Master of None; Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; Z: The Beginning of Everything; The Americans: Each show critically acclaimed and watched by millions, each begging something radically different from the visual effects teams who work on them.
Todd Peleg (CG Supervisor), and Chanjun Chun (CG Assets Supervisor) have worked on the each of the above series and more at the New York office of The Molecule, enthusiastically and efficiently taking on the challenges – ranging from epic to hilarious – that come with each.
From meticulously creating 1920's New York streets and satellites in space, to graphically depicting matters of the heart and humorous matters of the body, Todd and Chanjun discuss why having a talented, creative team using the right tools for the job keep them ready to make anything.
"There is such a great feel to The Molecule. There are solid relationships between our departments and a good flow and mix between us. There are no egos here, just strong artists.
Though TV work has its challenges, there is a consistency to it that I appreciate. The episodes come in and go out like clockwork. Every show demands something different of us, and we have fun adapting to each." –Todd Peleg
MAYA AND ARNOLD, DAY TO DAY
Chanjun Chun (CG Assets Supervisor): I jumped into Maya about six years ago, and I’ve used Arnold for about four. Maya is our hub. You can work directly in it or connect other programs to it. Everything works out of Maya.
Todd Peleg (CG Supervisor): I've been in Maya professionally for about three years and Arnold for five. The integration between the two is terrific; it’s helped us keep our pipeline flowing smoothly.
Our CG team is small and relies heavily on freelancers, so subscribing to Maya makes sense. Maya is so pervasive in our industry, there’s always a strong pool of talent available to us, and we never worry about finding who we need. When the bigger jobs come, we expand on the fly.
We like working in Arnold because it's such a high-end renderer. It's quick, and it gives us the look we want without a lot of effort. And Maya's been around a long time, so the toolset is thorough. Whatever challenge comes up, we find off-the-shelf solutions with Maya and Arnold.
"Whatever challenge comes up, we find off-the-shelf solutions with Maya and Arnold...The last thing I worry about is tools."
STAYING CALM IN CRUNCH TIME
Todd: Crunch time is second nature to me, but I like problem-solving and putting strong teams of people together who I know can handle the work. I like providing that strong backbone that lets everyone feel reassured so they can work with confidence. I’ve learned to stay calm because no matter what, we always find a way to get things done.
We’re confident in our software - that’s important. With everything we have, with the ability to ramp up as we need to, the last thing I worry about is tools. I know that we have everything we need; there’s nothing that can come in the door that we can’t take on.
I also like knowing that I can jump in anywhere along the pipeline and help out as needed and be a part of the process.
"The fun comes from having the freedom and the ability to make whatever you want to make."
"MASTER OF NONE"
Todd: In Master of None, we worked on the scene where the main character and his girlfriend break up. It's a fantasy sequence. She pulls his heart out – a gruesome metaphor for the heartache she’s inflicting – sticks it in a wood chipper, and then it goes spewing everywhere.
We put a two-person team on this who worked in tandem with the Special Effects crew. They knew what they wanted, but they didn't know what the look was going to be. Maya and Arnold enable a good variety of off-the-shelf options that we then narrowed down quickly to meet the deadline.
"Z: THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING"
Chanjun: Because this show is set in the 1920’s, we researched a lot of period architecture before starting on the big Penn Station shot. Penn Station today is completely different from how it looked then, so we had to look at buildings of the day to recreate the many details. Our art director had a particular direction in mind, of course, but the fun really comes from having the freedom and the ability to make whatever we want to make. We modeled cars, people, buildings, and there was a ton of cleanup to remove any sign of modern day New York. We used a combination of VFX and CG to pull it all off.
"UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT"
Todd: For Season Three of Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, we were tasked with making a quirky Pharma commercial within an episode. The starring character in this ad was animated - and fairly unusual regarding shape. Lighting-wise, Arnold helped us deal with the integration of this character. Chanjun and I both worked on those themes. We had about 20 shots to complete, so it was a lot of stuff to get through, but Arnold made it simple.
At one point, we had some issues with the design of the character, but the flexibility of Maya allowed us to make the changes we needed to, and much later in the process than most would normally like. In the end, it didn't hurt us at all; our timeline wasn't affected. Both products working together meant everything moved through the pipeline seamlessly.
"It sounds strange to people, but much of what we make are the things you don't see."
Todd: Sometimes the work gets repetitive; it’s not all cool stuff all the time. It’s also mundane stuff like rain effects over 20 shots – just rain, rain, and more rain.
What keeps me going is when I get to tell people, 'I work on these shows.’ Everybody's heard of at least some if not all of them and it feels good knowing that something I’ve worked on gets in front of such a big audience. I get to tell my Mom, ‘Do you watch Shades of Blue, Mom? I work on that,' and then she gets to go and tell all her friends.
Chanjun: I was talking with a friend who watches The Americans – he didn't know at the time that I was working on it. He said, 'Hey, since you’re a CG guy, you should check out this shot in The Americans,' and he proceeded to describe, in detail, a shot that I’d worked on. I listened and waited for the moment where I could finally say, 'Actually, I worked on that shot – for an entire month.' What a great feeling.
Todd: It sounds strange to people, but much of what we make are the things you don't see. When the Autodesk crew came in to shoot the Make Anything campaign, they watched our reel. It doesn’t have any breakdowns in it, so there were moments where they weren’t exactly sure what we did. So I said, 'Okay, I'll tell you everything that we did there,' and they were like, 'Those things weren’t real?' That's the typical response we tend to get, and for me, it’s the most the most enjoyable one.
Making stories more compelling with things you see and often, things you can't, Todd and his team delight and entertain with products available in the Media & Entertainment Collection.
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