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April 2013

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open house RuckSackNY: the little engine that could N EW YORK — After 15 years as an Inferno/Flame artist, Fred Ruckel decided leave the security of Stitch Motion Graphics; a company he co-founded in 1999 in New York City, to take a leap of faith and pursue his dream of becoming an inventor and serial-entrepreneur. "I spent almost every day in the Flame hot seat, which makes doing anything else pretty much impossible." Ruckel's wife Natasha, who at the time was director of creative content at agency Momentum Worldwide, gave him the push he needed to go out and create his inventions. "I'm constantly thinking about news ways in which I can simplify the mundane tasks faced in everyday life," he says. This creative studio keeps overhead low and quality up. The Ruckels took fate into their own hands. THE IDEA A week after leaving Stitch, agency Mcgarry Bowen reached out, asking Ruckel if he could bring to life an idea he had pitched them several months earlier. The challenge of putting together a team and directing this project was an opportunity he couldn't pass up. It also gave Natasha an idea: "Why don't we do this ourselves? Buy the equipment, be the company, and control the project from start to finish?" The Ruckels dipped into their savings and set up RuckSackNY. The project, for Chevron, was a big success and led to over a dozen other collaborations with Mcgarry Bowen clients over the next six months. For Chevron, they took still images that were indicative of the company's initiative, cut out parts of the image, rebuilt them and moved them in space to give a feeling of a multiplane world. They then created atomspherics, such as snow frozen in time, dust in the lens, and convulsing clouds to bring still imagery to life just enough to make you wonder if it's a still or not? THE EVOLUTION OF AN IDEA "It came to the point where I felt I needed Natasha full time with me at RuckSackNY," says Ruckel. While the prospect of husband and wife living together and working together would give goose bumps to many couples, it didn't deter them. After all, they managed to produce a seven-episode television series about the building of their home, called Dream House Log Cabin, for the DIY Network. He says, "We put our relationship to the test, and came out of it stronger and closer than before." "We looked at lots of different business models for agencies, production and post companies to see which were more successful than others and why some failed," explains Natasha. While many companies are scaling back and some are even closing their doors, the Ruckels believe their model, which focuses on a per-project basis, could survive even in lean times. That meant scaling up and down to meet the demands and needs of their cli- For this Kohl's spot, RuckSackNY built a town. They used a Canon 5D to shoot elements. ents while keeping overhead low. Fred built the infrastructure and configured it to the specific workflows needed for all types of projects. With a background in engineering and tech support, he was able to build a system that allowed RuckSackNY to compete with the big boys in a more cost effective way. While RuckSackNY uses only more costly seasoned talent, they feel the results are worth it. "In order to create incentives for artists, we start everyday with a team breakfast, we offer lunches, and snacks and beverages are provided all day long," says Fred. "We believe in giving our artists everything they need to keep them happy while they work, so that they focus on being creative and getting the job done. The real kicker is that we always stop at 6pm. I have always said people need time for a life!" Besides the goodies, the Ruckels like to give bonuses for a job well done. They also ensure to pay their workers within a week of receiving their invoices. This adds up to happy artists. So, when does Fred get to work on his inventions? "Well, we now have a Makerbot 3D printer, so when I'm in between projects I can 'fabricate' anything from toy robots to camera parts! I can literally make my own prototypes." Post0413_009-Open HouseRAV4FINALREAD.indd 9 THE WORK In the last few months RuckSackNY (www. has completed some notable work, including a video for New York's Central Park via Mcgarry Bowen (www.centralparknyc. org/2012-cpc-eoy-video.html). When a wellknown make-up brand, which couldn't be named at press time, came out with a new nail polish line, RuckSackNY was called on to produce five how-to videos to showcase the products. They also just wrapped up a fully created spot for Kohl's via Triptent. The Ruckels shot all of the elements and designed a full town that leads to a Kohl's store for their Early Bird Super Saturday Sale. The commercial is in heavy rotation nationally. "We literally built a town in just two weeks. We shot all the elements on our 5D while we literally drove to Kohl's to shoot the store." They are currently mid-project for American Express. Natasha created over 100 videos for Amex during her tenure at Momentum, and that relationship continued when an executive at American Express reached out to her via LinkedIn and Facebook, and asked if she was still writing and directing? Social media at its best. In addition to the Autodesk Inferno/Flame, they work with Macs with SSD drives and 32GB of RAM each, Adobe CS 6 suites, a Cache LTO-5 back-up system, a Canon 5D camera, multiple lenses, multiple mounts, a VO recording booth, and a Makerbot replicator 2D/3D printer. Why RuckSackNY? In addition to their last name being part of it, a Rucksack in England is a backpack, where you put everything you need. Post • April 2013 9 3/26/13 5:23 PM

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