Michele Yamazaki, VP Marketing, Toolfarm
Bruce Logan, Director of Photography, Bruce Logan Film
Nancy Eperjesy, President and Co-Founder, Mettle
Miguel Angel Doncel, CEO, SGO
Ric Viers, CEO, Blastwave FX
James DeRuvo, Film and Technology Reporter, DoddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on The Buzz we look at the wide world of visual effects. From the early days of Star Wars to the latest in 360 degree VR effects.
Larry Jordan: We start with Michele Yamazaki, the vice president of marketing for Toolfarm. Visual effects today are exploding in all directions, and Michele shares her thoughts on the latest effects technology, and where the trends of today will take us tomorrow.
Larry Jordan: Nancy Eperjesy is the president of Mettle, a company that makes effects software for 360 degree VR video. Tonight, she explains the challenges in creating effects for a 360 world.
Larry Jordan: Miguel Angel Doncel is the CEO of SGO, they created Mistika, a high power, integrated, real time visual effects system that allows you to change any effect at any time without having to re-do any of your work.
Larry Jordan: Ric Viers the president of Blastwave FX looks at effects from a different perspective, what they sound like. Tonight he has a series of new announcements that can enhance the look of your effects by improving their sound.
Larry Jordan: Bruce Logan is the special effects wizard that blew up the Death Star. Tonight, he looks back at his incredible career and shares his thoughts on what it takes to be successful creating visual effects in today’s digital world.
Larry Jordan: All this, plus James DeRuvo with our weekly DoddleNEWS update. The Buzz starts now.
Announcer: Since the dawn of digital filmmaking – authoritative – one show serves a worldwide network of media professionals – current – uniting industry experts – production – filmmakers – post production – and content creators around the planet – distribution. From the media capital of the world in Los Angeles, California, The Digital Production Buzz goes live now.
Larry Jordan: Welcome to The Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for the creative content industry, covering media production, post production and marketing around the world.
Larry Jordan: Hi, my name is Larry Jordan. This week we are looking at visual effects, and what struck me as we were planning this show, was how diverse they are from 360 degree VR video to using sound effects to enhance the visuals. Effects cover a lot of territory, however, the highlight for me tonight is our last guest, Bruce Logan. He first gained fame as the effects master that blew up the Death Star in Star Wars, but he’s created effects for Tron, 2001, Batman Forever along with 13 other movies as well as being cinematographer for 35 more. Our conversation with Bruce tonight looks at his process for creating effects and what it takes to be successful in the industry. But his range is so diverse, and his opinions are so refreshing that we plan to chat with him again in the future to look at more of his career.
Larry Jordan: By the way, I want to invite you to subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Every issue, every week, provides quick links to the different segments on the show, plus articles of interest to film makers. Best of all, it’s free and comes out every Saturday.
Larry Jordan: Now it’s time for a DoddleNEWS update with James DeRuvo. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Hello Larry.
Larry Jordan: So what’s news this week?
James DeRuvo: Well first off, as a child of Apollo, I would be remiss if I didn’t wish you Happy Moonday Larry.
Larry Jordan: Ah.
James DeRuvo: It was 48 years ago today that Neil Armstrong took that giant leap for mankind and we saw it live on the first TV broadcast from the moon.
Larry Jordan: I do remember that. That was an amazing time.
James DeRuvo: It really was. Now onto this week’s top stories. Canada has proposed new drone rules that DJI says are a serious problem. Drone pilots will be required to stay at least 100 feet away from people and avoid major population centers, which basically means you can’t even fly your drone in your own back yard. It requires all drone pilots to carry $100,000 insurance coverage for drones weighing as low as a half a pound. The manufacturers like DJI will have to certify their drones to a set of standards that don’t currently exist.
Larry Jordan: Do these regulations make a distinction between commercial and recreational drone use?
James DeRuvo: That’s the other bad part. No they don’t. Up in Canada, they don’t see a difference between those who pursue drone piloting as a hobby, and those who make a living out of it. You know, what’s odd is it was only a week ago that Transport Canada loosened their interim drone rules to make safe operations within city areas manageable. Now the more formal regulations will reverse those common sense adjustments and make it far more difficult for drone flying to thrive in the great white north.
Larry Jordan: This is one we’ve got to keep our eyes on. What have we got next?
James DeRuvo: Sigma has announced the pricing and availability for their Cine Prime lenses. The two new lenses that have come out are the Sigma Cine Prime 14mm T2 FF and 135mm T2 FF. They offer 4K full frame sensor support and the pricing starts at 49.99 and they’ll be available late July.
Larry Jordan: What do you think Sigma’s goals for these lenses are?
James DeRuvo: You know they carved out a really cool niche for themselves providing high quality photography lenses at an affordable price. I think they look to conquer the cinema market with these new set of Prime lenses. I think they’re a solid option for low budget film makers who want to get their hands on some buttery Primes without breaking the bank.
Larry Jordan: We’ve got Canada drone rules, new lenses from Sigma, what’s next?
James DeRuvo: Oculus has finally seen the light and they’ve announced that they’re going to be putting out low cost virtual reality goggles, loosely based on their Santa Cruz prototype which offers wireless virtual reality control without the need of a supporting computer. The price will be around $200, but at that price it won’t have positional tracking so it’s going to be a non-starter for video gaming.
Larry Jordan: Oculus has struggled before. What do you think the outcome of this new version of their goggles will be?
James DeRuvo: With low cost virtual reality becoming a trend, Oculus had struggled with its high price tag and performance requirements. They were in danger of falling behind in a genre they had blazed a trail in. But should this new prototype come to market, it would make relying on your cell phone for true virtual reality a thing of the past and I think that’s what they’re hoping for.
Larry Jordan: What are some of the other stories we’re watching this week?
James DeRuvo: Other stories this week include my review of GoPro’s Omni 360 camera platform. How the producers of Baby Driver were able to edit the film on the set as it was made, and if you’re trying to decide which drone to buy, there’s a guide for that.
Larry Jordan: And where can go on the web to keep up with all this latest news?
James DeRuvo: These stories and more can be found at doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the senior writer at Doddlenews.com and James, thanks for joining us today.
James DeRuvo: Alright Larry, I’m off to San Diego for Comic-Con, have a good week.
Larry Jordan: Have a great time, take care.
Larry Jordan: Here’s another website I want to introduce you to. Doddlenews.com. DoddleNEWS gives you a portal into the broadcast, video and film industries. It’s a leading online resource, presenting news, reviews and products for the film and video industry. DoddleNEWS also offers a resource guide and crew management platforms specifically designed for production. These digital call sheets, along with their app, directory and premium listings, provide in depth organizational tools for busy production professionals. DoddleNEWS is a part of the Thalo Arts Community, a worldwide community of artists, film makers and story tellers. From photography to film making, performing arts to fine arts, and everything in between, Thalo is filled with resources you need to succeed. Whether you want the latest industry news, need to network with other creative professionals or require state of the art online tools to manage your next project, there’s only one place to go. Doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: Michele Yamazaki is the VP of marketing at Toolfarm, a company that specializes in plug ins and effects for video editors. She has written or co-written two books on plug ins as well as becoming the go-to person on software and plug ins for our editing systems. Hello Michele, welcome back.
Michele Yamazaki: Thank you very much.
Larry Jordan: Tonight we’re looking at visual effects, so to get us started, how would you define what visual effects are?
Michele Yamazaki: I would just say that it’s anything that’s created on screen. There’s practical effects and then there are computer generated effects, things like explosions and particles and things that aren’t necessarily on set when you’re shooting that are added, although practical effects are added during shooting, if that makes sense? I’m sure everybody out there knows what visual effects are anyway.
Larry Jordan: If not, we will work with your definition until we come up with something better. It seems like in movies today we can’t even have a dialog without adding some sort of effects whether we’re doing a sky replacement or changing the color of somebody’s shirt, or putting them in front of some spaceship in outer space. Are we going overboard? Are effects driving movies more than the story?
Michele Yamazaki: Sometimes. For a while I was really not enjoying all of the superhero films that seemed like endless sequels, but the effects have gotten better in them. They had some weird physics and that kind of thing for a while, and it would speak out to me so much that I would be paying more attention to the bad green screen or whatever instead of paying attention to the story. Some of the movies that I’ve seen lately, I haven’t even done that as much. The new Guardians of the Galaxy, I thought there were things that looked artificial obviously because I think it was pretty much entirely shot on green or blue screen, however, the story was so engaging, you could just get past that.
Larry Jordan: Toolfarm sells all kind of effects from all kinds of different developers, which means you’ve got a better indication of what’s going on in the market than just about anything else. What are some of the trends and effects that you’re paying attention to now?
Michele Yamazaki: Well After Effects is still a very popular product and the plug ins that work in that. Luca, which is also a standalone and works in other products has been really popular. It’s for rotoscoping and planar tracking, so if you’re doing a lot of special effects work you need it. You really can’t live without it. A lot of the bundles are also very popular that have a lot of different effects in them that do anything from particles to keying, to name it, the glows, everything. Boris Continuum Complete has always been really popular and Genart Sapphire is another one, then from Red Giant you have Keying Suite and the Magic Bullet suite and Effects suite and also they have Trapcode suite which has Particular, which has always been one of the most popular effects since it was launched. Video Copilot is another one that’s been super popular. Anything by Video that they put out seems to be the most amazing thing, they’re great products and everybody loves them. Then you have all the 3D stuff too, Cinema 4D and all the products that go along with that. Those are all great tools that are fairly easy to learn overall and are very popular.
Larry Jordan: Let’s take a step back. There’s two things we’ve been talking about that I haven’t noticed. All the effects you’re talking about are for locally attached hardware and software. Are you seeing any effects which are taking advantage of the cloud?
Michele Yamazaki: I really haven’t so much. I’m not sure what you mean, just plugins that live online?
Larry Jordan: Products that live online, for instance, one of the things that we’re seeing is converting audio to text, whether it’s from Digital Heaven or the guys at Digital Anarchy. That’s using a cloud based speech to text service and I was wondering if you’re seeing any other effects that are taking advantage of the processing power in the cloud?
Michele Yamazaki: Well what we are seeing is that people are hiring render farms that are online. There’s all different sorts from Cinema 4D or for any other 3D program, from Maya that kind of thing, there are all these different companies that have processing power that you can upload, may have plugins there that you can tap in and use our licenses and that kind of thing. There’s several companies out there that have that type of service.
Larry Jordan: The other thing, we’re going to be having a show to cover this in a couple of weeks, but I wanted to get your opinion now, is the intersection of machine learning or artificial intelligence with the creation of effects, I think we’re at the very beginning of this, but are you noticing anybody turning this into a product yet?
Michele Yamazaki: I have seen Adobe and other companies and universities that have these incredible effects where they can create the most lifelike pictures or lifelike renderings of people. Or they can take someone’s face, say a politician is in front of a podium, they can change what he says, and it looks completely natural. So I think that’s going to run into some problems too with people not saying things or videos being created to fool people because the technology is just so incredible.
Larry Jordan: One of the questions I’m going to ask Bruce a little later in the show that I want to ask you, is one of the things that technology today is doing is removing barriers. Whatever we can imagine, we can create in a way that we couldn’t in the past. I’ve often felt that creativity works best when there’s something to push against. As we start to remove barriers, does it make it harder to be creative or easier?
Michele Yamazaki: We’re an ADD generation, my generation, and the generation beyond mine, and with all of these different options with all of these plugins, there’s 50 different ways you can make particles. There’s so many different 3D applications, it’s hard to choose one. Then it’s hard to focus on learning that product because there’s so many options and so many features available, so I think it is kind of a problem, but as long as you’re the type of person who can sit down and completely focus, you’ll be OK.
Larry Jordan: When it comes to completely focusing, you’ve got some new products that I want to talk to you about. The first one’s this thing called Particle. What is it?
Michele Yamazaki: Actually there’s a ton of particle effects out there, and one of the newer ones is called Superluminal Stardust and it’s a particle effects effect for After Effects. With these particle effects you can do all sorts of different things. You can make streaks, it’s really great for motion graphics, but if you’re using it for visual effects, you can use it for explosions and smoke and sparks, rainfall, snow all types of different things. So Superluminal Stardust is one of the newer ones. Trapcode Particular is another one that runs with After Effects. In Boris Continuum Complete suite there’s another particle effect, a 3D particle generator. I can’t think of the name of it off the top of my head, but it’s something like that. Then there’s Insydium X-particles which runs in Cinema 4D, so there’s tons of different particle effects out there, but Superluminal is the newest one.
Larry Jordan: Most of the particle effects take something small and multiply it over and over which is how we create smoke. Do you know of anything which can take an object and turn it into particles, in other words, for something to explode what would you use for that?
Michele Yamazaki: I would use Video Copilot Element 3D. It’s great for that. You can take 3D OBJ files and Cinema 4D 3D objects, and you can make a thousand spaceships. You can take baseballs or whatever particle you have, you can turn anything into a particle. So it’s pretty cool. It’s great for really interesting motion graphics.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of something which isn’t quite an effect but it’s a cool new piece of software anyway, something called Martini. Tell me about that.
Michele Yamazaki: We have an offer right now with the makers of Martini that if you come to our website you can download it for free. It’s a plugin for Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Avid, Sony Vegas and Magix Vegas, the newer version, and you can make storyboards right inside of your NLE. There’s all sorts of characters and all sorts of things, it’s pretty cool. The subscription is $49 a year, and we’re giving away a one year subscription to everyone, not just a drawing or contest, it’s open to everybody. So all of your listeners out there, please come to Toolfarm and download it.
Larry Jordan: I have no ability to draw. I couldn’t draw a straight line without mechanical help. Can I still use Martini?
Michele Yamazaki: Absolutely. You don’t have to draw anything. The characters are already pre-made. You can select a character and change its clothing and change the gender and hair and all sorts of things. You have a lot of different options for that.
Larry Jordan: I don’t want to mention this publicly, but I was doing some research on you before the show started, and typed in your name and all of a sudden it was associated with a book called Green Screen Made Easy. When did you put that together?
Michele Yamazaki: Well the first one came out probably six or seven years ago, and then Jeremy Hanke who is my co-author, he and I put out a new version about October, and it basically updates the software and the techniques used. It was published by Michael Wiese Productions.
Larry Jordan: That is very cool. Writing a book is one thing, but finishing a book, that takes a whole lot of work.
Michele Yamazaki: Oh my gosh, you’re telling me.
Larry Jordan: I remember when I was finishing one of mine, I said, “OK, it’s done,” and then the editorial review process started, and I thought it was going to age me, just making sure everything was correct. So yes, that is not an easy process. Congratulations to you.
Michele Yamazaki: Well thank you.
Larry Jordan: What trends are you keeping an eye on? What should we pay attention to for the next six months? Not in terms of product announcements but what do you think is evolving? IBC is coming up and what’s hot?
Michele Yamazaki: The type of effects that we’ve been seeing a lot are software that can age people or de-age them, those type of effects in films. You know Benjamin Button was one actor playing him but he played both young and old. That type of effect, and that’s going to be in several movies coming up which I can’t think of off the top of my head, but keep an eye out for that type of effect.
Larry Jordan: Benjamin Button, so it’s not just makeup, it can be software as well?
Michele Yamazaki: Yeah, software that makes it very realistic looking, it looks very natural. You wouldn’t pick it out except you know a lot of times who the actor is and what they look like.
Larry Jordan: Michele, for people that want more information about what kind of cool effects are out there, where do they go on the web?
Michele Yamazaki: To toolfarm.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s toolfarm.com, all one word, and Michele Yamazaki is the VP of marketing at Toolfarm. Michele, as always, thanks for your time. This has been fun.
Michele Yamazaki: Thanks, my pleasure.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Nancy Eperjesy is the president and co-founder of Mettle, the creators of software tools that enable film makers to create effects for 360 degree VR video. Hello Nancy, welcome.
Nancy Eperjesy: Hi Larry, thanks a lot for having me here.
Larry Jordan: My pleasure. How would you define Mettle? What does the company do?
Nancy Eperjesy: Mettle is a company that develops 360 VR software that puts content creators first. You may be familiar with our Skybox 360 VR plugins? They laid the whole foundation of 360 production into Adobe software.
Larry Jordan: Well what is 360 production and 360 effects? What are these?
Nancy Eperjesy: Let’s roll back a bit to traditional film making, and traditional video where you have one camera and you’re editing one scene that’s shot with a unique source. Now you want to shoot your whole environment so you have to have multiple cameras set up that will shoot your whole environment, the 360 environment around you. So basically those cameras are shooting your whole scene, all of that footage has to be stitched together, and then it needs to be edited.
Larry Jordan: I understand that, but what’s a 360 effect?
Nancy Eperjesy: It all started actually with a project that we were working on for a client about two and a half years ago. We did a 360 video but it wasn’t called a 360 video at the time, and we developed a workflow for our own studio and we thought, “Hey, we can make this into a product that’s commercially available.” A 360 effect is very different than a 2D effect. In traditional post production when you’re dealing with a 2D effect, it can be applied on a flat surface with edges, so what happens off the edges doesn’t matter. But a 360 effect has to take into consideration the whole sphere, so an effect can’t break your footage. It has to work and be applied on your 360 footage. Otherwise, if you just apply a traditional effect onto 360 footage, it’s going to cause seams and it won’t view properly. We devised a method that would undistort it, let you do all your effects, clean it up, color grading, text and graphics and then export it into the correct format again. In fact, it was so successful that it caught the eye of Adobe as Best in Class, and you may have heard that they acquired it. On June 21st, our suite of Skybox plugins will be integrated into Adobe Creative Cloud.
Larry Jordan: Very cool, congratulations. I may be a traditionalist, and you can accuse me of that, but I’m of the opinion that we can’t tell stories with 360 degree video, we can only provide experiences because the point of a story is to focus the audience’s attention at every stage of that story, so they see what we want them to see, and don’t see what we don’t want them, and that’s the exact opposite of 360 degree video. Would you agree or disagree?
Nancy Eperjesy: I would kind of agree Larry. Actually I think that 360 storytelling is approaching more of a dream experience or a living experience, rather than a traditional linear story that we see in cinema. I think that with the right tools, storytellers are creating experiences for viewers that are a different experience than traditional cinema.
Larry Jordan: So we shouldn’t keep trying to equate 360 degree storytelling with traditional cinema, but think of it as something different?
Nancy Eperjesy: Yes, definitely. The way that cinema is different than photography, I think that 360 film is different than traditional film. It has to develop as a medium unto itself with its own vocabulary and a very different experience. I think flat cinema and 360 cinema are both going to co-exist, but I think that 360 is evolving into its own unique medium with its own challenges and its own experience. There’s some pretty basic challenges. The first thing is everything is in your scene when you’re shooting in 360 so you have to think about that. The crew will be in the scene, the lights will be in the scene, the camera equipment. You have to think of that before you start, and figure out ways to work around that, or to take care of that in post. I think one of the most basic ways that Skybox helped in post, is to do a lot of that object removal, so if you want to take out your camera rig, or your drone, you need to be able to do that, before you move onto more regular post effects.
Larry Jordan: And what products do you have now?
Nancy Eperjesy: Your very basic effects are going to be handled by Skybox in Adobe Creative Cloud. Those are really the foundation effects. Object removal, stabilizing the footage, horizon correction. The next step forward is to allow more creative expression, so Mantra VR was born about a year ago when we were thinking “What is one of the most basic things that as a film maker, I’d like to do in 360?” The first effect that we thought of was, “OK how would you do a dolly in in 360 in post?” That’s really an effective tool that directors use in storytelling, so we thought that would be the most obvious one, to us at least, to integrate into a product. That just got us thinking about more effects and now we have 14 plus special effects that make up Mantra VR.
Larry Jordan: For people that want more information about what Mantra VR is, where can they go on the web?
Nancy Eperjesy: You can go to our website, mettle.com, and we’re going to be doing a tech demo at Siggraph August 1st, 2nd and 3rd in Los Angeles.
Larry Jordan: Very exciting. I wish you a very successful roll out. That website is mettle.com and Nancy Eperjesy is the president and co-founder of Mettle. Nancy, thanks for your time today.
Nancy Eperjesy: Thank you very much Larry, it’s been a pleasure.
Larry Jordan: Miguel Angel Doncel is the CEO of SGO which with 20 years experience in computer science and visual effects, his team develops Mistika, which is a state of the art post production visual effects software. Hello Miguel, welcome.
Miguel Angel Doncel: Hello Larry, thank you very much for inviting me today.
Larry Jordan: It’s my pleasure because I’m really looking forward to learning more about what Mistika is. So what is it?
Miguel Angel Doncel: For the last 20 years we have been trying to put together all the technology that this industry need in order to finish the whole production, integrating all the aspects of the post production process such as editorial, color grading, the VFX integration to build very strong and powerful workflows, and Mistika is the result of that development.
Larry Jordan: But last time I checked, there are about 800 billion effects tools out there. Why would someone even consider Mistika?
Miguel Angel Doncel: That’s exactly the reason. During the last 20 years, if you take a look at the technology in the market you will find that there was a lot of different tools to do specific things which is great because you find amazing tools to do specific things. But the problem comes when you try to build a powerful and flexible workflow because those tools do not speak to one another. You end up sending media from one place to another but you cannot exchange metadata. Because of that, we have seen for ages in the industry, very linear workflows where you had to go from face to face, progressing the production towards the very end. But if at any point you wanted to go backwards, it usually means wasting a lot of time because all the changes that you did in previous steps you have to do it again. By having all the things integrating in a single tool, it makes that flexibility amazing because you can move back and forth without losing any single hour of job you put into the production, and you can go back to the very beginning, change something, and then go to the very end and you will maintain all the changes you did in the production.
Larry Jordan: The only way you can do that is to not bake your changes in. So basically everything is happening in real time, and it’s looking at your changes as a continuous stream. Is that a correct statement?
Miguel Angel Doncel: Exactly. Not only that, but also being able to send not only the media but also all the metadata back and forth. For example, let’s suppose we’re doing the grading, but we’re working on a VR production which is something that is happening quite often over the last couple of years. Imagine that you want to change any adjustment in the VR settings, you don’t want to go back to a VR specific product to have to re-do that part of the job. You want to be able to do it while you’re grading, because you have the director with you and you are almost at the end of the movie, and stopping the production and going back usually costs days if not weeks of time in the production. So you need to have the flexibility to manipulate any single piece of metadata at that specific time in real time.
Larry Jordan: What’s Mistika cost?
Miguel Angel Doncel: Configurations depend pretty much on the performance you want to have, because we have systems that perform in real time up to 8K, 60 frames per second. Obviously in order to have real time in that kind of resolution, you need a huge bandwidth. A turnkey solution could vary from $50,000 up to $200,000 depending on the performance that you will need in the configuration.
Larry Jordan: So is Mistika software, hardware or both?
Miguel Angel Doncel: We are focused on developing the software which is our strength, and we do not develop the hardware at all.
Larry Jordan: For studios and very large production houses, $50,000 to $200,000 budget is not out of the question, but for individual artists, it is. Are there ways that people can get access to the tools Mistika provides by leasing or renting, which makes the price more affordable?
Miguel Angel Doncel: Actually that is a very good point. We started in NAB this year, we announced it and we’re working on that. Now we have a great technology that allows us to have this flexibility we were talking about on a single tool which is Mistika Ultima, the whole tool set, but we’re starting to spin off products to do specific things, but with a very different approach to the current tools that you find in the market, because the products we are spinning off they obviously share the whole metadata, and they obviously share the whole core of the technology, so the compatibility between the different products is 100 percent because they are actually different flavors of the same product. The first example we presented was Mistika VR which is a specific tool for VR stitching. The product is targeted in the market for 50 euros a month, which is not that expensive, that’s affordable for everybody, and the cool thing about this approach is those products speak perfectly well with each other so you still can build, if you have the technology to cover all the aspects of the post production, you can still move back and forth and maintain the whole integrity of the metadata through the whole workflow.
Larry Jordan: That is very cool, and much appreciated by people that don’t have multi hundred thousand dollar budgets.
Miguel Angel Doncel: Yes indeed. Actually we are extremely happy with Mistika VR because just a few days ago the Hollywood Professional Association announced that we are the winners this year of the technology award for the Association which is something we are extremely proud of. Especially for such a young product, because it was released this year. So that’s cool.
Larry Jordan: Miguel, where can people go on the web to learn more about Mistika?
Miguel Angel Doncel: Our webpage is www.SGO.es and they can find all the information there.
Larry Jordan: That website is SGO.es, not .com, SGO.es and Miguel Angel Doncel is the CEO of SGO. Miguel, thanks for joining us today.
Miguel Angel Doncel: Thank you very much Larry.
Larry Jordan: Ric Viers is the founder of Blastwave FX, the author of the Sound Effects Bible, and owner of Soundeffects.com. He lives and breathes sound effects, and it is always a delight to say hello Ric, welcome back.
Ric Viers: Hey, how you doing sir?
Larry Jordan: I am doing great because we’re going to shift gears out of visual effects into sound effects, but before we do, you just make sound effects, so how can they help sell a visual effect?
Ric Viers: Well, everybody wants to hear sound with everything that we see, that’s kind of the nature of who we are. I think if you can follow the analogy of being a fish out of water, you see a fish lives in water, surrounded by water molecules. Any movement in the water molecules around it is vibration which it detects as being movement. We do the exact same thing except instead of water molecules, we live in a world of air molecules. So anything around us that moves around, we’re expecting to hear something with that. When it comes to picture, what we see on screen and what we interact with in a video game, if there’s movement to it, especially something that’s sizeable or that we’re interacting with, we want to hear sound with, and if we don’t, it’s like a fish out of water. It’s like there should be gravity here, but I’m floating away. It’s like something’s not right in my world.
Larry Jordan: Well what is something about sound effects that you wish video editors knew that they don’t?
Ric Viers: Well you know, the thing with visual effects is, a lot of times there’s so much stuff going on on the screen that as a sound designer, we have to pick our moments. We can’t put sound to every single thing that we see, so a lot of times we have to choose our battles, you know, find the one element that we really kind of want to highlight or accentuate and then put the sound against that.
Larry Jordan: One of the things I’ve noticed is that we’re using music more and more, just laying music beds down forever. Are we reaching a point where we’re adding too much music or too much sound effects to our pictures?
Ric Viers: I guess it really kind of depends on what the story is or what the storyteller is trying to say. It can be too much. Silence is a good thing. Silence lets us reflect, silence gives us a moment. Dynamic’s a great thing, having great music is great, but it’s also great to let that, you know, music kind of sit in the background or even stop for just a moment and let the rest of the scene play out. So, I think it comes down to balance I guess.
Larry Jordan: Sometimes hard to achieve.
Ric Viers: Yes.
Larry Jordan: You’ve been busy, you’ve got a new book, a new website, a new podcast and a new movie. Which do you want to talk about first?
Ric Viers: All of the above. You know, they all kind of tie in together. Well what happened was, on Christmas this past year we released the action movie sound effects library, and we … to promote it we actually went and made an action movie, so we went down to … University. They have a film back lot that was actually designed and constructed by the same people that designed and constructed the Universal Studios back lot. We went to a full on film set and the guest star was a good friend of mine, multi Grammy winner, Leslie Brathwaite and so he played the Danny Glover character, and I put on a mullet wig and I played the Mel Gibson character and we did this Lethal Weapon spoof about a sound effects guy who follows around a cop his last on the job before retirement to record the sound effects, as he catches the bad guy. The film was called Off The Record, because of course we’re doing it off the record.
Larry Jordan: What process is it in? Is it edited, released or what?
Ric Viers: Well actually it’s just a trailer with a teaser trailer, I can neither confirm nor deny that we may or may not be moving forward with something, that’s all I can say. As ambiguous as I can be with that. But the new book, I’m surprised they found out a couple of hours ago, my new book was supposed to come out in October, found out that’s not happening. They jumped it up on me and now it’s going to be released on September 15th which makes me have to scramble next week to get things in line for that. But we’re going to have a lot of special things on my new website, soundeffects.com, that are going to help promote the book and some goodies and give aways. We’ve got a new podcast called Make a Noise with Ric and Rick and my good buddy, Rick Allen, who’s a fellow sound designer out of Arizona. He and I host this show together and we have industry legends like Rob Nokes came on the show and Ryan Allen from stockmusic.net and so we have our buddies come in and we kind of ask them questions about sound effects.
Larry Jordan: Very cool. For people that want to keep track of what you’re doing which is an exhausting experience just in and of itself, where can they go on the web?
Ric Viers: You can find out about me at my website ricviers.com or you can visit soundeffects.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, soundeffects.com and Ric Viers is the founder of just about all of it. Ric, thanks for joining us today.
Ric Viers: Thanks a lot Larry, take care.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
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Larry Jordan: Remember Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star in Star Wars? Or how about that tail fin of a plane slicing through the clouds in Airplane. Or the Tron race, or the Incredible Shrinking Woman. All of these indelible cinematic images were created by Bruce Logan. Hello Bruce, good to have you with us.
Bruce Logan: Hey how are you?
Larry Jordan: What was it that first got you interested in creating visual effects?
Bruce Logan: I suppose the very first visual effect that I ever created was inspired by the movie Parent Trap where my dad had told me how this twins trick was done, so I got his Bellows still camera, and I covered one side of the lens, took a picture of myself. Covered the other side of the lens, took another one, lo and behold. You know, I was expecting to see some kind of hard line down through the middle, but it was a perfect blend. The only thing that caught me out a little bit was I guess the English summer clouds were scooting across the sky so one side was slightly under exposed.
Larry Jordan: How old were you when that happened?
Bruce Logan: I think I was probably 11 I would think.
Larry Jordan: When you’re creating an effect, and I want to talk about some of the iconic effects you’ve created in a minute, but when you’re creating an effect what’s your process? What do you go through to decide what you want to do?
Bruce Logan: Well, most effects are basically taking something that’s shot in one environment and something that’s shot in another environment and blending them together. So for me it’s really a question of deciding which one I had the most control over, so I shoot the other one first. I bring that one in and I try to match it. So the effects that I’ve done have been mostly analog, very analog at times. You know, I love the digital world, and I’m a super enthusiast of all the new technology. I’m a member of the ASC Tech Committee, so all the new stuff comes through. But I grew up in that very analog world where we had to create everything that we saw.
Larry Jordan: Let’s take a look at one of those incredible analog effects, the blowing up of the Death Star, because I cannot not ask you about that. How did you create it, what did you do?
Bruce Logan: The Death Star explosion was a bomb basically that was exploded directly over the camera so the camera was looking straight up at a blue screen, and there was a little hole in the blue screen and we dropped the wire down and Joe Viskocil made this fantastic bomb for us full of titanium and all sorts of different magic potions and we exploded that directly over the lens. So we had an explosion that was against blue, so we could basically put it anywhere that we wanted to.
Larry Jordan: So the camera was shooting up at the Death Star?
Bruce Logan: Correct. What that did was it got rid of all the apparent effects of gravity, because obviously if you look at an explosion from the side, you’re going to see a big mushroom cloud going up. But when it’s radiating right down towards you, it looks like it’s happening in outer space.
Larry Jordan: Well that brings to mind, you said that most of your effects are analog with explosions and goodness knows what’s going on. What were some of the dangers that you faced when you were creating some of these effects? I mean, blowing up the Death Star is not something you want to stand right next to.
Bruce Logan: Actually it was much simpler days then and I have a picture of the actual Death Star explosion and I’m looking at one grip and he’s got like a hand held fire extinguisher. These days obviously the whole studio would be in, the fire department, there’d be a standby truck outside, but those were simpler days, and I do remember walking around the stage wiping burning napalm off my arms at some point during the shoot. So I guess we got away with a lot more in those days.
Larry Jordan: Sometimes looking at whether you could survive those days.
Bruce Logan: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Software tools today make it easier and easier to create mind bending effects. But it seems to me that the more obstacles we face the better effects we create. That the process of pushing against barriers improves creativity. What are your thoughts on this?
Bruce Logan: Having followed the progression of this and I think Dennis Muren showed his first dinosaur to Steven Spielberg, and they said, “Well it’s good enough.” It was good enough, but only just, but these days pixel pushing is such a refined art that there’s virtually nothing that you can conceive that can’t be done. But my feeling about effects is that my favorite effects start off with live action. You do some miniature shot or you create some basis for the effect to be built on, and then you enhance it with CG and those for me are the most satisfying, because they have this kind of accidental force of nature that’s flowing through them, rather than just this design, very sterile environment to them.
Larry Jordan: As you look back on your life, and it’s still continuing, but looking back, what’s the theme?
Bruce Logan: The theme, boy that’s a good question? I think curiosity is the theme, and almost everything that I’ve done has been a self-taught process. When I was growing up in England I had this fascination for Disney movies, I decided that I wanted to animate, so I bought a book and I taught myself how to do it. I built myself a multi-plane animation camera in my bedroom and almost every step of the way, like when I wanted to become a DP I really taught myself how to do that, so I’ve never had any official training and it’s been a process of self-discovery. I think that’s driven by curiosity of the process.
Larry Jordan: Would you advise the same path for kids starting out today?
Bruce Logan: I would. I think film schools are very valuable experiences if you can do it, but if you can’t, and sometimes I would say spend that money on making your own film and get started that way. I’m sure a lot of people don’t want to hear that.
Larry Jordan: The best way to tell stories is to tell stories.
Bruce Logan: Exactly, and then get better and better at it.
Larry Jordan: That’s the hope.
Bruce Logan: Yes.
Larry Jordan: When you’re watching a movie, do you find yourself analyzing the effects?
Bruce Logan: I’m pretty good. I go to movies to be entertained, so if the effects are up to a certain standard, and I’m not quite sure how to explain what that is, I’m a total sucker, because I want to be drawn in. I want the story to entertain me and that’s the most important thing for me, so not really.
Larry Jordan: You do a better job than most of us who have a hard time separating our knowledge of the craft from the story we’re watching.
Bruce Logan: I know, I just want to be entertained.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of entertaining though, you also have an educational bent. I’ve had the pleasure of reading your blog on Zacuto. Where can we go on the web to follow your thoughts?
Bruce Logan: Well the Zacuto site, and go to Bruce’s blog on that site, and you’ll see quite a few thoughtful presentations of problems that I’ve experienced over the years in the industry and how I solved them. Just one man’s opinion.
Larry Jordan: But an excellent and an informed opinion. I recommend everybody go to zacuto.com and check out Bruce’s blog, and the Bruce is Bruce Logan, an incredible special effects specialist, and Bruce, thanks for joining us today.
Bruce Logan: Absolutely Larry, thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: Visual effects covers such a wide range, it’s always fun to talk about it on the show. Effects really are at the intersection of creativity with technology with fascinating results. Our guests today really embody that whether it’s the traditional analog world that Bruce started out in, or the bleeding edge of 360 degree VR where Nancy is working, and just looking at the range of effects that are available to us today as Michele was describing. There is just so much to choose from that well, it’s a subject that is endlessly fascinating and endlessly evolving and always fun to talk about.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests today, Michele Yamazaki, the VP of marketing at Toolfarm, Nancy Eperjesy, the president of Mettle, Miguel Angel Doncel, the CEO of SGO, I love the rhythm of that. Ric Viers, the president of Blastwave FX, Bruce Logan, cinematographer and visual effects artist, and James DeRuvo, senior writer for DoddleNEWS.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every Saturday.
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Larry Jordan: Our theme music is composed by Nathan Dugi-Turner with additional music provided by Smartsound.com. Text transcripts are provided by Take1 Transcription. Visit Take1.tv to learn how they can help you.
Larry Jordan: Our producer is Debbie Price, my name is Larry Jordan, and thanks for listening to The Digital Production Buzz.
Larry Jordan: The Digital Production Buzz is copyright 2017 by Thalo LLC.