We are Barnstorm VFX. We produced the visual effects for "The Man in the High Castle: Season 2". Our work also includes "Silicon Valley", "Key & Peele", "The Good Wife", and many other shows. We'd love to talk about our artistic process and philosophy for visual effects. We are here with our friends and collaborators from Theory Animation, which partnered with us on some of the key CGI sequences from "The Man in the High Castle". The show is nominated for two VES (Visual Effects Society) Awards in the 'Supporting Visual Effects' and 'Created Environment' categories. Ask Us Anything!

We are awaiting the ability to publicly release our VFX shot breakdown reel for "The Man in the High Castle: Season 2". If you are interested in having a sneak peek at the reel right now to see how the vfx were created, please email [email protected] for information on how to watch it and we will respond immediately.

My Proof: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1297928846947804&id=192869684120398

Comments: 134 • Responses: 59  • Date: 

Apex130247 karma

So was it you guys that made the Volkshalle where Himmler made the speech in the Season 2 Finale? If so, may I say kudos to you. That was so spectacular it rendered me speechless, pardon the pun.

Barnstorm_VFX23 karma

Yes, that was us. If you want to see a breakdown, you can email [email protected] and get a link

achegarv6 karma

The architecture of authority in the show is fucking PHENOMENAL. The neo-Speer state structures are as much a character as anyone in the show, and a huge part of why I can't look away.

Barnstorm_VFX1 karma

Thanks. We worked really hard to make it feel correct. You can also thank the Production Designer, Andrew Boughton, who designed the practical sets in the show. He has a lot of architectural knowledge and was very collaborative with us to help make sure our designs matched the feel of the rest of the stuff in the show.

rickmuscles18 karma

What books, movies or games do you draw your inspiration from?

Barnstorm_VFX44 karma

Our visual bible for Germania was a book called "Albert Speer: Architecture 1932-1942". There were extensive and detailed plans for the transformation of Berlin, including blueprints for buildings like the Volkshalle. We did take some creative liberties with the arrangement and positionings of buildings for the sake of the narrative and to better coordinate with the production designer's aesthetic of the sets. We looked at old film reels including the famous "Triumph of the Will" for references of how Nazi rallies were organized. One video game that I remember paying attention to was "Wolfenstein: The New Order" because it presents a world that was taken over by the Nazis, though its presentation of post war Berlin (including the Volkshalle) was much more futuristic and sci-fi-ish that what we went for. Our goal in MITHC was to create a sense of the world that felt fairly mundane and grounded in reality. The more it felt like something that could really happen, the more effective the message of the show.

Cyb3rJesus15 karma

Where did you go to school to learn visual effects?

Barnstorm_VFX22 karma

We learned visual effects in a variety of ways. Some of us went to schools where we studied CGI and/or compositing or went to film school. A LOT of what we know was self-taught though and came from working. Lots of trial and error, and lots of looking up tutorials for stuff online.

Cyb3rJesus3 karma

I'm currently attending the Art Institute for photography however I'm teaching myself Photoshop via online tutorials. If you had one piece of advice when it comes to being creative what would it be.

Barnstorm_VFX10 karma

The number one thing is to make your work. Don't just follow someone else's tutorials. Picasso used the same brushes and canvases as everyone else. It's much more than knowing what button does what and which menu is where. Be your own harshest critic and really push through problems you come across along the way. Also see this response - https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/5rvwo2/we_produced_the_visual_effects_for_man_in_the/ddaphg0/

Barnstorm_VFX12 karma

We should add that that's nothing against tutorials. Even as professionals working in this industry, we use tutorials a lot, especially when getting accustomed to new pieces of software. Also for this type of work, a formal education is overrated. You can learn stuff in school, but you learn the most when you are out on your own solving problems related to making something work as opposed to doing a syllabus.

Working fast and efficiently is also a big thing to consider, because anyone can create good work if given enough time, but you will NEVER EVER have enough time to do your best work, so often you will be judged by what your 70% of max quality work is, and not by what your 100% work is. I've joked before that if I taught a class on vfx work with 4 weeks to do the final project, I'd change the whole concept with one week remaining, throw out everyone's work, and make them start over... that would be the best training for how things happen in real life ;-)

Ehh_Embb12 karma

Do historians really believe the Nazi's would have had that much regalia all over the place? I mean, I know they liked their symbols and swastikas and whatnot, but I wonder if the Nazi's would really decorate the place with as many swastikas as you see in the show.

Barnstorm_VFX17 karma

We joked sometimes on the show about how MANY swastikas there were all over the place. Since its a television show, I think its more about the psychological effect that it creates of extreme jingoism... so we probably diverge from reality a bit. Though, if you do look at images of party rallies and such from the 30s and 40s, there were rows of hundreds of swastika flags, so I think its not outside the realm of possibility, especially for the heart of Berlin. I think in reality, I would just imagine everywhere I might see an American flag (outside and inside the school for example in the first episode of the second season) and replace it with a nazi flag.

rsapparel12 karma

Do you pay overtime to your artists?

Barnstorm_VFX29 karma

Yes we do. We also TRY to maintain a sensible work week and avoid crunch (though understandably there was a decent amount of crunching as High Castle was coming to a close). We have a very high proportion of full time artists (80% full time compared to 20% contract artists) that get overtime as well as little perks like their laundry done every week. Its actually appalling to me that anyone can get away with NOT paying overtime because, at least in California where we are based, it would be against labor laws to not do it.

DrBobOh19 karma

As a VFX artist this is refreshing to read.

Barnstorm_VFX12 karma

Thanks, the company was founded by two vfx artists (Lawson Deming & Cory Jamieson) and for the first couple years it was just a couple of us toiling at all hours. We realized that for quality of life sake, we had to make a change, and that became the principle by which we started to work as our company continued to grow. We have a really great team of people and the last thing we want to do is burn them out.

rsapparel6 karma

Was getting clients and work in a big challenge for you at the beginning? I ask this because I also worked on the show in Canada, where subsidies are said to be damaging the US studios, and can't help but think this puts you guys at a disadvantage.

Barnstorm_VFX13 karma

Subsidies do affect us. We've talked about putting together a Vancouver wing (because some people don't even want to talk with us if we can't get them those incentives and we've lost out on shows because of it) and we are making some steps towards it. The trick is that work in Vancouver is tough also because of how competitive it is with all the big features up there pulling artists (who may want to work on the next 10 Star Wars movies even if they are just a small cog in a big machine). All our work is currently based on good word of mouth from people we've worked with in the past, and people who we already have relationships with tend to provide us with our best opportunities, so that's been good.

Barnstorm_VFX14 karma

I would also like to take this opportunity to talk a little about the difference between freelancing and independent contractor work, because abuses are rampant in VFX. This is specific to US labor law, but likely has analogues internationally as well. We try at all times to actually "employ" our artists. That means getting a w-2 instead of a 1099 at the end of the year. It also means having income taxes withheld (including medicare and social security), getting contributions made to unemployment insurance, and being available for worker's compensation.

Some freelancers have reason to prefer 1099 work and, if they request it, we don't fight them on short term contracts. But if you're working in VFX in the US today, and you are provided a place to work and the necessary tools to do so (ie - an office and a workstation), that you're not paying for, you should be a w-2 employee. If you are not, speak up, or come work for us.

The reason we think its important is primarily twofold:

  • Artist Turnover: Incorrectly classified contractor labor gives workers fewer safety nets (like unemployment payments between jobs and worker's comp if they get hurt and are unable to work), forces them to actually pay more taxes due to self-employment tax (normally an employer pays this tax, which is about 14%), and often means overtime is calculated incorrectly or not at all. This creates burnout and artists lose a sense of ownership. Good, talented people will not stand for this and find pursuits that are more fulfilling and allow them a better lifestyle. If good people aren't staying in VFX, everyone suffers.

  • Inaccurate economics: Employing contractors versus employees skews the cost of visual effects and makes it seem like costs are lower than they actually should be. It makes it even harder for places like us, who are obeying the rules, to compete with those who don't. Facilities often do this, at least in part, to compete with cost pressure from overseas, and it becomes harder for policy makers to make decisions based on the reality of employment metrics.

This subject has been discussed at length on many vfx blogs and so we don't need to debate it here, but I did think it important to clarify Barnstorm's stance on this topic. We applaud other facilities who have the courage to make the harder choice to do things right. Just because your show is about Nazis, doesn't mean you should act like one :)

i_am_voldemort11 karma

What do you use for rendering?

Barnstorm_VFX26 karma

We've experimented with a variety of programs over the years, but for 3D work, we settled on using the open-source program Blender starting about 3 years ago. Its very unusual for vfx houses (at least in the US) to use Blender (as opposed to, say, Maya), but there are a number of great features that caused us to switch over to it. Blender has renderer called "Cycles" that we've used for our rendering of most of the 3D elements in High Castle and other shows. In order to deal with the huge rendering needs of High Castle, we set up cloud rendering using Amazon's own AWS servers through Deadline, which allowed us to have as many as 150 machines working at a time to render some of the big sequences.

In addition to Blender, we occasionally use other 3D programs, including Houdini for particle systems, fire, etc. Our texturing and material work is done in Substance Painter, and compositing is done in Nuke and After Effects.

DdCno13 karma

Now this is fascinating. The Man in the High Castle has to be the most high-profile production to ever use this software.

Have you considered contributing to the development of Blender?

Barnstorm_VFX8 karma

To the best of my knowledge, yes, this is the most high profile mainstream project to use Blender for VFX. We are contributing to Blender development with the the help of our partner Theory Studios, which is very active in the Blender community. Some of the internal tools we came up with may even make their way into Blender someday soon.

DdCno11 karma

Thanks for the answer! I have a few more, if you don't mind:

Could you elaborate on some of the reasoning for choosing Blender over more established software? Cost is probably among them (since Blender is entirely free), but on the other hand, it has to be more challenging to find and train artists who are used to more conventional commercial software and standard production pipelines.

Which functions of Blender are you using? Just the rendering engine or also some pf its numerous other features like modeling and compositing? Is your workflow entirely FOSS-based or is there still commercial software involved? How did the rest of the VFX industry react to your choice of software? Has it made cooperating with other studios more challenging (for example during the first season of The man in the High Castle)?

Barnstorm_VFX4 karma

The original decision to use Blender actually didn't have anything to do with the cost (though its certainly helpful now that we have more people using it). We were already using Nuke and NukeX as a company (which are pretty expensive software packages) and had been using Maya for about a year. Before that, Lightwave was what we used, simply because it is the program that I personally started with.

The real turning point came when we had to pull together a small team of freelancers to do a sequence. The process went a little bit like this:

1) We hire a 3D artist to start modeling for us. He's an experienced modeler but his background is in a studio environment where there are a lot of departments and a pretty hefty pipeline to help deal with everything. He's nominally a Maya guy, but the studio he was at had their own custom modeling software which he's more familiar with, so even though he's working in Maya, its not his first choice. 2) The modeling guy only does modeling, so we need to bring in a texture artist. She doesn't actually use Maya for UV work or texturing. Instead she uses Mari (a Foundry product). She and the Modeler have some issues making the texturing work back and forth between Mari and Maya because they aren't used to being outside of a studio pipeline that takes care of everything for them. 3) Since neither of the above are experienced in layout or rendering, we hire a third guy to do the setup of the scene. He is a Maya guy as well, but once he starts working, he says "oh, you guys don't have VRay? I can get by in Mental Ray (Maya's renderer at the time) but I prefer Vray." We spend a ton of time trying to work around Mental Ray's idiosyncrasies, including weird behavior with the HDR lighting major gamma issues with the textures. 4) We need to do some particle simulation work and smoke and create some water in the same scene... Guess who uses Maya to do these things? No one, apparently. Water and particles are Houdini in this case. Smoke is FumeFX (which at the time only existed as a 3DStudio Max plugin and had no Maya version).

So, pop quiz. What is Maya doing for us in this instance? We've got a modeler who is begrudgingly using it but prefers other modeling software, a texture artist who isn't using it at all, a layout/lighter who would rather be using a third party rendering engine, and the prospect of doing SFX that will require multiple additional third party softwares totaling thousands of dollars. At the time we were attempting this, the core team of our company was just 5 people, of which I was the only one who regularly did 3D work (in Lightwave). I consider myself a generalist and had been puttering along in Maya, but I found it very obtuse and difficult to approach from a generalist standpoint. I'd just started dabbling in Blender and found it very approachable and easy to use, with a lot of support and tutorials out there. At the same time our three freelancers were struggling with the above sequence, I managed to build and render another shot from the scene fully in Blender (a program that I was a novice in at the time), utilizing its internal smoke simulation tools and the ocean simulation toolkit (which is actually a port of the one in Houdini) to do SFX on my own, and I got a great looking render out of Cycles.

Blender has its weaknesses, and as a general 3D package, its not the best in any one area... but neither is Maya. Any specialty task will always be better in another program. But without a pre-existing Maya pipeline, and with the fact that Maya's structure encourages the use of many specialists collaborating on a single task (rather than one well-rounded generalist working solo) it didn't make sense to dump a lot of resources and money into making Maya work for such a small studio.

I ended up falling in love with working in Blender, and as we brought on and trained some other 3D artists, I encouraged them to use it. Eventually we found ourselves a Blender studio. That advantage of being good for a generalist, though, has also been a weakness as we've grown as a company, because its hard to find people who are really amazing artists in Blender. Our solution up until now has been to work hard on finding good Blender artists (we're totally open to applications, by the way, so send the reels and resumes to [email protected]) and to try and train others who want to learn. Also, since Blender acts as a hub for vfx work, its still possible for specialists to contribute from their respective programs. Initial modeling, for example, can be done in almost any program. It can be difficult, but the more people from other VFX studios I talk to, the more I realize that everybody's pipeline is pretty messy, and even the studios who are fully behind Maya use a ton of other software and have a lot of custom scripts and techniques to get everything working the way they want it to.

We use Blender for modeling, animation, and rendering. Our partners at Theory Animation have focused a lot on how to make Blender better for animation (they all came from a Maya background as well but fell in love with Blender the same way I did). We've used Blender's fluid system and particle system (though both of these need work) and render everything in Cycles. We still use Houdini for the stuff that its good at. We used Massive to create character animations for "The Man in the High Castle". We also started using Substance Painter and Substance Designer for texture work. Cycles is good at exporting render layers, which we composited mostly in Nuke.

One of the big hurdles that Blender has to overcome is the the fact that its licensing rules can make it difficult legally for it to interact with paid software. Most companies want to keep their code closed, so the open-source nature of Blender has made it tricky to, for example, get a Substance Designer plugin. Its something we're working on though.

When collaborating with other companies, we usually separate the 3d and compositing aspects of the work to keep the software issues from being a problem. Its getting easier every day, though, especially now that Blender is starting to support Alembic. For season one, the sequence we worked on was completely separate and turnkey, so we didn't have any issues sharing assets. For season 2, however, we did need to do a lot of conversion and re-modeling of elements. Also, many of the models we received were textured using UDIMs, which Blender does not currently support. It would be great for blender to eventually adopt the UDIM workflow for texturing.

We do get a lot of raised eyebrows from people when we tell them we use Blender professionally. Hopefully the popularity of the show (and the fact that we've been nominated for some VFX awards) will help remove some of the stigma that Blender has developed over the years. Its a great program.

KillerAceUSAF10 karma

What designs that y'all created are you most proud of in the an in the High Castle? Also, what designs do y'all think look the coolest?

Barnstorm_VFX31 karma

Some of the stuff in season 2 was re-used from season 1, though in most cases because it was used differently, we rebuilt portions of the models and completely re-textured them.

New elements for season two include Germania (the city-within-a-city in Berlin where the seat of Nazi power was located) and specifically the Volkshalle. We built that from the ground up utilizing lots of references and in-depth creative discussion with the show.

Germania was an ENORMOUS build that involved many artists, many custom created buildings and textured, and over a HUNDRED BILLION polygons. It was much bigger than anything we'd ever made before and took something like 5 hours to render a single render frame on a 128 core machine. And that's just the outside. The inside of the Volkshalle was its own beast. It was of course huge (1000 feet tall in real life measurement) and was very difficult to light because most of the lighting during the daytime was supposed to come in through a single oculus at the top of the structure (this is very difficult to do in 3D because of the indirect lighting bounces). For the last episode, we had to also add 100,000 digital Nazis to the scene. That was another huge issue to deal with. We're really proud of all the work we did to put it together.

KillerAceUSAF8 karma

Damn, this just makes me appreciate the work done even more!

Barnstorm_VFX8 karma

If you want to see a breakdown, you can email [email protected] and automatically get a link; you can see Germania dropping in piece by piece!

jonosb10 karma

In the credits the name Barnstom does not seem to appear to identify they did the work i.e. individuals, so who actually did all the work on this and why are they not listed, it is "amazon" and seems like they should give credit to those involved as I am sure not just one person did all this or did they?

Barnstorm_VFX10 karma

Credits are a tricky subject and they can appear many different ways on different shows. Because screentime is often at a premium, they are also much different (shorter) than feature credits, particularly for VFX. Sometimes companies are credited directly, sometimes individuals. On High Castle, two of us, Lawson Deming and Cory Jamieson, are credited on the show. They are the principals of Barnstorm and you can also see their names here on the VES nominations - https://www.visualeffectssociety.com/post/15th-annual-ves-awards-nominees - many of the other team members are listed there as well.

erinnydick8 karma

What shot have you worked on that would cause a passerby to do a double take when they glanced at your screen?

Barnstorm_VFX11 karma

We've done some pretty wild stuff. Some shows for cable have pretty raunchy stuff in them, and we've had to paint out (and sometimes add in) sexual body parts.

Some of the raunchiest stuff we've done is for Silicon Valley, including a masturbating monkey named Kiko (with a robotic arm) and a sequence of horses having sex (shot on a green screen and a plate shoot that we did of the horses). We actually had the footage of the horses first and we played it back for the actors before the scene so they could get an idea of what they were reacting to!

MingeManager8 karma

Is it difficult with the "films" to produce different feelings via vfx of the timelines, or is it simply like working on independent scenes? To me feels like it would be like working on separate projects, but with familiar faces.

Barnstorm_VFX5 karma

Each show has its own 'feel' if that's what you're asking. We often work on many projects at once and have to switch between different styles of work, though in order to maintain consistency, there is often a core team of people who pay attention to a particular show. Some shows also have a more focused point of view than others and require special consideration. It is very important with vfx to think of how you are telling the story of the scene and not get too caught up in the rote processes, because the kind of work that is appropriate for one show may not work in another show.

liamquane7 karma

Hi What's the best thing a director can do for you?

Barnstorm_VFX9 karma

The absolute best thing a director can do is plan ahead. There's that old saying 'fix it in post' but really you want to be able to spend your creative energy pushing a project that extra step so it can be its best rather than fighting against production mistakes and spending a bunch of time trying to save something that isn't working because no one thought about it before they shot it.

One of the reasons vfx can look bad is because they need to be used to cover up bad planning at the same time they are being used to advance the story. Many old fashioned practical effects hold up so well because they had to be extensively planned out... Once you painted a matte painting, the director couldn't decide to change the camera position, for example. If a model was created and multiple copies of it were made to be blown up, you couldn't re-design it completely after it was shot... so people got used to really thinking in depth about how things were being done. Now, things happen so quickly that everything can change in an instant because a director makes a spur-of the moment decision to do something 'creative'... it may be a good idea, but it can significantly change the budget and timing for vfx work and ultimately cause things to be worse than they would have been. The idea that there is plenty of time for people to change their minds also usually keeps them from thinking about how things should look or feel until very late in the process, leading to problems. Better planning always leads to better VFX.

orangejulius6 karma

Is it awkward for you ever having all those Swastikas / fascist imagery and props around?

Do you see parallels between the substance of the show you work on and the executive orders that are coming out now?

Barnstorm_VFX14 karma

It affects some people differently than others. Some people found it creepy or disgusting. It never bothered me. In the world of show, part of the idea is that these symbols are normalized and they treat them just like we might treat the American flag. The show definitely explores themes about how people with a patriotic mindset can be swayed to support a corrupt government in the name of national unity.

EZ_does_it6 karma

What happen to the visual effects team on season one? Why didn't it worked out?

Barnstorm_VFX14 karma

Multiple companies worked on season one (we were one of them, who did the final sequence with Tagomi in Union Square). For season two, the show focused on trying to unify the vfx under one team that would be responsible for both the on-set supervision and also the majority of the effects work... and we were lucky enough to get that job!

gameronclegg9 karma

As someone who worked on Season 1, I appreciate this answer.

Great job on Season 2!

*Edit, some words.

Barnstorm_VFX12 karma

Yes, I don't want to minimize the great work that was done in Season 1. The vast majority of it was not done by Barnstorm. The pilot was done by Zoic, which was Emmy nominated for their work, and many things were created season 1 by Zoic and a handful of other companies.

We did extensively modify a number of assets for season 2, partly in order to conform them to our workflow and somewhat unorthodox CGI pipeline. Also, the new ways that certain elements were seen and used in season 2 meant the models had to be changed for story purposes.

InsertUsernameHere326 karma

What made you guys want to pursue visual effects?

Barnstorm_VFX5 karma

Most of us were fans of sci-fi and fantasy films and stories growing up. Stuff like Star Wars was definitely a big influence, and I have memories from childhood of building X-Wings and TIE Fighters out of Lego (before official sets for these existed) and then smashing them on camera to try and imitate what I saw in movies. The appeal of filmmaking in general, I think, is also the appeal of visual effects specifically: its a way to tell stories and do make-believe that is as close to 'real' as possible. If you've got a big imagination and you want to realize it, filmmaking is the way to do that.

liamquane5 karma

What software do you use?

Barnstorm_VFX12 karma

For 3D, we use Blender mostly (rendering in Cycles) and Houdini for simulations. We also use Zbrush, Speedtree, Substance Painter, Substance Designer, and others. We used Massive to simulate crowds for Man in the High Castle For 3D tracking we use NukeX and sometimes Syntheyes For Compositing we use Nuke, NukeX, and After Effects

axiomatic-1 karma

I would love some more information on how you've found fitting Blender into a modern VFX pipeline.

Have you developed in-Blender solutions for shot tracking, setups, referencing, save/load, versioning up and the like?

Also how do you find artists to work with it? Do people adapt fast? Do some departments struggle more to find people?

Are the anythings that Blender doesn't do for you that you would like it too? And does it play nice with Houdini?

Barnstorm_VFX4 karma

We started using Blender because I was tired of dealing with the complexity and legacy issues of Maya, which makes it more difficult than it should be for a solo artist to work outside of a pre-set pipeline. As a small company (at the time) we needed something that had a lot of different tools for doing 3D work and was easy to pick up and use.

Now that we've grown to the point where we actually do have multiple 3D artists working on single sequence and a pipeline to deal with, it is a bit more complex. Blender currently does have some issues fitting into a bigger VFX pipeline.

We've developed a number of in-house solutions for Blender. We use Blender solely for 3D and NukeX for tracking and compositing, but we hand camera data back and forth between Nuke and Blender using .chan files (that's technically built into blender but we've developed a system to make it a bit easier). Fitting Blender into a compositing pipeline (Nuke, EXR workflow) is surprisingly easy. Layer render rendering, and the ease of setting up Blender have made it pretty fast for passing around assets between artists and vendors. We also have a custom procedure and PBR shader setup for working with materials out of Substance Painter in Blender. A mix of Shotgun, our own asset tracking, and a workflow based on Blender Linking with a handful of addons are needed to make sure everything works.

Finding artists is the most difficult part, because its not taught in schools that focus on CGI for film (at least not in the US, where Maya is the industry standard), and most artists who are into it (Blender) are hobbyists who may not have a strong professional background. There are a lot of really talented people out there, though, so the key is finding the good ones who use Blender (and we do a lot of work remotely, which means its not necessary for a good 3D artist to be based in LA where we are) and getting people who may be good in Maya to consider switching over. Barnstorm VFX and Theory Studios met and started an informal partnership of work (even though we are on opposite sides of the US) because we are both companies that primarily use Blender for our 3D pipeline. Theory has worked really hard in spreading the gospel of Blender and even has tutorials designed to help Maya artists switch over: https://theoryanimation.com/blog/maya-and-blender-workflows-for-animators

There are a number of things that Blender currently has trouble with that we'd like to see improved. It can't quite deal with cache's from Houdini well on its own so usually we render in Houdini and combine smoke/fire elements in compositing. Blender has a very weak particle system. We struggled with making crowds, generating explosions, grass and leaves that react to wind, you name it. Particles are the weakest in Blender and we find ourselves using mesh caches from say SpeedTree to handle trees and bushes for example. We're researching smoke and water tests now, and for intense scenes Houdini is just the way to go, but this too is tough. OpenVDB from Houdini to Blender is still very messy (we're not having good results) and high particle caches from Houdini to Blender are very unusable at this point in time. If there's anything we wish Blender could better, it would be particles. Blender currently doesn't have a reliable shadow catching system (which is vital to mixing CGI and live action and is a pretty significant oversight) so we sort of had to hack our way around that issue. It doesn't officially have overscan yet, and Cycles has some accuracy and speed issues. We ran into a lot of issues primarily with the linking system in Blender which turned itself with 2.77 and 2.78 updates, but it was still pretty messy. Version control was done manually with a protocol in place for file naming and folder structure. So there's a lot that still needs to happen, but we hope that by showing what Blender can do, we'll be able to get the support we need to make it even better.

fullouterjoin1 karma

Do you write in house software? If so, what for? What languages?

Barnstorm_VFX4 karma

We don't have any completely custom programs, though we've done a decent amount of customization of our workflow using scripts for automatic project setup, rendering, etc. We've also created a number of custom gizmos for Nuke (usually written in Python) that we use internally, as well as 'Pseudo Effects' for After Effects to standardize certain tasks between artists.

We've been very active in the Blender community, particularly our partners at Theory Studios, trying to get the Blender foundation to continue to improve their software and include things like shadow catching, overscan, and various other improvements to cycles.

liamquane5 karma

Are you going to be getting more feature film work in the future?

Barnstorm_VFX6 karma

We started out in television and love working on tv shows. Its partly because television is so exciting right now in terms of pushing boundaries with story and content. Also, television shows move much faster than films, and because of this, the work we do is fresher and faster. Movies often spend months doing visual effects shots that we have to do in weeks or days (or hours) but with that longer timeline comes many more versions and much higher cost, and it is a difficult business model to pull off in the current climate for VFX work. We're not against working on movies (and have in the past) but we're not actively pursuing it right now because working in television is so fun and gives us so much freedom.

KaiserX5 karma

What are some things you see in shows or movies which are mistakes which "normal" audiences might not pick up on?

Barnstorm_VFX16 karma

There are a lot of things. For vfx specifically, I'm always looking over at the corners of frames in cgi shots to see if I can catch a character doing a funny looking walk or something that's otherwise weird. In compositing, you'll often see green or blue spill on characters or notice how their head or hair changes shape when they move from a real set to in front of a green screen. A lot of keying involves very 'bloom'y highlights that glow over the edges that I find annoying, even though its done intentionally.

Also some things that are 'wrong' about vfx are actually production issues... for example, characters on a green screen who are not lit properly. People usually say its a 'bad key' but in reality its a problem with the foreground image being lit in an ambiguous manner that makes it not mesh well with the background, and there's not much that can be done with vfx to fix it.

gusmoreno155 karma

Weirdest visual effect you've had to create?

Barnstorm_VFX8 karma

Not sure if this is the weirdest, but its up there. We did work on a show that had trouble getting a dog to "do its business" on camera. So we created some elements and shot vfx plate photography of dog pee and poo for composite. Some other examples are mentioned above as well https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/5rvwo2/we_produced_the_visual_effects_for_man_in_the/ddant32/

sock20145 karma

with the current political climate, there is a chance that real footage will be touted as faked, and faked footage will be claimed to be real. The FX firm who created it may even get a national security letter making it a felony to even discuss it.

How would you deal with that situation? Have you thought of posting a "warrant canary" on your site?

Barnstorm_VFX13 karma

'Fake photography' has existed almost as long as photography itself has, and some of the first uses of filmmaking were by magicians (Georges Melies) to create illusions, so we've really been dealing with this for a long time. In communist Russia, they actually used to paint people out of photographs who had fallen out of favor with the party. And advertisements were being airbrushed for many many years before computers even existed. There's this idea that a photographic image is inherently believable and that now we're in some new unexplored territory where images can be faked, but photography has ALWAYS been fake. VFX obviously gives us the ability to create even more convincing 'fake' images, but on the flipside, we now have an unprecedented ability to confirm whether things are real or not. Not to mention, we've all grown up in a world where photoshop exists and know what it can do in the hands of a talented artist. I think that healthy skepticism about how images are created is drilled into us from a young age at this point.

liamquane4 karma

Any advice to those starting out in the business? One of my friends is doing a post-grad course at the moment and he has no idea! :~P

Barnstorm_VFX8 karma

My advice is to create as much personal work as possible. Do your own projects. Shoot your own films, and understand how everything works together. The best vfx artists we have are those who think about the work holistically and know how to to create the desired result, rather than just being fluent in the software. There's a different mindset that comes from being a 'filmmaker' where you are used to solving problems creatively using vfx to help you tell a story, as opposed to obsessing over the process of vfx work itself. I remember when I was just starting I worked with a guy who obsessed about After Effects plugins. He just knew everything about every one and what all the checkboxes and sliders did, and he LOVED the plugins... loved using them. But his work kinda stunk because it was all about the process and not about the result. Whenever I had a question about a plugin, I would ask him first, but his actual work output was not good. He also couldn't figure out how to use plugins in unusual ways that they weren't designed for (something that good artists should do) because he was too focused on the tools.

The second piece of advice is to simplify. SIMPLIFY everything in your head and simplify your process. The simpler your projects are, the easier it is to iterate and improve stuff. When you create a comp that is so big that you don't even remember what every layer and node is anymore, your work process slows to a crawl. The best artists don't brute-force their way through big things. They learn how to make the problem simpler. Conversely, many inexperienced artists create huge complex processes that catastrophize what should be a simple process and causes their work to resist improvement. Its related to the above in that people who are really obsessed with the power of the software tend to be more focused with using the program than getting results.

Spooktacle4 karma

Are you a fan of the show? Also did it feel weird working with Nazis-esque things?

Barnstorm_VFX8 karma

Yes, we're all huge fans of the show (and the book upon which the narrative is based). Not only for the great characters and drama, but also of the world and the fact that the show even exists at all. It takes a lot of courage to make a show like this (do you think you'd see this on a broadcast network?) and its a testament to the boundaries that are being pushed today in television.

Barnstorm_VFX5 karma

It was really interesting to explore and understand Albert Speer considering his role in everything (he also testified truthfully during Nuremberg trials). I actually found it really fascinating, they put a lot of thought into their art. So I was a fan of all of that attention to detail and art. It did feel weird google searching NAZI flags and finding a lot of modern people proudly posing with them on questionable websites...

liamquane4 karma

Where do you get the patience for doing what you do?

Barnstorm_VFX6 karma

You need to really REALLY love it. The same goes with any job in the film industry, because otherwise you will HATE it because of how demanding the work can be. It can be conflicting sometimes because if you take something that's really cool but throw it into a terrible context (like not having enough time or money to do the quality of work that you want to) it can be very frustrating.

Impatience has its benefits though because it drives us to create better and faster ways of working.

As far as actually being patient and developing patience, obsessing over work can really cause the hours to melt away, especially when you are focusing on getting something just right.

IndieGal_603 karma

The Concordes that were landing and taking off were some of my favorite shots in TMITHC! Can you tell me how long it took to assemble the airport shots?

Barnstorm_VFX5 karma

This is a difficult question to answer precisely. There are a lot different pieces that fit together. Each stage feeds in to the next and sometimes there are long gaps between them and then some stages that overlap. Here's an abridged workflow:

  • Photography of Tempelhof Airport in Berlin
  • Photography of the actors on stage (in front of greenscreen)
  • Modelling and texturing the rocket planes
  • Editing the scene with the rest of the show
  • Tracking shot cameras (matchmove)
  • Rendering the planes for the specific shots they appear in
  • compositing those renders together with the photography

From first photography to final delivery it was several months. The biggest portions for us were the cg creation and compositing. Even those pieces weren't worked on continuously, as there were layout changes, design approvals and animations that all happened concurrently. The bulk of this work happened over about 4-6 weeks.

If you want to see a breakdown, you can email [email protected] and automatically get a link.

Barnstorm_VFX2 karma

The rocket planes are an example of an element that existed in the first season as well, though we modified the models themselves and completely rebuilt the textures and shaders for our purpose because of how we used them.

forava73 karma

the most time consuming but worth the time effect that you have made? How did you come up with the idea?

Barnstorm_VFX3 karma

There are a couple of ways to answer that... The biggest thing we've ever done was to create the interior of the Volkshalle for "The Man in the High Castle". Part of the reason for that is the number of revisions, and part of that this the scale and number of digital extras that needed to be added and the other detailed elements that needed to be created. If you haven't checked out the reel yet to see all the bits coming into place, you can email [email protected] and we'll send you a link. The particular ideas in the scene represented a collaboration between many people, including the producers and supervising director of the show as well as the production designer, who designed the physical sets and look o the show, and the cinematographer. We also discussed it internally between our artists here at Barnstorm and our partners at Theory Studios who worked on the character animation and many of the modeling and texturing challenges in the space. We used real life references from Albert Speer's work (the Volkshalle was to be a real structure and went as far as the blueprint stage but was never built) to help us design it. We also looked at shots from the Leni Riefenstahl film "Triumph of the Will" to try and film the interior of the Volkshalle the way someone with a real camera crew might have if they were there rather than doing the kinds of swoop-y artificial shots you often see which show off the effects rather than grounding them in reality.

That's a situation where a lot of work led to a lot of payoff visually.

However, there are many situations in VFX where the best compliment you can get is for no one to say anything because they didn't realize something was a visual effect. There are too many examples of this to count, but there are many shows on television that you might say are not vfx shows or have no vfx like "The Good Wife" that may have dozens (or even hundreds) of vfx shots in an episode.

gravylookout3 karma

How much influence/inspiration did Ridley Scott have on the show? The shots out the windows of the Nazi offices in Berlin really reminded me of blade runner.

Barnstorm_VFX6 karma

Ridley's company "Scott Free" produced the show and acquired the rights to the novel, which was written by Phillip K. Dick. Incidentally, Dick also wrote "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", which is of course the basis for Blade Runner. I imagine that Ridley Scott was involved in the process in its early stages, though in our day-to-day on the show, we didn't interact with him directly. Of course Blade Runner was an amazing influence for us as vfx artists... so maybe some of that unconsciously bled into our style when creating Germania... hence the similarities.

lukalucasluka3 karma

Do you post is PS Battles?:)

Barnstorm_VFX5 karma

I haven't ever done it personally. We do sometimes create memes internally... usually in the form of gifs that joke on the shows we work on and have a bit of vfx love in them.

lukalucasluka2 karma

Join us:)

Barnstorm_VFX3 karma

Guess its time for us to kiss office productivity goodbye.

Reggaepocalypse3 karma

I'm a vision scientist wondering what the biggest challenge is that you deal with thst derives from some weird thing about human vision. Is there some perceptual wall you've run up against in your work? I realize all vfx could be cast this way, but I expect you'll catch my drift.

Barnstorm_VFX3 karma

There are a lot of technical things that affect our work. Resolution can create weird visual issues or the sense that images are stuttering when they are in motion, even when they are moving smoothly... especially with all the different playback devices that can be used to watch something. There are also huge issues with the way different devices resolve color, which means that the differences between two different monitors can make something look completely different (a lot of this has to do with color science and broadcast standards and how complex they are now).

Psychologically, the biggest issue we run up against in VFX is whether people perceive things to be 'realistic' or not. If someone knows that something is an effect, they will notice it no matter how realistic it looks. Conversely, you can get away with a lot if someone does not realize there are vfx in a shot. As a joke, I've told people before that shots with no vfx in them are effects shots and waited while they poke holes in the way something reflects or the texture or lighting that looks 'fake' before revealing that everything in the shot is real. People who are not used to looking closely at things may be surprised when examination reveals details that they didn't notice before, and they usually think these details are what makes something fake. A layperson might, for example, point out the weird rippled reflections that occur in glass windows as cgi because they've never noticed that most glass surfaces are not perfectly smooth and have a subtle 'wave' to their surface.

brianlis3 karma

Were there any VFX scenes cut by the Director that you would have liked to complete?

Barnstorm_VFX4 karma

We had some large sequences that involved more grand nazi architecture that would have been great to work on... many discussions, illustrations, and even location scouting. They eventually went away before filming because of script changes. Would have been super cool to work on... but who knows, they might eventually come back in another season.

artsyfartsy-fosho3 karma

Nuke or After Effects? Also, I've heard that another streaming service uses 4k plates for work on a consistent basis. For film, 2k is still the norm (IMAX shots being the exception). Do you feel like a switch to 4k as a standard for the industry will happen soon?

Barnstorm_VFX5 karma

Many shows now shoot (and even finish) in 4k. We find that its overkill for most work, though, and that realistically there is much less of a visual difference between HD and 4k than between SD and HD... not to mention what happens once the work is finally compressed for streaming or airing. Personally as a viewer, I'd prefer that the extra bandwidth currently being used for 4k content be put into creating a higher quality HD stream. A lot of data that is being used to simply push more pixels at us could instead be used to reduce compression artifacting and increase color fidelity. As someone who's seen what the raw images look like and then what things look like when they are finally on the air, you wouldn't believe how much gets lost between final color correction and the picture you eventually see.

Also, 4k drives the cost of vfx work up. It takes up much more space on our servers and takes longer to track, and 3D elements (which usually need to be rendered at least one step higher in resolution than the finishing format) require much longer render times.

I'm sure 4k will eventually be everywhere, but its definitely at least partially a hype thing (more Ks) especially since 3D didn't really catch on in the big way it was intended to.

Barnstorm_VFX4 karma

Also to answer your first question, we use both Nuke and After Effects. AE tends to be better for simpler comps and scenes that benefit from a timeline (like motion graphics). Nuke has better keying tools and so is better for greenscreen/bluescreen compositing, and Nuke also is much better for working with 3D cameras and CGI that utilizes multi-channel images like EXRs.

liamquane3 karma

What has been your most memorable piece of effects work, personally?

Barnstorm_VFX8 karma

There are so many things. A few of the most fun things we've done are from Silicon Valley and got a great response... including the Telehuman and Erlich's mushroom-fueled drug hallucination from season 1, the masturbating robot-armed monkey, Kiko, from season 2, and giant Maleant server farm from season 3. What's great about all these is how central the vfx were to making the scenes funny.

The Man in the High Castle is important, not just because of the opportunity we had to design such cool stuff, but because the show itself is so special and unusual. Its a rare opportunity to recognize a world so fully that is not an aliens-and-spaceships style sci-fi or fantasy. Its not something that comes along often, so we really relished the opportunity to be a part of it.

Dr_TattyWaffles2 karma

How much input do you get to give in pre-production and production? Do you have your own supervisors on set, or do you just get handed a hard drive after the shoot wraps?

Barnstorm_VFX1 karma

We were extensively involved in all stages of production. We read scripts and talked with the show's creatives quite a long time before anything was shot, and we worked on the show up to the final day of color correction in post after it finished. Aside from the supervising director and producers, we probably had the longest continuous direct involvement in the show of any department that worked on it.

Though we are based in Burbank, CA, Lawson Deming and Cory Jamieson, traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia multiple times (sometimes for over a month at a time) during production. We also had a full time VFX person available in Vancouver. In post, we regularly checked in with editorial and further discussed concepts and refined shots.

Barnstorm_VFX2 karma

Thanks everyone for participating in this AuA! Great questions all around. Stay tuned for season 3!!

BuxtonTheRed2 karma

Do you find it hard to switch off when watching other entertainment content with VFX in, or are you always looking for the "seam" between in-camera things and the stuff that's been added in?

(Also, that showreel is great. We loved season 2 of TMitHC and the amazing work you put in on it really made it believable.)

Barnstorm_VFX2 karma

I think what I look for in content I watch is an engaging story and characters. The best VFX in the world can't make up for a bad story. Many big movies with huge action sequences and amazing VFX can be yawn-inducing because you don't care about the characters or the stakes - and the vfx feel like they are compensating for a lack of narrative. Conversely, watch an old episode of Star Trek and you'll be amazed at how a great story will keep you from thinking about cardboard sets and cheesy optical effects. I wouldn't say that its tough to 'switch off' when watching a vfx-heavy project so much as it is that one can get 'switched on' by watching something that's bad or boring. When the story's not working, your mind starts to wander to other things, and big bombastic vfx can become something that you end up fixating on.

PatMeGron1 karma

I have a friend thats working at Zoic Studios in Vancouver, did you guys split the work?

Barnstorm_VFX2 karma

Zoic did a decent amount of the work first season. This 2nd season, however, Barnstorm VFX did 99% of the vfx shots in the show (along with our partners at Theory Studios) with only a small handful of shots being outsourced.

Dannyboy14321341 karma

What was it like working with Amazon, were the people friendly?

Barnstorm_VFX2 karma

Amazon cared a lot about the show and was very involved in making sure it turned out great. We also got a lot of support from Amazon's own cloud rendering service, AWS, which we leveraged to help us render some of the huge CGI sequences we did for the show.

CrazedSama1 karma

what skills do you need to make learning/mastering VFX easier?

Barnstorm_VFX2 karma

VFX is a pretty unique mix of right/left brain. You need to be artistic but also good with computers. You don't necessarily NEED to know programming but having some scripting experience (and at last understanding how programming works) will give you a big leg-up, as many compositing and 3D programs have built in scripting languages that allow you leverage some of their more powerful features.

A fine art background is useful for some aspects of vfx. Understanding sculpting, for example, could make you a better 3D modeler.

For both 3D and compositing, I highly recommend an understanding of photography... knowing how lenses and cameras work in terms of depth of field, focal length, exposure, etc. Since a lot of what we do attempts to simulate real photography, it can be hard to do realistic work if you don't have photographic experience.

Spirilicous1 karma

What programmes do I need to learn in order to make VFX like this? A lot of the houses and so on is 3D Models I Guess? Thanks!

Barnstorm_VFX2 karma

We use Blender primarily for the 3D, though we also used Speedtree, Massive, Substance Painter, Substance Designer, Zbrush, Houdini, and other softwares.

For compositing, we use Nuke (and NukeX) and After Effects.

In addition the software itself, it was a lot of work an man hours to build everything. Some of the houses and stuff were purchased model assets, but many things were built by hand.

SirWillfred1 karma

Do you think you could make a reel/portfolio from scratch in a year to be employable?

Barnstorm_VFX3 karma

I think its possible for someone to put together a reel in that amount of time or much less, though it depends on exactly what discipline they are trying to get hired in and how much experience you already have. The best way to get a reel together (and for that matter the best way to learn) is to work on your own films, whether its an idea for an animated short or something that mixes live action and CGI; make your own projects and we will be able to see how good a storyteller you are, which is vital to good vfx work. Tutorials are helpful when you're starting out, but tutorials usually present an 'ideal' working scenario and don't create the kinds of challenges to overcome that creating something from scratch does. Also, we know all the Video Copilot and Blender Guru tutorials (among others) so if you're just presenting tutorial work, we'd recognize it immediately.

And just a bit of reel advice... put your best work on your reel and leave off the other stuff. No one knows what you left off your reel, but if you've got bad work on there, it will taint the impression that people have of your good work. Sometimes its hard to know what to cut... Our Man in the High Castle Reel would have been 3-4 times as long if we put everything in there!

sleepyteacher1 karma

I am a big fan of Pixar's Renderman site, a Q&A forum that shows their internal software collaboration. Do you all use anything similar?

Barnstorm_VFX1 karma

We don't currently use anything like that for our internal processes, though we're a very small fish compared to Pixar and only do a minimal amount of internal software development.

We do keep an eye on the Blender/Cycles forums and sometimes contribute to them, though. Also incidentally we're doing research into using Renderman with Blender.

Our internal collaboration for work is done using Shotgun for the actual shots in most projects. Theory Studios also has a custom collaboration tool called Maketheory that they use for sharing work and collaboration. Its currently a private tool but eventually it may get wider use.

Testnick1 karma

What i read about tax evasion and how US deals with employees you scare the hell out of me as a german ongoing VFX-artist (currently learning however). My dream is to actually translate my thoughts into pictures. I want to create movies and games with VFX on FF niveau.

If i want to relocate somewhere else, do i have to expect employees dealing with me as worker the way you described it? As youngster the thing you're lacking most, of course, is money. I'd really need a kickstart to get some equipment and am not sure if it would be wise to learn aaaaall the programs that're out there for VFX, if you want to specialize yourself on games as well. Also, if i learn too many of them, that was time going to waste, which i, in my age, cannot afford.

Also: To reach my goals, do you have any commendations? I really dont know where to go. I heard CGI is a big theme when it comes to create all kind of creatures, that you then can modify in blender, houdini, cinema3d..

But honestly.. where do i start? Shall i just go buy a camera, a green screen and try to modify a face?

Barnstorm_VFX1 karma

That is a BIG question. Here are my thoughts:

1) VFX is definitely going through growing pains right now. I don't know what the answer is, but there are a lot of issues with unfair labor practices and tax incentives causing jobs to get chased all over the world. The best thing we can do as VFX artists is to pay attention to the politics of filmmaking and be active in trying to get better treatment.

2) For all of us, making what we want is really really hard. If you've got time, you don't have money, but if you have money, often times it means you're working so hard on your day job that you don't have time anymore to do personal projects. What I have learned is that there's no magical ideal time to make your work. It will always require sacrifice. It will never be convenient. And it may not even be fun. I, along with many of the artists who work at Barnstorm, spend my weekends after working all week doing MORE work on the things I want to make. I stay up late at night to learn new programs when I'd rather be playing video games or just relaxing and watching a movie. My artists spend their vacation days from work to make films. Also even though we have more money now as a company to do projects and more people to collaborate with, we also have way higher costs, employees to pay, software and hardware costs, clients to keep happy, a building with a mortgage, etc. So its a paradox. Having a company and money doesn't actually make it any easier to make your own projects. The only way to get it done is to make it a priority in your life, and that probably means sacrificing other things that you like to do.

3) There's a lot to learn to do good VFX work, and it can be daunting, but that's why I recommend focusing on the project you want to make and letting that guide you rather than trying to learn specific VFX skills in a vacuum. Learning things in service to a goal helps you understand them better, and often times an expert level of knowledge in a particular program is not required to be successful. In production, we may find ourselves using a brand new program to create a shot or element and learning as we go... so the work itself is the tutorial. All you need to get started is a basic understanding of the program. Working in it for hours at a time trying to create something you're passionate about and banging your head against the wall when you get to a problem you can't seem to solve will ultimately teach you a LOT.

4) If you want to start out with 3D, check out Blender. Its free and has a lot of good features. It can even do compositing and editing, though we at Barnstorm only use it for 3D. Check out some tutorials and then just start working with it. As I said above, I think its easier to learn the software if you make the learning process in service to the goal to create something that you're passionate about, rather than making the software itself the goal. There are a lot of good Blender tutorials that can be found all over. I especially like Blender Guru.

If you want to get started with compositing, I recommend After Effects. Check out Videocopilot.net for a lot of good tutorials by Andrew Kramer to get your feet wet, then start making stuff.

Also, yes, pick up a camera and start shooting stuff. Or, find a friend who has a camera and wants to make stuff, and collaborate with them. There are plenty of young directors out there who want to make music videos or short films and need vfx. They can help you by shooting footage that you can work on, and you in turn will help them by doing their vfx.

Dr_TattyWaffles1 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA. I'm a freelance after effects guy (mostly motion design, some vfx) and am really impressed by the work you've done - in fact I used some of your work as a style reference in one of my pitches. I guess out of curiosity, I'd like to know how do you decide when to hire a full-time staffer vs hire freelancers on a short-term contract?

Barnstorm_VFX2 karma

There are a couple of considerations we give when hiring full time people. We are always looking for good people and so are definitely willing to see resumes and reels. If you are interested, you can send your work to [email protected].

Part of whether we hire someone or not is based on how much we are currently working on (which is highly variable) and part of it is based on how specific or general your skillset is. Many of our full-time artists have skills that range across several disciplines. That is very helpful because it allows us to reassign artists to different tasks depending on what we need. For example, a compositor who is also a good match-mover or 3D artist can switch over based on how busy we are on certain shots. Someone who is specifically a good texture artist, though, would only be able to fit into a very narrow category of work and would more likely be someone we would take on as a freelancer. We do value having strong generalists a lot, and as a small team, an artist who understands and can work in a lot of different areas of our pipeline is an incredibly valuable asset.

Barnstorm_VFX2 karma

This is actually something we wrestle with quite often and there are no hard and fast rules. There are many factors that influence this kind of decision. Some of the factors include:

  • current workload (is there enough revenue to sustain current employment levels)
  • projected workload (what projects are on the horizon that we're either bidding on, in talks with, or have a deal with already)
  • How expensive the artist is compared to our current demand and their output
  • The artists skillset. People with a broader skillset can generally be retained longer because more tasks can be applicable to them. This is more true of a generalist TV pipeline like ours.
  • How well that artist fits with the team and whether we see long term growth potential. Though, even when we do, we can't afford to keep everyone.
  • In general the people we bring on as staff are the highest value employees at all levels within the company.
  • I would advise setting yourself apart and being committed to world class performance. If you make yourself indispensable, you'll become staff at the first place that can afford to keep you around.

In general, Visual effects work is project-centric and therefore workload fluctuates rapidly. Between the time of a major project ending and another one beginning, there can be weeks or months. The industry as a whole is very freelance oriented and many artists spend most or all of their careers freelancing. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though if stability is important to you, it can be a challenge.

At Barnstorm, most artists begin as freelancers, without the promise of any guaranteed long-term employment. If things go really well, and we have enough steady work to retain them, we try to. In general we want to have as many full-time staffers as possible because it strengthens the core capabilities of the team as a whole, and makes us that much more efficient and quality focused when we do bring on additional team members on the next big project.

silvergun_superman1 karma

Did you ever get to make a digital pein pein?

Barnstorm_VFX2 karma

Yes we have, very recently in fact. We also just hand-painted a some dildos to look like the real deal for a plate shoot - no joke. As I mentioned above also, the scene in Silicon Valley with the horses having sex involved us actually filming the horses to composite into the scene. We've done a lot of weird stuff.