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The Juggernaut Q&A: A Far Cry from VFX success


With clients like Ubisoft, Walmart, Disney and Coca-Cola, The Juggernaut enjoys global reach as a highly reputable VFX studio.

Based in Toronto, the team create compelling graphics for advertising, film, broadcast, gaming, interactive events and more. We sat down for a chat with Creative Director Craig Small to find out just what makes Frankie indispensable to this roster of award-winning artists.

Please tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I began my career by lying my way into a position at the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) in 1991. It was a bilingual position – I barely had grade 9 French. That seems appropriate given that the work I did for the next 25 years was predominantly in advertising. I had aspirations of being an animator, a visual effects artist, and a filmmaker but I didn’t have the patience for school. Instead, I took advantage of the resources at the CBC and learned on the job.

I’d hang out with these cranky old graphic designers that had been lurking around since the 1950s—they were literally being pushed aside to make room for brand new Silicon Graphics workstations that replaced their airbrushes and, eventually, put them out of work. I often hung around until 3 am teaching myself how to use anything I could get my hands on – Quantel Paintbox, Parallax Madador, Abekas DDRs, Chyrons, Lightboxes, Avids – equipment that you couldn’t get your hands on at any school, anywhere. It was a great place to work and learn.

As well as getting to see live tapings of Kids in the Hall, one of the benefits of working for a unionized broadcaster was being guaranteed an interview for every job position I applied for. I eventually went freelance, producing motion graphics and visual effects for feature films and TV. I ended up directing numerous commercials, music videos and identities for A-list agencies and production studios. For over a decade, I also worked for several top design and post houses around Toronto, before co-founding The Juggernaut in 2002.

What has been the most exciting and unique Frankie project of your career?

Video game giant Ubisoft hired us to produce the opening cinematic for their FarCry game franchise. We had team members and clients scattered all over the world – Toronto, Montreal, New York, Belgium – so I used Frankie to keep everyone in sync, from the storyboard stage right through to final post.

A few weeks into the project, I had one of those ‘WOW’ moments. I was sitting on a crowded bus, when I received a last minute request for a work-in-progress review. I tethered my laptop to my cell phone and walked five people, from four different time zones, through a remote Frankie session. The person sitting next to me had no idea what was going on. How cool is that?

How important is remote collaboration to your pipeline?

We work with dozens of off-site freelancers and clients from all over the world, so remote collaboration is as essential to our workflow as email. Or coffee.


How do you meet the challenges of a tight deadline? Do you have any methods to help stay on track?

I’ve found the best strategy is avoidance. I think it’s wise to turn down a job that has a ‘challenging’ deadline and avoid the risk of damaging your reputation by under-delivering. If you’re presented with an attractive project that has a healthy budget, but a tight deadline, hire more people – don’t be greedy. Know your limitations and avoid getting pigeonholed as the studio (or person) that takes on projects with no time or money. Send those clients to your competition.

Was there a specific feature of Frankie that you immediately responded to?

I can’t think of just one so here’s my elevator pitch to a Frankie newbie….

ME: I’m going to invite you and your team to use this cool remote video-review tool called Frankie. It’s amazing. I’ll be able to walk you through multiple clips from the project, in real-time. We’ll all be in sync and focused on the exact same frame of every piece of footage.

CLIENT: I wish. Our IT department has us handcuffed. It takes two weeks to get new software installed on our computers. Even my mobile is locked-down.

ME: Aha! Frankie is a browser app! Just click the link and you’re done.

CLIENT: Wha…??!

ME: Yeah. Anyone can take control of the session at anytime and scrub through the video. We’ll all still stay in sync. At the end of the session all of our notes, mark-ups, and annotations get compiled into a nifty, multi-paged PDF with time-coded thumbnails. It’s automatically emailed to everyone from the session. Oh, Frankie works on mobile devices too.

CLIENT: Craig, you’re a genius! You have our undying devotion and an endless supply of highly paid work.

-END-

As an executive, what do you think is the best way to give constructive criticism to your fellow artists?

I used to think that the praise sandwich approach was best. You know, compliment-criticize-compliment. I actually preferred getting this type of criticism when I was younger, rather than a laundry list of changes that left me feeling demoralized and unmotivated. But it eventually started to feel disingenuous. I could smell a praise sandwich from a mile away: “Craig, you are a very talented artist. This thing you did right here really sucks, you idiot. My, what a snappy dresser you are.” I suppose it has the desired effect of softening a blow, but the problem is that some people only hear the praise – then the criticism gets buried or lost entirely.

Artists are a bit like children, the young, inexperienced ones need to be handled delicately, with plenty of praise peppered throughout the criticism. Those with more experience and talent tend to have greater self-confidence and take criticism less personally, which allows me to be more direct. In other words, treat your sensitive creatives just as you would your own children, individually and with lots of love.

How accessible do you find working via browser?

I love web apps — they’re universal, so I don’t need multiple installations or licenses across all my devices. They auto-update and my data sits in the cloud, making collaboration or remote access a breeze.

 

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Broadcast Beat Magazine is an Official NAB Show Media partner and we cover Broadcast Engineering, Radio & TV Technology for the Animation, Broadcasting, Motion Picture and Post Production industries. We cover industry events and conventions like BroadcastAsia, CCW, IBC, SIGGRAPH, Digital Asset Symposium and more!

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