Matt Frodsham is a Cinema 4D Black Belt.
His reel is full of weird and wonderful work, much of it completed with his friends at the incredible Berlin-based Zeitguised. His work is abstract, provocative, playful, and extremely polished.
Check out his reel to see what strange places his mind has been whilst sitting in front of an insanely powerful multi-GPU computer-beast with Cinema 4D opened up.
In this episode Joey chats with Matt at length about his experience working with such an amazingly creative group of people, how he (and Zeitguised) balance doing work for the reel versus work for the meal, and about how he deals with burnout.
The goal of this interview was to paint a picture of what Matt's career looks like, and hopefully you leave inspired and ready to go get funky and weird with your own work.
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Matt's 4xGPU computer breakdown
Matt's C4D scene speed breakdown
Pluralsight (Formerly Digital Tutors)
Joey Korenman: Hello again. Today I am talking with Matt Frodsham, a UK based motion designer who has some of the weirdest and coolest stuff on his reel I've ever seen. You should check out the bird piece that's on his website. It's weird and awesome. It's really not surprising that his work has this quality because Matt has worked extensively with one of the coolest, weirdest, and most unique studios in the world, Zeitgeist, based out of Berlin. In this interview, Matt and I talk about how his career has ended up the way that it has and what it means to actually have a "career" in this field because, you know, it can be very different for different people. We talk about goals, work-life balance, and burnout. It's a really interesting conversation with a very interesting artist, and I think that you'll get a cool look at just one way a motion design career can look and hopefully you'll learn some tricks for managing your own work-life balance and things like that. Let's get into it.
Matt, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy, busy schedule to talk to us. I'm really excited to dig into your career a little bit, man.
Matt Frodsham: Yes, thanks a lot for talking to me.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, no problem.
Matt Frodsham: Same.
Joey Korenman: Most of the work that's on your site was produces when you were on staff I guess at Zeitgeist in Germany. I'm curious because Zeitgeist, at least in America, it's not one of the studios that you hear as much about. Everyone's heard of Buck, and [Siop 00:01:51], and Shiloh and places like that, but a lot of people haven't heard of Zeitgeist. How did you become familiar with them?
Matt Frodsham: First of all, I wasn't really staff, staff. I got into them when I was in college. It was college. It wasn't even university yet. I was getting into after effects and [inaudible 00:02:15] I was on my design course. It was a graphic design course, so I wasn't doing any animation or anything in the standard kind of projects I was doing. Then I started to get into it and I started to get into reading Motionographer and all these cool blogs that were happening at the time, and it just hit at exactly the right time where their film, called [Parapetics 00:02:39], from 2009, just popped up on Motionographer, and it just blew my mind what it even was. It was in between all of these commercial projects from the likes of Siop and [inaudible 00:02:54]. Obviously that was the gold standard. Still is the gold standard of what you want to achieve in commercial work. Then there was just this crazy film with amazing visuals and unbelievable sound that was just this stand-alone experience. It was not advertising something, and it was just like, "Oh, you can do other things with this. It's not just adverts." That kind of really, really turned me onto it.
Joey Korenman: I mean when I went to the Zeitgeist website and I'm looking at it, and I would even say this to some degree about your website too, there's so much beautiful work on it that I can't figure out what the client is. I come from a really pretty standard client paying you to promote their brand kind of motion design world. Zeitgeist seems like almost the opposite of that. Their work, aside from being sort of non-commercial, it's also really bizarre and weird in this great way.
I was curious, since you were there for so long, is that an intentional thing that they're doing over there, or is that just the people who started Zeitgeist have really strange thoughts going on in their head? Where does that come from?
Matt Frodsham: I think it's a bit of both. It's good that you mentioned the website. If you look at Zeitgeist website, there is literally, at this point in time, there is no commercial work on it. It is our projects, and they leave the commercial work to be published by their reps and by the guys who make it like me, so we can get more work. They don't outwardly advertise themselves as ... I think there's on MTV thing there. I think that speaks to the logic concept of putting forward the work that you want to be known by. They do commercial work, but it's not there [inaudible 00:04:57].
Joey Korenman: I was going to ask what's the balance over there? Every studio has a balance of work that they do to pay the bills and then the work that they do to get the work they want. What was kind of the balance over there? Was it half and half? Is there a lot more work that we're not seeing?
Matt Frodsham: I don't hide projects until they're quite old. There's nothing that I work on usually that doesn't get published I would say it's probably 50/50. There's not often that there's nothing commercial going on, but because there's a few guys there working, they kind of split it. There's busy periods and there's quiet periods [inaudible 00:05:47].
Joey Korenman: Without giving away any clients names or brand names or anything like that, what's the level of slumming it that Zeitgeist will have to dip to? Are they doing end tags for fast food restaurants to pay the bills so that they can make amazing weird birds piece or something like that, or is it a little higher end than that?
Matt Frodsham: It's a little higher end than that, especially now. They're turning down jobs left and right. They can really pick and choose I think.
Joey Korenman: That's amazing. It's really inspiring to see a studio start out a little bit under the radar like that and then you go to their website, and I'm looking at it right now. There's nothing on it. There's really nothing on it with a brand. It's pretty amazing. Awesome. Was the weirdness of that piece you saw, Parapletcitcs-
Matt Frodsham: Parapetics.
Joey Korenman: Parapeptics. I'm going to have to look up that word in the dictionary. Was that something that attracted you specifically to Zeitgeist?
Matt Frodsham: Yeah, definitely. I was learning [cinema 4D 00:06:58] at the time, and I had no idea that this thing was made in cinema 4D. Once I got there as an intern, and I started digging around the files, it was like, "It's not that outrageous. It's just rendered in V-ray and has very good design." I think this film, specifically is what drew me to it. There was some other really nice stuff that they were doing with like [inaudible 00:07:23] camera concepts where they would take [inaudible 00:07:28] like using the camera as a geometry and stuff like this. There was also this really interesting kind of zoo characters that were very abstract forms. They were just crazy. Yeah, it was all just really off the wall and really exciting, and I was like, "Yeah, that's us."
Joey Korenman: That sounds like a fun gig. You started as an intern there, correct?
Matt Frodsham: Yep.
Joey Korenman: How much cinema 4D, how much after effects did you know before you ended up working there?
Matt Frodsham: I probably knew more after effects than I do now.
Joey Korenman: That's great.
Matt Frodsham: I knew a good bit of cinema. I'd made it my goal during the last year of university to become proficient enough to be hired for decent jobs. I still sucked. When I look at the work that I had back then, I'm still not sure what drew them to me, but I could navigate and I could get around and see a file. Nowhere near as much as I know now obviously.
Joey Korenman: Right, right. Were there mentors there that were teaching you this, or was it really just an environment that you could explore in?
Matt Frodsham: I think the latter definitely. Henrik, the director, he's really an explorer in the software. He's not sitting doing tutorials and learning the software inside out. He just likes doing exactly what you can do in cinema, which is just plugs things into other things and to other things and then group them and plug them into something else and then deform them and clone [inaudible 00:09:17]. I think once you step out of the standard cinema 4D learning path, if you just ignore all that and just get into it, you can make super interesting stuff even just with the basic tools.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I definitely would agree with that 100%. I talked about this with Nates and Rich. That's the best part about cinema 4D is that you can just jump right in and start connecting pieces together and getting weird stuff. That's also the problem. I'm looking at your work. Specifically, there was a music video that you did "From Hell." By the way, are you a metalhead, or was that just that band happened to ask you to do this?
Matt Frodsham: I'm a hardcore kid.
Joey Korenman: Nice. That's awesome, man. Me too. I'm looking at that and there was some modeling and some rigging of animals and quadrapeds and stuff in there. There's some fairly complex, but typical 3D problems you had to solve, and those are the types of things that a lot of cinema 4D artists they get away with not knowing, like how to model properly, and how to rig and paint weights, and actually do proper character animation. Where did you learn that stuff?
Matt Frodsham: I tried to learn that stuff. I'm actually terrible at it. Character, rigging, weighting and that. In that specific video, there's so much hidden that I can explain shortly. The usual places like C4D Café and Digital [inaudible 00:11:04] and these kind of places with really strong backgrounds to learn the real nuts and bolts of cinema [inaudible 00:11:12].
Probably more than I am now, I was always wanting to learn everything about cinema. I thought I should have knowledge of every part of it. I started to really learn, or tried to learn Espresso at some point. Now I just admitted that you can get along with knowing half of it very well probably. If you need someone specific to do something very specialized, then there's always somebody there to help.
Joey Korenman: It's definitely true. It's interesting how many people I ask some question like, "Where did you learn to do this?" They say, "I don't know how to do that actually. I just fake it very well."
Matt Frodsham: This "From Hell" video, it's basically crappy turbo squid models that I took into this sculpting program called 3D Coat, which is really weird voxel sculpting. It's not at all like Zbrush. You can do whatever you want. You don't have to worry about the [mesh 00:12:14]. All the meshes are just ... It's super high density. It's ridiculous. If you click on an object, it's white with mesh density. Then I just make these crappy proxy meshes for it and weight them roughly. It's all faked. I have no idea how to do character animation to be honest.
Joey Korenman: That's amazing because there was another piece, and I think this was probably the piece that I saw that made me go, "Whoa, this guy really knows what he's doing," was the birds piece. I think in part of the process writeup for that that you did, you talked about looking at reference of birds and trying to match their movement, and you really nailed it. All of those funny ... The eggs one might be my favorite. It really looks like birds and to me, I'm not a character animator, it looks like wow you really understand how characters move. You're saying that you don't? Was it just brute force to make it work?
Matt Frodsham: Absolutely brute force. Brute force [inaudible 00:13:22], brute force animation. It was really just copying it from the reference very closely, otherwise you don't get that very close familiarity with whatever creature it may be, whether it's birds or humans or whatever. I think that if you're going to try and make something that has some semblance of its original form, then you need to be really close to it. It's not really like I was animating any of it. Like people were asking if it was motion captured, if we had some kind of little tiny bird suits. [inaudible 00:13:58] tiny ping pong balls on it.
Joey Korenman: Right. Painting little dots on the birds.
Matt Frodsham: We did want to do a shoot at some point.
Joey Korenman: It's amazing how much you can get away with by hacking your way through various problems like this. That's really funny. The way I would look at it is, I need to learn how birds move. You're saying, "I don't know how birds move. I just went frame by frame and made it match the video."
Matt Frodsham: Passively you get a feel for it, like to you know if it looks right or not after the fact. I did become, at some point, if you looked at the making of, before we broke it all down into these abstractions, there were pretty anatomically correct bird. We had to rig them and stuff. I did get a good understanding of the birds' anatomy and things to a certain extent.
Joey Korenman: Right, right. Got you. That project, that birds project, how long did that take from start to finish?
Matt Frodsham: Years. No. From actual starting point conceptually to finish, it was a good few months I think, on and off. It was not a commercial project, so it was one of these on and off things. We spent a decent amount of time on it. It wasn't a rush.
Joey Korenman: At a company like Zeitgeist, how does a project like that start? Where does it come from? Does someone just wake up and say, "I had the weirdest dream. There were these eggs." Where does that come from?
Matt Frodsham: The initial concept started from a pitch from years and years ago. It was for ... I can't remember if it was for MTV or Vevo. It was for [inaudible 00:16:01] for a TV channel, and it was one of the starting points. The project went a different way and the birds sat there on the shelf for a while, and we're like, "We should probably finish that project because it was a really nice idea." The concept initially was a bit different from how it turned out. We're not afraid of letting that evolve organically if it turns out to be something slightly different to what it was first envisioned, so that's nice.
Joey Korenman: That's great. I'm looking at some of the MTV stuff that Zeitgeist has done. MTV, I could be wrong, but I'm guessing they're one of those clients that doesn't come at you with a giant bag of money, but they give you a lot of creative freedom. Is that accurate?
Matt Frodsham: Yeah, absolutely. It's still kind of near the top of my site, this MTV [inaudible 00:16:56] from I think it was 2011. Absolutely one of my favorite projects I've worked on there because it started with a reference to I think it was an art project. Basically, art science crossover by Carl Simms. He kind of had these generative little creatures that would evolve themselves. We kind of took the concept for this from the movements of these little creatures, which are these day to day struggles and try and get through life and inject some humor into it. It started off with a strong artistic concept that wasn't then diluted by the client. It was just pushed further visually. Then it got to this really enjoyable comedy piece that still had artistic merit from the concepts. That's really, really a nice project.
Joey Korenman: That one's really, really fun to watch too, and I'm sure it was really fun to mess around with the technique of how you were going to animate. I'm sure a lot of that was done with dynamics and stuff like that.
Matt Frodsham: Yeah, it was all dynamic. It was when all the motors and constraints and things first came out for cinema. We were playing around with all the new toys and inventing new things with them.
Joey Korenman: It's a good excuse to play around with that stuff too. That's awesome. One thing I'm serious about too is if you're working at a company that has to pay the bills, and so you're doing work that doesn't end up on the site, but at the same time, you're constantly trying to finish these art projects or these passion projects. You probably have to start and stop and start and stop. When you do that, how frustrating is that, or is that just the nature of the game, and that's something that you learn the deal with. You're trying to finish the project that keeps the lights turned on, but you're also trying to finish the project that you want to finish.
Matt Frodsham: I think they're pretty good at scheduling decent blocks of time to step away from commercial work and get it done. There's not too much of that. At the same time, especially with personal work on top of the projects, on top of the other commercial work then. That gets a bit hard to deal with if you're trying to do too much at the same time.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, that's pretty amazing. You're saying that the executive producer of Zeitgeist would actually say no to clients, "We cannot do this job for you that you're willing to pay us for because we have these naked models that we're chopping their legs off and putting their ..." That would happen?
Matt Frodsham: Yeah. I mean I can't speak for the internal business structure of it, but I'm pretty sure that that's what's happening there.
Joey Korenman: That's really awesome. I could be wrong, but I would suspect that's pretty rare too. I can tell you in my own experience, it's very hard to turn down paying jobs. It takes a lot of confidence to do that, to know that they'll come back later.
Matt Frodsham: This is something now that I'm dealing with. I'm like a real freelancer now that I've kind of moved countries, and I'm chasing ... not chasing, being chased.
Joey Korenman: That was a perfect segue, by the way. Well done. Let's talk about that. What made you decide to, after I think you said five years at Zeitgeist, what made you decide to leave and move back to the UK?
Matt Frodsham: It was really more about moving to the UK. I still haven't really left. I'm doing a project with them right now from the UK. It was more of a case of me and my partner wanted to get a house as opposed to living in a flat in the middle of a capital city. It always feels so temporary to me, all of these distractions and things where you kind of feel guilty for them not taking advantage of everything that's there, or when you live in a place where people go on holiday to. It's like, "Yeah, but I still want to sit at home and play video games sometimes." Moving to a quieter area where we can go the city is kind of a nice prospect for me.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. It's interesting because I went through something very similar. A lot of my friends ... I'm 34. A lot of my friends are around the same age. They're starting to get a little disillusioned with the New York City lifestyle or the Los Angeles lifestyle. It sounds like you went through the Europe version of that. You're in Berlin, which I've never been to, but I'm imagining is probably a pretty big city with a lot going on. Where do you live now?
Matt Frodsham: Just outside of Manchester in England. It's a little suburb. Ten minutes away on the train. I never wanted to go to London, which is kind of the equivalent of New York, like it's very very busy, very dense. All of the work is there apparently.
Joey Korenman: The good thing is, you don't really need to ... This is something I guess would be interesting to get your perspective on. You are not a rookie, so you're not starting out. I think that puts you in a position where it almost doesn't matter where you live now because you can do the work and communicate with clients remotely. For someone starting out, do you think that they should still probably try to get set up in a big city surrounded by motion design studios?
Matt Frodsham: Yeah, I think so, or at least the studios should spread out a little bit. I think it's really, really important to get the community thing. You can only learn so much from the internet. You can learn a lot from the internet, and you can learn from making your own mistakes and things, but until you're in a room with guys have been doing it longer, or even a short amount of time but are much better than you, or with different skills, or with different ways of doing things. I think it's really important to spend time in studios. I still look forward to doing that now. I love working from home because I like to get head down and chill and do my own thing, but I also really like going to a studio and seeing what's going on on other people's screens and in other people's lives and things.
Joey Korenman: Right. Also, if you're starting out and you've never worked with people like that then there are things that physically it's impossible to learn on the internet, like how to deal with clients, how to work with budgets and stuff like that. Were you part of those conversations at Zeitgeist talking about budgets and schedules and stuff like that?
Matt Frodsham: Not really. The schedules obviously came into it because they needed to know how long things took.
Joey Korenman: How long does it take to make a weird bird out of eggs, Matt?
Matt Frodsham: Longer than you would think.
Joey Korenman: Exactly. When you start freelancing, all of a sudden you are the producer as well. Do you feel like your experience at Zeitgeist prepared you well for that and talking about budgets and things like that?
Matt Frodsham: Yeah I think especially one of the things I learned about during my time was just how projects work and what people do in the industry. Before I got there, I didn't know what a producer was. I didn't know what an art director was. I didn't know what an advertising agency was in relation to a design studio in relation to a production company in relation to the client. As a student, you work for a theoretical client all the time. It's like you make [inaudible 00:25:09] for night or whatever.
Joey Korenman: Right.
Matt Frodsham: To go from zero to a hundred is like, "I don't know what any of these people are doing." There's a lot of people making a lot of money in the advertising industry and it's like what do they all do?" After you spend a few years, you realize how important all the pieces are of the puzzle and kind of understand how things work.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I'd say producers especially. That's one of those things that until you start working and you get to work with both good producers and bad producers and then you realize just how amazing a good producer is in a project.
Matt Frodsham: Totally.
Joey Korenman: Yeah.
Matt Frodsham: You get very defensive of your producer. It's like the quarterback I guess.
Joey Korenman: Exactly, yeah. Now that you are freelance ... How long have you been freelance? Is it pretty recent?
Matt Frodsham: It's been years actually.
Joey Korenman: Oh wow. Okay.
Matt Frodsham: Just failed to do any work for anybody else. If somebody's offering you work like that, are you going to turn it down?
Joey Korenman: Oh of course. This is an interesting I want to get your opinion on. As a freelancer, there's a lot of different forces that kind of fight for your attention. You've got, I really want to work with this studio. It's been my dream to work with them. Then at the same time, I've got this client that I will never put anything I do for them on my reel, but they give you giant, giant checks. How are you juggling that? It sounds like Zeitgeist had a pretty good system for juggling those different forces. How has that been for you?
Matt Frodsham: Since I got back, it's only been a few months, and there was a lot of time off with actually moving countries and stuff, so I've kind of been fortunate to run into really nice studios already here in the UK as well as doing a project with Zeitgeist as well. I can't really speak too much to doing the kind of work that just pays the bills. I'm turning down studios that I want to work with already absolutely, but not in the place of crappy work. The worry always for me with something like that is if you say no too many times to somebody that you want to work with, do they then stop asking? Then do they just see you as the guy who is always busy and has got no time for you? That's my concern.
There was one day a few weeks ago when three studios, all of who I really, really want to work with, all emailed within three hours. I was like, "Oh, come on."
Joey Korenman: I know. You must be already starting to have those thoughts percolating like, "Where is this going? Maybe I should start Frodsham Studios or something?" Do you have any sort of ambitions to start your own studio? What's your ten year plan?
Matt Frodsham: I wish I had a good answer for this and so does everybody else who knows me. I'm really crap at planning things. I just kind of see how the cards play out. I don't know.
Joey Korenman: It's definitely a good problem to have to have too many awesome studios calling you. I have my theories, but I'm curious, there's a lot of artists out there who would love to be in that position where you have so many studios calling you you have to turn them down. You're still able to do work that is interesting and isn't explainer videos for your local bank or something. If you had to guess, what do you think it is about your portfolio or your approach that's getting you this work?
Matt Frodsham: I have no idea. Let's take a few steps back. I don't have tons of studios always hammering down the door. I think it's I'm very fortunate to have worked with Zeitgeist because that's been a big platform. I keep my portfolio kind of current. I'm terrible at blogging. I'm terrible at keeping things up to date. I only update it a few times a year. I mean hopefully it's just the portfolio. I think it should just be about the work at the end of the day.
Joey Korenman: Are you booked basically every single day that you want to be booked, or have there been weeks where no one's called and you haven't been booked?
Matt Frodsham: I've not had any weeks off yet. The minute I landed I had a job lined up, and I bought a new computer for it, actually. It kind of got postponed, so I'm sat there with a lot of money going out and nothing coming in for the first week or so of being in the UK, so I'm like, "This is a tough start." It all falls into place.
Joey Korenman: I read the blog post about that computer by that way. I recommend everybody does that. It's really interesting. Incredibly dorky.
Matt Frodsham: It keeps the house warm.
Joey Korenman: Nice.
Matt Frodsham: There's ups and downs already. I've definitely been steady so far, but even this week on Monday. I'm working on a job. On Monday I was rendering final HD frames, and on Tuesday morning I got an email, and it's like, "This thing's on hold now. We don't know what's happening." Things happen.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, of course, yeah. I don't think that ever stops. That sort of land mine. You are pretty busy. Maybe there's some little peaks and valleys. Are you still trying to fit in personal projects or passion projects working with Zeitgeist or people like that in the downtime?
Matt Frodsham: I go through phases actually. I don't force myself to try and make something. Like I'm a big fan of these, for example, [Beople 00:31:29] with his everyday's. It's just insane how he can commit to this. Yeah, I've always got ideas on the back burner. I'm not currently working on anything. I still feel like I'm hitting the ground running and sorting everything out after the move. In theory, yes, I am working. In practice [inaudible 00:31:54].
Joey Korenman: One of the things that I've struggled with, I'm sure a lot of people have, probably most motion designers, is when you're working and working and working, and a lot of what we do is mentally very intense. Figuring out things, and not being sure you're going to get it and that sort of stuff. Not being sure the client is going to like it. Is feeling a bit burnt our. You mentioned this as something that you've talked about in the past, and I'm curious if you've sort of figured out some ways to help yourself avoid burning out and to always be able to approach a project from a fresh perspective and not with this sense of dread in your stomach?
Matt Frodsham: Yeah, absolutely. It kind of snapped about two years ago. The thing is it's called burn out. It creeps up on you. It's a slow burn. It's not something you can even notice and correct until it's ... In my experience, I couldn't correct it until it was way too late and it already impacted my life negatively. It's something you can read a million blog posts about and see people you know write about it and speak about it, but still you're like, "Oh I'll be fine. I'm working on really nice projects. I want to be doing this. It's fine." At some point it's not fine. It doesn't matter what you're doing. It doesn't matter how awesome the projects are that you're working on. It doesn't matter who you're with. It can still build up. The conversation now might take a dark turn as opposed to all the jokes so far.
When I did my first talk at a university last year, at my old university, I think it bummed everybody out. They're like, "Oh shoo."
Joey Korenman: Sometimes you got to give them the tough medicine, you know?
Matt Frodsham: I mean, you know, you try and warn people. They're not going to listen. I think it starts in university because you have to do so much. Even earlier than that in school. In university you're studying. You're trying to kind of do your projects for university. You're trying to learn the software that you're not being taught. You're trying to make money working at a bar or by doing other freelance gigs or whatever. You kind of get used to always doing something. Always working. Always scraping. Then you get to the next stage, which is the last stage, apart from retirement. That's the other thing. You hit the final stage of life in your early twenties, and you're like, "This is it now." You're like, "I've got all of this potential free time. If I go to work in the morning, I come home in the evening. I've got no homework. I've got no bar to go and work at. Now I can make all of the things that I've been wanting to make. I can help my friends out."
You and I are into punk and hardcore. We've got friends in bands and things. You see your friend sleeping in a van or whatever, and you're like, "I could probably help him out with music video or album artwork and stuff like that." You're kind of trying to give a bit back to your friends. Your family asks you for little things. Then you do all of these collaborations. There's only so much time you can spend. More importantly, there's only so much energy you can spend. It's not even just the time. You can be awake from 7:00 am until 3:00 am. There's only so much meaningful energy you can give during that period. If you're spending it too much in different places.
Joey Korenman: To me, you just described it perfectly. That's what burn out is. It's when ... I think that balance is kind of the key. There's different kinds of balance. There's the balance between very good paying client work to keep the lights on and then doing the stuff that you really care about. Then on top of that, there's your physical health, your relationship with your significant other. I have children, so the amount of time I spend with my children. I have burnt out two or three times.
Matt Frodsham: [crosstalk 00:36:24]
Joey Korenman: It's very easy if you have a certain type of personality. Maybe you sometimes feel this way where it's a Wednesday, and you're not booked, and you feel like, "I should be doing something. I should be working on my reel." No, you could just go outside. Go for a walk. That's an option. You could do that.
Matt Frodsham: Yeah, especially growing up here, where it's very working class. Everybody works nine to five and then that's it. Nobody works after that, but you still have this kind of guilt if you're at home on a Wednesday, like today. I'm set at home, it's 3:00 pm. It's like, "I kind of feel like PlayStation, but that's not what you're allowed to do as a grownup. You should be doing something now." Even if you were working until 2:00 am the night before.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. It's funny. The older I get, the less I want to be part of the traditional idea of what work is. I'm sure when you meet people, and they say, "Oh hi, Matt. What do you do?" You have to explain what you do. It's like, "That's just what I do to pay my bills, but what I really like to do is this."I've found that you feel better and burnout goes away pretty quickly if you balance the things that you love and that make you feel good with the things that you feel obligated to do. When you've gotten burnt out, what are some of the things that it's done to you? You don't have to get too personal, but in general, what does it do?
Matt Frodsham: It very quickly turns very nice projects into something that you dread to work on. If you were working on something else the night before and you go in in the morning. I think it even happened at the beginning of the stages of Birds. It was something really really fun to work on, and I was just like, "I can't do it. I can't look at a computer." It was, during commercial projects, letting things get to me more than they usually would and taking it out on people, not in a violent way, but kind of a mean passive aggressive comment here and there. When you're frustrated with something, and it was really not something that I wanted to be doing. It was really tough.
The positive thing that came out of it was that was the point when I was officially freelance then. I talked to Henrik, and I was like, "I need to change something in my life. I can't not do other projects, but I can't not work for you at the same time." He was like, "Just work less. That's as simple as that." We had a nice talk about it. We talked about stuff. The short answer was just stop working so much you idiot, which was kind of a revelation. I was like, "Oh, I can do that?" Then I took time out to make a music video for example.
Also, the realization that the commercial work is just that. Often, especially with Zeitgeist, the art projects kind of inform the commercial work eventually at some point. Hopefully. Sometimes it's just a dumb advert, and you can look at it like that. You can go in with all the energy, and it can be a really fun job to make, but it doesn't have to be the best thing you've ever made, and it doesn't have to have some cultural significance. It doesn't matter. It's just an advert.
This latest one, the [Sun Bingo 00:40:36] that Nate's worked on for a short time coincidentally. It's just bingo advert. [inaudible 00:40:44] we put a lot of effort into it, and it looks nice, and it animates well, but it's sole purpose is to get working class people to give some money across and have fun and play bingo.
Joey Korenman: Exactly. When you're starting out, because I think that's one of those things you learn from experience that you need to be able to let go, and when the client says, "Yeah, you know, we really need you to put this big block of type on that umbrella. The logo is not big enough. You need to make it bigger." You have to learn how to let it go. In your head, you're like, "I just spent a month on this and the composition of that end tag is perfect. Now you're throwing off my balance." Was that ever a struggle for you letting go of the commercial stuff and not taking it so personally?
Matt Frodsham: Yeah, totally. Especially when starting out. You're almost taking charge of these big commercial projects, like the Bank Popular. They got really heavy really fast. They started out with this really weird fun things, and then they went into real adverts, like something Siop would be doing. We're like, "Oh, this is a lot of work." They were a tough client. It was the agency really. The agency and then the client because the client was a cooperative kind of round table of people, so everybody put their two cents in. "I don't really like green." It was on of these kind of funny ... Eventually you'll learn that that's just what happens and you can laugh about it and it is what it is.
Joey Korenman: What's your favorite type of client to work with? You can work with an ad agency, or you can work directly with the owner of a company, or you could work with the lead singer of a band. In your experience, who do you like working with the most?
Matt Frodsham: I think direct to client is usually the best in my experience as a designer. Maybe it doesn't make the most money, so my opinion may change on that as I get older. Creatively, for example, MTV. They just let you do whatever you want usually, within certain boundaries.
Joey Korenman: Yeah.
Matt Frodsham: An ad agency kind of stepping in the way with the creative directors. They need to make themselves useful somehow.
Joey Korenman: Justify their existence. That's kind of stereo ... I've worked with a lot of ad agencies. It's like with anything. There's really great creative directors, and then there's ones that probably somebody's nephew or something. Your portfolio and the clients you're working with really really great, really high end. If I take a step back and I say 25 year old Joey looking at this would be like, "Oh my God. This guy has made it. This is what it looks like when you make it as a motion designer." Now, i think I know the answer to this, but do you feel like you've made it, Matt? Do you feel like your career is exactly where you want it to be right now?
Matt Frodsham: That's two questions. I don't think I've made it, but my career is probably where I would want it to be. I don't think you can ever make it. What is that?. It's different things to different people, isn't it?
Joey Korenman: Right, right. That's kind of an interesting thing too because you mentioned [Beople 00:44:28]. Beople's one of these guys where it's like everyone who does motion design knows who Beople is. Everyone knows about his everyday's. Has he made it? It is a weird question. I'm not sure what the right answer is. I guess it comes down to what's the goal? What's your goal with your career? Is it to make a lot of money? Is it to just keep pushing your skills? I sort of have my goals, but I'm curious what your goals are.
Matt Frodsham: I'm not super driven by money. I just want enough to live. Do the things that I want to do. I think I want to make enough art projects to satisfy that creative need and make enough money to do it. That's the kind of short, simple answer. I don't know.
Joey Korenman: The plan is to keep freelancing, keep working with new clients, and see what happens?
Matt Frodsham: Yeah.
Joey Korenman: Nice. That's a good plan. Another thing I wanted to ask you about, Matt, is on your site you have a section called 'How.' You've got some pretty in-depth and really blown out how-to's. There's one on Cinema 4D scene speed, which as far as I can tell is probably the best most elaborate source of this information on the internet. Why do you make these things?
Matt Frodsham: It depends which things. The cinema 4D scene speed I made because I was pissed off with everybody complaining about how slow cinema was. I'm like, "It's not, but you're just using it wrong. You're just not putting enough effort into it." The other things, these making ofs, they kind of just are left over from university really. You have to kind of keep documents of everything you do in university, especially when you were doing what I was doing, which was stepping outside of the regular graphic design class, and I wasn't there as often as the other guys, so I was having to show your work [inaudible 00:46:46]. I was keeping these blogs as opposed to a sketchbook. I imagine everybody is doing it now, but I was kind of ... this was how I was interactive with my tutors at the time. It was kept very regular blogs about what I was doing with a project. I kind of got into it like that. They were often equally as popular as the actual projects.
Now I think it's just a nice way of giving back a little bit without having to make tutorials or anything because I'm totally not into that, but I am appreciative of everybody who does things like that and I think it's nice to share what you can. Also, it lets people know that you know what you're talking about in some respects. You can put a project on your website, but you may have only leveled a suitcase in the corner or something.
Joey Korenman: Right.
Matt Frodsham: It shows I really made this. I really really made this.
Joey Korenman: That's kind of what I guessed. When I taught at ... There's a college down here in Florida where I live called the Ringling College of Art and Design. When I taught there, the students in the motion design program, especially the seniors were asked to do exactly what you've done and do these making of sort of blog posts to accompany the final project. I think it's brilliant as a way of getting more work too. People like me, and people who want to learn from you are super appreciative of it because you learn from it, but a studio also, if they're looking you, they might be looking at two other really good cinema 4D artists, so what's going to make the difference between who they hire? You can document your process. They can see how you problem solve and how you work through an issue. They can see how you iterated. That gives an employer so much more confidence. I would urge everyone who is listening to this to do the same. It's really a smart thing to do.
Matt, you said you have no interest in ever doing tutorials or anything like that, right?
Matt Frodsham: Certainly not on the internet. I did a brief two-day course with some students last year, which I kind of enjoyed. I wouldn't rule out teaching in general, but I think we're at saturation now with people far better than me that teach on the internet, I have no place there.
Joey Korenman: I'm curious, because obviously this is something that I think about quite a bit, how do you teach something like this on the internet? Are there any resources out there that you think are ... You don't have to School of Motion. What resources are out there that you think are, if you were starting out and you wanted to learn what you know now, where would you start?
Matt Frodsham: That's a good question. When I started out, I think I did spend a lot of time on Greyscalegorilla before it got super big and got this unfair negative connotation with it. [inaudible 00:50:16] really really helped put things into a practical space for me. Cinema doesn't have to be this crazy technical thing to overcome. You can just go in and start making things. That was a good starting point. I think if you want to spend a little bit of money, then Digital [inaudible 00:50:36] is very comprehensive and it covers most of the software within one space, so that's cool. I started with Lynda as well when I was doing after effects, which was very dry. I enjoyed some of it, but a lot of the tutors were very cut and dry, like "This is what this tool does. This is what this tool does." That was a bit ... I don't know if i could recommend that. There's so much everywhere now, right?
Joey Korenman: Yeah. I think that all of those resources that you talk about, especially Greyscalegorilla, amazing ways of learning mostly technical skills with some of the kind of ways of developing your eye. When you look at your work and you look at the 'Do the Math' video, there's some really smart color choices and design choices and things like that, that are much tougher to learn online, and I'm curious if you think that, because you were a graphic design student, how important do you think that is going to be moving forward for people? Do you still think you have to go to school for graphic design to do this?
Matt Frodsham: I don't think so. It's a good question, and it's a hard one to answer, especially if you went to school, it's hard to argue against it because everyone's like, "You went, so you did well as well." It really depends on what you're looking for. If you just need guidance, or you need to learn to focus, or you need the community aspect of it, it's tough to learn certain things online, but you can also learn those things in real life without going to school I think. Yeah, it's tough.
I think it's really really important now to have good design skills. I really need to sharpen up on a lot of that, and especially like you say with the color. I really like working with color, but I also am kinda terrible at color theory apart from the obvious few rules that everybody needs to know. I'm still learning.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, of course. Forever. Never ends. The last thing I wanted to just ask you is I'll call out the blog post on your site where you talk about how you built this mutant PC to render Octane scenes on with four graphics cards in there. The things the size of a small refrigerator. It's really big. What skills are you focused on developing at the moment? I would guess Octane would be one of them, but are there other things that you're working on personally to try and expand your skill set?
Matt Frodsham: I think it's good to decide what you don't want to do first and then you can mold yourself in a different way. Even though there's kind of a lot of character work on my site, as I mentioned before, I'm terrible at character animation, but I don't want to get necessarily good at it. A lot of people are always asking for Particles, so I bought X-Particles, and I still haven't had time to really sit down and learn it. I'm mainly interested in learning how to do interesting things with that next probably, which has really nice Octane integration so I believe. That's nice.
Joey Korenman: Oh cool. I actually just did my first project with X-Particles, and I really loved it. I don't know if you ever tried to learn Thinking Particles.
Matt Frodsham: Oh yeah.
Joey Korenman: I did, and I gave up really fast.
Matt Frodsham: [inaudible 00:54:35] on my site.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, yeah. Let's talk about just really quickly too because you've mentioned after effects and how you know less after effects now than you used to. I do so much of ... When talking to Rich and [Nates 00:54:52], both of them are guys that they try to nail the look in the beauty pass. I'm the opposite. I try to give myself as many opportunities to fix it in composite as possible. How do you tend to work? Do you do a lot of compositing?
Matt Frodsham: No, I'm with the other guys. All in camera. Bit of correction at the end. A bit of motion blur if we can't afford it in the Octane render or whatever. It's getting so fast to do things, especially depth of field now. It looks so amazing when you can do depth of field and render and not really add any units to the render. I love it. In the past I looked into multi-pass stuff a lot, and it never really excited me. I think the time is probably better spent for me, just spending more time on the actual 3D file and getting it to look nicer.
Joey Korenman: Nice. I'm going to have to practice then. You're the third person to tell me this. I guess it depends what you're going for, because your work also, like those two guys, it has a lot of that photo-realistic quality to it. If that's what you're going for, then you probably don't need as much compositing.
Matt Frodsham: If the render makes things look real, if you're adding more reflection or more shadow then you're making it less real. Other than a bit of color correction for this kind of polished photo real stuff, then I just leave it alone.
Joey Korenman: Awesome. Matt, I want to say thank you so much for your time. I thought this was a really awesome interview, and I think people are going to learn a lot from it.
Matt Frodsham: Yeah, thanks a lot for having me. It's still funny to me that you wanted to interview me.
Joey Korenman: If you want to see some really sick cinema 4D work as well as some pretty comprehensive breakdowns and how-to articles, check out Matt's cork at mattfrodsham.com, and of course, anything we talked about in this interview can be found in the episode notes at schoolofmotion.com. Thank you as always for listening, and if you have any ideas about other artists or anybody else that you think might make an interesting interview, please let us know. You can go to schoolofmotion.com/contact and drop us a note with your idea. Rock on.