First, an introduction by the artists who answered our questions:
My name is Christopher Brändström and I work as a character artist here at Framestore Commercials. By the time you read this I will have started working at Framestore's Art Department.
My name is Mary Swinnerton and I work as a character artist here at Framestore Commercials.
My name is Grant Walker. I was responsible for modeling, texturing, shading and rendering the Dragon. I also modeled the Orc Leader.
What is the Framestore corporate culture like? Why do you enjoy working there?
Christopher: Like most companies where you don't just end up by accident, you always have something in common. That's work. Framestore Commercials is like a big family where everyone is just so great at what they do and have such high ambitions. It all reflects in the work really. For someone not working in the industry, saying that work is what you have in common might sound obvious but it's really not. You're working there because that's where you want to be rather than having ended up there by lack of options. Framestore houses some of the most talented people in the industry and creates some of the best work. I love to always be able to learn new things. I'd say that's the main reason why I work at Framestore. Awesome people; awesome projects.
Mary: Itmaysound a bit cheesy but Framestore culture is like one big happy family. We have the benefits that come with working in a massive company, yet the feel of working in a close knit team. It's a great place to work. There are people here from all corners of the world and from so many different backgrounds, yet we all have one thing in common: to make the work that looks the best!
My day starts and ends with a 10 mile cycle to and from work. That gets me going in the morning and is a good wind down at the end of a day. There are also usually lots of cups of tea. In between all that, there is usually a lot to do. I've been working in Framestore commercials for four years now and every day can be different. Schedules are usually short and turnover is very quick so there is never time to get bored. I'm always on the lookout for a new feature or plugin or software that might speed things up.
In ZBrush I'm a big fan of ZAppLink for slapping on a texture and using all the power of Photoshop then bringing it back to ZBrush for a spin. I also love the UVMaster plugin for a speedy UV pelt that can take seconds. Having said that, I am quite traditional in the way that I work as my background is stop motion, building my own puppets, sewing them miniature outfits and sculpting hands and faces in plasticine or sculpy.
I'm a big fan of any feature that allows the modeler to close the gap between hands and screen, if that makes sense? ZSketch is brilliant for this; it's like working in real clay. And the retopology tools allow us to forget about the technical side for a while, sculpt away to our hearts' content then retopologize to what we need.
Christopher: A typical day for me starts out with arriving at work somewhere between 9-10am and eating my bowl of oatmeal and some protein. A solid breakfast makes a happy artist. I'm surprised Mary didn't say something about us folks at Commercials having a lot of protein powder around. For some reason, most artists actually work out quite a lot. I'm not too sure why that is. I have my theories though; at least when it comes to places where I've worked. My experience is that artists lift weights and programmers do cardio in most cases. Strange!
Anyway, having said that doesn't mean Framestore is a typically "guy" company like in games. For example, Framestore Commercials has a majority of female producers and managers which is a very positive thing. Typically when it comes to using computers, guys are often the majority but times are changing and it's all for the better.
Depending on where we are during the production, we usually have short schedules and quick turnovers. But that also means that you're doing one thing one day and something else the next. You always have to be on your toes, especially when it comes to learning new software and keeping up to date with the latest "in fashion" when it comes to your particular type of work. Since I'm a bit of a software junkie I really like that. And since Framestore is located in central London (Soho) you're surrounded by so many other commercial and vfx companies within literally one or two blocks. So the people you have lunch with are often friends. In my case since I'm Swedish, that means Swedish friends from Framestore, Cinesite, MPC, DNeg, Prime Focus, The Mill and so on. So you kind of know that the topic at lunch will be talking about work.
Who was involved with the Siege commercial? What was the team like and who were the artists?
Mary: Well, every now and then Framestore Commercials takes on a job such as Coca-Cola which will involve the whole team, plus an injection of freelancers and topped off by a few lucky individuals who get borrowed from the film department. Every desk was filled and you had to hang onto your Wacom pen for dear life. There was a real buzz when Coke heated up and I think the mixture of a few new faces together with a few of the old Commercials crew coming back for the Coke job really made it a great time to be working in 3D Commercials. We had a little shuffle around of the seating plan so modelers and texture artists were sitting within close proximity. In my corner were Christopher, Grant, Alex Doyle, Will Brand and Jamie Isles.
Christopher: Since the Coca-Cola Siege commercial was such a big project, we had to borrow some people from Framestore's Film Department as well as use people from other Framestore offices in New York and Iceland. In London, I think we must have filled up every seat possible to be able to get this project done. We had a couple freelancers as well, if I remember correctly. So it was a massive project!
I wish I could name every single person on the project and I'm sorry for leaving so many people out, but the artist's that I worked closest with were Grant Walker, Mary Swinnerton, Alex Doyle, Will Brand, Paul Jones and Tom Scarlett.