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.

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!

 

Sequential Design

 (guest post by Sean Wright, DD35)

This past Wednesday (June 1st), the 35th Digital Design class had the distinct pleasure of visiting the work space of The Sequence Group, a premier design, visual effects and animation team that happens to be located here in Vancouver.

Guided as always by the vigilant Danny Chan and stoic Grigor Cheitanov, we paired off using the buddy system and departed the halls of higher learning at 420 Homer St. for a brief trek through historic Gastown. You can tell that Sequence have their fingers on the pulse of the city by their choice of location: Railtown. East of Main St. and north of Alexander St., this former industrial area is Vancouver’s next hot target for gentrification and redevelopment, and this studio has literally settled in at the ground floor.The Sequence Group got their start 10 years ago as a private venture by founder Ian Kirby: designing websites, DVD interfaces, motion comics and animated gifs for whomever needed the business. Since then, it has grown to a 15-person team (exact numbers vary by project, swelling to up to 50 strong for large jobs such as last year’s Halo: The Fall of Reach) that is proud to include two VFS DD grads.Upon our arrival the studio was operating under at least one non-disclosure agreement involving projects for the upcoming E3 Convention (video game Christmas) taking place in Los Angeles later this month, so our tour was swift and to the point. We were introduced to the team in their converted industrial space complete with three storey ceilings and rolling windowed doors facing onto a waterfront courtyard, but then quickly whisked away to the cinema room for a thorough demonstration of the team’s completed projects guided by Executive Producer Dan Sioui. Thank you, Sequence Group, for having us!

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Salazar Awards 2016

Congratulations to Ignacio Flórez for winning a Salazar Award last night in the Video & Motion category for his project, Foxy Matter, a title sequence for a fictional animated movie. He was presented with a cash prize and an award certificate. Ignacio follows in the footsteps of a long list of VFS Digital Design graduates who have won this award. The Salazar Awards are presented by the British Columbia Mainland Chapter of The Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC/BC) and founding sponsor Metropolitan Fine Printers to promote the work of students from design programs in BC. Hanna Cortés was named a finalist and honourable mentions were also given to Adriana Ogarrio and Jay Lee for their motion design projects.

Congratulations to everyone!

The evening also included a panel discussion, moderated by Johnathon Vaughn Strebly, President of GDC/BC, between Roy White (Subplot Design), Nancy Wu (Nancy Wu Design) and Katie Maasik (Lululemon) addressing topics related to agency, freelance and in-house design career opportunities.