Michael Harbour, DFX & Partner at Mammal Studios, spoke with VoyageLA about the company's origins, its presence in the LA VFX market, and what makes the company so unique.
Michael, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Mammal Studios began in 2013 as a response by several visual effects veterans to the rapid changes occurring to the VFX industry in California. Runaway production, due to several regional and foreign tax credits had made it untenable for the large vfx houses based here in California to stay, and several went bankrupt. Those that remained were forced to move their operations out of the country to stay economically viable.
The founders of Mammal Studios felt that California (and Los Angeles specifically) should, and could, still be a part of the larger vfx industry, and decided to do something about it...
In our first five-years of business, we have seen our local staff grow from a handful of employees to over 30, and have worked with world-class producers of entertainment such as Marvel Studios, Netflix, Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers, Fox and Paramount among others. We have been proud to be a part of a wide-variety of projects ranging from work on the feature-films, ‘Black Panther’, ‘Suicide Squad’, ‘Joy’ and ‘Fury’, episodic series, ‘Yellowstone’, ‘Start-up’ and ‘Mighty Med’, commercials for ‘Brewdog IPA’ and music videos for Eminem, Sza and others.
Read the entire interview here: http://voyagela.com/interview/meet-michael-harbour-mammal-studios-hollywood/
Production insiders gathered on Saturday for the Film in California Conference.
The annual confab, held at Los Angeles Center Studios this year, drew the likes of studio executives, location managers and film commissioners. The conference gives the latter the opportunity to remind production pros of the state's built-in perks — namely, diverse landscapes, robust crews and near-perfect weather — and specifically what their local regions offer.
At the top of the daylong event, California Film Commissioner Amy Lemisch kicked things off with a few opening remarks she gave alongside Film Liaisons In California Statewide president Cassandra Hesseltine. Lemisch’s organization will partner with FLICS, the association of regional film liaisons, for the conference each year.
The confab came at a great time for California, Lemisch noted. "Our crews are busy working on big and small features, TV series and commercials, facilities are bustling and we continue to see an explosion of content production," she said. "Our conference today is as much about celebrating as it is about networking and learning."
[...] Also presented later in the day was the panel "Film Festivals — A Primer," with representatives from Outfest & Newfest, NewFilmmakers Los Angeles, Santa Barbara International Film Festival and LA Film Festival; and the panel "The Magic of Visual Effects," with representatives from Netflix, Mammal Studios and Zoic Studios.
Read the full article here: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/courtney-b-vance-touts-local-production-at-film-california-conference-1108855
Director Ryan Coogler transports audiences to the hidden kingdom of Wakanda as its new king, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), takes the throne. Production designer Hannah Beachler conjures an exotic African world, brought to life by visual effects supervisor Geoffrey Baumann and team.
Baumann and visual effects producer Lisa Beroud led an international team of vendors, backed up by capital T, Exceptional Minds and in-house team Mammal Studios. By the time Black Panther premiered on January 29, 218, every shot in the film had passed through their hands.
You can read the entire article about the visual effects in 'Black Panther' in Cinefex #158
Mammal Studios talks about their work on Suicide Squad and how Shotgun integrated with Nuke played an essential part.
Past Forward is a multi-platform short film collaboration between Miuccia Prada and American writer/director David O. Russell. Acclaimed for his films such as American Hustle, The Fighter, and Silver Linings Playbook, Russell imagined Past Forward as a “cinema poem,” a surreal, futuristic silent dreamscape with multiple actors replaying scenes in shifting combinations. The result is an unreliable story, a parallax view wherein the scenarios, characters, costumes, genres, and endings, repeat and morph, refusing the logic of conventional narrative. Russell creates characters as elements of a complex collage, the viewer is left to decode what is experience, what is memory, what is dream, and discern the overlap and differences between them.
Additional information: http://www.prada.com/en/a-future-archive/short-movies/pastforward.html
Warner Bros. Pictures presents a cavalcade of DC Comics' characters including Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Joker (Jared Leto) on a covert government mission to combat an even deadlier foe. Director David Ayer brought the super-villain spectacle to life with visual effects supervisor Jerome Chen...
"Mammal Studios did what we called 'battle embers' of Enchantress in the final fight. Mammal did a great job, art-directing embers shot by shot. At that point in the schedule, there wasn't time to do 3D Houdini-style effects, so we created most of those effects in 2D Nuke layers. The orange streaking colors added so much to the monochromatic palette - they gave the scene an extra kick and made Enchantress seem more dynamic."
You can read the entire article about the visual effects in 'Suicide Squad' in Cinefex #149
Shotgun Software recently visited Mammal Studios as part of their "Meet the Studio" series.
We had the honor of recognizing excellence in pipeline tool development and people who have made significant contributions to the pipeline community at the 3rd Annual Pipeline Awards at Siggraph yesterday!
We were once again blown away by the spectacular range of submissions we received, covering everything from artist tools to integrating Shotgun into an educational curriculum to tools for publishing, review, reporting, and more!
Without further ado, here are Shotgun's 2016 Pipeline Award recipients:
Pipeline Hero Award
For people pushing the field of pipeline forward significantly, within the Shotgun community or in the broader industry
Janice Collier, Mammal Studios
Janice was recognized with the Pipeline Hero Award this year for her outstanding contribution not only to Mammal where she has helped create a pipeline for the 15-person company on par with international facilities 10 times their size, but also for her contribution to the ongoing development of Shotgun’s Toolkit. She has provided valuable feedback over the years through her participation in debugging sessions and willingness to have longer discussions with the Shotgun team on Mammal's workflow - ultimately benefiting the entire Shotgun community.
Read the entire post and list of winners here: http://blog.shotgunsoftware.com/2016/07/congrats-to-2016-pipeline-award.html?m=1
Mammal Studios' Supervisor / Partner Gregory Liegey participated in Shotgun Software's Siggraph 2016 panel, discussing the impact of the cloud on Visual Effects.
Massive data centers and fast networks are changing the way we live and work. Cloud computing, big data and analytics are the new IT disruptors, and will be potentially more disruptive to the VFX industry than the personal computer. Join an illustrious panel of visual effects veterans, moderated by Phil Peterson, to discuss this new future – from more open, collaborative production ecosystems to massively scalable resources.
Sony Pictures Entertainment and director J Blakeson bring author Rick Yancey's popular novel series to the screen. Starring Chloë Grace Moretz and Liev Schreiber, the film follows Cassie Sullivan, a young woman struggling to survive the latest in the waves of alien invasion as she searches for her lost brother. The production required... [a] variety of high-end visual effects by Mammal Studios...
Mammal Studios contributed a wide shot of an avian flu quarantine area, set up in a football stadium in Cassie's Ohio hometown. "They had dressed this football field with medical tents and cots," said Mammal Studios visual effects supervisor Greg Liegey, "but they didn't have the coverage of extras activity and materials that they needed on location. They were a lot of big, empty spaces in the plates, and the scene didn't look as bustling and busy as hey wanted; and so, we filled in the empty, grassy areas with people, cots, tents and vehicles. Since this hadn't been planned as a visual effects shot, we had to do a camera track of the whole thing, and then insert all of our activity and additions into that moving plate."
To add people, Mammal Studios artists used alternate takes of the footage and projected them onto cards. "There might have been three people walking across an area," said Liegey, "but we had to make it look like 10 or 15 people. If this had been planned from the start, they might have decided to make a whole section of the quarantine area a CG replacement, and they would have kept that area free of people, to make that easier. In this case, we had to work with what was in the plate." Mammal Studios also added flocks of birds to the quarantine shots. "There were no birds in the original plates, and the director wanted to make sure that people understood that the birds continue to threaten the human beings, even as they are trying to save themselves. So we added birds that are swooping across frame or flying in circles. To make them look menacing, we animated them to do more vulture-type moves, rather than nicer flocking actions, swirling overhead as if they are looking for dead bodies to peck at."
You can read the entire article about the visual effects in 'The 5th Wave' in Cinefex #146
LA-based Mammal Studios is a full-service VFX house providing CG and 2D visual effects for feature film, television, commercials and music video. They opened their doors in the summer of 2013 and have some pretty high-profile work on their resume, including the films The Shallows, The 5th Wave, Concussion, Joy and Hardcore Henry.
Let’s find out more from Mammal’s partner/VFX supervisor Gregory Liegey.
What types of projects do you work on?
We mainly work on feature films, which is our team’s most extensive experience base. Nonetheless, with the freedom we have as a small independent house, we’re taking opportunities to fit in some smaller projects for TV, music video and commercial clients. Early on in our history, we did a few sequences for Eminem’s Rap God video, which was especially exciting because it was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award.
We also find TV and commercial work refreshing in the sense that they allow a greater contribution of creative input. Not everything is as extensively planned out and previously discussed as it is for features. The opportunity to help shape the look and ideas of the work is a welcome experience for us — allowing our senior team to draw upon their experience working directly for productions.
But studio features still occupy the bulk of our schedule. In the fourth quarter of 2015, we expanded our team and infrastructure to work on an independent feature set to release this year, and two studio-based Christmas releases: Concussion for Peter Landesman at Sony Pictures and Joy for David O. Russell at Fox.
Read the full interview with Mammal’s partner/VFX supervisor Gregory Liegey here: http://postperspective.com/checking-in-with-mammal-studios/
It’s hard to think of visual effects without thinking of California. The rise of the modern VFX industry owes a huge debt to the talents of Golden State artists -— and California’s vast entertainment factory gave VFX its customer base and cash.
Yet over the years, as the cost of creating effects rose and the margins of large California VFX companies dwindled or disappeared (think Colossal Pictures, Rhythm & Hues, Digital Domain), thousands of artist jobs left the state for Canada and other places offering tax rebates and production incentives.
Yet California remains the hub of motion picture production, and some smaller shops have survived the exodus with an agile mix of staffing strategies, client diversification, and efficient technology.
Optimism prompted effects veteran Greg Liegey to co-found Hollywood-based Mammal Studios in 2013. “It was a contrarian idea. People thought we were nuts,” he says. “But we’re banking on our experience and connections, hoping to stay in L.A. We have families here.” Liegey believes Mammal’s proximity to major studios is an advantage that helped the company win jobs on “Joy” and “Concussion.”
Ramping up personnel as needed is a familiar strategy among effects shops. As Liegey explains, “Mammal has a core of 12 senior people who can do hands-on work. They get a project going, and then we hire people to finish shots. Junior artists today are proficient using software, but they need artistic guidance. It’s a win-win.”
Read the full article here: http://variety.com/2016/artisans/production/california-fx-houses-1201790672/
VFX case study - Mammal Studios
Mammal Studios took on a number of sequences - a sniper shoot-out in which Henry and a ghillie clad Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) take out a caravan of mercenaries arriving at a desolate collection of cement buildings, an ambush and a battle against a group of mercenaries. The work included adding extra blood and gore, implementing sniper scope views and readouts, bullet hits, explosions and even a room full of CG body bags. They also provided stitching to create seamless shots.
Read the full interview with Mammal VFX Supervisor Gregory Oehler here.
We recently got the chance to chat with Gregory Liegey, VFX Supervisor and partner of Mammal Studios, a Los Angeles-based boutique visual effects shop.
Tell us about your company and the type of projects you work on.
A group of us started Mammal Studios to try to pursue our own vision for sustainable VFX production in LA. We rely on our expertise and the methods and efficiencies we’ve come up with over the years to keep things simple and productive and client pleasing. So far it’s been going pretty well. The bulk of our work is feature film. We do all sorts of VFX, whether it’s 2D, 3D, whatever is needed.
Read the full interview here: http://blog.shotgunsoftware.com/2015/08/get-to-know-mammal-studios.html
Hollywood-based Mammal Studios becomes a first-time MTV Video Music Award nominee for their visual effects work for Eminem's "Rap God" music video, directed by Rich Lee.
The VFX House completed look development and final delivery of approximately 100 shots for the Detroit rapper's video from his plantinum MMLP2 album. Mammal shares the nom with Rich Lee, Louis Baker Lee, Laundry! And Sunset Edit.
"It’s a privilege to have our work recognized in this way,” says Mammal Visual Effects Supervisor Gregory Liegey. “Everyone on the Mammal team is gratified to have taken part in this collaborative effort and to have our work considered for an award in such good company. We faced some creative challenges, and it helped that Director Rich Lee has a great working knowledge of visual effects and had a clear vision for the shots.”
For Mammal, the nom comes on the heels of completing work for Columbia Pictures The Interview, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, due to release October 10, 2014. They are also finishing up work on Fury, starring Brad Pitt and set to release this fall. Mammal has enjoyed a very successful first year since opening in August of 2013.
Company information: Mammal Studios is a power boutique visual effects studio located in Hollywood, California. Its veteran team of creative directors and artists provides visual effects services from concept to completion. For more information, please see www.mammalstudios.com
Mammal Studios has completed look development and final delivery of 95 shots for Detroit rapper Eminem's latest video single Rap God from his platinem MMLP2 album.
Mammal Visual Effects Supervisor Gregory Liegey said, "This job required a team effort from the Mammal crew because of the creative challenges and the short schedule. I'm proud of what they did in such a demanding time-frame. It helps that Director Rich Lee has a great working knowledge of visual effects and a clear vision for the shots."
Fellow Mammal Visual Effects Supervisor Gregory Oehler provided crucial look development and execution for some of the innovative concepts sketched out by Lee. Speaking about the project in Mammal's Hollywood office, "With such a short turnaround from look development to delivery, there's little time to experiment. Experience pays dividends on projects like this - needing to define a look while creating deliverables... it's like hitting a home run on every pitch".
The video debuts on November 27
Mammal Studios is a power boutique visual effects studio located in Hollywood, California. It's veteran team of creative directors and artists provides visual effects services from concept to completion
A team of visual effects veterans has just announced the opening of their new company, Mammal Studios. Based in Hollywood and focusing on film and television, Mammal Studios is a full-service effects house with an emphasis on creating CG environments and realistic set extensions. The studio is headed up by Visual Effects Supervisors Gregory Oehler and Gregory Liegey, with Michele Vallillo serving as Executive Producer. Spearheading its pipeline development are Digital Effects Supervisor Michael Harbour, Compositing Supervisor James Kuroda and CG Supervisor Jason Wardle. Prior to forming Mammal, they have collectively contributed their artistic and technical talents to award-winning work at such companies as ILM, Sony Imageworks, Digital Domain, CIS Hollywood, and Rhythm & Hues Studios.
With the current unsettled climate the visual effects industry is experiencing, particularly having to compete with worldwide tax incentives, Mammal plans to capitalize on the advantages of having a local presence with a modern pipeline that can quickly adapt to changing project needs. With a compact and powerful team, Mammal can offer one-on-one interactivity while delivering shots at a scale previously out of reach for a boutique facility.
Mammal Studios P.R. Contact:
Michele Vallillo, Executive Producer