Laundry! Animation Studio Interview
Los Angeles based Laundry! have a wide and impressive client base with a great variety of work in their portfolio including Wieden+Kennedy, Real D, NASCAR, Green Day, Translation, Goodby Silverstein & Partners and TBWA/Chiat/Day, among others. We got the chance to ask PJ Richardson & Anthony Liu a few questions about their studio.
PJ Richardson (left) and Anthony Liu (right)
How did Laundry! form?
AL: Laundry! formed after PJ and I saw an opportunity to create a motion graphics studio that was run from an artist’s point of view. We both came from other shops and were longtime friends. Interesting tidbit: our mantra was the idea of taking both clients’ ideas and our own, cleaning ‘em up, and making them pretty and presentable. Hence the name “Laundry!”
PJR: Anthony and I have been friends for nearly 15 years. In 2005, we had a conversation where we were both looking for a change, both feeling pretty optimistic about our skills, and had a couple freelance clients we collaborated on together in our off time to help get things going. Instead of pocketing all our profits over those next few months, we put our earnings into a little 700-square-foot office in Hollywood in June 2006, and that pretty much got Laundry! off the ground (of course with a business plan and rough idea of workflow and creative goals).
What size is your team and are you split into different areas of design?
AL: We currently have a team of 16 staff and are always looking for that next great designer or animator. We also bring in additional artists depending on the workload in-house. Everyone on our team has a distinctive skillset, but in reality, everyone does a little bit of everything where needed, including PJ and I as creative directors. It seems like this makes us pretty unique, and we all like to work hands-on to ensure that clients are getting us.
Take us through the design process from brief to delivery.
PJR: Usually we get a brief or script and then get on a conference call to download the client’s goals, from specs to creative direction. From there, we internally mind-meld, pulling visual references and images we love, and write up ideas that visualize some sort of creative response to the client’s needs.
Then come our original storyboards, style frames, and/or concept art in the form of a treatment that becomes the bible of the final pieces we’re aiming to make. The goal is to get the clients on board with what we’re doing so that once in animation, it becomes a little less subjective visually, and much easier to make logical changes that add efficiency to the process and keep us creative and on budget.
Once they fall in love with our ideas (smile), we go into production. This usually starts with a boardomatic of the storyboards, or an edit (if live action was involved as a starting point) for timing. Then we implement a very rough wireframe (2D or 3D animation) for general movement to get a taste of where we want to go with it.
From there it can go a variety of ways. Usually there are multiple team members working on different pieces or shots, but the basic workflow is done by a compositor (and/or editor if, again, live action is involved) who marries all the pieces together, while technically specific animators work on different shots or effects depending on skill set and desired creative needs. This can include a flash guy for cel animation, a real-flow animator for water effects, or just a guy who’s really good at animating text. It really depends.
All these pieces keep feeding to the compositor, and over a series of revisions and reviews, the final piece comes together. Lately we’ve also been doing a final color pass in Da Vinci to really glue the look together, and then we add sound effects and final audio mix for output.
What do you consider your selling point?
AL: Our strong and unique creative vision and awesome client service. We are also very diverse in our creative interests, and love working on projects that require all sorts of creative and technical aspects.
PJR: It sounds a bit generic, but we are the full package. Our bold design, polished animation, and really unique sense of editorial timing, often with a twist of humor, really make us stand out. I think we really understand how to make beautiful work. Lately, we have also excelled at crafting our ideas in a way that makes perfect sense for the brands’ needs, which consequently drives more emotional responses and sales for them. Further, from a project-management side, our producers are superb at managing our projects while taking a lot of the guesswork off our clients’ plates. Past studios I’ve worked at have really missed this part, and it makes such a difference and really drives our high amount of return business.
Where do you pick up inspiration for your work?
PJR: All over the place. Friends’ links on Facebook, motion graphics and VFX blogs, Vimeo (heavily), even Google if I’m searching for something specific. Feature films also provide a ton of VFX and film title inspiration, as well as design magazines like Din or books from Die Gestalten. I just started moderating motionographer.com’s reddit page, which has been an awesome resource for tons of animation inspiration. It literally forces me to watch a ton of great (and not so great) stuff, all providing a lot of cool ideas and motivation. It’s not just from design or animation though. We all love fashion and pop culture here too...Grumpy Cat, Hypebeast, fine art of many varieties, or even just viral blogs.
AL: Everywhere. Really. Online and out in the world. Art and music. It’s endless honestly, but it even comes from little daily stuff, too: posters, the type of PDF we use, the food we eat, and the T-shirts we wear all provide a tone for how we approach our work creatively. It's a design lifestyle. Everything matters!
Who do you admire in the animation world?
AL: Right now I am very inspired by the work of David O'Reilly and Mikey Please. I think their storytelling and animation styles come together to create something so unique and fresh.
PJR: It really depends what I’m working on. If it’s more 2D-design driven, I really love what a lot of the South American studios are doing. The energy of a lot of the work I’m seeing down there is quirky, colorful, and full of happiness and life.
From a polished VFX and character animation perspective, I’m seeing a ton of superb work come out of Europe, especially France, and that’s always very motivational to see. There’s a really cool technical execution with a sense of style and kiss of nostalgia that just seems so inviting and warm.
Beyond that, just my peers and friends. I’m loving how experimental the homie GMUNK has been keeping it lately, as well as the 3D abstract work of Sebastien Cannone. Universal everything and United Visual Artists from the experience side are rocking it too. I could literally go on and on, but lately I’ve really found my “aha! moment” with Kyary music videos too; it’s literally that moment where I’ve felt I could work on something like those forever.
What software do you use most frequently?
AL: Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, C4D, Maya, Final Cut, Flash, Thunderbird, Safari and iChat. Plus, occasionally, RealFlow, V-Ray, Krakatoa, Resolve and PFMatch for more specific stuff.
Do you think there is a current trend in animation?
PJR: I think the same trends have always sort of been there with some slight evolutions. There’s the more serious side, the darker, moodier, sort of 3D/CGI-inspired (if not full CGI) approaches. Then, in contrast, a more 2D approach, which of late has seen a lot of cel animation effects. Somewhere in between are stop motion and live action hybrids that marry a bit of each. To complicate it, each medium seems to have its own set of languages, from film, to TV, to web, to interactive, to projection mapping, and even to more amorphous mediums like infographics.
AL: Recently I find myself leaning both towards more photorealistic CG animation, as well as more handmade practical animation.
What is your favorite job to work on and why?
PJR: Oh man, any job that gets me uncomfortably pushed to a new place technically and creatively. Also, jobs that get people thinking. It’s sort of pointless if we don't get a reaction out of people in some way. Three that stand out are Honda’s “#ThumbsUp Dn’t Txt & Drv,” our film for “Live Earth,” and Farmers’ “Space Heater.”
Honda’s “Dn’t Txt & Drv” resonated with me considerably. It was amazing that we were able to take such a socially conscious idea, that is sadly so top of mind, and execute it with such simple animation. I really felt like we were closer than ever to making a difference in peoples’ lives...much more than with the luxury and extravagance of wowing viewers with fancy special effects.
Honda / Dont Text and drive
Farmers Smart Hub 'Watch out for space heaters'
AL: “Live Earth” was one of our first creative projects. People loved it because of the cute characters, but what I really liked was the concept of seeds taking over a city and adding greenery and happiness, a concept which emulated the goals of the concert it was for created for.
With Farmers’ “Space Heaters,” it was a similar emotion with the cute characters, but the superb execution of stop-motion and the sinister story made it even more memorable for viewers, and definitely took us a step forward with both execution and story.
What would be your dream brief?
PJR: A film, of any size, where we could both tell a story and push technology in a new way. Something that really resonates with viewers in a personal, memorable way.
AL: One that sends us traveling around the world to shoot.
What do you guys do to relax after a busy period?
AL: We eat, we throw funny birthday parties, we bowl, we drink, and we eat more...but that’s really more day-to-day. Everything from sumo wrestling to a petting zoo to a dunk tank has made its way onto our birthday list. There aren't often too many slow times, but with all the craziness of production I think we really try to keep it fun along the way, as opposed to “end-perk earned.”
What are 3 essential things you need to have in your studio?
AL: Music, a great, talented team that makes us laugh, and Perrier. We got ‘em all already!
What does your office look like?
PJR: Like a Death Star of awesomeness.
Thanks to Laundry! for taking the time to talk to us about their work and process. See more of their work here.
Posted: Mon 19th Aug 2013Tags: Interviews, america, animation, design, interview, Laundry, los angeles, Studio
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