Meet the Studio: Spirit Animation

Fernando Macedo, chief creative officer at SPIRIT Animation, an animation and VFX shop based in Curitiba, Brazil shares how ShotGrid is a key tool in their workflow, especially on recent Disney XD series “KARL.”

Tell us about your company and the type of projects you work on.
SPIRIT Animation is a Brazilian animation and visual effects company. We produce 3D and 2D animation, motion design, and VFX for feature films, television, advertising and games; as well as original content for cinema and TV. SPIRIT is located in Curitiba, Brazil.


Is your team working in multiple locations? Who is using ShotGrid?
Almost all of our team is located in-house. We have about 20 ShotGrid users, most of them production artists.


How did you first hear about ShotGrid?
One of our animators had used ShotGrid on a previous production. He told us that it is a great tool to control and produce shows with lots of scenes and data.

Tell us a bit about the show KARL.
KARL is a 3D animated show that I created and is produced by SPIRIT Animation. The show is funny and crazy, while having an educational background to it. We all have the desire of eating unhealthy things from time to time – pizza, hamburgers, you know how it goes. So it is with the young character Jonny. Every episode starts with JONNY wanting to eat an unhealthy food or drink. We enter Jonny’s mind, where Karl (the healthy side of Jonny’s conscience) appears and battles those temptations. We took a pilot episode to Disney XD and they loved it, so we ended up producing a full season with the help of local governmental laws. It was distributed via Disney XD to all of Latin America, via SIC TV in Africa (Angola and Mozambique), and via Videovalis in Germany.

How is ShotGrid essential for your work on KARL?
Season one of KARL was quite a challenge. We had about 49 scenes per episode, and a total of 52 episodes, with more than 60 characters. All the data ran through multiple departments (art, modeling, textures, rigging, animation, post, etc.), with ShotGrid helping to keep track of it all.


What content creation tools do you use in-house?
Our primary 3D tool is Maya. We also use 3ds Max, MentalRay, ZBrush, Mudbox, and After Effects. For production coordination we use Basecamp alongside ShotGrid.


How much effort do you focus on building out your pipeline?
We spend a lot of time to make sure our pipeline works well. Working out problems and hiccups is all part of the learning process. Each project comes with certain challenges and you have to know how to create effective solutions so that your pipeline works well, with little fixing and great agility.


Why is it important to pay such close attention to your pipeline?
Time is money. When things go wrong and need to be redone, it can put us behind schedule and over budget, so we have to be efficient. Another important aspect is that we cannot skip important parts of the creative process, because if we do, the story and the visual appeal may be compromised.


It’s helpful to see the evolution of the show, what's ahead and what's behind of schedule, and of course, being able to give reviews on the shots from anywhere in the world. That's awesome.


What’s your favorite feature of ShotGrid?
I just love to quickly see who's working on what shot, and to easily find all the info about that shot, like frames, description and status. It’s helpful to see the evolution of the show, what's ahead and what's behind of schedule, and of course, being able to give reviews on the shots from anywhere in the world. That's awesome.

What makes SPIRIT Animation different from other animation companies in Brazil?
Over the past ten years in the entertainment business, we have invested a lot – in knowledge of the best ways to create quality content, and in the production of that original content. We have made many shorts, animated shows, and features, working across the script, concepting, and animation test stage. We believe in ourselves and in the stories we want to bring to the world.

What’s a day in the life like for you?
It’s insane. I direct KARL, now on season two, as well as other entertainment and advertising productions that are happening at the studio. I also run the front end, working on client relations. I also take care of the distribution of KARL and legal and financial issues. But in the end, what I like most is really working on the scripts and stories for our series and feature films. That has to all happen within a 15-hour day.


What are the three most important things in your office?
Loving what you do, being thankful for it, and coming to work with a huge smile and positive vibes, ready to do the best you can on another incredible day.

Do you develop proprietary tools, if so which one are you most proud of?
We do have great coffee :)


What inspires you creatively?
Great directors like Miyazaki, Disney and Lasseter, as well as talented artists from productions around the world. Life is also a great source of inspiration, with its landscapes, interesting people, music, and all forms of arts. This feeds the incredible world of our imagination, and from there, anything can come to life!

What do you do to stay connected to the artist community?
My favorite event is SIGGRAPH, as well as MIPCOM and KIDSCREEN (for distribution of content). Facebook, CG Channel and other online forums are also a great way of connecting and sharing works, doubts, and inspirations across the industry.


What is your favorite thing about working in your city?
Curitiba is great, full of nature and cool people. It certainly does not have all the noise and craziness that big cities like São Paulo have. While Curitiba is considered a big city (about 3 million people), it feels like a small town. I love it here.


When you aren’t working, what’s the ideal way to spend a day?
Running and making picnics at the park, watching good movies, playing basketball and card games with friends, and creating stories about awesome worlds (that's not considered working).

What led you to visual effects?
I have loved to create and draw since I was a very young boy. I always wrote stories and created new worlds. The day that I realized that I could actually learn that (I had an epiphany at the cinema, watching X-Men), I joined Anima Mundi International Animation Festival. There I met the great Chris Landreth and Larry DeFlorio, amazing artists who were running an awesome course at Toronto-Canada (Seneca College Post-Graduation Program). I immediately went there and it changed my life (back then there was little online content, so It was hard to learn on your own).


What is the biggest challenge in running a studio today?
Paying the bills. Until your creations actually start paying the bills, it's a long and hard road. Costs are super high (facility, software, insurance, and crew), artists are complicated beings, and clients can come and go. Dealing with great creativity and legal and financial issues, as well as with infrastructure problems and marketing and distribution...that's enough to get anyone insane. But I love it.