Jay Redd Talks Men in Black 3 and Looney Tunes 3-D
Jay Redd’s journey to the visual effects industry began, like so many others, with a profound childhood movie experience. In his case, it was a family vacation to Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming, the location for the alien ship landing in Close Encounters of a Third Kind. Unable to find the landing strip and other signature landmarks from the film, he was astounded to learn that in the movies, you could take something from the real world and turn it into something so fantastic. From humble beginnings doing logo design for local businesses in Utah to supervising visual effects on the latest Men in Black franchise hit, Jay has worked on some of the biggest films to come out of Hollywood. We recently had a chance to talk about his career, working with Ken Ralston again on MiB3 and with Matt O’Callaghan on the recently resurrected Looney Tune 3-D shorts.
Dan Sarto: Before we jump into Men in Black 3, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the recent visual effects supervision you did on Warner Bros.’ new Road Runner & Coyote 3-D shorts. Can you tell us a little bit about that project?
Jay Redd: I had a great time on that. [I got into the project through] Matt O’Callaghan, whom I knew from SPA [Sony Pictures Animation]. He was there working on some projects while I was at Imageworks. I was between projects, having just finished Monster House, doing a few things at Sony Pictures Animation, and I was looking around for some different things to work on. I talked to some folks over at Reel FX, in Dallas, and they asked me to come out and do some work with them on these Road Runner shorts. I talked to Matt a little bit about it, and he said, “Oh man, we could really use your help, it’d be great.” So, that’s how that started.
Working with Reel FX was a pretty interesting experience, because I had been working in a bigger studio, Imageworks. Reel FX was smaller, and had, arguably, less structure. They had done amazing character animation and great stuff for a smaller house. I went over there to help them put together a theatrical quality 3-D system, and these shorts came along. I had a blast making them. I was working with new rendering software, figuring out how to do stereo [stereoscopic 3-D]. There are some really talented people at the studio there.
I grew up on the Road Runner cartoons like everyone else and so being able to take Chuck Jones’ work into three dimensions was an honor, and also a huge challenge. To not just make 3-D versions of the characters, but to inhabit the spirit of the way Chuck Jones’ work was done. When you start deconstructing the work that he and his animators did, there are all sorts of things that are happening in-between frames, and in-between cuts. How would you recreate that stuff in three dimensions? Working with the Reel FX team, we developed a bunch of different methods for creating, say, motion blur in 3D, without using “motion blur”. In a Chuck Jones drawing, you might have six versions of a hand going by made out of paint strokes. How could we actually make that happen in stereo?
There were a bunch of really cool tools that were built at that studio to make all that happen. Matt has such a great comic sensibility and timing, and his strong animation skills really lent themselves to bringing the Chuck Jones stuff to life. We seemed to be able to capture his spirit.
DS: The finished shorts are really funny and look great. To bring such cherished characters and action into the 3-D world, you guys did a really good job.
JR: Thank you. I think we really treated the work with respect and, again, the whole team felt like it was an honor to be able to work on those films. It wasn’t just a little job. It was something we wanted to protect, and something that we wanted to pay homage to and go beyond that. We heard after the fact that Chuck Jones’ wife had seen the films at Warner Bros. They brought her in to look at them, and give them her blessing, so to speak, and – this is what Matt told me – she was almost in tears, saying that Chuck would be proud of them. That was the best message that we could have gotten. So I’m really, really proud of those shorts, and it was a great team at Reel FX that put those together.