Interview: Terrence Walker

by Christopher Macdonald, Feb 2nd 2001
On September 18th I had the pleasure of interviewing Terrence Walker, founder of Studio ArtFX and director of Understanding Chaos. Here's how it went:



Anime News Network: Other than your work on your own features, what kind of animations have you worked on?

Terrence Walker: When I started I did the typical "flying logo" type animations for local businesses... I did a few commercials as well... (local stuff)

TW: Things picked up when I got into video games.. Doing cinematic intros for the PC and Playstation games is where things started to take off... Deadly Tide (published by Microsoft) was one of the biggest game projects I worked on... It was helmed by some of the crew responsible for SeaQuest and Star Trek Voyager special effects... My skill grew considerably working under these guys...

TW: After that Deadly Tide was on its way to becoming a feature film titled Blue Planet... Once again under the same guys I learned a great deal and improved my own animation abilities.....

ANN: So when did you decide to start your own project?

TW: Well, it was something I WANTED to do for years... But I never got around to it.. I was very busy working on Deadly Tide and the feature film, etc... But in the background I was always developing the technique I would one day use to do my own anime...

TW: Over time the style and the look of my anime work improved... But I kept working on different projects and never really started until this year...

ANN: And "Understanding Chaos" was your first project that you did on your own?

TW: Actually, the first project I did on my own was a 30 second trailer for a film called "Skeleton Man".. NewTek showed this at their booth at NAB 2000 this year... I was originally planning to develop this into a feature film, but it grew to be too complex for a first project and I eventually fell away from it...

TW: From that point I went through a number of re-writes and coming up with various ideas for new shows to do... I eventually settled on Chaos... but I wasn't sure how I was going to approach it...

TW: One day a friend from the old studio sent a message about a short film festival which had a deadline which was fast approaching... it left me about a month to get something done... I thought I could do it if I had the right idea... Since I was working on Chaos, I decided to take the concept and develop a sort of promotion short film to illuminate the basic idea of the story without giving away what I want to do in the feature...

TW: From that point I was off and running trying to get something made by the 1st of September...

ANN: Did you get it finished on time? It was posted on the site on the 11th, right?

TW: That's correct.. I didn't make the deadline for that film festival... But I wanted to give myself more time as after I saw how it was turning out I thought I need to spend the time on the audio side to make it truly special... originally I was going to put a simple "techno" type soundtrack to it... After I completed a first edit, I knew it needed more....

ANN: So the full preview took you a bit more than a month, right?

TW: Exactly... It was just under five weeks in the end...

TW: I finished it on September 4th

ANN: You did all the Animation on your own?

TW: Yes.. I did everything on my personal computer... Not only the actual animation, but the compositing and background painting etc.

ANN: And the voices?

TW: I did all the voices as well...

TW: I had to write some of the script in Japanese even though that ability is failing me as I never use it anymore...

ANN: Wow. So this piece of work is 100% produced and developed by you.

TW: It is truly a one man show....

ANN: It took you 5 weeks, 23 hours a day?

TW: No actually it was nights and weekends... I was also working on a video game project as well.... I usually tried to get in 6 to 8 hours a day on week nights and then ALL DAY on weekends...

ANN: About 70 hours a week or so then?

TW: Yes... sometimes bit more as I got little sleep during this project

ANN: You said earlier that it was done on your PC, and I've seen a few references to the software you used.

TW: The software was a big part in making this project possible... It almost seems as though it was developed specifically for this!

ANN: What software?

TW: The main pieces of software are Lightwave 3D 6.0 for 3D graphics and animation and Aura for 2D paint and animation... Both are form NewTek... I also used Adobe Premiere for the edit and Sound Forge Xp for the audio recording and some processing... For the music I used Cakewalk Express Gold....

ANN: What kind of computer did you make this on?

TW: The computer was a Sony Vaio 538DS Digital Studio which is made for doing DV (the original version of the movie is produced in Anamorphic (for widescreen TV) digital video) It is a Pentium 550 with 256MB RAM... I replaced the stock video card with a TNT2Ultra.... I use a Sony TRV9 digital camera as a recording dec for the video version.....

ANN: Not a bargain basement computer by any means, but not a Sun Sparc Either, affordable if somewhat expensive.

TW: What surprised me was it was less than 2000 when I got it in November last year... now it must be dirt cheap...

ANN: And how much does the software cost?

TW: For The main pieces I'd day about $3000... Some of this software is bundled either with the computer or the sound card etc.. They also include coupons for really cheap upgrades to full versions of the software... (like $199 to upgrade to full version of Premiere from the LE)

ANN: Wow, so this is something that anyone (well, anyone with the SKILL) could make for under $10k. No need for a big studio or huge financial baking (Waterworld cost $300 million I think?)

TW: Exactly... that is what I like about this... No million dollar budget or major studio behind it... for about $10K it can be had by almost anyone..... And it actually goes beyond that where this kind of thing can really go!

ANN: Where?

TW: Well, I recently sat in an actual movie theatre and saw on the big screen a film produced with the same type of DV based equipment as was used for Chaos... and this is on the BIG SCREEN in a major theatre chain!

ANN: What was the film you saw?

TW: The film was "Original Kings of Comedy" and it was all shot on Sony VX1000 cameras (which cost about $3K) and edited on a computer like mine... Then it was transferred to 35mm film for showing in major theatres... The quality was amazing... It's not fifth element by any means, but it shows that you can make a real movie with this equipment and I bet no one in that audience suspected it was done any different or cheaper than any other movie...

TW: What's cool is major Hollywood directors are giving a more serious look to DV for making real movies... SO why not anime? In animation, I have much more control over the image that goes into DV and can make it look better than something shot with the best DV cameras...

ANN: What about DLP instead of transferring to 35mm?

TW: That depends on the speed at which this method takes over theatres... I agree with most indie filmmakers that there really is no need for film in what we do anymore... Even at the final step of projection... but it remains to be seen how widespread digital projection will be and how fast it will infiltrate theatres... I have seen my work projected on "home" digital projection systems and I definitely think DV can hold its own on the big screen...

ANN: What's next (for you/Studio ArtFX)?

TW: Well right now I am sort of riding the wave created by Chaos... Though I'd like to see where it goes, I already am forming the ideas for a next project... Affected by what I saw in that theatre, knowing that the equipment I have can make something for the BIG SCREEN has me ready to jump ahead already....

TW: More than likely though I will move toward doing an OVA project.. In the vein of films like Kite, Judge or Tokyo Babylon, I am thinking of creating something in the realm of a 45 or so minute, self contained film....

TW: The next project will probably build slowly on the site like Blood, can't wait to see that and Jin Roh.

ANN: They're both great films but Jin Roh is better over all (IMHO)

TW: I actually got some emails from Production I.G staff about Chaos... They like it over there...

ANN: Was it Maki Terashima of IG USA? I believe she is the only person at IG who speaks English very well.

TW: No, it was Kazunori Suga, he wrote "I am fun in your anime"

ANN: Lol. That is really good news for you.

TW: Yes, definitely...

ANN: Understanding Chaos is a preview though, right? There will be more?

TW: Correct... Chaos is a "prelude to a feature film"... but that means a true feature, that hopefully can find its way to project in some medium... I had however considered the possibility of breaking Chaos into a 3 or 4 part OVA series which completes the movie (similar to what was done with Macross Plus or Blue Submarine No. 6)

ANN: What do you think of Blue Submarine, particularly their use of 3d graphics and 2d graphics?

TW: It was hard to get into at first... I think by the second episode, though, they got into a groove and really blended it better... From that point I liked it... I honestly think it came across much better than Titan A.E. which never gave the illusion of blending the two....

ANN: Hmm, I think that's about it. What do you think, any questions you would ask if you were interviewing Terrence Walker?

TW: Well I think the music was a big aspect of the film... I actually didn't even know if I could DO something like that. I has studied music in grade school for a bit and then been away from it for years. I do however listen to soundtracks all the time and am really into the music in recent film and anime (particularly Rurouni Kenshin Memoirs which has an incredible soundtrack)

TW: So I went all out on the music side of things to make it feel like a real movie....

ANN: I must admit that I often miss the music in a film. I guess in a way that's the idea though, right? That it affect the subconscious mood?

TW: Sometimes it happens.. but when it's strong like in Kenshin Memoirs it really grabs you... it helps the emotion a lot...

TW: Exactly... the music is definitely an addition,.. but the best music can also be listened to on its on and bring back those emotions...

ANN: Are you a fan of Hong Kong Cinema? Jown Woo / Chow Yun Fat films in particular? I have the movie runnign right now and something looks.... familiar :-)

TW: I am a HUGE fan of Hong Kong action cinema in general especially the films of John Woo and Tsui Hark....

ANN: Well, Terrence, I really appreciate the time you took to talk to Anime News Network.

TW: Thank you... I appreciate the chance to tell viewers about it.

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