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Home Brewed VFX with Daniel Hashimoto, aka, Action Movie Dad

By Adam Korenman

You Don't Need a Film Studio to Create Film-Quality VFX: Red Giant's Daniel "Hashi" Hashimoto, AKA "Action Movie Dad"

Youtube has become an incubator for content that blurs the lines between VFX studio and hobbyists, with contributors creating some pretty impressive stuff with consumer gear. Daniel Hashimoto, AKA "Hashi" AKA "Action Movie Dad," has shown us what ingenuity, technical chops, and a couple of cute kids can do with budget filmmaking. Oh, did we mention that Hashi happens to be Senior Content Creator at Red Giant Software?
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Daniel's hobby wasn't just earning him likes and comments on YouTube; he leveraged his success into job opportunities within the entertainment industry. Along the way, he improved his workflow and picked up a couple of fancy tricks for making his videos stand out even more.
Whether you're trying to level up your motion design game, or just building a following, you're going to want to hear what Hashi has to say. Strap that brain down tight, we're talking with Action Movie Dad!

Show Notes

Transcript

Mark:
Welcome my friends to the VFX for Motion podcast. You'll see it when you believe it.
On this episode, I'm talking with the Action Movie Kid himself, Daniel Hashimoto. Hashi has deep Hollywood, experience having started at Dreamworks animation, but he made his fame first on YouTube. And now, he's also well known for the Cheap Tricks series he created at Red Giant software. His tutorials, which recreate big budget effects using inexpensive tools are not only just densely packed with innovative techniques, they're really fun to watch. And now, my discussion with Hashi. So shall I call you Hashi?
Hashi:
Yes, that's perfect. Yeah, Hashi's great.
Mark:
Okay. All right, cool. So I have to know, I think you had professional credits like that would go on IMDB when you started Action Movie Kid, but it would help to get the timeline straight. So when did that come about?
Hashi:
I came to Los Angeles hoping to break into the film industry and do really cool stuff. It turned out that I specialized a lot in visual effects, and basically using After Effects. That ended up being my core skill, was using after effects to do titles or visual effects or things like that. So while I was in college, I was at film school out here and started getting little side jobs of doing titles for TV shows for Bravo or MSNBC, things like that. And then, by the time I graduated, I ended up applying to Dreamworks Animation for an internship.
Hashi:
I had been applying to them my entire film school career and never got in. And then, the week of graduation, I got accepted for a PA position there, which was really great. So paid on top of that. And so, I spent from 2005 until about 2014, working at Dreamworks Animation where my role really evolved over time. I started out as a PA and then became a coordinator in the editorial department, and then eventually got hired on to The Rise Of The Guardians as a visual development artist. And from there, started an After Effects department.
Hashi:
Eventually had a team of about 12 people working on movies like the Kung Fu Panda, dream sequences or any 2D animation that we were putting out. And also, working really intensely on this movie called Me And My Shadow, that unfortunately has yet to be produced. It was two thirds made and then times were tough in the animation industry, and we had to pull back on that project, which was unfortunate.
Hashi:
It was a really neat movie. The plot was effectively a Cyrano de Bergerac plot involving a human who is in love with somebody and became aware that shadows were also sentient creatures who had their whole own world. So it was a computer animated film with traditionally animated shadow characters. It combined flash, hand animation, 2D animation of basically output from any type of 2D animation that could be done at the time. And it was all combined and rendered in 3D in the CG world, which looked really cool.
Mark:
So that was a Dreamworks project and then that one got shelved?
Hashi:
Yes.
Mark:
Okay.
Hashi:
During my last four years there, I met my wife there, we had our first kid there, and by the time he was about three, I had a ton of friends who also had kids and were posting videos of their children and things like that. So as a side hobby, I started making videos of my son getting into trouble or getting into dangerous situations.
Mark:
Yeah, and what year was that?
Hashi:
This is probably 2014.
Mark:
Okay. Yeah, I just remember working in some professional setting somewhere and visual effects people passing these around. It was really fun.
Hashi:
What was fun about those is it was a fallback on what I had done a lot as a teenager. I liked improvising visual effects and I was usually inspired by movies or some silly thing I was imagining at the time and would develop the whole effect shot around some silly idea. And they were always one off in different, and now I was doing these with my kids. So eventually, I say eventually, but it all happened very quickly, those videos went viral and the channel gained a ton of subscribers and views and, between those things, it became very appealing to commercial people.
Hashi:
Toys 'R' Us hired me to do 60 commercials for them later that year, all involving the same general idea. And when I was asked to do that, I ended up talking to my supervisors at Dreamworks and saying I really want to do this thing. And they were super encouraging about giving me a nice leave of absence to do that. And we ended up staying so busy doing things related to the YouTube channel that eventually, four or five months after the first round of commercials was produced, I went back and let them know that I probably wasn't returning. And happenstance since actually.
Mark:
So it wasn't direct YouTube revenue but it was everything that came from that as a calling card if you will. And when you say we, was it more than you at that point?
Hashi:
My wife and I have always been the ones who put these together. I met her at Dreamworks. She's an artist as well. She's really great at the physical side of things. She likes to build things, sculpt things and make things. And so, she was always my sounding board and would help come up with, or half the time, direct James in the little videos we made. And I say direct meaning she would be a stand-in for the monster that would appear on the thing, or she would be chasing him around with an oven mitt pretending it's a shark. And then, my job was to just film the real fun and the real reactions and turn them into some form of a story and add visual effects that supported that story.
Mark:
That makes sense because it's clearly method acting. If anyone's ever tried to get a three year old to hit a mark or respond to a thing, you got to make them feel it.
Hashi:
Absolutely, which is one of my first interesting moments for the Toys 'R' Us commercials. They wanted him to be in a few of them, and they ended up being on I think the last shoot day. And I had always worked with him improvisationally. We had never done a scripted thing where he had to go do a specific action. But suddenly, you're there surrounded by a big film crew and lights and everything. And I told him, cool, you're going to light saber fight with this associate. That's the scene. And he said no. And, of course, we had talked about it all day before. He had practiced, he had met the actor opposite him and everything seemed good. Everyone got along well.
Hashi:
And just as soon as all the cameras and everything were on, he just said basically the three and a half year old version of I'm not feeling it. And it was definitely one of the most trying moments of feeling like, isn't that the kid that does them and isn't this the guy who makes them and...
Mark:
Wow, all of a sudden you're both a stage parent and the directors who's got the animal trainer, and you're trying to get the dog to just do the thing when he's not. All right.
Hashi:
Luckily, the best performances we get out of him are when things feel like games. And so, at the moment, we basically made up a points system for him light saber fighting with this guy. Like, oh, try this move. If you can pull this off, if you can get him to do this, then you win. It's a hundred points. And he was all for that because points are super amazing. I want points.
Mark:
Yeah, no, that's solid. You didn't actually bribe him, but effectively though, it's what you did.
Hashi:
Absolutely. Work with what you have.
Mark:
So that kept you going for a while, and at some point, Red Giant, more recently, brought you in to start doing the Cheap Tricks series.
Hashi:
Yes.
Mark:
And if you want to say more about the transition to that, that's cool. I want to talk about that.
Hashi:
Oh, sure. Yeah, well what was neat is that I was still working at Dreamworks, and in the middle of Shadows doing some cool stuff, we were using particular on... We used it on every shot in Kung Fu Panda 2 that we did of the dream sequences. And then, we were using it a lot for Me And My Shadow, both to create atmospheres and particles in the air and cool things like that. And I just remembered that Aharon Rabinowitz, who I had seen all of his videos on Creative Cow and was absolutely a virtual mentor to me, I thought I should send him a letter to say thanks because now he's representing Red Giant and they make Trap Code. And so, these are two of my favorite things.
Hashi:
And so, I reached out to Aharon, who happened to respond within seconds to my email of saying, hey, I'm an LA next week. I'll come by. I'd love to come by the studio. And so, he and Harry Frank came to visit me at the studio. And since then, we've had a pretty open dialogue. Whenever there was a new feature I was curious about them integrating into one of the Trap Code suites or any of their other visual effect things, I would email Aharon, he would ask me questions about if I've used a new thing. And that relationship has sort of continued into me doing these Action Movie Kid videos and having a whole new job.
Hashi:
And I was still using Trap Code for lots of things and would let them know every now and then. And Aharon started a probably two year long campaign of saying, hey, would you consider doing something for us? Or maybe just like throw up a quick behind the scenes of one of your things? If you use one of the tools, that'll be cool. And I did a Dr Strange video, and said this was a perfect one, it's almost exclusively particular. I'd love to make a little demo video for you guys. I'd loved what everything they'd produced, I'd loved everything that Seth Worley had produced, and just really wanted to impress my other VFX friends.
Mark:
So it sounds like for a little while you'd reversed the mentorship where he's mining you for things you're doing with their tools, and where were you doing that?
Hashi:
So at this point, I was fully independent. I effectively retired from Dreamworks in 2014 and decided that I would do YouTube Action Movie Kid stuff pretty much full time with the exception of projects that I really wanted to do. And so, I would only work on maybe one or two projects a year. Some of them are still in development and I can't talk about, but a couple there have been released like Mary Poppins Returns, I really wanted to do a few shots for. And so, that was fun.
Mark:
I'll have you know I got to watch that movie at Skywalker Ranch.
Hashi:
Oh, that is amazing. I've yet to make it to the Ranch.
Mark:
Your scene has played on the Stags Theater screen. Gorgeous.
Hashi:
That is remarkable. I keep on being... Like when we were at Dreamworks and I was an editorial, I was always one person removed from getting to go up to Skywalker to be in the [inaudible 00:11:26].
Mark:
Oh yeah. Yeah, it's easier if you're in the Bay Area and all, so if you used to work there or still do. Yeah, okay, so that's amazing. Before we go on, I'm sure there are people who want to know. YouTube. I was just saying to somebody before I did this interview that you have one video that probably has more views than... And I know some pretty prominent on YouTube people, but I think your one video may have more views than all the other views of all the other videos of everyone I remember talking to put together. So theoretically that, by itself, should be a revenue generator. But it sounds like really the big benefit of YouTube has been just getting you out there as the guy who does this and give you opportunities to do more of it. So when you left Dreamworks, was it based on the fact that you are actually generating direct revenue from doing Action Movie Kid, or was it more from the derivatives of that?
Hashi:
Yeah, you're absolutely right that it was the derivatives of that. YouTube ad revenue is nifty, but it is definitely not enough to support a full family of us living in California. And so, while there were some people who worked at YouTube and hit it big right at the same time that they were willing to pay a lot for views, we were the wave after that where they realized they were paying out too much for things like that and wanted a little bit more control over it. So yeah, no complaint at all. We generate a passive income off of YouTube, which is really nice, but it's more like something that'll pay your electric bills and things like that, as opposed to something that will supplement an income and insurance and all of that stuff.
Hashi:
So I ended up talking to... We got representation right out after the channel went viral and I told them I'd be willing to step away from my Dreamworks job if we can make enough commercial opportunities happen that they replace that income and replace insurance and replace all of these things that grownups need to think about and that I don't get screwed on taxes in the backend. And so, luckily as a creator, the style of video that I was doing became effectively digital... Putting my reel out there. It's just the idea of putting your work out there and, since it happened to be entertaining enough, people saw it and enough of them learned that I was the person doing them. And we got commercial opportunities or tie-ins and things like that. And all of those combined together ended up being something that made it feasible for us to do that as a full time job.
Mark:
Cool. So talking about Cheap Tricks and what you're doing at Red Giant now, bunch of questions around that that I think we're all curious about. One of the most fundamental of which, so for those who haven't seen it, and you should, you are weaving together not just Red Giant tools, but generalized After Effects tricks and then Blender, Cinema, pretty much kitchen sink of resources, whatever it takes to recreate scenes from Game of Thrones and famous Harry Potter, these feature films, right?
Hashi:
Yeah, I would say that kitchen sink is a remarkably good description of it. It's really seeing a scene that is in a trailer or in a movie that I just saw and thinking I could totally do that at home without doing much, without having to go out and figure out a new technology. I think I can cheat that with things that I have at my disposal. And it's sponsored by Red Giant. It's their series. And of course, we love when people use our tools because we try to make some of these effects as easy as we can with the tools that are available through Red Giant.
Hashi:
But at the same time, the reason that I want to make it is to try to convince people that things on screen aren't as difficult to do as they may think. And if creating an effect from a big Hollywood blockbuster is some stumbling block for anything that you are trying to create, I want to encourage people and open their eyes to the million ways you could do it. And especially because they ended up being just pixels on a screen, any way you can get there and any way you can cheat and fudge your way there is effectively the whole, the core message of that show.
Mark:
Yeah. Okay, cool. So as a guy who started as a PA, which is actually how I started out as well, how have you found you most effectively learn new things?
Hashi:
I think that there's some element of never taking the established system for granted and always being willing to look at things from a step back in a way. One of the amazing things about the animation community is that it is a remarkably small community compared to the whole. It's like a microcosm of Hollywood. So the people I'd be working with on a daily basis, one of them had directed Beauty And The Beast or one of them boarded Simba's dad dying in The Lion King.
Hashi:
And these people had helped create these moments that seemed so timeless and big and huge. But the lack of Hollywood ego that existed within the animation community really made it this nerd craft thing where people would love to say, oh, yes, I did get to work on that and I helped do that. But you're so close to all of the people, including the directors and the higher ups, are down there with the smallest people in the, what would otherwise be the Hollywood food chain, trying to make a good product because you're producing everything from the start to finish.
Hashi:
So I think that that helped inform a mindset of, hey, we're all in this together. Everyone needs to do something, and it's really anyone who has the best idea and can convince other people, that's the way we should do it, that's the way we're going to do it because we're making it up as we go. Even computer animation where you think, oh, well, if you do a Shrek sequel, you recycle models and you have and you just do it again. It's easy now that you have all these things built.
Hashi:
Every movie I know has built itself from the ground floor up, even when there are repeated characters and even when there are repeated sets and things like that. And a lot of people don't know that assets don't pass on in the same way as they sometimes do in traditional movies where you say, oh, we've established this set, so we have it built now forever and we never have to rebuild the Seinfeld apartment. The technology is always evolving and improvisation is a big part of animation. And as a "filmmaker," I always liked improvising with whatever tools were around me.
Mark:
There's a couple of really valuable things I pulled out of that as you were talking. One is that it actually is a decent justification for starting in production. Now I used to think, oh, God, being a coordinator and a producer is not my path and I wasn't, frankly, that good at being a PA because a lot of it is just like being a waiter. You have to be able to remember 15 different things at once, especially if you're working on set. Being an animation PA might be a little bit different than that.
Mark:
But the point is if you're not already working in an assembly line, then you get that big picture view of how to plan stuff. And it sounds like that's really how your learning has come about. You look at a problem the way that anyone would individual effects world or the animation world, and think about it holistically like, well, what do I actually need to do this thing I want to do? Maybe without even knowing how it was done, in Aquaman, or what have you. Okay, let's get into the weeds a little bit on some of the stuff in Cheap Tricks. And I'm not sure where to start, but describe for us a little bit... What I've seen is that, yes, you're using Red Giant tools. You're not necessarily using them in the out of the box way.
Hashi:
Yeah, one of the things that I like to do is, again, it's that bird's eye view of what a software is doing for you. So Red Giant recently made this plugin called Kingpin Tracker. I saw it about a year ago when they were developing it. And when I saw how quick the tracker was, I knew that it was supposed to be for sign and screen replacement and things like that. Because that's something you often do. And you could do it in Mocha, there's a way to do it in After Effects. It's a process that I understand inside and out. You're remapping a square to another thing, to a different square.
Hashi:
What I liked about Kingpin was I just saw that it had a speed advantage. It was faster tracking and it was all within After Effects. I didn't need to leave it for a different program. So that's a huge bonus to me, is to not have to switch softwares in the middle of something. Not that Mocha is incredibly complex, but being able to see on screen what I'm doing right in After Effects makes me feel very cozy and warm.
Mark:
Well, working in the context of a comp is definitely advantageous in many cases.
Hashi:
It is very nice. I know my pre-comp is going to do stuff. I know I don't have to really bake the data in the same way.
Mark:
Yeah, and I don't know if you have a good method as an aside for just painting right on a frame in a comp, but when that primitive tool to do that went away from after effects, it was a real loss, when the paint tools were all in a layer context. You look at somebody on a Flame Box and they can just paint around. They could basically do the equivalent of Frame IO and start painting in frame to point at details and stuff like that. So that's a very primal example of where just working right in the context of the comp is super help.
Hashi:
Exactly. And then take it a step beyond that. What I liked about Kingpin was I realized, so what it's really doing is it's a planar tracker. It's not just four points or something. So does that mean that I could use this to track anything within this box and see what happens with the data? And because the iterations happened so quickly, you can do drafts off of this.
Hashi:
One of my latest Cheap Tricks episodes, I show how I use it to pin things like dead flesh onto a horse that's walking around and make it look like a zombie horse, or to pin a different costume on a person because I can track the shape of what the front of their shirt looks like and replace it with another shirt just because it's a fast tracker. And that's the advantage to me.
Hashi:
I've even used both Kingpin and Spot Clone Tracker which use the same tracking engine and because it's faster than After Effects, I just like it to get quick results and it's sometimes the best way to and more reliable than the AE tracker, but also saves me the step of leaving.
Mark:
Yeah, no, it's gotten a lot of shout outs I think because it's a pretty recently new tool as we record this. But definitely, it's gotten a lot of thumbs up out there. So if you were to put together, at this point, and you've been doing this for a little over a year, year and a half, with Red Giant... When you think about what would go on your greatest hits of Cheap Tricks at this point, because you got a little more than a dozen episodes in there, what are some things that come to mind? And these could be combos. Again, it could include crazy Blender zombies [crosstalk 00:00:22:34]. What would be some of your favorites?
Hashi:
What's weird about Cheap Tricks is that I always go in thinking I'm going to cover one thing and then the method, or something that I'm realizing you could use a new tool for, takes over. And so, suddenly, I want to do a Game of Thrones episode that's two shots or something, and suddenly it's a four part giant series on something, which very much confounds the bird's eye plan for the year of what I'm going to do in Cheap Tricks.
Hashi:
But one of my favorite things has been exploiting Mixamo and Sketchfab and other free resources that allow you to introduce 3D animation into After Effects. And I'm using Video Copilot's Element to do a lot of that. And I think the very first time that I explain that process is in the Aquaman part two, which is the very end of the video, I decide to do this shot of a big monster. Once I had done this all before, I hadn't even seen the movie Aquaman, but I saw there was a shot in a trailer of a monster in the rain and wanted to attempt that.
Hashi:
So what was interesting to me was to show people that I would do that if I were doing it for myself, the quickest and cheapest way is the best for me. So I would find a free model on Sketchfab that just needs a CC attribution, download the model, and if it's not already natively in and an OBJ or an FBX, maybe quickly convert that. You could convert it for free in Blender or convert it in Cinema 4D, something like that. And then, using Adobe's Mixamo, which people don't know, it's mixamo.com, it's a site that is now run by Adobe. They've just renewed it for another season or whatever you would call seasons of software.
Hashi:
I was worried about it for a while because it feels like it's maybe a tentative place, but they stood behind it this year, which is really cool. So it'll be around, which I liked being able to tell people confidently. But Mixamo is a site that is a cache of computer generated characters, models and the paired motion capture data. So you can mix and match a character with this whole library of motion capture data, apply it, and then immediately download that FBX. It's textures and animation all baked together in an animated FBX file for you to use. And what's so amazing about this is they also have an auto rigging program at Cloud, computes and it tries to auto-rig figures for you so long as they're slightly human type anthropomorphic.
Hashi:
So anytime I need a robot or a monster or something like that, I can usually find a free model because creators are amazing and put out amazing things into the world. I like to take those and remix them by putting them into Mixamo, adding an animation of maybe a monster roaring or something like that. And then, you can use either Blender, which is free, or a Cinema 4D to export an OBJ sequence of those characters. And the OBJ sequences can be rendered in Element natively inside of After Effects.
Hashi:
What's really wonderful is, from start to finish, you can take 10 minutes to find a model, download a motion capture applied version of the character, and suddenly have this great thing that you can use right in your video that is interactive with a camera, looks as good as you can make an Element render look and be often on your way for something that used to be incredibly intimidating to do because I'm not very good at 3D software per se. I've been versed in it over the years, of course, but I don't know how to get into the weeds and Blender or Cinema 4D. I've just learned very specific things that have allowed me to do exactly that process I described recently.
Mark:
Yeah. Wow, that is really cool. You meet a lot of people, and I don't know if you've encountered these people, but it's a common mindset to think, I really want to get better at my craft. I think I'll learn Houdini, and that would really... because if I was a master of Houdini then I could do all this procedural stuff and it'd be so cool and I wouldn't be so limited as like I am in Cinema to do... And meanwhile, you're turning around shots that recreate things you've seen in award winning Hollywood productions and you're doing it just out of the resourcefulness of, hey, I just want to do this thing and I'm going to figure out how to just use what I know and available tools to do it.
Hashi:
Precisely. Thank you. Hopefully, the show isn't so much a... it is a long format and it really does lay out every step, but it's not meant to be a one-to-one tutorial that you're following along to learn how to do something. The idea is to teach people the mindset and the process of doing something like that, of realizing if you're worried about this shot in your movie because you want a monster to run down the hall, don't completely eliminate it because you don't think you can do that.
Hashi:
There's an easy way you can do it and then you can spend as much time on the easy way as you want to make it look as good as you want. I feel like these Cheap Tricks ones, I try to get looking good enough for the thumbnail and close enough to the movie to release into the world. They're not crazy production quality out of the gate, but they get the idea across.
Mark:
And that's been the argument for compositing all along. Compositing, back in the day, didn't get as much respect as working in CG. Straight up 3D was like that's being a technical director and coming up with simulation. This is back to the Houdini argument. If you could do all this program-my procedurally stuff, then you're a bad ass. And if you're just assembling shot, that's all you're doing. And what you're saying is good enough is good enough, just like with live footage. Okay, I didn't really get the shot lit the way I wanted, but that's fine. I'm going to make it look good in After Effects. That's basically how you do it.
Hashi:
And some of that even happens on Hollywood films or especially in the marketing for Hollywood films, where sometimes in working in animation, there would be some very expensive at least expensive in time, things like, oh, this shot had light rays and crap in the air and this effect happening in the reverse shot, but now we needed to reanimate all of the reactions to it and we don't have time to put everything through all of the character simulations and the volumetrics that we want to. That involves 22 people in the pipeline. Can you fake what this shot looked like beforehand and just quickly put some crap in the air and some light rays and particles in front of it?
Hashi:
And we would do that on a handful of shots and we would even do them in stereoscopic because the Red Giant Trap Code tools are all natively 3D through the camera. And so, we could very quickly. It was similar to being able to paint on the frame with a cheaper effect that one person could do instead of bothering the time of 20 people. If it is good enough to put it on the screen, then it became part of the final movie. And that was really neat to see that. I think animation, where they know you could get in there with a marker and fix the last frame before you photograph it kind of thing, that mentality everybody had and everyone was willing to say, hey, would this look fine? Could you do this? And that type of innovation was just so cool to see people being open to.
Hashi:
And also to not have the interference of the ego of someone who worked really hard to develop a cool volumetric system for this transition. And one thing that I should mention for sure is that the reason I'm able to do a show like Cheap Tricks, or the reason we're able to do little paint fixes in a Kung Fu Panda movie or something like that, is because you do have someone who production designed and thought a lot about how a shot would look in a movie. And we, as the audience, get that essentially for free. We get the vision of it for free passed on. We know how they pulled off what it looks like when the flash runs or when, in Wrinkle in Time, what the fourth dimension looks like or whatever looks like. And so, we're just trying to respect the look of that with whatever tools that we have. And that can be really fun to do.
Mark:
Well, and also in the example you gave, you're leveraging resources that did not exist five or 10 years ago to do that. Let's go back five, seven years. If you wanted anything involving essentially Mocap, if you wanted animation that you could apply to a rigged character to have them come to life. You're talking about the starting costs of that would have been a quarter of a million dollars.
Hashi:
Absolutely.
Mark:
... to get the rig because you'd have to shoot your own, you'd have to shoot your own talent, and you'd have to rig the thing, but just the software and the process for converting all that. And it's still not, to the layman and even to someone who hasn't done it the way you've done it, it doesn't feel accessible. Or you would think about the straight forward approach. You think, well, we got to do that. We've got to get somebody out in this suit and we're going to have to do a bunch of characters design. And you're like, we could do that...
Hashi:
We could, or we could...
Mark:
Or...
Hashi:
Absolutely not, yeah.
Mark:
We could take this model that looks pretty crappy and make it look a little better and stick it a little bit more in the background with some fog over it.
Hashi:
Yeah, one thing that I did, it was not really related to Cheap Tricks or anything, but just a creativity outlet of mine is basically on Twitter. I'll sometimes see a video that is trending that day and I'll want to mess with it. I recently took this Boston Dynamics, they had a promo for their Spot robot, which is commercially available for the first time ever. So the promo is cute and it's effectively showing a little construction workplace and rescue environments where you could conceivably use robots. But between the way Corridor did their amazing Boston Dynamics video a while ago. I had been trying to work on a Boston Dynamics video for a long time. Before that, I had a Kylo Ren Boston Dynamics video where I'd placed Mark Hamill's face on the programmer that was taunting the robot for a while.
Hashi:
But anyway, I saw the video one morning. I thought that it would be really fun to do a remake of it, but I didn't have much time. And so, I took six hours that are dedicated to just that video and I thought if I have just six hours, what could I do to turn this happy promo of robots into a quick animation of these robots going berserk and shooting their users. And it involved all of these tricks using Mixamo, grabbing 3D models of people putting construction helmets on their heads. So they matched the video, and all in a very short amount of time. And I'm really proud of how it turned out. It turned out having the effect that I wanted to, giving myself such a short window and knowing I can't go film something for this. I can't go model something for this. I have to purely mess with the pixels in front of me using anything I can. Yeah, I have a breakdown of that on Twitter. That's pretty fun. A lot of people enjoyed.
Mark:
So we're getting close to the end and I just want to be sensitive of your time, but ask you a question that's a big one, but you can answer it however you like. And it's effectively where would you like to see all these tools that you use go in the relatively near future? In other words, given that what you're doing is rare, combining so many different things, what would you like to see to either make it simpler or enable you to do more over the next five to 10 years?
Hashi:
Something that I'm really interested in is seeing people who have good imaginations be enabled with amazing tools. So one of the things I love about being paired with Red Giant is they've always had that same philosophy of knowing that color grading was a big mystery, confusing thing to people, and then they created Colorista and Looks, which even more valuable to me. It was a way to suddenly take footage and preview it a hundred different ways right in front of you, allowing you to take these amazing shortcuts to these really professional looks that need the mildest of tweaking.
Hashi:
I think that a lot of technologies, especially visual effect technologies, are going this interesting way that I would have never predicted where a computer can do a lot of work, where a computer can do a content aware fill and erase things. It can give you a hundred different looks that you can see immediately, that you can choose between. It can get better at camera tracking, it'll get better at all of these types of things that almost the layman knows what they want to do but maybe not how to get there. And I like the idea of the tools rising to meet the layman, who has a little bit of interest to dive into picking up these tools for the first time because it's allowing a lot of ideas to get out there in the world that never did before.
Hashi:
So I love watching shorts on YouTube and these amazing things that people put together that are of cinematic quality and value, that they made with very little resources. Because there's something so raw about the creativity distilling immediately to a frame with very few people in between. And it can be a little bit scary because there are also whole industries that are supported by that type of vision needing a whole infrastructure to work around it. Yeah, there's a combination of the oversaturation of ideas flooding YouTube, but I would also hope that the best content still floats to the top, and that best content is usually people who are resourceful, have a really strong drive to do one specific thing and love it enough to embrace the craft and go for it. Yeah, I know that's a very wide answer, but...
Mark:
What I appreciate about what you're saying is, first of all, you're focused on creativity and you're really speaking about both responding to the tools and what they can do and your process being like, oh, I could use this thing that I have to do this thing, but not sitting around just looking at the tool like what does it do, and therefore, I'll do that. You're still thinking about people who want to make a thing, and make it good, and just reducing the number of steps and increasing the possibilities for that individual.
Hashi:
Exactly.
Mark:
And that's a much more encouraging vision of the future than... This also connects to deep fakes and all these other things that we're going to have to be dealing with. But that is a great note on which to end. And I'm sorry that we don't have more time, but I really appreciate it. Is there more you'd like to say before we sign off?
Hashi:
I always appreciate people coming by Red Giant's YouTube channel to see Cheap Tricks. I think that whether you use After Effects or not, a lot of people have said that they enjoy the series, even having no idea what I'm talking about. So hopefully, that some of that message makes it universal and I'd love you to come check out some things. A simple starter one could be my behind the scenes of this very silly genie video that I made a little while ago. I made a quick video that mocked people's reaction to the first time the Will Smith genie was shown online by showing that you could produce something similar in 15 minutes using this very small truncated pipeline.
Hashi:
But I encourage people to watch that video because it talks both about the idea of doing something quickly, why some things work when they're done quickly, why some things don't work even when they're expensive. But also I try universally say, I don't mean to condemn the efforts of the people who made the original, and also it would be fine when it came out, which it was. It's a shorter one. It's a good primer for the type of vibe that I try to get to in those shows. And if anyone has any more free time after that, I love if they check out our YouTube channel Action Movie Kids or follow me on Twitter @actionmoviekid as well.
Mark:
Yeah, it's a real testament to your skills as a presenter that people would want to just relax and watch some crazy set of a million steps to make extremely excruciatingly detailed visual effects.
Hashi:
I appreciate it. I always hope that it's like a cooking show where I'm not going to sit and make that, but it's entertaining to watch the person make it. Yeah, I enjoy what I do a lot and I think that that's one of the important things to remember whatever you're going into. If you decide that you're going to dive into Houdini with all of your energy, make sure that it's the thing that you really want to do because if it is, you'll probably come out the other end proving something that you didn't even know you were going to.
Mark:
Well, you've literally made these tools your playground for you and your kids and that's very encouraging.
Hashi:
Well, thank you so much.
Mark:
Thank you.
Hashi:
Absolutely. Thanks for having me on.
Mark:
There's one school of thought that visual effects work just isn't as fun anymore as it was back when we had to always think outside the box because the tools were so limited. Hashi sets himself the self-imposed limitation of working with tools that cost little to no money. The results can be astounding, and honestly, he makes it seem really fun to approach it this way. Until next time, thanks for listening.