VFX and TurboSquid go hand-in-hand. One of our favorite games to play at TurboSquid is Spot that Asset, where we try to find models by TurboSquid artists on television and in major motion pictures. While the TurboSquid market is great for large production studios, it’s also an accessible tool for smaller projects as well.
This month, we chatted with VFX microfilm creator, Jon Finger, about creating action and suspense Youtube films with the help of TurboSquid, select software products, and just a few cast/crew members, and about the VFX revolution on the horizon.
TurboSquid: How did you get started in VFX? Where would you like to end up?
Jon Finger: I grew up in a creatively driven family that didn’t watch TV, except for the occasional video rental. I’ve always enjoyed building, experimenting, and playing with technology. At first, making videos and editing with old VCRs was just another fun experiment. It wasn’t until I played Starcraft: Brood War and saw the trench cut-scene that I first got serious and thought, “I want to do that.”
After many years of working in advertising, games media, traditional media, and a Netflix show development deal, I’ve found that Youtube allows me to execute and experiment in a way that is exciting and fulfilling. My ultimate end goal is a sustainable life of creative freedom and growth.
TS: Tell us about your setup. What kind of equipment are you working with? Do you work with a team?
JF: The technologies I focus on are the ones that will bring to life the worlds in my head on a micro budget. I work with Maxon Cinema 4D as my main tool and I am now lucky enough to be sponsored by them. I played with several 3D tools when I started out but Maxon Cinema 4D is the package that has allowed me to be creative in the most easy and organic way. I’ve had the opportunity to use Xsens suits a few times for motion capture and I love the freedom gyro-based capture suits provide. Rokoko has recently become one of my sponsors so I’m excited at the prospect of owning a suit and easily incorporating motion capture in all my projects. I’ve also started working with Reallusion and their animation tech is blowing me away. I tend to do most of my projects with minimal crew simply because thin budgets and scheduling can really slow down a project. There are certainly sacrifices in doing this and I look forward to when money and time allow me to bring in collaborators more often.
My most consistent collaborators recently are Joey Fameli (DP/Talent), Elyse Willems (Talent), and Tamara Bruketta (Talent). The people that have done motion capture for me are Tim Neff, Tamara Bruketta, Kristy Hudson, Justin Yngelmo, Travis Bristow, and AJ Locascio (pictured below).
TS: What’s your starting point for a new project? What’s the end goal?
JF: I’m constantly collecting inspirations from everywhere. I write down social concepts that intrigue me, 3D assets (many times from TurboSquid), concept art or costumes I find on Pinterest and Instagram, tech or experiments I’m excited to try, or even video game moments I experience. It’s not any one of these things that sparks a project, I mix and match things that seem to go together in different ways until my curiosity is too great to not follow the path I’ve created.
The goal is always to try something new. It’s a very rewarding way to work because I can look back at any of my shorts and find at least two big things I learned, usually at least one technical, and one based on the reactions the piece produces.
TS: Do you set timelines for yourself? What does your workflow look like?
JF: I do set timelines, usually a month or two depending on how much rendering I expect. All my previous projects have been on a 6-year-old Mac, so my recent upgrade to a modern PC will certainly change the speed of a project.
TS: When do you start searching for 3D assets?
JF: I have a pretty intense running knowledge of the TurboSquid site. I check at least once a week to see what new .fbx or .c4d files have been uploaded. I also have lots of world-building folders and private Pinterest boards that include 3D models from all over the web. Assets, both digital and practical, are the building blocks of the worlds I make, so they are one of the first considerations and I stay up-to-date on what’s available.
TS: Are there any constants or key elements you try to portray in your stories? Universe connections, running themes, etc.?
JF: It’s not a constant but in most of my pieces the main character isn’t a hero, just a person doing a thing in a very powerful way, often dying or failing, maybe in the wrong to begin with. I love Sci-fi and Fantasy, and call myself an escapist, but what’s most interesting to me in reality is that there’s almost never a beautiful bow on top of anything like you see in movies. Most things you do will not go the way you think. When you believe you have all the info, you likely have less than half. How reality unfolds is often not what you expected and everyone is working from different data and emotional influences that can seem illogical or even crazy to others. This chaos is fascinating to me.
TS: We have a lot of readers who are aspiring CG and VFX artists. What would you consider the most important skills for someone looking to break into your field to refine?
JF: I don’t take a lot of traditional VFX jobs, but here is my perspective:
Learn to make and post your own content consistently. You will expand your skills, and in the process advertise yourself to get VFX gigs. You’ll gain diversified experience and finance your personal growth. VFX is the lifeblood of mega blockbusters but what you can do at home is getting better and more approachable all the time. When the breaking point comes that one guy with AI supported effects software can compete with blockbusters, it will be the creatives that understand all creative aspects of moving images including how to connect to an audience that will be in the best position.
Thanks for that awesome insight, Jon! If you’re a TurboSquid customer who is interested in being featured in our customer spotlight series, you can reach our team by emailing me, the team’s Brand Engagement Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jon Finger is an independent filmmaker driven by world building and advances in cinematic tools. He has worked in both traditional and new media for the last ten years and is now focused on creative endeavors through sponsorship on digital platforms. Connect with him on Youtube, Instagram, and Pinterest.