VFX Supervisors

Stimulated-Inc. is accepting applications for talented VFX Supervisors

This opportunity is for a VFX Supervisor to work in-house with us at our Burbank, CA studio. Work starts in December 2017 and goes through March 2018. We are using UE4 as a design, development and postproduction tool in the creation of immersive media for LED screens and projection at live stage productions. We are using After Effects for Compositing and pixel mapping and we are using Premiere for editorial. All of our work is pixel and frame accurate.

Ideal candidates will also be skilled in After Effects VFX compositing and editing. Working knowledge of UE4 is a plus.

Please apply via email to jobs@stimulated-inc.com. Tell us about yourself and please include links to any relevant work. We look forward to hearing from you.

Thank You,

Stimulated-Inc.

 

Unreal Engine 4 Artists

Stimulated-Inc. is accepting applications for talented Unreal Engine 4 Artists

This opportunity is for Unreal Engine 4 artists to work in-house with us at our Burbank, CA studio. Work starts in December 2017 and goes through March 2018. We are using UE4 as a design, development and postproduction tool in the creation of immersive media for LED screens and projection at live stage productions.

Ideal candidates will also be skilled in After Effects VFX compositing and editing.

Please apply via email to jobs@stimulated-inc.com. Tell us about yourself and please include links to any relevant work. We look forward to hearing from you.

Thank You,

Stimulated-Inc.

 

Millennials don’t want your MTV but they do want your cruise ship

Can the cruise industry rescue broadcast entertainment from irrelevance?

By Robb Wagner

I’ve been working in the cruise line industry and network broadcast industry in parallel for about six years now. Here I’m sharing my inside perspective of two industries, one in decline and one on the rise.

Slide from the 2017 Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) State Of The Industry Report

When I was first invited by Carnival Cruise Line to fly to Italy and look at one of their brand-new ships in the shipyard, I didn’t know what to expect. I had never been on a cruise ship before let alone a Carnival cruise ship. I didn’t know much about the brand but I had heard of the ‘booze cruise’. And besides, cruise lines still had the reputation for stale chorus-line entertainment. But when I stepped onboard Carnival Magic I was blown away. She was stunning. Sure, I’ve been part of some of the biggest TV events, concert tours and live experiences on record, including the Academy Awards, Live Earth and the Super Bowl Half Time Show. But I had never seen anything like a brand new cruise ship. It became instantly clear that Carnival was not working for today but for the future.

Developing, designing and producing the first-ever Floor Screen – “77th Academy Awards”, 2005

Ready to make memories – Carnival Vista arrives at her first port to the raucous cheers of loyal Carnival Cruise Line customers. Trieste, Italy, May 2016

I had been headhunted by Carnival with the assistance of a business consulting company they work with, which I found fascinating in itself. I learned that Carnival, with the help of the business consulting group was projecting the future of their business including who their future customer would be. Our job was to figure out how to entertain and engage them. My job was to help Carnival create the future. Right away I knew this was for me.

After all, I built my entertainment development company, Stimulated-Inc. by helping broadcast brands like Viacom (MTV Video Music Awards), movie brands like Disney (Hannah Montana 3D) and Sony (Michael Jackson’s This Is It) take giant leaps and transform the way they entertain and engage their customers.

Producing Biggie Smalls in screens with P. Diddy live-onstage – “MTV Video Music Awards”, 2005

Filming Disney’s “Miley Cyrus & Hannah Montana: Best of Both Worlds 3D Concert Film”, 2007

Producing Michael Jackson’s ‘This Is It’ 3D concert, 2009

But hold the phone. This cruise line is saying they are willing to be bolder and more daring than all of those? And they have a five year plan? I had never heard of such a thing in all my years of working in broadcast, film and music. This was the natural next evolution of Stimulated-Inc.. Helping a brand take giant leaps by developing new ways to entertain and engage their customers. This was exciting.

Developing, designing and producing next-gen live entertainment – Carnival’s award winning “Epic Rock” theatre production , Carnival Sunshine, 2014

By contrast, soon after I visited a senior-level network TV executive at her office in Manhattan. Sitting on her couch we shared anecdotes and caught-up on lost time. She said, “Robb, you can’t imagine how frustrating it is to work for a big TV network that still does things the same old way.” “What do you mean?”, I asked. “Well, TV executives think they know what audiences want, they order pilots, they focus-group the pilots in a room of 12 people, then they green light TV shows for millions of dollars only to fail.”

She called that frustrating, I call it crazy. From everything I’ve learned working the cruise industry and the tech-entertainment startup I co-founded in 2013, the first problem here is thinking you know what the audience wants, when you don’t even know the audience.

And this gets into a deeper brand identity crisis I believe broadcast needs to deal with. The cruise industry is made up of distinct brands. There’s Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess and so on. Each brand has its emotional connection to the audience. Carnival is the Fun Ship, Royal Caribbean is the WOW, etc. Customers have an emotional relationship with these aspects of the brand, which is where cruise line brand loyalty comes from.

Crafting emotional connections between brand and customer – Carnival Breeze, 2012

But none of that emotional brand identity exists in network broadcast. The big TV networks are generally seen as the same. They have all have variety programs, drama programs, daytime programs, sports and news. But it’s the programs, not the networks have the brand identity. In general the networks don’t have a brand. Only the shows on the network have the strong brand identity and emotional connection to the audience.

The last TV network to have a big brand identity people could connect with was FOX. But this is going way back to when FOX was the new kid on the block. There were three major TV networks at the time and then there was FOX: the bold one, the rebel. FOX could afford to be the bad boy. It could afford to take chances. It could afford to write new rules. FOX is largely responsible for opening the door to much of the reality genre programming we see today, with the biggest example being American Idol. American Idol was synonymous with FOX when it first came on the air. Idol was bold, new and innovative. People talked about it at the water cooler. It came on the scene like Facebook, out of nowhere.

Cut to 2017 and there is no new kid on the block, no rebel, nobody rewriting the rules or taking chances like FOX did in those days. There are just four networks. Even the big one, American Idol is now making the parallel leap across networks, which isn’t that big of a leap. Because the audience identifies with American Idol as the brand, not the network.

Cable TV channels such as Nat-Geo have created more brand identity than the big broadcast networks. Speaking at Variety’s Massive Summit, “Genius” Producer Ron Howard commented on this brand affinity. “It’s the story linked to the (Nat-Geo) platform, which sends another kind of message, whereas in the past it’s always been the story that drives everything, and that’s not necessarily the case now.” Meaning, Howard is allowing the platform (Nat-Geo) to inform this project, challenging him and the the story in important ways. This is exactly what we do for brands like Carnival and this is what is missing from the big networks.

Talking with major network TV executives today, I’m able to get them excited about some of the things that we’re doing on cruise ships. We’re doing Virtual Cast Extension, Virtual Set Extension and we’re using videogame technology to create the next generation of immersive entertainment at sea. One network TV executive I recently spoke with said “Robb, why aren’t we we doing any of these things on our shows?” I laughed and said, “Because I just told you about them.”

Producing and directing Virtual Cast Extension™  – Carnival’s top-rated “Flick: The Power of Motion Pictures”, Los Angeles, 2016

Making memories and stimulating emotions – Carnival’s top-rated entertainment: “Flick: The Power of Motion Pictures”, Carnival Vista, 2016

Creating the future at Carnival’s brand-new 44,500-foot creative development facility – Carnival Horizon creative development meeting, Carnival Studios, 2017

But it’s the cruise line industry that’s on the rise with Millennials and Gen-X, while the broadcasting industry is seeing double-digit declines in viewership. The reason seems simple. One industry has been carefully and thoughtfully finding new ways to create the future for their brands, while the other keeps-on doing things the same old way.

Stimulated-Inc.’s new pilot program for brands is called Brand Entertainment Accelerator. Feel free to reach out for information. robb@stimulated-inc.com +1-818-853-9000.

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THE BEAUTY OF DISTRIBUTED CREATIVE WORK

HOW A GLOBAL WORKFORCE OF CREATIVE TALENT IS CHANGING THE WAY DESIGN, ANIMATION, AND VFX POST-PRODUCTION GETS DONE.

By Robb Wagner

Technological advances and changes in the global economy are increasing the geographic distribution of work in industries as diverse as banking, wine production, and clothing design. Many workers communicate regularly with distant coworkers; some monitor and manipulate tools and objects at a distance. Work teams are spread across different cities or countries. Joint ventures and multi-organizational projects entail work in many locations.
– The MIT Press

At Stimulated, Inc. we added distributed work to our company over three years ago. Why?

  1. Leverage our existing infrastructure.
  2. Increase our capabilities.
  3. Scale while controlling costs.

We accomplished all these things by developing a scalable system built upon our rock-solid workflow. Here I’m sharing how we did it and how you can take advantage of it.

The system consists of three core elements working together to in the most efficient way possible.

  • Process
  • Workforce
  • Technology

4 steps to getting started.

  1. Envision your distributed system.
  2. Document your process.
  3. Vet your workforce.
  4. Choose your technology.

1. ENVISION YOUR DISTRIBUTED SYSTEM

A distributed work system is a global assembly line that never shuts off. For optimal performance your system should be built on smart process, operated by a capable workforce and powered by technology suited for you.

To envision your distributed system, start by identifying capabilities you’re existing infrastructure is missing. Then envision those missing capabilities as distributed resources that compliment your existing infrastructure.

2. DOCUMENT YOUR PROCESS

A distributed work system is a process, so it requires a set of carefully prepared procedures for everyone to follow. Answering these questions will help you break down your process and document your procedures.

  • What are the steps in your process?
  • Who is involved at each step?
  • What tasks are required at each step?

stimulated.works-chart

3. VET YOUR DISTRIBUTED WORKFORCE

Vetting a distributed workforce is an ongoing, time and resource consuming process. Plan on conducting interviews on phone and Skype at off hours, when the rest of the world is awake. When interviewing keep in mind a remote worker must be capable of working with a system, which means following written instructions. We recommend putting top candidates through a ‘test job’ as a final check. The test job typically includes a nominal payment, which pays the worker for their time and helps validate the payment pipeline. Your AP department will thank you.

4. CHOOSE YOUR TECHNOLOGY

With distributed work your in-house team will become tasked with more daily activities. Technology powers your distributed system and helps automate your process.

Technology requirement checklist.

  • Empowers your team with an easy to use solution that simplifies their daily activities.
  • Easy access to assets.
  • Simple way to communicate without losing time.
  • Convenient way to track projects and effortlessly stay up to date.

There are a number of SaaS (software as a service) platforms to try, including Sharefile, Signiant, Wiredrive, Simian, Basecamp, Dropbox, Frame IO and others. Comparing and testing these takes months and there’s a good chance you’ll end up using a combination of SaaS platforms. We found most did one thing well but fell short as an overall solution.

We built our own system (stimulated.works). Feel free to contact us for more information.

stimulated.works

LESSONS IN VR: DISNEY’S HIT 3D CONCERT FILM

ONE SIMPLE QUESTION LEADS TO MILLIONS OF FANS

By Robb Wagner

hannah-2200x1092-01

In an age where just about everybody wants to create VR, what lessons can VR learn from 3D? Was just being 3D enough to create success? Did pointing 3D cameras at a concert make an experience?

CASE STUDY: DISNEY’S HANNAH MONTANA 3D CONCERT FILM

In 2007 I was asked by Disney to help direct the “Hannah Montana 3D Concert Film”. Disney had their Director, a top film team and James Cameron’s ‘Pace’ 3D camera system. But they didn’t have experience filming a live-concert in one take, which is where Stimulated, Inc. stepped in.

We knew going to see the movie would need to be as exciting as attending the concert, so that’s the end-goal we started with. We let that guide our process.

ASK: WHAT IS THE DESIRED EXPERIENCE NEEDED TO CREATE A LASTING IMPRESSION? THEN NEVER COMPROMISE THE VISION.

A typical approach to filming a concert would have been to look at the arena blueprint and ask, “where should we put our cameras to film the concert?” Instead we asked, “how can we create the desired 3D experience?” To find the answer we attended weeks of production rehearsals at Disney Studios in Burbank, followed by weeks of sold-out concerts across the country. Going inside the concert audience was critical. That led us to form a vision for the 3D experience we needed to create.

Director Bruce Hendricks made two key decisions. He put his cameras in the audience and he didn’t try to hide them. Just the opposite, we put the cameras in places where they could become features of the movie. These decisions added unique 3D layers, dimensions and excitement to the film.

By giving the movie-going audience a concert audience POV, we upgraded the movie into an experience. By featuring the cameras we upgraded the experience into an event.

hannah2Starting with the beginning would have only led us to point cameras at a concert. Starting with the end led us to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience for millions of young girls, and a runaway 3D hit movie for Disney.

IMAGINE WHERE YOU WANT YOUR PROJECT TO END UP AND REVERSE ENGINEER A PLAN TO GET THERE.

Will just being VR be enough or will VR need to create the experience? The answer seems obvious and the opportunity is exciting.

rw_vr

Robb Wagner checking out the VR experience at the Directors Guild of America.

 

 

MAKING LIVE PERFORMANCE TAKE FLIGHT

BEST PRACTICES FOR MIND-BLOWING CONVERGED REALITY™.

By Robb Wagner

wings

Converged Reality™ is cutting-edge narrative made by merging live performance with technology such as LED screens. You’ll see it on broadcast events like “America’s Got Talent”, at concert tours and in digital creator space.

For Carnival Cruise Lines we use Converged Reality™ to simulate interactivity between the live in-person performers onstage and the LED screens that are part of the scenic design. Featured here, “Epic Rock”, is an award winning live stage production we created with Carnival.

THERE ARE 5 KEY STAGES IN THE PROCESS.

STAGE 1. CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT.
STAGE 2. PIPELINE DEVELOPMENT.
STAGE 3. LIVE ACTION WORKSHOP.
STAGE 4. MEDIA DEVELOPMENT.
STAGE 5. LIVE INTEGRATION.

STAGE 1. Your process will begin with Creative Development. What is the big idea and how can you merge technology with live performance to capture the imagination? The final deliverable of your creative development process should be a strong storyboard that shows as much detail as possible. A best practice is going one step further to create an animatic, but you shouldn’t do that until after you’ve completed the next stage. Here’s why.

STAGE 2. Figuring out the entire pipeline before you begin making any assets is more than a best practice. It is mission critical and there’s a lot to figure out. You need to make sure your frame the rates are correct, you have to worry about your final LED pixel pitch, latency, scaling, media deliverable specs and any limitations of the media display systems including the screens. The danger in not figuring out your pipeline is, you can go through the whole motion of the process and if you have overlooked one small detail, that’s enough to bring down the project.

STAGE 3. With your Creative and Pipeline Development complete you’re ready to record a precise reference of what the live, in-person performance will look like. The Live Action Workshop is where the exact movements of the live, in-person performance are choreographed, rehearsed and captured. There are a handful of technologies you can use to capture the data, including mo-cap. A simple way is just using a video camera.

EVEN WITH THE SIMPLEST TECHNOLOGY THERE ARE PITFALLS YOU NEED TO WATCH OUT FOR.

A best practice is making sure the frame rates of everything you do match the final media delivery system. This should include your music, camera recordings and media renders. If any of these get off you can find yourself in deep trouble down the line. Even the difference between 29.97 and 30 FPS is enough to cause major problems.

media-development

STAGE 4. When your Live Action Workshop is done you can move ahead to Media Development. By using the captured workshop data as a precise reference for timing and positioning, you can track the movements of the live in-person performance on a timeline and design the media elements to match those movements exactly.

TOTAL CONTROL OF THE PROCESS IS REQUIRED TO DEVELOP THE MEDIA WITH PRECISION AND CONFIDENCE.

Even the smallest oversight can throw your project off track. Once your elements don’t sync up properly it will be painfully difficult if not impossible to recover.

live-integration
STAGE 5. The final stage is Live Integration, which in live entertainment means the final product. For Carnival it’s the live event where the in-person performers appear on stage along with the LED screens. The media elements, the display technology and the live performance all converge to form the final picture.

IF YOU DO THIS WORK WELL THE AUDIENCE WILL SEE IT AS ONE-BIG-IMPOSSIBLE-PICTURE AND YOU’LL BLOW THEM AWAY.

The video below offers a glimpse into the making of “Epic Rock”.