Jellyfish Pictures on new experiments in animation

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Jellyfish Pictures is an independent VFX, animation and motion graphics studio based in Noho, Central London. Founded in 2001, the company has gone from strength to strength with nominations for numerous awards, including BAFTAs and a Primetime Emmy.

Having worked on a range of new films, including Matthew Vaughn's Kingsman: The Secret Service and Peter Webber's 10 Billion, they're taking time out of their busy schedule to talk at HP ZED London, which starts next week.

Jellyfish are sending three speakers: joint head of 3D, Dave Cook, art director Tom Brass and chief technology officer Jeremy Smith and we caught up with them for a chat. Here's what they had to say...

What's your role at Jellyfish Pictures?

Dave Cook: I'm a senior/supervising 3D artist and I have worked at Jellyfish for four years. I normally specialise in shading/lighting and rendering, but as we work in quite small teams I tend to take on multiple tasks including (but not limited to!) previs, animation and simulation.

Joint head of 3D Dave Cook

Joint head of 3D Dave Cook

Tom Brass: I oversee the creative direction and look after the art department at Jellyfish, with a particular specialism for all the 2D animation and motion graphics based work. In practical terms, I draw storyboards and concept art and lead teams of animators and artists, overseeing their work. If projects require it, I also step in as an animation director.

Jeremy Smith: This can be pretty varied. I am the CTO at Jellyfish which means looking after all the technical aspects of the company. I am responsible for everything from renderfarms to setting up new studios and making sure all communications are running smoothly.

What tools and tech are exciting you at the moment?

DC: That's a tricky one. There is so much going on, but it's not all progress. There is quite a buzz about 3D scanning and printing. From 123catch to Lidar a few of us are experimenting more as it becomes easier (and cheaper).

On the other hand, as we've been a Softimage-based studio we're now having to look for alternatives going forward and it seems to me there is an opportunity for someone to develop an agile DCC package that incorporates the best of the new and drop some of the obsolete clutter. Maybe Fabric Engine has that potential, but it seems a way off still. Overall, though, it's the accelerated democratisation of the medium that's most exciting to me. And scary!

  • See Jellyfish Pictures talk at HP ZED - register here

TB: What excites me most is the work being produced by film makers and animators that incorporates non-digital, traditional techniques. It's great to see that artists still appreciate the irreplaceable qualities of model making, stop motion animation, painting and most importantly, drawing. I've seen some very exciting work recently that blends these traditional and digital techniques and is keeping non-digital disciplines very much alive.

Chief technology officer Jeremy Smith

Chief technology officer Jeremy Smith

JS: 4K productions are something that really interests me at the moment. We’re having to handle more and more 4K and some combined with stereo, this always pushes the demands of what we’re setting up and challenging us on a daily basis. This is particularly true as we start to look at more cloud based solutions.

What have you been working on lately?

DC: We recently worked on the just released film The Duke of Burgundy. Working closely with director Peter Strickland we had the opportunity to make not only some very nice photoreal moths, but also to develop a two minute long shot that was a combination of dream sequence and montage.

It was a revelation to me that we could use photo-real CG in an improvisatory framework in a way that echoes the work of experimental film pioneers like Stan Brakhage. It was a looser and more creative approach that allowed us to stray off the paths that we normally have to stick to.

TB: The biggest thing I worked on recently was as animation director/VFX supervisor on a series for PBS called Your Inner Fish. The series presents human evolution in a charming and idiosyncratic way and we used a wide range of 3D, 2D, traditional and digital techniques to create the extensive animation for the series. The show was released earlier this year in the States and has just scooped the top prizes at the Jackson Hole Science Media Awards.

Art director Tom Brass

Art director Tom Brass

JS: We have currently set up another facility and working on connecting the two sites under one umbrella (shared render farm and sharing central resources etc).

What you will be talking about at HP ZED?

DC: I'll be talking about a short viral animation (see below) that we produced a year or so ago for the Samsung Ecobubble. It's one of the most instantly appealing and memorable spots we've done, combining some very traditional animation with physically accurate lighting and some clever misdirection to grab the viewer's attention!

JS: I will be talking about how we’ve set up another studio and how we are going to work in a multi-site environment.

TB: I'll be explaining how visual narratives communicate (be it film, animation, comics, etc...) and show how we've applied these insights into some of the work we've done at Jellyfish.

  • Get your free ticket to this session here.

Register for HP ZED today!

This content has been brought to you in association with HP ZED, a 'pop up shop' for creatives in London's Soho from 29 September – 10 October 2014.

With talks, tutorials and creativity sessions brought to you by top experts from leading studios like Double Negative, MPC, Milk and The Mill, as well as HP, Intel and Nvidia, it's going to be a must-attend event for anyone working in motion graphics, animation or 3D. Find out more here!

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Tom May

Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. Author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Great TED Talks: Creativity, published by Pavilion Books, Tom was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. Today, he is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq and its sister sites Digital Camera World, and Tech Radar. He also writes for Creative Boom and works on content marketing projects.