BitDepth 689 - July 21

Facing tough times, 3D animator Brett Lewis adopted a creative offense.
Rendering a solution to tough times

Brett Lewis at his Belmont animation studio. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.
Brett Lewis' business, rendering gorgeously realistic three dimensional renderings of architect's drawings, was chugging along handsomely when the economic downturn hit.
By February this year, it was clear that the decline in construction projects was rippling back up the line and by April, every project his company, Eyescream Animation was handling had been put on hold.
First, he cut his office space in half, tightening up on costs, but shrinking wasn't going to work in the face of the precipitous drop in income he was facing.
"I've worked hard to get my staff to where they are, and we agreed that it was time to do something, to show off," Lewis recalls.

Brett Lewis turns line drawings of structures into lifelike models for a living, but he has always wanted to make the kind of movies he likes to watch. That led him to talk to MovieTowne, for whom he has done "house" animations for announcements and the feature film introduction.
He rendered the flying steelpan that turns into the movie house's film reel logo nine years ago and was keen to embrace a new challenge and to 'up' his game.
After some negotiation about content and delays in approval, Movietowne gave Lewis the go-ahead on June 14 to
create a short clip.

Shooting fast and light
Teaming with photographer James O'Connor, Lewis and a skeleton crew descended on MovieTowne for two and a half hours on the evening that Terminator: Salvation opened in Trinidad and Tobago. O'Connor shot raw footage to a very loose shot list with the Canon 5D Mark II, a still camera with remarkable video capabilities.
Using the shallow depth of field available on Canon's prime lenses and the high sensitivity of the camera's chip, O'Connor shot without additional lights, capturing fast moving, swooping shots that capture the cinema's exterior and lobby in vivid, naturalistic hues. That footage became the set for a very metallic meeting between a Transformer and a Terminator stripped to its gleaming skeleton.

Lewis and his team extracted 30 minutes of working footage from the lengthy shoot and proceeded to cram what was planned as six weeks of after-hours work into two.
Three dimensional work is now sufficiently advanced that it's possible to work with prebuilt models. The Eyescream team adapted a model of a Terminator found on the Internet from a demonstration file into a fully working and articulated element in their short film.
The Audi that morphs into a transformer began life as a purchased model of a vehicle that the team cut apart and enhanced to create the finished giant that appears in the film.
"We added bits to it to make it look like that, I think there's parts from a tractor in there," Lewis says, laughing.

Opportunities build confidence
Fourteen days and 60 GB of animation and rendering later, Brett Lewis presented the finished clip to MovieTowne's management and the clip was accepted for showing on the cinema's screens.
"The concept was a bit rushed. This is the first time I've ever directed something and now all I see is stuff I'd like to fix or add," he said.
There's been no money in the project for Lewis, but there's been a lot of buzz and calls from potential clients interested in making use of the company's capabilities.
Lewis first dipped his toe in the film business a year ago when his friend Randall Aché hooked him up with the producers of a movie remake of 'Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.' EyeScream Animation created animations to be used on all the computer monitors in the film in a day. The images are featured prominently in
the film's trailer.

"Trinidadians haven't got enough confidence in themselves and in their capabilities. If clients try to do tough projects with local producers and creators, then we'll get a lot better at the work. Build a need and capacity for quality work, and then we'll be able to market it."
At least two potential new projects have resulted from interest in the MovieTowne clip and some older construction projects before have begun to come onstream, but Lewis is determined to continue doing the work he loves to do, hoping that the quality of his efforts will stimulate the business he needs to survive.

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