VFX from Start to Finish
Inhance digital delivers Innovative VFX from concept to completion with LightWave
Posted: Mon 11 Jul 2011
Inhance Digital is as unique as the computer graphics (CG) and visual effects (VFX) it delivers. Since its inception in 1997, Inhance Digital has delivered innovative, interactive, and visually compelling marketing and communications campaigns to an impressive list of corporate clients, including global Fortune 500 firms. In 2007, the interactive marketing agency extended its talents, technologies, and techniques to the entertainment market, serving up visual effects, animation, and compositing projects for commercials, television programs, and feature films.
Spearheading the company’s foray into television entertainment VFX in 2008 was industry veteran and Inhance Digital new-hire Eddie Robison. To his new position as Visual Effects Dept. Supervisor, Robison brought tremendous experience, not only in producing high-quality 3D CG and television VFX, but also in using NewTek’s LightWave 3D animation, modeling, and rendering software. A LightWave veteran of 17 years, he boasts an illustrious career spanning more than 25 TV shows, commercials, music video and a handful of films, for which he has earned Emmy® and Visual Effects Society award nominations.
“When I came to Inhance, there was only one other LightWave artist,” Robison recalls. “Everyone else was using 3DS Max. The company soon found out that LightWave could not only do the job that Max was doing, but also do it in a much more cost-effective way.”
Robison, upon impressing his colleagues with what LightWave could do and how much money it could save, established LightWave as the 3D platform of choice at Inhance Digital. “Flash forward a few years and we now have a few veterans, such as John Karner and myself, and a bunch of hungry, young, and talented guys like Jason Maynard coming out of places like the DAVE School, using LightWave,” Robison says. “Now we do almost everything in the VFX department in LightWave.”
Depth & Breadth
With Robison supervising and LightWave in the tool set, Inhance Digital’s VFX business has achieved rapid growth and logged an impressive list of satisfied clients and innovative projects.
Artists harness LightWave for a wide variety of high-profile broadcast projects, ranging from established brands to pilot episodes for highly anticipated new shows. Inhance Digital recently started its fifth season of CSI: Miami, working with Visual Effects Producer/Director Larry Detwiler, whom Robison calls “The Dream Client.”
Inhance Digital served as the VFX house for NBC’s The Cape. Working with Visual Effects Supervisor Ed Irastorza, the Inhance Digital team averaged 125 effects shots per episode. Irastorza again called on Inhance Digital, this time for 60 shots on NBC’s Grimm. Inhance artists also provided some of the VFX shots for another notable pilot, Person of Interest from J.J. Abrams, the visionary responsible for Lost, Fringe, and more. The VFX dept. at Inhance also created several shots for Showtime’s Boss, starring Kelsey Grammer.
“We can fly a bullet through a brain in slow motion for CSI: Miami or jump from a high-rise building to the street below in full CG for The Cape,” Robison explains. “We do all these things using LightWave.”
For its corporate clients, Inhance Digital uses LightWave to produce a wealth of cutting-edge work, ranging from augmented reality and stereoscopic movies to 3D content employed in interactive touch-screen displays, iPhone apps, and Web-based games. The agency also turns heads with immersive, 360-degree surround experiences, for which LightWave is instrumental. “If you haven’t yet used LightWave’s cylindrical camera option, try it out,” recommends Robison. “It’s fun stuff!”
LightWave is also entrusted with the company’s non-VFX work, for such clients as aerospace and defense organizations NASA, Boeing, Raytheon, Pratt & Whitney, and Sikorsky. “We are often called upon to create photorealistic vehicles that, as yet, do not exist. We use LightWave for doing just that,” Robison affirms. “I can get from a blueprint to a very convincing CG aircraft in a very short period of time.”
In fact, an Inhance artist who uses 3DS Max sat next to Robison, looking over his shoulder as he worked in LightWave. “He was absolutely blown away at how quickly and easily I made some really complicated geometry for a project we were both working on,” he recalls. As for the client, “they can literally see their new helicopter flying its first mission before it ever comes off the assembly line! What we produce for them helps them get funding, fill orders, and promote their products on an international stage.”
For Robison, LightWave was the obvious choice for innovative 3D projects at Inhance Digital and throughout his career. A rich combination of talent, drive, and technology tools have propelled the company forward, and to the top of their game in the production of eye-catching, jaw-dropping visual effects.
Over the years, Inhance has ramped up its portfolio of service offerings and taken the company from a single seat of LightWave to 15 seats. “As for workflow, LightWave is easy to manage,” Robison insists. “It is so easy to add more seats as we grow, and we never have to worry about render licenses or third-party renderers. When we get a new build of LightWave, I can (and I do) update the entire render farm myself, from my workstation in about five minutes. The I.T. guys here absolutely love me for that!”
Workflow is further streamlined in LightWave version 10.1, which adds linear workflow options and myriad other new features. “When used correctly, you can achieve better and more realistic falloff to lighting,” he says of LightWave’s linear workflow capabilities. “And we can keep our entire workflow in the same color space as the plates we get from production.”
“I know this software backwards and forwards,” he admits. “I can be presented with a challenge, and almost instantly know how LightWave can get me to the finish line.”
Inhance Digital—having just expanded its offices, now spanning roughly14,000 square feet—plans to push its number of LightWave seats from 15 to 25. “Inhance will, by the end of this year, employ around 100 artists, programmers, producers, and support staff,” Robison enthuses. “We plan to expand into film, as well as do more and more TV work—onward and upward!”
Inhance Digital has come a long way in a short time, and LightWave will continue to be there alongside its artists every step of the way.