a Masters in Visual Effects with a focus on Dynamics. While freelancing, I bought a Rokoko Smartsuit for my work, and it just so happened that they needed an in-house media/vfx person. It was a perfect match.
You don a mocap suit to create a lot of awesome content for Rokoko’s social media. Can you tell us about that?
The best part about Rokoko hardware and software is that it is very quick, easy and reliable, that’s a rare thing in the world of CG or VFX. You can iterate and experiment a lot more, and it also means that if I have an idea for a short social video, I can hop directly in the suit and get the mocap into Cinema 4D in 20 minutes, which is great considering how topical social media tends to be. When Baby Yoda was blowing up, for example, we were able to record a scene featuring Baby Yodas (yes, plural) cruising on a Tesla Cybertruck, and get it online within a day.
What advice would you give to artists and creators looking to have a career in motion capture?
Create! When I’m evaluating artists to either work with or hire, the only thing I look at is their work. Their prior experience, education, resume – all of that stuff on paper is nothing next to a reel or portfolio that is clearly labelled with the artist’s contribution for each shot. With access to so many free educational outlets like Youtube, and with free programs like Blender becoming so advanced, there is absolutely nothing stopping someone from creating incredibly high-quality work. I think the only way to learn CG is by doing, so with a clearly labelled reel, an artist is both showing off their personal style AND proving that they are able to successfully navigate the many problems that arise when working in CG. Create, create, create. There is nothing stopping you!
What qualities, skills and abilities are essential to a role like yours?
The most important quality to be successful in the CG industry is to be an autodidact. Things change so fast, there are new workflows or tools every other day, so you have to be able to learn new things on the fly and integrate them into your current workflows. Sometimes, you have to abandon tools you’ve spent YEARS learning because a new, better technique comes along (I’m looking at you, Unreal Engine). I also think it’s vital to have an opinion and to be honest about that opinion. I would much rather have an artist tell me they hate my work because of X, Y or Z than have an artist say, “that’s fine” or “I like it” in a noncommittal way. If you don’t have an opinion, then you don’t have a personal style.