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Endgame, Black Panther, and Future Consulting with Perception's John LePore

By Adam Korenman

Shaping the Epic Tech of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Visualizing the Future of the User Experience - Perception's John LePore joins us on the School of Motion Podcast

Remember watching Iron Man 2 and drooling over all of Tony Stark's sick tech? No, not his Mark V suit. We're talking about the slick UI on his phone and coffee table. Who think's up those incredible advances, and how far off are we from seeing them in real life?
While his skills are undeniable, John needs to work on his super hero outfit.
As it turns out, you can find the answer at one company: Perception. This team of dreamers is behind a number of films you might have heard of, namely the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When they're not helping Hollywood imagine the impossible, they work to design and innovate User Interfaces for real-life products. We had a chance to sit down with the incredible Creative Director John LePore to talk about his experience as a designer of the future.
Pretty... pretty good.
John likes to say he has his dream job. As a senior designer and Creative Director at Perception, John has a chance to invent the eye-popping tech for blockbuster films in addition to work on real-world devices. He has been fortunate to work with a number of talented studios and director, but has found a home in Perception.
The New York native says he owes his inspiration to his wife and daughter. Between work and family, he still finds time to pursue his passion: Anything with wheels. When he's not designing new Stark-Tech or dreaming up a world-changing UI, you might catch him setting record laps on the Northeast's greatest racetracks.
Grab a bowl of Avengers-themed cereal and put on your favorite superhero PJs: John's about to drop some knowledge.

John LePore Podcast Interview

Podcast Show Notes

Here’s all the important reference material, all linked up so you can enjoy the episode!

Artists & Studios:

Danny Gonzales (Perception)


Resources & Links:

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:01 We are at 455 [inaudible 00:00:04]. Speaker 2 00:07 This is the School of Motion Podcast. Come for the MoGraph. Stay for the puns. John LePore 00:16 We can create something that is, we use shavings or particles of Vibranium actuated by ultrasonic sound waves to hover in the air and morph into different dimensional shapes. And we can do that to render anything. We can do it to display any story point, anything that we need in this story. And we just think that's an interesting paradigm to run with that feels unique. It feels distinct. It doesn't feel like anything we've seen in other movies. It feels like something that's connected to the earth and to physicality and just felt really appropriate for this idea of the civilization of Wakanda. So we're often finding ourselves starting the process just with this clean slate of how can we invent a technology or a paradigm or a concept that we haven't seen before in film that can exist in the story and invite the viewers to really imagine that there's a much richer, a much deeper world behind all of this off screen because there's this level of detail packed into these things. Joey Korenman 01:24 Perception is a studio in New York City that has done, to put it mildly, some big projects like the main on end credits for Avengers Endgame. I've heard of it, interface and technology design on Black Panther, fake UI design on Iron Man 2. Not bad, right? That portfolio is enough all by itself to make for an interesting episode. But Perception isn't just working on huge feature films. They're working on future UI projects, literally inventing new ways of interacting, of visualizing data and of using technologies like AR and VR. They're doing this for some huge companies working on the bleeding edge of motion design. In this episode, principal creative director John LePore takes us on a tour of the history of Perception, at least as long as he's been there. And it's fascinating. Joey Korenman 02:17 We talk about how the studio landed the Iron Man 2 gig, which was really their foot in the door moment for the feature film industry. We talk about the challenges of designing UI for blockbuster films, of hiring the right artists who get the unique requirements of those jobs, and on the pressures you face when working with movie studios. We also talk about the work Perception is doing that they can't really promote, the stuff hidden behind NDAs and done for huge companies in the automotive, aerospace and many other industries. How do you sell a brand new service, future consulting when you can't really talk about what you've done? John, i was a blast to talk to you and we got super geeky in this conversation. You're going to love it. So let's get to it, right after we hear from one of our amazing School of Motion alumni. Joey Korenman 03:10 All right, John. I'm very, very excited to talk to you. So thank you so much for coming on the podcast. And yeah, it's an honor man. John LePore 03:17 Oh, Joey, thanks so much for having me on. I'm a huge fan of School of Motion and everything you guys are doing. Joey Korenman 03:24 Awesome. I appreciate that. So I wanted to start by just learning a little bit more about you and you came on my radar a while ago because you've been presenting for Maxon, and I think that's so cool. And I wish more high level creative directors did that kind of stuff because you're working on these amazing projects. But I'd like to kind of hear the CliffsNotes version maybe of how you ended up doing this at Perception. John LePore 03:48 So I joined Perception a very, very long time ago, back in 2006 and came on as just a standard freelance designer, animator, was hanging out for a while. I kept on sort of extending my freelance contract here over and over again and eventually said, "I should really see what it's like to be full time and be on the team and get deeper involvement on these projects rather than being someone that just sort of is thrown in sort of as a project is already starting to move or get up to speed." I wanted to be there from the very beginning and have some influence on those early stages of conceptualization and whatnot. John LePore 04:32 So I took a staff position here and I've always loved it here. I've had a great time working really closely with the two owners here, Danny Gonzalez and Jeremy Laske, who both continued to give me a sort of uncomfortable amount of responsibility. And that allowed me to keep leveling my game up and over the years, eventually was promoted from Art Director to Associate Creative Director to Chief Creative Director. Today, I am a principal of the company and the Chief Creative Director. And it's been a long ride, but it's also been a really amazing ride with a lot of changes also that I never saw coming. Joey Korenman 05:14 Yeah, that's really cool. So I have a question for you if you're comfortable answering this because I feel like a lot of listeners may not know what that word principal means. What changes when you become a principal? John LePore 05:23 So being a principal, I'm really tasked with just making sure that my perspective is not just on the creative but just making sure that the business as a whole is operating the best that it can be. Now luckily, I still get to stay very focused on the creative. It's myself and the two owners are the three principals of the company. And I'm kind of tasked solely with creative, but it's also being as sensitive as possible when working with our managing director, with our production team and with the owners and just making sure that the company is staying healthy and that we're leveraging everything that we're doing creatively to benefit that. Joey Korenman 06:06 Cool. Yeah, that makes a ton of sense. And I assume too that your compensation changes a little bit where now it maybe is tied somehow to the financial health of the company in a way that it's not typically for someone on staff. John LePore 06:17 Exactly. Joey Korenman 06:18 Got it. Cool. So I love that you said uncomfortable level of responsibility. That's a really good way of putting it. I've heard that a lot from people that when you ask an artist, how did you get ahead in your career, and it's sort of like, "I just kept saying yes to things I wasn't qualified to do and somehow managing to do them." So what do you think it was that they saw in you to do that? Do you think it was like jus naivete on their part? Like, yeah sure, John seems like he can do it or did you have something in you that was like you love risk or something like that? John LePore 06:52 I've always told them that they were completely reckless to trust me, especially in the early days, but I think it's what you just said. It wasn't just saying yes, but I had this sort of unspoken code with them where I would do the back up the truck gesture with my hands whenever they would say, "Hey, there's this other thing that's coming in. And we know you're really busy and you're about to get into crunch time on this thing." And I would just sort of put my hands up and say, "Bring it on." Joey Korenman 07:21 Yeah. Love it. That's awesome. And what were you doing before you were at Perception? You said you were freelancing. So were you just kind of doing the rounds around New York? John LePore 07:29 Yeah, I was bouncing around a bunch of different studios in New York. I was working a little bit from home. When I started working in Perception is when I just moved to New York, but previously I was living in upstate New York in a wonderful little town called New Paltz, and I was taking the Adirondack Trailways bus two hours every single day into the city to come and freelance at various different studios, a lot of little boutiques that don't exist anymore, medical and architectural visualizations. I think I was the first ever freelancer at Big Star and had an awesome opportunity to work with Josh and company there when they were just getting started out. And then yeah, eventually, just as I was signing a lease on an apartment in the city, got linked up with Perception and thought, "Oh, these guys are doing some really cool stuff. It will be fun to get in there and check it out." Joey Korenman 08:25 That's awesome. And I mean, I must have read your LinkedIn wrong because my question says you've been at Perception for 10 years, but you've actually been there for 14 years, which is amazing. And this is something that keeps coming up, not generally on this podcast, but because it's more of a private conversation thing. But when I talk to studio owners, it's definitely a big challenge right now to keep really high level creatives on staff at studios. And I would definitely put you in that category. You're very high level. So what's kept you at Perception for so long? What are they doing right? John LePore 08:58 So a big part of it for me is just that I've had a lot of responsibility, I've had a lot of control over the creatives and also the company has really focused in on a very specific focus or specialty that we have. And that specialty is something that's really closely tied to my own personal interests and the things that I care about when it comes to design and even some of my own personal hobbies and whatnot, but I feel that the position that Perception stands in right now is something that I feel very responsible for helping to guide it along with the owners to this very distinct and unique place that we exist in, and I love it. It's been awesome, and as we've done that, our quality of clients and opportunities and projects has gone up and just continued to get better and better year after year. So it's basically, I feel like I've got a pretty sweet deal here. It's not something that I feel any reason to walk away from. Joey Korenman 10:03 Yeah, I mean, you said something earlier too, that you wanted to be sort of earlier in the conversations about a project and have more input on the creative direction of it. And do you think that it's possible to have that as a freelancer or is it really kind of reserved for the staff of a studio to be there on day one, and really influence the creative in that way? John LePore 10:26 I think it's really hard to be in that position as a freelancer. It doesn't mean that it's impossible. Year after year, we work with fewer and fewer freelancers, but there are a few that are like really close, very trusted, frequent freelancers, I wouldn't say perma-lancers, but people that spend a lot of time here whose input and thought process we trust but also their thought process has sort of adapted to the kind of work that we do or the sort of projects that we work on. But otherwise, it's really hard for us to bring a freelancer in out of the blue, even if it's someone that we admire the work, that's incredibly talented and capable, and just throw them into like, "Hey, we need you to get involved strategically in figuring out how we're going to make Project X a success." Joey Korenman 11:20 Yeah, that makes total sense. So can you tell me a little bit about the history of Perception? Because I think everyone listening, if they've heard of Perception, which most people have, it's because of the feature films that you guys have worked on. And it's amazing work. And I also think part of it too, is that Perception has done a pretty amazing job of marketing itself, which I want to talk about. But you kind of hinted when we were emailing that the company did not always look like this. And I know we'll talk about this in a little bit. There's even some newer sort of applications of motion design that you're working on now. So what does the history of Perception look like and how has it changed over the years? John LePore 11:56 So Danny and Jeremy founded Perception in 2001, after leaving RGA. They both were working at RGA together at that point in time. Today, RGA is sort of a digital agency powerhouse. Back then, RGA was still really focused on film, visual effects, believe it or not, and even doing optical effects and things of that nature. They branched off and started Perception in 2001, just as the sort of desktop revolution was kicking into gear. Even a few years after Perception was opened, Perception was featured on as a case of you can buy a desktop machine as opposed to like a silicon graphics workstation to be able to do this kind of work. And so from from then to around 2010 or 2009 or so, the company really functioned as a pretty traditional motion graphics boutique, doing a lot of work for ad agencies on all sorts of commercials and working a lot with broadcast networks, making promos, making show packages, making even things like one year, we did the graphics package for the NBA Finals or for ABC News's election coverage and things like that. Joey Korenman 13:13 That's really cool. Okay, so that really is like traditional, the golden age of MoGraph kind of stuff. And so then what happened to, because if you go on Perception's site now, and we're going to link to everything John and I talk about in the show notes, so please go check out those resources. But if you go to Perception's website now, you don't see anything like that. It's all feature film work and then sort of some of the more futuristic stuff that you guys are working on. So was there a conscious decision? Was there an event? What caused that? John LePore 13:42 So the owners here and everyone on the team were always really hungry to get into film and work on title sequences, work on anything that we could contribute to film and especially the idea of superhero films and this was even before the sort of Marvel Cinematic Universe was its own very established thing that was so cemented in everyone's mind. But still, there was a point in time where we were hearing about, okay, they're going to make an Iron Man movie and they're going to make a Hulk movie. And the owners here were basically just hustling as hard as they could to get involved with either of those productions. John LePore 14:20 We tried a bunch of different things. We were creating spec tests for title sequences, and just throwing them over the fence at them and whatnot. And it took a lot of sort of hounding and pushing and chasing these guys. And eventually, while Iron Man 2 was in production, they were preparing a scene where they're going to have a gigantic projection screen behind character Tony Stark at the Stark Expo. And one of the producers was saying, "All right, we need this sort of like almost broadcast package that's projected on there." They had something and they hated it. And he was like, "How can we find someone who can turn around something that's like broadcast-y and done really quickly and really efficiently?" John LePore 15:05 And he reached out to us, we'd done some little tiny things that sort of led up to that, like we worked on some straight to DVD animated films and little things like that. And when we had those opportunities, report ourselves into them like super hard, but so this thing came up. We had this problem. We needed content for the screen. He said, "All right, let me give these guys Perception a call." We were like, "Okay, this is our audition. This is our opportunity." We did everything we could to nuke this thing and just absolutely kill it, throw everything that we had at it. And they loved it. They loved the work that we did, we made them a whole bunch of different options. John LePore 15:42 And while we were reviewing these different options, or these different directions with them, we're on a conference call with them and they're going through these ideas. And one of them, someone says, "Oh, that style frame with the layers of glass slides, that kind of reminds me of Tony's phone, his glass phone that he has." And this is literally someone not even saying this into the phone, but someone in the back of the room and our ears all perked up. And we're like, "Did he just say glass phone? Did he just say there's going to be like a cool transparent, futuristic glass phone?" John LePore 16:16 And so we got off that call, we finished this process of making this content for this specific screen. And then we literally were like, "All right, as quick as we can, while we still have these guys attention, let's put together a test, a sort of prototype of a glass Stark phone.", and we made over about three or four days, we got a piece of glass that we got cut and the corners rounded on and whatnot. And we shot a little test of someone using and handling this thing almost as if they're in like an R&D laboratory. And we composited graphics and an interface onto this thing. We made this sort of like one minute test of all these different features and functions, all totally presumptuous stuff. We had no brief, we had no real context for how something like this could ever be used in the story or what purpose it would serve, but we just cobbled together this test. John LePore 17:11 And we sent it out to them. And we thought, "Oh, man, they could love this thing." I don't think we heard anything back from them on it for like three or four months. And we were just like, "Oh, man, I wonder if we insulted them by sending this or whatnot." And it was just, they were in production. They were busy doing their thing. And as soon as they turn the corner into post production, they called us up and they said, "Hey, that test that you guys made, would you guys like to take a shot at that element for the final film?" Of course, we all lost our minds, and we're unbelievably excited to jump into that. And we put that element together and just, I'd like to think that by the brute force of our enthusiasm, our passion, how excited we were about this. John LePore 17:59 hey were still cagey about working with a small studio in New York for something like this. But they started handing us a few more shots for another element. First, it was just the glass phone. And then it was the transparent coffee table. And then there were all these other elements throughout the film that they're asking us to pitch them concepts for and do designs for and I think ultimately, at the end of the day, we ended up delivering something like 125 visual effects shots for Iron Man 2, and that was really our first work ever in feature film. Joey Korenman 18:32 All right. That's one of the craziest stories I've ever heard. Let's unpack this a little bit. That is amazing. All right. So I feel like new artists, especially if you're on social media, and you follow different studios and different artists, different influencers, you get a lot of conflicting advice about the kind of stuff that you guys did to get Iron Man 2. You did free work. You did spec work. And to me, it's like, obviously in hindsight, it's like well, obviously, what a smart idea. But at the time, I'm sure that the owners and you were probably nervous as hell, because it is pretty presumptuous to do that. And you knew nothing about what they wanted for that phone. So can you talk a little bit about the conversations you had? And was anyone ever like, "Well, we shouldn't be giving this stuff away because what if we give them a great idea, and then they take it over to ILM or something?" Can you just talk a little bit about that and was that ever playing into the thought process? John LePore 19:35 So I will say, culturally the industry, and particularly our mentality around that was very different 10 years ago, when this was happening than it even is today. And I can talk a little more about how our perspective has changed on that. But back then, pitching on almost every single project that you work on was a very common thing. Pitching with a micro pitch fee or no fee at all was very common, doing these intense competitive pitches was a very common thing. And so for us, it was probably not as much of like a, are we destroying our own credibility by approaching this this way. But also, we very much were aware that we're not like a small fish in a big pond so when it comes to working with a film studio working on one of these giant blockbusters, we're like an amoeba in this ocean, right. If you really want to get in there, you've got to try and figure out your way to get in. John LePore 20:49 Basically, there's no point in saying, "Oh, we're going to get in touch with producers or a director of a film and they're going to just see some talent deep inside of us without any proof or anything that shows relevance to what they're doing." And of course, you know, at this point in time, we didn't have a catalog of futuristic technology that we had designed previously. The closest thing we had was like a lot of data visualization, stuff that we'd created for ABC News's election coverage. But beyond that, it was something that we were really passionate about and really excited about as an aesthetic and a concept. But we didn't have a portfolio that we could put in front of them just to say like, "Yeah, we're the perfect people to handle something like that." Joey Korenman 21:33 Yeah. And I remember, there definitely was a different vibe around pitching back then. And so you said that your perspective has changed or maybe the industry's perspective has changed. Could you talk a little bit about that? John LePore 21:45 Yeah, absolutely. So as we've been transitioning, as you mentioned, you go on our website, you don't see any advertising work. You don't see any broadcast work, all you see is film work. That's at least partially accurate, we maybe a once in a while there's an ad agency that contacts us. We haven't done a broadcast project in probably five or six years. We really focus on this idea of the future of technology. And part of that transition was us also realizing that our audiences for that work were really enthusiastic and really excited to work with us on projects like that. And the relationships were a lot different than the kind of relationships we were having with ad agencies and broadcast networks. I would say around 2009 to 2010, we distinctly noticed a shift with those clients where it just sort of seems like there was a Wikipedia article that was published that was like, "How to abuse your vendors?", right. And we were finding that pitches were getting more demanding. We were finding continually that we were competing with more and more studios. John LePore 23:11 So I think the standard tasteful pitch was there's going to be three studios that will pitch for a concept. And we were finding more and more that we're pitching against five studios, seven studios, or we're not going to tell you who you're pitching against. And actually, for the last six months, we've been shopping this brief to almost every studio in town and everyone's taken a crack at it, and we still haven't awarded it to anyone. It just felt like something was broken there and wasn't going very well. So we were finding that we were working in film and also in other aspects that tie into futuristic technology. The clients were really appreciative. They were really respectful of what we were doing and that really helped to sort of like signal this change in the company and in the mindset. John LePore 24:02 Now around that same time, the owners decided, and I really admired this because I thought it was a very bold, very ambitious move. They basically said, "We are not going to pitch anymore." We're just not going to do unpaid pitches for any clients. There is one exception. We do on occasion, we will still pitch for our friends at Marvel. But even on those projects, there's at least half of them if not more of them are awarded to us without pitching. Joey Korenman 24:38 Let's go back in time a little bit too, because you were also talking about how, you even got the opportunity to sort of pitch this idea for the phone interface. And you said the owners were basically hustling really hard to get on Marvel's radar. And I'm wondering, what did that actually look like? Were they sending cold emails with Creative, like attached to it? Were they showing up at Marvel's office with a DVD to show demo reel? Because that's often the hardest part of getting your foot in the door, just like getting on someone's radar, getting five minutes with them to even show what your capabilities are. And so I'm just curious if you could talk a little bit about what that process looked like. John LePore 25:21 So I don't have all the details of every single phone call or door that was knocked on or whatnot, but I can tell you this, the owners here were always really, in the best way possible, they have absolutely no chill when it comes to trying to acquire something that they want to bring in as some new business here. So you can imagine pictures of the people that they want to contact literally pinned to the wall in their office as this constant reminder to them. And from there, it was everything from contacting each one of these individuals in every different way or format that you can think of. A lot of this sort of things that you'd expect like, "Hey, I'm in town for some other meetings, you know, I'll swing by at this time, hope you're there when I get there.", and whatnot. And just that really nonstop sort of push and approach that eventually started opening some doors. Joey Korenman 26:27 I really love hearing about that stuff because the stuff that gets all the headlines and it's the sexy work, and I think it's starting to dissolve a little bit. But there used to be this myth that just doing awesome work is enough. And if you're good enough, Marvel will find you and they'll figure out that they should be working with you. And of course, that's not the case. And so it's really cool to hear that even at a place that clearly has such a creative DNA in it, that there are salesmen, working at the company that have the ability to sell. And on that note, I was just noticing going around your website, Perception's website is not at all like other studios websites. First of all, if you go to Buck's website, giant and [inaudible 00:27:09] kill two birds, like any gunner even, it's a grid of work essentially, you know. And there's not that much information about the studio, maybe there's some pictures of the office or something like that. But it's basically look at our work. Joey Korenman 27:21 And when you go to Perception's, the work is front and center, but there's so much more. There's case study after case study after case study. There's sections that just don't exist on other websites. It seems like there's a lot about Perception's culture,. You're featuring the staff. There's a YouTube channel with interviews of probably most of the staff of Perception, little mini docs about things. Why do all that? Is it a sales thing? Is it a culture thing? It's just because it's very different than what I see other companies do. John LePore 27:54 So we have a huge challenge here at Perception, which is that only about half of the work that we can do is work that we can share publicly on our website. So the half of the work that you see is all of the work that we do for the Marvel films, whether it's the future tech or the title sequences or things like that, that stuff is all readily available on our site because there is a method and a precedent for being able to share that stuff as a collaborator on that kind of work. Now the other half of the work that we do here is based on working on real world technology with some really amazing clients on some really spectacular projects. I'd say that many of these projects that we're doing in real world tech are at least as fascinating, engaging and challenging as the work that we do in film. However, this is all work for future products, distant future products, even like long term strategies for some of these major companies. And that's content that we can't really share and put out there. John LePore 29:09 So we have this whole other side to our company that's sort of flying under the radar. And I think there's like some repressed need to get it out there and share as many of these ideas as we can. So we try to do that, through talking a lot about our mindset and our approach to the work that we do. There's a lot of blog posts. We do a lot of interviews with our own team members. We have our own incredible podcast, Perception Podcast, where there's interviews almost specifically with visionaries and leaders in the worlds of technology, science and engineering. And it's just sort of our way of trying to compensate for the fact that we've got this like, locked tight Pandora's box of shit that we really want to share with the world. Joey Korenman 29:57 Yeah, that makes total sense. And I'm really fascinated by that kind of stuff, I want to talk about it. But I would be remiss if I didn't ask you about the amazing film work a little bit more. So I do want to hear about sort of the process of designing things for say, Tony Stark's futuristic glass iPhone. I've never actually worked on feature films ever, or fake UI projects. So I'm always curious about how do you even start that process, because you know, all of the work that I did in my client work days, it was basically to advertise a thing, right, or to explain a thing. And this fake UI work and this feature film stuff, it's a totally different thing because A, it has to at least mimic a user interface and the way things might actually work. Joey Korenman 30:43 At the same time, it's probably more important in a film that it looks really cool and supports the story. So what is the process like? Do you get the script and then you look at that first? What does it look like when someone comes to Perception and says, "There's this technology built on sand. And I need basically the Apple Watch version of that, come up with something." John LePore 31:05 So first off, I appreciate that you've already you see some of the initial layers of like insight into this and the challenges here. And sometimes that's even a problem that we can have with film studios. We're really lucky to work with Marvel, because they really do care about the way that technology and science ties into their stories. And you think of even like, how many characters in the Marvel universe are scientists and inventors, doctors, engineers and whatnot, they really encourage us to basically go crazy with this stuff and go as deep into it as we can. We've had some less fulfilling experiences working with other studios on films, where the brief is basically just like, "Hey, we just need some glowing blue shit on the wall so that people know that it's the future.", right. And we're always trying to push for like what is the best way that we can reimagine this sort of stuff. So sometimes we're getting pages from the script, sometimes we're receiving concept art. Today, more and more, we're starting earlier in the process with almost a clean slate. John LePore 32:18 So when you're talking about sand interfaces, you're referring to our work on Black Panther, right. And on Black Panther, we started work on that film about 18 months before the film was released at a point in time where they were still refining the script a little bit. And at this point, this was probably our, I don't know, like our 12th or 15th film working with Marvel so they have a lot of trust in us in our approach to visualizing the future of technology. And they basically just said, "Hey, can you guys get on the phone with the director, Ryan Coogler, in about a week. And just talk to him about what opportunities you think there are in technology for this world of Wakanda. And you know, FYI, if you don't already know you guys, the world of Wakanda, it's got to have the most advanced technology in the world. And it's got to have technology that is not been influenced by anything else that exists in reality." John LePore 33:20 So we got off of that call and just kind of looked at each other, we're like, "Holy shit. This is like the greatest brief I think you could ever receive." And we started by putting together a document that was just sort of a catalog of ideas, of thoughts, of really just sort of artifacts from some initial brainstorming that we were having. We're looking at a lot of real world technology, or really interesting principles or things that are out there in the world. And for Black Panther, we know that this concept of Vibranium, the magical element of Vibranium that can only be found in the world of Wakanda, that was going to play a significant element in the story. And we thought, all right, so how can we take this idea of Vibranium, vibration, sound, how can we come up with technological things that feel influenced by that? So we're looking at everything from cymatic patterns, which are like sound frequencies making actual geometric shapes and forms, to things like, the University of Tokyo was doing these tests where they're using ultrasonic transducer arrays to levitate styrofoam particles using ultrasonic sound waves, yeah. John LePore 34:40 And we basically blended a bunch of different things together and just kind of went to the studio into the director and said, "Hey, all right, here's a bunch of different things.", and there was a lot of stuff that we went through. We were talking about different ways of thinking about how color can apply to tech, thinking about different cultural cues that we can pick up on and embed into this technology. But just as a core idea, we're like, we think rather than holograms in your film being made of glowing blue light as we've seen in every film since the original Star Wars, right, with like, "Help me Obi Wan, you're my only hope.", right. We can create something that is, we use shavings or particles of Vibranium actuated by ultrasonic sound waves to hover in the air and morph into different dimensional shapes. And we can do that to render anything. We can do it to display any story point, anything that we need in this story. John LePore 35:37 And we just think that's an interesting paradigm to run with that feels unique. It feels distinct. It doesn't feel like anything we've seen in other movies. It feels like something that's connected to the earth and to physicality and just felt really appropriate for this idea of the civilization of Wakanda. So we're often finding ourselves starting the process just with this like clean slate of, how can we invent a technology or a paradigm or a concept that we haven't seen before in film that can exist in this story, and invite the viewers to really imagine that there must be a much richer, a much deeper world behind all of this off screen, because there's this level of detail packed into these things? So sorry, that's probably the most like off the rails answer to a very simple question of how do you get started with this, but that's the first essential building block, is just like how do we create something fresh and new. Joey Korenman 36:40 Yeah, and I mean, that's got to be the most fun part of your job, I would imagine is that kind of blue sky thinking. What you're making me think of is this, like if I'm a creative director, and I come up with an idea like that and the director loves it, then I'm sure the next stage is, "Okay, well show me like some concept art of this, maybe some motion test." And what you just described, I'm a pretty technical motion designer and I'm thinking, "All right, I need like a Houdini artist.", you know this is going to be pretty gnarly technical execution. So what kind of team do you need at your disposal? Do you have concept artists, like you sort of traditionally have in the Hollywood film process? Or are you looking for motion designers with a certain sort of bent or set of creative skills? Who then takes that idea and iterates on it? John LePore 37:33 So just in general, for this kind of work that we're doing, I really love the motion designer skill set and almost sort of attitude because there's so much flexibility that's just sort of built into that. I think most motion designers are people who are used to one week being asked to make a animated type layout, and then the next week being asked to do a part simulation or something to that effect. And it's really critical for us that we have people that are comfortable flexing between all of these different attributes. Now, it's also a tricky thing because yes, you're right. What I just described sounds like the most complex and challenging thing, but we do everything that we can to kind of approach it from as many different angles as possible. And on Black Panther, we definitely were doing Houdini sims, and you know, a lot of complicated X particles stuff right from the very start. John LePore 38:32 But we were also doing things like we built a small sandbox in our office, and we just shot tests of us moving and manipulating real physical sand, and we had little toy trucks that we had coded with sand to replicate this tactical table that Black Panther uses to see his enemies down on the ground below and just play around with like, "Hey, we were thinking, you can pick things up like this. You can handle them like this.", just as a way to make sure that we're also reinforcing how much we're maintaining the physical, like tactile qualities of sand and leveraging that for these interactions. Some cases, it is in these early stages, it's a lot of diagrams or sketches, or even just written treatments accompanied with lots of reference material, evidence of other scientific tests. John LePore 39:27 I'd mentioned the stuff being done at the University of Tokyo and whatnot, and leveraging all of that material just to both kind of like attack the challenge from every different perspective that you can to be able to utilize whatever skills we have at our disposal. And many times, it is really just a decision that's based on who is available to us, with what skill sets, and how can we kind of like, more of a brief into something that will be compatible with what artist X can contribute to this. But it's also, I find sharing this wide range of approaches with the clients, it gives them a more diverse way of thinking about it. And especially when we're bringing in the real world science of it, it's convincing them that what we're proposing isn't just magic. It's not just a piece of art. It's not just a visual effect. But it's something that's really grounded in a logic that will make it feel much more real. John LePore 40:23 Even if there's not a scene in the film where the characters look at each other and say, "Oh, you see these granules morphing into different shapes? They're levitated by ultrasonic sound waves.", but the fact that when they fly up, they sort of pulse almost with a beat as they pop up. It just gives a little bit of that clue, that hint, that invites people to think these ideas are much more real and go much deeper beyond exactly what you see on screen. Joey Korenman 40:48 Yeah. All right, so I want to learn a little bit about the team that's doing this because I'm on your website right now, on the About page and the team, and maybe there's more people that actually work full time, but it's a pretty small team, I think 15 people on your About page. John LePore 41:03 That's us. We're a relatively small and tight knit team, and we expand when we need to with freelancers, but we don't quadruple in size by any means. Joey Korenman 41:19 Well, that's amazing. When I hear feature film, I imagine the stereotype of the VFX sweatshop with 200 roto artists and something like that. And I know that that's not what you guys are doing. But I mean, you mentioned I think on Iron Man 2, something like 125 shots or something like that. You can do that with a small team and a few freelancers, or is like the schedule what allows that because you're working for a longer periods of time? John LePore 41:46 It's all possible. You have to be very careful. You have to be very thoughtful. You have to be very strategic about how you approach this work. But yeah, it's stuff that can be done with these teams. I mean, don't get me wrong, especially on films and especially as we're closing in on the delivery of these films, as you might imagine, there's a lot of really hard work that goes into this. But we're also, me in particular, I'm very obsessed with the idea of just efficiency and just figuring out the most efficient and effective way of working, and how we can really hone in on what's going to be the most dramatic, like bang for your buck moment. And how can we then use that to trickle down to make alternate versions or other shots much more easier to execute and produce and whatnot. But yeah, man, I mean, it takes a village. Joey Korenman 42:44 Yeah, I'm glad you brought up what you just said, because I actually watched some of your presentation. I think it's an older one, but you presented it at the Maxon Booth when you're at SIGGRAPH. And that's kind of what struck me, and I think that was kind of the whole point of your presentation. By the way, we'll link to this in the show notes, everyone can go watch it. It's really great. And you were showing basically how clever you can be with cinema 4D to do things that, one example is you made type that looks like it's made out of a spiderweb. And you did it in the super clever way that's like pretty customizable and only takes like a few minutes. And I cannot imagine how useful that is to have a creative director that has that technical ability also. Joey Korenman 43:25 And I've also heard from other creative directors that one of the challenges with getting into that role is that you don't get to be on the box as much, and you're not in the weeds figuring out those technical challenges. So how do you balance that? Are you still trying to get your hands dirty and do shots, and act almost like a technical director while you're creative directing? John LePore 43:46 So it's a tricky thing, and I think most creative directors would love any reason to just sort of like sit down and lock themselves into the box and just make stuff. Making this stuff is I think one of the reasons that we all do this is that you can really easily get satisfaction out of this work and what you do. And then of course, in the long term, you look at the final product and you're just like, "Oh, yeah. I made that. Every pixel of that is mine, and I own that. And I feel so rewarded by seeing that out there in the wild.", and whatnot. And I think it's really difficult for people as they're transitioning from a senior artist to an art director, to a creative director to start stepping away a little bit further and further, because just sort of like leaning over someone's shoulder and just saying, "No, just a little more like this.", doesn't feel like the most gratifying and satisfying thing. And it's something that you know, many years back I was struggling with as I was going through that transition. John LePore 44:53 And still to this day, I try to find a window here or there to get on the box and make stuff. But these days, anytime I sit down, I get on the box to make stuff. I then put it alongside what the really talented team in the studio that we have here, the things that they're doing, and I'm just like, "Why do I even bother?" These guys are so much more technically adept. They're so much more focused and they have this time and attention. And I do try now to intentionally stay away from the box only because once I get on the box, it becomes a magnet, and I start caring a little bit less about what everyone else is working on. And I'm more obsessed with making sure that whatever I'm doing is, as any artist does in this situation is like I want to make sure my contribution is the best contribution out of what's going into this. And I'm cheating myself because I'm only spending a fraction of my time to do it. I'm making myself more frustrated and upset that I'm no keeping up with things. John LePore 46:02 And my mind is always too close to my box so I try to stay away, keep an eye on the big picture. Sometimes it's a very aggressive, swooping in and saying like, "No, we need to change this and make sure it starts here. And it goes to this and it does this and does this.", and sometimes it's just like a really gentle nudge on the steering wheel or even just saying like, "Hey, you're looking at the road ahead, lift your eyes up and look even farther down the road and just think about this problem this way or this way.", and I've had to sort of train myself to feel like I'm actually making a difference because again it just really, it's still at the end of the day, I see these films in the theater, I'm just like, "Oh, that's Doug's piece right there. And that's Russ' element right there. And oh, Justin made this beautiful thing right here.", and whatnot. You have to remind yourself that like, all right, well, there was at least a little strategic nudging to push these things in the direction to where they had to go. Joey Korenman 47:04 Yeah, that's a perfect description of being a creative director. It's like you have to figure out a way to get your ego out of the way. I had a very hard time with it when I started creative directing, back in my client days, and even now at School of Motion, it's something that I constantly have to remind myself like, "It's not about me, it's not about me.", because as a maker, it's fun to make stuff. And then it's fun when something you made, someone else says they like it, but you have a team now. So I want to get into some of the newer stuff that you guys are working on. And when you reached out on LinkedIn, I think because we mentioned you in an interview with Mark Christiansen, and you said, "I'd love to talk to you about some of the work we're doing as future consultants.", and I've never heard that term before. And I think I kind of know what it means, but maybe you could explain what that is and what you meant. What are you guys doing now that's different from the feature film stuff? John LePore 47:56 Sure. So basically, ever since our first film work, creating future tech in Iron Man 2, we almost immediately started getting contacted by major technology brands who are coming to us and saying, "Hey, we love the way these technologies and these interactions are presented in film. Can you guys help us figure out how we can do that with our real world products, and software platforms, and whatnot?" So ever since Iron Man 2, we've been doing more and more of that work. And I'd say since 2013 or 2014, it's really been a very conscious focus for us that we spend half of our time working in film. And of course, as you can hear me geek out about this stuff, we take the film stuff really seriously when we're designing tech and film. We want it to feel as realistic, as complex, as rich as possible because audiences are really really savvy to this stuff. John LePore 49:00 Then we spend the other half of our time working on real world products and technologies that will one day be in users hands, or be something that surrounds users or whatnot and figure out, how do we start to really bring in that cinematic mindset into creating things that also have to be extremely usable, functional, human and user focused, and how do we distill that or find that balance when creating real world products, right. So we love going back and forth between these two spaces, and there's definitely a precedence for this idea of science fiction, informing science fact. But we also kind of consider it like a continuous loop between those two things. Even our work on Black Panther, we learned about the ultrasonic transducers being used to levitate Vibranium particles, because we were actually using those actual transducers for a project that revolved around midair haptics where you hold your hand out in space, and you can feel haptic sensations on your hand so it's almost like being able to touch or feel things that aren't really there, tons of like amazing, awesome applications for augmented reality and whatnot. John LePore 50:22 But we love this loop of going back and forth between fiction and reality. And we're finding ourselves just as we were in film, starting more from a big sort of conceptual point, the same thing is happening with the real world products where a lot of clients are bringing us in and they're saying, and these are some really awesome clients. They're some great companies and we're getting to work with people who aren't at an agency that works for that company, but we're working with people who are like in the inner sanctum of this company's own Black Ops innovation laboratory or whatnot, who are bringing us in and saying, "You know, we have a patent for a new way of interacting, or we have this new thing that's leveraging an emerging technology. How can we find a way to make this applicable or useful for a user? And then how do we start to build a suite of interactions and ways of working with it? And then eventually, how do we visualize it? How do we design? How do we present this technology to a user?" Joey Korenman 51:27 That is so interesting to me, okay so because I'm trying to put myself in, and I know that like there's NDAs, and you probably can't talk about a lot of this stuff, but let's just pretend that you've done something for say, Microsoft. Why is Microsoft coming to what in their eyes is clearly a visual effects studio? Aren't there product designers that they go to school for this, and they've studied ergonomics and things like that. It's just not intuitive to me why they would see a movie with cool visual effects and really neat fake user interface and say, "The company that invented this pretend thing, I bet they could also make real stuff that's really cool." I mean, do you feel that way or is it just obvious to you that there's a connection? Did it always seem like, "Oh yeah, that makes sense." John LePore 52:17 I think there's a little bit of, you know, there's sort of like, "Oh, I see it in film. How do we make that for real?", right. And there's a lot of clients that come to us a little bit through that path. Today, there is at least in those companies and in that culture, people are at least aware from closed door presentations and whatnot, are deeper capabilities in that space. But so you mentioned Microsoft, it was about five years ago, maybe a little more than five years ago, Microsoft came to us to develop interactions and some interface schemes for the HoloLens. And this was about two years before the HoloLens was even announced. While we were working on it, we didn't even know what it was. They said we've got this extremely confidential thing. Think of it as a, you're a character in a video game and you've got a special heads up display that can show you things and whatnot. So they came to us partially because they knew that we had this cinematic view of technology. John LePore 53:23 I think they were actually surprised by how much we were embracing the principles of user experience and interaction design to make something that wasn't just concept art, but was much more plausible. But we worked with them, we developed a bunch of different prototypes and concepts that they then took in house and I am still technically not allowed to say like what particular application they were designed for. But it was something that helped them wrap their heads around, how do you interact in 3D space, right, like motion designers, very comfortable working in 3D space, very comfortable working with information and data. And how can you place those things in a volumetric space that makes sense? And also, how do you present things that communicate quickly and efficiently? Motion graphics artists, very good at that, right. And how can these things live and breathe and move in that environment? So it seemed like a really natural fit for that particular case. John LePore 54:30 And also was this thing where it was like, I think on their side or on many of our technology clients sides, they're saying, "All right, the engineers and the developers are so constrained by some of the limitations that they have.", they really have a difficult time pushing really far beyond those limitations. And today, those limitations are all opening way up. And I think everybody sees a huge amount of potential with all the possibilities with real time game engines and things of that matter. But a lot of traditional interaction designers, UX artists, developers and whatnot, are coming from a mindset that's locked into websites and apps and things of that nature. And a lot of these bigger picture emerging technologies, I think need a much more aggressive push into what's really possible. Joey Korenman 55:25 That is awesome. All right, I have some questions about sort of the business side of this. So you've mentioned it, and I think after this conversation, I'm sure a lot of people are going to go check out Perception's website, and they're going to want to see some of this stuff, and you can't show it. And even sort of talking about this HoloLens project, you can't get too specific about it. And there's a lot of that now in motion design because of, typically, I think it's because of big tech companies, Apple and Google and Facebook, making studios sign NDAs. So I'm assuming there's some of that, but there's also you're designing a concept for a product that may not make it to market ever, if at all, and if it does, it might be 10 years. So how do you tell other companies that you've done this? Is it you have to just go and make them close the door and lock it, and close the blinds and then show them and promise not to tell? How does that work? John LePore 56:18 You typically can't share. There's some projects that have allowed like, "Hey, behind closed doors are not public facing." There's some things that you could show, but for the most part, even doing that is technically like corporate espionage, right, like you're showing potentially other company's competitors, what they're up to, and what they're developing and what they're thinking about. So you really can't do that. And the way we approach it is just by having as many deep invested conversations with them, where we talk about our capabilities and the kinds of things that we're doing. As time goes on, there's a few other little nuggets or things that we can bring up and share, and put out there to sort of validate ourselves. But usually just from talking to us deeply enough, they can see, "Oh, okay, these guys really are taking this stuff seriously.", and almost anytime that we go to do a presentation, we've been invited to share with one of these amazing brands, why we think we can provide some help for them. John LePore 57:27 There's always one person in the room who kind of like raises their hand and is like, "Hey, making pretty crap for movies is one thing.", but I think we're at this point very, very comfortable in this real world technology space and working with not just developers and user experience artists, but we've got an amazing team here that help to understand all of these sort of new disciplines that we're blending into motion. We have a full time user experience lead, who's also like C4D Wiz himself, screen guy, Chase Morrison. Even our Visual Effects Director Doug Appleton, one of the most amazing and imaginative people I've ever worked with, is really well versed in all of the fundamentals of user experience, and can work that into the real world technology projects, as well as the work we're doing in film. Joey Korenman 58:28 I have limited experience with user experience, but it seems like it's almost becoming, it's just a philosophy. It's a way of looking at a creative problem through the eyes of the user. Do you find it hard to, I know you have the core team. But when you staff up with freelancers, I mean, do they ever work on these projects, or is that only on the film stuff? John LePore 58:52 Whenever we're bringing in freelancers, we'll need them anywhere, right. And it's a really tricky thing, finding freelancers who are a 2Ds/3D designimator who's also extremely well versed in user experience design or has experienced designing- Joey Korenman 59:10 It's a unicorn. John LePore 59:11 Instrument clusters for exotic cars or things like that. And typically what I've, so there's not really that much of a precedent for that, which is it's difficult when we're hiring. It's great when we're looking for new business because we have extremely limited competition, or I can almost really think of like one other studio maybe that's in sort of like direct competition with us and otherwise, just targeting different goals than most of the other studios are that are out there. But yeah, the downside is it's really hard to find people with that skill set. So what I do is I'm always looking for and I still lean really hard on the motion design pool of artists, right. I just love fundamentally sometimes, in the past, we've tried, "All right, let's bring on a user experience designer. Let's bring on someone who's designed a bunch of apps before or whatnot.", and they usually can't get out of that box. And we find the motion designers, they're just so ambitious, they're so willing to adapt to these challenges that they fit really well into these projects. John LePore 01:00:23 So I'm always looking for people that are great generalists that have a good sense of design and animation. And if they don't have any user experience, then I'm looking for things that at least can tie in a little bit or be relevant. I want people that are really comfortable working with typography and informational layouts, even if all they've been using that for is making end pages or tune in pages for broadcast networks or something like that. If they can do that really well, they'll probably have an easy time laying out information in a interface as long as we can then support them by providing a wireframe or something else to help guide them through that process. Joey Korenman 01:01:06 Right. And I'm assuming this was a real project, but you mentioned car interfaces. I know you can't get too specific, but what are some other things that you guys have been working on? I mean, interfaces for things that have screens is the most obvious, but it sounds like you've moved beyond that. John LePore 01:01:25 Yes. So the broad strokes of it would be, we've done a lot of work in emerging technologies, things like augmented reality. We've done a lot of work in any applications or software products that are going to utilize rich three dimensional visualizations, or we're navigating through a three dimensional space is a critical part of the experience. And we've done that in some cases for major giant, titans of tech. Sometimes it's more niche industries like we've worked with the company that is the industry leader in designing flight simulators, like the $25 million pod on hydraulic leg flight simulators that the commercial airlines and military pilots are using for training. We've done a lot of work with the automotive world, automotive's view on technology sometimes moves a little bit slowly. It's like one of the oldest industries in the world, and all the automotive manufacturers are trying really hard to get a leg up on technology and how it can be applied both to present day products. John LePore 01:02:40 And we've done things like design, instrument clusters for cars like the Ford GT, which is this like amazing $450,000 Ferrari killer vehicle that has this beautiful instrument cluster that reminds the driver that this thing is a really powerful tool and instrument that they can't just treat it like a toy, right. We also work with automotive manufacturers on developing, how are people going to interact with an autonomous car, 15 years from now, when they request an autonomous car to come and pick them up much like they would in Uber, but how do you make eye contact with your Uber driver to let them know that you're the person they're supposed to pick up when there's no driver? And things like that, and just roughing out every different step of that challenge. Do we put displays in the car? Do we put displays on the outside of the car? Do we just stick with the display that's in everyone's pocket already? How do we solve some of these bigger picture challenges? Joey Korenman 01:03:48 That is so cool. And so then, I mean, that's a great example right there, right. You have autonomous vehicles, and there's a UI problem now because how does the car know that you're the person on the corner they're picking up? And I'm assuming in a situation like that, there's all kinds of technological limitations. I mean, there may even be like physics that you have to pay attention to of like, we can't do this because it's going to throw off the traffic cameras, things that you as a motion designer would have no way of knowing. So how do you wrap that information? And is that from the client? Are they putting you in touch with like their engineers and scientists and people like that, or do you have to build that capability as well at Perception? John LePore 01:04:34 So there's all these other, you know when you get into these bigger picture technology paradigms, there's a never ending stream of exactly what you've kind of identified these like outside factors that are going to affect the experience. So one of the things that we're constantly trying to do is figure out ways to prototype these ideas, earlier and earlier in the process so that you can anticipate some of these unforeseen challenges. Like motion design, you sort of make your style frames or your storyboards, and you can expect a pretty smooth ride to completion in terms of like, yeah, we can all imagine what the final product is going to look like. John LePore 01:05:14 But in these spaces, especially when we're preparing something that is going to end up in users hands in the near future, we really have to figure out what do we have to do to get out ahead of that? And often, we're working with user experience gurus. We're working with developers, either our own, in house or teams of developers that we've brought on to collaborate with, or often developers and engineers on our clients own side, just to try and get out ahead of as many of these issues and try and figure out how early in the process, can you raise hell to see what's going to really cause a problem. Joey Korenman 01:05:51 It sounds like so much fun. It's like the ultimate problem solving challenge, and I can't imagine how different one project is from the next. I have sort of a business question about this. One of the interesting things and I think this is probably one of the forces that's caused a few companies, some of the big ones we all know about. They've gotten really big over the last few years, because in the olden days, when we called it motion graphics, most of the work we were doing was funded by advertising budgets. And now, like Amazon has an advertising budget, but they also have a product budget that dwarfs the advertising budget. And so if they're prototyping new interactions on the Amazon Alexa or something, they can spend a lot of money on that. Joey Korenman 01:06:35 And I'm imagining that, let's say Ford hires you to do something like this. The budget for it is not tied to the need to sell X amount of cars this year, right. So can you talk a little bit about just sort of what are the budgets for these things like? And what are the timescales? How does it work on a business level? I mean, is this better or worse in terms of lucrativeness than doing sort of traditional motion design? John LePore 01:07:00 So when we're doing this work, I wouldn't say that it's as much about we're having the money cannon shot in our face when we're working on these things, as it is about we're having, and something that's been really great for our company. We've been continuing to expand. I mean, you said we have 15 artists that you see on our website. 18 months ago, it was like, seven, right. And so we've been able to expand and grow, and we're continuing to do so more than anything, because these projects and these relationships are now much longer term projects. We currently have two clients that we are working with at the moment that are both 18 months into a project with us. And we have several others that we're talking less about, and again, back in the days of traditional motion design for us, it was like "Okay, maybe in a week, we're going to work on a project for three weeks, or maybe in two weeks, we're going to work on a project for two months or whatnot.", and that was as much of a view of the road ahead that we have. John LePore 01:08:12 And now we're talking about engagements that are anywhere from six to 18 months long, on much larger scale, continuing and evolving projects. Several of our clients are even saying like, "Hey, we need you developing this exact feature, this exact concept, but we just want you guys on hands.", and every two months, we'll figure out what are the next list of things in our organization that need an innovative approach brought to them by your team. Joey Korenman 01:08:46 I mean, that sounds it's like the Holy Grail. It's like the client that you know isn't fickle and leaves after one project, never to be heard again. And I'd love it if you could talk a little bit about that because earlier, you're talking about the move into deliberately just doing feature films and sort of the stuff that you guys are known for. And it sounded like part of that was driven by the culture of working with ad agencies. And to some extent, I found that culture, it's similar at cable networks and stuff like that. I never found it as awful. But what is it like, you can maybe compare and contrast of like working with an ad agency on a commercial campaign versus working with a company like Ford on their product. I mean, is it a different feeling, like are the relationships different? John LePore 01:09:33 So I want to be careful here because I think there's incredible people, I think there's incredible relationships in both worlds. I think we were finding at a certain point in time, that we were having just relationships that were not very fulfilling. In some of the more traditional spaces, we were one of a nearly infinite number of motion graphics boutiques that, "Hey, you guys crushed it on this campaign. We love everything that you did about it. On the next one, we're still going to try someone else because we like keeping it fresh.", you know, or whatnot. And the work that we're doing, and I think because we're so specialized in what we're doing, our clients really especially in both the film and the technology space. In the film space, I think we have a slightly more positive relationship than even most visual effects vendors. It's not unusual that we're brought in to contribute in a way that's like "Visual effects." John LePore 01:10:43 But we still find ourselves interacting with the directors and the key producers on the film, just helping them with shaping the overall feel or mood of some of these elements, or they're treating us as though we're coming in not just to supply a visual effect. We're helping them with world building. And we're working with technology brands. We're not just giving them a Photoshop file. We are inventing new features. We are inventing new interaction paradigms and whatnot. And this has been a really big thing for us, I'd say particularly for the last four years as we've been working in this space. We've been really trying to pivot even more away from, we are a vendor supplier who is selling you pixels to we are a consultancy who is selling you ideas and concepts and features and strategies. Joey Korenman 01:11:40 Yeah, I think in one of the emails you sent to me, you said that it's been great selling ideas instead of pixels. I'm so fascinated by what you and the team have built over there and blown away. And it sounds like one of the most fun studios to work and I can imagine, I bet a lot of people listening to this are thinking, "Wow, that sounds awesome. I want some of that." So you mentioned that it is tough to hire for this because to be in motion design, you need to have some design chops and some technical chops using the software and ideally some animation chops. But it seems like to do the kind of stuff you guys are doing, there's a few extra layers that are really really helpful. So if anyone is listening to this, and they're thinking, "I would love to come work at Perception.", what are the skills they don't know that they need to kind of brush up on? John LePore 01:12:28 So we're always looking for people who are enthusiastic about this space and the kind of work that we're doing. There's some people that come in and they're just like, "Yeah, I don't know, working on a cell phone commercial, designing next generation interface.", you know, same thing, whatever. It's really important to us that there's people that are really interested and invested in the way that technology is going to continue to evolve and how it can fit into our everyday lives. From a technical perspective, we always like people that have your typical generalist skill set, particularly 2D, 3D and being very comfortable in design. We like people that are really comfortable with information systems, and particularly if you can go so far as to have some experience with user experience. I think that's great. But it's it's more than anything, it's sort of the critical thinking. John LePore 01:13:30 We had a recent addition to our team who's been awesome. And he combines a motion graphics skill set with a background in architecture. And even that has sort of translated really well into just sort of like thinking or making sure that every design or creative decision that you're making can be criticized from a perspective of like, well, what's the logic that's supporting that decision, or what does that decision going to do positively for the user or whatnot. So we always like people that have a little bit of this like cross disciplinary twist to them. And then beyond that, we're interested in people that are dabbling in exciting stuff like Houdini. We're really interested in people who have experience or comfort in any of the game engines. And there is other work that comes through here. We haven't even talked about we've done a lot of work on title sequences. That's been almost an unexpected byproduct of our future tech work. But that stuff sometimes it is just sort of traditional motion graphic work. John LePore 01:14:37 And in those scenarios, we are just relying on the very textbook, just the best all rounder that can come in and help us solve problems. But first and foremost, it's just having that mindset, that enthusiasm and being able to adapt to a very different way of working. One other aspect of this is that as we're talking about this idea of selling ideas, not selling pixels, I'm often spending a lot of my time asking our artists to work at a lower fidelity. And to really make sure that whatever they're doing that they're targeting, just focusing on making sure that they're supporting whatever the big idea or feature or storytelling beat is that we're trying to convey and whatever it is that we're working on. John LePore 01:15:25 And I find myself so often telling people it doesn't have to look that nice yet. Let's keep it loose. Let's keep it casual, and be comfortable doing that so that we can still be flexible, so we can still adapt, so we'd still change things and whatnot. I find that motion designers always, I can trust any motion designer in the world to make something look spectacular and beautiful and awesome. But sometimes it is hard working with people to just make sure that in doing that, they're supporting a larger big picture overarching strategy. Joey Korenman 01:16:02 That conversation was awesome. I think John and I could have talked for another two hours. And I want to thank him for coming on and sharing so much of the inside baseball at Perception. I also want to thank you for listening. Check out all the show notes at And make sure to check out Perception's work at You can also find John on social media @JohnnyMotion, great name. Hit him up, if you think you might have the goods to work on the type of stuff that Perception is doing. And that is it for this episode. Stay classy.