I have some overachieving friends and relatives who think you should do crazy things like set goals for yourself, and make plans for your future. My cousin Alaina recently flat out asked me what my goals for the next year were, and I found myself floundering to find an answer. I’m not really sure where my career is headed, and I think there are a few reasons why I’m having trouble with this.

One has to do with available time. I work in vfx (clearly), which often times has an intense and erratic schedule. I regularly work 10-12 hour days, and that can make it difficult to do anything other than simply work and take care of immediate issues like laundry, dishes and diapers. There are plenty of days that I will only work for 8 hours, but it’s hard to plan ahead when next week I will find myself without any free time again. It’s difficult to start a new project or push my career in any direction, which is something that would require a time commitment, whatever the direction may be.

I also am in a fairly high up position. I’m no longer a junior artist, rotoscoping day in and day out until my eyes fall out. Ok, I never had to do quite that much roto, but still, the point is I’m in a pretty senior position and don’t see a TON of room to go up the ladder as they say. I can certainly shift the ladder over to a slightly different window. I could work for different companies, supervise a few more people, even lean away from compositing and do more 3D work, but we’re talking essentially the same thing.

On top of this, I have a family. A wife and toddler to be exact, so when I’m not working, I like to spend time with them. It’s really important to have a work/life balance, and to realize that there is more to life than your career. I get just as much, if not more pleasure out of running around with my toddler as I do working on some cool movie.

I guess the big problem is trying to decide what I want. Do I want to keep on keeping on with what I’m doing? Do I want to direct? If so, how badly? Do I still want to work at Pixar like I did when I first got out of school? The answer to that one is no, btw. Do I want to supervise for tv or films? Teach? Write? Blog professionally? Do something completely non-art related? The possibilities are endless, and it’s a life-long project trying to figure out…well, life.

Music Videos

I’ve been incredibly busy, and so I’ve been completely neglecting this blog. I haven’t updated with any interesting discussion topics, but there are also a lot of projects that I’ve worked on that have been released over the past few months. I can blame my 8 month old son for taking up all of my time, and some might say that’s a good excuse. Or the fact that I moved across the country and have been trying to get settled, but those are just excuses.

My post today will combine two projects I worked on in completely different capacities, but because they’re both music videos that were released around the same time, I’m going to lump them together. Kill two birds with one blog post and all.

The first, on the left side of the image, is a music video for DJ Smash, an incredibly popular DK in Russia, for the song “Star Track”.

I was the VFX Supervisor for this music video/short film. I say it like that because it practically is a short film. It has a narrative, and doesn’t do the typical cut to story then cut to band thing that a lot of music videos do. I was on set for the shoot, helping to plan out the green screen shots and making sure everything was filmed as efficiently as possible. And then after getting the edit, I led a small team of cg artists to complete the visual effects. A lot of time and heart went into this video, and I think it shows. I’m incredibly proud of the end result, especially given the time and budget constraints we were dealing with.

The other music video is for the song “Adore You” by Ember Fx.

Over 2 years ago Michael Berns of Ember Fx approached me about this idea he had to make a music video combining elements of 8-bit video games that many of us grew up on and love to this day. I was tasked with figuring out just how this could be achieved while keeping the production small. After designing the look and coming up with a rough story idea, we filmed the video using Michael’s living room and a large green screen he had on hand. I was the director and vfx supervisor on this project, as many smaller productions require you to take on many different roles.

That was the easy part. Once filming was complete, there was a lot of time spent refining the edit, adding fx, and pushing the boundaries of what we thought we could do. Anything is possible with cg these days, but you always need to work within restraints of time or money. Luckily, this video had a lot of wiggle room with its deadline, allowing us to polish it in ways that would not have been possible if we rushed it.

In the end I’m incredibly happy with how this turned out. There are a lot of fun things going on in this music video that still make me smile to this day. While it was two years in the making, an incredibly long time to produce a music video, I think the final product shows how that time was not wasted.

A huge thank you to Aaron Sims, DJ Smash, and everyone at the Aaron Sims company who worked with me on the “Star Track” music video. And to Michael Berns for getting me involved with the video for “Adore You” and continuing to push me to make it better.


I’ve written about Jeremy Shuback and his work at http://www.g-dcast.com/ before, so I won’t wax poetic too much. In a continuing effort to work together as much as possible, Jeremy hires me whenever he can to animate on some projects for G-dcast. This past month I helped him with this animation at http://escgoat.com/

A lot of my work these days is in the realm of compositing, either keying green screens, or removing unwanted elements from frame. A quick look at the vfx tab on my site will give you an idea of what I’m talking about. And while I love what I do, it’s rare that I get to flex my animation muscles, so I was very happy that I got asked to work on this project. It’s a fun piece illustrating some of the history behind Yom Kippur and how we used to sacrifice goats as a way of atoning for our sins.

In addition to the fun cartoon, you can anonymously submit your sins, and read the anonymous sins of others!

Check it all out and enjoy.


Shriek! Gillette

Over the past few months I have been incredibly busy, both in my professional career, as well as my personal life. So I have completely neglected to update this site with some work that has been published to the internet!

I’ll talk first about the most recent project. It’s a web commercial for Gillette, featuring international soccer players Messi and Federer. The spot was supervised by Filmworks Fx and their talented vfx Supervisor, Ken Locsmandi. The company did all of the fx, many of which are completely invisible, as well as the DI work.

My personal contribution to this job involves a full cg head replacement of a hockey player with that of Lionel Messi. Messi’s head was photographed extensively on set, helping an artist at Filmworks to build an accurate 3d model. I then took that textured model, rigged it and tracked it onto the original player’s head. With the proper lighting, shading and compositing, I was able to make a virtually flawless cg head replacement, which you’ll find at 1:13 in the edit. Take a look and enjoy!


The next project I’d like to talk about is S.H.R.I.E.K.

This web series was brought to my attention by Shaun Peterson, a talented director who I’ve worked with before. Premiering on the HUB network, it features a bunch of young adults hunting ghosts. It’s incredibly well done, and is the type of show that makes you realize that the web is now a credible place to premiere content. Sorry cable t.v.

I worked on episode 5, comping a demon child crawling up a wall, and an evil ghost being sucked out of the body of one of the characters. Somewhere in the series I also removed a logo off of a Winnebago, but that’s way less cool to talk about. Take a look below, and if you’re interested, check out the entire series while you’re at it!


Psalm 42

It’s difficult in this day and age to make and maintain close, genuine friendships. It’s probably even harder to find someone that you gel with creatively. Someone who, over the course of almost ten years, you continue to be not only good friends with, but awesome creative partners.

I met Jeremy Shuback in college, and we became friends working on an animated short together. I slept on his couch when I moved to Los Angeles. We worked at Filmworks Fx together for probably three years, and tackled various freelance projects and creative endeavors on the side. (I may have shaved his head once for quirky video we did) We even developed an animated series and pitched it to various places around this fair city. (It was never picked up, but from now on I’m going to blame that on how incredibly close the concept is to the new Disney show Wander Over Yonder, and not the fact that we were incredibly inexperienced and unknown).

Almost a year ago, Jeremy started working for G-dcast which is basically the perfect job for him. And it’s good for me too, because he likes to hire me! So I would like to present to you all, the latest creative collaboration between me and Mr. Shuback. Enjoy!

New music video by Ember Fx

I’ve worked with Michael Berns of Ember Fx for over a year now. Originally I was hired to direct and produce a complex, stylistic, visual effects heavy music video for him. That project took on various forms, and would often sit on the backburner for weeks at a time while we got feedback and tried to figure out what we wanted to make.

And while that project will get completed in the near future, it is still on hold. In it’s place, Michael and I worked on another video for his upcoming album. Check it out, and make sure to bump up the quality to HD in the youtube player. Otherwise it looks a little low res.


Freelancing in Visual Effects

I struggled to think of a more interesting title for this post, because I really do think it’s an important and fascinating topic. How to get return business. And to keep it all topical, how to get return business in the entertainment industry.

It’s important to note that, while I currently work for a small visual effects company, and am thus privy to a lot of the inner dealings and workings of getting work and dealing with clients, this post is more about things on an individual level. It’s about the freelance artist, making his way from company to company, and client to client. After all, things on the studio level in this day and age are far too complicated with the involvement of subsidies, foreign markets and so on, and I couldn’t really help you anyway.

I currently have a full time, 10-6, W-2 visual effects job. And while I love it, I’ve had various reasons to branch out and take on extra work over the years. This has entailed anything from visual effects for short films, commercials, music videos, independent feature films and web series. It’s also included being an animator and a director. You should never pigeonhole yourself into a set job description. But that’s for another post.

I recently got married, and in the year leading up to the big day, I spent a lot of time working to help pay for things. That’s where these jobs come in. I told myself that once the wedding of our dreams was paid for, I would hang up my freelance hat and stop taking on side projects. I would spend time with my new wife, snuggling and watching things like Breaking Bad. Boy was I wrong.

Because, you see, (and here’s where things come together) of repeat business.

I worked for several people last year that have contacted me well after the jobs were over, asking if I was available to work on other projects. Now, I’m not bragging. I swear…….ok, maybe a little. But seriously, the emo kid in me dares to ask the question, why? You really think I’m good enough? The last time we worked together wasn’t a disaster and now you don’t hate me and I’m not going to listen to sad music for a week?

And while I never ever thought so negatively of myself, I also never thought so positively either. It means a lot to have someone bring you a second or third project. To entrust in you a pivotal part of their production. Because while many people don’t value the work that a visual effects artist adds to a production, I can guarantee you that it is virtually priceless. Watch any recent movie…ANY of them, and I guarantee that a visual effects crew will be listed at the end of it. And if they aren’t, it’s because of how little respect we get, and they will have at the very least imdb credits. And these people, the ones that call you back, they know what you did for them, and want you to do it again.

I try to live my life by the motto of, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Basically, I try to treat people with the same level of respect that I think I deserve. And when I get angry, frustrated, etc…I try to maintain that understanding that is so necessary. I’m not the only one that is stressed, and would I want someone else yelling at me? Hell no.

On an indy film I recently worked on, I messed up. To be technical, I asked for 16 bit log dpx files, when I needed 10 bit log dpx files. It sounds minor, but what I received I couldn’t use. The effects weren’t going to get done. Now, this was a super low budget project. Like, the tiniest of tiny budgets. So when I contacted the person in charge of giving me these files, and asked for his help, he was completely unhelpful, citing the fact that he wasn’t being paid to take care of this……
ARE YOU SERIOUS? I get it. I really do. I wasn’t being paid to deal with that problem either. But there’s a level of pride and ownership I take in everything I do. There’s a point where someone is asking for too much, sure. There are lines in the sand that we all need to draw. But this guy was just being completely unhelpful. He would barely talk to me to help me figure out why my files weren’t working. Was it me? Was it his export? I know the problem now, but at the time I was super stressed.

Now, that guy…I will NEVER work with him again, if I have the choice. Why would I? He wasn’t helpful..and I honestly snapped back, which is rare for me. But the excuse of, I wasn’t paid for this…not my problem, is not good enough for me. In the end, the mistake was my own, and I owned up to that, verbally and financially. But I received very little help in figuring out the problem. I didn’t have to figure it out. I didn’t have to do any of it, but I don’t want to just give up, and I don’t want to be that guy that says “sucks to be you.” BUT as a result of my attitude, the client, was very appreciative. He understood what I went through to get his movie made. He acknowledged me at his screening, and even more important, has called me several times since to talk about future projects. He’s a good guy and understands that I’m willing to go out of my way to make something good.

And before you think I’m the kind of guy that bends over backwards and gets screwed left and right…that same client, on that same project, offered me a very bad deal to work on his movie. And I’m happy to say I rejected it…but I did so respectfully and honestly, detailing the amount of work he was asking for, and explaining that I couldn’t afford to work for the price he was offering. And because of that (and a kickass demoreel) he was open to negotiation, and we worked out a deal that favored both of us. Because of this mutual respect and understanding, we have a very fruitful working relationship.

So here’s what it comes down to.

Always be respectful, even when people are wrong.

Always do your best. Go above and beyond, but always be conscious of whether or not you’re being taken advantage of.

And really, that’s it. If you’re talented, and follow those simple rules, then I can almost guarantee that people will want to work with you again.

Good luck out there!

Stanley Kubrick

Recently I went to see the Stanley Kubrick exhibit being held at the LACMA. They displayed all sorts of props, working scripts, clips from his films, etc… The exhibit was well done, but it’s not quite what inspired me to write this post. What inspired me was the man’s body of work.

Going to see the exhibit was part of a date day planned by my wife. In anticipation of the date, she stopped at Best Buy and picked up 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Clockwork Orange. Now, The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut are probably the only Kubrick movies I had seen from beginning to end (I watched half of Clockwork, bits of 2001 before) so I was in for a treat when we had a mini marathon. We only ended up watching 2001 and The Shining, but I was completely blown away and inspired.

I don’t usually like older films. In some ways I’m just as ADD in nature as the rest of my contemporaries, and older films bore me to death. But the sign of a truly great movie, is one that withstands the test of time. I’ve seen a few in recent years that still hold up despite their age. Casablanca and It’s a Wonderful Life come to mind. Seriously, there’s a reason they are still parodied to this day. And while Kubrick’s movies aren’t quite that old, they are still getting on in age. His space movie predates Star Wars. His horror film blows Freddy and Jason out of the water, and was made way before them. I’m not fact checking that, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.

But this all begs the question why. And why do I feel the need write about it. His movies have been analyzed to death, I’m sure. I think it’s all about his style. It’s what you love about him or what you hate about him. The ambiguity. The long shots without a single camera cut. The music, oh the music!

2001 – I totally get why some people don’t like this movie. It has long drawn out sequences in space. It’s slow in parts. Very slow. Not to mention the color trip of an ending. But I say to you that those “slow” parts where there’s not much dialogue and not a whole lot going on, forces the viewer to think. I found myself zoning out, analyzing the shot itself, how mundane a task this astronaut is going through. Why is it taking so long for this ship to dock? Because it would actually take a long time. By not force feeding an action and an event to the viewer every 30 seconds, it allows you to step back and think about the bigger picture. The meaning behind it all. Evolution, life, the past present and future of our species. Are we alone? Artificial Intelligence? There are so many interesting ideas being batted around.

The Shining – There’s a reason this movie is still terrifying to this day. It’s about what it doesn’t show. Why are two little girls the creepiest thing I’ve seen in my entire life? Because of this slow build, following a child on a bike for 2 solid minutes, the music. The hint of scary things, without ever showing too much. My mind can imagine a world far more terrifying than anything that would be put up on screen.

And here is my point. Movies these days rarely if ever hide things from you. What is that actor thinking or planning? Well, they’ll probably outright tell you in a second. What is this creature we’re so scared of? Oh, you made it brown and furry…that’s not that scary to me now that I’ve seen it. You get a lot of cheap scares that way, but it doesn’t get down to your soul. These movies won’t stand the test of time.

Good films, or rather, good stories, leave a little to the imagination. We can create anything your heart desires using the computer and Visual Effects (And if you have an appropriate budget), but should we? I’ve talked to tons of independent filmmakers who want flashy effects littered all over their project. Creatures galore. Monsters. Aliens. Cooler. Faster. Sexier. But what they’re always lacking (besides money, let’s be honest, it’s Hollywood) is the relationships in their screenplay to back all of it up. The tension caused by an alien invasion only means something because you care about what happens to the characters. The aliens and spaceships are just a happy bonus.

The real test is, can you make this movie without a single effect? Could you possibly make it work, or is it not even a little doable? If your mechanical shark broke down in the middle of production, how would you work around it?

Working for free

The above sketches I did while in a meeting with a client


I recently saw this youtube video from Stephen Silver in a posting on Cartoon Brew.

Stephen is a character designer on shows like Kim Possible and Danny Phantom, and brings up a very important point that will be obvious to many, but people working in the film industry tend to overlook far too often.


We’re often asked to work on “cool” projects for the promise of future pay, or the “guarantee” that we’ll get paid, and paid well on the next one. I’d say a lot of the time, the people who say these things truly believe it. I like to believe that people are generally good, and want to help one another. However, I have also seen time and time again that these things just don’t work out.

Stephen makes many good points. Working for free devalues artists and the work we do. Our time is valuable. The sum total of years and years of experience, learning, education, late nights banging our heads against our monitors until we finally give in and accept our robotic overlords. You are a unique little snowflake and deserve to be paid like one.

I’ll take it one step further into a realm I’ve been dealing with quite a bit recently. As a visual effects artist, I’m often contacted to work on other people’s projects. The growing trend these days is the need to have groundbreaking visual effects for next to no budget. It’s a sad trend, but it’s the way of the world. In order to stand out in the sea of mass media and youtube, anything you produce needs to have a twist. Usually a visual twist involving a guy staying up late at night, toiling to polish off 12 frames of “film.” 12 Frames = half a second by the way.

I get it. How else are you going to separate yourself from the 50,000 other people with a camera and an idea? But what many people don’t understand is that these things take grueling hours to create. That staying up late polishing 12 frames? That’s not a joke. I’ve lost weeks of my life to as little as 12 frames of film. And that’s what separates me, the professional visual effects artist, from the high school student who came across a copy of After Effects and can do some cool stuff with it.

I’m like a ninja, or the Masad. If I do my job right, you’ll never even know I was there. You won’t think twice about that creature, or the fact that they shot the movie in LA on a green screen, even though it takes place in NY.

Despite what seems like me bitching, it’s not all crazy expectations. One person I worked with thought my job was really simple. He could pull green screen keys in final cut in a minute, so there’s not much more to it. When I sat down with him and spent 3 hours on a single shot, and it still wasn’t done, I could tell he had a lot more respect and understanding.

I don’t begrudge the person who doesn’t understand what I do. It’s the person who doesn’t care and thinks they can do it better when they very much can not, that gets under my skin. Respect yourself and those you employ, and the world will be a better place.

And if you have to work for free, make it something you believe in. Something of your own creation, or someone close to you.

Time to go heed my own advice…


New beginnings

Hello and welcome to the new and improved andrewlewitin.com. Check back often as I slowly roll out updates, post new and updated demo reels, and hopefully begin to maintain a blog that will satisfy your inner filmmaker.