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Interview With Gabe Askew

His fan video for Grizzly Bear's song Two Weeks has for the past weeks been receiving a lot of praise in communities such as the Chaos Group forum, Vimeo and Motionographer. We've asked Gabe Askew to tell us a litte bit more about himself, and the video.

The Video

Two Weeks - Grizzly Bear from Gabe Askew on Vimeo.

The Interview

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you located, what do you do for a living?

I am located in Tustin, CA, USA. I work at a company named Focus360. We do Architectural Vis. Previous to that I worked at Softmirage. My first CG job was a studio called Pyros Pictures where we did small effects work until the doors closed in 2004. There I learned a little bit of every area of production. Personally I've always had an interest in fine art. I paint and do illustration work.

Your unofficial music video for Grizzly Bear's song Two Weeks is a personal project. What motivated you to take on this large project in your spare time?

I've worked in Arch Vis for about four years and I sort of just fell into it. At first it was exciting, especially when I was introduced to Vray. But over the years the industry in America, especially lately, has largely succumbed to impossibly small budgets that simply don't allow for work that one can be proud of. Of course, there are a handful of American studios like DBox and Neoscape that continue to deliver cinematic work. I love working at Focus360 because of the great working environment, but the sad fact is clients simply don't want to pay for great creative work, they are content with passable flyarounds. This has really drained me creatively and so early in this year I told myself, I have got to do something that is purely my own and is up to my standards. I chose the song "Two Weeks" by my favorite band Grizzly Bear because it inspired me. Even though the video is about two men, I connected the lyrics to my own relationship with my wife.

How long did it take to complete?

It took about four months of after-work time and weekends. I would estimate it to be about four work weeks.

Could you tell us a little about the idea behind the story?

The lyrics, to me, told the story of a relationship where one person is uncertain of the others loyalty. You get sucked up into the daily grind and forget to tell the one you love how you feel. They get insecure and worry that you aren't committed. And the line "I told you I would stay" is like a battle cry for fighting to keep your relationship together when it seems to be on the brink.

Did you plan the entire story and all the locations in advance, or did the story and the different locations come about as you progressed?

I planned things out very specifically in the story boarding stage. Each vignette is tied to the words being said at the time. That is, until the end where it turns into a happy free-for-all. The visuals didn't change much from the storyboards to final.

Storyboard 1

Cow dive
Storyboard
(click to zoom).

sample 2

Cow dive
Animatic
(click to zoom).

sample 3

Cow dive
Final
(click to zoom).

Storyboard 1

Rainy
Storyboard
(click to zoom).

sample 2

Rainy
Animatic
(click to zoom).

sample 3

Rainy
Final
(click to zoom).

The video has a very convincing hand made look, and it isn't obvious that this is CG. Tell us a little about how you approach modeling, texturing and lighting to achieve this look.

I forced myself to hand scan or hand paint all the textures. That way everything was working in the same color space. Although you can find great hires photos and textures on the web or from your own library they all ome from different exposures and white balances. By doing them all myself I knew they were in the same family of exposure and thus when I lit them they were consistent. To give things a hand made feel, I made sure all the geometry was tweaked a little and all the maps had scratches and dirt. And almost every single texture had traced glossy reflection. That really helps with the physical reality.

As for the lighting, I actually modeled light enclosures and stuck V-Ray sphere or plane lights inside them. So if I wanted a spot light, I modeled a spot light fixture, if I wanted a studio light with barn doors, I modeled that. I even allowed some of the fixtures to be seen here and there. There wasn't much "cheating." I tried to create the space as if it was real. So instead of, say, putting a light behind a wall and using exclusions, I just cut a hole in the wall.

Cross Section Cross Section Cross Section Cross Section(click to zoom).

Which software applications were used in the production?

I used 3ds Max, V-Ray and After Effects. And a little Realflow for the water splashes.

Which passes do you use when you render? Do you separate your scenes into different layers and do you add a lot of effects like DOF or glows in post?

I used very little post. There are a few volumetric lights and lensflares that rendered out separately, but I mostly got things straight out of the render the way I liked. I don't know if this is the most efficient work flow, but I enjoyed it. The motion blur and depth of field were done in camera. I have yet to see a post solution that works as well as this. The trouble with these effects is that the camera has to see around the objects that it is blurring and post effects don't have that info to work with.

Did you use the V-Ray Physical camera for the in Camera DOF and Motion Blur?

I did use the V-Ray Phyical Camera.

Render Render(click to zoom).

What kind of rendertimes were you looking at per frame, and being a personal project how did you find the CPU power to render it all?

Focus360, the company I work for, was kind enough to let me use their farm for my crazy project. Most of the farm consists of Dual Cores and my render times ranged from five minutes to two hours. The most lengthy frames were in the exterior section where I had about 10,000 flowers, all with glossy reflection and refraction. I would be impressed if I wasn't already used to V-Ray's prowess.

Wireframe Exterior(click to zoom).

Was the video produced in HD or in SD?

The video was produced in SD (864 x 480 at 24fps)

Has Grizzly Bear seen it yet?

The lead singer of Grizzly Bear twittered about it a few days after it's release, that is when it started to get a lot of views.


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Gabe Askew
Tustin, CA - USA
Artist at Focus360

View his CG reel on Vimeo >>


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