Tag Archives: International Talent

Compositor Ranran Meng takes audiences back to 1970s NYC for HBO’s ‘The Deuce’

For Ranran Meng, compositing is like decorating a building; as the final step of the filmmaking process, her role as a compositor, is to make a scene look complete and beautiful, just as an interior decorator would a room. She makes the footage look the best it can possibly look, ready for audiences all over the world to be taken in by the story, transported to different places and time, and to be purely entertained.

Meng has put her extraordinary touch on many of the world’s most popular recent films and television shows. These include Netflix’s hit rom-com Set it Up, Amazon’s award-winning television series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and the Emmy-nominated film Fahrenheit 451, to name a few. Her talents extend to commercials, collaborating with iconic brands like Microsoft, as well as virtual reality, having worked on the Harry Potter franchise award-winning video game The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them VR Experience in 2018.

Last year, Meng also worked on the second season of HBO’s Golden Globe nominated series The Deuce, starring James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Based in 1970s New York, this show gives a raw and gritty portrayal of the prostitution business that was so publicly executed at that time. As a result of police crack-down, the characters are forced to venture towards relatively safer and more discrete forms of the same work.

Meng, already a fan of the show’s first season, was happy to use her talents on such an enticing story, even if it meant she would be exposed to some spoilers.

I have not watched any show talk about the porn industry before, so this was a really unique project to be a part of. The story involves the government and police corruption, the violence of the drug epidemic and the real-estate booms and busts that coincided with the change. It really allows viewers to imagine what 1970s New York City was like,” she said. “I love the old stories and the older looking sets, it’s like seeing something from the past, even if it is not a true story. It gives an idea of what the old society was like, making it real for audiences.”

When working on The Deuce, Meng had a tremendous amount of responsibilities, making sure the VFX would really allow audiences to transport back in time to the 1970s without being noticeable. To do this, she used compositing techniques like 2D tracking, 3D tracking, roto and paint skills. In the original footage, there were modern things in the background that wouldn’t work with the time period, so she used her software to replace this with older images, making every detail work for 70s New York City.

These small details included erasing modern road stripes or signals and replacing them with the older styles, which meant she had to 3D track the scene and simulate a 3D scene of it, and then use paint techniques to paint out a newer, cleaner, no-stripes road image. She would then project the new painted road image on the 3D space and bring in a 2D plate, and then add new render stripes footage. Finally, after bringing back the cars, she used 2D tracking and roto/paint skills to do the motion work and to simulate the exact same traffic lights and shadows to bring them back to the scene. This made the scenes still have the same shooting elements, but with a perfect, older environment. Viewers may not notice things like the road signals in the background of a dramatic scene, but they would notice them if they were modernized, which is why Meng takes such care and pride in her job.

“This project is the story about the 1970s in New York, so it is interesting to make a modern city into an old-time city. I enjoyed the process of seeing how the city changed. It let me know how accurate the scene should be for output, as even a little light sign should be changed back to that period. It really magnified my attention to detail,” said Meng.

Meng’s work allowed The Deuce to be more believable and precise, allowing viewers to have the ideal entertainment experience from the couch of their homes. She used advanced high compositing techniques to achieve photoreal effects, making her indispensable to putting together such a high-end television show.

“I am proud of myself to have been a part of this great project. The post-production did a very good job and presented a real 1970s New York City to the audiences. I had a good experience working with my team and I am very much looking forward to the show’s next season,” she concluded.

The Deuce will return later this year on HBO.

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Zichen Tang uses cinematography to show a story, not tell it

The importance of cinematography, says Zichen Tang, a master of his craft, does not lie with whether an image is real or not, but if one can make the audience believe it is real. With this approach, Tang continuously transports audiences to different places and times, immersing his viewers in the world he has created through his work. He likes to express himself through his art, knowing his fans enjoy his individualistic approach.

“Cinematography is sharing your story not by telling it, but showing it,” he said.

Throughout his esteemed career, Tang has proven time and time again why he is a sought-after cinematographer in his home of China and internationally. Whether creating a viral video, like the humorous and enlightening Unspoken Rules of Chinese Gift Giving or an award-winning film such as The Last Lesbian, Tang’s talents are always on display.

Yet another success story for Tang came last year with his award-winning film The Somnium. It is the story of a single mother who can’t recover from the loss of her beloved son and joins a research program to live in a dream state of her memories, while her mom fights with her to keep her in the present reality.

“The story was interesting. When I first read the story, it reminded me of an episode of my favorite show, Black Mirror. I always wanted to make a film like that. I like it because it’s not an ordinary ‘happy ending’ film, but the type of story that makes people think. On the surface, it alarms the potential harm that technology could bring to us, but deep down it was the mom’s choice that caused the tragedy. So, the core is really about humanity,” said Tang.

The Somnium premiered last year at the Los Angeles Independent Film Awards, where Tang was nominated for Best Cinematography. He was awarded Best Cinematography at the Los Angeles Film Awards, where the film also took home Best Director and Best Editing. The film made its way to several more festivals throughout the year, winning more awards and enthralling audiences all over the world with the help of Tang’s work.

“I was thrilled when the awards started to be announced one by one, while at the same time I feel we deserved it. Everyone on this project was talented and worked really hard. They believe in the story,” said Tang.

Tang was asked to come on board by Director Jingyu Liu, who had always wanted to work with the cinematographer after seeing his work. Tang was eager to form a partnership, advising her on her previous film, Shallow Grave, which was nominated for Golden Reel Award. When Liu sent Tang the script, he knew instantly this would be a great project for them to take on together.

“I was thrilled after reading the script. It was still a draft, but I could already tell its potential. The director and I have very similar tastes, so during pre-production, instead of trying to convince each other of things, we were inspiring each other. Often there would be many disagreements between cinematographers and directors, but on this project, we seldom had a disagreement. Instead, we have been focusing on finding better and more creative ways to tell the story, making the process rather delightful,” said Tang.

Making The Somnium was fun and rewarding for Tang. As a cinematographer, he was heavily involved in the script, putting his heart into the project from the very beginning to the very end, going through almost 20 drafts as it changed from the first draft to the final production.

“I was developing the story with the director all the time, and during that process, we had been talking about how we should shoot it as well. Often filmmakers have a problem when they find out something in the script is wonderful in theory but can’t be expressed visually. That was never a problem for this project. I was a visual consultant during script development and made sure this is a story that would be best told in the form of film,” he described.

The Somnium was just one of Tang’s many award-winning projects last year, and he has a lot lined up this year to continue his success and keep showing the world his outstanding talent as a cinematographer. It wasn’t always an easy path to get to where he is today, but he always persevered, and it was well worth it. He knows he will never stop learning new tricks of the trade and is eager for every new project he takes on.

“The best way to make it in cinematography is to learn from others. There’s a saying, ‘good artists copy, but great artists steal.’ It’s not encouraging plagiarism or anything, but saying that we should watch what other artists have done, think why they did it, and learn from them,” he advised.

Art Director Li Li talks living her dream and working with Only in Beverly Hills

10625162_10202971608393258_9079929232043761374_nLi Li spent her teenage years captivated by the popular television series Mad Men. The iconic series, following Don Draper and one of the most prestigious advertising agencies in the world, did not only entertain Li, but inspired her. She wanted to be a part of the same world, working with prolific brands and creating unique advertising content. With a passion for the arts and business savvy, it didn’t take her long to emerge as an in-demand art director in her home country of Taiwan and abroad.

Li spends every day doing what she loves, and that passion translates directly into her work. Award-Winning Jewelry Designer Evelyn Huang has been greatly impressed with Li’s work, bringing her on board to promote both her brands EvelynH Jewelry and Light Legion, seeing tremendous growth from Li’s efforts. She saw similar success working with lifestyle brand Neon Beige and has no plans on slowing down.

“There’s no limitation to how you want to complete a project as an art director, as long as you have a great team and good connections. It is always interesting to work with various talents around you. It is also very rewarding when I can bring the best out of someone and put everything together as a masterpiece,” said Li.

Li currently works with the exclusive brand Only in Beverly Hills. One of the city’s newest boutiques has become the number one spot for gifts that celebrate the inimitable glamour of Beverly Hills.

“I like the idea of celebrating Beverly Hills and especially that the products are not limited to apparel but accessories, home goods, and books. I thought it would be a great opportunity to discover art direction in a different category,” said Li. “I like how the owners are very open to new ideas and are always willing to try something new. The idea of the brand is also original, and I think it’s one of the keys to success of building a business.”

Li took over as Art Director for the store almost a year ago and has a variety of tasks that are essential to its success. She arranges/directs photoshoots for marketing materials and lookbooks, manages the social media and creates original content for the channels, and designs promotional artwork such as posters, store cards, and flyers.

“I love to be included in the design process as well as promotion decisions. The two owners value my marketing ideas and aesthetics. This gives me a lot of opportunities to grow the business,” said Li.

Processed With DarkroomOn top of her everyday responsibilities, Li has found other ways to help the brand grow. She brought in Vogue model Hanna Gebrehiwet to be featured in the promotional material for Only in Beverly Hills. Besides photoshoots, she also brainstorms with the owners each week regarding new promotional ideas.

Li has improved the aesthetic of the brand, allowing the new business to emerge as a Beverly Hills staple. She feels grateful when she sees continued sales increases due to her efforts, her hard work paying off. Most importantly, in her opinion, she builds content for daily posts online.

“When people hear of a brand, they go on its Instagram and scroll through to get an idea of what the brand is about, especially millennials. This is why social media is so important to business nowadays. It can be a good catalogue as well as a bridge between business and consumer,” she concluded.

Go to Li’s website and follow her Instagram @li58li.

Andrea Mercado designs detailed and memorable characters for cartoon web series

Andrea Mercado has been an artist for as long as she can remember. She had no distinct memory of the first time she held a pencil, ready to begin drawing; for the Peruvian native, it was her natural instinct to create. She was inspired growing up from her grandmother, a talented artist, and other family members with similar talents. She was encouraged to continue pursuing her dream as she aged, going from crayon drawings as a child to detailed illustrations. As she grew, her love for the arts transformed into much more, and she began to take a keen interest in both animation and graphic design.

“As a kid, and even now as an adult if I’m honest, I loved watching cartoons and was constantly drawing the characters. I even made my own paper dolls and comics about them,” said Mercado.

Now a sought-after Graphic Designer and Animator, Mercado spends every day living her childhood dream. Whether working on passion projects, like her viral film PINOF Animate! or her current work with the leading animation and design company Fractl, Mercado impresses the masses with her many artistic talents and sheer drive.

In many cases, Mercado also allows others to see their dreams come true while doing just that for herself. This is just the case when she teamed up with Mark Udarbe, a software developer with a passion for animation and characters, who commissioned Mercado to animate character-introduction videos for his indie online comic web-series called Paradigm Spiral. Ubarbe contacted Mercado directly after being vastly impressed with her portfolio.

“I like that Mark took the chance to create something of his own. He had a story and characters and wanted to bring them to life, and that is something every storyteller and animator should aspire to do in their lifetime. I think it’s important to have projects like this because it inspires other people to create their own. It has even inspired me to make more films in the future,” said Mercado.

Paradigm Spiral explores Techoon City, a marvel built from the efforts of humanity and an alien anthro race known as the Kin. Many different types of people have come to this city for their own reasons: Aura Sarim, a young mage, seeks to change the future. Riselle Suna, Kin commissioner of the police force, desires a place to call home. Dreyc Hawking, a novelist, hopes to find inspiration for his next book. Discover how all their stories come together in the series.

“I wanted to work on this project because it has always been my dream to be a part of something big. And an indie animated show is something big. The story, the characters, and the setting all had great appeal, and that motivated me to work on this even more,” said Mercado.

On top of animating the characters, Mercado was also in charge of creating the logo for the series, the web design, and the Kickstarter and social media graphics. After that, she also created the icon and header for Mark’s personal Twitter.

“As a freelancer, Andrea is very professional. She is able to keep regular communication and was very accommodating to schedules. It was not difficult to get her up to speed and have her work on different parts of the art pipeline. If possible, I would look forward to working with her again,” said Mark Udarbe, Developer at Kroger.

Mercado was absolutely essential for the animation and continued success of Paradigm Spiral. Her work animated the characters, and her graphics have not only promoted the series and the website, but Udarbe himself.

Mercado continues to have success as both a graphic designer and an animator, with many more upcoming projects to look forward to. She loves expressing her creativity and versatility with her work, and Paradigm Spiral is just one example of what a talent she is. She encourages all those looking to follow in her footsteps not to give up on their dreams, and not to be afraid to create their own work whenever possible.

“I would encourage anyone to work on their own projects since they are young and start building a portfolio. Because the world is so competitive nowadays, you have to be willing to challenge yourself and constantly improve both your technical and artistic skills. Get acquainted with the software being used in the industry. This is very important because it will be your main tool when working,” she advised. “Other than that, work hard and be curious, eager, accountable, and responsible; because that’s the kind of person everyone would like to work with.”

You can check out Paradigm Spiral’s website to stay up to date with this fun series.

Zekun Mao talks importance of editing and new film ‘And The Dream That Mattered’

Beginning her career working on documentaries, Zekun Mao knows the power of editing in terms of filmmaking. Simply changing the order of a couple of shots can create a huge difference. Editing, therefore, is very crucial, and the final step in the storytelling process. A good editor can lift the story, not only telling the story itself, but also creating this beautiful flow for the audience. A good editor can not only tell the most powerful story, but also bring the entire audience into the film, letting them experience the story by themselves. An editor, according to Mao, can not only guide audiences’ eyes, but also their hearts.

The Chinese native is now an internationally sought-after editor, having worked on several critically acclaimed films, including Our Way HomeJie Jie, and Janek/Bastard. She always aims to be storyteller first, editor second, and this commitment to her craft is evident in all of her work.

One of Mao’s more recent films, And The Dream That Mattered, once again impressed audiences and critics alike. It follows an ambitious Asian actor who’s well on his way to Hollywood success when he returns home to Korea and soon discovers that even while reconnecting with family and loved ones, his creative journey ahead is even more lonely and difficult than he could have ever imagined.

“The ideas shown in the film are very contemporary and universal. They speak to a lot of young artists today, and the struggles they face in the modern world. I hope that by watching this, such people can find answers through their own interpretations of the film. I also hope it can encourage a lot of young artists today to pursue their dreams no matter what comes in their way. The film shows that even after a struggle, hard work eventually pays off,” said Mao.

Mao feels that the story, although it is about an actor, can apply to all artists. As an editor, she related to the story and the struggles the character goes through. She hopes many young people can feel something and know they aren’t alone when they watch the film.

Working on And The Dream That Mattered was an incredible experience for Mao. The film was shot without a typical script, in the style of a documentary, a genre she is extremely adept in. Her first step was to categorize the footage according to the emotions portrayed in it. Thereafter, she started building the narrative based on the ebb and flow of emotions in the footage. In doing so, Mao realized the film could play out like reading a book, and she decided to give each story segment a chapter name, summing up the main theme in each story.

“This project gave me a lot of creative freedom. Coming from a documentary background, the shooting style and the structure was very familiar to me. I enjoyed having nearly complete freedom in shaping the story according to what emotions I sensed throughout the footage. Because of this, I myself started reflecting on a lot of the questions that were posed in the characters’ lives. It felt not only like an editing process, but a life journey,” she said.

Mao lent a unique perspective to the narrative. The director and the actor both had their own ideas of what emotions they would emphasize in the film. Mao was able to filter through a lot of ideas from many team members and eventually put together a version that combined the best of everyone’s ideas, including her own. While working on the editing process, she suggested that the lead actor write letters to various important people in his life. These letters ended up being used as voice-overs throughout the film, which tied the film together.

And The Dream That Mattered has yet to make its way to film festivals, but it already took home the Best Independent Film Award at the Korean Cultural Academy Awards. Mao could not be more thrilled by the success the film has seen thus far. It has a lot of experimental elements to it, and it’s heartening for the editor to see such experimentation being appreciated.

“I’m happy that the writer, who is also the lead actor in the film, Jongman Kim, is getting the recognition he deserves. As the editor of this film, I’m thrilled that our hard work has the potential to bring about change to people’s lives,” she said.

Undoubtedly, Mao has had quite a career so far, and And The Dream That Matteredis just another example of what a force to be reckoned with she is. For those looking to follow their dreams and take on a career as a film editor, Mao says practice makes perfect.

“It is a hard job. It might seem very easy, just putting things together, but there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. It is an art form. You need to practice a lot. Editing is not just knowing how to use some software. It’s more about telling the stories. I would say be prepared. Be prepared to work very hard and be prepared to be criticized very hard too. Be patient, because it takes a very long time to figure out the best version of the story. Most importantly, be passionate, because it is a very exciting job,” she advised.

Understanding the pressure of a prime-time commercial slot with Elena Ioulianou

When esteemed producer, Elena Ioulianou looks at a concept for a content piece, she sees far more than ideas. Rather, Ioulianou sees a variety of puzzle pieces begging to be carefully and considerately weighed amongst each other, searching for the perfect fit. She picks up each piece, rotating and shifting it to ensure that she maximizes its potential and places it in the spot that is going to bring forth a masterpiece. With that, Ioulianou has earned a reputation for her ability to arrange all elements of a film in such a way that leave it destined for success. From budgets and costings, to props and plot lines, Ioulianou involves herself in all aspects of a project in order to ensure that no page goes unturned, no budget goes unbalanced, and no script is left with anything less than the greatness it deserves.

During her time as a producer, Ioulianou has tested her hand at a number of different areas in the arts and entertainment industry. She has set her efforts toward commercials, online advertisements, and digital content production, as well as films, television shows, webseries, and much more. At the mere age of 30, she has worked with several media moguls such as Reel Edge Studios and Milk & Honey Films. What she may lack for in decades of experience, she makes up for in raw talent and determination. In turn, she produces exceptional content in a profession that is more competitive than ever before. With the addition of social media and the current state of our world’s digital realm, Ioulianou must ensure that she is familiar with the latest trends and technology available for use in her field and with that, she must find a way to appeal to her clients’ needs without compromising the need to keep with the times.

The vast majority of production work that Ioulianou has conducted has taken place in her birthplace, South Africa and her work has taken her all over the world. One of her most notable employment tenures emerged when she earned herself a position working for Executive Producer, Herman Venter, and Director, Harold Holscher, for brands such as Buco Hardware, LandRover, and Marriot Insurance alongside Rolling Thunder Productions. In fact, she produced a LandRover commercial that earned Rolling Thunder a nomination as a finalist in the 2016 Lories Awards.

Ioulianou began working for Rolling Thunder Productions in 2014 when Venter and Holscher approached her to join their team after hearing of her work with Reel Edge Studios and MoviWorld. For the three aforementioned companies, Ioulianou produced six extremely successful commercials and her reputation continues to strengthen as word spreads about these projects today.

After experiencing Ioulianou in her element, Holscher and Venter were blown away.

“Without exception, every client commented on the smoothness of the execution and the professional delivery which was on time and precisely what they had envisioned. Elena is so widely noted throughout the industry for her work and what continues to amaze me during our collaborations is her ability to take an extremely limited budget and still be able to identify resources that result in an extraordinary final product every single time,” said Holscher.

For LandRover, in particular, Ioulianou was tasked with producing a series of three, 30-second commercials to air on Supersport on DSTV during the Rugby World Cup. Imaginably, only the highest quality commercials would be fortunate enough to earn air time during such a popular event and this meant that Ioulianou’s work was more than cut out for it. She rose to the challenge and credits her logistical precision as being the main reason that the success of this project was even possible.

Similarly, for Buco Hardware, Ioulianou had her work cut out for her when having to manage a choreographed piece incorporating twenty-five amateur dancers from different backgrounds, age cohorts, and more. To make matters more difficult, this had to be achieved in one cinematic tracking shot through a hardware store. Under time and budgetary constraints, Ioulianou did what she does best and ensured, once again, that this project was a true success for the clients.

For other aspiring producers out there who find themselves dreaming of one day ending up being producers and creatives she had the following advice to offer:

“The difficulties of getting started and having a fear that the opinions of others, especially those in positions of power or those that have been in the industry for longer, are right or worth more than yours. This is something I deal with on a daily basis. Different roads can lead to the same destination. Just start.”

Editor Roma Kong shows of beauty of nail art with iconic Disney characters

Editing, to Roma Kong, is like a simultaneous combination of surgery and magic. When she gets footage, she reviews the script and gets an idea for the direction of the story. That is when she starts cutting, splicing things together, and moving things around, until every part is put together, telling a clear story; that is the surgical aspect. When it comes to the magic, Kong believes that part comes in two ways. The first being that each story must evoke a certain feeling in the viewer, so it’s not only cutting and putting things together, but also adding emotion to it, whether this be through the music, the rhythm, the speed of the cuts, etc. The second, more often than not, is transforming the footage that may not tell the story they want and making it what they need, without any reshoots or work from the crew. That is where the real work for a film editor comes into play, and that is when Kong truly shines.

Born and raised in Lima Peru, the in-demand editor has impressed the masses with her work. She often collaborates with renowned production companies like Nickelodeon, with work on their online video series BTS Nickelodeon and Inside Nick, as well as Disney.

With Disney, Kong edited DIY Disney, an online series that allowed audiences around the world to see just what she is capable of. The videos amassed over 11 million views, and featured various crafts that viewers could partake in, offering simple and fun instructions using Disney films and characters. She also created another video titled “Disney California Adventure Food Crawl”, effectively launching the Disney Eats brand. She is quite the formidable editor.

“I would say my style of editing is very fluid, dynamic and fun. As a filmmaker, I strive to entertain the audience, so when I edit, telling a good entertaining story is the priority. I also love for cuts to be seamless, so I pay close attention to movement and try to make really smooth transitions between shots, even when making pop videos. I also work very fast which is something the people I’ve worked with have always appreciated,” said Kong.

Kong has a close working relationship with both Nickelodeon and Disney and is often the companies’ first editing choice when they have an innovative new online project to pursue. In 2017, Kong continued her work with Disney on their TIPS Disney series, featuring different videos showing the intricate work behind nail art, using some of Disney’s most celebrated productions.

“I think these videos really help bring more attention to a form of art many don’t really consider art. They allow the audience to truly appreciate the intricacy of the work these artists do. They give Disney fans great ideas on how to show their love for their favorite characters in very stylish ways, and they inspire other artists to create their own version,” said Kong.

The videos feature many beloved Disney film and television productions, as well as iconic characters. These include High School Musical, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Moana, Coco, Beauty and the Beast, and more. They were published through Disney’s expansive social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Together, they gathered over 7.6 million views.

“Seeing the comments from the audience on the videos and realizing how much they love them is heartwarming. Seeing people post about their own versions of what we showed them, is amazing. Reminds you that you’re not only making things for people to watch and forget about, people actually truly love these movies and characters and love showing their love for them and your video can persuade them to make something that they hadn’t thought about before,” said Kong.

Kong’s talent as an editor is evident in the TIPS Disney videos. She is very good at editing with music beats and for Disney Style, the Digital Brand that Tips Disney falls under. Her colleagues and her audience enjoyed the rhythm Kong put into the videos and how, by doing a very musical type of editing, made them fun and entertaining to watch. Because she has a very good eye for art and style, she knew exactly what the best shots were and what made the art look the most stylish and vibrant it possibly could. She understood the vibe of the brand very quickly and knew exactly what the executives wanted before they even knew themselves.

“I loved watching the intricate process of nail art in such a detailed way. I was constantly mesmerized by how hard it is to do, and I found myself with a lot more respect for nail artists. It’s such a great art and they’re all so talented. And also, being able to play with scenes from some of my favorite movies and use them to create something new was so much fun,” said Kong.

Kong worked on TIPS Disney from October 2017 to December 2017. It was an amazing experience for the editor. The Disney Style brand is her favorite out of all the Disney Digital brands. Making multiple videos for it was a great opportunity. The audience loves their content and as a result, the brand has a lot of engagement, and as an editor, making content that a lot of people would appreciate, and love was something that truly made the experience for Kong. It’s a fun brand to work for and it fits her editing style perfectly.

“Disney is the holy grail of the entertainment industry. Working for them is like hitting the jackpot of companies you can put on your resume. Being able to do that and have a Walt Disney Company ID with your picture on it, walking into the Studios with no problem at all is quite the dream come true,” Kong concluded.

Character Technical Director Qiao Wang brings iconic characters to national Target campaign

It is not often that one individual is both technically and artistically inclined. Such skills normally find themselves separated, considered two different ways of thinking entirely. However, this is not the case for China’s Qiao Wang, where the fusion of both technology and art have led to a dynamic skill set that most do not possess. As a Character Technical Director (Character TD) or Character Effects Artist (CFX), Wang combines his technological way of thinking with his innate artistic talent. Compared to other roles in a CG animated film or a visual effects driven film, a Character TD tends to be both artistic and technical, and most of the time requires more technical knowledge and skill sets than other roles. As Wang was trained in both art and science, he knew those two roles would be a great fit for his career path, and he has dedicated himself to it ever since.

Wang now finds himself as a leader in his industry, having worked on several prolific projects. Whether he is working on films, such as Avengers: Infinity War, music videos, including the hit “Filthy” by Justin Timberlake, or commercials, including a series of recent ads for Lexus, Wang’s talent is evident, using CGI to create extremely realistic looking characters and objects.

“To me, design is to create a better experience or better life for users. The artwork, character animation system or whatever I design, is simply trying to make the users happy, to create the most efficient setup to make their lives easier. I think that’s my design style,” said Wang.

One of Wang’s ongoing professional relationships is with the iconic department store Target. He has worked on many commercials for the company over the past couple of years and enjoys it every time. They were one of the first series of projects that he did at Method Studios and they incorporate many aspects of what he likes about his job. The commercials offered a variety of digital characters, from Marvel superheroes, Lego characters, Trolls, ponies, Barbie dolls, etc. They all have different body types and they all require different rigging and character FX setups.

The challenge was creating such an array of characters, and Wang was eager to develop them.

Last year, Wang worked on the store’s Holiday campaign, including “Together’s The Joy | Target Holiday 2017”, “What Are You Thankful For This Thanksgiving | Target Holiday 2017”, “A Home For The Holidays | Target Holiday 2017”, “Order Pickup | Target Holiday 2017” and “Super Mario Odyssey – Now at Target 2017”. This year, he has worked on two commercials for the company’s “Jurassic World” campaign, “Target 2018 – Giant Steps” and “Target 2018 – Dino Clash”.

“All these spots are all over the internet and TV, and they’ve got millions of views, with very positive reviews. It feels great that consumers love the creative content that we did for our clients. I was so happy reading the reviews on YouTube, kids are very into the toys, cartoon characters, and the short stories. I feel very happy to see all these characters come to life, and I’m very excited about getting ready for the new Target holiday commercials in 2018 and creating more fun characters,” he said.

On every commercial, Wang jumped into production and started creating characters’ rigs including skeleton animation system, cloth and hair/fur simulation effects right away due to the tight schedule and large amount of CG content. He built characters and wrote thousands of lines of code for tons of different types of digital characters, props, vehicles, and massive environments.

Wang was also responsible for cloth and hair/fur simulation, muscle effects along with various other character finishing tasks and shot finishing tasks. He essentially is a groomer for the hair and fur, and characters like Trolls have a lot of hair to be managed. His skills in hair/fur simulation were essential. There was only one groomer in the studio besides Wang, who was quite busy at the time, so he stepped up and helped deliver high quality hair grooming and simulations.

One of Wang’s greatest accomplishments for the Target commercials was the system he developed to create generic rigging templates for Lego characters, Minions, and Barbie doll characters, which he was then able to apply to many other characters that had similar body types. It helped create facial rigs, and lip syncs to improve characters’ facial workflow and performances. The cartoon character facial setup system saved Wang and his team a lot of time, as the old system was broken. Wang’s new system saved the entire production.

“I really like how the commercials merged characters from different worlds, different productions into one story, and made them look like they belonged to the same world. I like to work on different types of characters to face different challenges. I really enjoyed being able to contribute to the character technology pipeline and workflow for the studio. The story and the lines are very entertaining and working on them makes me feel like the holiday season is right around the corner. Even though these are VFX commercial projects, we really treated them as top-notch fully CG animated short films,” he described.

Keep an eye out for the 2018 Target Holiday campaign to see more of Wang’s outstanding work.

 

Photo by Dustin Han

Jeff Venida talks honor of creating a shift in today’s branding culture with Paradam

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Creative Director Jeff Venida

There are two types of people in this world: those with compelling stories to tell and those who actually tell them. One of those people is highly sought-after creative director, Jeff Venida. What sets Venida apart from most is the fact that his storytelling doesn’t come bound between two book covers or scattered through carefully arranged music notes. On the contrary, Venida uses creative branding to stimulate the minds of consumers and to take them on quests they wouldn’t have otherwise imagined traveling. He takes a thought-based, captivating approach to creative branding and shares stories with the world in a way that keeps him at the top of his industry.

Throughout his career, Venida has earned himself the opportunity to work with some of the world’s biggest brands, allowing his talents to captivate consumers in a number of different markets. He prides himself on the fact that his job, unlike many others, requires him to have a keen understanding not only of top brands and their target audiences, but also of some of the world’s most niche industries. He realized from an early stage in his career, that being a creative director would require far more than an eye for design. He would need to be able to identify important trends in society and determine how best to gauge the audiences consuming them. It has been a journey rich with learning opportunities and chances to look at parts of the world in a new light. In addition, after several years spent working for other brands and striving to bring other people’s visions to life, Venida realized that he needed to shift his focus towards putting his own ideas first and bringing them to life on a large scale. For these reasons and more, he decided that his talents could be best offered to the world by starting his own company: Paradam.

Per Venida’s vision, Paradam is focused on developing a thought-based, storytelling approach to creative brand building and marketing. He sees great importance in communicating complex ideas to his clients that tap into their emotions and connect intimately with their minds. His reputation, along with his business savvy, allowed him to build a strong client base and to leave a lasting impression on all of his clients, everywhere from start-up companies to major brands. His venture has been so successful, in fact, that Paradam was featured on AdWeek’s podcast in 2017, reaching audiences on a mass scale.

“I wanted to change the way people consume media and I wanted to have a larger impact on the culture I was so clearly contributing to. I knew that I didn’t want to create a product that was ‘for sale’ because I don’t really believe that any product will have a larger impact on people’s lives. Having said that, I do believe that awareness and an opening of the mind can have a great impact on the collective consciousness of the world. I wanted to streamline my beliefs and processes in a way that others might be able to take something away from. I started Paradam so that I could disseminate my approach to a brand communication for a larger audience and hopefully leave a positive, lasting impact on the way we experience the world. It is so much more than just an agency or a company; it’s an ideology and a way of viewing the world,” told Venida.

When developing Paradam accordingly, Venida endeavored to become an agency that specializes in conscious consumerism. To the world, this may seem like too large of a feat to tackle; however, for Venida, it is unfathomable to build an agency in any other way. During Paradam’s inception, the idea of generating a fundamental change in the way people think about marketing and branding motivated Venida to honor the ideas and intentions that are embedded in Paradam’s foundation and he was shocked by how easily his ideas came to fruition. Using his photography and videography skills, he shot content for his website and created a brand video that would later draw clients into soliciting his services. He also created icons and logos to match his brand’s concept, and focused his efforts on developing a unified, coherent branding strategy to show prospective clients the sort of output they could expect from working with him. For clients like Paul Andre Pinces, knowing Paradam’s ethos and seeing the calibre of content it housed were nothing compared to what he experienced when he actually worked first hand with Venida.

“I first worked with Jeff on a project for Native Shoes in Vancouver. He had a vital role on all 2014 and 2015 seasonal campaigns, contributing to brand messaging, look-books, and online content. He defined the brand tone throughout each campaign, giving the company its distinctive voice in the market during their most vital period of growth. His company, Paradam, is an exceptional example of his command in the industry and he is certainly one of the best creative directors I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with,” raved Pinces.

Testaments from clients like Pinces serve as a reminder that the risk of stepping back from his work to focus on a passion project paid off in the end. He is humbled by the thought that through Paradam, he is able to practice what he preaches and to bring something fresh to the market.

“I can’t tell you how much it means to me that this project has become such a success. When people call me just to tell me they’ve discovered Paradam and that it really speaks to them on a personal level is indescribable.  It makes me feel like I’m on the right path. Some of the creative individuals I’ve worked with on this project have called me to tell me that the completed project is something they thought they could only dream of, and that makes me feel honored. I feel inspired to push the envelope more and try my next creative endeavor,” he concluded.

Maja Lakomy goes on ‘Vacay’ in new film

Poland’s Maja Lakomy is a true storyteller. As an actress, she tells someone’s story in her own interpretation, having respect towards the character and the narrative at the same time. Her goal is to be a part of as many spectacular stories that are written or told by great minds as possible. She aims to both entertain and move as many people as possible, whether they laugh, cry, think, or simply feel. That is what she finds satisfying.

“There are so many beautiful, thrilling, terrifying and touching stories in the world and the more people they reach, the better, in my opinion. Actors are in some sense tools that are needed for these stories to reach people. Through movies and theatre people can experience new things and educate themselves, which I think is so important,” said Lakomy.

Lakomy is known for her work in films such as Star House and Diminuendo, receiving great praise for her acting abilities at many international film festivals. This year, she has lots going on, including a music video for Italian singing sensation Andrea Bocelli. On top of this, she has several upcoming films, including Straying from You, Moral Inequity, What’s with the Doll, and the artistic flick Vacay.

Vacay offers up a unique challenge for Lakomy, as it is a creative, cinematic film with no dialogue. The film is meant to entertain of course, but also make the audience think and feel shocked, which is why Lakomy was interested in the project. Before she auditioned, she read the description of her character and knew exactly how to play her. Upon reading the script, she found the story unique and incredible.

In the film, Lakomy plays Veronica, the “mysterious messenger” in the story. Nobody knows exactly what the history is between her and the main man, played by Juan Blasquez, but one can suspect that something deep and unresolved occurred between those two. She goes through many different phases of emotion, adding necessary and intense drama to her scenes. She is a tough woman on the facade, who leads an independent and successful life. Once audiences see a little more of her, we find out that underneath, she carries some trauma from the past that sometimes she isn’t able to cover. She is like a ticking bomb of emotions that if she doesn’t manage to contain, might explode.

“I like that the story is light and entertaining for the most part but gets intense and shocking in some moments. I also like the style of it, that it’s told without any dialogue, which makes it universal and even more powerful. I think the story is important because it touches upon some relevant and controversial matter, but at the same time entertains the audience, leaving them with a lot to think about after watching it, maybe even with an unsettling feeling,” said Lakomy.

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Lakomy was asked to audition for the part of Veronica by the director of the film. He had previously seen the actress’s work and was greatly impressed. Upon meeting her, he slightly altered the part to make it a principle role, knowing Lakomy could make a difference to his film. Such a reaction was incredibly touching for Lakomy.

Vacay began filming at the end of last month. Currently, Lakomy focuses on getting into the mindset of her character. A very important part of the process is connecting with one of the lead actors who her character has a strong history with. They are working on building the relationship so that when they act together, they can make the story between them as believable as possible, even without any words.

“I love that the whole film has no dialogue, so the story is told through the actors’ actions, facial expressions and the scenery. I like working on this specific aspect of acting, where drastic transitioning between different emotions is required. I enjoy challenges like that. I really appreciate working with great actors and an incredibly passionate director. I like that everybody who’s involved in this project fully engages with it and gives a hundred percent of their energy into it,” said Lakomy.

Vacay will be finished and submitted to film festivals later this year. There is little doubt that it will impress, and that Lakomy’s performance will be incredibly captivating. After its film festival run, it will be made available on various digital on demand platforms. Be sure to check it out.

Needless to say, Lakomy is a dynamic and in demand actress. She never gave up on her dream of acting, despite various roadblocks that came up on her journey. She encourages all those with the same dream to keep pushing, because eventually it will be worth it.

“As actors and artists in general it’s hard to be satisfied with yourself. There’s never a perfect answer or way to do something when it comes to acting. This profession is very subjective and it’s important to remember that we can’t always make everybody happy. My advice would be stay determined and work on yourself instead of comparing yourself to other people’s successes and failures. And even when you hear “no” way more than you hear “yes”, as long as acting brings you joy, don’t ever quit,” she advised.