The Psyop Circuit – Laurent Ledru (AKA Biddy)

laurent_ledru_selfieHow did you get into this industry? What other work almost diverted you into a different life along the way?
I Started 25 years ago in video games. I was what we called a “bitmapper,” creating pixel art for games. Then I discovered 3d, with the first version of 3d Studio.

I came to the USA from France as a 3d artist working for Method Studios, with [Psyop Managing Director/Executive Producer] Neysa Horsburgh, and since then we’ve always been working together. Working at Method at that time was a great opportunity to learn many things. It was a small boutique company with very talented people. I learned about filmmaking by following many directors like Gore Verbinski , Francis Lawrence, and more.

Eight years ago, I was asked by Neysa to join her in creating the LA office for Psyop. I had always had a true passion for live action with VFX, and innovative design. Psyop presented an opportunity for me to bring my knowledge of film and VFX and learn a lot about design and animation.

What’s the hardest part of your job, and what’s the most rewarding part?
I think the hardest part of any job is the execution. I find it very exciting to have the freedom that I have to develop ideas, concepts and narratives. Executing on those ideas while addressing client requests, budget challenges, and so many other variables can be quite a challenge.

The biggest reward is when a final project is just as good or even better than you imagined it, or coming across a challenging creative script and turning it into gold.

 

Styleframes & Concept Art from Laurent’s work:

 

What tools are essential to doing your job well?
As a director, I rely on the infinite flow of information I get from the net.
I can gather references, text, images, and more.

I also need some zen (meditation) time, to make sense of everything, to organize ideas
based on my inner thoughts–not only on the endless stimulation from my computer screen.

How do you define the culture of Psyop?
Super talented, collaborative, crazy–of course–and passionate. Continue reading

Introducing The Elder Scrolls: Legends – Another New Game Gets the Psyop Trailer Treatment

Gaming mega-publisher Bethesda used their E3 2015 presentation to make some pretty wild announcements this year, and Psyop was there when it came time for them introduce one of their most unexpected new titles.

The Elder Scrolls: Legends is a collectible strategy card game set in the mythic fantasy universe of The Elder Scrolls, home to blockbuster hit games like Oblivion. Skyrim, and The Elder Scrolls Online, just to name a few. Gerald Ding directed the spot which introduces the tone of the game and features just a handful of the characters who will be found in the final game.

 

Take a look at the trailer:


Here are some stills that show off just how detailed the character designs have to be in order to honor the deep mythology of The Elder Scrolls’ world:

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RECORE, a Highlight of E3 2015, Trailer by Psyop

After six months of hard work, we’re excited to see our latest video game trailer finally go live in front of the entire world!

This morning, at the top of their much-anticipated E3 presentation, Microsoft announced ReCore, a new game from renowned creator Keiji Inafune and developer Armature Studio. We are proud to say that the trailer was created in-house at Psyop by our incredibly talented team, led by director David Chontos.

 

 

Take a look at the detail in these stills from the piece:

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From The Verge:

Microsoft is introducing a new game series and Xbox exclusive called ReCore, which looks like a mashup of two of the most fun sci-fi worlds out there: Star Wars and Wall-E. There isn’t a lot that we know about the game yet, other than that one of the creators behind Mega Man, Keiji Inafune, and the makers of Metroid Prime are behind it. ReCore stars a woman — one of the last surviving humans — who’s fighting her way through a destroyed desert world, working with a series of quirky mechanical pets to help her fight mechanical villains. And that’s really about it for what we know. It arrives on Xbox One in the spring of next year, so Microsoft will probably be showing more of ReCore soon.

Awards Season Honors – Psyop Brings Home Webby, D&AD Pencil, and Golden Trailer

They always say it’s an honor to just be nominated, but who doesn’t like to win an award or two–or three?

In the past month, Psyop has had the good fortune to win awards in three different programs, so we thought we’d take a minute to round up what has happened so far in 2015.

At the recent Webby awards, our “Wall and Chain” short for Airbnb with VCCP brought in enough votes to make it the People’s Voice Award winner for branded animation. This was decided by the online community at large, making it especially impactful for us to know that it was true fans of the content itself who helped win us this award.

 

Not only that, but we received a second People’s Voice win at the Webbys, for our Apple spot, “Stickers,” produced with TBWA! This was chosen over some stiff competition in the Consumer Electronics Advertising & Media category.

 

 

“Wall and Chain” wasn’t done with just one award, also grabbing a Graphite Pencil at the D&AD Awards in London for the Animation category within the Film Advertising Crafts portion of the show. Our friends at VCCP Berlin snapped this shot of our moment of Graphite Glory:

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Finally, we picked up one more award recently, this time for our work on Sony’s Bloodborne game release trailer, a collaboration with Petrol. That spot, “Hunt You Down,” picked up the statue for Best Video Game TV spot at the Golden Trailer Awards.

 

It’s been an incredible month, and with more award shows on the calendar we’re looking forward to this summer. Our deepest gratitude goes out to everyone who has supported spots like “Wall and Chain” by sharing it online, voting for it, or just sitting back and enjoying it. Our hearts go into our work, and they go out to you for being our fans!

Psyop Pup Roundup: Eleanor Rigby

The #PsyopDogs pack expands again today with the official introduction of NYC pooch Eleanor Rigby. Try not to Awwww at this chubby Corgi mix, whose hobbies include running, napping and shunning his mother’s love, as seen in the photos below.

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Name: Sir Eleanor Rigby Smithfaro
Owner: Liz Christofaro
Office: New York
Breed: Corgi mix. More commonly known as a DickDog.
Favorite Food/Treat: Hot dogs, eggs, children’s tears, anything and everything he can find on the street, cherry tomatoes, other dogs’ butts.
Birthday: December 7, 2011. Proudly born 70 years after Pearl Harbor.
Fun fact: Rigby was born on the streets. His greatest dream is for his two (platonic) moms to get married so he can stop being a bastard. But he won’t ever stop being a bastard.
Good Habits: Can ‘stay’ for an extended period of time, is incredible cute looking.
Bad Habits: Literally everything else. Specifically, he’s incredible rude. Also he’s a freeloading mooch.
Doppelganger: Joffrey Baratheon. (Editor’s Note: We can definitely see that.)
Favorite TV Show/Movie: Hannibal, Dexter, Snapped, Real Sex, Toddlers and Tiaras.
Nickname: Dickdick, Pigby, Fat Pig, La Cucaracha, and when we’re feeling loving he’ll occasionally get OggieBabyPiePie.

 

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Seeing the World through a Dog’s Eyes, New Hand-Drawn Animated Work for Coca-Cola

On any given day in the Psyop offices, there can be anywhere from a few well behaved dogs napping in patches of sun to a veritable pack of wild beasts, roaming the halls on the hunt for stray crumbs, bouncing tennis balls, or–honestly, it’s hard to say exactly what’s going through a dog’s mind at any given moment.

It’s this idea, the mysterious interior of a dog’s imagination, that was the inspiration for Psyop’s latest work, an animated spot for Coca-Cola called “Man and Dog,” devised in collaboration with ad agency Wieden+Kennedy.

Directed by Todd Mueller & Kylie Matulick, “Man and Dog” is the story one man and one dog, and the way they each experience a simple walk through the park. For the man, it’s another ordinary day, but for the dog… well, you saw it for yourself.

We got the story behind the spot from Todd & Kylie, who told us how the they first envisioned the concept playing out, and how it grew into the final spot that is.

“Sure, occasionally one dials 911 or wins America’s Got Talent, but for the most part, dogs are idiots. That’s why we love them,” explained Todd.

“They have the curious, imaginative minds of a six year old–specifically mine–who thinks every stick is excalibur, every bit of string is a lightning whip,” added Kylie. “Dogs don’t see a heap of two-week old laundry; they see a castle ready to be defended, then napped in. Where we see a cumbersome vacuum cleaner, they see an alien robot loudly singing its home planet’s anthem. At least that’s what my six year old told me.”

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The team had to walk a very narrow line in order to do this project correctly, making it feel not only familiar and classic, but also imaginative and fresh.

“We wanted this film to be genuinely drawn by hand, like classic 2s animation we grew up with, but with more depth and dimension”. “It’s nostalgic but new, it shows love and focus, it’s crafted but nicely flawed, we wanted it to have a truly original look that only exists in this moment.”

Throughout the film, the perspective shifts back and forth between man and dog, each view standing out stylistically from the other. The team achieved this by approaching both from different angles not only visually but technically.

“To truly appreciate the unique feeling of looking at the world through a dog’s eyes, we had to make sure that his moments really set themselves apart from the rest of the spot,” Kylie explained. “To achieve this, we did as much as we could to shift the feeling of the moment, from unique camera moves, the look and sound of the action. Things become brighter, more fanciful, and it’s clear that you’re seeing things in a new way.”

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Environments were comprised of digital matte paintings that were first painted in Photoshop on layers and eventually broken up onto cards and projected across 3d geometry, using both Maya and Nuke software. This hybrid 2D/3D look was particularly important for establishing the dog’s unique POV, which drives the fun spirit of the spot. Objects seen in this perspective needed to be created in 3d, including pieces of the environment as well as additional characters that the dog encounters, such as the motorcycle-riding squirrels.

Casting the right man and dog for the spot was monumentally important, and was a process that saw the creation of dozens upon dozens of different canines and their potential owners before landing on the final look.

In the end, it was character designer Lois van Baarle who won the day with her scruffy protagonist, an interpretation that would feel comfortable coming off the pen of one of Disney’s “nine old men.” Additional artists then helped flesh out both the Man & Dog’s expressions and attitudes to prepare them for their starring roles.

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Character designs were then brought to Duncan Studio in Pasadena, who collaborated with Psyop on the 2D portion of the film, from rough sketches and blocking down to inked and painted final cels. In addition to the characters being hand-drawn, colors, shadows, and highlights were also added in the final hand-drawn animation phase. While animators at Duncan Studio focused on character animation, Psyop added additional effects, color trails, smoke, dust, and more, all in 2D.

The final step was the compositing stage, where Psyop’s artists completed the production puzzle by integrating 3D renders with 2D animation, and laid them both out together among the film’s painted environments. When all was said and done, the resulting spot became a uniquely modern piece of art, combining techniques and styles from across generations for a one-of-a-kind result.

Psyop Animation Reaches New Level of Realism to Tell Touching Story for Michelin Premier Tires

Summer has arrived early this year, as Psyop and TBWA\Chiat\Day have sped the seasons up in their new work for Michelin Premier Tires. Viewers of the spot, directed by Eben Mears and Anh Vu, are invited into a colorful and richly realized animated universe that transforms from spring to summer, fall, winter, and back again, via a series of creative transitions. To make the journey a smooth one, the famous Michelin mascot, Bibendum, outfits a young driver’s new car with the right tires to take her safely on her way towards adulthood, making sure that she returns to the loving arms of her father in the end.

In an effort to illustrate the enduring safety features built into the Premier Tires product line while also telling a touching story in only thirty seconds, the spot cleverly works its way through an entire two years of driving via one continuous take. Starting out on a sunny summer day, the spot then seamlessly transitions into a rainy autumn evening, followed by a brief stop on a cold winter road, and back to a bright and blooming new spring as our lead character arrives home once again.

“As a father of a girl in her tweens, I was really inspired by this story of a father’s love for his daughter” said director Eben Mears. “TBWA/Chiat/Day came to us with this wonderful story about a father watching his daughter take her first steps towards adulthood, and we got really excited about bringing these characters to life and giving them a deep emotional resonance. It was a chance to bring a big cinematic feeling into a commercial.”

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“Because we were asked to create a single spot that demonstrates the longevity of the tire,” added director Anh Vu, “we were able to design a number of different locations, and we packed each of them with unique details that illustrate not only the passage of time but the distance we travel over the course of our lives.” The result is a heartfelt journey that reinvents Bibendum’s world for a new generation of viewers.

The high level of visual detail in the spot, which is produced with the same quality expected of a top-tier animated feature film, is some of the most lifelike character design ever achieved for Psyop. The models were meticulously detailed and a great deal of time went into grooming and simulating the hair. Technical director Frank Naranjo explained how they created such an epic new world for Michelin: “In order to design the realistic environments, we created animated particle systems for all the foliage (grass, trees, flowers, plants, and mulch) in XSI and then procedurally shaded them in Arnold. The result was that almost everything looks alive.”

Things Get Dangerous as Psyop Enlists Venomous Cobras to Tell The Story of Tut

Spike TV has pulled the wraps off their first original scripted production, Tut, a new drama series starring legendary actor and Oscar winner Ben Kingsley that will air this summer. The highlight of Spike’s recent 2015 upfront presentation, Tut was revealed by way of a dark and elegant promo designed and produced by Psyop under the creative direction of Lauren Indovina.

Sharon Levy, Executive Vice President of Original Series at Spike TV, called the new show “the biggest and most ambitious project in Spike’s history.” To help press that message forward and build buzz around the project, the network enlisted Psyop to illustrate the show’s dramatic, dangerous, and sexy side by way of a shadowy shoot featuring ancient artifacts and venomous cobra snakes–live, of course.

“Last November, Spike saw a film I directed at Psyop called Emerge and were eager to collaborate with us to create a unique visual language that would help them promote their mini series, Tut,” says director Lauren Indovina. “Tut is the story of King Tut’s struggle as he came into adulthood and fought to remain powerful while dodging political entrapment. The project, which was currently in production at the time, sounded amazing and we were thrilled to be a part of it.

“I wanted our Tut tease to be a visual opera, a seductive psychosexual art film, lush with visuals about being completely encapsulated in pain, betrayal, lust, love, terror, chaos. It should be a glimpse into the passionate chaos that ensued during Tut’s life. His life was tangled with wanton lovers, carnal enemies, broken souls. In a sense, I wanted this visual language to twist and engage the minds of our audience and spark a visual high.

“The tease needed to communicate these intrinsic feelings of power but also evoke an emotional reaction. Something rampant, something Spike. Continue reading

Psyop Pup Roundup: Dag

This is Dagobert (Dag), one of New York’s finest and pup to Executive Producer, Colleen Bachman and her family. Attractor of sticky situations, read more about him in this weeks’s Psyop Puppy Roundup!

 

Name: Dagobert Shackleton Teree (aka Dag)
Owner: Colleen Bachman
Office: NYC
Breed: half purebred cocker spaniel; half uber mutt
Favorite Treat/Food: Artisanal Triple Cream Brie
Birthday: May 7, 2008
Fun Fact: Everyone thinks he is a black lab puppy; He has a lot of character is is quite food motivated which can lead to some sticky but funny situations…like when he went to our neighbor’s house in Vermont and got stuck in the cat door while he was trying to grab a kitty nosh.  Our neighbor found him stuck around the middle and flailing and had to pull him out by the hind legs.
Good Habits:  Sleeping until noon, no begging to go out in the morning
Bad Habits:  Stealing off the cheese platter
Doppelgänger: Kaya
Favorite TV Show/Movie: Breaking Bad (because we were glued to the couch with him while binge watching)
Nickname: Chief Wiggams

From the Shadows, Justice Comes to “Night Owl High”

Psyop VFX Editor Tom Masterman is clearly no stranger to late nights spent lurking in the shadows. How else could he have found the time to co-write and direct a pilot as gorgeous (and funny!) as “Night Owl High,” the Grand Award Winner of a $50,000 grant from Storyhive?

The team behind “Night Owl High” was one of only four projects selected by popular vote to receive the funding, which they’ll use to produce five additional episodes for airing online. Their pilot, which you can watch below, focuses on Perd Carlyle, a high school Vice Principal fashioned after a fedora-clad ‘forties film noir detective, shaking down students to get to the bottom of a grade-manipulation conspiracy.

Somewhere between TV’s “Veronica Mars” and the noir revival flick “Brick,” “Night Owl High” plays like an outright comedy shot with an ultra-high contrast black and white style that promises to deliver more than just simple sight gags and clever retro wordplay–though it’s got all that, too.

“Our aim was to create a unique fusion of both new and old,” Tom told us. “While we draw inspiration from the classic film noir genre with the color pallette, costume design and music, we decided to infuse this with modern camera movements and a fast paced editing style to reinforce the comedic nature of the series.”

Continue reading