Interview - Iron Claw



Iron Claw
VFX Production Company


Iron Claw is represented by iartists

Hello and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Tell us a bit about your company, when did you start, what are your goals?
We started in May of 2008. This was right before the Great Recession started, a fact that was both scary and motivating. Our goals then were not too far away from what they are now, which are to create a boutique creative shop focused on service and long-term relationships.

Do you collaborate with production companies or manage everything in-house?
We manage 9 out of 10 services in-house. Sometimes we collaborate with specialists in fields like liquids or rotoscoping, but we consider ourselves a full-service production company. 
What programs/plugins/scripts do you use?

We use various 3D programs depending on the needs of the job. Also, compositing happens in After Effects, Nuke or Flame. Less and less do we categorize our shop as dominated by one or two programs. The market has demanded a fluency and understanding of many tools.
How do you keep up with all the changes in technology?

Though it might not seem intuitive, keeping up with tech is part of the fun. Often the chatter around the studio is about new capabilities of new programs. Animators are always looking for tools to make their jobs easier, and since technology provides this, there is a natural interest in acquiring new tools.
How involved is the interview process at Iron Claw?
We find that for artists, the interview is less important than a combination of viewing prior work and simply working together for a few days. The wheat and the chaff become visible in no time once deadlines and communication are in full swing. On the other hand, for production and administrative, even intern interviews are more involved.

With the market becoming more and more competitive, what do you believe is a must that an artist has in his portfolio or skills?
Talent and drive are the no-brainers. Anyone going anywhere will have both. But other skills need to be built to round out the creative professional. Administrative communication, timeliness, willingness to do anything regardless of station… these will make one a start in the mind of a producer while the artistic talent is supported by the creative director.
TOKIDOKI looks great in 3D. What were the challenges on this project? Can you give us an insight on the process, the goals of the project and the difficult parts?

We loved working on this project because it was a chance to take artwork that resides in 2D and give it life in 3D. This was the challenge as well. Interestingly, we have a lot of character animation talent, something we knew very little about until we unleashed our artists on this project.
What is the typical starting point in a 3D/VFX commercial? How long does it usually take?
Written concepts always come first. In years before, we took a long time to create Photoshop key frames and present printed boards. Now we typically have less time, and the market demands pre-vis, key frames, and sometimes even developed motion tests. But a clear vision at the beginning, as expressed and agreed upon between groups, is always the genesis.
What other supporting departments do you typically involve on an average project? How large does this list grow when you’re working on a longer project like SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL 2011?

We have grown up to 22 people, which is large for us. Typically we bring in specialists and form a different pipeline for each job since they all require slightly different ratios of design vs. CG vs. compositing, etc. Also, we bring in a live-action team when needed, which makes it a very busy bee hive over here.
Do you use the same techniques from one project to another? What is your company’s strongest point (motion capture, storyboard, 3D modeling, animating, VFX)?

Our strongest point has always been mixing live action with CG environments. Though all projects are different, we’re always drawing from our core competencies, like designing physical and CG environments in which action occurs.
Was there ever something you wanted to do in a project and couldn’t? (Technology wise) Which design do you believe was the most difficult to achieve?

We had an experience design project at one point in which we wanted to create holographic dancers on a stage. This was before the Tupac hologram at Coachella. We couldn’t find the right tech partners to pull it off, but it always comes up internally as one that got away. Would have been amazing!
How important is it to have a proper education in this field?
It’s not important to have a formal education, though a formal art education helps in the long run. We consider much of this work as a vocation; one that requires apprenticeship rather than academics. Like any trade, experience in real projects is key. Balancing talent, skill set and ability to work with others. School can only give one a fraction of what’s needed. To those starting out, we always suggest getting real-world work opportunities as soon as possible.

Do you still find time for projects outside the advertising industry? What do you have up your sleeve for future projects?
We work all of the time, so it’s difficult to schedule outside projects. This is why we try to make the work environment as enjoyable as possible. But we do personal and studio projects here and there. We want to do an art show sometime soon, since we know so many folks with great personal work. Might be a fun party.
If you had the opportunity to spend a day with anyone from this industry, who would it be?
Not so much in the industry, but George Lucas! We all need to know what really happened, what went wrong. It must never happen again….