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SimEx Digital Studios: Specialty Venues and More
An Interview with Allen Yamashita
(continued from page 1)

Growing from Trumbull's guidance, Yamashita has broke conventions in motion-based films by moving them out of the vehicle; like he did in Pilot. © SimEx Digital Studios.

HK: How and why did you move from specialty venue films to special effects?

AY: When I went to work for Doug, I knew absolutely nothing about special effects at all. I think that was one of the reasons he hired me. I did not become intrinsically interested in visual effects then, nor am I especially interested now. What I was, and am now, interested in is making and experiencing stories. Specialty venue films by their very nature, allow a large amount of freedom, freedom which didn't exist for me in other more structured media. With a good client, a large component of specialty filmmaking is experimentation -- both in terms of the subject of the piece and the manner in which the audience experiences it. I have Doug to thank for providing me with the opportunity to work in specialty films.

HK: You do television, features, interactive and specialty venue industry work. How do the specialty venue films fit into SimEx's overall company vision as these areas seem very different from one another?

AY: A creative services company is different than other companies. Our company is made up of a group of people with a range of talents, visions and abilities. Yes, we have a lot of machines. However, the technical infrastructure isn't our company -- the talent is. Our diversity of work is a mandate of our business plan. Different projects with different scopes and scales keep it interesting.

Our ability to produce specialty venue films from a blank sheet of paper to finished product has prompted clients from other media to give us different opportunities. Currently, we are producing an eight-minute specialty venue film for several museums which involves live-action and computer graphics. We are also producing a computer graphic and cel character animation television commercial and the opening to a feature, which includes live-action, computer graphics and cel animation. So, we are simultaneously shooting actors and sets on stage, building computer graphics environments, and animation characters in CGI and cel. One project feeds the other. Everyone gets exposed to different media. People stay challenged.

HK: Do you think working on specialty venue films enhances your work in the arenas of television and feature films? If so, how?

AY: The kinds of specialty films that I'm involved in are very detail oriented. You get to look at the work for a relatively long period of time. When it comes to dealing with shots which last for three or four seconds as in a movie, you're not bothered by complexity.

A prime example of the detailed work done in the
motion-based film Impact! © SimEx Digital Studios.

HK: Could you explain the type of work you do for specialty venue films?

AY: That's changing. As you know, I've done a few motion-base films. In the past, everyone has always asked for spaceships and submarines. We are now working on a motion-base piece that is set in 16th century Japan involving trade, and will be done in CGI in a style inspired by Momoyama painting of that period.

HK: Is there a lot of work in this area or is it a small niche?

AY: In the world scale of things, the specialty venue film business barely registers. Even including Imax, it doesn't register. However, this is changing as the need to draw people out of the house and away from cable and the 'net forces exhibitors to provide more compelling, immersive entertainment.

Movies like Armageddon and Deep Impact influenced the work done on Impact!
© SimEx Digital Studios.

HK: Can you discuss your relationship with Rhythm & Hues? Do you do certain tasks for them on a regular basis? With Pittard Sullivan?

AY: We are pleased and honored to have an active working relationship with Rhythm & Hues. They are one of the best production houses on the planet, and we look forward to doing more work together in the future. Ditto for Pittard Sullivan. We enjoy the kind of work that comes to us from a company with 300 designers on staff!

HK: Do you think that such a range of projects and strategic relationships are necessary to make it in today's competitive marketplace?

AY: No. Conventional business wisdom tells you to identify your specific market target and focus. That said, we are a creative group that needs constant maintenance and regular exercise.

As far as strategic relationships go, the key word is strategic. Our relationships with other companies work because there is a mutual need, and a level of comfort with regard to quality and professionalism. If these ingredients are there, it works. But you can't force it.

Heather Kenyon is editor-in-chief of Animation World Magazine.

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Note: Readers may contact any Animation World Magazine contributor by sending an e-mail to editor@awn.com.