Kre8ing with Ezra Istiroti, An Interview

8 Aug

Ezra Istiroti is more than a typical digital media/ advertising content creator. With a panache for sound design and a methodology, firms like McDonald’s and The Coca-Cola Co. in Mexico City will hire him to design their ad campaigns. He’s also the type of easy going and motivational talent people want to hear from.

After graduating from the Vancouver Film School and running his own firm to develop commercials and branding for other firms operations like BC Place, he’s back with the said institution and now teaching. For people who have been to the World of Wonders event during the 
Calgary Stampede early this decade will now know he’s the creative mind behind the design of that interactive installation. He’s also done the jumbotron animations for the Ottawa Fury, 67’s and RedBlacks. It’s rare to know who made that stuff, and now the opportunity exists to say hi, thanks for your amazing work in the past and also learn from him in how it’s made, and do it yourself!

Istiroti is coming to Victoria, BC to lead a workshop to teach to newcomers interested in film, theatre or arts on what they can do with digital media with a three-day intensive Stop Motion animation program starting August 12th (click link to register).

Kre8Studio is an up-and-coming summer school type program offering unique classes to folks residing in this city to get a leg up with the creative process–whether that’s with school coming up or just to be the next content creator sensation (through YouTube or otherwise). These sessions are nearly 1/5th the price of what a post-academic institution offers and what’s taught is the first month compressed into shorter sessions.

This animator/speaker/instructor took the time to speak with otakunoculture about what he does and what he’ll be offering:

What made you decide to work in this industry?

When I started university, I had to choose between three majors–Journalism, TV or Radio. I was always amazed by the equipment. So I began as a recording engineer and sound designer (around 2000). After that, [it was video], learning about editing techniques, visual language, composition, framing, timing and using colour to enhance a story. After a few years I had my own company (2004) but I knew I wanted to learn more. I knew Adobe After Effects but never got to see it in action. When I decided to come to Vancouver Film School I already knew production quite well.

My path led me more to motion graphics. What I’ve learned can be easily applied to 2D and graphics animation and even 3D. The basics for all types of animation date back to the 30’s and classical hand-drawn animation which are very much still present.

When you say motion-graphics, how would you define it? That is, how would you distinguish between traditional cell animation to how cartoons are made now–made with programs like Flash and Maya. The latter, I describe as 2D Digital animation. Is that correct?

This is correct, 2D animation is anything that is computer animated such as Flash (now called Adobe Animate) or ToonBoom. Maya is a 3D software so you are creating actual 3D models (think Toy Story). You can give them a cell shader or a “cartoon look” so they look flat, like classical 2D animations. This is a technique that’s becoming quite common these days.

Motion Graphics is a way of storytelling using a combination of various techniques. The basic concept would be grabbing some elements, like logos, lower thirds, shapes or typography and animate them in different ways. Now you can have motion graphics that is done using software like Cinema4D and even frame by frame animation using Photoshop and combining all of these.

Even keeping up with VR technologies is important with Ezra!

And how closely related is this to digital special effect design?

Motion graphics and special effects are very interconnected. You can have visual effects that have motion graphics (like a FUI heads up display; think Iron Man’s helmet interface) and you can have visual effects without them, like finding Optimus Prime in the middle of the city. It’s a thin line that’s very hard to define exactly when one starts and the other ends.

What can you say about the changing technology? I’m thinking of how Willis O’Brien King Kong pioneered the medium to how Studio Leika animates with films like Coraline and Missing Link. It’s a huge leap.

For Stop Motion, the main problem was the lack of digital photography. Let’s say you have to take 24 pictures for a second of animation and you have a 3 minute animation… that’s over 4,000 images! They would’ve used cinema cameras which allow for a much larger canister of film and not the standard 36 pictures in a roll… but it still was a long process.

Would you say we are in a better place now that the tools are accessible for the masses to author their visions?

Yes, new filmmakers are definitely in a way better place in the ease of use. Using stop-motion for example, you can create a whole short movie with only a smartphone and a $12 app. You can shoot the animation, edit, colour correct, add titles, graphics, music and even voice over without ever needing a computer. This also applies to other content creation such as graphic design.

With what you’ll be teaching at Kre8studio, where will students start? Do you have any prerequisites?

Ideally students will have their camera or a smartphone with a stop motion app like iStopMotion or StopMotion Studio. If they don’t, it’s ok. The only thing that they have to bring is a good attitude, wanting to learn and getting ready to have fun.

I like to start with the most basic of tools, pen and paper. We’ll start slow: write a plot, write a short story and think about our message. All these details that will help us define the characters of our story. At this point is time to wear our “producer” hat and thinking about what we need to achieve this. Who are our actors, sets, props … what can go wrong? How can I plan for that?… all these details.

Once we have a good understanding, we will start setting up our sets. Or at least the animation tables. I’ll talk about some basics of lighting and I want to set up a few workstations.

Second day will be devoted to production. We will start shooting and animating the elements on screen. Ideally we will have at least three workstations with different tools, one with just a camera (which is actually the most complicated way) one with a smartphone and a stop motion software and one with a camera and a software called DragonFrame, which is the industry standard for this.

The third day we will dig into post-production, talking about colour correction and some more advanced techniques to add something more to the story.

Some newcomers may opt to look before they leap. What would you say to them?

Self-doubt and comparing yourself to others–I have this happen quite often, especially with my students. They see what people out in the industry are doing or even what advanced students are creating and they feel like they will never reach that point. They think that in order to be good they need to create a masterpiece before even knowing what the software can do.

My best advice would be to always be creating. To create something good, first you have to create a lot of bad stuff–that’s how we learn, from looking back at what didn’t work and improving on that. And don’t worry about the technology. You need a good idea and a good story, once you have that, if stop motion is the best medium for that, go for it, if it’s some other technique that you don’t know, well, now you have a powerful reason to learn that new thing.

To see Ezra’s portfolio, please visit ezraistiroti.com

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