Interview with Jared Rowe – VFX Artist and Motion Designer
I came across Jared’s work not so long ago and was instantly impressed by his style and skill. Jared was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for us. If you’re looking to enter the field of Visual Effects or Motion Graphics then this interview is a must-read. Jared’s answers were enlightening and honest, and are helpful whether you’re just starting out or have been working in the field for as many years as I have.
Thanks for doing this Q&A, Jared! Love your portfolio and all the work you’ve been doing. What software do you tend to use most often for your VFX and Motion Design work?
Thanks, Chris! Stoked to be noticed and share my story.
Adobe After Effects is my compositing tool of choice, complemented with various plugins and scripts. All depending on the project I’m working on, of course.
If we’re talking my favorite workflow, that usually starts with either Cinema 4D or a similar 3D application which I use to create my main scene work – then finish with compositing and effects in After Effects.
I’ll admit though, I’m a sucker for experimenting with a wide range of software types. I even used the Unreal Engine recently for a big Esports client! With Unreal I was able to compile a 3D environment, which I then transferred to After Effects. I mixed in a barrage of ProductionCrate compositing effects, together with some of my own that I’ve created over the years. The final product turned out pretty awesome. The video below gives you a brief look into the making.
A lot of our users are interested in pursuing a career in this field. Any tips for getting started?
Especially for new artists, there is an overemphasis and over-reliance on tools. I remember early on in my career, many in the community determined ‘skill’ by the software you used or the conferences you attended. I’ve seen this trend diminish recently, but there is still this expectation that you are required to have a specific application or plugin to be the best at what you do. This is false.
For me, the greatest teacher hasn’t been a course, or a mentor, or a YouTube tutorial. My greatest teacher has been failure. Don’t get me wrong, there are some incredible resources out there for learning to master specific effects and techniques. But there is no ‘one way’ to do anything in this field.
The best way to build real-world skill is to get out there and just do it. You’re never going to be any good until you’ve tried and failed. And I mean failed a lot. You need to fail in your own unique way, on your own unique projects. And no tutorial is going to teach you that.
Here’s a fun anecdote to illustrate my point. I once worked on a project for Disney, where I needed to pull off a dynamic water effect on a super-quick deadline. I wouldn’t have the time for liquid simulation, so I needed to think resourcefully. I decided to take my iPhone and go out to our office sink. I turned off the lights and recorded a simple setup, recreating the intended water movement. I recorded the scene in slow motion, using only the light on my camera. Little did I know that this simple solution would far exceed expectations. After compositing the capture into my scene, the end result was even better than any water simulation would have been.
I like to share this story because we learn best in these resourceful moments. And it is going to take a few big moments like these in your career to build your arsenal and confidence as a visual artist. My advice is to try your best to pull off a big idea, whether you know how or not. In doing so, you will figure out a way. At first, it may not seem like the ideal ‘way’, but over time these experiences will add up and lead to mastery.
Did you go to school, or are you self-taught?
A mix of both. I suffered a football injury in high school which left me on crutches for a long time. That free time gave me an opportunity to focus on video editing, which was my favorite hobby and eventual career path.
I began as an intern at a local access television station, then continued my education at the Valencia Film Program back in 2005. At the time, my passion was cinematography. In particular, I loved using scene lighting to tell a story, through setting, blocking, and practical light solutions. It was an incredible experience being on set for 36 hours and witnessing a film set in action. I really learned to appreciate everything that goes into film production.
It was my film experience that inspired me to branch into animation and motion design. I came to a realization; telling a story in the film industry was incredibly complex, with lots of moving parts. You need a LOT of people working simultaneously to turn your vision into a reality. On the other hand, I was finding that motion design allowed me to bypass a lot of these complexities. I started dabbling in CGI environments and animation, telling my own stories that were just as effective as those on set – only made in a fraction of the time and with more creative freedom. It quickly became my favorite art form of storytelling and expression.
From here my skills became almost entirely self-taught. The passion was there and I saw my talents improving rapidly. I became obsessed with improving my techniques, soaking up every bit of knowledge I could. I imagine this is a natural progression for most motion artists. No matter your formal education, at one point or another you’ll experience that ‘lightswitch’ moment. The ‘self-teaching’ instinct suddenly takes over out of passion and a desire to master your craft.
Chris: I love what you and the people at Visuals by Impulse are doing. Were you freelancing before working at VBI?
Thanks, Chris. It’s been a wild ride for VBI. To date we’ve worked with over 60,000 streamers, gamers, and creators. Across Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook Gaming, VBI is raising the bar on branding and visual presentation. Internally, we’re lucky to have an incredibly talented team and strong leadership. What impresses me the most though, is the company culture. It’s one of the most unique and strongest I’ve ever experienced in a remote team (and an international one, at that!).
Personally, it’s been many years since my last freelancing experience. For the past 15+ years, I’ve been partnered with my brother, Derek Alan Rowe. Together we founded the company Doctrine Creative, a creative team focusing on VR/AR and interactive experiences.
More recently, I spent four years with Eezy as their Director of Video. There I worked to build Videezy’s libraries of free stock videos and After Effects templates. It was a dream come true to give back to the design community; a community that I had learned so much from over the years. But then VBI showed up and offered me the role of Marketplace Director. I couldn’t say no.
It’s all been history since then. With VBI it’s an opportunity to innovate and – essentially – reinvent the world of broadcast design. The timing couldn’t be much better. Live streaming and esports gaming is growing faster than ever before. I count myself very fortunate to be part of that movement.
Chris: Any big projects on the horizon?
Big time. 2020 is going to be a big year for Visuals by Impulse. We have ambitious plans to take streaming into an entirely new space; a next level. No spoilers yet, but it will be big. And it will affect both our graphics library and custom design services.
Over the years, VBI has been lucky to team up with some of the biggest celebrities and brands in the game. This January we unveiled a new collaboration with 100 Thieves, the legendary organization founded by Call of Duty legend Nadeshot. You can check out some of our work in their new studio tour below! Stay tuned – there’s much more in the works that I’m stoked to reveal.
On the flip side, my brother Derek and I have been working on an exciting new project. We were recently awarded an Epic Games grant for our WildEyes project – an initiative focused on connecting people to the natural world through technology. The goal is to produce an immersive new VR experience using the Unreal Engine. It’s a daunting task for sure, but something we’re both stoked to see through.
Needless to say, it’s going to be an exciting year for myself and the entire VBI team.
Chris: I first came across your work after noticing you were using ProductionCrate goodies. Do you have any favorite assets?
Some time ago, I stumbled upon ProductionCrate while working on an experimental project. I was looking to achieve some very specific effects, without having to invest time creating them from scratch myself. Some lightning and magic assets, if I remember correctly. ProductionCrate had exactly what I was looking for, and much more. I immediately saw the potential for my workflow; not only for this project, but for future projects as well.
I’ve spent enough time in this industry to understand the importance of a high-quality effects directory. Over the years I’ve developed a lot of my own baked effects and backgrounds, for use in compositing over time. But ProductionCrate dwarfed my own library, and I’ve kept coming back ever since that first encounter.
For me, the real beauty of ProductionCrate is the impact on my efficiency. I can achieve my overall scene without having to reinvent the wheel, saving me loads of time and energy. This allows me to focus on higher priorities, like the overall direction, composition, and feel of my work.
It’s also an excellent tool for previsualization. I often use ProductionCrate assets during early project stages, inserting placeholder effects to sell the overall idea of my pieces. It’s a win-win; clients and teammates can easily grasp the story, without requiring massive time investment on my part. For this fact alone, ProductionCrate is essential to my creative pipeline.
Chris: Thanks, Jared!