Grimm Fades to Black


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All good things come to an end, and today was Grimm’s day.

It was a good run. Time to raise a well deserved glass.

Four score (er, well, 6 years) and precisely 123 episodes ago, Portland got it’s shot.  Rather than take the easy out and ship the work off to our neighbors to the North (BC) or South (CA) as so many have done, the forward thinking Producers of the NBC/Universal show Grimm did something unique.  They looked at our raw ingredients here in Portland, and saw a spark.

Coordinated through the office of Oregon Film and masterminded by then-Executive Director, Vince Porter, the team behind Grimm agreed to a “Pepsi Challenge” of sorts.  Several prospective companies, near and far, submitted Grimm like transformation (Woge) pitches done without logos or branding of any kind.  Portland went up against more established vendors in larger VFX markets.

The taste test proved without a doubt that the Portland shops were ready.  Hungry.  And that solid VFX work could be done right here, alongside production, at a stone’s throw away.

And work we did.  Grimm was the gift that kept on giving, and as they teed up challenge after challenge, you all rose to the occasion and proved time and time again that you have what it takes to knock it out of the park.   Finally- a show not afraid of (but that actually embraced, and designed for) our clouds and rain!  Ha.  And VFX heavy, too?  Amazing.  It’s the role Portland was born to play!  Ripples of the creatures, characters, and shots of all types continue to permeate and pervade the demo reels of the shops and artists involved, and it’s been a source Portland pride to say the least.  Dare I say it’s given us an identity.

But yes…  all good things come to an end.  By my (unofficial) estimate, about 40 CG/VFX/Post Production artists between the two Portland vendors on the show are being “rolled off.”  Does this compare to, for example, a recent Intel layoff of 800?  That day when a key account broke ties with W+K, an account that had employed 400+ on it’s own?  Perhaps not in raw numbers, but certainly in spirit – consider another unofficial estimate:  1/3 of Portland’s working, studio based artists primarily doing VFX are now out of a job.  I don’t care if you’re a glass half full or half empty type:  that stat is Hexenbiest scary on several levels.

In many ways, forming this user group was a response to the momentum Grimm brought to the table as we elevated above being labeled a “one shop town” in the press and industry circles.  And it’s been great to show off each other’s work, talk shop over a beer/coffee/what have you, and mix it up occasionally.  But – for better or for worse, as they say…   just as we did when this thing started – right now we need to step up, pull together as a community, and take action.

We’re organizing a night of networking and interviews with local companies and studios on the rise, that can put your skills and experience to work.  Take advantage.  Details here.

Another Design Week Down


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packed house

Wrapping up another fun and inspirational Design Week, I wanted to take a moment to recognize and thank all involved with our annual Animation Challenge and Demo Reel Review event.  First and foremost, thanks to Jamal Qutub of AEPDX fame for organizing the Alphabest section of the evening and doing plenty of animation himself in addition to all of the arrangements, walk throughs, coordinating, designing web pages and posters, and other selfless donated time.

I’d like to thank Sarah Bills and the crew (Shawn and Dave) at the Artists Repertory Theatre, the venue.  We can’t blow up a spot without having a spot to blow up, and it’s hard to argue with perfection, from your 25′ projector screen, well staffed & stocked cash bar, and perfect seating for our near capacity crowd of 200.

Finally, I need to thank the judges for the Reel Review.  Dawn Macleod, Brian Smith, and Blain Klitzke could not have been more spot on and helpful.  Thanks to the brothers Macey at 3DV who helped with our projection needs and provided sponsorship support, as did 52 Ltd, OMSI, and Scopic.

With a hefty thanks out of the way, let’s next give props to our winners!

Head on over to the AEPDX tumblr to relive the magic that was Alphabest, complete with links to watch (most of) the animations again at your leisure.  I’ll do my best Barney Stinson and just say, “Challenge accepted!”  You all brought it in a big way – we laughed, cried, and hit the full range of emotion from A-Z.

And, in that vein, the Reel Review was legend…   wait for it…  dary.  You all have been keeping very, very busy and saying this year’s pack of reels was inspirational is an understatement.

Our overall winner was motion designer Chip Webster, who’s stellar reel can be viewed here.  Chip takes home the entire Trapcode Suite courtesy of Red Giant, plus a year of training from

Our category winners also won big on the night.  Daniel Short, a Compositor fresh on the Portland scene from NYC, won a copy of Blackmagic Design’s Fusion Studio + the fantastic Neat Video noise reduction plugin by wowing us with this reel.  The 3d category winner saw Ramiro Gomez blew us away with a character rigging clinic built into in his reel, which was an education to say the least and not something I’d ever really seen before.  Ramiro takes home a copy of SideFX Houdini Indie 15 for his effort.  Honorable mention to character artist Felipe Mirez for his “demo reel UI” that serves as a great way to identify what roles he plays in each project – you can see that here.  Last but not least, the motion category winner (2nd to Chip, the overall winner) was McKay Marshall, who takes home the license of the new Trapcode Tao plugin for his awesome reel of precision motion design.

Overall an incredible night, and one we look forward to repeating each April as Design Week (in it’s new time slot) rolls around each year.  Next year, I promise to take more photos!

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