Interview - Spacejunk


VFX Production Company

232 N. Third St. COLUMBUS, OHIO 43215

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?
Spacejunk was formed in 2003, and we’re based in Columbus, Ohio with a presence in Los Angeles. Our team consists of multi-talented and passionate artists, motion designers, and editors. At any given time there is a wide variety of projects making their way through our pipeline including broadcast, web content, digital signage, live events, trade show videos, and game trailers. Although we work on a wealth of sports and gaming-related projects, we’re pumped any time there is the opportunity to have fun and creatively influence assignments from any genre.

Do you collaborate with other production companies or manage everything in-house?

We work both ways, actually. Spacejunk is a full-service studio with capabilities in both live action and motion design and this scope means we can handle most assignments without outside partners. That said, our studio has the utmost respect for our peers in the industry and, if the project calls for it, we welcome others into the collaborative process. We have discovered that embracing diversity in ideas and approach is a springboard for phenomenal growth.

The Nationwide ISB promo received rave reviews. What were the challenges on this project? Can you give us insight on the process, the goals of the project and the difficult parts?

The fact that we were tasked with creating a high energy, dramatic piece for financial software was a challenge. Finding the right metaphor to coordinate the end product and the viewer demographic was the path that led us through the creative. At that point, it was simply a matter of finding the right high performance car to represent all that needed to be communicated. Enter the Lamborghini. Ultimately we combined a live action shoot of the car, motion graphic design and 3D animation to deliver the message about ISB’s power, responsiveness and functionality while eschewing traditional approaches to corporate financial advertising. The project was delivered to its audience via Uvideo: A proprietary print mailer with imbedded LCD video player developed and designed by direct marketing solutions company Uviaus.

What were some of the challenges on the IPFW – Dare to Imagine?

A tight timeline and ambitious creative meant we couldn’t afford any missteps. Extensive preproduction--including a test shoot--was critical to ensure we hit the mark.

What was the starting point in Duels of the Planeswalkers? How long did it take?

Magic: The Gathering series is known for incredible card art. We were really fortunate to have those paintings available as initial assets. From there, it was a matter of breaking them into layers and creating a dramatic sense of depth using both 2.5D and 3D camera projection techniques. The entire animation process took nearly a month.

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 Dark Ascension?

Spacejunk’s biggest asset is our internal pipeline. We always push integration and look for ways to combine our editorial and animation departments on every project. Our goal is to approach every assignment with the same degree of attention and detail, regardless of the scope of work. We have found that setting high expectations for each project leads to amazing levels of creative, innovative, and productive collaboration from each department.

What techniques do you use on a project like Where is your West Virginia that deals with matching virtual environment with real backgrounds?

We have some really skilled motion tracking artists at Spacejunk who enable us to execute projects like Where is your West Virginia quite efficiently, and allow us to focus our attention on design and storytelling devices as opposed to being overly concerned with technical obstacles.

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 always wanted to work with the Phantom camera and shoot super hi-speed photography. We recently had the opportunity to incorporate the Phantom while shooting a music video, “Bonnie & Clyde.” We worked with a pyrotechnics company in nearby Cleveland fresh off its work on The Avengers to explode pairs of objects, which we shot with a Phantom Flex Cam at over 5300 frames per second to reveal the beautifully tragic detail in slow motion drama. It was the perfect way to capture the piece’s narrative surrounding destruction and obliteration.

What were some of the challenges on Honda Odyssey?

Joe Montalbano produced Honda--Odyssey at Nylon, where having more of an expand & contract staffing model presented a challenge with such a large project. The recent merger with Spacejunk, with staff-based talent and resources to fluidly manage projects of this scope, minimizes that type of challenge.

What were some of the challenges on Totes?

The biggest concern on this project was completing six shoot locations in one, 12-hour day. It was critical in pre-production to tie up all lose ends so by the time we shot we had a mapped out plan to accomplish everything efficiently. Everyone was happy at strike, including the nine clients on set!

How important is it to have a proper education in this field?
At the end of the day, an artist’s reel has the biggest impact on initial job opportunities, but we always value a well-rounded education because it influences the end product more than one might think. Artists need to express their thoughts to effectively convey an emotion, and having knowledge of the breadth of human experience is invaluable to help tell that story in an authentic way.  History teaches us so much, and it can also spark ideas that are relevant to projects and creative process.

How involved is the interview process at Spacejunk?

Our interview process is fairly elaborate. When filling positions, we like to fully evaluate how well an applicant’s skill set and attitude will fit within our established team. Both aspects are critical to ensure he or she is able to integrate seamlessly into our pipeline. Typically, there are three rounds of face-to-face interview sessions, each one structured to provide the opportunity to understand the individual’s strengths, talents, and personality that much better.

With the market becoming more and more competitive, what do you believe is a “must” that an artist has in his portfolio or skills?

There’s not a silver bullet, per se, but we always look for those extra bits of polish. Is the artist’s work thought through properly? What was the thinking that inspired the creative outcome? For young artists, strong Photoshop skills are always very valuable.

What programs/plugins/scripts do you use? How do you keep up with all the changes in technology?
Our core programs are Final Cut Pro, After Effects, Cinema 4D, Maya, and a host of all the usual suspects (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.).

What do you have up your sleeve for future projects?
Working with partners like Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons has led to recent partnerships with other video game developers such as League of Legends and Fieldrunners 2. The gaming industry is a primary focus for our studio through 2013, while we're also looking for increased opportunities in Action Sports.

If you had the opportunity to spend a day with anyone from this industry, who would it be?
This is a great question and a story we love to tell! In 2004 we had the opportunity to spend a day with one of the first pioneers of our industry, MK12. At that time, we were looking for artist stations for the studio and came across a picture of MK12’s set up – unique, custom built, six-sided desks that could be re-positioned to create a collaborative working environment; exactly what we were looking for. On a hunch, we contacted MK12 to ask where they purchased them. They not only responded immediately, but generously asked us if we wanted the desks because they were about to move into a new studio and had purchased new furniture. We hopped on a plane, flew to Kansas City, and hung out with their entire crew for the day. The next morning we returned to Columbus with our “new furniture” and great karma!