Interview - Troublemakers




James Hagger
Executive Producer & Founder Troublemakers.TV

 22 rue de la Roquette
5011 Paris - France 


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?
Hello people! Thanks for having us. We’re the Troublemakers. A production company based in Paris. We mostly produce commercials but we also play around will all sorts of formats from music videos to web content. We represent 14 directors worldwide. A new generation of directors who use live action, stop motion, 2D and 3D animation to create innovative imagery.
Do you collaborate with advertising agencies or manage everything (from idea to production) in-house? 

We mostly work with advertising agencies who come to us with a script, brief or storyboard but we are being asked more and more to come up with concepts and work directly with clients especially for web content. 
What programs/plugins/scripts do you use? 
Difficult question as each director uses his own. But the usual suspects are After Effect, 3DS Max, XSi, Maya, Flame etc…

How involved is the interview process at Troublemakers? What do you need to have to become a Troublemakers director?
This process is usually quite organic. Usually we both feel we have to work with each other. It’s like a couple when they have similar interests and esthetics they start flirting together. 
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 is no must… I think it’s just important for a director to constantly create personal work and experiment. Agencies like to see fresh and original work. I have to say that I’ve notice an increased interest for the mix of live action and visual effects in the last few of years. 
CCTV - INK looks amazing and had a great feedback. 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?
The aim was to create a commercial that represented a journey from traditional China to modern China, all made out of Chinese Ink to represent the history of CCTV, China and above all The Power of Branding. 
After a few weeks of pre-production we travelled to Beijing in China for the PPM. We spent five days there to go through the fine details of the storyboard with the Agency MMIA and CCTV.

Back in Europe we started working over the next six weeks on the post production process of the film. We had to combine some motion capture data from MocapLab, live action ink that we shot in studio and 3D. 
 See the making-off
Our team worked day and night to make this film happen within the tight schedule that we had. The film started from a low resolution animatic that would work as the skeleton of the film. Certain teams would then work on the different parts of the film from the 3D modeling, animation, shooting of Ink, integration of the motion capture, compositing and rendering. Niko from weareflink and his team had to invent a workflow as the usual pipeline had to be adjusted to fit the different constraints and mediums used to create this film.
But after 6 very hard working weeks the film took shape and came to life. The final step was to worked with Supreme Music to create the music for the commercial.
It was very important for us to portray the right image, to speak the right language, to show the right codes which Chinese people are used to. This is something as Europeans we had to research and learn and we hope we have managed to represent them in a respectful way.
The environment in SKELLIG is flawless, what advice can you give to an environmental 3D artist is search for photo-realism?
We can’t take any credit on this film unfortunately as Jon Yeo directed it previously to joining us when he was still working at Sky TV. But basically the reason why Skepping looked so good is that there was a mix of live action and visual effects.
A huge set was built in a studio and they used a motion control camera to travel through the set. Visual effects were then added in post to enhance the experience. There’s a great making off you can watch on the subject on the following link.
What were some of the challenges on WWF - Threads - We Are All Connected?

We were approached by Ogilvy & Mather Mexico to produce a film for WWF.The agency had a strong idea and were contemplating on whether to do it in live action or in animation. Making it work in live action was going to prove difficult and we thought we would do it in photo realistic 3D to make it look as if it had been created for real in a warehouse.
The idea was to make people understand that we are all connected on the planet. The earth, the trees, the animals and the 7 billion human beings living on it. We are all responsible and any disruption in the thin line that connects us all will create a disaster for everyone and everything in the fragile ecosystem.
This production was interesting due to the fact that the agency was in Mexico, the production in Paris, the Director in New York and the music was made in LA. A truely global project. With the start of the production, the treatment, art direction and look were defined and passed on to the CG / VFX team at Digital District in Paris. Mato directed out of New York to define the animatic, camera, pace and timings along other tests to achieve the desired look for the threads. Later on the music was composed by the sound design studio Human in LA.
Even though the beauty lies in the concept's simplicity and it's metaphor, it was still a challenging task to get it all done in time due to the constraints faced but thanks to the commitment of all the people involved it became possible. 
We also hope that it inspires some people to make a difference.

What is the typical starting point in a VFX commercial or promo? How long does it usually take? Do you approach them differently?
We approach most of our projects in the same way. When we receive a storyboard from an agency the first thing we work on a the research and design, coming up with styleframes to try and represent the look and style of our design for the clients to understand what the finish product will look like. We usually have about a week to work on this. Once we have a go on the job we will then work on an animatic or previz so that the timing and basic animation is locked . Once that process is agreed we will start modeling the different elements and we slowly start integrating them into the preview and animating them. It is important to have regular approvals from the agency and the client along the way so that we don’t have to go back and change things. Going back in time is always difficult with 3D. Once that is agreed on we work on the textures to finally render the work and composit the film. 
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)?

Certain specific technics, software or hardware might be used depending on the need, Fume effects and Krakatoa for example were used on CCTV to have the Ink look and effect which was very specific to the film and required an unconventional pipeline. Motion Capture could be use if we have characters that need to be animated, but again keyframe animation will usually be better for “Squash and Stretch” characters. 
How important is it to have a proper education in this field? 
That’s an interesting question. Education is sometimes a plus but not aways necessary for everyone. We have a few directors who have never studied and learnt their skills by themselves. I think it’s an indivudual choice, some people need guidance and some people just do it!
Do you still find time for projects outside the advertising industry? What do you have up your sleeve for future projects?
It has been difficult in the last four years to find time to do personal projects. But I always recommend our directors to carry on making personnal projects to carry on experimenting, to play as much as possible.
If you had the opportunity to spend a day with anyone from this industry, who would it be?
Aurélie our in house producer would say George Clooney although she would settle for Brad Pitt if she didn’t have the choice. Personnaly I wouldn’t mind catching up with David Fincher.