Keep Your Clients Forever
The most expensive part of just about any business is getting a client in the door. Countless advertising dollars, marketing plans and massive amounts of time and effort are often required to land a single client. So, once acquired, it is of paramount importance to keep them forever.
Keep Doing What You’re Doing Your client initially chose to work with you for two reasons and two reasons only: One, you have something they want or need, and, two, they trusted you enough to give you their business. If either of these things were not present, they would never have entered a transaction with you. Additionally, if either of these things get dinged in the future, you will more than likely lose the client. To keep your clients, you must always deliver, and always deliver the quality they are expecting (and, for your peace of mind, not much more). Contrary to the concept of underpromising and overdelivering that so many people claim to embrace, this can be a very dangerous, slippery slope. If you continuously overdeliver, your clients will grow to expect this from you gratis, or without being grateful for your over achievements on their behalf. The luster of going above and beyond without them asking can wear off quickly and turn into base expectations. Foot, meet gun.
Show Appreciation and Reward for Continued
Business Recurrent business from existing clients is often the most profitable thing a business can achieve. Therefore, when they come back, make sure you show appreciation. Send a hand-written card, write a short but sincere email, send holiday gifts, make a quick phone call, do any of a number of small gestures to let the client know you are thinking of them and are grateful for your relationship.
In a Pavlovian sense, you can get a lot of mileage out of always responding with something positive, kind and grateful whenever your client requests more work from you, and, moreover, when payment arrives.
Additionally, reward your clients for continued business in service and value. Give them a modest discount on certain services. Offer them exclusive benefits that only they are qualified to receive. Make a total of all the special benefits, discounts and perks they receive and send a formal report at the end of the year with these totals. You must communicate and quantify these benefits to the client, otherwise they will go unnoticed and unappreciated. Develop Relationships,
Not Projects The key to client longevity and loyalty is building relationships, not projects. Some of the biggest business deals have been made on handshakes, not business plans or sales material. Focus on continuing to deliver value to your clients, not the mechanics of what you do, but how it will benefit them. Always offer to help, never sell. Sales is for strangers, helping is for people with whom you have a relationship. For example, picture your best friend. Now, picture your best friend reading from a focus group-tested script, giving you a formal sales pitch on which movie to see. Doesn’t feel right, does it? It makes much more sense for your best friend to say, “Hey, I saw this last week — it’s awesome! I’m dying to see it again, I think you’ll love it, let’s check it out.” If you hope to build positive business relationships, you must take this same approach with your clients.
Another key to building a business relationship is to always make your clients feel confident and special when you are working together, as if they are the only client you have. If you happen to run late with a project, never say it’s due to being busy with other projects. After all, it’s your duty to only accept projects that you can commit to finishing on time and on budget in the first place. Failing to do this because you are working on something else is unacceptable and will often result in losing client trust and more than likely the client, as well.
Think of a client as a tree. In the infancy stage, it is fragile and requires a lot of nurturing. Over time, with continued care, each one will grow tall and strong, provide shade for you and even weather massive storms. Treat each one as if it is unique and special, spend time building relationships, consistently and persistently add value and provide benefits, and your clients will remain by your side forever. [ Martin Grebing is president of Funnybone Animation and can be reached via www.funnyboneanimation.com.
These guys at Chaos Group. They just seem to never rest. And all of this lack of sleep has really come to fruition. I mean, not only is V-Ray well loved around the world, but creator Vlado Koylazov received a Sci-Tech plaque from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, meaning Oscars folks loved it, too.
But not to rest on the golden laurels of awards, yet another version of V-Ray 3.5 has been pushed out for Max, with a Maya version hot on its tail.
The principal addition to 3.5 and a huge render-time saver is adaptive lights, which feels like the evolutionary next step from probabilistic lights, which was in the last release. Instead of choosing a specific number of lights that will “probably” affect the solution, V-Ray uses the light cache (known from the global illumination algorithms) to inform which lights to eliminate from the calculation without affecting the end result. This may not help as much if you have, say, eight lights, but when you are getting into the hundreds of lights, the time savings are dramatic.
You now have interactive production rendering. “But isn’t that what V-Ray RT is for?” you may ask. Sort of. IPR actually works in conjunction with the the advanced renderer, while RT is a separate renderer altogether. RT must export the scene before it can start rendering while IPR accesses the scene directly, which means it can start rendering almost immediately.
Also, V-Ray 3.5 has established “resumable rendering,” which, like it sounds, allows you to pickup a render where it left off. Maybe your ferret chewed through your power cable while you were rendering. Once you’ve bought a new cable, you would be able to restart the render from the point when Minky bit through. And it works in both bucket and progressive render modes.
Some third-party shaders have received a
And while we are on the topic of Chaos Group — you know, and that technical Oscar — they also have a fluid-solver called Phoenix FD, and version 3.0 was recently released for Maya.
Originally something one would turn to for smoke and fire, 3.0 now has an actual fluid — as in water — flip solver, which is all the rage in Houdini and RealFlow. Phoenix has all that, including the extra generated maps for creating foam on the surface of the water and wet maps for the geography it’s interacting with.
But don’t forget about the original tried and true fire and smoke. The solver has been updated to handle finer detail resolutions. But even if you have all that, you still have to render those volumes — and so the volume rendering has gotten a speed boost.
“Setups for all that smoke and such can be time consuming,” you may say. And for the most part you are right. But quick preset buttons have made it so you can get all that foundation work out of the way, and you can get to tweaking and making it super cool.
Additionally, the team at Chaos Group has added some fancy forces to interact with both the fluid fluids, and the water fluids. Path follow does what it says it does. The fluids will follow a chosen spline or splines. Then there is body force, which allows you to use a mesh to determine the shape of the force.
Basically, Phoenix is a light form of RealFlow or Houdini without the overhead — but also without many of the bells and whistles. Chaos Group is firmly hitting the soft belly of the same market as FumeFX.
So, I’m just gonna say it. Roto blows. Honestly. I’m just not a fan.
But then there are those times where a tool comes along that makes you just a bit giddy because, like Tom Sawyer convincing his friends that painting the fence is fun, something draws you closer to believing rotoscoping is something that you don’t need to do as punishment.
I listed Flowbox as a top tech to check out for last year, but I’m only just getting to it now, mainly because this cracking group of upstarts had some features that they really wanted to get down before people started clamoring about it from the mountain tops.
Flowbox looks and feels like Nuke, but using pen strokes, rather than click-dragging, you get a freeform style of connecting and disconnecting nodes. But, the workflow feels comfortable, like your slippers. Among the familiar roto tools, though, are some powerful ones that could be potential game changers.
The first is the stroke mode, which essentially puts you into a freehand mode to trace an outline using your Wacom or whatnot. Or you can be laying points the old fashion way and switch over to stroke mode, and then back again. The completed stroke becomes a pointbased, controllable curve, whose density can be adjusted. So now what do you do, you can’t just go freestylin’ and draw curves all over the place and expect clean, non-fluttery rotoshapes. Or can you?
The snap line feature understands the structure of the previously drawn stroke and kind of projects onto the new stroke you’ve drawn on the new frame. The points move with an intelligence to try and ensure the fidelity of the silhouette.
Now if that isn’t enough to draw you back into being a lover of rotoscoping, Flowbox has an intelligent ripple edit, which means that changes made to a point on a curve will propagate over all the key frames on that shape in the sequence. But what other flavors of this tool don’t have is an understanding of where those shapes go when the overall rotoshape rotates. Not so for this tool — the adjust points follow the ripple in a more useful way.
But the Flowbox guys aren’t stopping there. As more tools become available, it won’t be surprising to see this evolve into a compositing tool. In fact, Flowbox FX is already getting some buzz.
But back in the rotoscoping world, one of the forthcoming features is a workflow for realtime collaboration in the same file, with multiple artists working on different shapes for the same roto. I have a few shots heading my way right now that could use that kind of collaboration.
While rotoscoping is just kind of tedious, rigging on the other hand is hard. Which is why I usually leave the rigging to the riggers — those special guys and gals who simple need to solve incredibly complex problems with a combination of guts, code and coffee.
But how can we all benefit and ride on the shoulders of these giants of rigging? Well, some people from Weta who helped with the development of the character rigs in Avatar and the new Planet of the Apes movies think they have something. You know, those smart guys!
Essentially, the team at Ziva Dynamics has taken its experience and high-end degrees, and niched down to provide a product for recreating muscle, fascia, fat and skin simulations on characters. It’s the combination of all of these that give recent CG characters their lifelike realism; the complexity of the entire anatomical system working together.
Ziva used the concept of the finite element method used in many if not most engineering practices to analyze forces, fluid flows, etc. Discretization takes the form of a shape similar to the shape of a muscle. The shape is made of tets, which kind of act like a cage around the geography of the muscle. Forces applied to the tets are transferred to the model.
Mind you, the above paragraph hardly taps into the real math that goes into this stuff.
You set up your character in Maya — yes, this is a Maya plugin — from the inside out. The skeleton is a controlled hierarchy with traditional Maya controls. The muscles and tendons are attached to the bones, the fascia and fat wrap around those, the skin wraps around the fascia, and the cloth wraps around the skin.
Anyway, it’s this collection of simulations, responding not only to the movement of the skeleton, but gravity and their own weight and momentum, that provides the realism that everyone it looking for.
This technology used to be developed internally at large visual-effects facilities with R&D money or hacked together in a pseudo-functional way that got us believing that the char- acters are sort of living. But it’s the subtlety in the simulation that bring out the reality.
For those people interested in 3D character animation, they should really be checking this out to bring their characters up to the next level.
Look for an update pretty soon, as they were kinda excited for me to see some new stuff.
But, the review was slated for now, so guess you all will just have to wait.
The live-action upgrade of Ghost in the Shell by filmmaker Rupert Sanders ( Snow White and the Huntsman) stars Scarlett Johansson ( Under the Skin) as a government-sanctioned cyborg hunting an Internet terrorist who is hacking into the minds of the cyber-enhanced citizens of New Port City.
Realizing that not everything could be captured practically, Sanders sought the Oscar-winning expertise of Guillaume Rocheron ( Life of Pi) and John Dykstra ( Star Wars) to supervise 1,200 visual-effects shots, of which 996 were done by MPC.
“We had to build a city with all of these ‘solograms’ (solid holographic advertisements),” says MPC Visual-Effects Supervisor Axel Bonami. “Other facilities worked on the graphic design as we were constructing the city at the same time.”
Sixty ads were created with some of them the size of a skyscraper.
“We had a rig with 80 video cameras synced together shooting clips that were around 400 frames long,” says Bonami. “Then we had to solve each image in photogrammetry to generate a three-dimensional model, which had the texture baked in. A pixelized-look was applied to every frame of the model that varied depending on the quality of the advertisements. Once we knew where the solograms were going to be put into the city, we did a secondary lighting pass to incorporate the actual shot lighting.”
Establishing shots that float above and
something quite gracious selling the idea that it’s a moving invisible shape.”
Weta Workshop practically made a thermoptic suit out of silicone, which was replaced with a CG version. “There were too many unwanted folds or segments of suit were bulging and creating some unflattering shapes,” says Bonami. “Also, we had to add some iridescence. Then Rupert asked us to make the suit even thinner so to have it as a second skin.”
Invisible Fighting Capturing Major in action was often tricky, as in a courtyard fight that takes place in front of a CG cityscape and another in a shallow pool of water.
“We knew that the Major was going to be mostly invisible,” says Bonami. “We did have shots of a stunt person doing kicks and punches, which we used as our basis for the animation. We used some of the water interaction coming from the fight and, on top of that, there were additional simulations for the limbs to create those water arcs. We had an animation blocking stage that utilized a rig of tubes to produce the positioning and physics of what we wanted the arc to do, which were passed on to the effects team to simulate.”
A small gimbal section was made for the top of the spider tank to serve as an interactive element with Johansson.
“The tank is remotely driven by Cutter (Peter Ferdinando), who is situated in a holographic control room,” says Bonami. “We wanted to in- troduce the fact that the Major is going to win because she’s smarter. Even though we wanted to have all of this motion it was important that the tank still feel constrained.”
The Major hacks into the memory of robot geisha, resulting in an abstract scene where people are not recalled in their entirety and deteriorate over time.
“Guillaume knew where all of these characters would be sitting so they were specifically lit for the environment.” Bonami says. “Ghost in the Shell was quite a challenge, as we wanted to make sure that everything was going to work, look beautiful and please everyone. I am personally looking forward to the shelling sequence because I like the beauty of it.” [
Amazing cars, exotic locales and refined VFX work on a super tight schedule help the bar for the long-lived franchise. By Karen Idelson.
Known for its distillation of stunts, car crashes, visual effects and CG work, the Fast & Furious franchise stands apart in its commitment to giving the audience exactly what it wants in two-year intervals. With a steady stream of exotic locations and A-list appearances, The Fate of the Furious marks the eighth installment in a series inclined to attract and maintain the sort of cult following that makes just about each one of these films a guaranteed money maker. And the visual effects in F8 don’t disappoint, thanks to visual effects supervisors Kelvin McIlwain and Michael J. Wassel.
Because of the tight production schedule, varied and far-flung location shoots and high volume of visual effects shots, The Fate of the Furious had two VFX supes overseeing all the aspects of preproduction, production and post. The film faced significant production challenges when it went to Cuba for the opening sequence, since it was one of the first films to come into the nation once President Barack Obama re-established diplomatic relations with the country. In Iceland — where a large quantity of costly cars had to be shipped for a big sequence — the production was sometimes shut down because of winds so strong they literally lift the paving off of the country’s roads.
Both McIlwain and Wassel know their way around the set on these franchises. They’ve been there for several films in the series and they get that audiences will arrive hungry for something they haven’t seen before.
Both supes aim to create visual effects that read as realistic as they can by shooting and choreographing as much of the action in camera as possible before adding or fixing things in post.
“With every one of these films, we wreck all kinds of cars because recreating the physics of a car crash is incredibly difficult,” says Wassel. “You’re talking about everything from the angle at which the cars crash, to the speed and the lighting, and the eye knows when something doesn’t feel right, so even if we intend to do it all digitally later, we want the information we get by capturing it all on set because you need the lighting, the way the pieces of the cars fall apart, everything.”
The supes both laud Spiro Razatos, second-unit director, for getting the kind of car footage that earned these films a reputation for great chase sequences. Razatos is known as a master of filming high-speed chases that show off the cars in all their glory.
Driving on Ice While the film is populated with complex VFX shots, one of the more difficult sequences took place in Iceland, where much of the third act of the movie is staged. There, high-end cars had to be driven on ice as part of a series of chases that take Vin Diesel’s team to the ends of the Earth. And on top of those shots, there were also involved progressions with ice, snow and water, as the cars and a submarine played a game of cat and mouse.
“All the different types of ice and snow made it especially difficult,” says McIlwain. “Getting the look of them correct when there are different types of light on them and as a submarine is crashing through them or cars are driving across the snow and ice was incredibly hard. We’ve all seen snow and ice, so you’re dealing with those expectations, too.”
While Wassel was on set in Iceland, he needed to create roads on the ice so the hero cars could be driven for their beauty shots. The window of time when the ice was hard enough and thick enough to hold the cars was already narrow. The shoot also had to contend with the kind of weather that could easily turn lethal for a crew moving large vehicles around on the ice.
We’ve all gone to a superhero film looking for the kind of visual effects that leave an audience wide-eyed and open-mouthed, completely stunned out of the ability to crunch down on the popcorn floating around between your teeth and tongue. But not every superhero takes this kind of glossy journey, and many modern warriors appear on screen more often with a dirty face than a bright cape flapping in the wind. Enter Logan and the kinds of visual effects that make us believe in his gritty, tortured journey.
In Hugh Jackman’s final take on Wolverine, the character that launched him to stardom, we see more of the kinds of characters who lived in classic Westerns and Samurai films. Despite his powers, Logan has turned in on himself and is unable to escape his fate.
With that in mind, visual-effects supervisor Chas Jarrett set about creating believable, earthy-looking images that fit in with the vision of director James Mangold, who also helmed The Wolverine in 2013.
Though there were mostly more subtle visual effects in the film, along with the more stand-out big effects shots, there was no shortage of work for the effects teams. Jarrett oversaw about 1,100 visual-effects shots done by houses such as Image Engine, Lola, Rising Sun, Soho VFX and an in-house team. The story, created by Mangold and written by the director along with Scott Frank ( The Wolverine) and Michael Green ( Green Lantern), leaned into the mythology of Jackman’s character while still taking it to a new place. That meant specific things to Jarrett.
Logan is full of complex stunts done by a host of talented doubles, so Jarrett, who won a VES Award for his work on Sherlock Holmes, knew replacing the heads of the stuntmen with the head of Jackman was going to take careful planning and great technique. Two primary stuntmen — Eddie Davenport and Daniel Stevens — played Jackman’s characters. Assembling ‘Logan’s Run’ Near the end of the film, there are a series of shots where Logan is running through the forest to kill some attacking villains. Nicknamed “Logan’s run” during the production, the sequence is a kind of masterclass on the use of stunts, digital claws, background replacement and fixes, all of which are also peppered with CG blood and guts.
“It was a big deal for us from the beginning,” says Jarrett, who explains that the head of Jackman had to be altered to fit each stuntman. “We had to match the dimensions of each stunt double with the dimensions of Hugh’s head, which is tricky because the smallest thing can make it look wrong to the audience when they’re watching it, and then they’re suddenly not believing what’s happening.”
Visual-effects artists began compositing the sequence on set to make sure all the elements — both practical in-camera work and digital items — were coming together in the way they had envisioned. That process went on for nearly 9 months, until the film was completed. Through the course of the sequence, Jackman transitions from being mostly himself to stunt doubles to a fully digital version of himself through the combined work of the stunt actors, visual-effects artists and dozens of other artisans.
The work was complicated since it was shot on location without motion control and with variable lighting and other uncontrollable elements in play for the cast and crew to handle. On screen, the entire sequence seems to flash by for Jarrett.
“I remember seeing it all put together and how fast it passed by and I just thought, ‘Oh,