After Effects Artist at HMX Media

Sony Alpha Camera

Render of Sony Alpha Camera

I’m afraid that I can’t tell you that I got this job by making a killer showreel or constantly calling the company – this was a simple case of “who you know”. One of my oldest friends was already working at HMX Media when they started to look for an After Effects artist. He knew I was looking for a job in London so he called me and asked me to send a copy of my CV. It just so happened that I was going to be in London the next day for another interview so I arranged to meet his boss the next day. We had a coffee and a chat and I showed him my reel. He must have liked it because the next day he called me and offered me a job.

HMX Media were growing fast when I joined them. They had started by creating low resolution 3D models that were published into a Java applet and embedded into websites. Their clients included Sony, Nikon, Adidas and Nokia. These real-time interactives were great to start with but as internet bandwidth increased, clients started to want photo real renditions of their products.

To achieve this, HMX started building these product tours in Flash using pre-rendered animations. They also started to produce fully animated promotional HD videos that were often used on websites, in stores or at trade shows. They had plenty of 3D artists and needed me as a 2D guy to help composite these photo real renders and add motion graphics.

When I started at HMX I still felt that I should learn more 3D skills and that one day I would be able to model, texture, animate and render. I quickly realised that the 3D world was highly segmented. The guy who sat next to me had been working with Maya for years and only did texturing and lighting. There was a freelancer who only animated. This also made me see that I actually knew a lot of stuff about video and graphics that the 3D guys didn’t know. I decided then that I should concentrate on 2D work.

This didn’t mean I didn’t learn a lot about 3D. I learned about the principles behind it all and the workflow. I also learned what I could ask for from the 3D guys, and what I would be better off doing in After Effects.

HMX didn’t do many multi-pass renders. I was usually given a beauty render and then mattes for each area that I might need to adjust. Most of our work was completely CG so we didn’t have to worry about matching the renders to a live action plate, we just had to make them look good. Towards the end of my time there, we did invest in an edit suite and started shooting more live action material to use. One of the best projects I worked on did involve compositing a CG dancing Walkman into live action plates. We did render multiple passes of the product and this was the first time I ever did a CG composite with live action footage.

After a while, the work for the Flash mini sites became quite repetitive. The higher profile video projects were much more satisfying to work on but never seemed to have enough time or resources dedicated to them. Unrealistic deadlines were agreed with the clients and, in my opinion, there wasn’t enough investment in the technology that we had to use, or in any training for staff.

For the first few big projects I kind of enjoyed a few late nights with beer and takeaways in the office but when it started becoming a regular occurrence it lost its appeal. The worst case was when I worked 36 hours straight and my girlfriend had to bring clean clothes to the office. The management didn’t appear to be doing anything to prevent it and seemed to be relying on the good grace of the staff to stay late to get things finished. I know this happens in all media companies but it felt like this was deliberately taken into account at HMX. I had worked late nights before HMX and I have done since and on all other occasions I at least felt like it was appreciated by the management.

I was getting bitter with the company, which was a shame as I really got on well with the other artists that I worked with. I felt like I needed to move up another level. I had also had enough with marketing for a while. I started to look for work all around Soho but everything needed more experience than I felt I had. That’s when I started to consider Escape studios. I needed to get out of my job, and I was willing to pay the huge fees for Escape for the chance.

I don’t regret my time HMX Media and I learned a lot there, both technically and professionally. I was a much better compositor and I knew a lot more about 3D by the end of my time there. I also learned the importance of managing my work-life balance. Up until HMX I had been an enthusiastic young new artist who had been prepared to work whatever hours it took to get the work done but HMX made me realise that it there was a time and a place for it.

Click there to see some of the work I did at HMX, along with some shots I worked on at Escape.