Silence Is NOT An Option: A Message To The Psyop Community

We are living through a very important moment of history, where after the horrific murder of George Floyd, millions of people have taken to the streets to speak out against systemic racism and police brutality in support of Black Lives Matter. Psyop stands firmly with this movement for change, against racism and the institutionalized discrimination that has long held people of color from the same advantages as white people.

From the beginning Psyop’s guiding star has been to “Persuade, change and influence,” and we have an extraordinary platform to advocate for this change, but we also recognize that to do so, we have to start with ourselves.  Recent events have forced us to reflect on our own participation and complacency in systems of corrosive racism, discrimination, and oppression that have prevented Black people from having access to the kinds of privileges, opportunities and resources that are readily available to the rest of us.  

Psyop values diversity at its core but hasn’t always reflected that in practice. Now is the time to merge theory and practice and actualize our ideals. We are committed to ensuring that changes will be made at an organizational level. It is of utmost importance to not only hire Black talent at all levels but also to share and give voice to Black perspectives and experiences that haven’t been predominantly voiced at our company. 

There is no more room for silence. There is no more space for negligence.  Psyop will immediately take the following actions to help us make the change at home and support the movement that has inspired so many people to wake up, including ourselves.

  • Our head of HR, Executive Leadership and Board are partnering to implement a more cognizant practice that supports Black people in our talent sourcing, hiring, and mentoring.  
  • We are engaging with partners like Street Lights and Animation Projects who are committed to creating opportunities for disadvantaged Black youth.  We are initiating a more diligent practice of mentorship, training and employment opportunities.  
  • We will set up mandatory allyship training to educate our employees to question and address their biases and learn how to listen to and support more marginalized groups in the workplace and elsewhere. This will help hold employees accountable. 
  • We are establishing a committee to address an ongoing commitment to action and affect change in our business practice. The first goal of this committee is to shift our hiring practice to hire more black artists and staff members. 
  • We are providing materials and resources to our staff and freelancers to help them start a process of engagement.  We are creating opportunities for shared learning and open dialogue.
  • Our social channels are sharing resources for education. Learning, advocacy, and points of donation. 
  • We are amplifying Black voices, stories, and storytellers, and are committing our staff resources and talents in donated time to storytelling and portraiture projects that celebrate Black Lives and their narratives. 

This is not the end of the conversation, it is only the beginning.  Psyop is committed to doing the work for as long as it takes to change the future.

Jack Anderson’s Lessons From The Lake

Psyop Director Jack Anderson spent the bulk of his quarantine at the beautiful and remote lakeside cabin that has been a kind of family sanctuary for years. We got a chance to talk with Jack about working from home, or rather working from home away from home, during quarantine and some of the lessons he’s learned in the process. Here are Jack Anderson’s Lessons From The Lake:

Keep your mind and body busy even when you’re not working to stay inspired and broaden your skill set. Jack has been getting outside and doing some woodwork during breaks between meetings to recharge.

When you’re overwhelmed with your workload, make a list of everything that needs to be done. Visualizing everything you need to do that day will make it more manageable.

Working with the fewest variables can have the largest impact. Every problem has a solution and, more often than not, limitations are what help us find those solutions.

Feel grateful for the ways in which the current situation has helped us grow — the need to work remotely has jumpstarted a lot of tools we’re using and ways we are communicating that otherwise would’ve taken us a long time to implement.

RPA Celebrates Pride With Zoom Backgrounds Designed By Our Beloved Directors

We partnered with RPA who engaged differed studios to design special Zoom backgrounds in honor of Pride Month! Directors from our Psyop + Blacklist roster, including Golden Wolf, Tendril, Le Cube, Igor + Valentine, and Saiman Chow, all contributed backgrounds designed in their own unique styles and we couldn’t be more happy with the results.

Check out all the different designs and download them to use as backgrounds on your Zoom app!

The fight for civil rights is constant and intersectional.
Black and Brown transgender women such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera led their community as prominent gay activitists and founding members of the Gay Liberation Front founded immediately after the Stonewall Riots in June 1969.  June is named Pride month in honor of Stonewall. GLF was founded to fight for the end of persecution of gay people.

An Exciting Year for Sun Creature

We could not be more proud of our Copenhagen based animation studio, Sun Creature, for their countless successes this year. 

FLEE” Earns Cannes Label 2020

After 5 years of working on their debut feature film, “FLEE” is finally ready to make its way to the viewing public, and it’s doing so with the highest recognition imaginable. “FLEE” is among 56 films chosen for the prestigious Cannes Film Festival Official Selection and among 4 animated films chosen, finding its place right in between Pixar and Ghibli’s latest features. Though unprecedented circumstances have forced the festival to cancel the event, Cannes will be supporting the feature film with its prestigious label and by following it during its festival run and theatrical release. “FLEE” tells the true story about a man’s need to confront his past in order to truly have a future. The main character Amin arrived as an unaccompanied minor in Denmark from Afghanistan. Today, at 26, he is a successful academic and is getting married to his long-time boyfriend. A secret he has been hiding for over 20 years threatens to ruin the life he has built for himself. For the first time he shares his story with a close friend. The film is produced by Final Cut for Real and Sun Creature, in co-production with Vivement Lundi !, Mer film and Most film as well as with the financial support of other partners, including Ryot Films and Vice Studios, The Film Institute in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, Arte France and many more.

“Where it Falls” Revealed at Annecy’s MIFA Market

Sun Creature’s new original series “Where it Falls,” currently in development, was presented at the Annecy International Film Festival pitch panel in the series and TV-specials category of the MIFA market by studio co-founder and creative director Guillaume Dousse. Sun Creature is looking for broadcasters and investors to join on this epic adventure to develop and produce the show. “Where it Falls” is a 6x30min serialized series staged in a world where gravity suddenly shifts 90°, changing the dynamics between people and societies. A reunited family goes on a perilous journey in search of their missing mother. As they learn and grow together, they discover a disoriented world and reconnect people together. The project’s pitch premieres on June 18th at 9:30am CET and stays available in replay until June 30th on the MIFA online portal.

A Second Studio in Bordeaux, France

Sun Creature opens its second studio in the beautiful city of Bordeaux, France. The city made the cut for UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites back in 2007. Bordeaux’s environment will complement well the cosy lifestyle of Copenhagen where the main studio is.

“3 of the co-founders are French, and it always felt natural for us to have a physical presence in France. It’s been a dream to gain enough footing to reach that goal. It is a very exciting time ahead of us, that we share with the most talented and dedicated team.”
— Bo Juhl, Sun Creature’s CEO.

Sun Creature’s French setup will welcome up to 50 people and help grow the studio’s capacity to respond to the ever-growing demand from the industry. In addition, France’s tax incentives and public fundings are valuable advantages to stay competitive worldwide. The studio will be able to co-produce with its Copenhagen-based studio within a flawless pipeline, keeping a strong focus on the quality of its productions over quantity.

“Our French setup will allow us to produce more exciting stories from our Sun Creature creatives. We’re excited to work with the incredible talents from the region, mostly coming from the very dynamic pole of Angoulême, and the many French and international talents attracted by the quality of life that Bordeaux offers.”
— Charlotte de la Gournerie, Sun Creature France’s CEO and Producer.

“Prince Ivandoe” Renewed For its Second Season

The first project that the Bordeaux office will be handling is the second season of “The Heroic Quest of the Valiant Prince Ivandoe” for Cartoon Network. Directed by Eva Lee Wallberg and Christian Bøving-Andersen, this long form series was nominated for a BAFTA and swept nearly all the top TV honors at the 2018 European Animation Awards. With its warm 2D palette, “Prince Ivandoe” is aimed at a similar audience demographic (ages 6-12) as “Gumball” with the potential to attract a slightly younger audience as well. Season two of the series will run 20 episodes of 11 minutes each. A significant increase compared to the 10x3min. Format of the first season.

Wizz Wins ADC Gold Cube

The oldest continuously running industry award show in the world celebrating the very best in craftsmanship and innovation in the advertising industry has awarded Wizz’s “Les Poules Solidaires” the gold cube for craft in Motion / Film / Animation. We are so proud of the Wizz team and everyone that worked on this incredible film!

New Work From Wizz

Wizz has just released some exciting new work! 

The first is a music video for Breakbot’s first single in almost two years, “Be Mine Tonight,” directed by Gary LeVesque whose other recent works include Cafe Bustelo’s “Estuvo Aqui” with Publicis and Teleflora’s “Silent Film” with POM Wonderful. Drawing inspiration from Japanese anime, the music video is colorful and fun with a retro feel reminiscent of the 80’s arcade scene. This is the second time Wizz has worked with Breakbot, the first time being ten years ago on their first music video “Baby I’m Yours” directed by Irina Dakeva. 

We’re thrilled to see that this beautiful piece is getting some well-deserved attention, with Shots and Paper Magazine both having written lovely features on the project. 

Additionally, the trailer for the new Chinese animated series “Incredible Ant” produced by Alibaba and directed by Wizz’s CRCR is at long last out!  Colorful, energetic and action-packed, this trailer is somewhat different than CRCR’s typical, slightly darker, approach. The show’s design merges Eastern and Western influences, maintaining a core Chinese story while drawing inspiration largely from American pop culture: Hollywood sci-fi movies from the 1980s and 1990s, cyberpunk, Synthwave music, German industrial and architectural design. Read more about the show and its development in the articles below.

Le Cube Signs with Psyop + Blacklist

Psyop is incredibly excited to announce that the highly esteemed international animation studio Le Cube has officially joined our roster!

Le Cube is an award-winning international animation studio based in Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Madrid. Led by Creative Director Ralph Karam and Executive Producers Gustavo Karam and Juan Manuel Freire, Le Cube specializes in 2d animation, illustration, and character design.  The crew is globally networked and inspired by urban culture, design, art and architecture.  Founded in 2010, Le Cube has produced work around the world partnering with advertising agencies, brands, and broadcasters alike. Known best for fluid 2d cell animation, they take great pride in making sure every frame of their work can hold up as a piece of art. 

In This Together, At A Safe Distance Apart

Open Sourced Creativity

How an Internal Idea at Psyop Influenced Artists Across an Industry

“Working in support of creative… all creative, regardless of whether they’re at Psyop or not has always been Psyop’s MO. The choice to open source Cryptomatte was true to that spirit. The world needs more creativity and beautiful images – not more mattes. The combination of vendor support and sweeping user adoption is proof that we’ve created something meaningful for the artists we work with and that’s incredibly gratifying.”

-Andy Jones, Psyop CTO

This last Friday, March 1st, Psyop CTO, Andy Jones, and software engineer, Jonah Friedman, were recognized at the prestigious Visual Effects Society in New York with the Empire Innovator award for Psyop’s Cryptomatte – a revolutionary tool that has changed the way post production artists work throughout the industry.

This recognition is the result of years of effort – Psyop had developed the technology in-house, implementing it across their LA and New York offices for a full year before deciding to open-source it on GitHub in 2016. In doing so, Psyop set off an organic, artist-led movement that eventually led to industry wide adoption and compelled major companies from Arnold, Nuke, Houdini, Redshift and Clarisse to even Pixar’s Renderman to add support for it within their proprietary systems – Pixar themselves called Cryptomatte an “industry standard” when they made the announcement last year.

In the years since Cryptomatte’s release, other commercial post and animation studios within the industry, seeing both the positive creative and financial impacts it had on their output, followed suit incorporating Psyop’s Cryptomatte into their own pipelines. Students at the School of Visual Arts, a prestigious multidisciplinary college of art and design, are now taught with it baked into the curriculum. “I had created a presentation on Cryptomatte but my students had all heard about it already,” recalls Briana Franceschini, SVA faculty and Technical Director at Psyop.

In deciding to give their tool away, Psyop created an army of Cryptomatte evangelists who spread the word widely and vociferously.

“I read about Cryptomatte when I was freelancing overseas in 2016. It was making its way around user groups – possibly even before it was officially released. I worked on a full cg shortfilm and implemented Cryptomatte into the pipeline of the studio to test how it performs. It felt like our prayers were finally heard. We were in matte heaven! After we finished the film I flew out to another studio which was already entering crunchtime with their new project. I was consulting on the compositing side to streamline the process because of the vast amount of shots. After talking to some lighters I found out that they spent a lot of time setting up custom mattes to give the compers the opportunity to match the director’s color layouts as close as possible. So I asked them to implement Cryptomatte to their pipeline which sped up the lighting and comp process and got rid of a bottleneck,” recalls Matthias Bauerle, compositor and CG artist.

In addition to online chatter, artists started contributing significant improvements to the tool themselves on the open-source framework. With individual developer contributions along with native support in the majority of digital content creation software packages, Psyop managed to secure not only Cryptomatte’s long term viability be improve it beyond even their original intentions. “The majority of Cryptomatte that’s out there and in use, we didn’t create ourselves. Seeing this project grow like that has been really amazing,” states Friedman.

How it works

The name Cryptomatte is a play on the word matte, an artist short form for ID mattes, and Crypto which denotes how confused people are by how they work.  On the simplest level – mattes are a way for post production artist to isolate and identify specific elements within an animated scene so that other artists can make changes. As a result, when working with moving picture with hundreds of scenes, the creation of mattes often created a messy back and forth between the artist currently working on a scene and the artist prior. Miscommunications were a natural side effect and frustrations ran high across team members especially in the face of rigid, fast paced commercial production timelines.

“Psyop has always been a creative-first company. By eliminating the bottlenecks mattes created, we hoped to free artists to spend their time on high level creative tasks, instead of spending it on mundane technical details,” recalls Andy Jones, CTO of Psyop and co-creator of Psyop’s Cryptomatte.

With Cryptomatte, Jones and Friedman gave each artist would have more control over their stage in the pipeline while freeing up more time for actual creative improvements to the final picture.

“Having to ask for mattes felt much worse than having to make them. No artist wants to ask another artist to do boring, unartistic work,” explains Friedman, “Cryptomatte removed a major source of friction within the team.”

“It doesn’t cut any corners creatively but cuts out a huge chunk out technically which, let’s be real, who wants to spend all their man hours on the computer clicking and setting up all those layers. It’s not so much a change of workflow as it’s directly taking away a huge, boring part being a lighting artist,” adds Briana Franceschini, SVA faculty and Technical Director at Psyop.

Cryptomatte’s creative impact stretches from post artists all the way to the director. “Cryptomatte gives the directors more creative freedom to make adjustments quickly throughout the project in comp, rather than going back and forth for tweaks in 3D. That’s especially true, when there is simply no time to rerender,” comments Ieva Callender, Lighting Technical Director at Psyop.

First debuted at Siggraph years prior and featured again at FMX in 2017, the latest VES Empire Innovator award in 2019 represents not so much a recognition of the invention of the technology but a larger acknowledgement by creative leaders of the indelible mark Cryptomatte has made on the VFX industry.

“Working in support of creative… all creative, regardless of whether they’re at Psyop or not has always been Psyop’s MO.  The choice to open source Cryptomatte was true to that spirit. The world needs more creativity and beautiful images — not more mattes. The combination of vendor support and sweeping user adoption is proof that we’ve created something meaningful for the artists we work with and that’s incredibly gratifying,” says Jones.

Travel Oregon Takes The Internet By Storm

With over 5 million views in its first month online, our recent animated spot for Travel Oregon is shaping up to be one of our most watched films of 2018.

With over 5 million views in its first month online, our recent animated spot for Travel Oregon is shaping up to be one of our most watched films of 2018.

Not only are we proud of how far it has gone, but the praise we have received from fans has been beyond heartwarming. (Who would think that the comment section on a YouTube video could actually be an uplifting place?)

We asked Kylie Matulick, who directed this project alongside Todd Mueller, about how it all came about:

When Wieden + Kennedy approached us with their brief we were beyond excited by the idea. The call for a cinematic short film that was hand-crafted and fully animated, filled with the natural beauty of Oregon but elevated to new heights through magical realism was an instant “hell yes!”

Animation isn’t typically used to create travel spots, which makes this project incredibly unique. It’s rather courageous to advertise a place as naturally beautiful as the state of Oregon without ever showing a photo of it. We visited Oregon and began brainstorming the particular landmarks and narrative moments that could be heightened with native animals, some mythical creatures and a little animated magic. Every destination needed to have it’s own unique little moment and we had a great time experimenting with how to tell the story.

We were definitely inspired by the classics; the golden age of American animation and modern works of Japanese animation, all of which feature richly detailed natural settings that are home to magical creatures. We also thought back to the first hand-painted European travel posters that sought to connect a viewer to a place not through photography but through a craftsman’s eye and hand.

Once the general narrative was locked in we partnered and collaborated with the amazing Sun Creature to bring this to life. They shared the same love and passion for this project and truly brought their A-game. We began designing the moments, treating the project like the development of a feature film. We focused on the story and settings while simultaneously developing a series of lighting styles and an expansive color script for the film. To achieve a dreamlike quality, we placed great emphasis on motion, with sweeping camera moves and seamless transitions that are so magical in animation. To quickly take the viewer through a wide range of locations throughout Oregon, we developed shifts in scale that bring the camera into the heart of the action and out again, showing not only the majestic views but revealing the secrets within each location. This also allowed us to mix tranquil moments with exciting bursts of action, for a dynamic film that contains an epic journey in a short time.

In the end, we hope that people watch the film and are simply lifted away to this beautiful part of the world. And then they go explore the real thing.

We knew that taking on a short film like this would be a colossal task, so we reached out early in the process to the talented Copenhagen-based animation studio Sun Creature to help us with design and animation.

Executive Producer Guillaume Dousse told us a little bit about the process from his POV:

We worked with Todd and Kylie on several projects and it’s always a exciting for us to help envision their stories and follow them into the creative process. It was a positive surprise when they proposed us to partner and create Travel Oregon’s short film together.

The script had such a wide range of different locations and characters to introduce and it is a rare opportunity to give life to such a vast world in only 90 seconds. We got the chance to work closely with accomplished painters and illustrators to develop the style of the film. It was fascinating to observe and learn from them.

The directors and producers at Psyop are amazing to work with and are so supportive at every step of the process. It was really rewarding to feel trusted and able to propose creative inputs early in the process.

Our experience on producing the Travel Oregon short film has been a real good time and we hope the audience will appreciate this piece as much as we loved making it.

Select Stills from the Video

The natural beauty of Oregon but elevated to new heights through magical realism.

Psyop Signs Christian Bevilacqua

We are excited to welcome the incredibly talented director, visual artist, and longtime Psyop fan, Christian Bevilacqua, to our roster!

Christian took an instant liking to Psyop when he was first introduced to our work as a teenager while watching “One Dot Zero,” a show that featured up and coming artists pushing out edgy work. As his directing career has grown, we at Psyop have been following his work in awe, imagining what great things we could do together. Our mutual love is finally realized! Christian joins the Psyop family, bringing his unique skillset, impressive body of work and ever evolving style. His innovative work stems in large part from his roots in animation and his interest in technology — he combines live action, performance, VFX, and design resulting in unique and attention grabbing work. In addition to having worked with big name brands such as the NFL, Nescafe, Toyota and Mastercard, Christian has also won multiple industry awards, among them a pair of Cannes Young Director Awards, multiple Creative Circle awards, an ADDY and APA accolades.

Tom CJ Brown’s “Cousin John – The Arrival” To Play At SXSW

Our Sundance award-winning director Tom CJ Brown’s stunning music video “Cousin John – The Arrival” will be featured at this year’s South by Southwest festival. A delicious, modernist queer daydream reinterpreting the 60’s classic song “Cousin Jane” by the Troggs, this film imagines what a non-binary and non-conforming world could look like. Having premiered in the US at the HollyShorts Film Festival last summer in LA and being deemed “grandiose, gorgeous and above all else gay” by Paper Magazine, this is not something you want to miss.

The Little Duck Takes The Spotlight

The Andys’ Spot Is Named One of The Best Ads of The Year

“Imagine an ad for a Disney theme park, and you’d likely picture happy families wearing Mickey Mouse ears, exploring the attractions and hugging the occasional princess or Pluto. Agency BETC Paris left that tired template in the dust with “The Little Duck,” a phenomenal piece of animated storytelling worthy of the Disney name.”

-David Griner, Adweek

“The Little Duck,” directed by Blacklist’s Wizz directors the Andy’s for Disneyland Paris, has just been ranked number 12 on Adweek’s “The Best 25 Ads of 2019.” The Andy’s partnered with BETC Paris to make this heartwarming spot, which embodies the wonders of this magical destination through an enchanting tale that captures what it’s like to finally meet your idol.

Hello Ladies

A bi-coastal celebration of the ladies at Psyop + Blacklist

A gallery celebrating the strong, amazing, inspirational, kick-ass, supportive, motivational, talented, super boss ladies at Psyop + Blacklist.
May we know them. May we work with them. May we be them.