21 years of change
21 years! We’ve seen it all and the industry is advancing more and more by the day. Founders Ian Liddell, Jon Liddell and Andrew Jones give their take on the biggest changes they have seen over the past two decades.
The biggest change the industry has seen over the past 21 years has undoubtedly been the huge leaps made in technology. Back in 1996, it was almost inconceivable to think that a computer could replicate what we were producing as commercial artists.
We’re talking about highly talented artists, who had spent hour upon hour perfecting their craft, striving to become the absolute best in the business. It was a talent that required artistic ability and an understanding of fundamental colour, light and shade.
Yet times were changing fast- and for the company to grow we had to embrace, rather than resist, modern developments so we put a lot of time, energy and hard earned money into an early Apple Mac ‘Quadra’ computer and began the steep learning curve.
We finally created a viable pipeline and one job was all it took to convince us that just maybe, computers were going to be a game changer. We were very excited to discover that in our hands, with our knowledge, the high quality results we were looking for were definitely achievable.
The team became self-taught in 3D software and started to use it alongside traditional artwork. There was of course some initial resistance from both clients and artists and the late nineties were a strange time, with a constant battle between both techniques, as the industry as a whole had to get to grips with a completely revolutionary way of working.
Studio Liddell http://www.studioliddell.com/aboutus/never looked back. A whole host of new work opportunities became open to us and in 2002 we were able to consider animating using 3D artwork on an Apple Mac. Our first ‘broadcast’ break came with Chapman Entertainment’s series Roary the Racing Car in 2008 where we partnered CHF on the production of 104 episodes and the rest, as they say, is history.
Although there have been huge changes in the way we produce the material which comes out of the studio, there is one thing that has remained constant over the past 21 years - the desire to create great imagery, be it still or moving.
In 1996 we had one way to produce the images - with paint and pencils. It was a completely different era, yet the goal was always to create vibrant, original work for clients, honing our skills as each different challenge presented itself with a new brief and deadline. Great fun but not without its pitfalls with airbrushes jamming, paints drying in the studio heat and missing a red star train to send the almost dry artwork off.
The arrival of 3D programs, Photoshop and Wacom tablets changed everything and signified a new and exciting age, allowing us to transfer our hard learned skills into pixels. Although it was often a difficult transition, being able to have everything on one screen, change lighting at will, move angles at the click of a button, change colours and undo mistakes, was a breath of fresh air.
Computers thankfully have become more powerful and software infinitely more sophisticated, heralding the era we have today with the vast array of digital platforms utilising stills, animation, VR, AR etc. The whole industry is now online, the website is your ‘shop window’. The world has become a smaller yet more expanded market place, allowing us to work with clients literally anywhere in the world.
Over recent years, we’ve noticed a huge change in the artists that are coming through the studio since our inception. Graduates today have a totally different skill set, which is inevitable with the advent of modern technology. This is often really positive, but it can bring it’s downsides.
Readily available software and programmes where anyone can have a bash has inevitably lead to a stream of self-taught “experts”.
We’re not knocking the determination to learn – far from it.
But what we often find is that means that there is something lacking, generated from the belief that the software alone can do the job. You can have the best PC skills in the world but this doesn’t make you an artist. What is key in this game is to have the creative vision to put your own personality into your work, while realising a client’s brief and to deadline.
Students turn up to see us with amazing portfolios of highly creative work, but we’re finding that they often don’t have the grounding and direction they need- they are simply not being taught to draw. No one is telling them to think about the composition, the lighting and the planning of a job - so when they are thrust into the world of work, it’s tough for them.
That said, there will always be truly talented artists who stand out head and shoulders above the rest – and when we see them, we snap them up. Someone with natural flair along with the ability to work within a pipeline and get on with the team is a winning combination and so we make sure that Studio Liddell is a fantastic place to work so we hold on to these rare gems.
The world is an entirely different place to where we were 21 years ago.
Everything is faster. Quicker. Instant.
NOW THIS MINUTE.
Society as a whole has become more demanding with huge expectations for instant gratification. We can talk face to face with anyone, anywhere at any time. We can go into a shop and if they don’t have the trainers we want in stock, order them in store and have them delivered before we get home.
Things are getting bigger and better all the time, the bar has been raised to dizzy heights and it’s more prevalent in our industry than any other. The difference in how storytelling was used 21 years ago to how it is used now is phenomenal and how it is consumed across all platforms is changing almost daily.
Our Attractions division is booming and we’re being contacted more and more by museums, theme parks and Virtual Reality http://www.studioliddell.com/vrar/arcades across the world, eager to satisfy their customers thirst for an instant thrill. Our 4D Rides, 3D Films and Immersive 360º Experiences allow people to actually become part of the story, where they would once have been a simple onlooker.
As VR and AR becomes more mainstream, our New Technology Team has grown to create a whole host ofapps, touchscreen installations, Augmented and Virtual Reality projects. Why simply tell schoolchildren about dinosaurs, when they can actually become part of their world and walk amongst them? 21 years ago we dreamed of such progress and it is fascinating to see it become a (virtual) reality.
This demand even filters down to pre-school children and we’ve have designed and developed apps for some of the most popular children’s TV brands over the last five years including Cloudbabies, Roary The Racing Car , Little Charley Bear and Poppy Cat.
The concept of having to wait until tomorrow, like we all had to, is completely lost on today’s generation.
We’re working in exciting times where we’ve barely scratched the surface and at Studio Liddell we have a world class team constantly at work on the next big thing.
Yet it’s crucial to remember one thing – this brave new world of art and technology is essentially aiding us to achieve what we set out to do 21 years ago. Beautiful, engaging story telling which gets right to the heart of the matter.
Some things never change.