Lately, we’ve seen a lot of junk on TV and in the movies which are targeted toward children. I’m not talking about movies like Deadpool and Logan – THOSE ARE NOT KID’S MOVIES. They aren’t supposed to be nice. I’m talking about rated PG and G movies, animated, cute-looking, seems nice on the surface movies that turn out to be horrible. There’s a whole bunch of “please never do this in real life” kind of nonsense that, after a while, is just exhausting. From YouTube gameplay that you THINK will be appropriate for children only to find out it’s a bunch of fart jokes and bad attitude that NO ONE wants their kid repeating (I’m looking at you, FGTV), to crap that is down right terrible and doesn’t even attempt to hide it, (reference: “The Day My Butt Went Psycho”) the stupid is literally everywhere.
It’s surrounding our children 24/7 like a giant, jungle snake with hypnotic eyes lulling our children with the soft words, “trust in me”. If you don’t have time to sit there and watch these shows with your kids to filter, chances are the bad behavior they get in trouble for is coming from these shows. It can get incredibly frustrating for parents and I tell ya, the world of media certainly doesn’t make it easy. Before you know it, you’ve turned into your parents – shielding the kid’s eyes and muting scenes in movies that were supposed to be for kids!
This will be the first of many, so I hope you enjoy meeting some of my friends, acquaintances and heroes.
First up, is Josh LaBrot. Josh is a new friend of mine. We met actually a few weeks ago through another friend of mine Jack Geckler–you’ll read more about him soon enough. They both now work at Dreamworks but have a long history in the game industry. Another cool factor, is that Josh is one of 5 industry vets who host a weekly podcast for Nerdtastic in 3D.
I asked him a few questions that he was kind of to answer.
How did you get started in the game industry?
JOSH: I moved to northern CA to go to school for music engineering. Once up there I realized I didn’t want to pay for school so I saw a job posting online saying “Do you like sports? do you like video games? We are looking for testers” I sent in my resume and I was called in. When I arrived at the studio and started my interview I could see they were really excited to see what I had to say when they asked about my background. I told them I was a personal trainer and an athlete and I grew up with games. I told them my favorite sports games and tried to sound very excited. They then looked down at my resume and asked me to talk about my time at EA (Electronic Arts) I told them I never worked there and then got a confused look on their face…. they said are you not Josh “Smith”….. I said, “No, I am Josh LaBrot.”
I thought that to myself OH CRAP these guys asked me to come in by mistake and wanted this other Josh to come in. I thought my interview was over. They went in the back room and found my resume and we continued the interview. I felt terrible and figured I was just plow through and finish out the interview. I really wanted to job and so I called the head of QA at the time and left a message on his phone saying sorry for the confusion and that if they hired me they would not be sorry. A week and a half later I got a call with a job offer for Sega games/visual concepts 2K sports series tester. That was my start of my game and entertainment industry career. I stayed with them for 2 and a half years total…. 8 months as a tester and then moved into the motion capture department, first as a Mo-Cap actor for the NFL and NBA and NHL games… then after showing interest in what they were doing behind the computer with my motions I asked if they ever needed help and that I would like to give it a try. They took a chance and so I taught myself how to motion edit motion capture data which then lead me to teaching myself key frame animation. that was my start 🙂
Tell me some of the games you worked on and did that enhance your passion for gaming or was it disenchanting?
JOSH: Working as a [game] tester you play the same game over and over and over and over and over, for hours and hours every single day. You write your bug reports and the programmers make the changes and hand you a new build of the game and you start the process all over. Let me tell you It does take a certain type of creative person to really try to find all the bugs in the game. I worked on all of the sports titles (MLB,NBA,NFL,NHL,NCAA) from 2003-2006 titles. I can’t tell you that one game made or shattered my gaming passion. BUT, I can tell you that the people I worked with did enhance my passion. Being an outsider and not knowing the full extent to what does go into making a game you can’t truly appreciate it. During our break time we would all play other video games (go figure). While we were playing these games everyone would be talking about what is good and bad about it.. the problems and successes of it. I had never looked at games in this way. I had only looked at them as fun or not fun. I took this experience and started looking at games in a new light and it has enhanced my passion for gaming cause I can now look at game and know what the developer was trying to go for and what they wanted me to feel… NOW it might not always be a grand slam game, but I can now give games that I didn’t like before a chance and really enjoy ones I never would have before cause I understand what it took to make them.
What is the difference between animating for movies vs. games?
JOSH: Now a days I would say not a lot. There is a stigma out there that movie animators are better than game ones…. Meaning if you worked on a movie you can make the leap into games easy, but going from games to movies it MUCH harder. Personally if you are good you are good no matter what you work on. (movies or games) in the past I would have agreed with the stereotype, but now I don’t. Games have come so far from the 8-bit days. With advancement in rendering and graphics big budget games are more expensive then some movies. if you spend that much money, you better believe that your product is very polished. Animating a cut scene in a game or animating a trailer is very, very much the same as a movie. The times constraint of games does make it tougher though to get everything out with 100% top notch animation. You can see where they got into the OK, OK, OK its looks go enough crunch time phase. it happens at every studio…. but working for a movie studio that makes their own movies like Dreamworks and Pixar they spend the time to make sure there animation is amazing. Pixar requires I think just 1.5 feet of film to be done a week.. that is 1 second of film! that means in one week they just one 1 second of your animation to look done. 1 second!!!!! Now that is taking your time to make it look right.
What about games excites you?
JOSH: I get excited to just be able to lose myself and enjoy a fun story that may challenge me. But I would have to say that I think my main joy about games these days is being able to play with my friends. I love Xbox live. I have met some incredible people playing on there, but also as we all get older and we move away and have our own lives (not like the days of high school when your friends would come over for an all-nighter of gaming) but now we can still play late at night on our couch in our own homes with our headsets on and yell and make fun of each other. It is the reason I have still have kept in touch with so many of my friends.
Do you feel cinematics help the gaming experience?
JOSH: 100% …..with a good story and great camera and sound work…. a great cinematic can really make the story/game sore! Sadly sometimes they are the only good part of a game. There has to be a good balance. My hat goes off to places like Blizzard for taking the time to have some of the most amazing cinematics I have ever seen in a game… They make them tooooo good where you don’t even want to play the game you want a movie made out of what you just saw. they make you wanting more.
What is your favorite game and why?
JOSH: I say this game for nostalgic reasons, but it was a first person shooter PC game called Tribes. I had played multiplayer games before, but ones you played on your n64 (like Golden Eye) but never one like the size that Tribes had. It opened my eyes to a whole other world of games and gaming. I had so much fun being able to hack files and mod (modify) the game so that I can have custom skins on my characters and different voiceovers. All things you couldn’t do with a console games……. Now a days I am a console gamer more than PC but that game really opened my eyes and I had a BLAST with my friends playing it.
What is game do you hate and why?
JOSH: I would not say I hate a game… I have preferences on game types I like more than others. I use to play a lot of Final Fantasy and those role playing turn based games. but they are SOOOO long and take so much of your time that I just realized I didn’t have a decade to waste anymore. so I would say that games like WOW (World of Warcraft) are not my cup of tea anymore. And there are people that take that game to a whole new level of creepy and just want to live that life for real. That to me is when I start going ok there might be a bit of a problem here.
Tell me about Nerdtastic 3D?
JOSH: This was started with the premise of, what if you just put a mic in the middle of the table at lunch and just record the conversation with your friends who are funny and intelligent. The crew we have are 5 guys that have been in the industry a while and know what is going on in the industry and have opinions. Truthfully I just think of us as 5 jackass’s with mics 🙂
There is Jason Carter who is the Head of Stereo 3D for Disney Toon Studios. He is the one we looked to keep the show flowing at a good pace. He tends to pull us in if we start chatting away to far off topic or if a topic is dead. Then there is Sean Fennell. Sean is the Crowds Supervisor for Dreamworks Animation movie Rise of the Guardians, and crowds department chair for the studio as well. He is our smart tech guy but also a guy who does not like people and we love when he gets on a yelling rant on why something is stupid. But he is a great guy and good friend. Then we have Adam McFarlane, he is a producer on the US version of the show Top Gear and the youngest out of all of us.. And… He is Jason’s brother in law! He really is a funny guy and keeps the show light with his attitude and good knowledge about what’s hot in the auto world. Next we have Jack Geckler, Jack is the Lead Crowds artist for Dreamworks Animation movie Rise of the Guardians (Sean’s his boss!) Jack was the one (along with Jason ) who sat us down and pitched the podcast to us in the first place. He hooked us with the line, “it is just like having a mic on the table at lunch” we all looked at each other and said “Hell yeah!” Then you have me (Josh LaBrot) who is a Layout artist at Dreamworks Animation on the movie Turbo. The whole Nerdtastic crew as you can see is mixed with some pretty interesting backgrounds.
We all have been doing this a while now, and who have worked all over the industry at many movie and game studios and have met many great and interesting people that we have had on the show as guest. Such as the creators of the massive hit Where’s my Water, Joe and Mike. We have had an ex marine/security clearance style body guard for some of the world’s most elite. We recently just formed a small sponsorship with one of the newest and best craft brewery’s here in LA called Golden Road Brewery. We had the head brew master Jon, and founder and president of the company Meg Gill on the show. We talk about everything and anything on the show we find nerdy and or interesting to us. We try to keep it current with topics in the news of the week since we record one a week on Thursdays. For example we did a 2 and a half hour show two weeks ago cause we went to E3 game expo and we had to talk and review it. We talked about everything on the show from gun control in the home, to one being a MLG gamer (our guest last week was one) it is very free form and open and we love doing it. Truthfully I just think of us as 5 jackass’s with mics 🙂 and that we are no bodies, but we have started a nice fan following we hope to continue the ride.
If you could be any game character, who would it be?
JOSH: GREAT QUESTION!!!!!! I have never thought of that. The bad ass in me wants to say Master Chief from Halo… but the man in me wants to say Leisure Suit Larry……. Come on the dude just hooks up with girls with big boobs all the time!!!!! HELLO HEAVEN!!!! Where do I sign up for that????