Pedal Powered


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The bike rack @ Bent Image Lab

This guy says to me today, “You’re going to bike to work? Like, a bicycle? With the wind and rain and all that?”

And now say in your head again, but be extra whiny where you see the italics to get the full effect of what I’m dealing with down here. Ha ha.  Yes buddy, yes I am.  Call me crazy, but tomorrow I will turn in the keys to that shiny company-provided rental car and proceed to bike 20km (12 miles?) each day to/from the office.  Not that it really needs justification, but oh let me count the ways: Gas is about $8USD a gallon where I’m working, a brief contract in New Zealand. I’ll be turning in some major hours on this crunch and I’ll need the exercise and “zen” time to wind down.  Ahhh…  that almost meditative biking state.  Or maybe some days I’ll flip it, slam a flat white and pretend I’m a bike messenger in NYC…   and race the clock for a change.  Being the southern hemisphere, we’re coming to the cusp of summer and along with it, the wind and rain is fading away.  Yeah…   ok, I could go on, but you know what? The short of it is… damn it, I’m a Portlander. We bike.

When I’m on these jobs where I’m able bike to work, use another gasless alternative, or hop mass transit – I have to say it feels good to have it dialed in and be able to talk about the ol’ commute without it being a total negative downer.  It’s become one of those keys to sanity(tm) I occasionally find the need to rant about.  David Byrne (yes, that David Byrne) intellectualized in his book Bicycle Diaries that the only way to truly become one with a city is to take it by bike. To step out of the armored steel chariot and leave yourself exposed to the belly of the beast.  And he’s right.  It opens things up and you can’t help but soak up life around you –  osmosis!  And soak Portland up we do.   And although that’s an unintentional rain joke – when we’re not biking in the rain, sometimes, we’re even biking naked.  Ha!

Portland and it’s bike scene are regularly ranked #1 as the Best Biking City in America by Bicycle Magazine. The biking infrastructure? 2nd to none. Fully wired with bike lanes & paths, some of which (like Willamette Blvd, Vancouver & Williams Ave, Clinton St, the Springwater Corridor) are almost better termed as bike “highways.” A healthy daily commuter parade that has created fully aware and bike conscious drivers that are increasingly cool with sharing the road.  Beautiful scenery, fresh air, the trees, the river. Ample parking, a bike shop every few blocks, custom builds and unique styles fully encouraged, bike racks on city busses and trains…   it’s not hard to understand;  Portland makes biking easy.

A recent survey at Bent Image Lab turned up that almost 1/6th of the company is biking to work these days, over double the city average.  Any given day, it’s a mob scene at the bike rack out front. A few catch the bus or carpool, and there’s a good number of Benters riding in lower impact scooters and motorcycles. Several are able to walk to work (jealous!). One absolutely crazy dude even drives an old Fiat convertible converted to 100% electric, and there’s another classic VW Karmann Ghia convertible in the Bent family that’s had the same treatment.

I remember during bike-to-work month last year at Laika (Entertainment) out in Hillsboro, there was a huge response.  I was especially impressed with one madman who regularly biked out to the studio in Hillsboro (far west of Portland) from Gresham (the eastern suburb). Let me say that again:  Hillsboro.  From Gresham.   Holey Corn (!!) –  I would guess over 30 miles each way, with steep grades…   2 hours both to AND from, I believe.  Rick, you are the real deal and have my utmost respect.  That, sir, was nothing short of phenomenal and a huge inspiration.  Hard core!

The icing on the cake to all of this would be to rally the studios in town to further support the biking subculture and embrace the fine piece of legislation that our own Oregon congressman Earl Blumenauer helped put in place a couple years back: the Bicycle Commuter Act! (click for more info)

I was first introduced to this while at Sony Imageworks in Los Angeles, who (as you can imagine) had very aggressive alternative transportation policy in place, being that California is total smogsville and needs all the help it can get to keep a car off the road. This is a nationwide program and it’s premise is simple: Bike to work 3 days a week, get $20 each month for your “trouble.”

That’s $240 a year towards bike maintenance, upgrades, gear, weather protection, and storage. Or more like pizza & beer…  we need to carb load it and fatten you up.  Ya bike too much!  Ha!

Bikers pocket the cash, and employers save 9.5% on FICA taxes, let alone the cool points and respect scored with employees.  Win/win all around.  No time like the present.   Just do it.  🙂

Thanks to Hinge Digital & The Foundry

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Thanks everyone again for coming out last night to see Hinge Digital and The Foundry show us the goods.  I have the usual blurry iPhone pics to prove it!








Mariana from The Foundry sure knows her stuff, and it was good to get the low down on Katana and a snapshot of Deep Compositing using openEXR 2 renders in Nuke.

And what can I say about Hinge?  Incredible.  Unprecedented.  The Hinge Digital troops brought a big platter of awesome to show and dropped science like Galileo dropped the orange.  I can only speak for myself here, but I have never, EVER in my days seen such an in depth breakdown of a project – detailing the process from inception through execution.  This was like a Bobby Knight basketball clinic, without any chair throwing.

I especially liked seeing the previz and storyboards come to life from infancy to fully realized renders.  Heck, I even worked on this project and was with them for the bulk of it, and I didn’t realize how much prep and hard work went into selling the designs and story.  My head is spinning just as much as yours!  They have a knack for cheating the gremlins and don’t let any problem stand in the way of delivering great results.  It was also great to get the Hinge partners’ unique take on the Portland scene and how they’ve navigated the waters the past 3 years.  I can’t applaud them enough for giving this presentation and I think we all expect big things going forward from the Hinge crew!



















Heads up – the next meeting is slated for late January.   More info as things develop.  Until next time!

Next VFX/PDX Meeting: Thursday, September 20th

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Last time we met, promises were made.  Now it’s time to deliver!

Mariana Acuña from The Foundry joins us to pick up where we left off.  She’ll be giving us an intro to Katana, the new Lighting and Look Dev tool that was formerly the in-house Lighting and Compositing app at Sony Imageworks.  It’s a different approach to rendering that allows for scenes to be managed and scalable into massive constructions like never before.  Other than Sony, ILM is all over it, and even locally,  Laika Entertainment has adopted it for use on their next feature.  Get prepped, because Mariana will give us the live demo & overview and we’ll leave plenty of time for questions.  We’ll also touch on Mari, which is now at version 1.5 and continues to push the boundaries of 3d paint and texturing since it was released from inside the incubator at Weta Digital out into the wild by the Foundry.  Finally, last but most definitely not least we’ll be going over Nuke’s use of OpenEXR 2.0 and the deep compositing and rendering pipeline.  The days of rerendering for holdouts and pulling your hair out trying to correctly layer CG are finally over.

Also joining us will be the talented and hardworking filmmakers from Hinge Digital, who’ve had a busy summer and just wrapped on a character design/rebranding commercial campaign for Carrington College.  They hit a home run on this one and have a lot to show – you won’t want to miss this!

Thursday,  September 20th – 6pm-9pm @ the Art Institute Open Space.  Enter on NW Davis St between 11th and 12th.  Take the main entrance elevator to the 2nd floor – the open space is a right and then another right.

Be there or be [ ].

Siggraph-bound and down

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Heading down to Siggraph this year?  Such a great chance to network and hang out; this year should be no exception.

Hinge Digital will be there and actively recruiting freelancers for upcoming projects.  Remote artists also considered.  FYI – Hinge is a Maya/Mental Ray house with compositing in Nuke, motion graphics in AE.  Also currently looking to fill out the roster of Katana/Arnold and Motionbuilder TD’s, and aside from that they’re always on the hunt for talent in the following disciplines: Hard Surface Modeling, Look Dev (Shading and Lighting), Character Rigging, FX TD (Hair/Cloth/Particles/Fluids), Pipeline TD, Compositing/Grading, Editing, and Design/Motion Graphics.

To express your interest, drop an email to and we’ll see you in LA!

While you’re there, be sure to catch Fred Ruff from Bent Image Lab presenting for the Foundry.  Then again, if you were at the VFX/PDX meeting, you’ve already seen it.  🙂

For other hot Siggraph action, watch the building FXGuide thread.

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