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.”

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We’re nominated for a Webby!

Honoring the best of the internet, The Webby Awards are considered to be the internet’s highest honor. Presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, the awards dish out honors in five media types: Websites, Interactive Advertising & Media, Online Film & Video, Mobile Sites & Apps, and Social.

This year, our Airbnb short, Wall and Chain is getting all of the attention. The video, which we produced in collaboration with VCCP, served as a celebration of German unity, and brought the true story of two former guards from opposite sides of the Berlin Wall to life.

Not only was it nominated for Online Film & Video: Animation, but it was also honored in both the Interactive Advertising & Media / Branded Content and Online Film & Video / Short Form categories. Check out our entry, and a list of the other nominees here!

Psyop Pup Roundup: Chip

Are you ready to meet another one of Psyop’s prodigious mascot pups? This week we’re heading north to Vancouver to cuddle up with Visual Effects Supervisor Marshall Krasser’s curly pooch, Chip!

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Name: Choco-Chip — but he is officially addressed as “Chip”
Owner: Marshall and Katrina Krasser
Breed: Poodle
Favorite Food/Treat: Anything that was ever alive.
Birthday: December 14, 2008
Fun fact: Was featured on the Psyop Vancouver office video. Was born in Springfield, Missouri and has lived in Oakland, California and Vancouver, Canada. He only has eyes for momma, does well on voice/hand commands, loves his “squatchie” toy, loves to talk, and knows the cat is boss. Chip has traveled to/from the USA & Canada more than 95% of US citizens!
Good Habits: Doesn’t chew things he shouldn’t, well trained bathroom-wise, great personality, good off leash.
Bad Habits: Does paw at you for attention, needs to learn to use an “inside” voice.
Doppelganger: George Clooney.
Favorite Song:  Groove is in the Heart by Deee-Lite [We arn’tt sure if he hates or likes it, but he does go nuts barking and running around EVERYTIME it’s on].
Nickname: Chipper, Chippy, Chip ‘n Dip, Wiggle Butt, Cheeep, Chip-osaurus Rex

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NY & LA: Get In on these Free Screenings of “teeth”

This week, Blacklist’s award-winning short film “teeth,” directed by Holbrooks, will be screening for free on both coasts at short film festivals in NY & LA.

As a special treat for the NY audience, director Tom Brown (1/2 of the duo Holbrooks) will be in person for a Q&A after the screening.

A darkly funny tale of bodily obsession and fantastically morbid experimentation, “teeth” is an official selection for a dozen different festivals this year, including SXSW, where it won the Special Jury Recognition Award. At a recent PSyop HQ screening of the film, it left this particular writer emerging from the room quite shaken up but strangely thrilled–an unexpected but welcome result to a film about… well, you kind of have to see it for yourself.

Take a look at the trailer for “teeth” right here, and then find out screening info below:

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Psyop Pup Roundup: Muffin

The spotlight is on Muffin this week!  Catch him sliding around the LA office and working side by side with owner and Psyop Production Coordinator Kara Jones.


Name: Muffin John Candy Alfredo Potato
Parents: Kara + Chase
Breed: French Bulldog
Favorite Breakfast: Wild salmon, self swatted from an icey river deep in the canyons of Colorado.
Birthday: May 25th, 2011
Fun fact: He stinks.
Good & Bad Habits: He stinks…But he’s a nice guy.
Doppelganger: John Candy and/or a pile of beige clothing.
Favorite TV Show/Movie: Title Sequence to Life of Pi… “Play it again!”
Nickname: Boot Face, Stink, Gumbus and Mr. Delicious (Don’t ask).


Hunting the Perfect Look with Sony’s Bloodborne & Director David Chontos


This week marked the release of the year’s most highly anticipated Playstation 4 game yet, Sony’s Bloodborne. The dark gothic fantasy game finds players taking on the role of a Victorian era hunter of zombies, werewolves, and other similarly horrific undead foes as they discover the origin of a mysterious plague that has gripped the game’s vividly imaginative universe.

It’s a release that has grabbed the attention of thousands of gamers, all of whom are also familiar with Sony’s powerful marketing campaign for the game, which centers on Bloodborne’s iconic Hunter character, complete with menacing cleaver shroud of roiling smoke effects.

For the game’s launch, Sony and creative agency Petrol partnered with Psyop to develop a series of spots that highlight Bloodborne’s tagtagonist and the visually spectacular environments that fill the game.

Watch Bloodborne, “The Hunt Begins”:


Director David Chontos told us how his team of animators was able to capture Bloodborne’s unique gothic style, and how they arrived at the final spot that has already gained over six million online as of now.


When you first pitched on Bloodborne, had you heard of the game?

David: Not only had I heard of it, I had already pre-ordered it!  I’m a huge fan of From Software’s games (Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls 1 & 2), and was very excited to help be a part of the game’s launch.

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Kicking Off the Virtual Reality Future with Samsung and Oculus

While on a top secret recon mission to Samsung HQ in Korea as part of our work on the multi-platform Galaxy 11 World Cup campaign, Psyop was granted a preview of a then unannounced new virtual reality headset set to release the following year. The result of a partnership between Samsung and virtual reality pioneers Oculus, the Gear VR promised to bring a high end virtual reality experience to consumers through an innovative yet affordable new headset device built around their Galaxy Note mobile phone.

Futurists and technology lovers to our collective core, we jumped at the chance to turn the bold, sci-fi designs of the Galaxy 11 campaign into a virtual reality (VR) experience, presented in both 360-degrees as well as stereoscopic 3d.


Our team, led by director Eben Mears, selected an early moment from the Galaxy 11 storyline that would knock viewers back into their seats when experienced through a first-person, VR perspective and began storyboarding that experience as if a short film.

The goal was to place viewers onto the team of world famous soccer players at the heart of the story, travelling by spaceship to an outlying space station for the final showdown of Man Vs. Alien.

However, this was no simple short film- it was an entire virtual reality space that would need to be viewable in 360-degrees. Continue reading

Psyop Pup Roundup: Beans

This week’s Psyop Pup Roundup features Beans! Often found by the side of Psyop Executive Producer Amanda Miller, she is loved by everyone (except the UPS guy).

Beans Burrito

Name: Beans Miller Schwartzbard
Owner: Amanda Miller and her husband Mark
Office: Los Angeles
Breed: Mixed. Something that sheds a lot. Probably Shepard in there.
Favorite Food/Treat: Whatever you’re eating
Birthday: Born in December
Fun Fact: She was rescued by Cally Morton
Good Habits: Squirrel abatement skills
Bad Habits:
Hating on the UPS guy
Doppelganger: Chowder
Favorite TV Show/Movie: Anything that leaves room for her on the couch.
Nickname(s): Beanie Bear, Beans le Dog, Princess, Dogaloo


Georgia Tribuiani Opens her Sketchbook and Shows Off Her Hand-Crafted Style

I recently had a chance to sit down with director Georgia Tribuiani and thumb through some of her personal art collection while the two of us spoke. I was interested in learning more about one project in particular and how it came about: an animated history of the Burt’s Bees company that Georgia directed for Psyop, appropriately titled “Brand History.” This spot stands out not only for the incredible depth of information it manages to communicate about the Burt’s Bees brand in two brisk minutes, but especially for the beautiful, hand-crafted visual language it employs. “Brand History” has a warm, friendly, homemade style that perfectly matches the boutique product at its core. It’s hard to see it and not imagine it being a joy to create, even knowing full well how much work goes into job like this. However, I was surprised to discover some rather stark, quiet inspiration behind the colorful final product.



How would you describe the look of “Brand History”?

Georgia: The spot is meant to look like a mix media art project that incorporates many different materials, from paper cutouts to painted canvas, photography, sculpture, and more. The different elements have different physical properties, giving the entire short a very tactile feeling, as if you could reach in and touch it and re-arrange the parts yourself. I feel it reflects the characters and the spirit of the brand as well. The imperfection in the animation. It’s all intentionally rough (like Burt). But has a feminine touch (like Roxanne).


Can you tell me about where you took visual inspiration for this project?

We were given archival pictures to use. Unfortunately they weren’t numerous enough to illustrate each and every moment of the story, but I still wanted to include them in the film. So instead of replacing them with  illustrations I started looking at some collage work of artists that I love.


How did you pitch your vision to your teammates at Psyop?

I wanted to do something more on the artistic side, and yet with a sense of humor, so I collected examples of collages that incorporated diverse combinations of materials in a interesting way. I put together a mood board and then I started cutting out paper and did quick mock-ups to show to the team how the different material would work together. I wanted to express how we could use negative space or silhouettes by masking, subtracting or adding elements.


What kind of process goes into translating this collage style into animation?

We had to come up with creative ideas for each material. We decided to keep everything as practical as possible, so most of the paper cut outs are animated in stop motion and we added painterly and hand drawn animated elements in post. We previs’ed the animations for timing and to have an idea of how many frames we would need to cut out. Imperfections were part of the flavor of the look, so we knew that the process was going to be very forgiving.

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Lilit Hayrapetyan Teaches Us The Art of Pitching

lilit_hayrapetyan_profile_photoOn March 26th, 2015, artists and designers from all over the world will gather together in Cyprus for the International Motion Festival. Among them will be Psyop’s own Lilit Hayrapetyan, Art Director, Designer and 3D Artist. Lilit has over 15 years of experience in the industry, and will be sharing her personal story of beginning as a designer in Armenia before moving to the US in one of the festival’s Talks. She’ll also be teaching a master class at the festival called “The Art of Pitching,” which is a 3-day course, structured to show attendees how to change their frame of mind about what pitching truly is, and how they can excel at it.

We spoke to her about what guests can expect, and about her own artistic process.


What most interests you about the International Motion Festival in Cyprus?

Lilit: I think festivals are very inspiring to attend and take part in, in general. It’s stimulating creatively and gives us the opportunity to meet other professionals in our field, which I love to do. I got the invite about 6 month ago and was happy to accept it. I didn’t have a typical path through the industry, and for my talk I’ll be sharing my unique experience. When I was coming up in Armenia, I didn’t have the opportunity to go to school for computer graphic design. Instead, I had to learn a lot of what I know today all on my own, and I hope my story will inspire those who attend my talk.




What made you choose the topic for your class, “The Art of Pitching?”

I frequently get asked questions about how I make my styleframes and how I go about pitching for jobs, so this will be a great the opportunity to speak specifically about that topic and answer those questions directly. For any company in our business, pitching is a very important part of the process, with its own interesting challenges that I look forward to discussing. Even if I’m the one ultimately teaching the class, I know that the process will also introduce me to new ideas and help me to expand my mind and way of thinking about pitching. Knowing that you’ve motivated someone and helped them reach the next level is also an extremely exciting and rewarding feeling.


When it comes to developing styleframes, what materials do you prefer to use?

My background is in 3D, so I usually go straight to a 3D program when I have an idea. I save a lot of paper, because I prefer figuring concepts out in my head before I start developing them digitally, rather than sketching with pen or pencil. I’m a perfectionist, so I usually keep working on an idea until it’s totally finished.

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