Tag Archives: motivation

Next VFX/PDX Meeting: ILM & LAIKA – May 25th


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It doesn’t get any better than this.

In this industry, some names almost need no introduction.  Jeff White, Industrial Light and Magic Visual Effects Supervisor (and former Portlander), comes “home” to show us the Oscar nominated VFX work and behind the scenes from The Avengers.

And as if that wasn’t enough, from Portland’s own LAIKA hails Visual Effects Supervisor Andrew Nawrot, kicking off the afternoon with a look at the VFX work from ParaNorman.

Many of you know that sometimes my meeting descriptions can get a little wordy –  I’m happy to say this one pretty much speaks for itself.  I’m as excited as you are.  This is a one time only event, and I can guarantee it’s the juicy VFX before & afters you will never see as DVD extras or anywhere else.  Register now (seating is limited), mark your calendars, and I’ll see you at the show!

Thanks to our amazing sponsors, this is a free event.

Avenge of the Zombies!
Saturday, May 25th
Doors at 1:30, Presentation 2pm-4pm
The NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium @ the Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Ave, Portland OR

Register for free and get your ticket at:

Big thanks to our sponsors 3DV, 52 Ltd, Autodesk, Red Giant Software, the Oregon Film Commission, the Art Institute of Portland, and the NW Film Center for helping make this happen.

Spread the word and let’s make this our biggest & best meeting yet.

I Am VFX/PDX: Susanna Luck


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The ‘I Am VFX/PDX’ series continues with Portlander Susanna Luck, a traditionally trained artist and FX Animator who has found a home at LAIKA.  Often times she gets the call to provide FX that, although existing in a digital world, are still created by hand.  We’re talking frame…   by…    painstaking…    frame.


Her evolution of pen into a Wacom stylus is fascinating, as Susanna moved from working traditionally to digitally.  Her unique work slots right in as the bridge between the digital VFX accents being created by machine, and the tangible, physical, “real” world being shot on the stop-motion stages.  Often, with a wave of her stylus, Susanna can take the digital edge off of an effect such as the flame from a torch – that would otherwise be generated procedurally or simulated using VFX software – and give it that human, hand-made touch sewing the digital and analog realms together.  Her work is seen in LAIKA’s most recent animated feature, ParaNorman, and we’ll talk plenty about that, but also reflect on her formative years as an artist, and what about Portland makes her heart race.  (other than the coffee!)

VFX/PDX:  In your case, Susanna, I might just have to talk current events for a moment and then work our way back, since we’re hot off the heels of the ParaNorman Oscar nomination just a few days ago.  Exciting!  I can imagine everyone is dying to hear about your recent experience on ParaNorman at LAIKA, so let’s not keep them waiting.  I might just have to go all the way back to…   yesterday?

What’s a typical day like at work for you?  Or, let’s say a typical day during ParaNorman?

Susanna:  It would vary quite a lot from day to day.  Sometimes I had a brief from the directors or my supervisors and I’d just be left to get on with it, which means that I’d come in to the office I was sharing with four funny, smart, incredibly talented guys, laugh a lot, get some coffee and then sit down in front of my Mac, plug in to some music or a podcast and get to work.  Sometimes I would be scheduled for a meeting with the VFX Supervisor, who would give me feedback on something I was working on, or give me a launch on something new – which means that he’d interpret for me what he thought the directors wanted, based on his much deeper knowledge of the overall project and what we were all aiming for.  Often there were meetings during the day where a group of us would sit in the screening room in the FX department and look at what everyone was working on and receive feedback and notes from the VFX Supervisor.

Norman and company

Norman and company

About once or twice a week (and more frequently toward the end of the production), we’d all schlep across the street to the main building and screen the scenes for “Director Review” that week in the main screening room, and get feedback from the directors themselves. Sometimes I’d also meet separately with the directors in the smaller editorial suite and they’d give me a launch on a new scene, or notes on what I’d done so far.  And then I would draw and draw and draw and make things look like they’re moving around.

VFX/PDX:  🙂  Yes, you’re quite good at that part.  And I hear that since you were sharing the office with the four animator and modeler guys, that you now speak fluent “dude.”

What was your favorite effect that you helped create on ParaNorman?  Will you ever look at a teddy bear the same again?


Susanna:  The burning teddy bear was a lot of fun to work on.  I was so excited to get my hands on that scene, I totally went overboard at first and had to pull the flames back quite a bit.

But Angry Aggie was by far my favorite effect to work on.  One of the things I really love about working in animation is the collaborative nature of the work. And Aggie was such a collaboration. I think nearly everyone in the 68-person VFX department contributed to her look at some point. In the end, I think we came up with something truly unique – I certainly have never seen anything like it – it was a great combination of stop-motion puppet, hand-drawn FX and CG animation.


VFX/PDX:  Awesome Aggie is more like it.  Definitely one of the more creative antagonists in recent memory.  And it seems everyone else thinks so too, as the work on Aggie’s “Ink Blot Electricity” effect was recently nominated for a VES award.  Probably the most interesting thing about that character (for me) was seeing what she began as – a stop-motion puppet sort of ‘skeleton,’ just one step removed from an armature, that had such raw, frenetic, in-your-face animation.  I’m vaguely remembering the scene in Fight Club where the Tyler Durden character is explaining the subliminal single frame cuts he was splicing into a film. aggie3 Aggie would be hovering above Norman in one frame and cowering in a fetal position the next, showing the poles at the extreme ends of her personality.  Hats off to the stop-mo animators and facial team for some very creative and emotional animation there.  But then the animated skeleton would pass through VFX for the final look on screen:  complete with the raging Medusa-like ‘Tesla’ hair, an electric dress, glowing features, aura, and lest we forget something the script referred to as ‘ejecta’ that was tossing Norman about like a rag doll.


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A Good Quote Goes a Long Way…


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There’s a video going around the ‘net to today where someone has taken an old Alan Watts quote and put some imagery to it, music video style.  It’s a little abstract in places…  but being a former New Yorker, I can’t say I complain:

Strongly agree.  If you love what you do, eventually you’ll be so obsessively good at it that your enthusiasm and skills will keep you in high demand.  It’s a symbiotic relationship – you’ll probably have quite a few studios after your services once you get around a little and they see what you’re capable of. The money takes care of itself.

Interesting timing because I was just talking to someone today about the effect a good quote can have on ya when you’re in the mood for a little wisdom.  I’ve come across his name before – Alan Watts was full of it (the wisdom, that is) and many of his words directly apply to the fight we fight as artists as we fly the sometimes not-so-friendly skies.  Have s’more:

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