Inside A Child’s Fantasy — Creating “No Place Like Home” for British Gas

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A child’s perspective; it is an unparalleled thing consisting of endless adventure, growing mystery, and voices found within the nooks and crannies of just about anything. There is no question about it: the world inside a child’s mind is magic. For some, that drifts away with the enduring years, but for others, such as Psyop Director Lauren Indovina, that world only sharpens with their craft. We recently had a conversation with the visionary at the helm of British Gas’ latest spot, ‘No Place Like Home’ and got some insight into how one turns the feeling of being at home into a full-fledged world brimming with poignant gardens, furry little animal families, and heart-warming themes.

“As children, we fantasize that little fluffy woodland creatures in our world live in incredibly cozy homes. We anthropomorphize them to become these super creative small humans, thrifty in fact, justifying along the way that things we leave in the grass or the woods now have incredibly cool uses for our fellow creature dwellers. I’m prone to injecting my imagination into the miniature world of my backyard, so collaborating with like minded colleagues to bring these tiny worlds to life was a treat.”

Touching on what brought Psyop and British Gas together for such a whimsical collaboration, Indovina notes that it was in 2011 when we teamed up with CHI in their ‘Planet Home’ storytelling campaign. “Through the years, our collaboration has evolved the style and techniques used to tell the stories of British Gas consumers. For Psyop, a company brimming with prolific character designers and animators, we were ecstatic to help CHI launch this new, marvelous narrative.”

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A good deal of the successes in bringing this storybook-esque spot to fruition rested in two main components: collaboration and attention to detail; which is exactly why Psyop was the group for the job. “Psyop’s process has always been collaborative and this spirited process brings our animated worlds to life. Great storytelling is filled with meaning in every detail. In other words, it’s encouraged that everyone on the team has authorship and brings to the table their own point of view and imagination.” Of course, you can’t have strong storytelling without well-developed characters to go along with it. The Psyop team decided to settle on a universally known, yet nearly impossible to overdo, theme. “We really envisioned this new cast of characters to feel familial, charming, and ownable to the British Gas brand. Naturally we turned to classic fairy tale structure. The structure of a fairy tale is really in the simplicity and meaningful, clever design.”

Before every triumph however, there are often struggles preceding. Character design and style proved to be no different when faced with the dilemma of finding that happy balance between believable reality, and enchanting fantasy. “One challenge was to develop a look for our characters which was both tactile and real. We wanted the viewer to feel like you could reach out and touch this world. It was a quick turnaround for the amount of work we set ourselves up to do.” No challenge is ever too out of reach for Team Psyop however, as Indovina considers the balance found in directing and being a part of a larger whole.

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“As a director, I’m nothing without the amazing support and talent of the team. In short, I would say ‘this, this, this’ but then–I’m not even kidding, and this happens a lot at Psyop–I look at what our artists have done and I think, ‘Man, who am I to comment? This is ridiculous. This is just really freaking amazing stuff. Keep going guys. I’ll be a little OCD about some things, but you guys do you.” Adding onto the noted difficulties in accomplishing the desired look and feel of the piece, she mentions that her creative background continuously plays a part in her approach. “I come from a film and design background, so I geek out forever about look and feel, tone, and emotional response. The nuance of this animation makes my heart happy. It turned out sweet and sort of sassy. The tiny hands, the little expressions and detail. It just kills me.”

When asked about what’s up next in terms of the connection between Psyop and British Gas, Indovina confidently states: “I really hope we can continue to play in this world and give these characters more narratives, similar to Psyop’s collaboration with Coke on the ‘Happiness Factory’ films. We’re really excited and proud of our relationship with CHI and Partners. This is only the beginning. Look out for our next collaboration in the Fall.”

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Psyop Instagram Artist Takeover: Kelly Shay

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Let’s introduce our next Instagram Takeover artist with only the important facts: She is a multitasker… A multitasker who specializes in wearing sweaters while consuming only the finest soft serve ice cream available. Kelly Shay (@shay_yk) from our Los Angeles office will be the Psyop IG woman of the hour this time around, and we’re confident that this FX artist is about to deliver a style all her own!

Speaking of style, last week’s takeover from Marc Whitelaw proved to be a great success but of course, we know he couldn’t have done it without his bandana-clad sidekick, Kevin. What a little stud! Thanks for beefing up Psyop’s collection of sunsets, sunrises and dog pics cute enough to turn the hardest of hearts to complete mush.

Hope you all are still following along and loving our fresh take on what it means to be part of #TeamPsyop!

Name: Kelly Shay

Position at Psyop: Houdini FX Artist & Hair

You take way too many photos of: My cats. For reals.

Hometown? And 1 way you fit that hometown stereotype: Saratoga Springs, NY. I wear sweaters while simultaneously eating delicious soft serve ice cream at the same time.

Who on Team Psyop do you nominate to take over next?: Yuo Tengara!!

 

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Follow Psyop on Instagram to see more like this, coming your way all week!

Seen Through Psyop – “American Ultra” Reviewed

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Editor’s Note: Our Social Media Coordinator and film-buff Taylor Shortall caught American Ultra last week and has captured her thoughts below. Seen the film? Let us know your own thoughts in the comments below!

For what some had been speculated to be nothing but another stoner rom-com flick for the masses–Adventureland Part 2 as a few were referring to it–opening day for Director Nima Nourizadeh’s work American Ultra was the latest dose of proof that maybe we can have the best of both worlds, especially when those two worlds ring reminiscent of the absurd humor of The Big Lebowski with and startling yet quirky gore of Pulp Fiction. The sorrow found within the chuckles, storyline within chaos, and meaning within ridiculousness all seamlessly weave together to present one very apparent conclusion: Things aren’t ever exactly as they appear to be.

Speaking of distorted perception, it wouldn’t be a proper Psyop film review without taking a moment to stop and give a high five to everyone from our New York office who worked their magic on this project, including our VFX supervisor Dan Schrecker, overseeing visual effects work on a total of 60 of the film’s shots. Considering the genre, we were stoked to be able to riddle American Ultra with smokey haze and flying bullets alike.

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Sitting in the theatre, it was the humanistic touch interwoven in the writing that made this story something that stands apart from the countless goofy castings of characters lounging around in funky sweatpants and being the butt of their own jokes – as is now readily expected when approaching a genre such as this. Instead, Nourizadeh and his screenwriter Max Landis chose to value honesty when establishing the film’s dynamic, especially when it came to romantic leads Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) and Phoebe (Kristen Stewart). Take for example the scene where the couple is perched atop a hill, looking down on a car accident where a massive oak tree clearly won out in a fierce collision. Mike begins his out-loud ramblings by professing his grief for how the tree had swiftly stopped an object that had been traveling for decades. At the time, we think that this is nothing but an overly-emotional, way-too-high moment of dialogue; but of course the direction then turns on us again. Suddenly, Mike is drawing comparisons to the accident with his own relationship; labeling Phoebe as the car and himself as the dead-end tree. It’s a scene like this that sets the surprising tone for the rest of the film, never allowing the audience to get too comfortable in a plot that they think they’ve seen played out before.

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These countless moments that could have easily been punched through with a joke and instead took the contemplative (and maybe more difficult to grapple with) route by turning certain scenes into emotion-filled, suddenly honest standpoints that I credit with creating the impression that stuck with me long after exiting those theater doors. A note to be considered, too, is that it certainly takes the skill of a set of genuine actors, principal storytelling, and a stylized eye to pull that off – otherwise any easy stoner tale would’ve proven to deliver nothing more than an hour and a half of mindless amusement.

All in all, the one part complicated romance, two parts action-spy adventure, and one large dash of twisted humor narrative that is American Ultra does prove to hold its own no matter which genre-box audiences decide to shove it into. Any work that fights to take on so many worlds and emerge as something all its own is something that Psyop will always sing praises for!

Psyop Instagram Artist Takeover: Marc Whitelaw

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So how many of you have been wondering when a Psyop-er of the dude variety would take charge on our official Instagram account? Well, the day has come my friends. This week we are handing it off to Marc Whitelaw who does his thing from the Vancouver office! The guy refers to himself as a ninja, digs Kubrick, and has a dog named Kevin. KEVIN. Need we say more?

Before we jump on board with this week’s artist though, throwing out a huge thank you to Talisa Tam for her constant dedication to showing so many different aspects of the Psyop LA world from office cookies for breakfast, to cameos of various employees working their magic on our projects. She was a dream to have in the mix as she could continuously be found darting around to every happening (as well as around the town of Venice as a whole) on a mission to capture every moment possible!

Now without further adieu, let this week’s dose of Canadian love commence.

Name: Marc Whitelaw

Position at Psyop: Compositing Ninja

You take way too many photos of: Sunrises and Sunsets, Architecture, Textures, Anything out of the ordinary, as well as my dog Kevin.

First movie that had an impact on you, and why: 2001: A Space Odyssey. Because, Stanley Kubrick… Need I say more?

Who on Team Psyop do you nominate to take over next?: Well I’m still quite new to the Psyop team and not sure who uses Instagram… But maybe my Aussie friend James Webster will have some fun with this! Or our VFX editor Tom Mastermind. Again, not sure if he has IG, but he`s a great character.

 

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Follow Psyop on Instagram to see more like this, coming your way all week!

Psyop’s Cryptomatte Technology Explained – Siggraph 2015 Poster

At Psyop we have a tool called “Cryptomatte”.

Deconstructing the name, “matte” means that it makes ID mattes, and “crypto” means that people are confused about how it works. To help clear things up, we’ve published exactly how it works in our SIGGRAPH 2015 poster, which is now posted online for everyone!

View the Psyop ID mattes Poster here (PDF)

The super short version of how it works: Object names, namespaces, and material names already organize 3D scenes. You don’t need any more information than that to create IDs and this information is available inside of the renderer. That, plus a funky encoding (a ranked series of ID-coverage pairs in a multichannel EXR) means we can automatically provide mattes for every object, material, and namespace which stay accurate for all the “multiple objects in the same pixel” cases like AA, motion blur or transparency. All this happens more or less automatically in 3D and the 2D experience is even better (see the video!)

Psyop Instagram Artist Takeover: Talisa Tam

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What’s that, you say? The Psyop Instagram Artist Takeover is the only thing that got you out of bed this morning? Yep, we understand. And the good news is that this week’s takeover is coming at you from the extra hot and sunny, Venice CA. Meet Talisa Tam (@jazztamster) from the relatively newer division of Psyop – The Film & Television Department! This little lady has proven to find entertainment in a wide array of hobbies from AnimeExpo to learning new languages, so it’s anyone’s guess as to what we’re in for this time around!

Let’s also take a minute to reminisce over the amazingly thorough week of pics that director Anh Vu (@anh__vu) brought to the table last week. If you weren’t following and enjoy photos of NYC skylines, groups of grown men singing their hearts out, or drawings of sea creatures with an inappropriate touch… you may want to catch up.

Name: Talisa Tam …..AKA Tally, Tallyho, Tilly, Double T, TX2, TamTam, TimTam, Tesla, TALisa (-_-”), Lees, etc. etc. etc…..

Position at Psyop: Executive Assistant of the Managing Director of Feature Film & Television – Kymber Lim!

You take way too many photos of: Weird sky/cloud photos, my brother and me, my doggie – Ferris, and my MiniCoop named Erza

Something that no one in the office knows about you: I guess I surround myself with anything and everything remotely musical…grew up playing violin for 6 years and moved onto playing 6 years of Alto Saxophone in Jazz Ensemble and Marching Band in HS, but due to jaw injuries, have now moved on to learning drumset :] In college, I was also on a competitive dance group called ACA Hiphop (UCLA)….Other than that, I’m on my headphones listenin’ to my jams ….woot.

Who on Team Psyop do you nominate to take over next?: Yuo Tengara and James Coleman

Head over to our official IG account now, follow, comment and enjoy the ride for another glorious and questionable week here at Psyop!

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Psyop Takes the Stage at SIGGRAPH 2015

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We are so happy to spread the word on not one, but TWO upcoming Siggraph sessions headed by Jonah Friedman and Andy Jones, pictured above. (If you see them, say hi!) The first to happen is Fabric User Group, where you can see Jonah give his presentation on the 3 Fabric Engine tools he has developed. Those tools include hair and jiggle systems, and how they work in Canvas. This is taking place from 10am-6pm on August 11 at the LA Convention Center.

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Two days later, make sure to come back for Jonah and Andy’s poster session centering on “Fully Automatic ID Mattes With Support for Motion Blur and Transparency.” This portion will take place at the LA Convention Center on August 13, at 1:05 pm.

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What an enormous honor it is to have members of Team Psyop featured at such a prestigious convention; to have their talent recognized has us over-the-moon proud! If you can make it out to support these guys and all of their hard work, it is sure to be a series of interesting events!

Psyop Instagram Artist Takeover: Anh Vu

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Wake up, sleepy heads. It’s Monday! While that might not sound like the most convincing argument for why you should be buzzing and ready to tackle the week, we should remind you that it is the first day of our latest Instagram Artist Takeover! Thanks to LA’s Nikki Pimm, last week was a comical one, complete with striking Echo Park sunsets, a Django Django concert, and one Psyop-er in particular turning an ice cream truck logo into dress-up hour… But we will name no names… (Alexei Bochenek) If you want to keep up with Nikki now that her takeover has come to a close, you can do exactly that: @moon.daze

We’re tossing the ball back over to the east coast this week with Psyop director Anh Vu! There has been no official proof, but we hear that next week is her birthday and the office festivities have already begun to go full-throttle. Yes, you and everyone within 10 blocks of the NYC office should be worried for what is to come. Stay tuned in and following @psyoptv for you weekly dose of chaos.

Name: Anh Vu

Position at Psyop: Director

You take way too many photos of: I am obsessed with taking pictures of nature but somehow Eunice Kim is always in all my shots

If you didn’t do this, you would work as a: I would be a restaurant owner, cooking like a mad woman.

Who on Team Psyop should take over next?: I think Denny K. should take over the next. (@dkhurniawan)

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The Psyop Circuit – Another Side to Dan Levitan

You may know Dan Levitan as one of Psyop’s talented VFX Supervisors. If you spend time in our LA office, you may also recognize him as a friendly face, ready to strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone–when he manages to escape his edit bay. Hey, you might even occasionally refer to him as the guy with an impressively solid t-shirt collection. Either way you slice it, Dan Levitan is a man of many components. What some may not know though, is that he is also passionate about the art of time-lapse photography!

Check out a taste of his work below and hear what he has to say about his other art-form love:

Time-lapse photography seems to be quite different from the work we see when looking at your reel as a VFX supervisor. What drew you to picking up this form of art as well?
Dan: I have been an avid photographer since I was around 10 years old. Skies have always mesmerized me. You can truly appreciate the unique dreamy surreal quality of skies through time-lapse.

When did you first get into time-lapse?
Around 5 years ago. While on a drive down Mulholland just as a storm was rolling in. I pulled over and took a crack at it.

Is time-lapse photography purely a personal hobby, or do you also integrate it into your professional life?
I have been fortunate enough to utilize my Time-lapse material in a few films and was featured in a film I VFX supervised (“Heaven is for Real”). It’s something that tends to influence my work in many ways.

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It looks like you’ve pointed your camera and a lot of spaces around the world. Where are some of the places you’ve gotten your favorite shots from?
I have recorded some of the most amazing skies right here in Los Angeles. Winter in LA truly blows me away. Pure blue sky backings with dense white cumulous cotton-ball clouds. California has been my home since I was 6, and I love it.

Is there either an event or location that you’ve put on your time-lapse bucket list?
There are many that have occurred to me, but I continually find beauty all around.

Name the #1 aspect of time-lapse photography that holds an interest and/or beauty for you.
The #1 aspect that interests me is… Time-Lapse turns mundanity on it’s ear. What you see every day and take for granted can look absolutely fantastical.

What is a common struggle that you encounter in doing this kind of work?
Having enough patience, along with proper preparation.

Do you go for a certain aesthetic when doing your time-lapse work, or is it more of an “anything goes” sort of approach?
I attempt to capture a special moment, when the light is just right, when the sky has something special going on. Trying to capture one of those moments when you think – “Wow”.

Favorite type of subject to focus your photography on?
As far as stills, I’ve been focusing on Portraits lately. I do a lot of street photography, again trying to steal a special moment.

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If you weren’t doing everything you do in this industry, what would you be doing for a living instead?
I was a musician prior to moving into VFX, but I also have a passion for Landscaping.

Where can we see more of your time-lapse photography for ourselves?
I always post my latest montage on my Vimeo page. You can also view some of my still work on my Flickr page.

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Psyop Instagram Artist Takeover: Nikki Pymm

Week 3 and going strong! If any of you aren’t aware, everyone following the official Psyop Instagram account this past week has gotten quite an eyeful of what it looks like to be a hip NYC Psyop-er (Psyopian?). We couldn’t be more thrilled to have had Eunice as our weirdo-in-command. If that wasn’t enough for you, keep following her at @eunibonnie!

So we’ve taken a glance at Vancouver and spent some time in NYC, but now it’s high time for some LA hangs. Don’t you agree? Luckily, we have gotten our very own west coast member of Team Psyop to step up to the plate on this one! A bit on her: Imagine Joshua Tree. Next, imagine your favorite local organic farm-to-table cafe. Now, imagine if Joshua Tree and said groovy cafe were a human being. Meet Nikki Pimm.

Name: Nikki Pimm (@moon.daze)

Position at Psyop: Receptionist for the LA Office

You take way too many photos of: The desert

Latest Netflix binge: Well I haven’t actually been watching TV lately… Been more on the go with traveling and going to concerts. Most recently though, probably Bloodline. It’s pretty dark and depressing sometimes, but it has me hooked.

Who on Team Psyop do you nominate to take over next?: Taylor Shortall (@taylor_shortall)

Here is a preview of Nikki’s feed to get you prepared:

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