Visit Tour: Giant Ant Studio

(Guest post by Matt Stulberg, DD40)

Recently, our class had the opportunity to visit Giant Ant, a Vancouver-based creative studio specializing in animation and motion graphics. With a client list featuring big names like Google, Facebook, and Disney, and a reel filled to the brim with jaw-dropping visuals, Giant Ant has a well-earned reputation for being the best of the best at what they do. Admirably, they hand-pick the clients they work with in order to always be involved with companies who want to change the world for the better. In taking this approach while producing impeccable visual work, they have managed to create for themselves a rewarding work-life, and have taken home a wide array of accolades and awards in the process. As young Motion and Interactive designers many of us are new to the industry, so we were all incredibly grateful to find out that Giant Ant would be opening their doors to give us a behind-the-scenes look at who they are and what they do.

After a long walk through Chinatown on a rainy afternoon, we abruptly arrived at Giant Ant, hidden away on a quiet street between an Oyster Bar and a vegetable stand. Walking into their cozy workspace, we were greeted by a small community of designers quietly working away in front of iMacs and Cintiqs. As our visit progressed it became more and more apparent to me what a fitting moniker “Giant Ant” is, as it’s quite impressive how a small studio of fewer than 20 people can produce work that feels so immense.

Once we had not-so-stealthily strained to get a quick glimpse of what they were working on, we headed into the conference room where Jay Grandin (Founder & Creative Director), Conor Whelan (Designer & Animator), and Angel Chen (Studio Manager) were kind enough to give us a look into their world. After explaining to us a little bit about their mission and vision, we had the privilege of viewing an exclusive showcase of their projects, both completed and in-progress. I was completely captivated by the stunning visuals, as Giant Ant has a distinctive art style that seamlessly blends various mediums, particularly beautifully stylized illustrations with 3D worlds and environments. However, I was just as impressed with the insight Jay and Conor gave us into the inner-workings of their creative process from start to finish. Being presently involved in our ‘Big Idea’ project ourselves (where we work in teams to create deliverables for a real-life client) it really put things in perspective to hear that they rapidly create these beautiful works in timelines sometimes as short as a few weeks.

Beyond the benefits of getting a peek into the inner-workings of their creative process, I was also very impressed with the quality of storytelling and creative direction found in Giant Ant‘s work. Jay and Conor showed us a piece they had recently completed and were quite proud of titled “Finding Out You Have Cancer”, an animation intended for children and made for the Imaginary Friend Society. Despite an undeniably difficult subject matter, they succeeded in creating a piece with both substance and style, managing to hit all the right notes and for all the right reasons. Ultimately, it was really inspiring to be in the presence of a group of people working hard, taking pride in what they do, and doing it all for causes they believe in.

Before we left, Jay and Conor were kind enough to stay and let us pick their brains, answering our questions in detail until we completely ran out of things to ask about. It was a great experience, and as we said our goodbyes and headed back out into the rain, there was no doubt that we were all inspired… and excited to get back to work!

On behalf of the entire DD40 class, I’d like to extend a big thanks to Giant Ant for taking the time out of their day to give us a tour of their home.

Visit Tour: Microsoft Studios Vancouver

(Guest post by Tarunika Gaur, DD40)

As part of the industry IQ lesson in term three of the Digital Design course at Vancouver Film School, my class, DD40 got the most amazing opportunity to visit the office of one of the most distinguished multinational companies in the field of Information Technology, Microsoft. We were all so excited and curious to know what it had in store for us, as only a week before, we had visited the office of Electronic Arts, which had left us dumb-found and wanting for more! This experience too was impeccable and was everything we had imagined it to be!

Microsoft Studio is located in the heart of Downtown, on Granville street and the office speaks for itself! Upon arrival, we were given our visitor ID cards, which looked so professional and made us feel like we belonged there! We were then greeted by Henry Chu, an alumnus of the Digital Design program. He has been working for Big Park Studios as a User Experience Designer since he graduated from VFS. Big Park studios is one of the many creative studios of Microsoft and they are working on apps in order to lay the groundwork for their big futuristic project related to Mixer reality.

Henry took us to their conference room and gave us an introduction to the project that they’ve been working on lately. He showed us their latest app called Paint 3D and it’s applications in the real world. This app has been designed for Gen-Z users and it enables them to create 3D models without having to learn all the complicated software like Cinema 4D or Maya. After creating your 3D model, one can display the same in the real world using Mix Reality Viewer. The Mix Reality viewer is a great app for showcasing ones’ prototypes in realistic settings. He explained to us how this would affect all the aspects of ones’ life, be it social, student, or work life.

After this informative session about what the future entails, we had a question-answer session during which Henry and one of his colleagues answered all sorts of questions ranging from the importance of AR and VR in the future to life at Microsoft (which happens to be splendid, by the way).

We also got to know about the internship program at Microsoft. They accept UX and UI designers, as well as web developers twice a year for four months. Around fifty young people from colleges all around Vancouver get together in this creative process and design an app based on the pitch that they have been provided with. This project works like a start-up and the interns have to go through each phase from conceptualizing to creating an end product which fulfills the requirements of the pitch. Working like a start-up is an insightful experience for all interns as they get a glimpse of how the development of a new product actually works. Seems like a once in a lifetime experience!

After the Q-and-A session, we were taken to “the Garage” which is an open studio for everyone at Microsoft. It is a colorful studio which shouts innovation. With all kinds of tools and machines, big and small, sewing kits and even 3D printers, it’s a room where one can let their creative juices flow!


Whatever little time we got to spend at Microsoft was exceptional and we got an insight into how such a huge tech company works. The tour was inspiring and so informative, but most importantly, it fueled us with motivation and gave us a clearer vision of our future.


Visit Tour: EA Games Vancouver

(Guest post by Jade Greggory, DD40)

My name is Jade Greggory and I am part of the incredible DD40 class who had the pleasure of visiting Electronic Arts on Wednesday 16th January. EA is located in beautiful Burnaby and is the center for development of some of their largest gaming franchises, including FIFA, NHL, UFC, Plants vs Zombies and Need for Speed.

I am an avid gamer so this experience was truly unbelievable and pretty epic! Our journey started at VFS, where we met Ana Maria who kindly escorted us to their headquarters which involved taking the sky-train and a bus ride. As we arrived on location, we quickly noticed that this was not like your usual design studio…. in fact it was more like a university campus! As we walked up the steep hill that led us to their palace; the sweet smell of pine trees accompanied our promenade and we immediately felt in touch with British Columbia’s beautiful scenery. At last… we made it to the top and I joined my fellow classmates in the enormous lobby of Electronic Arts.

While we patiently waited for our gracious hosts to come meet us, we stared at our surroundings in absolute awe and disbelief and tried to absorb every bit of detail of their grand entrance! They had this large digital screen showcasing cool motion graphics which featured all of EA’s employees in a fun manner. We gathered as a group to receive our personalized EA name tags and we met Karam from DD33 who was accompanied by Brandon from DD35; both are Digital Design Alumni. They gave us a brief introduction of themselves; Karam is an Interactive Designer and Brandon a graphic designer who also does Motion design.

EA has several different wings within their studio including their Phase 1 FIFA building, Phase 2 FIFA Mobile/ NHL/ UFC/Plants vs Zombies and Phase 3 which consists of their Motion Capture Studio. (We weren’t able to visit Phase 3 as they had a special celebrity guest who was a star athlete but most of their Motion Designers are based in that building.) Our visit consisted of exploring the many different rooftop patios which display stunning panoramic views of Vancouver as well as EA’s outdoor sports facilities which are pretty epic! They feature their very own branded soccer pitch as well as a beach volleyball court which has sand imported all the way from San Diego! We all enjoyed a few laughs and giggles, as we played soccer together and we understood how important it is for the employees at EA to share comradery through their working culture, which offers them a close bond of trust and compassion.

Our group was then met by another fellow DD alumni, Julian from DD32, who is also an Interactive Designer at EA and he concluded our tour by showing us their astonishing indoor facilities; including their fitness centre which is accompanied by personal trainers, massage therapists, physiotherapists and chiropractors. They also boast their own indoor basketball court which comes with a sauna, two theatres and several cafeterias or coffee bars.  The icing on top of the cake was being able to walk down the corridors which featured an accolade of bountiful honorary awards like BAFTAs and Emmys for their respective games.

Julian concluded our journey by taking us to a large meeting room where we were able to have an exclusive Q&A session with Karam, Brandon as well as two UX associates that are part of Julian’s team. They gave us a unique opportunity to dive deeper into the world of Electronic Arts and understand what it takes to work in this creative environment. Generally, employees are part of a smaller team which embodies a nice balance of Interactive, Motion and UX designers. They source out inspiration as a group and come up with innovative content which must be approved by their project director. Karam was telling us that sometimes they have to generate around 160 assets in a short 2-day period! (like our very own SLAM….but amplified!) Working hours are very flexible as it helps the employees enhance their work-life balance. Overall, EA is a wonderful place and took us down memory lane as if we were visiting Disneyland- our trip was so inspirational and motivated us to keep working very hard and reminded us all that we can achieve anything we set our minds to!

We concluded our epic adventure by having lunch at the EA cafeteria and for a short precious moment, we felt like we belonged to this incredible community of talented individuals.

A big thank you to Karam, Brandon, Julian, Ana Maria, Grigor and Chris for organizing this amazing studio visit!

Studio Visit to Microsoft Vancouver

(guest post by Ege Kurt, DD39) 

My name is Ege and I’m part of the DD39 class – the lucky ones to be the first Digital Design class from Vancouver Film School that gets to visit the Microsoft offices in Vancouver, BC!

On September 29th, we visited Microsoft Studios, located in downtown Vancouver on Granville Street. All of us were so excited and curious. Upon our arrival, we were immediately captivated because the place was fascinating, spacious, and big. The Head of Human Resources met us and gave us our visitors’ cards and welcomed us in.

First, she showed us around and gave us a brief tour of the office. We saw the Garage and the Park Room studios–the Garage is an open studio for everyone in Microsoft, with lots of tools and machines that you can work with such as the CNC machines and 3D printers, and the Park Room is full of PCs and is for training interns.

Microsoft accepts interns for UX and UI design, as well as an array of different developers. Around fifty young creative people get together in teams and design an app within the space of four months. If you want to be involved in this creative process, you can submit your application at the end of our tour of the Microsoft office, we had a pleasantly surprising “meet & greet” with Henry Chu, an alumnus of the VFS Digital Design program. He has been working for Big Park Studio as a User Experience Designer for the last two years since graduating from VFS. Big Park Studio is one of the creative studios of Microsoft and they are working on designing apps for Windows, Kinect Games, and Xbox.

Henry gave us an introduction to the project they’ve been working on over the last year. He showed us the prototype and let us test the app which is called 3D Paint. This app was designed for Gen-Z users and it empowers them to create 3D models. The app is an example of user-centered design which makes it easy to use and export your 3D models. When you are done with your 3D model, the app gives the ability to test and show your model in the real world. Your prototypes are able to respond to your environment and are diplayed in a realistic setting. It also has another functionality: you can use the app as a 3D viewer which is an innovative concept that has never been done before. 3D Viewer is a great app for sharing and showing your prototype to instructors or stakeholders. It is a fantastic concept that works with every Microsoft and Android operating system.

We had some time to ask questions during our visit and receive exclusive feedback. Here are some of the key points we discussed:

Do you think this app is beneficial to our VFS Digital Design Graduate Project?

“Absolutely, it’s helpful and saves a lot of time and gives you the opportunity to use your prototype for your motion design assets.”

Do you only work with UX/UI designers or do you hire motion graphic designers as well?

“We work with motion graphic designers at Microsoft, as well as UX and UI designers. We already have three motion graphic designers and they are working on pre-visualization of prototypes since 3D prototypes can sometimes be expensive.”

What is the working experience like in a big company like Microsoft?

“First of all, no-one has their own office – we all work in open studios and transparency isn’t creepy! This makes people feel connected and helps us to communicate more. Most of us are from Vancouver and cultural communication still exists as we are part of one big family. At the same time, we all have different backgrounds and we always inspire each other! This is our biggest strength and we are all having so much fun. We start the day at 10am and the working hours are very flexible.”

What was your career path in Microsoft?

“For myself, I started working directly as UX designer and I found myself immersed in the creative process at Big Park Microsoft; most of us are tech artists and problem-solvers.”

What were your strengths before you were hired by Microsoft and do you have any suggestions for VFS Digital Design students?

“It’s all about networking! Meet on Linkedin, get to know more about companies that you want to work in the future. During your Appetizers Industry Night, ask the same questions that you asked today. I have to say that VFS is great for networking and is one of the best institutions around the world.”

This studio visit was an amazing experience and seeing Henry was very inspiring. This experience helped us truly understand the values of being a part of the VFS family. We owe Louise Lee, Head of Digital Design at VFS, a great debt of gratitude for arranging this studio visit, and to Pam Saunders, PR & Social Media Manager, and Henry Chu, Interaction Design, at Microsoft for hosting us. Thank you!”

DD Talks: Joey Camacho

Make the Work Meaningfulless

On September 20th, students and instructors of the VFS Digital Design program had the pleasure of listening to the engaging talk called “Make the Work Meaningfulless” by Joey Camacho, as part of the DD Talk speaker series. Otherwise known as Raw & Rendered, Joey is a freelance 3D motion and graphic designer based in Vancouver, Canada. He’s created conceptual and creative design work professionally for reputable global brands, as well as passionate local companies.

As part of his DD Talk, Joey shared about the steps to produce better results in your work and in your life. He took us on a journey through his own life, showing his beginnings as a graphic artist and emphasizing the key moments that made his career as a freelancer successful.

One of his key lessons was the power of the words we use – to ourselves and to others: “If you have a project in mind that you want to do, don’t say ‘I want to do this’. Instead, say ‘I will do this’ and set a time to start doing it – and then do it at the time you said you would.”He did this with his project “Progress Before Perfection”, a 365-day project using Cinema 4D where he created a render every day for a year in order to improve his craft and produce work more efficiently. Some days were easier than others, he shared, and what got him through was remembering his commitment to his craft and making sometimes choosing the hard option (completing the render for the day before joining his friends in the pool!).

Joey also showed us some of his freelance work for companies such as Microsoft, Nike, Pepsi, and BMW. His work is a clear example and proof that consistent practicing of your craft plus patience can be well-rewarded.

One of Joey’s most inspiring sentences was: “Design your life in such a way that you feel energized and excited about your work. Stop saying ‘I’m so Busy’!”

Thank you, Joey, for motivating us to achieve our dreams and to start now on working on them!

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