Interview - motion504

Andrew Reynolds 
President motion504

 Minneapolis, USA
Tell us a bit about you...When did you start the company? What programs/plugins do you use? How do you keep up with all the changes in technology?
I started motion504 in January of 2005 mostly out of a desire to make a place I would be excited to work. A place like the motion design firms I experienced while freelancing in Los Angeles; where smart, creative people push each other on every project. Our three primary tools are Cinema4D, After Effects, and Photoshop. But we have the other usual suspects… the CS5 Master Bundle, Final Cut Studio, Zbrush, Vue, Syntheyes, etc. We often buy and experiment with new software depending on the needs of any given project. We are not much of a pipeline shop. We all have a great desire to continue to learn so we each end up doing a huge variety of things on any given project.

We have a few favorite plug-ins. A couple new ones that we have been using a lot recently in Cinema4D are Vray (which I hesitate to even call a plug-in), and a little one called Thrausi that we used a lot on the latest Syfy project for quickly breaking up the model in very natural looking ways.
In After Effects, obviously we couldn’t live without the exchange plug-in from Maxon for getting some of the 3D data from Cinema4D into our composite. And we are huge fans of RE:Vision Effects’ ReelSmart Motion Blur, and Frischluft’s Lenscare. Trapcode’s Particlar 2 is great for most particle system needs with a very designer-friendly interface and render times, and we just started using Video Copilot’s Optical Flares in lieu of some old favorites for light effects.
As for keeping up with technology, it is still frequently by just seeing what is new on design/animation/effects blogs and magazines and just trying them out for our selves. However, most often it is looking for a new tool as a new project demands it.
How involved is the interview process at motion504? 

I would say that our interview process is not particularly involved, but it is probably the most important thing we do organizationally. One of the most valuable things about the company has been a group of people that genuinely work well together. So our interview process really tends to be about just meeting the person. How a person is inspired, learns, and communicates are much more important to us than level of experience on any given software or in any specific media. We all sit down and watch through a person’s reel with them, but it is really more a point of conversation than a technical tryout. More about how someone describes the work, the process, the people they worked with, and from where they drew their ideas.
With the market becoming more and more competitive, what do you believe is a must that a 3D Designer has in his portfolio or skills? How important is it to have a proper education in this field?

There is still some cache that comes from having a formal education on one’s resume, but it is still so secondary to the actual person and how they work. We tend not to look for specific skills, but rather someone who does that best possible version of whatever work they attempt. All of us, seasoned professional and new student alike, have various levels of time, resources, and experience for any given project and showing what one does with them is really vital.
Can you give us an insight on the process, the goals of the Target Bookmarked project and the difficult parts?

The creative goal of the Target Bookmarked project was to convey, in a visually arresting way, the concept of Target helping their customer find that one book they will love out of the myriad of choices available. We worked with them in both developing the metaphor of the tree with the book/bird leaves, as well as the dream-like visual style for the piece. 
The most difficult parts were finding the balance between real and fantasy for the world and making an almost invisible transition from the flying bird into the book. That transformation was more than just a technical challenge; it was also about finding that perfect point in the journey where the viewer’s guard is down just enough to all but miss that something just changed right in front of them.

Did you use the same techniques from one project to another? What changes?
We often use similar techniques from one project to another, but something we all really strive for here is finding both projects and creative partners that allow us to explore new realms, both creatively and technically on projects. When there’s a time crunch involved on a project, we rely more on our experience and the techniques we have really worked to develop, while longer projects allow more time for experimentation and productive failure.
What was the biggest challenge in the Science Channel – Big Science project?

The biggest challenge on the Science Channel - Big Science project was helping establish the look for the entire piece that would support both the look of the live-action the director desired and the fictional elements in the piece. There was a great deal of compositing in the piece in addition to the CG elements. So establishing how much environment to build upon the live-action plates that would still leave the beautiful look of the footage while selling the more fantastic elements was really the crux of it.
Out of all the projects you have done, which one is your favorite and why?

I think we all still really love the AICP titles for several reasons, but mainly because it was our own internal creative. Scott Wenner (one of the Creative Directors here) came up with the initial creative and the entire piece was conceived, directed, tracked, modeled, animated, composited, and graded here. Having that kind of control and ownership over an entire piece makes it especially meaningful and a major reason as to why it continues to be one of our favorites.
You master design techniques for broadcast design. Can you list some important differences between working for a television and working for a film production?
For the kind of work we do there is really so little difference anymore. With advances in color management, resolution, and effects expectations for broadcast work very little changes. If anything still remains unique it is probably just the amount of versioning that goes on for TV. It is easier than ever to use that kind of work across multiple media and so we are often considering those other uses, at some level, through the initial stages of work. 
The SyFy design received a great feedback. What’s your favorite part?

Our favorite part of the SyFy work has really been the client. They have been fantastic. Working with knowledgeable, creative, and respectful clients makes such a monumental difference. As for the technical aspects, it has been our first work with a nice third-party GI render engine in a purely motion graphics piece. It has been really challenging letting go of some of our old tricks for 3D postproduction, but it’s also opened up so many great possibilities and new ideas to explore.
What do you have up your sleeve for future projects?

We are just finishing up some new work with Target, Travelers Insurance for Fallon, Deloitte in Spain, and some film titles that should be out in the world soon. And right now, some of us internally are working on separate pieces for an annual exhibition called Motion Poems that allows for a great deal of creative freedom to try new ideas, techniques and software. It is also unique in that we generally work on them in isolation rather than the much more collaborative environment we strive for on daily work.