Dr. D is a comprehensive digital production studio located in Sydney, Australia that has a knack for attracting top-notch artists from around the globe. They are presently in the heat of production, working on Happy Feet 2 and are recruiting talented Houdini artists to lend a hand.
Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with Dr. D’s Head of Production, Brett Feeney about life at their studio; life in Sydney; and what it takes to become a member of their talented team.
Side Effects: How would you describe the work culture at Dr. D Studios?
Brett: We aim to be story-driven in our approach to our projects. This basically means that we try to measure everything by how we believe the audience will react as well as making sure that everything earns its place in support of the story.
The sheer complexity of producing an animated feature from scratch means that there is a huge variety of creative, technical and logistical challenges to be overcome at all stages of production. We need a variety of people ranging from artists using the standard and custom tools focusing on realising the creative vision, to technical directors that develop solutions to the technical challenges.
Dr. D employs a local and international team of artists that have come to Australia from all the major visual effects and feature animation studios around the world. Our staff are always willing to roll up their sleeves and immerse themselves in any challenge presented to them while having lots of fun along the way.
What is life like for a CG artist in Australia? Will there be any time at all to enjoy all that Sydney has to offer?
Brett: We are obviously biased in our view of our home here in Sydney and we believe that it has a little bit of something for everyone.
There are a huge amount of outdoor activities to engage in along with a great array of places visit, eat and enjoy. Dr. D is situated close to the city and a lot of our artists end up living in the eastern suburbs where they can find great beaches and night life.
We are very conscious about work life balance here. We strive to pack in as much work possible between Monday to Friday in order to keep the weekends open to explore Sydney or unplug and relax somewhere calming. The region has an abundance of pleasant distractions from our working lives.
Side Effects: How does Dr. D Studios use Houdini in the production pipeline? What kinds of jobs are available to Houdini artists?
Brett: We use Houdini quite extensively throughout our studio. All post animation work is done in Houdini. This includes surfacing (texturing and shading), final layout, lighting, character effects, and visual effects. We will have over 160 artists using Houdini for the Happy Feet 2 project, at peak.
Side Effects: What different kinds of projects would a Houdini artist get to work on at Dr. D studios?
Brett: Currently the main focus at Dr. D is the completion of George Miller's "Happy Feet 2" with other projects in early stages of production. Houdini is being utilized in many different ways to find solutions to the challenges presented in the early stages of story development from performance all the way to the final image. The main areas where Houdini is being utilized are the in the latter stages of the pipeline: final layout, effects, character effects, crowds, surfacing, lighting and rendering.
Side Effects: How many artists does Dr. D have on staff? How many of these are working on Houdini?
Brett: We have currently over 500 crew members working at Dr D Studios, which takes into account all facilities, admin and the production crew. Of this, around 160 or more use Houdini as their main tool.
Side Effects: Do you only hire experienced Houdini artists or is Dr. D Studios training skilled Visual Effects artists to use Houdini?
Brett: Having a background using Houdini in production is beneficial, however we find that experienced artists are used to working with a custom pipeline and tools wherever they may be working. This is why we don't think that the leap from one commercial package to another one is necessarily a big step - but we also have a training program in place to make the transition easier.
We find that effects artists with a desire to learn and broaden their horizons have a tendency to easily get a grasp on Houdini. Typically, they already have a procedural mindset and will feel at home in Houdini very quickly, especially when they see how its modular structure makes many tasks easy that are hard to achieve in other packages. Many of our artists are required to use multiple packages in conjunction with each other, so previous experience with any of those packages is a great bonus. With many major studios now adding Houdini to their arsenal, this is a great opportunity to improve one’s skill-set.
Side Effects: What skills does Dr. D Studios look for in a Houdini artist?
Brett: What we are looking for in a Houdini artist is not that different from any other artist - a passion for learning, the ability to embrace change and the desire to deliver the best result possible in the given time.
We are definitely not looking for "button-pushers" or "bums on seats" but for people with the desire to contribute to the film making process by proactively offering solutions to creative and technical problems. A sense of humor definitely helps along with a great attitude and enthusiasm. These are the 3 most important attributes we look for and they sometimes even outweigh having real-world experience.
Side Effects: What is the best way for up-and-coming Houdini artists to connect with Dr. D Studios?
Dr. D Careers http://www.drdstudios.com/content/careers