Sunday, February 28, 2010

Long Time No Write.

It's been damn near a year since I've written here in my blog and what a year it's been. Early 2009 I thought the world was about to end with our new business struggling in such a tumultuous economy. In an amazing turn of events, I was offered a position at Naughty Dog, Inc, a very popular Sony owned game studio as their Cinematics Lighting Artist. It was difficult to let go of one of my dreams but in hindsight, it was the best decision I have ever made. This company fits me like a glove. These guys are talented, highly motivated and have a open, non-political, all-hands on approach to production. Now that we're clearing some management debris, this could be the best job that I've ever had. So why is it so different from film?

The first and most important advantage that games have over film is job stability. Nobody at Naughty Dog is currently worried about being laid off due to a lack of work. I'm not talking about laying people off for product performance issues or studio closures, I'm talking about between-project downtime. It's slow right now at the studio but instead of laying off all the talent and re-hiring at the peak of production, NDI keeps us on, allowing us to experiment with new looks and technology. This is a big reason why game tech is outpacing film tech ten fold but that's a whole other article.

The other part of games that make it more fun than film is recognition. I know it's not suppose to matter but it just does. I have never met so many crazy, enthusiastic fans or signed so many autographs. It makes all the hard work much more gratifying and motivates me to create the best possible product. It's definitely a work-hard/play-hard industry and I love that.

There is a downside to working in games (at least as far as Naughty Dog). The production schedule is so frantic and the technology is so limiting that I can't produce the quality work that I'm used to. I enjoy the fine tuning phase of Lighting and we just aren't allowed that liberty time-wise. It's something we'll have to work out as a studio in order to schedule Lighting a bit more time to tweak but it's certainly a survivable drawback.

2010 and Beyond:

Ironically, I had always had issue with the way Naughty Dog offices appeared. For a successful game company, we had a somewhat hole-in-the-wall studio space. I used to tell friends that "it's fun working there, but not much to look at". That has all changed as of this week. We have taken over an entire floor of the Water Gardens building in Santa Monica and our new offices are stunning. I'm totally excited about going into work tomorrow and getting settled in. In the new space, there is an amazing new opportunity for me to work and learn from my peers without restriction and I couldn't be more happy about that.

In other super exciting news, me and my wife made an offer on a beautiful house in Thousand Oaks that was accepted just last week. We have a 45 day closing period with a lot of work to do in between but it's looking pretty good. I can't wait to have my own office space at home!

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Monday, April 27, 2009

I'm a die hard multiplayer gamer. Everything from Quake to UT, 1942 to BF2, there is absolutely no AI that can be as diverse and challenging as a real human player. If I do play a single player game, it's almost always puzzle or solution based rather than a pure shooter. When I first got here at Naughty Dog and they told me that they were working on a multiplayer version of Uncharted, I had my reservations about it. Usually a game company can make a good multiplayer OR a good single player game. The only game that has broken that mold (that I know of) is the Call of Duty series.

In my biased opinion, Naughty Dog is also creating a great fusion/hybrid of the two with Uncharted 2. I really think this will be the must-own game for the ps3. You can easily get away with renting Uncharted 1. It's short, it's great but seriously, how many times are you going to play through the same story? Uncharted 2 however, has serious replayability with the multiplayer version. I sneak into the game every day when they test multiplayer here at work and I can say that it's definitely a well thought out game.

All this talk about Game of the Year is a bit early I think but it will surely be well received. After playing around with the ps3 this past week, I can see where that system is in desperate need for some good proprietary games. I see no benefit of owning a ps3 over a 360 and with the cost of the ps3, it just seem ludicrous. Sony needs to re-think what they are doing with this console and what they are doing with the Blu Ray format. Sony will never capture the market at $30 a movie.. but that's another article altogether.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Huge Failure Creates Great New Opportunity

Computer Graphics Learning Center ended up being a great big, steaming pile of failure. Not because there wasn't any interest mind you. There were tons of people willing to come and be taught by industry professionals. The problem was, there was no loan money for students to pay for the school and running a school like that is very very expensive. There is just no way around it. You get what you pay for with these things. Every time we cut tuition cost, we had to cut a program or an instructor out of the business plan. We ended up cutting out so much that the original concept had been completely lost. That's when I decided to stop and look at my options. I put out feelers to see what kind of work was available and ended up with several hits. Come to find out, even in this terrible economy, the entertainment industry is still very strong.

I've been talking for years about making the jump into games and although I've had several offers, I never found the right fit for me. It always seemed like the studios I liked were never hiring when I was available. This time, however, the timing was perfect. Naughty Dog, a studio that I had visited a couple of years ago and absolutely loved, was looking for a Cinematics Lighter. In a strange turn of events, within days of telling friends that I was available, I got the call from a Naughty Dog recruiter. They had talked to one of my friends who referred them to my online reel. I was flown to Santa Monica for an interview and they made me an offer right away. I'm now officially a Naughty Dog!

I've been training this week on the Lighting tools and couldn't be happier. This place really feels like a great fit for me. I'll be working with one of my Art Directors from Disney and a group of extremely talented programmers and artists. I'll keep everyone updated here as to how things are going.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

What's New is News

It's been quite some time since my last post. I've been a busy little bee over the past few months... heck, this little project started several years ago really.

When Disney laid off a large chunk of Feature Animation, several friends and I sat around a lunch table and discussed what was next for us. I mentioned back then that I was thinking about opening a Computer Graphics school. We got into a great talk about the current state of Animation and CG schools and how most of them were located back East, were expensive and never quite hit the mark on instruction. We came up with an amazing idea to teach people on the East Coast what the West coast needed in terms of Film, TV and Gaming studios. This would also strengthen studios on the East Coast because they wouldn't have to hire West Coast people to get the necessary experience to run their studios.

We were very excited and talked about really doing it until the offers started coming from other studios. The excitment soon faded as we all ran off to our next movie gig... but I never quite let it go. It's been burning in the back of my head ever since and during production on Mad2, I realized that if I was ever going to do it, now would be the time. I'm newly married, no kids, no debt and financially secure. So I finished up Mad2, packed up our stuff and headed East.

We wanted a location that would be a crossroads to everything on the East Coast and would be a nice place to live and work. Charlotte, NC jumped out at us almost immediately. North Carolina's film industry is second only to California in revenue and Charlotte is a good size city right in the middle. Most production takes place in Wilmington, NC and we're planning on taking a close look at that area also. If not for the school, for Post Production work that might be picked up by the school.

We're knee deep in a pile of government paperwork but we are well on our way to starting a brand new computer animation school. I've decided to name the school CGLC for Computer Graphics Learning Center. We're in the process of choosing a building location and will be licensed throught the North Carolina Community College Board soon. I'll try to post updates as things change but until then, visit for the latest news.

Monday, August 04, 2008

MvA Trailer Leak

Looks like someone sneaked a camera into a screening of a Monsters vs. Aliens trailer. I hadn't even seen this yet so it probably won't last long.

Mad2 is in the final stretch now. We're workin Saturdays to try and get it all done in time. Our tools are very complicated so it takes quite a while to light a shot which is unfortunate when it gets down to crunch time. I still like the studio a lot but the work is draining me. I need a very long vacation... which is not coming anytime soon. I was told that after Mad2, I'll be going straight onto Monsters vs. Aliens. OyVay!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Mad2 Animated Signatures

Go ahead and take one... pass them around... you know you want to.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Mad2 Trailer

If you've seen Kung Fu Panda then you've probably already seen this trailer. If you haven't seen KFP then why not?!? We just hit 50% done in Lighting on Mad2 so we're smokin through this show. It's a fun movie but challenging with lots of characters, trees and grass. Should be pretty though. We're using a lot of new technology to light the show that they didn't have in the first Madagascar. The PDI bounce light system used on Shrek 3 for instance. It's a global illumination solution that they came up with here... looks amazing.