Studio Tour: Giant Ant

(guest post by Lizbeth Salazar, DD37)

On February 1st, my class DD37 and I, went to visit Giant Ant. We were really excited because most of us, leaning towards motion design, really wanted to visit a motion studio and the day finally arrived.

We walked together all the way to the studio, which is located at the end of Chinatown. Once we got there, I was not surprised about their office: I knew they were a small company and would have an office space to match. We went inside the studio and the first thing I saw was all the people immersed in their work, some using tablets, others on their computers with headphones on and others in the kitchen probably taking a short break. Whatever they were doing, they were really into it and they seemed happy.

We were directed to their conference room, and we were lucky to meet Jay Grandin, Partner and Creative Director of Giant Ant. Since we were a group of 18 people along with Jay, the room was crowded once we all sat down. He showed us some of their work and told us about how Giant Ant came to life.

We spent most of the time asking questions. The topics ranged from their process of design, the amount of time it takes them in creating their projects, and all the way to him telling us that he never planned on making motion design for living or even have a motion studio. He mentioned that most things happened in unusual ways and not in the way we have thought about them but if we are happy and we have an end goal, then we have to let whatever happens in the way flow and everything will work out in the end. And looking back at this point of his life, he is happy about where he stands and how things worked out.

By the end we asked him about tips or things we should think about if we really wanted to pursue motion design and he gave the following advice:

1. Create the storyboard as best as possible to avoid wasting time later in the process. The better it is, the less time you’ll put in it trying to refine it.

2. Throw as many ideas you and your team have, good and bad ideas. Combine them and if it works, you’ll have a really strong idea.

3. Forget about the money and learn. Do as much as you can. Do work you think has value and that way people will come to you.

Thanks, Giant Ant!

 

INDUSTRY IQ STUDIO TOUR: GIANT ANT

(guest post by James Mulligan, DD36)

On a Sunny afternoon, September 29th our class, the DD36s, left school to go on an industry visit to the renowned Giant Ant studio. We walked excitedly through the streets of historic Chinatown until we eventually came to their building, a storefront off the beaten path.

As you enter the nondescript front, you enter a small hive buzzing with activity. The world we entered was warm and inviting. It was well-lit and the hardwood surfaces were polished. Staff were busy at their Macintosh workstations. We were welcomed by Jay who had a friendly casual demeanor and we didn’t realize until he told us that he is the co-founder and partner of Giant Ant. He ushered us into what looked like a glass-fronted log cabin nested into the larger room. Once inside, Jay showed us some of their projects and spoke about their creative processes including the inspiration and direction that went into each piece.

As he showed us some of their recent work, some themes emerged. Giant Ant uses positive framing, and they incorporate aesthetic beauty. They have a unique and original way of framing their subject matter; this allows them to prioritize creativity over following trends. Giant Ant has earned its reputation among clients, and this keeps the phones ringing. Many of their clients are from Silicon Valley and they have to turn many down. Giant Ant is a self-described family of animators and creatives who pick and choose their work, they are happy with the size of their team and feel no need to expand.

“Everything we put into the world is a statement of our taste,” Jay told us. He and his wife got into this business by making videos on YouTube originally. They showed us one of their charming originals. Seeing their skill level develop in earlier work was inspirational for the motionographers in our class.

As we left the building, I think we shared a general impression that Giant Ant is what a successful business can look like. They can be choosy with their clients, the workplace subs in as a family, and they get to use their creative skills. It gave our class something to aspire to.

 

INDUSTRY IQ DD35 STUDIO TOUR: Giant Ant

(guest post by Dylan Endicott, DD35)

The Digital Design 35th class at VFS was given the opportunity to get an inside look at everything Giant Ant. When Louise Lee, the heart that pumps blood through the DD program, told our class that we would get to visit Giant Ant, there was an eruption of enthusiastic proportions. There is a reputation that Giant Ant holds as one of top-notch studios in the motion graphics industry.
Our impression of them only improved after our visit. Seeing and learning a bit about their process really solidified for us the fact the money doesn’t drive this studio — It’s passion. Collectively, the class now knows that big things truly do come in small packages. What Jay and Leah have built in such a competitive industry is not only impressive but incredibly inspiring. Jay led the class on an adventure through Giant Ant’s files and process, which, to some, may not sound like fun, but our class could have stayed all day.

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INDUSTRY IQ STUDIO TOUR: Giant Ant

(guest post by Kelly Kurtz, DD34)

Our second studio visit that was part of our Industry IQ course in the Digital Design program at VFS started with the most interesting question — How would you accidentally create an inspiring, industry standard raising, and successful company? Say what?! We, the DD class of 34, listened intently as Jay Grandin, Giant Ant Partner & Creative Director, described the story of how the studio was born.

Some 10+ years ago after graduating from an industrial design program, Jay Grandin and Leah Nelson (Wife, Giant Ant Partner and Creative Director) took out a camera on the weekends and created a video for fun. At that time, YouTube was just beginning to become popular. They posted it and it went unexpectedly viral. Companies started contacting them to make videos for them; they had so much interest that they both decided to quit their jobs for a year and try it full time. “We didn’t make any money in the first few years. It wasn’t until about 5 or 6 years in I was finally making $30,000/year, which by today’s standards (especially in Vancouver) is below the poverty line.”

The company continued to grow and they developed a sense of what type of work they wanted to put out there, and what type of work they didn’t want to take on despite the appealing money that could have come in, inspired us with their ethical choices. Many of us hope our work will be used for the greater cause, and we want to work on meaningful projects. Visiting Giant Ant showed us that companies with high standards exist and that in the end you choose what work you take on and choose what type of work you want to produce. Hearing their philosophy was empowering for us as students who are starting to develop our own sense of ethics and direction.

We had an opportunity to ask many questions that gave us insight into their company culture, what they are looking for in potential employees/talent, tips on getting into the industry. He let us in on their company rules, which are simple and to the point, which guide how they interact with each other to achieve the high quality of work they produce. Another real highlight was to see inside their workflow of award-winning motion pieces like Stickboy that was created to be shown at the Vancouver Opera in 2014. Seeing what it takes behind the scenes was inspiring and daunting at the same time, and left us wanting to see more and more!

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Our visit to Giant Ant

(guest post by Ignacio Florez)

It was a Tuesday afternoon when we, the Digital Design Class 33, found ourselves walking through Chinatown, Vancouver. We were looking for a little place known as Giant Ant. Today was going to be the day when Jay Grandin, one of its founders, was going to give us a talk.

Giant Ant is one of the most respected motion and live action production companies, not only in Vancouver or even in Canada, but possibly in the world. When someone thinks about motion graphics, it’s undeniable that this studio comes to mind. It’s known mostly for its colourful animations and playful style.

We made it to Giant Ant. In a way, the big room where designers, cinematographers and the whole team work made a lot of sense — It was a creative environment. There were Macs everywhere, Wacom tablets, a handmade bicycle rack, and even some cool, hanging, round lights. There were around 20 people working on their computers, completely focused.

Jay greeted us and we followed him to the meeting room. He’s a laid-back guy and, in a way, Giant Ant seems like a reflection of his personality. He was honest from the start: there is no structure when it comes to introducing this type of production company to students. He started talking about the history behind the company; he’s an industrial designer who got into the video world and started Giant Ant with his wife, Leah. In the beginning it was only them and a phone, then things started growing – and growing.

Jay showed us some of their latest work, which inspired many questions from our group, and we looked at some of their storyboards as well as their whole creative process. It’s worth noting how detailed their storyboards are – as Jay explained, at first they were very simple, then they realized that they had to make them as detailed as possible so that the production process could be smoother. Pre-production is probably the most important part of the creative process!

Our questions were mainly divided into two categories: market experience and Giant Ant. There were many things we were curious about: what are they looking for when they hire, how many videos they make a year, how the relationship is between them and the client, how they divide the workload between them, how much time it takes to make some of their motion pieces, how their cinematography team works, what kind of work an intern does, etc.

Giant Ant’s overall objective is to give life to the message, and ensuring the message is as good as it can get. They can be working on a 3D animation piece, but they may have cell animation on top and some After Effects animation in there too – whatever it takes to make it look great. We also discussed how to ensure a piece is well done yet also creates something that tries to break barriers and introduce new ideas to the studio. They’re not afraid to approach unknown techniques and take the time and experimentation to get the result they want.

As for us, we will continue to find our own style and hopefully our way through the journey in which we embarked on when we arrived at VFS.

Thank you for having us, Giant Ant!