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Sophos – Cyber Security

Boy, those viruses, huh? They’re everywhere, trying to wreck our lives. Luckily Sophos is there to scan and sweep them away. From our computers, at least.

Creepy virus stalking the digital shadows

This was a fun, quick job that needed a very specific tone in order to convey the sense of dystopian angst- the directors sent references that were very film noir, very old school sci-fi, and it was pretty inspiring. What resulted was I think a very effective hybrid of modern tech and monolithic awe.

This was also a great fit for a new set of brushes I’d developed recently, it’s a more square and hard-edged feel, as opposed to my more fantastic and cozy style. It fit really well and made things a little easier on my execution. This was a 3-day job. Take a look!

What are we looking at? We zoom in from overhead and find ourselves in a massive stark technological landscape. Things are orderly and calm- until a creepy little bug/virus finds a weak spot and weasels in. He quickly grows and seeks to evade the AI sensors, but is soon detected. The AI deploys countermeasures to destroy the virus. But immediately, from the dead husk of the virus, a new bug evolves and emerges, rapidly multiplying even faster than before. A new swarm of bugs converges on the AI and the battle is joined in an explosive burst of light… the eternal struggle between good and evil continues.

I had a lot of fun with this. Thanks for checking it out! -Max

Career Family Horror Kids Medicine Money Personal War

Business is Personal

It’s been nearly two years since I’ve updated this blog, and it’s been a hell of a ride; and continues to be so, as there’s currently the COVID-19 pandemic getting some serious traction in LA (and thus the entertainment industry), forcing some major (hopefully temporary) shifts in what constitutes business as usual for myself and others.

But it’s not like I’m unaccustomed to adapting to adversity. Sometimes shit happens and you have to go with a different strategy. That’s survival. This post is about how my career and life were nearly derailed by a worst-case absolute nightmare scenario, and will delve deep into my personal life.

Shortly after my last post in June 2018, my daughter, Kiki, who was just 14 months old at the time, was diagnosed with Stage 4 High-Risk Neuroblastoma (Nb). This is a rare-upon-rare cancer, and there’s only 700 cases of Nb in the US every year. The Stage 4 designation is a 50/50 prognosis, which is very grim, and came as an absolute shock to be revealed by ultrasound in our seemingly perfectly healthy daughter.

Shortly after diagnosis

Neuroblastoma is a cancer of immature nerve cells. It’s almost exclusively pediatric and originates on the adrenal glands in most cases. It’s also one of the most aggressive cancers out there, and combating it requires equally aggressive countermeasures: an 18-month continuous gauntlet of chemo (6 cycles), surgery, two (2) stem-cell transplants with high-dose chemo, 18 rounds of radiation, and 6 months of immunotherapy. Obviously, my heart, my mind, my soul sank after hearing everything my precious baby would have to be put through in order to try and save her.

After essentially signing my daughter’s life away on countless medical releases and watching her become a human pincushion, something happened that I couldn’t have anticipated. All my mental constructs of what was right and wrong, what mattered and what didn’t, and my personal sense of self were destroyed. No pride, no walls, no ego anymore. I was defeated. And it was liberating. With nothing left of myself to hold onto, or defend, I became inexplicably empowered, to do anything and everything necessary to save my family. Success or failure, no one who knew my situation could judge me, turn a deaf ear, tell me no, or limit my resolve, including myself. As my wife focused on our daughter, I made sure I was focused on my wife, and then by extension, I reached out to literally everyone I knew, and asked them to help support ME, and to further spread the word if possible. Thus we swiftly had a giant pyramid of support rallied to our cause, with work colleagues, friends of friends, extended family at the bottom, and close friends in the middle, immediate family near the top, and my daughter at the pinnacle.

I had to make some big career moves. I needed all the help I could get. I incorporated, which meant opening up my work and personal finances to professional CPAs, something I’d been anxious about for a while. I joined the union, so I’m now a card-carrying member of the Art Directors Guild Local 800, something I’d never thought I’d bother with, but now I can work on union projects and access those benefits, most crucially the healthcare. There was no guarantee for my wife to continue with her work’s health benefits, so I had to make sure I could cover us, should the worst happen. It was all so daunting, and mind you, while I’m literally running around LA going to jobs, working my ass off, wading through traffic and making calls, spending 3-4 hours a day in the hospital visiting my suffering family, and then crashing into bed, utterly alone, in my clothes, lights still on, for maybe 3 hours of sleep, back up at 5 am to race to the hospital and help any way I can before work, and repeat. For 18 months. It was hard. I was hard focusing on work and providing for my family while my daughter was being poisoned by chemo, blasted by radiation, recovering from surgery, nearly dying twice, and whimpering through the pain of immunotherapy for so long. It was the hardest thing I hope I ever have to endure.

Work/Life balance
Lots of Facetiming from onsite jobs when she was in the hospital

But it wasn’t all bad. I saw the “good” in humanity every day, with people reaching out endlessly to voice their support, sending prayers and good vibes and helping prop us up wherever things seemed to falter. I owe a lot to the kindness of strangers. I did a lot of growing, getting to know the real me, and learning how to be human, specifically, how to be more empathic with people. I realized that everyone is going through something, and we’ve all had to persevere through hard times, and have had to rely on others for help. I used to think it was best to hide whatever problems I had in my life, because showing weakness would result in others viewing me as a liability, but it turned out that sharing our weaknesses with others is an important part of social bonding, and by opening up to my clients and colleagues, I bonded to them in a way that made my work and personal life far more meaningful than it ever had before. It’s completely changed the way I approach my work relationships now. And it was GOOD for business. I actually had my best year ever, amazingly, and though it required me to leverage every ounce of social and work credit we had, we got through this dark period intact.

March 2020

As of February 2020, My daughter Kiki is nearly 3, and nearly 6 months out of treatment. We don’t use terms like “cured” yet, it’s just too soon to know. But her oncologist is pleased so far, and we are slowly but surely phasing her into as normal a life as we can manage, enrolling her in dance classes and preschool, and still taking it one day at a time. We’ve recently additionally been blessed with the birth of our new son Robbie, a treasure and hope for new beginnings.

So far, 2020 is off to a rocky start, but not just for us, but for the whole world it seems. Fear of COVID-19 is spreading faster and farther than the disease itself, like a cancer, if you will, causing widespread severe repercussions in every industry, and time will tell how this will shake out. I hope that sharing my story might provide some inspiration to those reading, to find inner resilience, and courage to reach out for support when needed, and strength to adapt and change and grow accordingly to the needs of what may come next.

If my story had you compelled, oh man, this is just the index card version. Our entire saga played out publicly with regular updates on social media via gofundme, facebook, and Instagram. If you would like learn more about that incredible journey, I encourage you to visit our gofundme page (no obligation to donate) for the complete story, and certainly connect on facebook as well, where I like to post about my personal life and interact with our friends and supporters. My Instagram is more art-oriented, but a good third option if that’s your preference in social media.

I wish you and your loved ones well. Stay healthy as best you can.

Next up, more blog posts about storyboards.

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Lineage: Red Knights! Storyboards

A couple years ago, I had a great time working on a series of spots for a very popular (in Korea) game called Lineage.  The anthem spot was about a minute long and had lots of action and fun characters, and it’s the subject of this post.

The story goes- we find our hero protagonist “Bugbear” in the middle of a battlefield, who breaks the 4th Wall and calls out to us, the viewer, to witness he and his compatriots, with their powers combined, topple the evil Death Knight!  Though victory may be short lived- that’s the law of the land around these parts.  Witness!

And, here’s the final spot!

This spot had it all- fun characters, action, humor, sex appeal.  I love the sense of escalation, and the the way the final product came out is just really awesome- you can really see the quality in the craftsmanship of the animators and designers.  Such a great team!  Here’s some cool detail shots before you go:

Thanks, catch you next time!

-Max

 

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“War Planet” Storyboards

Hi!  So here’s a fun one, if, I guess, you think war and conquest is fun… just kidding, of course you do!  What could be more fun then kicking your friends’ butts in online multiplayer combat via iOS or Android device? NOTHING #LOL

But seriously, I LOVE DRAWING WAR, something about it just flows out of me, even easier than all the other stuff that I enjoy drawing.  It’s just FUN drawing stuff blowing up!

The spots for this project kind of distilled down from 4 spots, to 2, to 1, so there’s some splicing and melding going on in some of these boards I’m about to show- but it’s helpful (I’m sure) to see how this kind of thing can happen!  In these modern advertising times, client needs and specs have to pivot on a dime! New apps/smartphones are released every day and that’s your ENEMY out there! That’s WAR for you!

My favorite part of this project, aside from the ‘realistic’ treatment of the weaponry and setting- was the emphasis put on the various commanders as CHARACTERS – which always inspires as being a board artist forces you to become part ACTOR as well as ARTIST.  Enough said, let me know what you think of my ‘performance.’

And another ‘take’:

Not bad eh?  Well, you’ll see in the video to follow: They’ve pivoted among other things, the TITLE of this project!  So now we are WAR PLANET.  Good to know! Hey, first thing’s first, right?

I think it turned out great! I’d play, but it wouldn’t be fair to everyone else, you know?  Hey, I’m just being honest.  See you next time!

 

2:00 Action Animation B&W Females Males Pitch Boards Shoot Boards Software Storyboarding Vehicles VFX Video Games War

Xbox “Scorpio” Debut Trailer

Earlier this year I had a blast working with the good people at BLIND on their amazing project:  The Xbox “Scorpio” debut trailer.  This officially introduced the world to the Xbox One X, and it’s always an honor to be included on such high-profile assignments.  I’ve generously been given permission to show some of the storyboards I created for them- I think this is some of my best work!

Here’s a slideshow:

And here’s a link to the final video!

Thanks for checking in!

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“Asphalt Xtreme” Storyboards

17

 

Woohoo!  Here’s another fun project from earlier this year that I’m very proud to show- fun video game racing action! The “Asphalt” Series is well known in gaming circles as a premium racing product and I was very excited to be involved with my clients at PSYOP for their pitch and production of this great spot.

Conceptually, it’s very simple:  Showcase the main themes of the game series: Racing, Mayhem, and Variety.  Variety of cars, and variety environments.  Hate to say it, but this was kind of an easy one for me… A commercial like this has no room for subtlety, so it’s just a matter of attempting to give equal weight to the important elements (variety of cars and environments) and balance that with a ramping of the action to an ultimate climax, all within 30 seconds!!  EXTREME!!!

 

14

It’s crunch time!

 

This project had two parts- the pitch and the production.  For the pitch (in which we try to “win” the job), we kind of had a looser goal- wow the client with, well, creative compositions to showcase the action and variety.  Promise them the moon and see if we can deliver. There were all kinds of different ideas being tossed about- mostly the idea was to bring a realistic visualization of the gameplay to the screen.  Also on the job were some very talented 3d and concept artists, and we all pitched in to contributed pieces of the final puzzle.  The pitch was won on the merits of this collaboration- some of which I’ll share with you below (they didn’t make the final cut, but helped advance the job along, and look cool, besides!).

 

a

I liked the idea of a rally car using a hidden rope bridge to find a shortcut to get ahead of the main pack! Many video games have hidden passageways, and this was in that spirit.

 

b

As above, so below; an early concept of the dune buggy jump- it was an earlier understanding that these cars would “find” the best route forward based on their natural abilities.

 

c

I really liked the sense of speed in this early frame- many of which were drawn based on other artist’s tight compositions.

 

d

Among the natural environments, we assumed there would be a mandate to have more urban or industrial environments as well, but not so much in the final edit. Nevertheless, we had prepared works in the case of that possibility. Here, the racers surge towards an active loading dock area.

 

e

Again, we see the variety of cars and car abilities in their approach to surmounting the dynamic racing obstacles before them.

 

f

Seeking to really emphasize the sense of racing through rally courses worldwide, we seized upon opportunities to utilize highly recognizable landmarks and locations.

 

g

Concept for a “desert” title composition.

 

h

Another alternate concept for a “Jungle” title composition.

 

It was a great team effort, and we won the job.  Now comes the hard part- execution.  They had me back to refine some concepts and nail transitions into something that hit all the marks.  You ready for the boards?  Here you go!

 

And here’s the final spot!

What a wild ride!  Soo….. Sometimes I have a massive amount of input on a job, and I feel like I get to pick all the shots, and control the pacing, and the visual storytelling (remember, for many jobs, and certainly in this case, I’m not even given a script or shotlist).  BUT in this case, much of the concepting was done by talented 2d and 3d artists working concurrently- and so about the only idea I want to point out that I specifically contributed was the opening transition where the camera appears to be POV from the view of the bumper, but pulls out to be the POV looking into the reflection of the bumper.  As far as I know, I “invented” that, at least in this kind of car/racing/bumper context.  The thing about that kind of camera move is, it’s something you can only pull off in CG, so you’d never see that in classic cinema- since you’d have to magically “erase” the reflection of the cameraman.  So, there you go, I did something cool.  But even so, just as much if not more credit goes to the director and the CG artists for actually pulling it off and making it look amazing- you never know with uncharted territory, but that’s life… TO THE XTREME!!!!

Thanks for reading, see you next time!

-Max

 

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