Sat, Jul 13, 7:34 AM CDT

Goldfish&#174; "Blast Off"<br /> Interview With Blur Studio's Dan Rice

Dec 21, 2009 at 12:08 am by Store Staff

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® Crackers, Season 4, episode 1 © 2009 Blur Studios

It is no secret that when it comes to watching television, I am the first one to reach for the remote when the commercial break inevitably rolls around. However, last November the talented CG artists from Blur Studio caught my attention, reeling me in with their animated Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® Crackers Campaign.

I sat, remote frozen in hand, mouth open and eyes wide, enthralled as I watched a gang of animated goldfish taking off on a paper airplane, on a quest to find their missing friend Gilbert. I immediately began a quest of my own to find out more about this animated wonder.

“Blast Off,” the first Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® Crackers commercial spot (of a ten-spot series), was created by the talented Blur Studio team. Per their press release:

New spots revealing twists in the Goldfish mystery are set to drop every six weeks. This story arc represents the first time in the campaign in which the Goldfish characters explore new environments as they voyage out from under the bed and engage in action-packed antics that include flying down a staircase, going for a spin on a cuckoo clock and playing chase with a hound dog.

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® Crackers, Season 4, episode 1 © 2009 Blur Studios

With films, television, commercials and games to their credit, the Blur animation team is renowned for their expertise in character animation. The Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® Crackers spots were created using Autodesk Softimage for character animation and modeling; and environments and effects were completed using Autodesk 3ds Max. NVIDIA’s mental ray was used to render the spots and bring in cinematic lighting effects.

I was lucky enough to hook an interview with the incredibility talented (and extremely down-to-earth), Dan Rice, who worked on The Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® Crackers campaign as the Art Director/CG Supervisor.

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Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® Crackers, Season 4, episode 1: "Blast Off"
(posted in the Renderosity Video Center)

Dee Marie: The first time I viewed the new Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® Crackers commercial, I thought I was watching a preview for either a Disney or Pixar movie. The quality of the work is truly Oscar worthy. Are there any plans for an animated full-length film featuring the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® Crackers characters?

Dan Rice: Thanks for the kind words. I can't speak for Pepperidge Farm but I don't believe that there are any plans to do a full-length film. We will however start up on another Goldfish® Season 5 Adventure next summer.

Dee Marie: I look forward to the next adventure. How did the concept for this season’s storyline come about?

Dan Rice: New York based add agency Young & Rubicam approached us with a great set of scripts and some rough storyboards that gave us an initial idea for how they envisioned the campaign. We then began to work closely with them to create a more dynamic style of boards, along with story reels and animatics to push these spots towards our cinematic style of storytelling and film making.

Our next task was to redesign the characters. I wanted to strengthen their forms and silhouettes so their personalities would read well on both a visual and subconscious level.

Dee Marie: That had to be a difficult task, as your characters were goldfish. How did you go about it?

Dan Rice: As an example, Gilbert, our soft spoken vulnerable character, has a soft smooth flowing form and is slightly smaller in scale. Compared to Xtreme; our outgoing daredevil character, which has a much more angular, aggressive shape to his silhouette. We also had the opportunity to create a few new characters which you'll see in the months to come.

We then began to redesign their world based off the original bedroom concept from the past seasons. We used simple shapes and negative space to keep the world cartoony while adding close up textural details to help support the scale and size of the characters. Color design and lighting of these spaces also play a major role in tone and mood for each spot.

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® Crackers, Season 4, episode 1 © 2009 Blur Studios

Dee Marie: The attention to the tiniest details is remarkable. How many days did it take the Blur Studio team, from start to finish, to complete each of the ten episodes?

Dan Rice: The entire campaign is 6 minutes at 1080p, and took close to a year to complete from preproduction to post production. There were two 60 second spots and eight 30 second spots. Due to the delivery schedule we were able to keep a small team of dedicated artists on it for a longer period of time which helped with the overall quality and consistency of the campaign.

Dee Marie: How many days per shot were you allotted for the campaign?

Dan Rice: From a shot assembly, lighting, rendering, compositing side of things this campaign broke down to roughly 3 days per shot. Each 30 second spot had 10 shots so it would on average take one artist 30 days to complete a single commercial.

For some of the spots our artists were able to model, texture, light, render, and composite their own commercials from start to finish. This helped give the team a strong sense of ownership to these commercials and I think their enthusiasm came through beautifully.

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® Crackers, Season 4, episode 1 © 2009 Blur Studios

Dee Marie: Without a doubt, each artist’s sense of enthusiasm shined through. Keeping to the technical side … how big of a role did cinematography and lighting play in the creation of the new campaign?

Dan Rice: Strong cinematography and lighting always play an important role in telling a story, and that's what these commercials are, stories.

Dee Marie: Excellent point, I never thought of commercials as mini-stories before.

Dan Rice: That was one of the key reasons Y&R choose to partner up with us. Our short format experience from our countless game cinematics, ride films, commercials, and award-winning short films make us a natural fit for a campaign such as this.

Dee Marie: On a personal note, I have been dying to ask you one question.

Dan Rice: [sporting a smile and a quizzical expression, patiently awaits the question]

Dee Marie: With your initial interest in Biotechnology (from Pennsylvania State), what made you switch your career path to computer animation?

Dan Rice: Every once in a while there are life changing moments that cause you to rethink everything. And it's not just the big moments, but all the tiny little moments in between that seem meaningless at the time.

When you combine everything together they inevitably push you into specific directions, for better or worst.

Dee Marie: Would you have been as content with your original career choice?

Dan Rice: Could I have been happy as a Biotechnologist? Probably. But I do feel like I'm doing what I'm suppose to be doing. With the support of my friends and family I was fortunate enough to be able to follow my dreams.

Dee Marie: How did you come to be a part of the Blur Studio team, in Venice California?

Dan Rice: Once I left Penn State I started out in the same manner as most in the late 1990s, early 2000s. I received a general study in the field of 3D animation from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. From there I was able to get a couple of jobs in Pittsburgh, PA doing mostly web design and illustration work. That was one of the best things that happened to me though because it forced me to focus on other skills I was lacking in; like color, composition, and lighting.

I also met a few important artists at this time who helped shepherd me to where I am today. Sometimes it just takes one person to believe in you; and for me, this is the reason I'm at Blur today.

Dee Marie: Your story is an inspiration to everyone contemplating changing their career path. Like you, many of our readers are interested in one day working in the field of CGI animation. What does it take to become a CG Supervisor?

Dan Rice: I don't think there is any one formula for describing what it takes to become a Cg Sup. We all take different paths but for the most part we are all generalists that are strong artists in all areas of production. You have to know the entire pipeline in order to be a successful Cg Sup.

Dee Marie: What exactly are your job functions?

Dan Rice: Since we are a smaller studio I currently oversee everything from concept development to environment, prop, and character modeling; as well as scene assembly, shader development, lighting, rendering, and compositingfinishing.

I usually get to do the initial look development for my projects as well as paint lighting studies and color keys. I also work closely with the other department leads like animation, rigging, and FX to achieve our project goals.

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® Crackers, Season 4 © 2009 Blur Studios

Dee Marie: Blur Studio’s breathtaking animation reel, seamlessly blurs the lines between reality and computer generated imagery. What new and exciting ventures are in the future from Blur Studio’s amazing animation team?

Dan Rice: Blur has always enjoyed a strong relationship with it's clients and we don't see this changing. We will continue to look for the same great work we are currently producing in the game, commercial, and FX industries along with some new ventures in areas of film.

Dee Marie: Thank you so much Dan for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit down with Renderosity. We look forward to the future adventures of Gilbert the Goldfish and his friends, and other exciting projects from Blur Studios.

About Blur Studios

Blur Studio is an Oscar- and Emmy-nominated production studio based in Venice, California. Founded in 1995, the company provides award-winning animation, effects and design for a wide range of media – short films, large format films, commercials, concept art, feature effects, music videos, game cinematics and broadcast design. Notable clients include ABC, Disney, Universal Pictures, CBS , Microsoft, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Sega, Activision, Nickelodeon, FOX Sports and THQ, among others.

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All supporting images were used with permission from Blur Studios
Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® Crackers, Season 4 © 2009 Blur Studios. All Rights Reserved.
Supporting images cannot be copied, printed, or reproduced in any manner
without written permission from Blur Studios

Get to know industry leaders and professionals
as they sit down and talk candidly with
Contributing Columnist, Dee-Marie,
Author of "Sons of Avalon: Merlin's Prophecy"

December 21, 2009

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