Meet the Studio: Blur Studio

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  05 May 2005
I'm gonna go with the flow and first congratulate you guys on every single project you've done so far. All the shorts, plus the game cinematics and so on are all really awsome. I'm definately a fan...if a feature film does ever come out, you have my ticket

As for questions, I think most of it has been covered, but I wanted to know, if having a college background is often necessary when hiring someone?

Also, do you guys look for specific skills too? For instance, if someone can't really texture well, but can do great modelling work, or lighting work, he might be considered?

Finally, does drawing godlike (IE: Feng Zhu) is a necessity to all positions? Or having basic notions, maybe enough to pass on an idea, is enough? Granted, the person meets other requirements...

I'm really just curious about your hiring guidelines. I'm thinking of getting in the industry, and wanted to have an idea on how a studio like yours goes with that stuff Thanks in advance
Personal Website
  05 May 2005

What do you think about this school for animation?

I know you'd preferr CalArts Alumni, but I keep seeing people that teach at CalArts also teach at the Academy......You're in Venice, the school is in Santa Monica...I was hoping you would have some insight.

  05 May 2005
Hey blur!!!

Blur is a place I would dream of working sometime after I am done with college. What things could I do or should I do to be about the competition? examples would help!

Thanks, keep up the awesome graphics

matt butler
-= =-
  05 May 2005
Meet the studio? Heh, nice surprise.

Anyway, might as well throw a few questions out.

-I hate to come off as a nuissance or anything (I'm sure you get these kinds of questions every day), but I'm particularly interested in how internships are handled through you guys. I guess I'm just assuming they're offered, though I didn't really see anything on it through your website.
It's really hard to gauge exactly what level a studio expects an intern to be at when just starting out; people mostly just tell you that you need to be very good, and that you probably shouldn't keep your hopes up. When it comes to finding a job, I can just take a look through the galleries here, and get a pretty good idea of the competition I'm up against, and how good I'm going to need to be. But then, most of the better stuff in these galleries is coming from people with a significantly greater amount of experience than your average intern.
Could you offer some insight on this, perhaps? Maybe some examples of the kind of work that has gotten people internships at your studio in the past (again, based on the assumption that you offer internships)? Obviously, there's going to be more to it than how pretty your renders are. I'm starting to feel like I have the technical knowledge to be able to take on an internship, but can't say much beyond that.

-You all obviously have your Max pipeline worked out well enough to be able to produce film-quality animations. I'm sure I've read interviews in the past where some of you have spoken of the way that using Max has strengthened your pipeline, but are there ever any cases where some aspect of Max completely breaks the development cycle apart - where you've started concidering adding additional 3d apps to the pipeline? Some apps just do some thing better, but then with a studio like Blur, I would guess that the artists are always able to find ways to get around some of the problems well enough for it to not affect the workflow too greatly.

-Somebody needs to give your web designer a pat on the back. That menu bar is quite sexy. Of course the same comment applies to all of the animations as well, but web designers need a little bit of recognition too.

Probably more to follow. But I'll keep things simple for now.
  05 May 2005
Hey, Blur. As everyone has said, I hold your work among the greatest out there, and am eagerly awaiting the first feature film. Whenever I get the dreaded "dream job" question, I find your studio coming up more and more in my response.

I am very intersted in how you came together and initially started Blur. What's the breakdown of your core staff, and how many projects do you generally work on at once?

Also, I know this may be an unanswerable question for legal reasons, but any ideas a brewin as far as feature film goes? Anything you know you're NOT going to do? Anything you might be willing to reveal about what kind of film you'd like to make? Animated cartoon? Science fiction?
Juice that monkey!
  05 May 2005
I think everyone else has already covered any questions I had...

So I'll just take this opportunity to congratulate all the amazing artists at Blur.
Thanks for the inspiration - keep up the great work!

Modeler / Generalist TD
  05 May 2005
hello hello bur...

to all u guys responding to this?... nice lil task u have here, enjoy... lol.

it funny that this pops up today not even 10hrs ago i sent an email to Bobby Beck threw his site asking where i could find a downloadable copy of Hubert's Brain and Vanilla Pudding. After i went to your site and was planning sending and email to you guys to find a downloadable copy of your films, but fatiuge assaulted and i had to go to bed . I was hoping that seems cgnetworks has preview of 3 of your fine films it wouldnt be that bizarre to download them from somewhere? (i ask this because it is soooo much easier to download the film once and stop wasting my downloads on viewing all of these once a week )

ok so i think im safe with that question above but i do hope this post doesn't become redundant now.

i wanted to ask what in the next short the studio is working on and if there was a url to check it out?? and also what is there to look out for in the future for blur??

oh 1 more thing (i promise) i wanted to know what u guys think is quality inspirational animation... and by that a couple urls to artist and animations. And if like your films they are 'protected'?? pfffft please just mention them and ill do my own research .

Dont hold back... even if u guys can just bounce and inspire each other instantanously i know you all have a atleast small collection!! ok this wasnt planned it popped into my mind so u cant hpld it against me.. i just mention the studio life of Blur... what is it like to work in a studio with so much respect and expectation?? im sure u can scrounge together a dig camera... take a few pics!!

ok taken up way to much of your time and other cgtalk users so i apologise, (but respond hehe)

and congrats on all of you achievements to date and best of luck for the future

“The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.” Frank Lloyd Wright

Last edited by tilite : 05 May 2005 at 04:32 AM.
  05 May 2005
Congrats on getting even more attention =]

The cinematics you guys and gals at Blur made are the kind of material that make me want to buy a game, most evidently with the Dawn of War cinematics. I'm not too keen on the idea of Warhammer (the original game), but the cinematics were done so well that I almost couldn't not buy the game. Same goes with the Hellgate: London cinematics I saw the other day.
And I'm sure I'm not the only one who appreciates how much a good cinematic adds to the potential of a game. However, we all all aware that Blur aspires for greater things, such as feature films, but if such an endeavour doesn't arrive as soon as the studio would like, are game cinematics and short films enough to sustain the (or any company, for that matter) company until the studio has enough corporate presence to create an I.P? What does it take for a studio to make the jump from short film to feature film, to fully independant production?
"This is what comes through to us."
  05 May 2005
Well this is a first for me, asking questions to the pro's!

First of all:

-Where do you get your inspiration?
-How do you get the motivation to keep the shorts at maximum quality?

Could you give any tips or pointers for CG artists wanting to do the same sort of stuff you guys do now?
  05 May 2005
Hi everyone! Since there are a bunch of us from Blur here answering questions I'm only going to field the ones that I think I can answer best. So big picture studio stuff I'll leave for Tim Miller to answer. And knitting questions I’ll leave for Dave Wilson. Just and FYI. ;P


Ok first and only question... please comment details on the mud effect during one of the final scenes of "In the rough"...

Thanks, thesuit. I'm very proud of the way the FX turned out for ITR. The FX guys kicked major ass. As you probably know, organic FX like water, mud, and hair are pretty difficult to pull off well in 3D. That's why we chose to do all three in this short! Haha. But seriously, the shorts are a vehicle for technical R&D as well as for stretching our creative storytelling muscles here at Blur.

The mud illusion was achieved by layering several simple FX. First there is a displacement on the ground geometry as the character passes by. Then there is a particle system on top of that for the spraying water. On top of all of that, there is a 2D animated texture of rain water flowing along the ground. Also, if you look closely (you can see it on film) the ground texture changes as the character wipes the mud up. Lastly, we swapped out a muddy version of the caveman (Brog) so the audience is tricked into thinking his face got splattered. Even though you never actually see it happens. When you combine all of that with the CG rain coming down, splattering and materials adjusted to look wet with the proper specular highlight AND lighting... it starts to look pretty convincing.



- Any word on a future feature film project?
- What's the biggest lesson learnt from your time with Blur (one per artist)?

We're getting a lot of calls for possible features since Jeff Fowler's short, Gopher Broke got a nod from the Academy. Thanks Jeff... I mean Mr. Fowler! Hehe..

TEAMWORK. Yup. That's the one for me. You just can't do this level of work alone. At least I can't. Besides, it's fun to work with other people with amazing talent. Not only do you learn a ton and have a blast with your friends, but you play jokes on them when they are crashed out on the couch at 4am. :P


What do you like for in aspiring talent- with regards to 3D artists? What is the kind of demo material that amazes you? What doesn't impress you?

This is really a Tim Miller question since he hires people. But one thing I will tell you that is a reality at any studio you apply to, is ONLY PUT YOUR VERY BEST WORK ON YOUR REEL/WEBPAGE. Read that again. No really. Ok, here is a good way to make sure you understand it. When you are done cutting your reel together cut it in half. This is a trick I learned from editing my writing but it works with demo reels. That stuff that is so precious to you because you spent 100 hours on it may be hurting your reel and chances of getting work! Check out this hypothetical conversation:

Wow. That's a big stack of reels.

Yup. Not much so far though so don't worry about your job yet.

(nervous laughter)
hahaha... Hey, that guys stuff is pretty cool.

(rewinding tape)
Yeah, I thought so too but look at this.

Yesh. That's bad. Looks like his old student work.

Yup. Gotta wonder about this one's eye if he's putting that on the reel.

Yup. Well, back to work!


This is great. Hello BLUR guys, first of all, u guys rock, I’m a big fan of urs. okay i have so many things to ask. heres some that i can remember

- I wanna know how you organize a team who will work on a short or game cinamatics. And how many people do u work with in projects like 'Gopher Broke' or 'In the Rough'?

- What are the softwares you use to do dinamics?

- Do you guys use a lot of GI? or what kind of lighting do u mostly prefer?

- What software do u use for rigging?... i dont think Max's built-in rigging/skinning system is not good enough for your kind of works. or do u use any inhouse sotwares for that?

- as many wants to know, what are your future plans? is there any ned masterpiece in making?

well thats about it... i'll be waitng for
ur replies

Since we did ITR and Gopher at the same time animators got to read the scripts and choose which project they preferred to work on. For the most part I think they got on the projects they preferred.

We use 3D Studio Max, Adobe Photoshop and Premiere, and Eyeon's Digital Fusion.

We didn't use any GI for ITR. I think GI is cool but it can be overused and a bit of a crutch if you aren't careful. It can also be very slow if you have a complex scene and are rendering to film or HD res. (Both ITR and Gopher were 1920x1080). We do use it on other projects as a layer for its deep shadow capabilities. For example, the Warhammer 40k cinematic used GI in the character pass. But for ITR we used a lighting rig comprised of a simplified light dome (giving us the GI effect with faster rendering), key light, rim light, fill light, and special eye lights that excluded everything but the eyes because I wanted the eyes to look alive all the time.

One thing we wanted to push on both shorts was our character pipeline. We use Character Studio and Biped for a lot of game cinematics because it handles mocap so well. But for the shorts we made a custom skeleton with max bones and, believe it or not, we used Max’s skin modifier! Of course, we have some pretty snazzy max scripts that have been written by our scripting studs! We did this for two main reasons. One, we knew the shorts would be keyframed and use no motion capture. And Two, we wanted to really push the squash and stretch. Biped can do it, but it's painful and you wind up counter animating a lot of stuff.

FEATURES are the holy grail! I think one of the coolest things about Blur is that we want to do the Pixar style stuff as well as the genre stuff like sci-fi, fantasy, and horror movies in CG. I love bouncing between both worlds, from Warhammer 40k to ITR style stuff. And one day, if the planets align I'd love to work on a CG horror film in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft's Call of Cthullhu!


Hello folks at Blur.

Is it possible that we will be seeing a "trend" of other studios, setting up their pipelines to create their own shorts. Given that it took you guys 3-4 weeks to complete the Warhammer cinematics. Maybe not a trend, but given the success of your shorts it has certainly made some people go "hey, we can do it too".

If so, how would it affect the independent folks creating their own shorts.

That’s it for now.
Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions.

Well, I think the trend was set by Pixar already years ago. At least for CG shorts. Blue Sky winning the Oscar for Bunny certainly gave them a shot at doing features and now they've done two. I think we all know the up side to doing shorts, the biggest being there is no client interference because you are the client! But the downside is there is no money either! Haha. And to do a short well on all levels, story, direction, editing, animation, modeling, lighting, rendering, FX, etc, etc. it takes a lot of dedicated people willing to sweat blood and tears. I'm not saying that one person in a garage can't do it alone. I think very talented artists do. But if you want to compete with the big boys like Pixar, Dreamworks, and Blue Sky... well, then you need a lot of resources and a studio willing to back your crazy dream, right? So, yeah, I think there will be more people making shorts as it gets easier to do, for sure. But there will always be an illusive bar that the Bigger fish set because they simply have more cash to spend. Best bet is to make the STORY as good as you possibly can. A good story, well told will make up for a lot of technical shortcomings, IMHO. That “well told” part is a key point (or secret)! Seriously. In the hands of a master storyteller, like

As for the Warhammer cinematics being done in 3-4 weeks... The guys that worked on that BLED to get that thing done in that time frame. I was one of them, but I didn't bleed as much as Dave Wilson and his crew of scene assemblers. Don't get me wrong, our pipeline destroys but it was defiantly a labor of love that gave that beast life! And we all begged for Tim Miller to accept the job to boot! I'm a big Warhammer 40k fan. I still have part of my hand painted Ork army on my monitor here at work! Hehe.


Voldron -

Where did you guys go to school or have you just learned alot by doing it? What do you use for compositing? Last question.........Have you used any other 3d packages besides 3DS Max?

Thanks in advance

I graduated from the Academy of Art University (used to be College) in San Francisco with a B.A. In traditional illustration. When I went to college they were just bring in computer classes on my last year! I took on class called like Pixel Paint 101 or something before I graduated. But I got an internship at a studio called Storyboard Express my last two years of school and they had a bad-ass 286 IBM clone with Crystal Topaz 3D on it and some funky Pinnacle paint system that I just started learning because nobody else wanted to. Haha. From there it was all self-taught as I moved to the mighty 3DS dos ver 1. I've dabbled in other 3D packages but have always returned to max for any serious work. Just a preference. I think it's ultimately the skill of the artist, not the software that matters most.


First off you guys are spectacular.

I would like to know if you could give some pointers for someone trying to start an animation studio of their own.. Maybe some of your experience, and things to look out for...

Thanks, Infinity3d4life! I've got some advice for you! For you see, I had TWO companies before I finally gave it up to join Blur. I'm sure Tim will have great advice on how to succeed but sometimes it's nice to hear about other peoples failures so you can learn from their mistakes! Haha... Ok, on to the advice –

The first thing I'd say is ask yourself why are you starting a studio and not joining an existing one? Everyone has their own reasons and I think if you are going to do something as important as starting a studio you should do some soul searching first. This question might lead you to...

What is your ultimate goal for having your own studio? Money? Power? To direct your own movies? To own your own intellectual properties? To tell your stories? To make cool images and animation? I think a lot of people (me included) jump into “the American dream” of owning their own business without thinking of the down sides. Like, looking for work CONSTANTLY. Never having any free time. Being responsible for employees. Having to run the boring business side of a studio, taxes, payroll, hiring, firing, sick days, etc, etc.

Also, if your goal is to say, direct your own movie then who is going to run the studio while you are focused on your movie? Partners? Ok, who do you trust enough to partner up with? Your bestest buddy since the age of 5? That's what I did and after two years we decided the business was ruining our friendship so we dissolved the company to save it. (One of the reasons anyway).

Do you have the right personality for running a studio? I think it takes more than being a creative person. How are you with your own personal finances right now? Balance your checkbook? Got the cheapest cell phone plan? Do you like to lead people? Speak in front of 20, 30, 50, employees?

Do you want the responsibility of hiring and firing employees? Are you a softy that won't fire someone not pulling their fare share of the workload if need be? Easier said than done when that person has a wife, kids, mortgage, etc.

OK, after saying all of that, I don't want to sound too negative! If you think you have what it takes to start a business and maintain it... go for it! And if you aren't sure, my advice would be work for someone else’s studio and learn... or start freelancing and see if you dig on that. Oh, and Good Luck!

Well, that’s all from me tonight folks. I’ll answer some more tomorrow! Great questions so far! Hope I've helped.
  05 May 2005
Hello everyone over at Bur. Thank you for taking the time to answer questions.

I'm currently graduating and finishing up my modeling reel. I'm finding that the bulk of my reel is cartoonish characters (like my avitar) and I'm wondering if a lack of realism is a bad thing.

What do you look for in a modeling reel?

Thanks for your time.

  05 May 2005

Hey Blur,
first off I want to say how much I love your work and how inspiring it really is to see what you guys can come up with. I'm a junior student in high school right now and I'm seeking good Colleges where I can excel in 3d. I was curious to know if Blur knows any good colleges where they would recommend me going. Also, does Blur set up tours of the studio? I live in Los Angeles and would love to come by and see how Blur opperates. Thanks!
-Colin Duffy, 17
  05 May 2005
hi guys, i absolutely love your work its very inspiring to me, i have some questions regarding modeling in particular:

1-do your modelers create models than can perform in various situations and extremeties or do you create models than can work for the shots that they need to be in and then repair in post?

2-What do you look for in a good modeler? are you looking for someone who can model characters or environments really well and can do just that? or do you like to see range , aka someone who can model and build in all different kinds of styles?

thanks for taking the time guys.

-Heber Alvarado
  05 May 2005
more technical questions

Heres a couple of technical questions I'm dying to know.
  1. Does BLUR use referencing for their characters in a normal animation pipeline? If so, do you work on different stages of production at the same time using referencing technique or do you have a more linear workflow
  2. How many Brogs do you think you have around for the ITR production? So far, normal brog, wet brog, muddy brog... do you make special rigs for special situations or a master rig that works wonders?
Thanx for taking the time to answer. Keep the good work comming.
Andrew "theSuit"
  05 May 2005
Well this is a first for me as well!!

My questions which may have been ask in many different ways is: Do you see your animators using other tools other than 3DS Max, like Maya or Softimage, or do you prefer them to use properitary software built by your programmers? Also as a person with not too many drawing skills to you ever hire animators (in general) based soley on there skills applied through a computer?

Thanks guys for aspiring so many with your workmanship!!

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