Bumping the Lamp — Creative Problem Solving

August 21, 2019 - By 

Inspired by the legacy of Richard Williams, you’ll learn about the “bumping the lamp” mantra that still inspires animators to this day. Also, listen to the importance of creative problem solving during production, and how to manage client expectations.

In episode number 109, the team talks about “Bumping the Lamp”, a phrase coined during the production of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. See how the incredible attention to detail inspired animators to create their best possible work. You will also hear about the passing of legendary animator Richard Williams, problem solving during production, and how to best explain challenges to clients or creative directors.

Let’s tune in now.

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Show Notes

Last episode: The 3D Artist’s Toolbox

Death of Richard Williams – NY Times

Animator’s Survival Kit – Richard Williams

Creativity, Inc. – Ed Catmull

Who Framed Roger Rabbit -IMDb

Bumping the lamp scene – YouTube

How ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ Pulled Off Its Incredible Visual Feats – Vice

The 3 Rules of Living Animation – kaptainkristian YouTube

Cool World – IMDb

Ralph Bakshi – IMDb

The Problem Solving of Filmmaking – David F Sandberg

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Podcast Transcript

Nick Campbell: 00:00 Hello there friends. It’s Nick here from the Greyscalegorilla podcast and before we get started today, I wanted to let you know that we’re about to launch Greyscalegorilla Plus, it’s all of our training in one place for one affordable price per month. So go check that out over at greyscalegorilla.com/plus and put yourself on the list because we’re about to launch this dude, we can’t wait to show you what’s in here. Now, in today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about bumping the lamp, navigating unrealistic expectations, especially from those clients out there and speaking of clients, we talk about how to make your clients happy and still have a life. I’m done talking. Without any further ado, let’s get into today’s episode.

Nick Campbell: 00:44 Well, hello there, render friends. It’s nick here again from the Greyscalegorilla podcast. Thank you so much for joining us today and with me today is Michael Maher. How are you sir?

Michael Maher: 00:54 I’m doing swell.

Nick Campbell: 00:56 And of course, Chad, Ashley, how is today treating you?

Chad Ashley: 01:00 Today is treating me very well. Thanks.

Nick Campbell: 01:03 Oh man, that’s, that sounded good, I’m going to reach for my coffee. I had a dentist appointment and couldn’t drink anything. And now I’m ready to go. I need two more coffees today and I’ll be all set to go. Um, we got, uh, we got some fun stuff to talk about today. We got some news, we got, uh, gosh, so many things happening around here. But, um, let’s, uh, what’s going on in the industry lately here, Chad, once you, what’s going on in the news?

Chad Ashley: 01:29 Well, the news, uh, I guess the, not a lot, whole lot has happened between now and the last show, but there was some sad news, uh, beloved animation director, Richard Williams passed away at 86. And, uh, I think those of you might know him, uh, for his huge role in, uh, Roger Rabbit. He was the animation director for Roger Rabbit, but I’ll be, I’ll bet more people know him from his, his book on animation called the Animators Survival Kit, which I think is probably on everybody’s shelf that’s listening to this. And if it’s not, you should go pick it up,

Nick Campbell: 02:10 It should be. Now I’ve seen this in every studio so many times I’ve seen this and every studio I had to get my own copy and it is really, um, that’s an amazing book.

Chad Ashley: 02:23 Yeah. Think about how someone like, like, like Richard Williams who like influenced so many people and just think about the effect that his teaching and his talent and his devotion like has given to the industry and it’s, it’s pretty humbling to think about that, to think about all the people that may have read that book and got inspired or figured something out or watched Roger Rabbit or, uh, I’m not exactly sure. I’ll have to look at his other films, but I’m sure he’s done other amazing stuff, right? Mike you probably know.

Michael Maher: 02:57 Yeah, he did a few title sequences that I recall like, um, not the, not the original pink panther, but I think he did the second and third one, like the Return of the Pink Panther and Pink Panther Strikes Again, I think he did both of those. So like, I think more people know those films for the actual animated cartoon Pink Panther than some of the actual parts of the movie itself.

Chad Ashley: 03:21 Right? Yeah. I’m looking at it as a iMDb right now and the pink panther yet for sure. That was a, those were actually really funny. I remember. Do you remember the Pink Panther cartoon?

Michael Maher: 03:32 Oh yeah. Those came out way after too.

Chad Ashley: 03:37 Yeah. And they had like, I dunno, there’s something about the color palettes they use, which are really always, uh, I love those things like really muted, almost pastel, late sixties kinda color palettes, which are really fun. But yeah, so that, that’s uh, that, that conversation and just talking about his work. Uh, Mike and I were chatting and he was talking about this idea that was born from the movie Roger Rabbit, or I guess it’s a, is it an idea? It’s more of like a, it’s gotta be slang term.

Michael Maher: 04:10 It’s kind of become a mantra or it was at least, I don’t know if it’s still used heavily, but, um, uh, if anybody seen Roger Rabbit, there’s this, this scene that anybody listening to this podcast will know what I’m talking about. But if you try to explain it to anybody outside of this world, they’re like, what? What are you talking about? But there’s a scene when, um, Eddie goes to the bar and he and Roger Rabbit are handcuffed together and they need to get the handcuffs off. And so they go into the back of the bar and the first thing that happens is Eddie, who is the guy Eddie is the man. He walks into the, there’s a hanging lamp and he bumps the lamp with his head and the lamp starts swinging around the room. And obviously what happens is the light starts moving around the room.

Michael Maher: 04:56 So you see the light rotating around the room, lighting the character, going off the character, lighting the character again. And what they ended up doing after the film is when they drew the characters in. So when they’re drawing Roger Rabbit into the scene, they actually shaded him as the light was moving around him as well. And so they went through an incredible amount of work to get like the light shining on Roger. The way that it hit Eddie as it rotates around the room. It’s one of those things nobody will notice unless you are kind of like a nerd like us where you love these kinds of little details. But you know, I could probably go ask my mom if she remembers that scene and she’s just going to be like, that’s the one with the girl, right? With the big, with Jessica Rabbit. I’m like, Yep, that’s the movie.

Nick Campbell: 05:45 I’m watching the scene now as I pulled it up on youtube and I’ll, we’ll put it in the links here. Um, but it’s one of those things you don’t notice till, somebody points it out. I mean it’s, it’s such a part of the scene like of that. Oh, that’s amazing.

Chad Ashley: 05:58 Yeah. I mean it’s, it’s uh, it’s a, it’s basically a really cool flex.

Nick Campbell: 06:04 So, so what does that, so what did, when you use that term, does that mean like you’re, you’re, you’re putting this project on expert mode. Like you just bumped the lamp, like you just moved the camera in a green in, in like a composite scene. Like is, is that, is that kind of what that means? Like you’re, you’re making it harder.

Michael Maher: 06:21 Yeah. It’s one of those details that it’s kind of like you’re doing so much more work than is expected of you. Cause there was even like a thing that happened after the movie came out where, um, I’m trying to remember who was in charge at Disney at the time. It might’ve been Eisner, um, where he was like doing a presentation and he specifically brought up bumping the lamp and like mentioning our animators go the extra, you know, work extra hard to get these little details like this. And you know, they have true dedication to their craft and then that just kinda got more people to want to do those extra little details, which honestly, that, that goes on til today, especially in all of Disney’s films, Pixar films, they go through incredible amount of details that most people will never even notice.

Nick Campbell: 07:10 I feel like Pixar is definitely famous for that. Like just going so above and beyond.

Chad Ashley: 07:17 Yup. Pixars whole thing with that is like, you know, we, there’ll be a, a dresser in Andy’s bedroom, right? And you’ll never see that dresser get opened. You’ll never see that anybody reached into that dresser for anything. But if you are in the shot and you, you know, you’re in the scene file and you open up that dresser, there’s going to be socks in there. There’s going to be textures on the inside of the dresser. There’s going to be folded shirts. That’s their whole thing. You know, they just, they do, they don’t shortchange anything. And that was like, when I think about this bumping the lamp, I immediately think of, of course Disney and, and Pixar for their ability to, and just like dedication to like just everything, everything is thought about. Everything is planned, everything is made. It’s insane.

Michael Maher: 08:05 It’s funny that you mentioned that cause I’m, I’m looking at my bookshelf right now and I see the Animators Survival Kit and right next to it is Creativity, Inc and then I’ve just got other cinematography books and things like that. But yeah, those, those, those two companies had a huge influence on me.

Chad Ashley: 08:22 Yeah. For those of you that aren’t familiar, Creativity, Inc is a book by Ed Catmull who, uh, ran, he might still be running Pixar.

Michael Maher: 08:30 I think he just, I think he just left.

Chad Ashley: 08:32 Okay. Yeah. So he, he was, um, responsible for their formative years and uh, there’s some really great insights in there. And talking about, uh, one thing that always stuck with me in that book was the idea of quality is the best business plan. And I really believe that to be true. And I think that that’s what bumping the lamp is sort of about. It’s about going that extra mile, doing, doing things that are, uh, quality. Not because they’re easy, but because they’re hard to, I did a little, uh, JFK quote there. We do all the things because there are hard. I’m not going to even try to go any further than that.

Nick Campbell: 09:16 There’s this, um, this way of looking at, at, at work and, and business that I, that I’ve thought a lot about which is there is often less competition, the more the harder you work at things and the more complex you try to make them and the more ambitious the goal, there’s often less competition and less people trying to pull that off and you stand out so much because, um, because the quality is so clearly above where everything else is. And, and, and yeah, at definitely Disney, Pixar, um, maybe Apple, we’ll see as they move forward. But, um, those companies that just go above and beyond to make the experience and the, the, um, the feeling of it, right. Regardless of of, of if most people notice or not. It’s like those 5%, 2% of the people that really actually notice it are who they’re talking to and the rest of the people will just watch it or use it. It’s very interesting.

Chad Ashley: 10:24 I think the love comes through, you know like that’s what people are attracted to. They’re attracted when you love something and you put as much care to make Roger Rabbit look like he’s sitting in the scene and the light is dipping in and dipping out, that is a labor of love that just adds to the experience. Now whether or not people, the, you know, regular folk can even distinguish what’s different about the scene than if somebody sorta took a shortcut with it, who’s to say, but I do think it contributes to the, to the emotion of the scene and just like you feel the love.

Michael Maher: 10:59 Did you, did you ever actually watch the like knock-off Roger Rabbit movie with Brad Pitt?

Chad Ashley: 11:06 Oh my God. Yes!

Michael Maher: 11:07 Do remember that? I think it was like, Cool World.

Chad Ashley: 11:09 Yeah, it was called Cool World and it was directed by Ralph Bakshi who has actually done some amazing animation. But that was not one.

Michael Maher: 11:19 It was not one of them.

Chad Ashley: 11:21 Yeah.

Nick Campbell: 11:21 My god that looks awful.

Michael Maher: 11:24 It’s like, it’s a straight up Roger Rabbit knock off with like a, a voluptuous female, uh, animated character.

Nick Campbell: 11:32 But with no shadows. They’re drawn like they’re stickers.

Michael Maher: 11:34 Yeah, she’s floating on the screen. She’s like attached to the camera and just kind of like moves around and Brad Pitt is just kind of standing in the background the whole time.

Nick Campbell: 11:45 Oh, that’s bad.

Chad Ashley: 11:48 Well, Ralph Bakshi I think is probably, he’s an amazing storyteller and I actually really like, his early is early, uh, animation work, cause it was kind of pushing the boundaries of animation, did a lot of like really adult themed stuff with Fritz, the cat and stuff like that. And I think he did lord of the rings and stuff. But the cat, yeah, it’s like super weird trippy stuff. And I think had Cool World tried to like go more into like the drug culture, it would’ve been way better and I would’ve, it would’ve been way easier to forgive some of its shortcomings, but yeah, dude, like that was just full on. Yeah, just not good. There’s no, they didn’t, they didn’t, let’s just say they didn’t bump any lamps on this.

Nick Campbell: 12:38 That’s right.

Michael Maher: 12:39 More jumping the sharks I would say.

Chad Ashley: 12:41 Yeah, that could be true. That can be true.

Nick Campbell: 12:44 That’s amazing. I that movie, um, it’s one I Roger Rabbit I’m talking about, I probably only see it maybe every five years and I always forget how much I love that movie. Every time I watch it there’s a, there’s like no slow parts. There is, there is every scene is like a memorable set. Like I remember like as they set up the scene, I’m like, oh, this is that part and that’s like, it’s like Jurassic Park in that way where every scene has this memorable feeling about it. Um, God, I love that you’re just making me want to go watch Roger Rabbit again. I mean put it in the notes.

Michael Maher: 13:23 We’ll never see something like that again. Like it’s kind of a bummer, but it’s going to be, it’ll be pretty hard to convince a major studio to one do traditional hand drawn animation again. And they also had the crossover of properties. You had Disney, you had Warner Brothers, you had like everybody in this movie. It was, it was huge.

Chad Ashley: 13:42 Yeah. The licensing and all the negotiations that must have taken place to get all those characters on the screen together must have been insane. I’ve remembered watching it being like, oh my God, how did they get Disney characters to show on the screen in the same way Warner Brothers. I think even like honestly Popeye shows up for a bit, like does a cameo. I could be wrong.

Nick Campbell: 14:07 I was just young enough to where it just made sense to me. I was like, yeah, of course. That’s where all the cartoons live. Idiot. Of course. No duh, like Mickey Mouse is hanging out, you know, with uh, with Bugs Bunny. But then as I got into animation and as I got older, I’m like, wow, that’s, that’s quite the room full of lawyers.

Michael Maher: 14:27 Next time rewatch the movie, you’ll notice that, uh, I think the scenes Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse are parachuting, right? They’re jumping, they’re parachuting together there on the screen at the exact same time together for the exact same time. Like there, that one couldn’t, can for like a frame more than the other. Like that’s how detail specific the contracts were.

Chad Ashley: 14:52 Well, you don’t want to, you don’t want to mess with Daffy Duck man. He’s, his agent is a real hard-ass.

Michael Maher: 14:59 Oh Man. That Daffy Duck, Donald Duck piano duel. So great!

Chad Ashley: 15:03 Oh man, there’s so many moments in that movie. I’m gonna have to rewatch it now just for this. So just to say that, you know, I love those scenes too, when they’re doing the dip, you know, and they’re like erasing the characters. And, uh, who’s the guy that plays the evil dude?

Michael Maher: 15:24 That was Christopher Lloyd. And this was, this was Robert Zemeckis. So they had literally just finished Back to the Future one and then they started working on this film.

Nick Campbell: 15:38 He’s like, I’ll just do this weird little side project between Back to the Future one and two. It’ll be fine. And you get this.

Chad Ashley: 15:49 Crazy, crazy stuff, man. Yeah. So let’s talk more about bumping the lamp, because I think that’s a really interesting topic in that you’ve got the one side of it, which is going the extra mile and, and putting all your energy and love into something to make it extra special. But then you’ve got the other side of it, right? You’ve got the side of it that’s like, I had no idea that bumping a lamp was gonna trigger this much work. For now it’s going to be, I’m like on set, you know, they’re probably like, yeah, we’ll have the lamp, you know, move around. It’ll be very noir and it’ll look great. And at the time, maybe they thought about it and maybe they’d planned it, but I kind of imagine this, this scenario playing out where they’re like, yeah, that’ll look great. And then there’s some poor animator, maybe Richard Williams who is like, Oh God, you had to move the light. Like, are you kidding me?

Michael Maher: 16:43 There’s, I think the story was it wasn’t originally supposed to move. Um, but they realized when they were on set that it would be funnier if Eddie kept hitting his head on the lamp. Like they just thought it would be really funny if he did this. And so they just determined that on set, because you have to remember with the movie, all of the live action stuff was shot at least a year ahead of the animation. And so they, they filmed that on set and I think they realized, oh, it’s even funnier if he keeps hitting this lamp. And then they just like, all right, uh, good luck guys. Uh, there’s a, there’s a scene in there. You’re gonna love us for it. And, uh, Richard and your team have fun with that.

Chad Ashley: 17:20 Do you think they shot at both ways?

Michael Maher: 17:24 Um, I dunno. I remember reading a story out to see if I can find it and we’ll put it in the show notes. But I remember reading an interview with, with some of the animators that, um, once it got to them, like that scene, that scene had already been determined that the lamp was going to be moving.

Chad Ashley: 17:38 Right? Yeah. I just imagine on set if they were like, well, for safety, let’s go ahead and shoot this without bumping the lamp and knowing full well that they would never use it. They just wanted to, you know, make everybody feel okay at the moment.

Nick Campbell: 17:53 Well, Chad, you’ve worked, um, I know a lot of pre-production that were where you were filming live action to then add 3d or special effects or, or stuff in post what, what have you bumped into that maybe a director or somebody on the set was like, Hey, let’s bump the lamp and, and you have to make that call of, of how much more work it is and if it’s, if it’s worth the effect, you know?

Chad Ashley: 18:20 Right. Well, I kind of equate shooting for just shooting live action in general or to shooting live action for VFX or motion design even is a lot like getting your house remodeled. And I didn’t really have any idea what it was like to be a client until I had my kitchen redone. And I know that sounds weird but bear with me. So the idea of the reason that I felt that way is because when I’m having my kitchen redone, I know nothing about redoing a kitchen. I know nothing about construction. I don’t, I don’t know anything about doing those sorts of things. So throughout the process I would notice things and I would walk up to one of the contractors and be like, Hey, uh, I noticed there’s like a little tape right here and is that we can be able to like do something with that. And they would every time be very patient and say, Oh yeah, well don’t worry, that’s all going to be taken care of later in the process and everything will be fine.

Chad Ashley: 19:22 Like that’ll be moved to, that will be painted over, don’t worry. And I after like the second or third day of of the construction, I was like, oh my God, this is what it feels like to be a client on set and like, cause you don’t know and everything is like potentially gonna cost you money and you want it done right. And so you I it was, it was like a, just a complete like, like epiphany that I had. I was like, Oh my God, I’m a client. This is terrible! And so I sat back and I’m like, okay, I’m just going to trust that they know what they’re doing and I’m not going to like nitpick every detail and I’ll tell them, please let me know when you want my notes and I will jump in and let you know what and tell me what I should react to.

Chad Ashley: 20:11 I was trying to like be what I would have considered to be a good client on set. But getting back to your point, there are things that a client on set is going to think of that to them that seems like a very important, dangerous change. Or it could potentially, they might think that it’s a no big deal change, but they don’t know the cons. They don’t know what that means. They don’t know how to say, well, if I change this little thing, is that a, is that a big change or a little change? So I’ve had situations where clients will think they’re asking for something that’s completely ridiculous and going to screw up the day of shooting and put us behind when it’s actually super simple. And then I’ve had the flip flop of that where they’re like, oh, we just want to, uh, I dunno, change this one little thing and it’s got a, uh, we’ve already shot like five other shots with that thing in it.

Chad Ashley: 21:02 And now what do we do now? And there’s, so it’s sort of like a mixed bag. Like you, you, you really don’t know, uh, what kind of change is going to come through. But it’s just about being able to communicate the consequence of bumping that lamp. Right? It’s about like saying and hopefully you know them wanting to bump the lamp is like a real, I’m just going to keep saying that by the way. It’s Kinda fun to say it’s good, but if you, if they have like a really, like if it’s a very, uh, minuscule thing, then you can be the hero and you can say, yeah, absolutely. That’s a great idea. We’ll totally, we’ll totally change that thing and make that over here and uh, no problem. And just be really gracious. And if they, if they bumped the lamp in a serious way, that’s going to cause you to have to like paint Roger Rabbit, you know, every basically the entire shot just changing the lighting and it’s a, it’s something that’s gonna really screw up the, the timeline then the answer is always yes, but by an answer’s always yes with a but.

Chad Ashley: 22:06 And that but is really important. And this is where having a producer right next to you is like really helpful because you can play good cop, bad cop cause you don’t want to ever be the director or the creative who’s the naysayer. You want to be the partner to the agency creative that’s like excited to do this work and not always saying well that’s going to be too expensive. So you can say, yeah I think we could totally do that. Let me just check how that might impact the schedule or the budget with a producer and we’ll get back to you. They’ll get back to, and we’ll, we’ll try to figure something out. And then usually, um, if it’s a change order that that’s like major or they’re tweaking something on set that’s major and it’s really gonna put us behind. Usually money talks. Like if it affects the budget then that is definitely, they’re going to think twice about actually wanting you to do that.

Nick Campbell: 22:56 Yeah absolutely we could do that. And at a just be a month later and you know, cost extra.

Chad Ashley: 23:02 Time is not necessarily something that they will, uh, balk at as much because to them we can figure that out. Oh, it’s going to take two more weeks, we’ll just hire two more people. Like, what’s your problem? Go do it. And so time isn’t always the best negotiating tactic unless time is of the essence. And this thing is due like a rush. Like maybe it’s due in two weeks or a week or something like that. Then you can use the time, the time argument because you can just be like, there’s simply is not enough physical time to do this. But more often than not, money is the thing that would always get them to really consider how much they want that tweak or how much they want to bump that lamp.

Nick Campbell: 23:45 Yeah. It reminds me a little of, I think what we talked about last week as well, which is that boss that asks the, the sole or one of the only, um, 3d people in the team to do something really complex and they have, they really don’t have either of those levers to pull other than time, which like you said, is like, yeah, take as much time as you want. Just, you know, go make remake Lord of the Rings with our logo and not having those other lovers to pull, like, like, yeah, it’ll cost you more money because you’re salary. Um, and so you know, that, that’s probably still on our list of discussions to have and try to try to kind of figure that side out. But when you’re, when you’re on set, what are the things, um, that you’re, what are the red flags for you? Uh, when a client has an idea or something in the script where you’re like, oh gosh, this is going to be a nightmare in post.

Chad Ashley: 24:44 Uh, yeah, I’ve learned the hard way. That plan, you can’t plan enough, you can’t over plan, uh, anything to do with live action. And I would meticulously board and sometimes even do a full previz of my, my own previz that I might not even show anybody but the A.D. And really plan it all out. So there was little to no gotchas on set, but I, I think you just have to try to roll with it and you gotta remember that for as much planning that you put into it, you gotta be open to the day, which is really important because you never know what might happen on set that might trigger a better idea and yeah, it might be more work and yeah, it might require the team back at the studio to like want to punch you in the face because you did this in a certain way, but only you on set can really understand why that’s important to make those decisions on the day.

Chad Ashley: 25:47 For instance, like, I’m trying to think of a, of a, uh, a for instance here. OK. So I was, before I started directing live action, I was actually doing VFX suping on a director that we had on staff, Eric and Eric Anderson, you, we, we’ve mentioned him before on the show and I was fairly new to like live action, VFX suping and he was shooting a beer commercial that was kinda run-and-gun. It was a lot, a lot of setups in a day, uh, and just a lot of moving around and the entire spot was going to require hovering sort of like this is back when, um, what’s that movie that had like the 3d type, Panic Room, remember the Panic Room titles that everybody wanted to do. So everybody wanted to do these Panic Room titles at that time and this beer commercial was no different.

Chad Ashley: 26:36 So my job was to be on set to make sure that we could track in these titles into these shots. Right. And I was so new that I didn’t really know how to say no to Eric. And I just knew that if I was the guy who was always telling Eric what he couldn’t shoot and how he had to shoot it, that I would be the pariah and I would never get asked back to do another VFX sup again. And it would just be, I would be bad for me. So I tried to on the fly think of ways to make things work. And for instance, so he’s shooting this like macro shot of a beer glass on a bar top and it’s like super, uh, it was like a really long lens, very shallow depth of field, everything was blown out of focus like two inches behind the glass and two inches in front of the glass and typical Eric Anderson kind of shot.

Chad Ashley: 27:30 And so I’m there going like, oh my God, like I have to try. And it’s handheld and it’s like I got to track a title next to this glass with nothing to track. And I can’t lay tracking markers down because all the, you know, you and everybody else back in the studio, it’d be like, oh my God, I gotta paint out all these tracking markers. Why did you do this? So while I’m on set looking through the monitor, I notice that the, the bar top surface is imperfect, there’s like dust on it. There’s like, you know, it’s a, it’s an old bar. And so what’s happening is the lights hitting these little dust particles and making little bokeh balls, like really tiny, sharp white bokeh balls all on the bar top. And I’m like, Oh man, this gives me an idea. So I run over to the craft service table and I grab a napkin and I start tearing the napkin into as tiny a pieces as I can get it.

Chad Ashley: 28:21 And I roll them into tiny, tiny, tiny specks, little balls. And I walk on set and I’m like, everybody’s expecting me to drop tracking markers and I just start sprinkling this like napkin powder dust all over the bar top.

Michael Maher: 28:37 He’s lost it.

Chad Ashley: 28:37 They seriously were like, what is the hell is this guy doing? And even Eric was like, uh, what do you, what are you doing man? I’m like, trust me, these things are gonna track, like these are our tracking markers and we’re not even going to paint them out. And so I dropped them in there and sure enough, the light hit him. They, you know, they, they looked beautiful because it looked like this natural like dust patina on the bar top and they tracked perfectly. And so I guess the point of my story is be flexible, be creative. But when things get too gnarly, you got to step up and be like, Yo, this is gonna kill the entire team. We can’t do this. So yeah, that’s my little story about that.

Michael Maher: 29:26 You reminded me of something. Um, so I dunno if anybody’s, uh, is familiar with, with David F Sandberg. He’s, uh, he’s one of like these horror directors who came up doing, like, he did a Lights Out and he did one of the Annabelle movies and he’s also a youtube channel where he’s done like DIY filmmaking tips and things like that. And I’ve always enjoyed learning from him. Like, you know, building DIY dollies and cool stuff like that. And so he went on to direct Shazam! And so he actually came out with a video essay a few months ago that was just an incredible dive into like the actual problem solving that you face on a major motion picture where you know, you’re realizing you have, you don’t have a character on set one day and they need to come from inside the house and meet up with the other characters and like how you have to match costumes and all these little things. You never think about how it, and it takes like a whole team to get these tiny things and then people still complain. You’re like, well why did they all put their jackets on to go outside and go back in? And then, but he then like breaks it down as like, this is why we did this and this is how we did this. And even a cool little tricks like they, you know, they were shooting in the mall. There’s like a flying sequence in a mall. And, uh, there were some crew that were in the shot, like a, I don’t remember if they’re holding gear or whatever, but they ended up just like they couldn’t paint them out cause they only had like a very short window to deliver that shot. So they just, uh, comped like shopping bags into their hands and stuff like that.

Chad Ashley: 31:01 Brilliant.

Michael Maher: 31:01 I’ll put that, I’ll put that in the show notes as well. But it’s a really cool, uh, video on how they solve all these little issues like that that you never think about.

Chad Ashley: 31:10 I feel like when you’re doing that job, whether you’re, VFX suping directing, just live action in general, problem solving is everything. Like you don’t know, I would bring stuff that I shot back to the studio and somebody comping it would like complain or whatever. And you, if you don’t know the story, you can damn well be sure that everything that came back in the live action was there is if there’s a problem, there’s a story behind it.

Michael Maher: 31:41 Right.

Chad Ashley: 31:41 And there was a decision that was made or something that had to be cut due to time or you know, pick your, pick your reason. But it’s never, it’s usually never, for lack of a skill, like it’s not usually a mistake. It’s usually like, oh man, like this was, this is why this happened, you know, so who knows what the reason. But yeah, you just gotta roll with the punches and like really kinda problem solve your way through it.

Michael Maher: 32:08 Right. I think, I think there’s even, you know, people listening to this that, you know, forget that sometimes you don’t have time to bump the lamp. And so you have to think of ways to cheat or like, you know, maybe move the camera or you know, something, there’s a weird cut. So you try to hide a jump cut or something like that. Um, just have to be creative in solving those problems. You’re not, it’s never going to be perfect. You’re, you’re never going to have that final product. That’s exactly how you storyboarded it. And as long as you deliver something and your clients happy, it doesn’t matter. Somebody might find an imperfection, but who cares? You still got paid and you can move on to the next project.

Chad Ashley: 32:51 This kind of goes against our mythos.

Nick Campbell: 32:56 There’s really, um, simple things too that I, that weren’t obvious to me that once somebody tells you, you’re like, oh, of course that’s how you do it. And one of them was like, I’m trying to film green screen or, or even just knowing that you’re going to add something to the shot later that you want to, if possible, just lock that dang camera off.

Chad Ashley: 33:18 Oh my God. Yes.

Nick Campbell: 33:20 And make the, even if you’re in the middle of an action sequence and you’re going to add all this camera shake and all these, you know, vibration effects and flip the camera and do all this stuff, lock the dude off, make, make the, um, record what you need.

Nick Campbell: 33:35 And then there’s minimal tracking, right? If you’re adding something to the background, you’re adding castles or mountains or explosions or whatever, you just do it all in the scene. It’s gonna look ridiculous without all the camera shake that you’re going to add later. And once somebody told me that like block it off and then add the camera shake later. It was one of those like Inception moments where I was like, oh, of course that’s how you do it. That’s the movie magic everyone’s been talking about. It’s like, it’s like in, in a, in Star Trek when they all just make them move around the set instead of, you know, like they, they shake the camera and make a mover on the set instead of shaking the whole thing airplane.

Chad Ashley: 34:14 I’ve fought that battle so many times.

Nick Campbell: 34:18 Well and even even I thought I was extra smart, I was like, well yeah, but then the camera shake won’t be natural and it’ll look like computer generated. If I just throw a vibrate tag on my camera and after effects, it’s not going to look as natural as if we do it in hand. And of course there’s an answer to that too, which is that’s fine, go hand hold, I’m doing a camera, move on tracking paper, like go film tracking paper and do the camera move and then track that, you know, track those x’s on the screen and then add the move in later. That way it’s a real natural camera move. And I was like, oh, of course. Like all these problems have been, have been brought up and, and been trying to solve. People have been trying to solve these problems for like a hundred years plus now. Right. And in the digital world and for like 40, 50 years now trying to figure this out and uh, and, and thinking, those little things, and I’m sure there’s more of them. You might, you might have one in your head. Put it in the comments. Cause I love these little tricks that people use that, that are kind of obvious once you hear them. But, but um, if you don’t know them, you can get into a world of, of, uh, removing tracking markers and green screen problems and all these issues. If you don’t stabilize your shots.

Chad Ashley: 35:35 I remember, dude, I would have so many arguments with DP’s on set that just wanted a little bit of movement in the frame and I’d be like, dude, you’re literally adding hours of work needlessly. We can do that exact move in, you know, back at the studio. But then I sort of thought about it and I was like, well of course the DP wants to do that. Like if he just set up lock off’s all day, like he feels like he’s not contributing, or he or she feels like they’re not doing their job or they might not get asked back like all they did to set it up on a tripod and walk away. So I get it that they want to feel like they’re contributing and doing something. But at the end of the day, if, if you’re the production company that hired the DP or you’re on set and you’re like, oh man, this is going to all this, like subtle handheld stuff is costing us a lot of money in stabilization, then yeah, you got to speak up.

Chad Ashley: 36:30 But yeah, I, I remember having those arguments like constantly.

Nick Campbell: 36:36 I want to get a list together now. All right, let me see your comments folks. Drop ’em in the, if you’re listening on Youtube, and by the way, um, let us know too, if you’re listening on iTunes. Uh, I know it’s a little Meta break in the middle of this podcast here, but now that we’re doing more of these shows, we’d love to hear where you’re listening from, uh, and say hi. So if you’re listening on iTunes or anywhere over there, leave us a comment. Say Hi. Tell us, um, what, what your favorite Zemekis movie is.

Michael Maher: 37:02 Back to the Future. Duh! We’re also, uh, on Spotify now too, by the way. I don’t know if I’ve told you guys that, but we’re, we’re everywhere. Your, your podcasts can be streamed on your favorite podcast streaming service.

Chad Ashley: 37:18 Wow. Yeah, I feel like a, there’s so many more places that you can get them now. Like it’s crazy. Like there’s a, like a million apps and million spots now.

Michael Maher: 37:28 If we’re not in your favorite spot, let us know.

Chad Ashley: 37:30 Yup. We will add it.

Nick Campbell: 37:34 Adorable. Well, um, what else we have on our list today and then we’re approaching almost 40 minutes. Uh, anything else on the list we can get into? I know we’ve been busy behind the scenes on a bunch of stuff, uh, that will, I’m sure announce sooner or later, but, um, what, what else been going on?

Chad Ashley: 37:52 Mike, what do you got?

Michael Maher: 37:56 Well, I’ve got product releases out the wazoo guys. So I think, I think every time we go to a show, I’ve realized somebody comes up to us and mentions like, you guys have been really quiet for awhile. I was like, yeah. They’re like, does that mean you have a lot of stuff about to come out? And we’re like, yeah, we, uh, anybody who’s heard about Greyscalegorilla Plus over the past few episodes and past few weeks, um, we, we have launched a, an early bird version of that, which is closed off now, but the full version of that comes out here pretty soon we have a new collection of Happy Toolbox models that will be up in the store. Uh, probably in another week or so. And so we’ve got that coming out. We teased a new material collection. So if you follow us on Instagram or Twitter, you can check out some previews as well as some artists who have already demoed. There’s some really, really neat stuff from um, James Owen and Billy Chitkin and, uh, Zach Corzine. They’ve all kind of shared some stuff on their channels that can kind of maybe start piecing together what this new pack is. But I’m super excited about that. I know Chad is definitely excited about that.

Chad Ashley: 39:07 Yeah, just a little bit.

Nick Campbell: 39:11 They look amazing. I’m excited to play with them. The Everyday Material pack’s been, um, like my most used thing in the last year mostly because, you know, I’m into RedShift and playing around with it and I have almost zero interest in learning RedShift, uh, node materials. That’s just not how my brain works. So now that I am able to like go into this library, build my scene out with this stuff, such a huge help and then when I do need to customize it, I don’t have to start from scratch. It’s all there. That that thing has been good. So I’m really excited about the new pack. I got a little sneak peek of it and it’s going to be fun.

Chad Ashley: 39:53 I’m excited about it too. Yeah. On that, on that tip, like I feel that way too about some software. Like I tried to, uh, I tried to open Houdini yesterday. I was like, yeah, I need more time with this. This is maybe not the right thing for me.

New Speaker: 40:14 [Sad Trombone SFX]

Chad Ashley: 40:14 But that pretty much sums it up right there. I was like, I was messing around with it, and I was like, oh my God, I need, I need somebody to teach me this. Like this is like, I can’t do this on my own. So yeah, it’s, it’s like, it’s crazy. Like you thought that like the RedShift nodes where we’re crazy man. Like that thing is like, whew. I went running tail between my legs back to Substance. Like a dog that like hit the electric fence or something.

Nick Campbell: 40:52 Chad’s in the corner, petting his shader ball.

Chad Ashley: 40:57 Everything’s alright. It’s okay. It’s gonna be fine.

Nick Campbell: 40:59 We’re all fine. Uh, Mike, I got to say Mike gets like, um, like a, like one coupon per episode for sound effects. I think you, you played it well, my friend.

Chad Ashley: 41:11 Oh, that’s a good idea. I think. Yeah. I love the idea that he gets one sound effect per podcast.

Michael Maher: 41:18 You never know when it’s going to happen.

Chad Ashley: 41:21 You got to stick around to hear how he’s gonna work it in.

Nick Campbell: 41:23 How’s it going to move it into this? Oh, and there it is.

Chad Ashley: 41:28 Yeah. So there you go. There’s your a little Easter egg thing, right there.

Michael Maher: 41:32 I’m finally getting to put this radio, television film degree to work.

Chad Ashley: 41:38 There you go. Nicely done.

Nick Campbell: 41:39 Just hitting them buttons. Hey before, um, before we roll out, I have a like a concept that I wanted to run past you. I think I maybe talked about it in the last episode a little, but I think there’s something here and you tell me what, what’s missing on it? So I’m thinking about these, these artists out there like we talked about last week that have their, their, their creative director or their boss kind of have an unlimited budget of what they’re able to tell them what to do. And there’s, there seems to be no way to say I can’t do that right there. They’re Kinda in the same position you were with with Eric, where it’s like, I can’t continuously tell my boss, I that what you’re asking is very hard and I can’t continuously tell my boss that I can’t do it because he hired me to do this.

Nick Campbell: 42:28 But in many cases as we know, uninformed clients, just like you might have been with your kitchen, Chad uninformed bosses or clients are asking for things that are just like impossible or uh, take teams of thousands or hundreds of people you know, years to pull off. And so I had this thought like what if there’s some sort of like, like dollar system, like like monopoly money or something like some that that represent basically the hours that something takes to do. And then every for every time you have an idea, every time the, the, every time the creative director walks by with an awesome idea. And by the way, just to be clear, these are, these are a lot of our teams we’re talking with, they’re not doing production work in the field where they’re getting outside money is coming in. And this is often in-house work where from what I’m hearing, the boss or the creative director is somebody on the team saw something cool yesterday on the Spiderman movie and they walk in and they’re like, we need our logo with all the webs around it.

Nick Campbell: 43:37 And then it comes down. And then it knocks over this and then it does this and here’s the 3d artists going like, yeah, that’s cool, but.

Chad Ashley: 43:45 I’m going to die.

Nick Campbell: 43:47 But I can’t do that. And, and I know I’m exaggerating a little bit, but I know that we got enough feedback from people that are like, yeah, you’re describing my day. So I’m tossing this idea out just to try to solve it. I don’t think this is quite it, but what if there was like literally like eight, you know, eight monopoly dollars or 800 monopoly dollars per day per per and then essentially 40 monopoly dollars per week that represent your hours at work and you have ideas all you want and then your, you are coming back to your boss and be like, awesome idea. Just like you said, of course boss, of course I’m going to do that. Here’s how many, here’s how many monopoly hours this will will take to do. Do you want me to go research this and it or maybe even maybe hire help or do this or I have found this solution that’s kind of similar where it doesn’t involve Houdini and 18 artists to come build this and it’ll only cost you eight, you know, uh, our dollars. It’s up to you.

Chad Ashley: 44:50 I laughed cause that immediately made me think of a swear jar. Every like stupid request, alright, put a dollar in that jar.

Nick Campbell: 45:02 You just, you just shake your head and point at the jar.

Chad Ashley: 45:05 Put it in the suggestion box, it’s the garbage can right over there.

Nick Campbell: 45:09 I don’t think they’d be around for too long if they did that, but I love that concept.

Chad Ashley: 45:13 No, I think that’s an interesting idea. I think what, what it all boils down to, and I’ve been in that position, like one of the first jobs that I had in doing 3d was for a post house, that I was the only 3d artist and I was asked to do things that I constantly was asked to do, things that I didn’t know how to do. And it is hard and the best thing that you can do in those situations is educate people. You gotta educate them. Like I love the idea of telling them like how long, how much more, you know monopoly bucks that you need to do that thing. But the longterm solution should be to educate that client that created director so that they can self regulate and they won’t bring that stuff to you eventually. Every single time that it pops up in their head, eventually they’ll grow that muscle that says, oh wait, I bet that’s going to be hard because you told me that like modeling was the first thing we do and we already passed that and now I’m, I’m going to, I’m about to ask them to change the model that’s going to be bad. Okay. I won’t ask him. And I think that if you like slowly or quickly educate them as much as you can on the process.

Chad Ashley: 46:28 And I worked with a producer that had a great way of doing this. Like she was amazing at educating the client as to about the process. And she basically was like, this is like building a house. So first thing you do is drop the plans. That’s the storyboard. The plans get approved, you move into construction, you’ll lay the foundation, so you’re building the models, you’re building the rigs, then you’re putting the drywall up and you’re getting a little bit further. Then you get into lighting and that’s like painting the House and then when it’s done and it’s, you know, dressed up to be sold, that’s like compositing. And so when you explain it that way and somebody goes, yeah, you know what that thing that we started to work on, I really think it should look like Spiderman webs. And you’re like, well that will take us. We’ll have to tear down the entire house and get back to the planning stage or the foundation stage. And like when you put it in those terms, it suddenly makes like, Oh, oh, you’re right. Okay, you’re right at this stage. We should be talking about this.

Michael Maher: 47:36 That’s such a great metaphor because it’s literally like, okay, but you know, if you have, if you want to move the toilet, we have to move the plumbing. Like it’s a, it’s a very complicated system. That’s, that’s great. I would actually, I think I’m going to start using that more.

Nick Campbell: 47:51 Yeah. I think it comes back to, to the original idea and, and, and maybe without the dollars, you could still essentially do, um, the, you, you, you could still allow your, your creative director or your boss or whoever’s proposing this stuff to pick by saying, you got it, boss, here’s what you’re asking for and here’s how much time this will take. Like, making sure that, that, that process of showing a, um, a bid or whatever you would call that, like, um, even a storyboard saying, you got it.

Nick Campbell: 48:28 This is what this will take. This will take, you know, this many months and, and we’ll have to buy this plugin. You’ll have to, well, we’ll have to do this. But I think I also have a solution that has that feel that you’re going for, but that won’t take so long. And so I’m just going to put this on the table too, because you know, we, I know we might not have enough time for this and that way you’re, you’re coming with, you’re coming back with a solution rather than just saying like you’re being ridiculous, which they are being ridiculous sometimes, but now you’re coming back and saying, um, you know, here’s, here’s actually a plan that gets similar to what you’re going for, um, without, you know, without spending months or whatever.

Chad Ashley: 49:11 That’s actually a great point because what you have as people that do this for a living, we are, we understand all the aspects of it. We understand how many people it takes, what kind of software you need, you know, how much time, all that sort of thing. And sometimes when somebody comes with a, with an idea, let’s just keep going with this like spider thing, they might say, I want Spiderman. And immediately our brains go to all of the things that I just described, all the different pieces of that puzzle when in actuality they might’ve just meant I want it to be red. So you, you gotta like say, okay, well the, like you said perfectly like, oh yeah, we can do that. It’s going to take this many people this many things, blah, blah, blah. But here are some things in that vein that I wanted to get your opinion on. Maybe this is a good solution. Maybe this is a good, happy medium. And I love that idea of like proposing creative solutions that don’t don’t kill yourself. They, you might want to kill yourself on because ultimately you don’t know what they mean. They’re not coming to you saying, I want all of the complexity and a cinematic craziness of Spiderman in my logo. They might’ve just said, I love Spiderman. Can we do something like that with my logo? And if you, if you immediately jumped to like, oh my God, I gotta make Spiderman the movie for this logo, you’re, you’re going to go crazy. But if you just come back and like, maybe it’s red, maybe there’s a little half tone, maybe there’s a little this, you know, and find out what that means to them. And that’s the other thing too. Like, dude, that’s a whole other podcast. Like just getting down to what the real note is is an art form.

Nick Campbell: 51:00 Yeah, that’s, that’s tough. What is the note when, especially when it’s abstract and it’s, you know, it’s missing something or it needs a pop or its, it’s something here trying to figure out exactly what that means. Um, you’re right, it’s, that’s an, that’s an entire art form that they don’t necessarily teach you all the time and when you’re learning software, right?

Nick Campbell: 51:23 Like how to get a note from that client and interpret it, knowing the relationship and knowing what their kind of attitude is and knowing what their tastes are. Hey, we’re just coming up with podcast ideas on top of podcasts ideas. Let’s go write that one down because I think deep diving deeper than just at the end of this podcast would be kind of an interesting idea in it. And if that’s something to, I loved all the feedback we got from last week. If that’s something too you want to hear, um, us talk about on a future podcast or maybe even something a little more in depth. Maybe we could dive into and kind of get into history of this stuff. Let us know in the comments. We always love hearing from you guys. Um, and uh, I know we’re approaching, we’re approaching the, the longer hours unless there’s, I think anything else I think we could start to wrap it up and, um, and uh, we’ll see. We’ll see ’em in another podcast. I didn’t, I didn’t want to say yet, but I just wanted to clear it with you guys. How are you feeling?

Michael Maher: 52:23 I feel great.

Chad Ashley: 52:25 I’m feeling great. Yeah, that was a good show.

Michael Maher: 52:27 I learned so much. That’s how, you know it’s a good one.

Nick Campbell: 52:33 I love it. Well, um, I think, I think that might be a good one for now. We’re trying to stay on top of this weekly, uh, show. So any other ideas too that you guys are running into? Um, let us know in the, in the comments below. Let us know on iTunes. And can you even leave a review on Spotify? I don’t even know.

Michael Maher: 52:56 I don’t know. But you can follow us. So you’d get notified when there’s a new episode, so you don’t have to download and all that stuff.

Nick Campbell: 53:00 Oh, I see why people want it on Spotify. I get it now. I was like, why not? Just because they’re in Spotify and you don’t have to get a little downloaded or anything until it’s just there. It just, it just reminds you like, go well, hello, our new Spotify friends. Thank you. That finally makes sense.

Nick Campbell: 53:17 Thank you for listening no matter where you’re listening. Um, and, uh, I appreciate your time and, and uh, stay tuned. As always, we got a big fall planned here at Greyscalegorilla. We’re always glad you’re here, hanging out with this. Listen and learn and hope you’re making something amazing this week and until the next show, have a good one. Keep rendering. Bye Bye everybody.

Michael Maher: 53:37 Bye.

Chad Ashley: 53:37 Bye everybody.

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