Motion Designer Casey Hupke shares how he creates projection mapped shows for the world’s biggest musicians.
When you’re working on a Motion Graphic project usually the final video will be viewed on a phone or computer, or if you’re really lucky a theater screen. But what if you could have your work projected at a concert with thousands of people in the audience? That’d be pretty sweet, right?
Our guest today has done just that for HUGE artists like Lady Gaga, U2, and Niki Minaj. In the podcast Joey sits down with Casey Hupke and talks about his experience with projection mapping live events. In the podcast we get down into the knitty-gritty about how Casey approaches one of these projects from start to finish.
David Lewandowski (NSFW)
War of the Worlds Title Sequence
Joey: There are many routes into the motion design industry. Some people come in through the art side. They love design, they love animation, they love making beautiful images, and then all the technical skills come along later. Our guest today came into the industry kind of like I did, from the opposite end, the technical side. Cinema 4D artist extraordinaire, Casey [Hupke 00:00:58], graduated with a degree in computer science, and a few years later found himself working on stage visuals for U2 and Lady Gaga concerts.
Somewhere along the way, he managed to pick up an absurd amount of software skills, and more importantly a really good eye for design. His work is kind of that perfect blend of insane technical execution and beautiful, design driven imagery. In this interview we talk about how his computer science background has helped him in this field, how he approaches learning new skills, especially really difficult ones, and what it's like working on a huge production for a rockstar. If you're into 3D, if you're a cinema 4D fan, you'll love this episode.
Before we jump in, I want to mention that we are in fact building our first cinema 4D course as we speak. I don't want to say too much more about it at this point, but I can guarantee you it will blow minds when we launch it in 2018. If you'd like more information about it when it launches, head on over to schoolofmotion.com and sign up for a free student account. You'll get access to tons of free project files and downloads on the site, and you'll get our weekly Motion Mondays newsletter which covers industry news and keeps you up to date on anything new and exciting we're up to. That's it. Let's talk to Casey.
Casey, it is awesome to have you on the school of motion podcast. Big fan of your work, and I'm thrilled to have you on. Thanks for coming on, man.
Casey: Not a problem. I'm actually, I listen to the podcast, so I'm excited to be on it.
Joey: Excellent, excellent. All right, well let's start, you know, with a little bit of background. Everyone listening to this go to Casey's website. We're going to link to it in the show notes. Look at his work. It's really beautiful, super technical stuff. Just so everyone can get a little bit better picture of Casey Hupke, where are you living right now and where are you working?
Casey: I live in the east side of Los Angeles in a place called Eagle Rock. Fun little neighborhood. It's sort of family oriented now. It wasn't when we bought a home seven years ago, but currently I'm staff. I'm the director of visual effects in charge of all the motion graphics for a data science company called Cylance. They create an AI based antivirus software. You guys can look into them. It's C-Y-L-A-N-C-E. Yeah, I make a bunch of trade show graphics, booth graphics, like all the wallpapers and desktops and stuff, website graphics. I've been building an AR application with them for a few, probably a year we've been developing it. It's a really fun practical data visualization of what the product captures when it stops a threat from harming your computer, and basically just taking that data and trying to figure out how to apply AR to it.
I'm in what I would consider my dream job right now.
Joey: That's fascinating. All right, so let's start with you bought a home in Los Angeles? How did you manage to do that? All of my friends who live in Los Angeles wish they could buy homes. Did you find the one that was affordable?
Casey: Yeah. Seven years ago, if everyone remembers from LA, it was a bubble. Actually everywhere in the world, or in the country. Sorry to sound so North American centric by saying the world there, world. Yeah, so the market popped. All the loans that were [inaudible 00:04:28] you gave everyone their first home, they imploded, and all the houses got foreclosed. Cut to my wife and I and her brother, "Hey, let's buy a house." We started looking for places together, found a place in Eagle Rock that had sold a year prior for sixty percent more than it was on sale for now. Swooped in, bought it, there were a whole bunch of sold as is conditions that revealed themselves over the last seven years, but for the most part turned out to be the smartest investment I've ever made because we're now in like an excellent school district in an excellent neighborhood and we're here. We're fortunate. We're very fortunate.
Joey: Yeah. The equity in your house has probably grown pretty good since then too. You know, listening to you tell that story, I mean, it's pretty obvious like you're a very smart guy. You're very cerebral. I was doing my Google stalking on you. Your about page on your website says you have a background in computer science, which is fascinating to me. I mean, it's very rare that I say, "How did you get into motion design?" and someone says, "Oh, I went to college and studied it and then I got recruited, now I have a job." Everyone comes from a different place.
I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about your background in computer science and how you ended up in this world.
Casey: Oh, yeah sure. I left high school on the back of the California high school proficiency exam, which is a test for Californians that allows children or adolescents of the age of sixteen and older to pay a fee, a small fee, to take a test that's a sixty percent pass or fail test and you're out of high school. My plan was to become an awesome hacker and go to school to become a programmer and make video games and live the hacker dream. I started going to junior college, was taking some computer science classes, took like VB and C and I found out that the college environment to a sixteen, seventeen year old was a lot more like wow, look how easy it is to have fun and party and not go to school, and so I quickly stopped going.
Jumped ahead a couple years. I was still very much into computers. What I was mainly doing was creating like front end user interfaces for tools for this small group of hackers or penetration testers, and I was basically just like making all their applications have better UX and UI. Loved [inaudible 00:06:52] graphic design. Didn't really ever learn it before. I was just teaching it to myself as I went along. Started a little small hacker zine called iGlitch. It was a Macintosh based hacking and security magazine that lived for about four issues on the internet and I found this company, Xopolis, which this audience may remember from doing the best iPod commercial with the neon trails and everything.
Casey: I started there as a part time IT guy and just because I came in for an interview and was like, "I like creative stuff. I'm a creative person. I like computers." That's the short version of like the three thousand word email I sent the founder of the company that was, he like to bring up every year, like, "Look at this email that Casey sent when he was such a young kid." Anyway, part time IT guy, one day they asked me to come full time so I quit the schooling that I was doing then, which was again like a game design program at Westwood college online. I dropped out of that, went full time IT. Jumping ahead a little bit more, this guy's render keeps crashing on the farm that I built. It's in cinema 4D, I open up cinema 4D's help manual, start reading through it, notice that the GI sampling and a couple other things in his scene are just set to sort of what the defaults were. I tweaked them a little bit and explained what the GI settings did to this guy, who was a well seasoned cinema 4D professional, who I had no idea who he was at the time, and he became one of my favorite people to work with. He probably doesn't even remember this. It was so long ago.
My boss gets wind that I'm troubleshooting people's render files now that are going on the farm. He goes, "You like this stuff? Do you want to do some of this stuff?" I was like, "Yeah, sure." I start fixing files and becoming a render wrangler. Then I start clipping out stuff in Photoshop and rotoscoping in After Effects and then I'm helping out doing Alt sets of boards, and then I'm animating on projects. Before I left I was a lead animator for, a lead 3D animator. I slowly just like tripped into new roles in the company because I was like, "Well, no one is doing this. I'll do this. No one is learning this, I'll do this." I learned thinking particles because we had no one to do particles. I learned expresso because we had no one to learn expresso.
Yeah, so I've always just kind of found a hole and been like I can get in there and I can help and wear this hat. That's sort of how I ended up now where I am.
Joey: That is one of the craziest origin stories I think I've ever heard in this industry. That's amazing. Xopolis, for anyone listening that hasn't heard of it, sort of legendary studio, not around anymore. Yeah, the big thing that I remember was that iPod commercial, and I believe, you'd probably know Casey, the two founders of Royale were there and I think they worked on that, right?
Casey: Yeah. I got to work under some of the best people in the industry still today while I was there. Brian Holman and Jason Whitmore both taught me basically every single thing that I consider worth remembering about After Effects and Photoshop. Magnus [inaudible 00:09:52] and Greg Reynard taught me all the foundational skills that I have for cinema 4D today. Greg Reynard taught me a ton about Expresso. I remember one day, Greg who has done some amazing title sequences, like War of the Worlds and other amazing sequences from IF, I was trying to make and Expresso script look better and he gave me one of the best pieces of advice for anyone using, learning node based stuff right now. I was like, "Yeah, I want to make this cleaner and look a little better." He was like, "Well you put node layouts on your reel now?"
Joey: That's really good advice, yeah. It's like fixate on the things that people are going to see and the rest of it you just sweep under the carpet when the job is done, right?
Casey: Yeah. Even like David [Lewindowsky 00:10:32] worked there for a while. Everyone in LA that is now like doing really well was at Xopolis for sometime.
Joey: Yeah, it was kind of the stomping grounds. David Lewindowsky, by the way, is one of my favorite people I've ever met. I've only met him once in person. He had a very large impact on me. Okay, so let's go back to the hacker days a little bit. I want to dig into that. You mentioned you were working with, and I've never heard this term before, penetration testers.
Joey: It's hard for me to say it with a straight face. Was this like an actual, like a company, like a security company that went out and tried to like kick the tires for other companies? Or was this a group of hackers trying to do the things that we saw in the movie Hackers in 1993 or whenever it came out?
Casey: Actually hacking looks horrible to watch. It's the most boring thing in the world. Just open up a notepad and just type the same word over and over. That's basically what you're going to see when you try to watch someone hack. Yeah, it was a group of remote people and they would get hired by companies to test their networking from the security. I did a lot of like phone operations and stuff. Like I would call companies and see how much information I can get from a company just based on talking to them and the thing that I learned from that is if you ever need to get information or ever need to get someone on a phone anywhere, just call accounts, ask for accounts payable, because those people think that when they answer the phone, someone is going to give their company money. They're going to answer the phone without a hold.
Joey: That's a really good tip.
Casey: Yeah. I worked with these guys and we would just, we'd be like, "Oh, such and such company in Alberta has an office. They want us to see what kind of information we can gather. They want to do a phone test and then they also want to do an external security audit." The hacker guys, like the talented guys that knew actually how to like program and script and exploit things, they would do all their stuff, and then I would sort of like learn along the way, like scripting and like, you know, Python, and Pearl and stuff like that to sort of help out. Mainly I worked the phones and then would make desktop wallpapers and do graphic design for things that we needed things re skinned or whatever.
Joey: Super interesting. Then you sort of, you know, you fell into little opportunities. You learned, you know, you learned that oh I can help debug renders. I love the example you used of the GI sample settings were too high or something like that. That's the type of thing that a lot of cinema 4D artists just don't even want to bother with and so there needs to be Casey Hupkes out there who kind of have the left brain and the right brain together to look at that kind of stuff.
When I was looking at your work and I was reading the descriptions, it occurred to me like you sound like you've kind of found this niche. YOu're the guy that can figure out the crazy technical stuff. Is that accurate?
Casey: Yeah. I've always, I sort of, while I was working at, I think the most formidable years for that character arc to develop was when I was working at Motion Theory with my friend John Robson, another amazingly talented technical left brain right brain person who is also a crazy talented director. We met and started working on a project at Motion Theory together. Then we worked on an infinite amount of projects together at Motion Theory and Morata after that. We both realized that we had, as if it was just him and I creating tools and reverberating off each other to challenge each other more and learn new stuff off each other, it was basically just like this infinite feedback loop of more complicated stuff. Then we would get our idea, I'd build a tool, and then I'd push that tool out to the other cinema artists that were on the job or I would try to come up with like an Expresso setup or a rig, for like a complicated data vis set up. Or just a utility, like people would ask me at Motion Theory, like, "Hey is there a way to do this? Can you make a thing that just does this?"
I quickly fell into like a pseudo technical art director role for like effects for data vis. It was like the Buick job into the IBM jobs into the Intel jobs into the Exxon jobs and AT&T. All that stuff was more or less John Robson and I and a handful of other artists just seeing what crazy shit we can get out of cinema. Oop, can I curse on here?
Joey: Oh, absolutely.
Casey: All right, fuck.
Joey: Fuck yeah.
Casey: Yeah, so yeah I quickly started becoming more technical direction mode, which was great because I always hated using After Effects and I didn't want to comp my renders anymore.
Joey: Okay, let's dig there. Let's dig there. Why did you hate After Effects? It doesn't surprise me to hear you say that because your work is clearly very, very 3D, technically oriented. I'm just curious. What was it about After Effects or 2D in general that kind of pushed you away?
Casey: It was mainly, it was the thing that I could never troubleshoot. It was always the thing that like when you're in the studio and you're sitting in a circle of seventeen computers, and no matter how many times I'd like copy the command line code to start a net render in Terminal, and IM it to the sixteen other computers and run over and launch them all four times, you know, there'd always be like one weird thing that would happen or the, you know, you'd hear a sea of infinite goats dying in the background and all of the renders go crashing down. It's 4am and you're trying to get out just an image sequence so that you can convert it to a prores and make your posting by 6am. It always seemed like After Effects was the thing that was holding us back from being on time.
Then we started working with nuke and nuke compositors and other compositors. It wasn't After Effects. It's just the nature of the beast. When it's 4am there's going to be a problem. The PTSD is that goat in my head at 4am.
Joey: Yeah, well I get you. I mean, you know, I haven't worked on jobs of that scope, but After Effects is the end of the pipeline usually, at least in terms of, unless you're going to edit something aft wards. It's a little more of a black box than cinema 4D and especially nuke and you know, of course you get into Houdini, things like that, everything is exposed to you and it's a lot easier to debug and troubleshoot in After Effects. It's gotten better about that, you know?
Joey: It seems like your skillset plugs in better to things that give you all, it's like an open kimono and you can do what you've got to do.
Casey: I really like, like I've been compositing primarily for the past like two years ish in fusion and I just I love the way it handles data. You can bring in like ten gigabytes of multilayered EXR, 32 bit 4K sequences and comp and render and just, there's no other plugins involved. It's just you and fusion and you submit it to your render wrangler application like deadline or whatever you use, and it just renders.
Joey: Yeah, yeah. I haven't used Fusion but I've used Nuke a lot. It feels like, I don't know, it's a work horse. It just gets it done. It doesn't look at that pretty, but you can rely on it. After Effects is my bread and butter, so I don't like to say bad things about it, but it doesn't feel that way yet. Hopefully it gets there.
Casey: I want After Effects, I want it to become the thing that they're trying to build it to be hopefully. To me it looks like it's going, it's like a long time ago a rock hit the After Effects windshield at it made a chip and then it started fracturing out from there. Now that fracture is going across the whole windshield and it's trying to grab all the different things and to cater all the markets, but it's only really suited for like a specific animation type market. Even then I feel like it's bread and butter of the shape layer is just cracking under old age and becoming difficult for the people that even just like live off of explainer videos use it for. It's something that I feel like they all know and I think everyone is yelling about it. I love the team, like Tim and Victoria are awesome. If anyone has ever interacted with them, you'll know that they are like the nicest people who are open to feedback. I can't wait for the day where I open After Effects and I'm like, "I love this."
Joey: Yeah, I think, you know, After Effects in particular, they're juggling so many different things. One, it's this, in terms of software it's ancient. I'm sure you've got a lot of code debt and legacy code in there that's going to be really hard to unwind. I also think too you look at a piece of software like cinema 4D, it's, in my opinion, maybe you disagree, but in my opinion it's more difficult to learn, it's much deeper, it exposes far more of the underbelly of what's going on, and for the type of work that's on your website, you need all that power and it requires, to some extent, like bigger teams and render farms and people, whereas After Effects is designed so that one person can do a two minute explainer video in a week and then you can kind of get it done and it's going to look pretty good, but in order to have that speed, I think you have to lose a little bit of the customizability and all that kind of stuff. Do you agree with that?
Casey: Yeah, I'd agree with that. At the same time, someone like EJ from iDesign would just go, "Whoa, no, hold on. Look at this entire series I've made on animating a sketch and tune with like two or three deformers." I mean, I think they're both suited for that sort of, that world. When I first started learning cinema I was coming from After Effects. After Effects was my favorite thing ever. Someone turned me on to particular, and I was like this is so amazing. Particular is the best thing in the world. I just jumped right into cinema and just started immediately going, "Oh, wow, mograph is really cool. This is awesome. What else can I do with this?" That's one of the things that cinema really has going for it is I think it's just, you can look at the icons on the top of the screen and be like, "Okay, well that's going to make this thing. What's this thing do?" I think cinema is really easy to get in and start learning by experimentation. Other packages aren't so much.
Joey: Yeah, exactly. I remember a long time ago I decided okay it's time I learned 3D. I tried to learn Maya and Maya, you know, I know Maya artists would disagree, but I don't think Maya is set up that way. It's not set up where you can just kind of figure it out, you know? Where cinema, it's logical once you learn sort of how the object manager works and okay you parent this and it causes this to happen. I think it makes a lot of sense.
Okay, so let's dig into kind of your role once you kind of got into the motion design world. Motion theory, a lot of the work that you did there, I mean, it's gorgeous. The spots you worked on. I know that you were working as part of a team. I'm curious what your role was at that point. Were you doing look development as well as kind of building these rigs to help other artists? Or were you being given a set of boards and being told we have no idea how we're going to animate this. Figure out how we're going to do it.
Casey: It was both. Again, John and I, we would often either start the job at the exact same time and do look dev together, or I would be working on a pitch and John would be on the job and then I'd start and work with John, or John would be on the pitch and I'd start the job and then John would come on and work with me. I'm going to try to remember all of their names, at least first names. It was like [Sitome 00:21:50] and Paul and Angela and Chris and Heidi and Casey and all these other designers that were there. They had this really like photographic, filmic style board process. Matt Cullen and Javier and Mark [Hutzie 00:22:08], they would all push for these really like realistic effects from this data visualization style that we were really trying to sort of like create at the time. It was like what we've all called like the birth of chromatic [aberations 00:22:22], particles, and thin lines. Everything we did was like all right, more chroma ab, a little more lens distortion on this like you know this additive effect, this thing that looks like a hologram. Let's make it not look like a hologram.
We'd try to have certain rules that we'd apply to this data vis style that we were creating. Then in cinema we'd have to create this style frames that were made form like photographic components. Like it would be real like polar coordinates, solar flare stuff, like hue shifted and warped over the surface of an object with chromatic [aberations 00:22:59] and boca baked into it. Then we'd have to figure out in 3D how to make that. More times than not it was a whole bunch of circle splines or traces splines rendered with the hair renderer with slight transparency added over a couple times in After Effects with sapphire warp chroma. That was basically like a formula that we started building and then as soon as we started getting a language built in that world, we would make stuff for the designers, the designers would ask for things and it was just a really collaborative circle of I want to say like a core team of like eight people that were really responsible for a lot of that look dev that came out. It was a real collaborative process. There was no real [org 00:23:43] chart to it. It's hard for anyone to really claim, like I think it would be wrong for anyone to claim ownership over what we all did there because everyone was so integral in the process of developing those looks.
Joey: It sounds like a really fun environment to be in. That's actually always been my favorite part of motion design. You know, you get a set of boards and the designer found a cool photo of like a long exposure or something and just put it in, and then you're like I need to make this art directable and animatable and basically make a rig that rebuilds this thing. It's fun. It's like a puzzle. That's kind of, that's a part of motion design that some people don't like. There are designers out there that want no part of that. They just want to make the picture and think up the thing and give it to you.
Especially as a 3D artist, you have to be somewhat of a technician. Have you seen in your career that there are some 3D artists that are like pure art, pure art side, and then there are some that are pure technical side and don't ask me to make a style frame? Or do you have to be kind of a combo to be successful at that level?
Casey: It's, in LA at least from my experience, the people that I work with the most that are at, they're on the top or whatever, they're capable of doing style frames and finishing shots. I don't think that they had to, I just think that we have such a good pool of artists in this area that people are capable of doing that. I think that you can totally be a technical 3D artist that when asked to do look dev says, "I don't do that. I make the dev. You show me what you want, and then I'll make a train that goes around the tracks and turns into a robot, but don't ask me to come up with something cool because that's going to make my palms sweat and I'm going to have a panic attack and I'm not going to be able to see for an hour."
Joey: Exactly. I can commiserate with that. You didn't go to school for design and have classes where you were learning how to come up with concepts and do essentially concept art. Yet, you're, basically now you're doing that. How did you develop your eye for that stuff and your sense of design? Obviously you were always sort of technically inclined, so you had that, but how did you get that other part?
Casey: I think I've always sort of been, this is going to sound so douchey, but I think I've been artistically aware since I was like a teenager. I remember like, all right, so yeah I used to do a lot of acid and-
Joey: Fair enough.
Casey: I remember like the first time I really tripped out on [Perolax 00:26:18] like I was just riding the bus and I was just like staring at all these buildings and telephone poles and stuff go by as the bus was driving on the freeway, and I was just very, very, very aware of [paralax 00:26:31] and Z depth. I remember just tripping out. I remember like that was something that I kind of took with me into animation. I always liked using like long lenses and stuff or anything that would like exaggerate a sense of distance or whatever. I never like, look, without the design, the lack of a design education hurt me along the way, embarrassingly at times where I would be like, "Well I was using a fresnel shader around the edge to get it a little bit more reflective, like the fresnel does," to a room of people that were like art center alums staring at me going, "It's [frenel 00:27:08] dude."
Joey: I was about to ask you, I was like, "Oh shit, I've been saying it wrong the whole time."
Casey: No. Or I'd be making something and someone would be like that looks a lot like blah blah blah blah blah, like some other artist or fine artist or graphic designer and I don't know who any of those people are. Then I'd look into it and be like, "Wow, I guess it sort of looks like that except for the fact that this is much better and I don't know what I'm doing here." I don't know. I just kind of shed all of those requirements from my head and I was just like, "I think this is a good frame. I getting positive response by doing this stuff and I'm not afraid to ask someone else what they think and I take criticisms." I was fortunate to work with some of the best people in LA along the way and learn tricks and tips that I've sort of adopted or expanded on in my own way. I feel like those formative years of like Xopolis and Motion Theory and Logan definitely just through osmosis I got like the best design education on the job that I could ever have gotten at school.
Joey: Yeah I love that you use the word osmosis. I mean, that's how I picked it up too. I think if you can be lucky enough to be in a position where you're looking at great designers designing all day, then you just sort of calibrate your eye to what they're doing. Then in my case I had to make a conscious effort at times to reverse engineer what they were doing. You'd see a cool style frame and you'd say, "What is cool about it?" Then you'd open up their Photoshop file and you'd see, "Oh, there's a vignette and then they blurred just this corner over here." To me it was like that's how I describe it. Reverse engineering.
Did you ever make a conscious effort to like okay I need to get better at color, so I'm going to work on that and do every days or something? Or did you just sort of take years and years to develop?
Casey: No, I never did every days. I always overused color a lot like in some of my early boards and stuff. My mentor in design and cinema Magnus [inaudible 00:29:11], we were doing some boards for the Xbox project and I had just done like a series of boards for a pitch before that and before that and he was like, "All right, from now on going forward you're not allowed to use cyan and magenta anymore. Like stop using cyan and magenta overlays on everything. Just, you're just done. Just no more."
Joey: Yep, yep. Yeah, when you don't have a design education, like when I started out, and being asked to design stuff, it was always about like well design means it has to look cool, right? If it's not obviously cool then I didn't do a good job and then that's how you lose all sense of subtlety. Luckily I learned my lesson in being slapped around by art directors definitely helped.
I wanted to ask you about you've got an interesting skillset with your 3D skills and your design skills and your conceptual skills, but you've been doing this for a while. What's the bar now to be a hirable let's say freelance cinema 4D artist at a studio in LA? How good to you have to be? What sort of can you just be a technician? Do you need the creative side? Like what's the bar?
Casey: I don't know. That's hard. Honestly like when it comes to hiring people for projects, I mainly go off of like the conversational aspects, like can we communicate? If we talk for like ten, fifteen minutes in a conference room or at coffee or something and we have a good conversation, then I feel like that's really all I need from a person on the team who is using cinema or because I feel like the technical ability of someone that is learning cinema now or is like a year or two into learning cinema, is almost better than like a cinema generalist from five years ago. Actually no, I would say it's definitely better than someone from five years ago, just because of the how the application has grown and the plugins and tools we have available, how the community is. There's a lot of dailies copying and regurgitation and stuff, but all that stuff is like super valuable. That's all reverse engineering and hacking and then I feel like the best of those people when they get on a job, they've learned tricks to apply to their required tasks that are making them better.
Joey: You sort of start, you know, it may change in the near future because you've got companies like ours and Nick over at Grey scale starting to create classes and structure around learning cinema 4D but really up until this point it's been tutorial binging and playing and experimenting. There hasn't been really a structured way to do it. A lot of people listening are probably in that phase right now. They're in the tutorial binge mode and they're on gray scale gorilla every day trying to absorb three or four tutorials. You kind of alluded to it that when you're there, it's really easy to just copy. You know, like here, I'm going to take that tutorial but it's going to be blue and there's going to be less bump or whatever and now that's mine. How do you move past that and start to use these things in the way that makes you useful to the industry?
Casey: I see every single thing, the way you learn everything is sort of like how you learn to communicate with people. Communicating via software, using software, is like a language. There's actually someone, I just saw a blog, I can't remember who it is, but if you Google or Bing or Yahoo Houdini as a language, it's a really interesting breakdown of like the vocabulary of the software Houdini and I think that I've applied that to the way that I've learned the majority of things, like tutorials and everything are great because they're sort of like Duolingo where I'm like me llamo es Casey and I learn how to say my name is Casey. I may just be copying the thing that said my name is Casey, but I've learned some fundamentals there in the structure of a sentence. The more I say me llamo es Casey, the more familiar I am with how to break down what a sentence looks like.
A sentence in CG, be it like a whole bunch of mograph cubes falling down stairs in like an animated gif loop, it's the same principles. Use and practice lead to a better utilization of a language. I think the same thing applies to every single thing that you're learning. I think copying and tutorial binging and all that stuff is valuable because it's effort that you're putting out there to learn something. Obviously if you're only opening up free C for D files or free Houdini files from any of the various learning solutions and changing a color and rendering it and posting it, you're never going to progress, but if you're analytically looking at things to get better at an ability, then you're going to level up and get better as you go because you're putting in an effort to get a change.
Joey: Right, so you basically need to draw out the principles I guess from the cool thing that you just watched. If it's cubes falling down a stair, what are the principles that you're learning and kind of be conscious about it, you know? Like okay well I'm learning about dynamics and ridge body collisions. Okay, cool, so I'm not learning how to make cubes fall down a staircase. I think that that's a good mindset to be in when you're watching a tutorial and obviously the better tutorial makers out there, Nick and Chris and Chad, they know that going in so they design the learning to look cool and suck you in but also to teach you that stuff.
I want to ask you about some of the stuff you've learned. You have stuff on your reel that's, you have a lot of X particles. You seem to be a pretty big fan of X particles. There's all these different renders, I guess you're using cycles now. I saw some turbulence, and for people who don't know, like so X particles is a particle plugin for cinema 4D, cycles is a third party renderer for cinema 4D, turbulence is a simulation tool for cinema 4D that can create volumetric smoke and fire, and crackatoa, which I'm not even exactly sure what that is. I believe it's like a renderer for particles or something like that. Anyway, it's a lot of really technical stuff, Casey. How did you learn all of this stuff? I mean learning one of those is a big task, but you know like ten different ones.
Casey: Yeah, I mean I consider myself pretty well versed in like octane and cycles and Arnold and turbulence and crackatoa and everything. A lot of the things, a lot of the tools that I've learned, specifically like turbulence and like thinking particles, those came from accepting jobs to use those things early on-
Casey: I did not use them. I'd open the documentation and be like this is like fifteen pages. How fucking hard could this be? Usually hard, but because I'm like under the wire, I just buckled down and learn, experiment, and iterate and I don't recommend it unless you have like a supportive partner or you just live alone or you-
Casey: I like throwing myself into situations that require dramatic change to get a dramatic result. Challenging myself with new software or new techniques is something that I've always enjoyed doing.
Joey: I'm really glad that you put it that way. I agree a hundred percent. I would actually, I mean yes with the caveat of like if you're married and you have three kids and you require a lot of sleep, maybe don't say yes to the job that requires turbulence realistic smoke and you've never used it before, but that is how I've learned every complex thing that I've ever learned is by saying yes. I actually had a job for, it was for Bertuccis, it's like a pizza chain in New England and we needed fire and smoke that was art directable. That's how I learned turbulence. You do that enough times and all of a sudden you kind of pick this stuff up. You learned that stuff just in time.
One of the biggest issues I see specifically with our students that are learning 3D is shiny object syndrome. I think you could use cinema 4D for a decade and still not really know every little piece of it, but we have a lot of students that learn it for three months and then they want to jump right into Houdini or they're like I saw a thread recently that was like oh man I still haven't learned red shift in octane and cycles. Now I've got to learn Arnold too. You know? I'm wondering, you know, do you see this out in the wild? Like out in the industry do people act this way too? What would you say to people who are new to the world of 3D that are very quickly going to find out about octane and think that that's cool, and then they're going to see somebody who's brilliant in Houdini and think they need that?
Casey: Oh, I don't know. It's out there a lot. I started using Houdini in version fifteen, yeah fifteen. I got hit up by a company that does spas and they were like hey we really want to get this jet, this spa. We want this water to just like fall into this tank and then the water to slowly become this jacuzzi. I was like, "Uh, how long do you guys have to do it?" They were like, "Oh, about two months." I was like yeah I can do that. I bought Houdini and started teaching myself Houdini fluid simulations and the job came out really cool. I'll probably never put it on my reel because I'm not super happy with the way the final mesh came out. I learned a ton through trial by fire. Right now there is a lot of people looking left and right going look at all the hashtags on this guy's daily. It's like Houdini, octane, cycles, redshift, cinema, Photoshop, illustrator, adobe bridge, media encoder, after effects, Bryce, oh my god. I've got to learn all of these things.
Casey: I think it's hashtag hashtag anxiety.
Joey: I've never heard that term, I love that.
Casey: I just came up with it right now. I don't know what to say to people that are freaking out about having to learn all this stuff. Like don't freak out. Develop your abilities at the pace that you develop them at and focus on having a better eye. It doesn't matter what the software you use. It's like we're all trying to make pretty pictures, so make pretty pictures and you're going to have a career.
Casey: Be the guy or girl that uses physical render and makes like the dopest dailies ever. Who cares if it took thirty five minutes to render the frame. Like we're making a picture. You're not like marketing yourself as a leader of efficiency and minimal render time. That's great to be able to do that, but you know, it's not something that everyone has to do. Houdini is great. I love it. It makes a lot of sense to me. I use it as much as I use cinema, but it's not the tool for every job. It's just not.
Joey: Yeah, I think that you kind of brought up a good point. I mean, you know, you have to look at what your goals are. If the goal is I want to be a professional motion designer working on cool stuff, you could learn cinema 4D relatively well and it will be able to do ninety five percent of what clients ask you to do. Then those edge cases where yes I need fluid simulation to fill up the shape of a hot tub and I need the color of the water to change depending on how big of a splash it makes, you know, yes, okay fine. It's easier to do that in Houdini than in cinema, but there's like these edge cases. I think people get caught up in the fact that artists like you that you reach those edge cases and then you use Houdini to do and the shit looks so cool they think that everybody needs to be able to do that and I don't know. I always try to talk people out of learning Houdini before cinema 4D. I'm curious what you think about that.
I feel like my thing is this is your profession and if you're an artist and you just want to make cool shit, learn whatever you want, but if you want to work in the industry learn cinema 4D. Learn the basics of 3D. Learn some modeling, some texturing principles, how to light. At that point it doesn't matter what app you're in. You said it. If you make a pretty picture you're going to have work.
Casey: Yeah, so it's hard. I consider myself a part of the [maxon 00:41:37] family. I by no means speak on behalf of them or anything. I've done tons of NABs and cine graphs with them. I love the software to death. It's what I consider my sketchpad. If you learn cinema 4D and you get to the point where you're not able to get what you need out of cinema 4D, Houdini is right there. If you aren't to the point in cinema 4D where you're hitting the wall, where you're like man I wish I had arbitrary [inaudible 00:42:03] to attach to every nth point that gave me a different vertex point based on the direction of the normal for how much pressure was in this pop sim over here because X particles isn't talking to the mesher the correct way, then yeah start looking at Houdini and learning vex and all that stuff. If you're just like well I saw all these gifs and they used Houdini so I should learn Houdini, then just learn cinema. YOu're going to make a thousand gifs in the time that person figured out the one gif.
Joey: Yeah, exactly. Actually one of our earliest episodes we interviewed a Houdini artist for Disney. He's like an effects animator there. I've never opened Houdini, but just talking to him and him explaining sort of how it worked, it's like I can see the power and it's very exciting but at the same time I realized that I have absolutely no, I have no need for that. I definitely have not pushed the limits of what cinema 4D is capable of.
Casey: Yeah, it's an open ended system that allows you to do anything you want, but as it sounds, creating anything you want requires a surmountable amount of energy to be put into it to create anything. It's quick, you can iterate with it, you can build procedural systems that are easily updatable and controllable and you can control to your heart's content, but in motion design, I don't even know if ninety percent of the time you need all that control. I don't know how many times I've been on a job and posted fifty iterations of something from cinema in a dailies folder and had like version one or two be the thing that was picked, you know? Then run with that look for the job. I never need to go back to the procedural system, or I do but it's I don't know. I have fun in Houdini. I love learning it, but it doesn't have like a, it doesn't feel like the tool that I'm going to settle into as a hundred percent usage. Cinema is just always going to be adding new stuff that is going to make me happier with where it's going.
Joey: Yeah, and of course now they work together. There's this neat bridge between them and all that. All right, so let's jump into a little bit of your work. The work you're doing now, I kind of want to come back to at the end. I'm kind of fascinated by that. A lot of the work, or not a lot, but a decent amount on your site is from concert visuals and I've never worked on concert visuals before. It seems like of like a dream gig, right? You have I don't know, like Lady Gaga or something like that and you get to have these giant eighty foot screens. What's it like working on projects for huge acts like that?
Casey: It's really, really fun. It's a dopamine rush in both negative and positive ways. It's a lot of sleepless nights. I started doing concert graphics when I met up with this guy Figgy who runs a company called Possible. That was my first large concert gig. It was like working with Dead Mouse and like Tim and Faith and these rad K Pop bands. They had a system down. They knew how to do it. They had, Figgy was just a mad scientist genius who could make a template layout for an entire stage in a couple hours and have an entire After Effects template for rendering perspective footage to map to all the screens. For the Nicki Minaj concert that we did, he built the stage in cinema and then they built the stage in front of us. We got to work in front of this giant LED projection house that was built and look at all of our footage get mapped to it.
We'd hire [people 00:45:48] on like everything, so get to work with [Beeple 00:45:47] on something is just awesome. Then from then on I kind of got super into it. Then I left for a bit and I went to work at Zoic and one of the last things at Zoic was a company hit me up that knew that I did a bunch of concert stuff with Figgy at Possible and he had a Lady Gaga concert and said, "Can you take it over? We need someone with pipeline." I was at Zoic so we had the pipeline. Took it on and did that. For one reason or another I wasn't at Zoic anymore. My son was at an age where I was like I'm not going to leave the house anymore. I'm going full Howard Hughes. I'm locking myself in my basement-
Casey: A lot of remote concert jobs started popping up and so that's how I got on U2. I met this guy Ben at Empirical Studios and it's fun stuff. The rough part is the on sites. You always have to do like two weeks or a week at the first place that you're going to be setting up or in a rehearsal stage, so you're away from your family. You never have enough time. Things get killed in the last minute and then you've got to completely remake something from scratch and it was definitely some of my favorite stuff that I've worked on for sure is concerts and installations.
Joey: How are the acts, whoever the artist is, how are they as clients compared to normal clients?
Casey: They're completely different. What Figgy and I did on the Tim and Faith project was we got their set list and we started at the beginning and sort of sketched out like a mood, like for each song. We tried to create ways to iterate along the way. Looks would get killed or designs would change and we'd just have to kind of keep iterating. Then with a commercial client posting day, posting day goes up. You have your call the next day, you talk about the call, you get the notes, you go back to work for a day or two, post again, day or two goes by, you get notes, you make iterations, that's like a week of work.
Casey: On a concert, you're posting like every half day and getting feedback and turning around and like it's a, when you're on on sites, like when you're at the set, you'll watch the stuff on the big screens, on the stages, get notes, and then go back to where your computer is behind the stage and immediately start making those changes, get the new version up on the screen. It becomes an exercise in creating things fast on the fly, catching errors and glitches before they're on a giant screen and having a really critical eye for turnaround times. It's crazy. It's a rush.
Joey: Why is the revision process and the turnaround time situation like that? Is it just because if you're doing a commercial for a client, that commercial is the product? But what you're doing is not the product, the concert is the product. Is it just because everything is kind of secondary to the overall experience of the concert?
Casey: It's similar to the client of a music video. You're dealing with an artist. You're doing another artist works, like with Coca Cola or IBM or any big client, there's like forty five art directors that are like I don't know, I think blue. Well maybe blue, maybe purple. Maybe purple, maybe purple blue. Maybe purplish blue? Purplish green. Can we see a version with each one? Then it comes back and then someone goes like no I said red.
Casey: With the artist, like you could end up with the artist's best friend sitting over your shoulder going, "They'll never like that. No, no." Throwing stuff away in your room in your pit and there's no real way to navigate the client agency, client studio. It's just like everything is real intimate and you're creating a stage show and they're nervous about the stage show. They don't know how it's going to be received, you don't know how it's going to be received. There's this shared ball of stress and happiness, and then opening night happens, first show goes off, and I probably cried a little bit at every single concert that I've worked on like opening night.
Joey: Just out of exhaustion right?
Casey: No, it's so weird. I think it's what got me the most high was like sitting on the floor, no not sitting, but standing on the floor in general, looking at everyone like flip out, the artist going crazy, the best performers are the ones that like their fans are so intense and you have stuff that you've created in their backdrop, their songs, lighting, costume, everything is like aesthetically tied together and then the audience is going nuts. YOu've already seen the concert like fifteen, twenty times before it goes off, but once you've seen it transform into an actual experience, it's mind blowing to be part of it, to have like a small bit of the energy in that room where that artist or rockstar is just generating all of this love and excitement, just to have a small piece of that was exhilarating.
Joey: How much of that, you mentioned that the video elements that you're creating, a lot of times will tie in with the lighting set up and maybe there's even a theme for the tour. How much of that comes from you guys? From you or whoever is doing the work, and how much comes from the artist? Do they come to you with sort of a here's our brand guidelines. This is the patriotic tour. We want everything to be patriotic. Or does some of that come from you?
Casey: There's usually a show director involved who handles like lighting and stage setup and screen design and everything. They usually have a little bit of an idea for what the tour is going to be. That's one of the things that, that's one of the reasons why the turnaround time gets sort of [inaudible 00:51:36]. YOu'll have a few ideas and you'll have like some Pinterest boards for each song and they'll be all over the place, then suddenly the artist will be like no, no, no, it's not chrome and diamonds for blah blah blah. Now it's rock and smoke. It's like ah dammit, we just animated two and half minutes of chrome and diamonds. Now we have to animate two and a half minutes of rock and smoke? Okay. All right, all right, fine, fine fine. Then you'll sit with their content on the screen, and then the lighting director and the show director will start playing with the lighting setup and smoke and they'll start seeing how everything feels. Sometimes they'll adjust the lighting to accommodate the video content because that's easier to do that, but it's sort of like everything works together. The show director is really in charge and then the artist, in the best of relationships.
Joey: Is it, you know, so you said Tim and Faith, I'm assuming you mean Tim McGraw Faith Hill.
Joey: Are they coming to your, looking over your shoulder and After Effects is open or cinema 4D? Are they like art directing this thing? Or do they have people? Is Bono throwing client revisions at you?
Casey: Tim was pretty into it. I don't think he ever shouldered anyone, but we were at the Venetian theater in Las Vegas and our computers were set up in the middle walkway row with our render farm right to the side of us and then all the screens were right in front of us. He would just come stand up on a chair and watch content run through and then be like oh instead of that thing that just happened when I said ma ma ma ma ma ma, can you have it do something different?
Joey: This is another thing I was curious about. That was an amazing impression of Tim McGraw by the way. Sounds exactly like him. I'm imagining for Lady Gaga that she's got sort of this master, like a Protools rig somewhere and someone hits space bar and then the show plays and she's got musicians playing along and she's singing obviously, but the whole thing is on rails, right? You can sync your content up to it. How does it work for like U2, right? They're just a rock band. They don't, I'm assuming, they don't have this show on rails, or maybe they do. How does the synchronization happen between your content and the music?
Casey: Lady Gaga, some songs will be on what was called a click track. Sometimes they would be on what's called a time code. Sometimes there would be just a loose thing. Lady Gaga was difficult because we made, we at Zoic created a bunch of looks and then the guys at Timber, Kevin Lao and Jonah Hall, they made a bunch of looks too and then we kept throwing stuff away working with this girl Nicole Urlich who handles like all of her concerts, we ended up just throwing stuff and stuff away, throwing it away. Then Lady Gaga said I want to work with this photographer that I used on a couple other things, her name is Ruth Hogbin. They spent an entire day at this stage and just shot tons of stuff, like slomo glitter, slomo flowers, slomo feathers, Lady Gaga on a swing. It was kind of weird stuff. Then Lady Gaga said like all looks are out. I want everything she shot to be in the show. We started making treatments from the footage and edits and doing all the click track, then like with U2, that was actually, U2 was on this new software called like Notch. It's a real time solution. That sort of got born on that innocence and experience tour.
For the stuff that we made that was pre rendered, we worked with, it was mainly like interludes and songs that were going to have a click track, if they weren't going to have a click track or a time code or interludes, then they did a lot of real time stuff using D3 and Notch. Then they could do whatever they wanted. They got to go like full artist mode, develop a real time look, and then go from there.
Joey: Oh, that makes sense. In my head I was thinking okay, you're essentially animating a music video with no artist in it and then the artist performs in sync with it. YOu're saying another way is you create sort of a tool kit and then you're triggering things almost like a VJ.
Casey: Yeah, sometimes there would be like a click track layout for certain things, but there's a few songs that were just straight up like real time effects that were happening on all the screens based on footage that was being captured by cameras placed around the stage. There was one song that had a connect involved on the innocence and experience tour I believe. I think I'm allowed to say that. I don't know.
Joey: It's funny, I actually just recently saw U2. They did a tour where they played the entire Joshua Tree album.
Joey: They had a lot of really crazy camera effects. One of them kind of looks like a connect. It was pretty amazing. I was wondering how they were doing that, but it was also cut together with like motion graphics and video and things that were clearly made to be in sync with the song. It sounds like at this point at the high end, you're doing a combo.
Casey: Yeah, you've got to do a combo because it's impossible to make the pre [inaudible 00:56:51] graphics like updatable for an improvisational show. The real time stuff like Notch and D3 and touch designer, that stuff allows artists to just kind of like, you just kind of create like a particular present in Notch and be like, all right, so this is going to take in live camera B and then it's going to do this displacement effect over it, so wherever he walks on the stage, if camera B, A, C, or D are on him, then screens one through eight are going to play this projection to the audience. You can set up all these cool motion triggers and stuff. It's really fun working with that stuff.
Joey: Oh my god, that sounds super cool. All right, so how do you, you know, some of the stuff you've done looks like there's multiple screen synced up and they're all different sizes and shapes and sometimes there's even sort of like projection mapped stuff where you have to kind of create it in perspective and project it. How do you test that stuff on it before the stage itself is even built and you're able to see what it looks like?
Casey: Almost always that stuff has a cad model involved. We'll do like projection man or just regular camera projection and cinema on the stage and create like perspective throws for where the projectors are going to be. If it's projectors, there's almost always a 3D file that has where projectors are going to be positions for specific arenas, and the stage as a 3D model. Sometimes you'll throw a texture on a light and point it at the stage and do like light projections in cinema, but almost always we'll simulate the environment inside cinema 4D to generate a pre visualization of how the projections are going to be thrown.
Joey: Oh, okay. In the initial phases when the artist is looking at your ideas, you're sort of showing them this is what it will look like on the stage.
Casey: Yep, yep. Like on Lady Gaga, she had this crazy inflatable thing that was going to be impossible to projection map on. We had to come up with basically like all our initial looks were like textural things that led themselves to being warped and displaced and like anything that looked good bending or looked weird bending, that was what we went with, because there was no way we were ever going to get a UV map to stick with a projector. There was no setup time for any show to allow calibration of any sort of projection software. It basically had to be with the sloppiest amount of mapping, what looks best.
Joey: That's super cool, man. I mean the stuff that you're talking about now, that's really interesting to me because when I came into this industry and when you came in, everything was just on this flat screen. It was like a commercial or it was part of a TV show, and now it's coming off of that. You're projecting shit in real time and mixing it and putting it in front of Lady Gaga.
I want to talk a little bit about sort of the future of all of this stuff, but I'm curious if you know what sorts of budgets do these big artists put towards the motion graphics part of their concerts?
Casey: Oh. I can't talk about any specifics of any specific artist-
Joey: Oh of course, yeah.
Casey: It ranges. It ranges from five hundred, six hundred thousand to as small as like a hundred and twenty.
Joey: Yeah, the reason I ask is because I have friends who are music video directors, and the quality of the music videos they produce, you'd look at it and be like wow that should cost about a hundred and seventy thousand dollars. They don't, they cost five thousand dollars and they're done for prestige. I was curious if [crosstalk 01:00:35] this concert live visuals industry is that. Is it a prestige thing that you do once or twice to get it on your reel and make a name for yourself and then you don't do it anymore because you'll be bankrupt? Or is it actually, are these artists paying for your time and what it's worth?
Casey: I always got paid my time and I always made sure my teams got paid their time. I never asked for anyone to give me a rate reduction for a concert. Maybe I asked, I may have asked. There's going to be someone who comes out on Twitter being like, "He asked me for a rate reduction."
Joey: Son of a bitch.
Casey: No, I always want to have fair payment and if your day rate is six to eight hundred dollars a day, then say that's your day rate. If they go, "Oh, well, this is for Usher and his new tour and it's going to be a really big deal," everyone by now knows what to say to that email. You said, "Well oh cool. Have fun with no fucking team."
Joey: Right, been there.
Casey: Yeah, if anyone ever asks, prestige is not currency. That doesn't pay day care or cell phone or-
Joey: Yeah exactly.
Casey: [inaudible 01:01:44]
Joey: Instagram likes don't buy diapers unfortunately, you know?
Joey: Let's talk about your current gig a little bit. You mentioned that you were doing something with AR, which just in case anybody doesn't know, augmented reality. I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about that. The motion design field is sort of turning into this octopus that's kind of like oh let me get into this live projection mapping thing and let me get into virtual reality. Now there's augmented reality and I'm really interested to see how all of these skills are being used. What specifically are you doing for Cylance in the AR world?
Casey: We created a augmented reality like basically data reader for a product we make called Cylance optics, which basically takes sort of like the black box of AV, when our flagship product protect stops and quarantines a threat, there's data that's generated that's sort of like a who, what, when, where, why, and how of the quarantine threat. Optics looks at that data and says like this is a file, it tried to open a power shell and save a file on temp directory and then it was going to try to extract data from this. That generates like a CSV and they wanted to show this world of the basic goal that I wanted out of it and the creative director Drew Hoffman, we wanted to be able to start a conversation with analysts and marketing and incident response people about what makes data valuable and what visibility gives to researchers.
We have six holo lenses and we'd put them on everyone and we'd load up the data at trade shows. We'd, our field research for is this working, are we doing this right, was at black cat and [inaudible 01:03:44], these huge cyber security trade shows. We'd say like this is our data visualization of threat data, this is why we're displaying it this way, this is what this value means. I'm speaking in ambiguities, not because the project is a secret, just I don't have anything to share with you guys in the links to make this visual-
Casey: The idea is with the holo lens on I can look you in the eye and you can look me in the eye. If you point at something I see what you're pointing at. There's something in there that is all right, I'll say revolutionary in nature. Looking at a table with a display rendered amount of data that everyone can stand around and collaborate with is game changing in a lot of ways. Man, revolutionary and game changing.
Joey: Dude, it's like a commercial. Let me ask you this. I'm super curious about the holo lens just on a dorky level. I've put on the oculus, I've put on the [veev 01:04:39]. The holo lens is one of these things that's like hard to find in the wild. What's the quality of the visual that it's putting in front of your eyeballs?
Casey: It's a little, there's much to be desired. The field of view is a bit narrow and it looks like you're sort of looking through a mail slot, but with all of those things withstanding, once you see a hologram in front of you in front of a person, it's mind blowing. It's like whoa, like I'm looking at the future. I've had similar experiences with some really well designed VR things, but the first time I put a holo lens on I was like this is absolutely like the next generation of desktop assistants. This is going to be huge. There's no cables, there's no computer involved. It's one hundred percent a self contained system that provides the holographic application in front of your vision that you then interact with with your hands.
Joey: That is pretty insane. Now you know with the new iPhone it has AR [inaudible 01:05:38], there's going to be a lot of AR content coming out. Are you still using similar tools to work on AR or are you using cinema 4D and X particles, things like that? Or is it a totally different ball game?
Casey: Yep, still cinema 4D, X particles, and Houdini. I work with people that use unity. I'm trying to learn Unity. It's just it's one of those things where it's like sure I could learn Unity. I could figure it out and that can be a thing that I use all the time, or I can just stop, I can collaborate with someone or hire someone who is like better at it, you know? Get a better result and learn from them that way. Yeah, the game engine stuff, that's honestly where I think people should be looking. That's the true future.
Joey: Yeah, you know, I'd love for you to elaborate a little bit more about that because I've heard a lot of people say that and I've played around with unity, actually years ago when AR first sort of came out there was a plugin for Unity called Viewphoria.
Joey: You could print out a QR code and point your iPad or your iPhone at it and have something happen. You could basically build an animation in cinema 4D, export it to unity, and with a couple lines of code it would be triggered by seeing that QR code. It was mind blowing and I thought the same thing. This is the future, but the tech, the tools to do it are still in two different worlds. Cinema 4D and unity, and from what I understand Unity isn't hard to learn but the coding part, the interactivity part. If you're doing data visualization you're writing code I imagine. Do you think that artists should be starting to spend a little more time in code land and trying to get a grip on that? Or do you think that the industry is going to split and you're going to still have traditional motion design on this side, and then on the other side you're going to have the coders who figure that stuff all out?
Casey: I don't know. I mean, should you learn to program? One hundred percent. There's no, if you look at salaries for, like look at the salary for a data science person, like an engineer who is working for like an AI company or who is just doing basic scripting and programming. The demand for someone who can program is through the roof.
Casey: Look at the successful people on AE scripts, the people who are creating scripts that fix functionality within things, like plug in developers for cinema, there's all these markets for programmers that are way beyond the market reach of like just making style frames. It's a totally different thing. If you look at like Houdini, you could now build like Unity and game shaders inside that. You can export over to unity or unreal when you're working on it. Houdini's integration with unreal and unity is becoming insanely integrated. They're really trying to like just borg into all of the applications. Cinema to an extent is pretty impressive as well. You can open up a cinema 4D file in unity and it will generate an FBX for you, which is really good for like creating level designs and stuff in cinema. If you look at the curve to learn of unreal engine or unity or whatever Amazon's, what is it called? Campfire? Fire house? Fire town?
Joey: I don't even know.
Casey: The difficulty to learn a game engine five years ago was not that bad. It was hard, but it was not that bad. Today it's a lot easier and ten years ago it would have been impossible for someone in motion design to wrap their head around a game engine. It was just not a thing that was available it was expensive as hell, and they were all proprietary. Now we have like touch designer, which is basically a game engine but it's like a real time interactive thing, unity which is insanely, it's like the cinema 4D of game engines, really.
Casey: Like Ryan Summers tweeted the other day, he was like, "We're all going to be using game engines in five years," and I snidely responded not all of you. Some of you will be making explainer videos for the companies we've started using game engines.
Joey: [inaudible 01:09:46] hope, that's good. That's fascinating man. You know, it'll be interesting to listen back to this episode in five years and see where the industry is. I'm with you. I think that once VR and AR become mainstream, once and oculus doesn't weigh fifteen pounds and cost eight hundred bucks, I think there's going to be a lot of work out there. Kind of like on the other end you've got UX and UI kind of app prototyping, that's the other kind of big new brave new world for motion design, and I think the call to learn a little bit of programming, just enough code to be able to get by, is super duper good advice.
Casey, I just want to say thank you for spending so much time talking about all this. I feel like we could probably geek out on a bunch of stuff for hours and hours but I don't want to take up more of your time. I just want to say thanks for coming and we're going to link to all of Casey's stuff in the show notes and yeah, go check out his work. It is incredible.
Casey: Oh, thanks man. Yeah, I feel, I just looked up and saw that we've been going for an hour and fifteen minutes and I was like dude we could easily go for another forty five minutes.
Joey: Yeah, no problem. Yeah, so we'll just have to do round two in a little bit.
Casey: Cool. That sounds fine with me. I'll be happy to come back.
Joey: All of the sites, tools, and work we mentioned can be found in the show notes on our site. Make sure to check out Casey's work at xcaseyx.com. Be on the lookout for cinema 4d base camp, coming soon from school of motion. Sign up for free on our site to get notifications about new courses like that one, plus a whole bunch of other really sweet stuff. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you have an incredible day, and we'll meet again soon.