Post Magazine

September 2018

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BITS & PIECES 4 POST SEPTEMBER 2018 DISNEY PREMIERES FIRST VR SHORT, CYCLES BURBANK, CA — During last month's SIGGRAPH show in Vancouver, Walt Disney Animation Studios premiered its first ever VR-short, Cycles, in the Immersive Pavilion. The three-and-a-half-minute short was created as part of a Disney Animation professional development program, giving emerging filmmak- ers training opportunities, and centers around the true meaning of creating a home and the life it holds inside its walls. After demoing the short, Post met up with director Jeff Gipson, who told us "It's an emotional story and an emotional film." We spoke with him about the short, which was completed at Disney Animation in Burbank, CA, what his inspi- ration was for the film, and how he learned the ins and outs of VR technology. HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH THIS PROJECT? "I came to Disney in 2013 as a lighting apprentice. I worked on Frozen, Big Hero 6, Moana, Zootopia, Olaf's Frozen Adventure, Ralph Breaks the Internet, so I've been a lighting artist at the studio for almost six years. We have an experimental program here where artists are encouraged to pitch ideas. I pitched an idea for a VR short film and mine was selected." WERE YOU ALREADY WORKING IN VR? "No, not really. I've just been curious about it. I've done some VR experiences and thought it was really interesting and cool, and was curious how you could tell a narrative story in the medium. I had an idea in mind for about a year and thought it would be a really good VR piece." WERE YOU SORT OF LEARNING AS YOU WENT ALONG? "Yes, basically." ONCE YOUR PROJECT WAS SELECTED, WERE YOU LIKE, 'GREAT, THEY LIKE IT, NOW I HAVE TO ACTUALLY MAKE IT'? "(Laughs) Funny you say that, but that was the thing, when I pitched it, I thought it was cool and thought, 'That would be awesome to make.' But then, when they actually said, 'OK, let's make it,' that was the 'Oh crap' moment. I was like, 'Now I have to figure out how to make it.' It was difficult because we didn't have a pipeline set up to create a VR short film here at the studio. This was my first venture into VR here. I worked closely with another artist, Jose Gomez, who technically has worked with some VR tools here at the studio, but the rest of the crew really, this was our first time jumping into VR and making something in a realtime engine." WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION FOR THE FILM? I UNDERSTAND YOU DO SOME SKATEBOARDING IN EMPTY POOLS? "Yes, I do some BMX freestyle and I love to ride empty swimming pools. A lot of times the pools have homes attached to the property and I just love taking pho- tos. So, I'll go into these homes and take photos and will just imagine the story happening in the kitchen, the bedroom, the dining room and kind of happening all around me. I had this moment in my head of a story happening, I thought it would be really cool to create a VR experience that the audience could see and experience what I was thinking about." I BELIEVE DURING A TALK YOU GAVE AT SIGGRAPH, YOU ALSO SAID IT'S BASED ON YOUR OWN FAMILY? "Yes, exactly. My relationship with my grandmother and the experience of moving her into assisted living and the hard conversations that went into that decision. Kind of looking over her house one last time before putting it up for sale and seeing that it's much like the homes in Los Angeles, only this one held the story of my own family." THE STORY WAS TOLD IN A VERY INTERESTING WAY — IT WASN'T IN A LINEAR STYLE. "We debated back and forth how best to do it. We tried to guide the eye in VR using color, light and motion. There were a few times when people missed a mo- ment, but as long as they are hearing the audio and seeing most of the moments, then we're happy with how the way the story was conveyed." WERE YOU MORE INVOLVED IN PRODUCTION THAN POST OR THE WHOLE WAY? "I was involved the whole way through because this was made in a differ- ent way than how we make our films. We had 50 people make this film in four months. They could have worked on it for a day or gone along for the whole ride. Because we only had four months, we really had to work together from all aspects of it, whether it was pre-production or post production to everything." Director Jeff Gipson (le) with Post's Linda Romanello (right). An early look at one of the scenes.

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