MYMR: Hey Matt thanks for taking an interview with us!
Matt: My pleasure, thanks for the opportunity.
MYMR: You are the 3D director of Deva Studios. Can you give us a little history about how you got to this point?
I've been in the motion graphics/ theatrical advertising industry for the last 10 to 11 years. During that time, I've had the opportunity to work with a lot of great people, the latest being the amazing crew at Deva. Previous to this, I ran the 3d department at BLT Communications in Hollywood . My position there was similar and involved managing the day-to-day workflow through the graphics department, specifically the 3d group. I also try, whenever possible, to freelance on film projects and to teach. One particularly rewarding freelance opportunity was working with Illusion Arts, on several projects, but mainly on Van Helsing. Illusion Arts is a matte painting shop and has a long history of working on great projects and creating amazing work. I've spent a lot of my career solo or supervising, so when the opportunity came along to work with them, I knew it would be an opportunity to learn from some of the best guys around, and it was an amazing experience. Going after opportunities like this helps me expand my knowledge base, but also keeps the work fresh and interesting .
MYMR: Tell us about Deva Studios.
Matt:Deva Studios is a creative facility positioned to offer all levels of graphics to the theatrical trailer market. In addition to this we also create title sequences and the occasional vfx shot. These offering range from simpler 2d solutions, to full blown 3d as well as special shoots.
MYMR: In the competitive mograph industry how does a company like Deva Studios keep a leading edge on the competition.
Matt:Quality and service. As you say, it's a very competitive market. There's a lot of companies out there pitching for the work, so we place a lot of focus on quality of what we do, be it the creative, the execution or technical innovation. Service is paramount. We are a service business and our clients are the most important aspect of what we do so we make every effort to ensure they are being properly serviced and attended to. Also, Deva benefits for exceptional leadership. Many of the shops out there are led by artists, and we have that aspect as well, but we also have a very strong executive side that ensures the business runs as efficiently as possible and that we the artists have what we need to deliver for our clients.
MYMR: Deva Studios has done a lot of work on high profile film and television projects. Can you tell us a little bit about how Deva finds and wins these gigs?
Matt: We have long standing relationships with the studios and the many of the editorial houses. We also constantly solicit work from new potential clients and make sure we keep up with our existing client base, whether we have done work for them recently or not. We offer full service on everything we do, which means we carry the projects all the way through to completion and do everything we can to keep our clients happy, and that gives us a lot of repeat business. We have a good reputation around town, and we work really hard to maintain that, and I think that's the biggest help in getting us projects.
MYMR: What are some of the favorite projects you've worked on at Deva?
Matt:As a guy who sits in front of the computer most days, I like anything that gets us out of the shop, so special shoots are always fun. We just finished a hi-speed shoot the other day for an upcoming project and that was a nice change of pace. Other then that, I find that it's more about the clients we are working for then the specific projects. At this point in my career, I've had the occasion to work on lot's of big projects so I find I am more interested in the jobs that offer the opportunity to be creative or possibly provide some new technical challenge. There's definitely a repetitive side to this industry, so we covet the clients that give us creative opportunities. On the other hand, that repetitive work is the bread and butter, so we're happy to have it!
MYMR: As a 3D director what does your typical day work day look like?
Matt:Usually we meet with the producers and art directors first thing and lay out what we have on the plate for the day. We do have longer term projects, but there's a lot of our work that runs on one or two day deadlines, which means we have to be organized. From there it's a free for all, go like hell to get it all done.
MYMR: Does Mental Ray play a role in your 3D pipeline?
Mental Ray is the rendering pipeline. We use Maya and mental ray for 3d. In addition to what is available with Maya we use some custom shaders in Mental Ray to add in our compositing workflow. For render farm control we use Qube. Compositing is almost all done in After Effects, although we do have the occasional project that requires Shake. Most of our 3d tracking is done in Synth Eyes. We did looked at other rendering solutions, Maya's own renderer, Turtle, Renderman, but they all had short comings for our needs in one way or another. Mental Ray's integration into Maya makes it the first and best choice, in my opinion. It is extremely versatile and powerful, and has the support of Autodesk, which can ease the stress level considerably during production. We've really had very few render challenges that we couldn't handle with Mental Ray, and the image quality is always outstanding.
MYMR: Is there a quick Mental Ray tip or trick that you can give us?
Matt: It's not necessarily a Mental Ray trick, but it's saved me days of time organizing renders. In the General Tab in the render globals, you can use a syntax to automatically name and organize the frames of your render. %s/%l/%s_%l will create a file with the scene name and layer name and place then within a scene folder, then layer folder. For most projects, we have lots different passes and layers, so this saves a ton of time, and helps avoid having folders with thousands of loose frames floating around. A mental ray trick... I suppose one of my most favorite recent things is the mia_roundcorners which you can plug into any Maya or Mental Ray shader via the bump input. Makes modeling way lighter because you don't have to bevel edges and also speeds up rendering considerably because there's lots lot less geometry.
MYMR: What do you like to do when you're not sitting in front of a computer?
Matt: There's not a lot of down time for me at the moment, but when I do get a break, I spend as much time as possible with my wife and our little boy. I've also been doing a lot of writing lately which is a great release from the confines of cgi. I have a traditional background so I am trying to get back to the easel and get some painting in.
interview by: Bill Dorais