The market for virtual reality is taking off. The designers’ mission is to find a way to deliver the most innovative and captivating experience to the viewers. Only 24 years old, John Bashyam is already a veteran visual effects artist. In the following interview, he talks about his company, deadlines, technology and his recent work with Stan Lee.
How did you start in the VFX industry?
JB: I originally started learning in high school, when I took a design/media program. From there I started reading a few books and teaching myself some of the programs in my spare time. After high school, I went to college in LA at Loyola Marymount University where I took the animation program. During that time I tried to work on as many student films as I could, doing visual effects for my friend’s live-action shorts. Since I started practicing so early, by the time I was in my last year of school I had already done 3 internships, worked on several feature films (Avengers, Ant-Man, The Walk, etc), worked with large music festivals (Coachella), and had a job lined up for the day after I graduated. After university I worked as a Lead VFX Artist at a company called Legend doing high profile feature films and VR work. During my time there I met my current business partner, Andrew. About one and a half years into that job, we both left and started Warm & Fuzzy. It’s been a year since we started the company and things are going very well! We’ve evolved from doing just visual effects into more of a full service creative agency. Now we spend most of our time simultaneously managing a business and continuing to hone our artistic abilities.
Why do you think the demand for VFX, VR and animation is skyrocketing?
JB: I’m no expert on industry trends, but I think it has a lot to do with the ever-cheapening barrier to entry. Nowadays software is cheap, and learning online is cheap (if not free). On top of that there are just so many blockbuster comic book and visual effects heavy movies coming out every year. The quality of visual effects is constantly improving too. VR is another story, but there is a lot of hype around it and finally the computational requirements are catching up with the ambitious projects.
How do you produce all of that content while meeting tight deadlines? Tell me about a time you completed a great project under pressure.
JB: It’s all about staying very organized and working efficiently. You just have to be realistic about what is doable in the allotted amount of time, and sometimes compromises have to be made (while still maintaining as much quality as possible). In this industry almost every project is on a tight deadline! Often times I’m working on multiple projects at the same time. I never like to deliver work that the client isn’t happy with, so hopefully all of them are great! If I had to choose one in particular, though, I would choose my thesis film from college. The film was entirely animated and I had 6 months to finished it. Aside from a few friends and classmates helping here and there, I had to do the majority of work myself. So basically I spent 6 months locked in my bedroom on the computer. It got really stressful close to the deadline, but I pulled through and finished it! There were a lot of things I wish I had time to add, but ultimately I was just proud to have it completed.
The robust technology and infrastructure or the artists and designers, what is the key to success?
JB: It’s definitely a bit of both. It’s nice when the infrastructure and pipeline is organized and efficient enough that the artists don’t have to worry about technicalities and can just focus on creating great work. Technology is ultimately there to support the artist’s talent, so the two must mutually coexist. There might be a time when technology can handle all of the menial and tedious tasks, but I don’t think it will ever replace the good taste of a talented artist.
What is it like to work in collaboration with Stan Lee?
JB: It was definitely a once in a lifetime fan-boy experience. It was kind of a weird feeling working with him after seeing him in so many Marvel cameos. Even though he could only be there for a few hours, he was very lively and engaged with everyone. It was his first time using a VR headset!