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Dreaming of Apple - A Director's Journey

What if you had a chance to direct a live launch commercial for the largest tech company in the world?

Have you ever wanted to direct for the biggest name in tech? Is it even possibly to juggle design and animation with a directing career? What is it like to work in After Effects and Cinema 4D in the morning and step onto a set at night? If you’ve got posters of Scorsese, Spielberg, and Kubrick mounted on the wall next to Chris Do and Andrew Kramer, well…you're a weird kid, but this is the conversation you’ve been waiting for. 

Shane Griffin is an artist and director out of New York, and his work is downright ridiculous. Using a combination of realism, surrealism, and digital sculpture, he creates beautiful pieces of design and animation that demonstrate the scope of what is possible in our industry. His ability to connect digital elements with the physical world has opened the doors in his career that eventually led to a meeting with Apple. 

When the tech monolith was set to launch their incredible new M1 Max chip, Shane worked to capture the power of the technology in a stunning live conference. Yet even at this level of the business, many of the same rules and methods apply. If you’re just starting out, building up your career, or looking for that homerun moment, this conversation is for you.

So grab a Granny Smith, a Sugarbee, or a Macintosh, and settle in for a hell of Ted Talk. 

Dreaming of Apple: A Director's Journey

Show Notes

Artists

Shane Griffin 
Ridley Scott

David Fincher

Mark Romanek

GMunk

Stephen Kelleher

Daniel Radcliffe

Beeple

Dariusz Wolski

Guillermo del Toro

Studios

Psyop
ManvsMachine

Pieces

The new MacBook Pro

Tools

V-Ray
Unreal Engine

Digital Humans

Nanite

Lumen

MetaHuman

Resources

NAB Show

Transcript

Ryan Summers:

Ridley Scott, David Fincher, Mark Romanek. Now, add to that list, Shane Griffin, your motioneers. You're about to hear so much about the journey and process of what it's like to be someone who lives in the world of motion design, but also directs for companies like, maybe this one you've heard of, Apple. That's right. We have the director of the most recent Apple Mac M1 Max launch commercial, talking to us all about his journey and what the process is like working as a motion designer, who also gets to step on set and make some pretty amazing projects. But right before that, let's tell you a little bit about School of Motion from one of our amazing alumni.

Steven Jenkins:

Hi, how are you doing today? My name is Steven Jenkins, I'm a School of Motion alumni. I've been working with After Effects since about 2003 when I first picked up a book and started playing with it and started learning how to use the wiggle expression, and different key frames. And one thing I always avoided was the graph editor, and I really feel bad that I waited so long to take one of these courses so that I could learn how to use it.

Steven Jenkins:

Once I learned how to use the graph editor, it just demystified how to make things move. I still am just amazed at what they've taught me here at the School of Motion. I plan on staying with School of Motion for a long time. It's been amazing. Again, my name is Steven Jenkins and I'm a School of Motion alumni.

Ryan Summers:

Motioneers, we talk about animation all the time, we talk about our tools all the time. But one thing we don't really talk often that much is the crossroads of where live action and motion design meet. It's a huge opportunity and it's something that back in the early days, when we called motion design MoGraph, everybody was playing with this. But as motion design has grown up and started to solidify around Cinema 4D and After Effects, it's a skillset or a tool set a lot of us have lost, or haven't really learned.

Ryan Summers:

I want to bring someone on that could help us reconnect a little bit with this idea of live action and VFX and all these other tools still being part of motion design. And honestly, there's no one better to bring in than Shane Griffin. You may have seen him as Mr. Grif or Grif Studio, but I can guarantee you saw some of his newest work. If you saw the newest promo video for the Mac Pro, the M1 Max, you've seen his work, Shane Griffin, let's talk about everything that you in your career.

Shane Griffin:

Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Ryan.

Ryan Summers:

Thank you so much. I mentioned just a little bit at the beginning, but when I found out that you were the genius behind this commercial, I started diving into all of your work and it really made me excited because you feel like a throwback to what was excited about motion graphics when I was getting started. The only person I could really think about comparing you to was you feel like a modern version of what I used to see when GMunk was just getting started.

Ryan Summers:

He was playing around with all kinds of new tools, he was mixing live action and motion design, and there just was this really amazing curiosity that was really informed by art and design ,and just a cinematic graphic look at the world. How did you get started? How did you get to the point where Apple taps you on the shoulder and says, "We need what you've got"?

Shane Griffin:

Oh, that's quite a journey and a great question so interesting that you say that because we're probably around the same age, probably came up at the same time with this. My story starts way back when I had just finished, I guess, the equivalent of high school. I'm Irish, by the way, so I'm from Europe, we have a slightly different system there, but. I finished, I guess, the equivalent to high school when I was around 18 and I wanted to be an architect.

Shane Griffin:

And I applied for architecture and all that sort of stuff and I missed it by five points, which is five points out of 600, which is less than 1%. So my two best friends at the time, they had applied and they got it. They actually still work together to this day, actually. I had applied for it, I missed it, and they wouldn't let me compensate with the portfolio or anything.

Ryan Summers:

Oh, wow.

Shane Griffin:

And I was pretty pissed off, so I didn't really know what to do and I was.. Yeah, I had been tinking around on Photoshop and Apple Motion at the time and doing a lot of... Just trying to do album covers for people and whatever I also was doing in my teenage years. And my brother was working in a company that was doing sales for a lot of post-production hardware, software stuff, so he knew the industry, but he wasn't in it. He was doing sales for like different things.

Shane Griffin:

But long story short, he used to work in a DVD magazine, if you remember them. There was this magazine back home called... I think it was called Enter or something. I don't know what he was doing there, but he was working there with this guy who was taking care of doing the DVD menus and all the design, all the graphic stuff for it. And that guy had randomly come up to... I remember he drove up to the house on a little Vespa and he was inviting my brother to his wedding.

Shane Griffin:

And they got into a conversation, he said, "Oh, what are you doing these days?" He says, "Oh, I work in this post-production place." He said, "Oh, my brother's trying to get a job because he doesn't know what he's going to do with his life." And he looked at some of the stuff and was like, "He's okay. You kind of know what you're doing for a kid, so why don't you come in?" SO I went in as his intern and I got in there and there was only guys in the graphics department. One of them was using Maya, the other one was using Softimage.

Shane Griffin:

John, who was using Maya, who got me in there, I was expecting him to teach me the ropes. I get in there, he doesn't talk to me for once for about three months. Swear to God. So it was up to this other guy, Steven, and he's started teaching me how to use After Effects, because I used Apple Motion and familiar with Photoshop Illustrator. And he was teaching me the ropes and he was really teaching me... He was teaching me how to get in and get out at six o'clock.

Shane Griffin:

He was teaching me all of the sneaky back doors around doing stuff and we were doing really the bottom of the barrel of the commercials in a town that didn't really have many commercials. So I was just really just learning the tools as I was going. And I began to really enjoy it because I always had an interest in like tech and computers, things like that and I was an artistic kid. So it felt like I could kind of use the two of them at the same time. Always enjoy learning stuff, so it was... I was having fun.

Shane Griffin:

And I was beginning to see a lot of what the American companies were doing at the time, and this is, for me, the kind of golden era of motion design when it was like... There was really amazing studios putting out some really amazing stuff and I just couldn't believe that it was done with the same tools that I had in front of me. I was like, "No, there's got to be some other secrets sauce in here." And probably some of the best ones there like Shiloh and-

Ryan Summers:

I was about to say Shiloh. Literally that was the first one.

Shane Griffin:

And [Cyof 00:07:55] as well, there was so many great things happening. And I began to build a little bit of a reel for myself, whatever that was at the time. And I ended up moving to another studio in Dublin then who were more on the lookout for like a designer, like a proper motion designer. They were using XSI as well, and that's what that other guy Steven had been teaching me a little bit of. So I was trying to use 3D where I could. I took the seed off. Do you know Stephen Kelleher?

Ryan Summers:

Yeah, absolutely.

Shane Griffin:

Amazing, amazing, amazing designer. He was working in this company at the time and he had just left to go to the States and I took his seed over. Big shoes at the time, especially as a young... I worked there for a few years and that's where I began to find a voice for myself, I guess. I became more interested in the 3D side of things using 3D as a design tool rather than... Because that really wasn't a thing back then.

Shane Griffin:

I'm sure you remember the only thing you'd have is like a couple of random shapes with ambient occlusion on them and then like... So a lot of After Effects on top.

Ryan Summers:

You can pour one out for XSI right now if you're listening. That was my first 3D tool coming out of school. And you're you're right, it was super powerful, but it was not geared for the kinds of stuff we think of when we think of motion design now.

Shane Griffin:

Yeah. And it was a shame it got discontinued because-

Ryan Summers:

Oh yeah...

Shane Griffin:

... it really was an incredible piece of kit. But yeah, so I got really interested in learning more about photorealism and things like that. So I went to work at an effects company in Dublin, who were... They were also doing commercials and they needed a designer, but they were beginning to ramp up to do more film effects. Their first big gig was Game of Thrones, season one.

Ryan Summers:

Wow.

Shane Griffin:

But at the time I had... I had moved there and I had done some bits and bobs and I was learning V-Ray at the time in 3d Max and trying to understand a bit more about photorealism with that. And that was all going quite well. Anyway, after being there for a couple of years, they started branching more into effects and we did a movie. And then I was doing some... Oh, I had this terrible gig actually at one point where I was doing effects on a film with Daniel Radcliffe in it, and he was dressed, I think he was a Nazi or something. I can't remember, I never watched the film.

Shane Griffin:

But he had this giant zit on his head and I had to track it out of all the shots. And I was thinking, "Man-

Ryan Summers:

This is my life.

Shane Griffin:

... this is a waste of time." That really kind of lit the fire and I thought, "Man, I need to..." Respectfully, I love the guys and we had a great working relationship with, but I was like, "I need to get out of here and try and follow where I think the industry is going." So at that point I got in touch with ManvsMachine who were in London or small shop at the time. Obviously they're really big now, but at the time I think there was maybe four guys there. And I went over and met them and I said, "Hey, here's what I'm doing."

Shane Griffin:

And they were like, "Yeah, it seems like a fit. Let's do it." And they were using Mental Ray at the time. Oh my God. So, yeah. So I went to London then and I worked with those guys for a couple of years. We got to work on some really interesting stuff. And I think that's when I had a lot of pent up design things ready to come out of me, so I was really firing on all cylinders in my mid 20s. I was like, "Let's do this, this, this, this." All these things I learned in VFX and stuff, was like, "Let's bring this into motion design, this, this."

Shane Griffin:

A lot of amazing studios doing similar things at that time as well. That was like the second goal in era, I think from motion design. And just being really consumed by it then and I really began to fall in love with what we could really do and achieve. Community-wise, I really saw that this guy was the limit with this stuff and it was, it was really going to take over. And I thought, "I need to think about how to combine this with live action and get into directing stuff from that point of view." And really learning at that point that when you're involved, if you're doing a piece that has a lot of heavy involvement with design and effects, you really need to be at the helm of a project rather than be somebody who's executing after the fact. Because there's a lot of experience disconnect across...

Shane Griffin:

Well, less so now, but at the time, certainly with traditional live action directors with VFX companies and then designers. And there wasn't really... Everybody was not really communicating so well. So I was like, "All right, maybe I should take a step back and try to get involved and direct in live action, and then begin to combine all these things that I've learned from effects side of things, from design side of things, and try and try this new avenue and see what happens."

Ryan Summers:

That's great. Yeah, I feel like at that time there was a big, what I call like a head versus hands rivalry.

Shane Griffin:

Right.

Ryan Summers:

There were people who were like, "Stand back, we're shooting, we're thinking, we're doing it. And when we need you we'll tap you on the shoulder and you just figure it out. You're the hands, you execute." But there wasn't that collaboration, there wasn't an understanding of from CDs or live action how to approach a shoot with VFX in mind. It was just like, "You'll figure it out later.

Shane Griffin:

Exactly. And it becomes a very specific skillset to have then and the projects that you get tend to really need your expertise in every instance then. Sometimes you become the only person who could do the job for better or worse, right?

Ryan Summers:

Right.

Shane Griffin:

Because sometimes you're trying to branch out and do other things and they're like, "No, no, you do this effects job." But all that I think is, I explained it to a friend recently is, feels like a game of chess and you're moving these pieces to set yourself up for the bigger picture jobs. And that's the way it felt for me. I was moving these pieces in design and doing a lot of my own 3D projects and, and getting better in that area, while also doing a lot more live action commercial work.

Shane Griffin:

There's a natural blend of effects between those two anyway, and I felt like the more I pushed the 3D and design portion of things, the more I was learning about like the technical side of 3D more and more. So, yeah, it feels like everything I learned benefits the other side of the spectrum one way or another.

Ryan Summers:

I love seeing that because I feel like there's probably a lot of people listen to this that are wondering, it's a black box for a lot of motion designers, how to make that bridge into whether it's creative direction or live action directing without completely forsaking everything that got them to that point. When I look at your work, when I look at your Instagram, I want to talk a little bit more about your site, I really feel this like column response between the work you do, what you call Commissions, and then the personal explorations you do, what you call Artwork on your website. They feel like a unified hole, they feel like they inform each other.

Ryan Summers:

Whereas I've seen a lot of people make a similar jump and that personal vision and look disappears as I start getting into the directing or creative directing field where they're responding to clients and they're just giving them what they want. Have you actively managed that, you're like, "Look, I'm going to make my own stuff because I need to know what I need to I offer in this other realm" or did it just kind of happen on accident?

Shane Griffin:

I think that there's definitely a point of view that I've got with commercial work and with personal work, of course, but a lot of it has become this self-fulfilling prophecy where you have an idea, you put it out into the world and people respond to it. So there's always this sense of I'm trying to throw this lasso out into the world to drag in projects with this vision in mind. This started a couple of years ago when I created a chromatic series and I was trying to... This is pre tee days, this is really pre people even.. Like in digital art days, it's around 2016.

Shane Griffin:

So I was throwing out this lasso to the world to try and rope in a project, rope in a big commission. The funny thing about doing that project, grateful in doing it and it was great to explore this idea that was always in my mind. What I ended up happening is I was sharing a studio with some friends at the time and I created what became the I guess, master image of that series. And I called the guys around to my desk, I say, "Hey, check out this thing I just made." And they were like, "Wow, what is it?" I was like, "I'm not too sure."

Shane Griffin:

But I had put an apple logo over it and Photoshop and I clicked the layer on and I clicked it off and I started laughing. Funny that I put that out into the world because a year later they bought the image for the iPhone screen.

Ryan Summers:

Amazing.

Shane Griffin:

When that weird thing happened where I was like, "I think I'm making this for something. I'm making it for myself, but I think I'm making it for something else as well, or I have a destination for this thing in mind," it manifested itself into the real world, which was very bizarre.

Ryan Summers:

I love that you say that because there's a bit of a theme over the last probably three or four podcasts I've been recording where there's this underlying surface of everyone in the last year so seems to be waking up in the middle of the morning, straight up and saying, "No matter what I call myself, no matter what I tell my parents when they ask what I do, animator, motion designer, creative director," there has been a stark realization that basically we all work in average. And sadly that's what motion design in some ways has been kind of like defined by.

Ryan Summers:

But in the last year, and I really look at your work as a really good indication of this, whether it's because of personal projects or NFTs or just people being interested in digital art, the paradigm's been flipped exactly with like what you said. Everybody's doing their own things and making some stuff and sheepishly post on Instagram or doing something. But the moment you put a logo over the top of your artwork, something you don't even know exactly where it came from or what it's intended to be, but you're following your voice, your vision, your obsessions, it feels like advertising is now coming to artists for art rather than saying, "Hey, here's what we need, go do it."

Ryan Summers:

And I'm just like, I really think people should look at your artwork section on your site and scroll through, because you can see so many examples of this happening. Like the chromatic stuff, the Yeezy where you're doing a lot of things where you're mixing either textiles or fashion with... It's interesting, you said like a very architectural point of view. And now you're starting to see brands say, "Oh, can we get a little bit of your heat?" Instead of saying, "Hey, come to our heat." It feels like there's this huge paradigm shift potentially in motion design. And you're sitting like right at like the moment with your work.

Shane Griffin:

Well, thank you. Yeah, I do feel that too. I think a lot of the jobs that I was lucky enough to get this year have been collaborations, where they're like, "Hey, we love what you do and we just want you to do something for us and we'll pay you for it."

Ryan Summers:

That's the dream.

Shane Griffin:

That was really never the case before. It's taken a very long time. Illustrator, sure, or photographer, sure, but it's taken a very long time for digital art to gain that or be on the same playing field in terms of the paradigm of what's respected and what's not, right?

Ryan Summers:

Right.

Shane Griffin:

And that's had a huge turning point, I think, in the last two years and it's been amazing to see like just the fact that you can put work out there into the world and people respond to it so much that they're like, "Hey, we just love what you do. Can you do a version for us?" That's just where I've been aiming to bring that work for a number of years. And I've always felt a bit like, "Geez, why do I see..." All respect to amazing illustrators, but sometimes there'll be a clothing brand and they do a collaboration and the illustrator's name is all over it. And they're like... And I was like, cool, that seems like a great collaboration. Why don't 3D artists have that or?

Shane Griffin:

So I've been really trying to fight the good fight of that for years and get in there and make it a respected thing. And it's really beginning to happen now for a lot of people. So it's a great time and it's great that that mindset has been shifted to where it is now.

Ryan Summers:

I think the word you use that's really important is mind shift, because it's not just our clients that are shifting their minds. It's really us as motion designers as 2D animators, 3D animators that the work we do has value beyond our day rate or how long we're going to stay in on the weekend to get something done. There's actually real true value, and I look back and I think it's almost like the arc of what happened with rap or hiphop music, where it was a thing, the people who liked it liked it, but there was almost a little bit of shame with it compared to all the other readily established music genres.

Ryan Summers:

And then someone took a chance and up that to like an ad or Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith put out a song where everybody all of a sudden realizes the value. And then now we're living in a world where rap artists are putting shoes out that are like the most highly collectible items. And every time that happens, I'm constantly saying like, "Motion designers are literally making the work that brands are using, why hasn't it reversed yet?" And it's exciting to see that maybe it's because of technology, maybe it's because of the hype around NFTs. But really it's because people like you have been out there making the work, playing around, thinking of things that a client would never ask you for in the first place. But now that they see it, they want it, they need it. They have to have it.

Shane Griffin:

I thought of it this the other day in the terms of music, it's like, what's the parallel between art and design and music? And I think its like remember maybe 10 years ago, or if you look at the Coachella line from 15 years ago, there's probably not an electronic music act in the headline area. Maybe Daft Punk, but probably not many others. If you look at it now it's probably majority DJs, right?

Ryan Summers:

Yep.

Shane Griffin:

And at some point there was a mind shift where people were like, "Oh, I, I don't mind if it's electronic." And I think that that's like a similar switch that will happen with the art space and in digital art space, is that like at some point, yeah, sure, there's still going to be this kind of snobbery to it, but for the most part, people will be like, "Oh, okay. It's a digital art piece, that's fine." And I think that will just begin to blend out in the way that music events, no one really thought of it.

Shane Griffin:

But you did touch on a good point earlier on about people's work being worth more than their day rate or whatever, or work in general, what is the value of it? And I think that there's been this conditioning from the industry to say that your work is worth X. And if you go back to Renaissance era where everybody was painting, I'm sure that there was probably some sort of a day rate situation going on there too. But for all the people who interned and whatnot, but there was patrons.

Ryan Summers:

Yes.

Shane Griffin:

The patronage was part of the culture of art, I guess. And I think that that's what eNFTs has flipped to get rid of this idea of cost conditioning of work, and your stuff is not worth this and XYZ. And it's a good conversation to have for better or worse if some things are overvalued, some things are undervalued, whatever. It's, it's a good conversation to have and it's good that people are beginning to take risks for themselves and say, "No, no, I think my work is this good, and I think it is worth this." And that's great to see and it's great that there is an audience out there that appreciate this.

Ryan Summers:

Yeah. And it's only going to accelerate. I was having a conversation with someone who used to work with the studio that Beeple was a creative director, art director. And he remembers the moment where he got on a zoom meeting early this year, was like, "Oh, where's Mike." "Oh, Mike's not coming back." And he wasn't really aware of the NFT scene at the time, this producer I was talking to. He started doing the research and he was like, "Oh my God, he's like this guy's done just from his two major sales." The initial, whatever it was, $60, $70-million.

Ryan Summers:

And then this recent, Christies one he's done $100 million in two fine arts sales, two auctions. Not even considering all the other revenue in the secondary sales and whatever might come. If you just start trying to apply that to like the lifetime amount of value he's generating for his collectors and for anybody else's, Christies and everything. Just off of those two sales alone, he's creating like literally several billion dollars worth of lifetime value for himself and the people who have collected him. That's mind blowing to understand for a motion designer, who people loved and people would go and line up at NAB and watch him talk.

Ryan Summers:

But no one ever considered the value of his work and the kind of fascination and the cult of personality that he's created. That wasn't even possible. And now at every level of scale, you might be selling some tezos, bits of artwork for $4 and build enough fandom to support yourself. Or you can go after the lottery ticket. Last year, we were just arguing about why haven't day rates gone up from what they've been for the last 10 years? The conversation has completely changed, it's amazing.

Shane Griffin:

People's story is so inspirational, it really is. It's so cool. I remember hearing about his first sales this month last year, was what got me into NFTs. I was like, "He sold how much on the weekend?" I was like, "I've got 10 years worth of work I'm sitting on here." Yeah, no, no. I mean, I think he blew the door open for everyone. He's like the people's champ.

Ryan Summers:

I think the thing that's interesting about him though, is that you can say whatever you want about the work. And this is what's great about when you start walking into the fine art world, is that that's the conversation, and we don't have that conversation very often about our work. Our work is so ephemeral, before you're almost finished making it, it's almost done and gone. It's out in the world and three days later, even if it took you a month to make it, the world's seen and they've crumpled it up and thrown it away.

Ryan Summers:

But the thing I find really interesting about people is it's the story that's told about him almost more so than the work. It's this guy did how many images for how many days, for how many years? How did he do that? That cult of personality is what I think is so interesting. And it makes me wonder, like you mentioned, you did some artwork, Apple said, "Hey, can we buy it?" How did that happen? And then how does that extrapolate itself into you make this amazing announcement video for the Mac that everybody's been waiting for in our industry. There's a great exodus away from PC back to Mac, you're sitting in the driver's seat for that. How does that happen? How do you get the tap on your shoulder? What story did you have to tell to get there?

Shane Griffin:

Oh, that's a great question. Well, let me set it up so that in case anybody's listening, they understand that there's other factors involved that's not just getting handpicked for these things. With these larger form projects where there's... It's called like a black project, so everyone's on a need to know basis in the project. So it's a new product, so not everybody on the job is allowed to see the product. A lot of people... The first time I actually saw the product was on set, so I didn't even see it prior, even any images prior to being on set.

Ryan Summers:

Wow.

Shane Griffin:

So everything's very locked down and secure and you get a security briefing every morning, and none of the computer be connected to the internet. So in order to get a job like that, you have to have like a certification, a security audit essentially, from, in this case, Apple, but you would have to have one for any other brand if you're doing a big launch like this. And then you also have to have the flexibility of a big team and know that you can... There's so many other factors involved, but these are just the main ones.

Shane Griffin:

You have to have a big enough pipeline to make sure that everything can fit through. So, there's only a certain amount of companies that are going to be called for a job like that. My rep is Psyop, I love Psyop, and they are my homies. And they really are a special place to be. And they got contacted about the job for me. We went through a pretty rigorous pitching process against a lot of really good directors, which is very scary. They know who they built the machine for. They built the machine for our industry, they built it for people like you and I.

Shane Griffin:

And I think even though all the directors that were pitching on the job weren't necessarily from our background and had our experiences, I think the fact that I did was what got me the competitive edge in that pitch. Because I have my ear to the ground relatively speaking with motion design and people who are GP rendering real time things, blah, blah, blah. And when we began to concept the job, I was putting in some ideas. I was like, "Well, this is futuristic, and this is going to be big next year. So why don't we try to do a bit of this.

Shane Griffin:

This is where I've had issues in the past, And I think that if the thing really performs this well, it's going to look great if we do a little bit of this." And I think embedding all those ideas into the pitch, I think that it felt like I was the right person to hem the ship. But it really came down to a number of things like, "Why was it me?" I think it was experience, certainly have an experience in live action and having shot for Apple before definitely helped.

Shane Griffin:

And from a design point of view, I think my sensibilities are in line with what they're thinking moving forward. Obviously I've done the wallpapers. There was just a lot of synergy from all sides of the spectrum there, and I think they wanted to have somebody who was equally as invested in making it amazing as they were. So we got on the phone after the first initial pitch and a lot of the ideas that we had for that were changed a bit, conceptually speaking.

Shane Griffin:

Like the conceptual thread that we were weaving through, everything was changed, essentially, and it went more down a monstrous route, which was quite interesting. So, I rewrote a lot of the concept to revolve around monsters. Yeah, I was very shocked that it got green lit, to be honest.

Ryan Summers:

They never actually say the word beast, but while you're watching, it's screaming out the entire time. The whole time I'm watching is like, "Okay, I'm looking at the stats as they pop up, I'm watching this very ManvsMachine-like assembly of the actual hardware itself. Which it's so funny that you mentioned you used to work there because I was like, "This is so different from the way Apple would normally show something off." But then like you said, you see all these larger than life creatures and you see the mo-cap and you see all these moments.

Ryan Summers:

It's very blade runner as DJ Rave Scene that I just like, "I want to stand up and cheer," and I'm not an Apple person, I go either way. But it just felt like this really big call to arms celebration, extending the hand back out from Apple to like, "Hey, we never forgot about you. We had to make something for you. We're ready, come to us." It could have been more perfect the way it was laid out.

Shane Griffin:

Thanks. Yeah. No, funny enough you say the hand thing, that was the original end-shot. The giant projection was going to reach the hand out. So yeah, no, I thought that would've been a nice little metaphor [inaudible 00:33:14]. They were really interested in pushing away from the typical white psych look and feel. And they wanted to really show that this is more of an... It's a heavier product than they've done before, it's a thicker product than they've done before. It's engineered a lot more aggressively and a lot more industrial.

Shane Griffin:

So there was a lot of aesthetics around the actual device that we were trying to instill into the motion language of what we were making, which is actually not on trend right now, which is great. So we were looking at a lot of different formation sequences like we looked at a lot of the Marvel, stuff for the Iron Man, stuff coming together, and it was cool, but wasn't exactly right. And then there was some other things I was like, "Ah, it needs to have this element of organic nature with an into robotic nature."

Shane Griffin:

And one thing I wanted to do with that assembly thing that you mentioned at the beginning was, I didn't want any piece to just turn on from nowhere. Everything had to come from something foldout, from something, be motivated by something, so a lot of... Anytime I do anything, I drill really hard on the motivation. It's like where is the motivation of this thing emanating from? What's its core source of power? And luckily we, it was easy to anchor that metaphor on the chip because it was all about the chip, the M1X. So it was a really conceptually easy thing to build on, having the chip as this kind of source of power.

Ryan Summers:

I really feel like people should just clip out just that section where the chip starts growing and things start assembling. Because I think it's a masterclass and stuff we try to talk about in School of Motion all the time. We talk about theme, and tone, and desired response, and how both your design and your animation language choices can inform that. And I'm so excited to watch it just over and over because there are so many of those elements of what you just talked about.

Ryan Summers:

You talked about the organic, you talked about the feeling like it's machine or robotic. There's so many little bits of organic movement, but then when the machine starts to build itself, it snaps, it moves in a very like linear fashion. I couldn't help but just look at like, "This is really sophisticated beyond just being beautifully rendered every single moment. Almost asymmetric camera views as it starts growing, supports the fact that it's all these right angles.

Ryan Summers:

And then even just like every little piece, the way it pops and scales, it moves, it feels like someone handcrafted every key frame and paid attention to it, which with these pressures, with as many other shots and sequences you have to do, it's almost two minutes long. It's amazing that somebody could take that much time and spend that much attention to detail at something that reinforces what the rest of the pieces is going to be about. I really think it's really brilliant the way it's put together.

Shane Griffin:

Thanks. Yeah, that means a lot because there was a huge team of people really grinding themselves on this one. So the animation team were amazing and I think even though, with a lot of these things, if you have an animation team and you give them reference to something, they can copy it. And I was like, "Whatever we do, we will not copy a single thing. This whole thing is going to be fresh." So I started with the idea of again, trying to always anchor this thing on it being 50/50 organic and 50/50 robotic, and it felt like it came from this organic place.

Shane Griffin:

So with this assembly at the beginning, I had this idea of having this light chart coming to screen and you see it in the intro sequence. And what was quite interesting, I was shooting with Dariusz Wolski, who shot amazing DB. For anyone listening, who doesn't know him, he shot like Prometheus, The Marsh, and a lot of amazing. He just did House of Gucci, amazing guy.

Ryan Summers:

He's a very often Ridley Scott collaborator.

Shane Griffin:

Yes, yes, yes. He actually left to go and shoot Napoleon with the day after. So we were kicking around some ideas for how to create this interesting light cone, and I wanted to instill some of my chromatic thinking in there as well. So we were on set and we were trying a bunch of these different light things. And I was like, "No, no, nothing's really working well." And I pulled the art director aside and I said, "Hey, can you send some runners to go and find some Flannel sheets?"

Shane Griffin:

And he's like, "I don't even know what they are." I was like, "Dariusz, do you know what a Flannel Sheet is?" He's like, "No." I was like, "Does anyone at this production know what a Flannel sheet is?" They were like, "No." I was like, "Well, go and get 20 of them." They came by, they found like a 14-inch Flannel sheet. We put it on the light and boom, we had this incredibly ethereal light cone with all the beautiful chromatic breakup on the edges and stuff and it just worked out amazing.

Ryan Summers:

And you're getting it in camera on the day in a scene. You're not trying to get it later?

Shane Griffin:

Exactly. Yeah. Because I really didn't want to augment anything later. And then when it moves into the crystal formation, I became Ed Chu, who's an amazing motion designer who worked on this. I was like, "Ed, I want to make this crystal-like-thing and it's going to be a real headache. And I'm sorry in advance, I have an obsession with these Bismuth Crystals," which are like these angular crystals which look like architectural inform. And I was like, "How can we make this Bismuth Crystal thing come to life?"

Shane Griffin:

Every day, he was just grinding, grinding, grinding. It was getting better and better and better. And eventually, he created this really beautiful system for the Bismuth, which revealed itself as the chip. So it had a lot of these great conceptual moments leading up to this one chip build. And this is only in the first 20 seconds or whatever. But yeah, it just goes back to the idea of, everything is anchored around this conceptual thing that has to have relevance in the real world somehow.

Shane Griffin:

Otherwise, I find it really hard to get behind design for designs sake or like motion for motions sake. Once you have this core concept and this core motivating factor, then it's so easy to rationalize what you do from there on.

Ryan Summers:

I love that. That's why we... I always say theme first, especially when you're working with a client who says, "I just want something beautiful." That's a box that's very wide. It's almost like not even a box, it's just an amorphous blob that can change all the time. But when you have at least one parameter that you can point everyone to and be like, "Look, this has to at least approach this conflict," like organic versus rigid, whatever it lets you, it's weird how this happens.

Ryan Summers:

Having those parameters lets you be more flexible on the smaller decisions, like you said. I almost feel like I need to apologize to the podcast listeners now because I'm sitting here as a fan talking to you, but I have so many questions about that. Because you're working with Dariusz, you're working with somebody who's... their a line of things they've worked on, it's insane.

Ryan Summers:

How trepidatious or concerned are you on the day, working on this very important thing for Apple, I'm assuming there are representatives from Apple there somewhere, to just on the fly ask for something that like you said, nobody even knew what it was or had the answer right away? How rigid do you have to be when you're on set or is there a lot of room? Do you have that much trust to be able to be like, "Hey Dariusz, I know you're the DP, you're world class, but I have this idea"?

Ryan Summers:

Do you feel like you have a limited number of shots on the day that you can experiment or try? And you have to check that in with your clients or are you just given the freedom to go, people trust you? You've given the brief, they know what you're going for and they let you have it.

Shane Griffin:

I think with a job like this, where there's quite a lot at stake in terms of there's no room for error in something like this, there's no room for... In terms of timeline as well, because you're against the clock and you're working up to an event, for instance. I think we finished the film Saturday night and it went live on the Tuesday.

Ryan Summers:

Tight.

Shane Griffin:

In commercial world, that's unheard of. You're delivering two weeks in advance. There's definitely a lot of pressure on that, but I think the best way to approach anything like that is just good channels of communication. Having a good relationship with the DP, having a good relationship with the first AD and a good relationship with the client. It's very hard to have that. We will say specifically on this project, we really did have great communication across the board, so even when we were experimenting and trying new things and trying shots that weren't boarded, the client were very good and very trusting.

Shane Griffin:

And once you are able to explain to them why we're going to try and do this, and how it's going to benefit us and where it could potentially go in the edit. I think everyone's up for it.

Ryan Summers:

That's great.

Shane Griffin:

It's very rare that you'd be able to just keep shooting for shooting sake. I don't think I've ever been in a project where I've wrapped early. I can wrap on time, but I really wrap early. There's always a different spin you can put on things.

Ryan Summers:

I think that's what motion designers a little bit lose out on by having to be constrained to the box and what the tools can do, at least in the modern version of what motion designers is. There's not room for happy accidents and discovery that on the day, a world class DP, an awesome art director around a team, you can carve out 15, 20 minutes to try something when everybody knows what they're doing and the rest of the parameters are set. That's really hard to do in a motion design environment. It's something I wish we had honestly, more of, more opportunities for people.

Shane Griffin:

Yeah. I guess the difference in when you're so heavily in motion design and you're so heavily detail-orientated, the second you put a camera out on set, all the details are there. All the details free. So you really have to take your hat off, that motion design hat off or whatever your... If you're a technical director or whatever, you really have to take that hat off and you're like, "Okay, details are free. Physics is free."

Ryan Summers:

Light just happens.

Shane Griffin:

Yeah, light just happens. So now we have to focus on a story, and now we have to focus on making sure that the flow is consistent and things are cutting nicely. And the one benefit that I've tried to have more on set with me is an editor. Having an editor on set is amazing.

Ryan Summers:

Is awesome.

Shane Griffin:

Yeah. And it begins to feel a lot more like you are in your 3D previs and you're trying stuff in After Effects and you're chopping shots together. If you can have your editor on set with you, you can nearly do a lot of that in real time. And sometimes you'll come out at the end of the day, and you might even have half your commercial put together. So when we left and Psyop were supplying a lot of the previs to the editor, we were trying stuff and we were assembling shots together and trying exactly as we had put it and trying some alternatives and whatnot.

Shane Griffin:

And by the time we left on the whatever the fourth day, yeah, we had something. We were like, "Wow, it's going to work." Now, it didn't look like the end product, but it at least gave us an indication to know that... Because you're never really sure if it's going to work.

Ryan Summers:

No. It's amazing. I wish people really understood how much almost everything you see on TV, on a film, on your phone is a little miracle that it all hangs together once it gets put on a timeline and some music thrown into it. Because the leap of faith you have to take as a director and how long you have to sustain that leap of faith is kind of stunning and actually shocking that people have full term careers. Because amount of anxiety you have to learn to manage as a creative director or a live action director.

Ryan Summers:

I've sat with Guillermo del Toro and watched him for weeks put scenes together and be like, "It's not working. It's not working. It's probably not going to work. Take it out of the movie." And then the last little thing clicks in a place like-

Shane Griffin:

Yeah, it's perfect.

Ryan Summers:

... "What was I so worried about?" It's hard to express the psychology that goes into being in the position you're in and that mental, I don't know the right word, fortitude and belief in yourself you have to have.

Shane Griffin:

Yeah. There's a lot of trust that you have to instill in the team of course. A lot of it's about keeping a cool head and... But I think being able to detach yourself from the stress of it is not like a skill. I think it's only by virtue of knowing how the tools work. If I was a director doing this spot and I didn't have any experience in 3D or I didn't have any inside knowledge on how the post process works, I would've been stressed out of my mind for the whole job.

Shane Griffin:

But I know that every time we see a play blast or every time we see a render frame or a Temp Comp, I know that where it's at. And I think that that helps to alleviate a lot of worry and a lot of anxiety from the job. But that's not on every job, I suppose.

Ryan Summers:

I've been amazed working with directors or honestly like agencies where I have a lot of empathy for them because they don't have that language. I can't tell you how many times, I'm sure you've run into this where you show someone a play blast or a gray box just like SIM, and you can see the worry come across their face for like, "This isn't what it's going to look like." And like, "I don't know how I could live with that responsibility, not even understanding what stage of development everything is." That always, I feel bad, I feel a lot of pain for people having to live in that.

Ryan Summers:

And then just be like, "Do you just spend your whole time holding your breath until the day it ships?" You're like, "Okay, we got through another one."

Shane Griffin:

Yeah. We had a similar issue on the job with The Giant, Fully Monster, made up all the furs. I remember the producer, we were all on the call, producer A says to producer B, "Look, the first time we see that may actually be when we deliver the thing." And producer two goes, "That's not going to work for me." And we were like, "How would a play blast?"

Ryan Summers:

Let's go to school. I wonder sometimes if that's actually... If you can do it in a way that's not condescending. If there's a way to like in a very trusty situation where people all trust you, be able to do that. Like, "Hey, let me show you how my process is going to work so you don't get scared. From a previous job I've done, here's the storyboard, here's previs. It looks weird, but let me just show you one-to-one, just literally scrub or flipbook it. Here's where it landed. Just so you know it'll get there."

Ryan Summers:

Because I feel like a lot of people in that position don't want to show that they don't understand it. But if you could find a way, like doesn't that trust could be like your super power.

Shane Griffin:

Yeah, yeah. Again, it's down to like communication, isn't it?

Ryan Summers:

Yeah.

Shane Griffin:

If you can find a shorthand with the people you're working with for that stuff, I think it's... I will say a lot of the times nowadays, people have become a lot more trusting, I think, where they're like, "Hey, we know this is your thing and we trust that you're going to get it across the line, so-

Ryan Summers:

That's great.

Shane Griffin:

... go for it. And like I said earlier on, it's like, I think they wanted somebody who, for this job in particular, who they knew wouldn't let any stone go unturned. It's like you need somebody in your camp who's going to be obsessed with the end product as you are.

Ryan Summers:

Right. I could talk to you forever. I want to ask you two more questions.

Shane Griffin:

Please.

Ryan Summers:

What about Apple, this piece, what was the most difficult shot or the shot that kept you up at night? Because the range of things you're achieving in this, obviously beautiful live action, comping a lot of amazing stuff, that opening assembly, that's amazing. Doing a lot of character work, you're doing some shots with large crowds. You're trying to tell this whole story of like, "Hey, please trust us." Again, come back home, was there a shot or a sequence or a moment that you were worried or not sure how it turned out that ended up being amazing?

Shane Griffin:

Yes. Specifically the stadium. I was worried about the angle we were shooting the stadium at and how deep the crowd would go if we were going to see repeats, if we were... The atmosphere in general of the stadium as well, the construction of the stadium, I wanted it to be futuristic, but I didn't want it to be unrealistic. And it was also difficult to find somebody who had experienced building something like that. You needed someone who's like a designer concept artist, but also an amazing modeler. It was a tough one to find.

Shane Griffin:

And we did eventually find this guy who really knocked it out of the park and I was really nervous about that shot before we got to it. That was a shot with everything. It was a live action, it was a comp of a crowd. It was a full CG character. It was like a holographic projection effect on top, it was atmospheric. It was crowd duplication in the background, it was complete CG environment. So it really had one of those shots where if anything doesn't go right, it can let the whole shut down. And there was just so much that went into it.

Shane Griffin:

I was really happy with it in the end, but it was... That was one that I... Usually, I can see a couple of steps ahead, I'm like, "Yeah, yeah. I know we'll put this here, this here, this here." That one, I was like, "Oh, I think it's going to work."

Ryan Summers:

Yeah, you're just taking the leap of faith. You build the team and set them up and cross your fingers.

Shane Griffin:

Cross fingers, yeah, yeah.

Ryan Summers:

But it is beautiful though. It's such a great job of telling the end of the story. You didn't make it easy on yourself, there's some challenging camera angles like you're trying to sell multiple things. At the end of the day, you're still trying to get people to lean in and see what program is on that laptop-

Shane Griffin:

Yes.

Ryan Summers:

... and understand that it's fast. But also the world, the celebration, the vibe of it, you have to match all that and maintain it. It's hard.

Shane Griffin:

Yeah. Yeah. I think like there's so many things that go into that, especially when it's the end shot, because you want it to be the most impressive. You want that story to keep exponentially grown and excitement in growing in vibrancy and intrigue. You kind of save the best for last and a lot of that stuff. And so the arc of that exponential curve of hype was something that we tried a lot of different ways to do it. And then yeah, seeing the stuff on screen as well, anything that we see on screen had to actively be on the actual screen. So we had to screen record all that stuff.

Ryan Summers:

Oh, nice. You play back on set. That's great. I love the... there's the match cut of the hologram character on the screen matching that sweep of the arm up to the next shot worked like chef's kiss there.

Shane Griffin:

Thank you. Yeah, that wasn't even storyboarded at the... When we did that push-in, I was like, "It feels like we're just looking at our shins." Something that fun. I was like, "Why don't we do a whole thing?" So that worked really well and we had a... God, I can't remember the animator's name on it, but he was amazing. He had great instincts with the scale of the character as well and while also keeping it very human.

Ryan Summers:

Yeah. It's so hard to do, especially that up angle. It took one and a half Transformers movies for that team to figure out what you got right in that shot. Just the speed and the momentum and how much energy it takes to get going, but how slow and how long it takes to come to a stop. But then also not feel mechanical, feel like a real person was... There's a lot of sensitivity in that animation.

Shane Griffin:

Yeah, yeah. Big time and all chopping it into whatever 15 seconds of action.

Ryan Summers:

Yeah, exactly. Well, I said I had two questions. That was an amazing answer to that one. Last one, separate from all of this stuff, you sit at the tip of the sphere of a lot of different things. Trends, dealing with clients, NFTs, your website's full of great, really personal work. I'm wondering, we're at the end of the year, we're looking at another probably crazy year. Maybe not as crazy as 2021, but out in the world, out in the horizon of the stuff you're obsessed on, you're researching, you're into, is there a tool or a piece of software or a technique that you just can't wait to get in your hands and find a project to apply it to?

Shane Griffin:

Yeah, definitely. Real time stuff on Unreal 5 moving into... Because what's really interesting about Unreal 5 is that it's beginning to merge a lot of different things together. I know currently a lot of the virtual production stuff is run on Unreal 4, but that's just going to be even better in 5. I'm playing around with it today that the integration of Digital Humans, obviously is amazing. The real time engines call on me this year. That's one of the places that I haven't really dipped in heavily enough yet. So that's definitely on the...

Shane Griffin:

And look, it looks amazing, just even playing around with it in the past few days. The sort of satisfaction you get from real time lighting, real time GI, it's just like, "Oh God, I've been waiting 15 years for this."

Ryan Summers:

I'm glad you said that. Because we do end-of-year podcast and every year I'm like, "This is year real time. This is the year." It's very interesting how real time engines have gone from being like Middleware, basically like you have a team of artists and a team of programmers at a video game studio and they need a way to stitch all the stuff to again throw it up. Middleware showed up like here, "Light and sit, we'll do all the hard work for you. You just make the creative stuff figured out."

Ryan Summers:

But unreal 5, probably because of a lot of the volume and the buzz around Amanda Lauren and all the other things. It's the first version of a realtime engine that feels like it's specifically for filmmakers. When you look at Nanite and Lumen and MetaHumans, all those check boxes are getting ticked so fast that it almost seems insane not to, as a filmmaker be diving into it.

Shane Griffin:

Yeah. I even see some of my traditional director buddies really leaning into the virtual production stuff now and just seeing how they can do 12 locations in a day on a stage-

Ryan Summers:

That's insane.

Shane Griffin:

... and at the same time be able to capture a bunch of beautiful lights traveling over cars and all the stuff that takes an age to set up when you're outdoors. You don't have to put a car on a... You don't have this [inaudible 00:56:08] an Alexa to the side of a Lexus anymore. You just-

Ryan Summers:

If I never have to see a bad process shot comp of people in a car with those halos and fringes around their hair ever again in my life, I would shoot in a virtual production every single time.

Shane Griffin:

Right.

Ryan Summers:

Just for that.

Shane Griffin:

Yeah. And I think it does this thing where it integrates the worlds, the actual collaborative worlds of artists who are going to be real time artists with onset art directors and cinematographers. And it glues that whole situation together. The thing of like shooting green screen and then keying it and handing it off to a... That whole situation is messy. And it does open up a lot of room for error, and it also elongates a process that it's very cumbersome and stuff.

Shane Griffin:

So I think like that, just having the ability to do virtual production and also have it as a design tool and an environment tool and all that other stuff is just great. So that's where my head is at this year. I'm really interested in figuring it out and just trying to break it. Most of the stuff that I do, I just try to break the software. That's the fun base.

Ryan Summers:

Well, I think maybe this time next year, we're going to have to have you back on to see what your discoveries are and see how you break this stuff and how you push it. Because it's so exciting seeing someone who has a foot in live action and a foot in motion design historically getting to be at the place you are when all this stuff is hitting at the same time. You're in rarefied air, but there's also a lot more to go. So we will have to come back next year. Shane, could we get to you on the record right now to have you come back?

Shane Griffin:

Anytime you want me back.

Ryan Summers:

Awesome, dude. Well, thank you very much. If you're listening to this right now, this is the kind of conversation I love, let us know. What do you think? Let us know if you want to hear from more people like Shane and Jim at Dimension, because it may not be your bread and butter After Effects in cinema for conversation right now. But not too far in the future. These are the things we're all going to be thinking about. So thank you again, Shane, thank you so much for the time.

Shane Griffin:

Thank you, Ryan, pleasure and thanks everybody for tuning in.

Ryan Summers:

Okay. Who's excited about going and grabbing a camera, shooting some stuff and adding some CG to it. I know what I'm going to do as soon as this recording's over. Well, let us know if you liked hearing from someone who lives in the world of motion design, but also likes to deal with live action. It's a untapped world for a lot of motion designers. Until the next one, we are always here to inspire you, to introduce to new people and just get you excited about everyday you wake up as a motion designer. We'll see you soon. Peace.