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AA I would say yes but a lot of people put a lot of emphasis on the Internet, and it turned out to be a big mistake, because if you walk around where most of Silicon Alley was based—all it is is empty buildings.

And I think that a lot of people were getting into the technology business...you know, the Internet companies paid outrageous salaries but couldn't afford to pay those salaries and people who had Flash animation skills all of a sudden thought they were animators and had this ability to do high-end stuff, and the reality is they couldn't.

AFR In terms of animation and effects, what types of clients are you going after?

AA We are interested in doing a lot of things. We decided that doing films, for example, is not a great money maker. People who are doing film are running at a loss or breaking even. So we decided we were going to be a 3D company.

People that do Photoshop do Photoshop for everything, right?

AFR Right.

AA There's not this, 'oh, you do Photoshop for advertising, you do Photoshop for film'...they do Photoshop. So we decided we have Maya, Lightwave 2D/3D artist, and they are not just people who can work on one medium. So we decided that we would explore the market of games, Web 3D—as it grows—commecials...and films.

But we don't want to do 300 shots of a film because we can't see how a company makes money doing 300 shots. We just want to do five. Because if you do five shots you can make more money then if you are doing 300.

AFR Is that also a factor of just how small or large a firm is?

AA Yes, but it is also overhead doing all those shots, because it becomes a bigger headache, it becomes an assembly line.

AFR Is gaming the most lucrative 3D market right now?

AA I would say commercials and games. Quite a few architects end up working at special effects houses because of the fact that it pays well.

AFR Let's move on to some of the people of Luminetik...the folks behind the film and animation side of the business.

AA OK. Well David Isyomin is our Visual Effects Supervisor and Mark Hatlan is the Supervising Animator. David has worked for Digital Domain.

AFR Well, my next question is for him then. David, can you talk about the films you have worked on and the tools you have used?

DI Sure. Before Luminetik I worked for Digital Domain doing film, television and commercials as a visual effects supervisor.

AFR What films have you worked on? And what are some of the tools you have used?

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MH I use a couple. I use Lightwave on the Mac for most of the modeling and I use Maya on the PC because Maya has extra tools that Lightwave can't handle. And Lightwave has things that Maya can't do. Those are the main packages I use for 3D.

AFR As an animator do you think the Mac platform is suitable for animation? Do you have all the tools you need?

MH The Mac has a smaller user set for 3D. I am disappointed because I love my Mac. Personally speaking I think it is a better operating system than Windows. It is easier to deal with and just more friendly. I would rather do anything on a Mac over a PC if I had a choice.

AFR Can you complete a large project solely on a Mac?

MH Yes, I have many times.

AFR Tell me about your pipeline...what makes Luminetik different than other 3D studios?

AA We wanted to form a different type of business model where we would try to keep the overhead down. We would look at every type of technology that we could so that we could find something that we can use and not have to develop proprietary software. This saves the client money.

And we wanted to streamline the pipeline so that we didn't have 15 copies of Maya and also 15 copies of Softimage and only one person using them. Moreover, we also wanted a smaller boutique style house because in many of the special effects houses people don't communicate very well and...you know you've got one team working on something, and you have another team working on something else, but there isn't somebody in the middle really communicating the ideas well. And so when they come together with their shots they don't match.

AFR Right, I understand that well from the architecture field too...(laughter).

AA And we found another thing that was very interesting, in that there is always six people—with usually about $300,000 in salaries—doing a job.

So we decided that we wanted to create a new 'super-animator' who can do all those things. And rather than paying six guys each at $50,000 we wanted to pay another guy $75,000-$100,000 who can do all of it. And also streamline our pipeline at the same time.

AFR So why is Luminetik primarily a Mac-based studio?

AA It's cost effective, they are easy to use, they are easy to configure... as far as the pipeline they save us money. The clients can actually use them easily, for example, if they have to send us something over the Internet and they are working on something else; Macs are easier to work with other people and platforms.

Michael Boyle, our Director of Technology Implementation can probably speak to this question as well.

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DI I was involved in Dantes Peak, Titanic, and Mystic and other projects in various capacities. When you have such projects you try to find the best tools for the task.

My personal opinion is that you can't limit yourself to certain hardware and software solutions...because there are very different tasks so you need different tools, especially when hardware and software are evolving so fast you have to watch for the best possible solution.

AFR Well, what are the tools you are using now at Luminetik?

DI I use a combination of Adobe applications on both PC and Macintosh platforms. If you have to do digital painting I think the Macintosh solution is the best because it is already the pros' choice for the graphic applications in terms of color correction.

AFR Is the Mac's ColorSync technology a big factor in video and post production work?

DI Yes...you know the biggest challenge when you work in these environments with different monitors is you need continuity between shots. If there are three people working on different shots in the same sequence you have to make sure the shots look similar and you need your monitors to be color calibrated well.

It is very difficult to calibrate monitors so it is basically guess work. If you do 3D rendering ultimately your product is the image and if you are not really sure what you are looking at you can't deliver good quality.

Apple gives you the best tools to do this and the hardware is geared up to this task.

AFR What was your role on Titanic?

DI On Titanic I was on the team that pretty much did the second part of the production and I was doing a lot of consulting types of things. I was overseeing the weathering and water shots, people and things like that. I did some compositing of some shots. I was involved in the integration of live action movements.

AFR Is your role at Luminetik similar to your role at Digital Domain?

DI It is a little wider because visual effects supervision involves more than producing computer generated elements.

AFR And Mark what is your role as Supervising Animator?

MH I do a large portion of 3D models, animation, ideas and execution of the 3D. And I do a lot of product modeling, character and development.

AFR What is your main animation application?

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AFR Mike, why is the Mac so important to your pipeline?

MB The Mac suits our needs for getting the job done quickly and easily. I mean, that's one reason. We'll use whatever we need to get the job done, it's just that with ArchiCAD and some of the other 3D things that we do, things run well on the Mac, and the Mac is much easier to support.

AFR Is it really then economics that are driving the whole issue or is there more to it than that?

MB I don't know if it is economics...it's more of just ease of support. For us, on the Mac there is not the level of driver issues and support nightmares that there are on the PC.

It's just so much more transparent in terms of plug-and-play. You put something in there and it works. There is nothing to load...you know. The number of issues we have on the Macs is drastically less than we have on the PC's.

AFR I see.

MB Especially with these higher-end apps like Lightwave 3D and everything else.

AFR Now you are using Unix, NT and the Mac OS. How would you rank the platforms in terms of being up for you when you need them?

MB Well....ah, Unix is 99% of the time always there. Very very rarely do we have problems with those machines, which are mostly the servers which we don't do much on. In terms of workstations, the Macs are definitely higher...up times are much higher than the PC's.

It's always something crazy with the PC's, whether it's a video card or a network card that is nonstandard. We try to stay with standard configurations as much as possible to ease that. But boy! I will tell that we just have many less problems with the Macs than the PCs in terms of uptime, long term.

AFR Right, now you have some Unix servers, how are you guys configured to store your files while you work...and then archiving them later?

MB Well...actually a couple of Mac servers primarily.

AFR Really?

MB Ya (laughter)...Once again, they are, maintenance-wise, very easy and they support all the major platforms in terms of clients, and there is no downtime in terms of those.




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