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December 22, 2022

Why do CG artists get hate? (w/ Chris Kelly)

Blog, Famous Editors

Sara Gerbereux

Sara Gerbereux

December 22, 2022
As the VFX industry continues to gain popularity, Chris breaks down creating a portfolio and recommends how artists can stand out in their editing careers. Chris offers his insight on the opportunities available for artists in the future on the big screen and beyond in content creation as we explore how VFX artists' roles will evolve as technology improves.
CHRIS KELLY:

Chris Kelly Shares Insight on Standing Out

Chris Kelly is a VFX Artist and co-founder of ProductionCrate, an online library and YouTube Channel with over 10k exclusive assets and 172k subscribers, making it one of the most popular online resources for filmmakers and VFX artists. We discuss what inspired Chris to pursue both creating and teaching visual effects and how he’s managed to simultaneously grow and monetize his library and YouTube channel as Chris delves into his tips and tricks to growing your business online.

Born in his college dorm, ProductionCrate, formerly known as FootageCrate, started as an easy way to store the visual effects Chris created for his YouTube videos. After sharing the resource with a couple of YouTubers he knew, Chris’ website quickly gained traction as word about it was spread around the community. Since the website took almost a decade to turn a profit, Chris talks about being inspired by his favorite films to focus on pursuing a career in filmmaking by working on sets and directing and editing videos.

I think some of the best [CG films] have to be the ones that don't get any credit for being CG. VFX and CG artists get so much hate thrown their way…But there are so many incredible breakdowns of entire worlds or cities being completely recreated from scratch, and everyone just assumes that they're real, and they don't get the credit that they deserve.

Brandon Fate, VFX Artist and editor

As ProductionCrate started expanding into motion graphics, SFX, music, and 3D models, Chris worked on growing his Youtube channel and learned how to best increase views based on the trends he observed in audience preferences. Combining his interest in VFX and teaching, Chris talks about how his channel provides him the freedom and exposure to further that passion.

I think I like the idea of being in [the viewers] shoes, realizing that we can make these insane visual effects from home and getting [them] inspired to do that — just kind of opening up their mind to go out there and make it awesome.

Chris Kelly, VFX Artist and Editor

As the VFX industry continues to gain popularity, Chris breaks down creating a portfolio and recommends how artists can stand out in their editing careers. Chris offers his insight on the opportunities available for artists in the future on the big screen and beyond in content creation as we explore how VFX artists’ roles will evolve as technology improves.

  • Timing is crucial when it comes to when you post and how many views those posts will get. If you want to recreate an effect from an upcoming movie, wait until a few days after it’s released to post that video.

  • Cut out any extraneous elements and hook viewers early on to increase the retention rate of your videos. Since most people don’t want to sit around for a while, it’s important to get to the point to hold their attention.

  • Choose an eye-catching thumbnail and title. Make sure not to change the title of your videos after posting them.

  • When it comes to learning the right tools: Blender is good if you’re a 3D artist, Unreal Engine is useful for visual effects and 3D content creators, DaVinci and Premiere are great for editing videos, and AfterEffects is perfect for compositing.

  • Create a truly impressive reel that is simple to update so that you may replace older clips with your most recent best. Also, keep your reel brief. If half of your five-minute reel is significantly less impressive than your best work, nobody will want to watch it.

  • Create a website and have a clean portfolio on it. Have an “About Page” so that people can connect with you. 
EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

OUR INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS

Nick Lange

Hey guys, welcome back to the show. And here today, we have Chris Kelly, one of the founders and head of ProductionCrate, which is both one of the most popular YouTube channels on visual effects and post-production. And also, one of the most popular resources for filmmakers and creatives online. And so, before we go any further, Chris, can you do a better job of explaining what ProductionCrate is? 

Chris Kelly

I’ll try. I mean, you did a great job. It’s hard to narrow it down because we do so much, but we are primarily known for our visual effects. That’s definitely like our bread and butter. FootageCrate, which is a subsite of ProductionCrate, is specifically for visual effects, and that’s kind of where we got our start back in 2009.

Just making visual effects that are very easy to download and use for anybody, whether they have previous filmmaking or visual effects experience or complete beginners. So, yeah, FootageCrate was kind of the start, but since then, obviously, we’ve expanded quite a bit. We have music and sound effects over on soundsgreat.com. Our 3D library has been growing really, really rapidly – rendercrate.com. And then, we have images and vectors over at graphicscrate.com. And then, the tools like the scripts, and the plugins, and the software falls under the ProductionCrate umbrella. So, a lot of stuff.

Nick Lange

It’s awesome; amazing libraries, huge user base – you build the real community in the VFX and post-production space. What inspired FootageCrate and ProductionCrate?

Chris Kelly

So FootageCrate came around, I think it was like 2009, and I was at college, and my roommate was a Cinematography major. So, he was just making some projects on the side for fun. Just like the silliest, stupidest little YouTube videos, like shoot ’em up action; like choreographing; like fight scenes in the hallway and stuff, and pissing everybody off. And then, he showed me After Effects, which blew my mind; I couldn’t believe that you could do compositing at home. That you can, you know, take explosions or add lightsabers to your footage. So, that got me really, really excited, and that was what I wanted to do on those projects. So, I took over kind of the post, and then I started to make my own visual effects. And then I didn’t really have any good place to store them, so I figured, okay, I’ll make a website. That way, I can download them anytime I’m not on this computer, and then I shared that website with a couple of YouTubers I knew. And then, they started to use it; spread the word. And from there, I was like, oh, hey, there might actually be a business here.

Nick Lange

That’s awesome. When did it – when did it become self-sustaining? When did you look at it as your primary source of income?

Chris Kelly

That was probably, I think, 2017 or 2018. So, nearly like a decade after the website actually started through that whole time. We’re essentially just putting most of the money right back into the business. I was still learning how to be a filmmaker. So, I would do motion graphics jobs, or I would PA on big sets, or I would direct whatever, like 48 hour films, and I just – I was honing my skill sets, and the website was growing along with me. And as it grew, we started to add team members, but I didn’t go full-time for whatever, eight or nine years.

Nick Lange

Was that the college that you were in when you started this? Was that film school, or what were you studying at the time?

Chris Kelly

No, I was a Liberal Studies major. So, I wasn’t studying anything; it was a nonsense degree.

Nick Lange

Okay, it was at San Francisco State. Is that right? 

Chris Kelly

That’s right. Yeah, I mean, it wasn’t a nonsense degree. It was if you wanted to be a teacher, which was kind of my fallback, because I didn’t like the idea of giving up my summers, and teaching was the only way to kind of retain that. I did try and switch it to be in cinema, but the counselor gave me a bunch of crap about how difficult it would be to like swap. I didn’t even deal with it. Self-taught is a very good route for a lot of people, me included. Some people definitely flourish more in a structured environment. So, to each their own. 

Nick Lange

Yep. Okay. And so, what do you remember the moment when you said, wow, I would love to work in post-production or in filmmaking? I’d love to make that my career. 

Chris Kelly

Yeah, I mean, I’ve always dabbled. My brother did a lot of acting, so I helped him a lot. So, with that stuff, I, you know, when YouTube first came out, I think it was like 2006, I probably uploaded a video there in the first month. I was, you know, obsessed about watching films. I remember, like, if there were parties when we were kids, all the kids would like watch TV for like half a second and then run off and play. And I would just – I could not, not finish the movie; I would sit there dedicated, and just, yeah, finish it out no matter what it was. So yeah, it was – it was kind of been into it, but definitely in college; just learning how much more you could do. And that, it’s kind of like, the limitations are more on the artists than the software kind of opened a new window for me.

Nick Lange

Yeah. Do you remember what films inspired you to do this? Do you have favorites from your childhood?

Chris Kelly

I mean, The Matrix might have been like, one of my first R-rated movies, you know, and it was just like, I mean, it still holds up after all these years. Yeah. So that, I mean, obviously – so visual effects heavy too. Definitely was like a big push for me. And then, man, I’ve seen Jurassic Park maybe 50 times. So, I’ll say those are my two. 

Nick Lange

Most visual effects hold up as well. I was just watching a breakdown of how they did them back. 

Chris Kelly

Yeah. Mind blowingly good. 

Nick Lange

Yeah, so good. And then tricks, they would do like – it was almost always like dark and raining when you see the T-Rex, which made by the limited CG of that era, more convincing? 

Chris Kelly

Absolutely. Or when they would be very clever about how they cut from like the animatronics back to the digital. And they did in such a good seamless way, that you can’t really tell the difference. And that just kind of like – it builds the complete creature in your mind, which is a cool way of doing it. 

Nick Lange

Yeah, right. And even that – one of the scenes where the Ford Explorers get knocked over, that was CG.

Chris Kelly

It’s so crazy.

Nick Lange

I always assumed that was just a real SUV.

What are the most spectacular CG films ever produced? In your opinion.

Chris Kelly

You know, I’m not sure. I think some of the best ones have to be the ones that don’t get any credit for being CG. Because you don’t notice, like, VFX and CG artists get so much hate thrown their way. Because people are like, oh, that CG was especially obvious, and therefore that CG is bad. And it’s, I mean, that’s maybe the CG stuff that you are seeing. But like, there’s so many incredible breakdowns of entire worlds or cities being completely recreated from scratch, and everyone just assumes that they’re real, and they don’t – they don’t get the credit that they deserve. So, yeah, I’m not sure.

Nick Lange

Any examples come to mind?

Chris Kelly

I think, I mean, a random one was like, do you ever see that Sherlock show with Benedict Cumberbatch?

Nick Lange

Not – not yet.

Chris Kelly

I think, its like BBC or something, and it came out a couple years ago. And it wasn’t even like that big budget of production. I mean, it was big budget, but not like a Hollywood film. But yeah, just watching some random VFX breakdown that popped into my feed of their recreation. And it was just like, it’s mind blowingly good like that. I watched the show and I’m a VFX Artist, and not for one second was I like distracted by it or analyzing it. Like, I just believed it. And that’s, that’s the best kind of visual effects in my opinion. But on the opposite side, like, I’m a big fan of like the going really big, really exaggerated, like over the top VFX at the same – like, unapologetically in your face. Like CG. That stuff’s cool, too.

Yeah. Baahubali. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that, but crazy action, like Bollywood-type film that like, I think the story is genuinely pretty awesome. And like, it’s just so exaggerated, like so in your face. But like, it’s self-aware. And it’s fun. And it’s really cool. So, yeah, I guess I like the whole spectrum.

Nick Lange

I love that. And on your channel, you’ll do these amazing breakdowns of the kind of over-the-top, like amazing, you know, comic book movies, or Thor’s hammer or Incredible Hulk, and you’ll supplement it with, with additional visual effects or show people how to recreate that effect.

How do you choose – how do you choose the topics for your videos? 

Chris Kelly

It varies. I mean, we get a ton of requests from users who want to know a specific effect. Sometimes, they get really, really specific, like they’ll download a clip from a TV show and say, hey, I want this exact portal or whatever.

Yeah, sometimes it’s just the hype, though. Like, if there’s a new Marvel movie coming out, it’s like, okay, we know that people are going to be interested in this effect. So let’s do it.

And other times, we just were, you know, R&D-ing a couple ideas. Something works. And that inspires the a – the effect that we end up making a tutorial about.

Nick Lange

What content – what topics do you find resonate most? So over your years of growing this incredibly popular channel, what have you learned in terms of audience preferences?

Chris Kelly

Timing is important. Like, if we’re doing Scarlet Witch effect, for example, which we’ve done a couple of times in the past, they – it tends to do better if you’re referencing something a little bit after it’s come out. We’ve tried it before, like, we’ve tried it with a trailer; we’ve tried to like, the same day. But like, if it’s a little bit after, I feel like that lets the hype grow about whatever popular culture thing you’re referencing. And then it seems to gain traction a lot better.

I forget the exact question. But in general, like if you want to, like get good, like retention, or whatever, I think hooking right at the beginning, and like cutting it down, and, and understanding that nobody wants to sit around longer than they have to watching a video because there’s just so much content out there. So, make sure to kind of get your point across really, really on in the video.

Nick Lange

Great. Okay, and how do you choose a thumbnail and a title?

Chris Kelly

So, we’ve done AB testing with something called TubeBuddy before, which kind of lets us help, you know, run side by side comparisons of two thumbnails that we like. And then we pay attention to the click-through rate, which is essentially helping you determine whether your thumbnail and the video title are bringing in clicks, because those are the only – those are the only thing presented when people are like browsing or surfing YouTube. The thumbnail, though, you can change anytime you want, and it won’t necessarily hurt your videos views. But if you change the video title or the description, I believe it has to be like, recached into the system or whatever. And then, that like downtime can actually affect your trajectory.

Yeah, in terms of thumbnails, like, you’re seeing a library; you’re seeing like a grid of all these flashy thumbnails. So you have to find a way to stand out, whether that’s, you know, people tend to click when they see other people’s faces more often or a recognizable person. Highly saturated stuff tended to do well. Yeah, just find a way to stand out.

Nick Lange

Cool. Along the way, you’ve been reached out to by a lot of studios, or, or very popular other creators who want to use your content: Logan Paul, Netflix, HBO. What was – what was that like? And what have been the milestones along the way of building this channel?

Chris Kelly

Yeah, I mean, it’s always cool when we see our stuff being used, like in big YouTubers content, or if we get reached out to by a big studio. The big studios are fun, but at the same time, they are so lawyer-y, I guess. Like, I get it; I respect it, but like, I’ve had to sign just so many releases, just saying, sure, you could do this, and no, I won’t talk about that specific project and all this stuff. Where it’s like, it’s cool, but at the same time, it’s so, like, severed from us. You know, it’s like, they’ll take it, but they don’t want to like, give us any credit for it. And that’s fine. Meanwhile, like, I don’t know, smaller creators or YouTubers will like, want to give us shout outs and credit and like, I vibe with that a bit more personally. But yeah, I mean, it’s cool. Like, we get sent like, random music videos or TV shows or whatever, where like, our audience knows our content so well, that they will recognize like, hey, is that your magic effect? Or is that your fire effect? I’m like, how did you know that? That’s amazing. Yeah.

Nick Lange

How fun. Okay. What is your workflow in making a video? So, from all the way starting at the creative development, when you’re figuring out what the video is going to be about; writing. Let’s say you’re doing it all yourself. You’re editing; you’re doing the sound design; the visual effects. What are your steps working through video? Will you choose the music before you start cutting the story? How – how does that work?

Chris Kelly

Yeah, so, from beginning, I usually just come up with like a pretty rough concept. And then, I just don’t storyboard at all; I think it’s a good system if it’s something you’re comfortable doing, but I will try and just imagine and lock down the shots. And then, I always shoot more than I need to, because I’m just such a post guy. Like, I feel like, having more is just always going to be better than having too little. So, I like being able to like play around with different shots.

And then, yeah, as in terms of like, picking the right music, I’ll choose the music after most of the edits kind of done, and then find the music that fits the rhythm that I’m going for. So if it’s a voiceover, the voiceover will have, like, a specific rhythm that’s kind of built into it, that we need to find the right, like, beats per second and the right, you know, intensity of the music track.

Nick Lange

Yeah. Very cool. Okay. And then, in terms of software – so, I think a lot of the people watching this are curious about what software they should be spending their time learning. What do you think are the most important tools going forward? For editors and visual person? 

Chris Kelly

Yeah, good question.

So, Blender. If you’re a 3D artist, Blender was always good because it was free, and there was a lot of support. But now, Blender is becoming – or is – insanely powerful; it could stand up to pretty much any of the other 3D software out there. It’s free; the community’s really strong.

Unreal Engine as well. Unreal Engine is more of a game engine, but it is becoming insanely useful for visual effects and creators. So – and it’s free, too. So, look into those. They’re – they’re incredible software. 

DaVinci for editing, I think is really good. I use Premiere personally, but I’m slowly trying to transition into DaVinci. I don’t know if I’ll ever do it fully because it’s hard to find, like, one editing software that does everything you want it to do. But I think DaVinci maybe has a bit brighter of a future or more trajectory. And then, yeah, I do use After Effects for compositing, but DaVinci of course has DaVinci Resolve, which a lot of people use. So..

Nick Lange

What is it that you think gives DaVinci that edge right now for editing?

Chris Kelly

I think being a newer software allows them to be a little lighter on their feet, whereas Adobe and Premiere can be weighed down by all the features and the dynamic linking, and the integration and the decades of code that they’ve built up. While, like, having this kind of like, somewhat archaic system, and then trying to like, keep up with modern advancements is tricky; it’s not an easy thing. I’m not hating on them at all. I cannot imagine how difficult it is for those developers.

I think most, like, I haven’t used – Adobe has, what’s it called? It’s like Adobe has like a Quick Start project – Oh, Rush – where you like can edit, I think short videos or social media videos really, really quickly.

Yeah, I liked that idea. I haven’t used it. But my guess is they’ll probably just start creating new software to address some of these complaints that I’m hearing from a lot of Adobe users.

Nick Lange

Okay, interesting. Looking at the company that you’ve built, how – what are the – what have been the biggest challenges to getting where you are today?

Chris Kelly

That’s a good question. I mean, I feel like it’s been pretty easy. I’m not gonna lie. Like, I’m just doing what I want to do, like, it – you know, any win is like kind of a surprise, because I’m having fun. Like, we are working hard, but the job is just so cool. Like, we’re so psyched for anything that we’re doing, that the fact that it works out is just like sugar on top kind of thing.

Nick Lange

You have literally hundreds of 1000s of people using your site.

Chris Kelly

Yeah, I think we have like 1.41 – 1.5 million people that have signed up total.

Nick Lange

Wow. 

Chris Kelly

Yeah, a lot of people visiting. 

Nick Lange

What – when have you seen the biggest spikes in users? What are the growth hacks for that? 

Chris Kelly

Yeah. So, non – non-controlled, non-intentional was 2020. When that came around, we were ready to like, buckle down and see what the heck is going on.

I did not assume good things would happen. But so many people being stuck at home, bored out of their minds, I think kind of kick-started more of a, like, creator mindset in a lot of people, and we saw a huge amount of new signups from 2020.

In terms of something that we can actually take credit for, we run a lot of campaigns, whether it’s like a social media campaign or email campaign. Where we have, like, kind of a freemium model, where we create and provide a ton of free assets with the hopes that people who can afford it, will sign up for a pro-membership, and the ones who can’t will, you know, hopefully just spread the word about our content.

Nick Lange

Awesome. Okay. Do you do paid ads or is it mostly organic? Is it a lot of people coming just from YouTube? 

Chris Kelly

Yeah, we’ve tried paid ads. I’m not a big fan. Organic is the way to go; organic is more long-term too, like, it’ll stick around. Whereas paid ads, once you stop paying, those ads go away.

Get the word out there; find like a community who uses and appreciates your content, and then stick around and they’ll keep using it, and you’ll keep building links and references and that kind of thing.

Nick Lange

That’s great. How do you treat your – your email marketing? How do you nurture that community with email? 

Chris Kelly

We have a subscriber list. When you sign up, you can like opt-in or opt-out. And then, hopefully most people – I think it’s maybe like 60% – do opt-in. And then, I just try an email, like twice a month; I don’t want to spam anybody out. So pretty rare, and it’s usually just like new content updates, because that’s what we’re really about. 

Nick Lange

Cool. Cool. And what – what collaborations have you done over the years that have been valuable for you?

Chris Kelly

We work with a lot of creators on YouTube; people who also make YouTube videos, but maybe not specifically in the niche that we focus on. So people who maybe do like more motion graphics or use different software; collaborating with those people has been really valuable because it introduces us and their audiences to each other, I guess. Like, they – otherwise, you know, if we’re not making those tutorials, those people might have never heard about our content, even though it’s completely compatible in their software of choice.

Nick Lange

That makes sense. How will you evolve the channel from here? What – what types of content might you start making that you haven’t done yet? 

Chris Kelly

Yeah, it’s – we’re always talking about it, and we’re always open to new directions. We used to do a weekly show called, Saturday Morning Tutorials. It was kind of like a play on Saturday morning cartoons, and it was, like, we always started with a narrative story that was part of an ongoing, like, epic tale. 

Nick Lange

Really? Like Marvel movies. I mean, they’re – they’re great. 

Chris Kelly

Oh, you’ve seen some? Yeah, yeah, we would just go so big with those, but dude, it was exhausting. We had to like flip those around in a week. So it was shooting these things; editing; doing the visual effects; doing the sound effects; and then making the actual tutorial; recording that; editing that all in like one week. So, it’s too much. Yeah, that was fun. But shorter, useful information is something we’re playing around with. YouTube shorts is huge; there’s so much potential there, and we have not tapped into it at all.

A lot – I mean, everybody’s on their phones these days. If you’re trying to connect with an audience, you know, go through the phone. YouTube shorts, hands down is something we’re missing out on, but we’re looking towards.

Nick Lange

Great. And what about other platforms? TikTok, Instagram, any? 

Chris Kelly

Yeah, we’re on all of them. It’s interesting – interesting to play around with different formats to see what does the best or you know, one video you think will completely kill on Instagram flops, but it takes off on TikTok. It’s hard to know exactly how it works. But, it’s tricky for us to – like, I think we can make awesome, viral content. I just want to make sure it’s worth spending the time to develop that content, and targeted towards audiences who want to make visual effects versus just watch a really cool short.

Yeah, so I’m constantly trying to like, see through the fog and make the right decision. 

Nick Lange

Yeah, that’s great. And you have a great, great crew, helping you. How have you built that team? 

Chris Kelly

All kinds of ways. David has been with us for six or seven years now. And he contacted me because he had a similar website to FootageCrate, just with a bit less content, and he wasn’t able to gain any traction on it. So he’s like, hey, I’ve got this content, do you want to buy it? And I said, yeah, sure, I’ll take it; looks great. But do you want to work with us? And, you know, make some explosions and stuff over here? And he said, yes. And then – now he’s been working with us, and he will be working with us for a long time.

We have people from Craigslist; we have people who’ve, like, found us on the website and contacted us all kinds of ways. 

Nick Lange

Cool. And so, for people that would love a job like that, working with you guys, what – what can people do to stand out, you know, early in their visual effects or editing careers? What – what tips do you have?

Chris Kelly

Yeah, so nobody – nobody in this industry – most people are not going to want to read your resume. It’s not so relevant in such a visually driven industry. Get your reel looking sharp, and don’t make it too long; and make sure your project file is editable, so you can go back and swap out your worst shot with your most recent best shot. Super, super important. Nobody wants to sit through a five minute reel, where half of it is garbage. That’s going to reflect – reflect poorly on you. So, a one minute reel of everything good versus a five minute reel of half bad stuff; go with the shorter one. Have a nice clean portfolio. Don’t send people Google Drive link and say, hey, this is my work; make your own website. It’s not that difficult to jump onto WordPress, or any of those, like, easy make sites. And on your website, have an about page; it’s always nice to know and connect to some degree with who you’re working with. If they’re behind, you know, the anonymity of the internet, that disconnect can make it – it’ll be harder for you as well, because they won’t feel as inclined to maybe treat you like a person because they’ve never seen or never connected with you. So, you know, make – make sure you make it clear who you are on your website. 

Nick Lange

Yeah, great – great point. And what do you think is the importance of – the importance of location these days? So, for people spread out around the world? What advantage, if any, comes from living in a film production hub like Los Angeles, or Atlanta, or Toronto? 

Chris Kelly

Yeah, I think it’s not so relevant these days. You may have to jump on calls late, late at night or early, early in the morning. But, for the most part, everybody’s pretty used to working mobile at this point. So, yeah, I’d say it’s not a massive deal to – to be living in a certain area, unless you really need to kind of like bump shoulders with the right people and work on your networking game. But again, you can do that online. 

Nick Lange

Yeah, I agree. How do you think the role of the VFX Artist is changing? And what opportunities are coming out of it? So, for people who are, you know, seeing more and more of the technical work of visual effects or post production automated by AI. What can people do to future proof themselves? 

Chris Kelly

I don’t think it’ll ever be possible to completely future proof yourself in maybe one specific focus. But I think if you just have a deep understanding of the art form, I think you’ll be okay. Like, know your fundamentals, because those will never go away. Learning any specific software and imagining that software is going to be forever is somewhat naive, because no software will last forever. So, yeah, good understanding of composition. Or, if you’re a simulations expert, a good understanding of, you know, fuel burn rates or whatever, like, those fundamentals will stick around.

Nick Lange

Yeah, that’s great. What’s – what’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?

Chris Kelly

Oh, man. That’s a great question. Weirdest job.

Nick Lange

Or anything you did to pay the bills while you were growing? 

Chris Kelly

Well, a random weird job that happened last year is users kept sending us this porn video that, like, constantly. And they’re like, hey, we keep seeing your visual effects in this clip, and I’m like, that’s great, but please stop sending it to us. But we probably got like 50 emails or something about it. So, yeah, just non-stop. 

Nick Lange

Have you thought that maybe they could be Deep Fakes? Have you done anything with the Deep Fakes or plan to do any projects with Deep Fakes? 

Chris Kelly

We’ve played around with Deep Fakes a little bit. Yeah, I mean, I think it could be good for, like, some random viral YouTube video or something. But, one thing we were talking about doing – so, we’ve created digi-doubles before, where we 3D scan our heads. And then, we go into 3D – we, you know, mess with it, and perfect it a little bit. We’re talking about taking one of those digi-doubles in creating some type of animation, like Hulk transformation, for example. And going, like, recording everything with the digi-double. And then, applying a Deep Fake on top of that, because it should, like, had enough kind of realism to maybe get us over the uncanny valley. We haven’t messed with it yet, but I think it would actually work pretty well.

Nick Lange

Hmm. Okay. And then what – how much overlap do you think there is between eSports and visual effects? So, as video games become more and more cinematic; and as more and more gamers are live streaming; and then editors, you know, create amazing highlights reels from that. I don’t know exactly what the question is, but what exposure have you had to eSports? And how do you think those two worlds of post-production and gaming might overlap?

Chris Kelly

Yeah, I’m not – I mean, definitely, I’ve seen some, like, random Fortnite edits or something that are like pretty impressive edits. Kind of like music, video style edits; really cool like freeze frames, where they’ll use a bunch of assets and just hyper stylize it, but make it pretty cool and cohesive and easy to follow, even for someone who doesn’t play the game. So, definitely for those like highlight reels. I think there’s room in terms of the broadcast stuff, like the instant transitions – we haven’t really looked into that too much. But there does seem to be a growing market for those like overlays, lower thirds – that kind of thing.

Nick Lange

Do you think that – how much of physical production do you think visual effects is subsuming? So, as the types of models and effects that you guys are selling, and teaching people how to do. How is it going to impact the need to physically film those things in the coming years? And how close are we to?

Chris Kelly

You mean like animatronics versus like, a CG version or something?

Nick Lange

Yeah. How close are we to not needing, you know, to actually film stunts?

Chris Kelly

I mean, that’s a great question. I think there’s always going to be room – the two complement each other so well. And no matter what your like aspect of production you’re looking at, whether it’s like just the budgeting or the timeframe, there’s going to be a need for using this or you’re using that. Going completely digital, a lot of people think it’s like, just this, like, band-aid solution, like, oh, we’ll just fix it all in post. But it’s like, if you do some very simple things on set, or just have a VFX supervisor who can just kind of point you in the right direction, it will save you so much time and so much money. And like, yeah. So, I think they’re – they’re a pretty good relationship; they have a pretty good marriage right now.

Nick Lange

Yeah. Yeah, I agree. And then, what – what new opportunities do you think will come for visual effects artists in the – in the years to come?

Chris Kelly

Yeah, so, I’ve never worked on like a feature-length movie myself, and I don’t really have any interest in that. I think it’s awesome for the people who do, because it’s gotta be pretty cool to see the content you make on the big screen. But, I don’t want to be one small piece of that. I like working as kind of a generalist and someone who knows how to, you know, run simulations and composite EXR and like, kind of do the whole thing. And I think more and more people are going that direction. There’s so many cool visual effects artists content out there. Like Just Joshing is a really talented guy, who does a lot of like Tiktok and Instagram videos. His visual effects are really, really cool. And he’s been able to connect and collaborate with a lot of big celebrities for their Instagram and Tiktok channels. And you know, probably gets paid pretty decently for that.

Nick Lange

What other creators are you watching?

Chris Kelly

Just Joshing, really great; Shutter Authority, extremely talented guy; Peter Q. – oh, man, I forget his last name. If you see a search like Peter Q. on Instagram, he’ll pop up. Caleb Natale is really good. Yeah, there’s a bunch of them.

Nick Lange

Awesome. And then, in production, there, you know, we run into problems on set all the time. Things that you could not have planned for. Do you have any production disasters or production nightmares that you had to solve on set?

Chris Kelly

Ah, well, I am not the best planner. I usually do a really good job with this stuff. But I just remember like two years ago or something, we were shooting – what was it – it was like dust explosions or fire – one of those like, pack pyro kind of effects in the studio. And like, everything was going smoothly. And like, there’s, you know, dust in the air; we have like lab coats on. And I look over to the side, and there’s this girl just kind of standing there, looking kind of terrified. I’m like, oh, who are you? Like, what’s going on? You shouldn’t be here. And she’s like, I have auditions scheduled today at ProductionCrate. And I’m like, oh my god, I totally forgot. So I think we freaked her out a little bit. She performed really well, but yah.

Nick Lange

Did she get the role? 

Chris Kelly

Ah, no, no. I think we went in a different direction, mostly because I didn’t want to put her through that again. 

Nick Lange

Yeah, that was funny. Okay. Well – oh, you know, I’d love to hear about your creator kits.

Chris Kelly

Yeah. So, as I mentioned early on, like ProductionCrate has – the idea is I want to give the users every downloadable asset they could possibly need for whatever project they’re imagining. So, our creator kits is kind of a good way of locating specific downloadable assets for your project. They’re a collection of genre specific or thematic specific things, like the apocalypse or dystopian future, sci fi. And then, within every one of those collections, you will find the music, the sound effects, the 3D models, the visual effects, the graphics that you’ll need to create that. So, they’re kind of this ever-growing concept.

Nick Lange

That’s awesome. Okay. Have you done any editing competitions? Editing contests? VFX, contests? Anything along those lines?

Chris Kelly

I’ve done the 48 Hour Film Festival a little bit. It’s not my favorite totally, like – but it is fun. But yeah, we run a monthly contest on ProductionCrate, and it’s always fun to see those entries.

Nick Lange

What are those contests? And what submissions will you get? 

Chris Kelly

So, we do a 10-second visual effects contest. And we have, you know, a collection of rules and grading formats. Users have 10 seconds to come up with a – I mean, not 10 seconds to make that thing from A to Z, but the final submission video has to be 10 seconds or less. It needs to use some visual effects, and it gets graded on a variety of scores for how good the story is; how good the visual effects are; how good the filming is. And we get just tons of submissions every month. We give them like a one specific theme. So, I think the next month is indestructible, and they can do whatever they want with that theme. And so, it’s fun to see how creative people get with it.

Nick Lange

What do the winners get as a prize?

Chris Kelly

So, we usually get the contest sponsored by a lot of gear makers. So, people have provided microphones, lighting equipment, camera equipment, like Follow Focus kits. And then, sometimes, we’ll do like one or two years free access to ProductionCrate.

Nick Lange

Wow. Awesome. Okay. Have you developed any relationships with those artists that submit for those that you end up working with?

Chris Kelly

Yeah, we’ve definitely worked with a couple of them. And then, we tend to see them around on social media a lot and develop somewhat of a rapport. So, it has been cool seeing the community kind of grow and develop like that over time, and see someone whose style maybe changes, or maybe someone who gets just so much better at their craft, or sometimes someone who disappears for a couple years and then comes back. Yeah, it’s cool.

Nick Lange

Cool. That’s cool. Have you had any mentors along the way of building production crews?

Chris Kelly

Not really. I’ve looked, but there’s not anyone who does what I do. So, most of it’s just been like guessing, and it’s worked out.

Nick Lange

Oh, that’s awesome. And what about – have you mentored anyone? Early in their visual effects or entrepreneurship careers?

Chris Kelly

I say a lot of the people who work here at ProductionCrate, I work closely with. I mean, they teach me as much as I teach them. And then, hopefully, anyone who watches our tutorials. But, you haven’t done a whole lot of hands on, because from the second I wake up to the second I go to sleep, I’m usually busy thinking or working on this stuff.

Nick Lange

Yeah, well, what is it – what is it that you love about teaching through these tutorials?

Chris Kelly

I think I like the idea of being in their shoes and realizing, like, when I first realized that we can make these insane visual effects from home, and kind of getting inspired to do that. And, yeah, [the tutorials] just kind of like opens up their minds to go out there and make it awesome.

Nick Lange

That’s awesome. Well, Chris, this was great. Thank you for telling us about your amazing career and company, and helping, you know, shed some light on yet another great path, and visual effects and post.

Chris Kelly

Awesome. Yeah, thanks, Nick. That was fun.

Sara Gerbereux

Sara Gerbereux

December 22, 2022

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