Nick's Notes:
Concrete Pictures Brings CG to Discovery Channel [Interview with Creative Director Matt Hall]

July 25, 2006 2:26 am

Television programming has become more exciting, and computer graphics have surely come to play a big part. Many times the promotional trailers and end tags can be just as entertaining as the programming itself. This is certainly true of two recent series on Discovery Channel: "Deadliest Catch" and "I shouldn't Be Alive."

With Creative Director Matt Hall at the helm, Concrete Pictures came through with visually stunning motion graphics that well depicted the extreme environments the two shows are based on. Many thanks to Matt for answering a few questions on the project.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you get your start?

I Graduated from Massachusetts College of Art in 1995 and took an internship with Corey & Co. in Boston. After that, I moved to Los Angeles and started working with 3 Ring Circus, EA, and 20th Century Fox.

How long have you been with Concrete Pictures?

I've been at Concrete for two years. We have been building a really good crew of talented artists here. If you know anyone send them our way.



As Creative Director, what exactly is your role?

My role as a creative Director is to creatively take a project from concept to delivery.

What is the production pipeline like? Who all is involved?

It really depends on the scope of the project. We start with written concepts, then develop styleframes and story boards. Once we have an approved concept and design, we evaluate how we can get it done. This is when we build the team and figure out the production flow. We always have to come up with techniques that will work within the given timeframe. In house we have 5 cg artists including myself. We are all generalists here so it's not like we have a particle or dynamics guy. We all pitch in and get it done.

In addition to Maya, what else is employed?

We use Cinema 4D, Boujou, Real flow, Z Brush, Poser, After Effects, Shake, Terragen, Illustrator, and Photoshop.

Surely, there must be an element of fun involved with any project. What do you and your crew do to let off steam? What do you do in off time?

We have a Concrete Pictures official Dodge Ball team. Our name is "The Former Losers" because our record last season was 3-27. We have been practicing at lunch time... so maybe we will live up to the name.



The "Deadliest Catch" trailer is absolutely stunning! How long did it take to get the fluid dynamics just right? What was the most problematic? How long did it take for the final render?

Deadliest Catch was kind of tough. It was our first time using Maya Fluids which can be a little intense and we had a tight deadline. The most problematic thing was getting the bouys, wakes, and sprays to all work properly. I ran into caching issues. The final render took about 3 days to render on 10 machines. This doesn't sound that bad given a 2k resolution but we only had ten days to do the entire project.

I absolutely loved the snow scene for the "I Shouldn't Be Alive" tag. How long did it take to get this right? Were there any problems along the way?

The snow was a little problematic because of the shear number of particles that it took to feel like a snow storm. There were millions of particles that were blowing around. We had to break it up into about 10 passes to keep our systems from crashing.



Are there more projects planned with the Discovery Channel?

I am just finishing a "Let's all discover" campaign with them right now. Really cool stuff. They should be airing this fall.

When things aren't going as planned, or when problems arise, how do you get through them?

Cheat, cheat and cheat. It's amazing what you can do with really simple cheats in 2d.

What are you currently working on now?

Finishing a series of :30 spots with Discovery, working with PBS on a block of kids programming, and trying to squeeze some personal work in when I can.

Do you have any tips, or advice to others looking towards a career in the field?

I think students should do as much personal work as possible. Figure out what really gets you excited and put it on your reel. That way when people hire you, they are hiring you for what you want to do. Not just what you can do.

Be sure to check out the trailers:

I Shouldn't Be Alive

The Deadliest Catch

About Concrete Pictures
An integrated branding services and production company, Concrete Pictures creates compelling video, film and interactive television experiences that identify and promote its clients’ brands, while entertaining and informing viewers. Representing the next generation in creative media companies, Concrete Pictures has expanded across traditional industry boundaries to overcome the challenges facing its clients while identifying and seizing other new opportunities in today’s rapidly growing home entertainment environment. For more information, visit

Supporting images and Quicktime files are copyright of Concrete Pictures, and cannot be copied, printed, or reproduced
in any manner without written permission. Discovery Channel and logo are Copyright of Discovery Communications Inc.

Nick's Notes is a Renderosity Front Page column with Managing Editor Nick C. Sorbin, providing reviews, interviews, and general commentary.

July 24, 2006

Article Comments

deemarie ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 25 July 2006

Thanks Nick for bringing us this outstanding interview. Matt Hall is fascinating, as is his work on the various projects associated with the Discovery Channel. Dee-Marie

DreamWarrior ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 26 July 2006

Great interview! Thank you, Nick!

Robotmonster ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 26 July 2006

Outstanding trailers! Thanks for the interview

kimariehere ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 26 July 2006

my favorite channel to watch !! i really enjoyed this interview thank you so much!

LillianH ( posted at 12:00AM Sun, 30 July 2006

Hi Matt, Thank you for taking time to give us a glimpse behind the tv screen. I've always wanted to know who does those graphics and how they do them. Very cool interview Nick! Lillian