Category Archives: events

Holy Fificrd! Premo won an Academy Award!

One of the highlights of my time at DreamWorks was getting to help an amazing team of animators design their next-generation animation software, Premo. The software we’d been using up to that point, Emo, was originally written at PDI in the 1980’s. While a lot of talented engineers had improved it over the years, there was only so much they could build on top of a foundation so old that it predated the GPU! We often dreamed about what the ideal animation tool would be like, if we could somehow start again from scratch.

Incredibly, in 2008, we got the opportunity to do exactly that, and the idea for Premo was born. Rex Grignon led the design effort, and brought on Jason Schleifer, Fred Nilsson, Jason Reisig, Simon Otto, Dave Torres and myself to flesh out the zillions of tiny details that matter so much. We worked closely with engineers Bruce Wilson, Seath Ahrens, Morgwn Mccarty, Brendan Duncan and many others (see this article for the full list!) as they brought their own expertise to bear on all those tiny details, and turned our fluffy wishful ideas into real working code.  After years of development, the animators on How to Train Your Dragon 2 got to take Premo for its inaugural flight, and were spoiled forever by the best software any of us had ever seen. We knew we had something very special on our hands, but I wondered: would anyone outside the company ever know about it?

Now, a decade later, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has honored Premo with a Sci-Tech Award!

Here’s a video of the awards ceremony, with Sir Patrick Stewart introducing some of the team:

And here’s a terrific blog post from Nimble Collective (the company that Rex, Jason and Bruce went on to co-found after DreamWorks) about FIFICRD, our shamelessly awkward acronym for our fiercely held beliefs about how great software can and should be:

FIFICRD – The spark behind DreamWorks’ Academy Award winning PREMO

I’m beyond proud to see this enormous group effort get the recognition it deserves. Go Premo! FIFICRD FOREVER!

Annecy 2017

I can’t believe the Annecy Animation Festival is less than a week away! And man, it’s going to be a busy week. Most days you’ll be able to find me in the Bonlieu Salle de Création: Tuesday, June 13 (showing Gorillaz “Saturnz Barz” on Daydream), Thursday June 15 (showing a VR teaser for Jorge Gutierrez’s Son of Jaguar on Vive) and Friday June 16 (showing Sonaria by Scot Stafford and Chromosphere, also on Vive). Stop by and say hi if you’re there!

Vote for “Pearl” for the FoST Prize!


Pearl is one of twenty finalists for the Future of Storytelling Prize! Now’s your chance to vote for Pearl!


In other news, we’ll also be showing Pearl at the Kaleidoscope VR Summer Showcase, which travels around the world to London, Seoul, Berlin, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. I’ll be at the SF event on September 30th.

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-8-51-01-amPearl has also been nominated in three categories (Narrative, Mobile, and Original Score) for the Virtual Reality Foundation’s third annual Proto Awards, coming up on October 8th. The nominees all look amazing. I can’t wait to meet them!

“Pearl” at SIGGRAPH 2016


Pearl will have a big presence at SIGGRAPH this year! We’re doing our making-of presentation in a Production Session on Sunday, July 24th from 10:45-12:15, and showing it on the Vive in the VR Village all day from Sunday through Thursday. Pearl will also be shown at the Appy Hour event on Wednesday, July 27th from 5-7 pm.

I’ll only be there Sunday-Tuesday, but I’m sure looking forward to it!

VR at Annecy

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 8.58.51 PMThe Annecy Animation Festival will have a flurry of VR demos and presentations this year, including recent work from Google Spotlight Stories, Aardman, Nexus, Penrose, Baobab, and more.

Several directors and producers from Google Spotlight Stories will discuss their experiences on a panel on Monday, June 13 at 6pm.

Our own short Pearl, as well as Penrose Studios’ beautiful Allumette, will be shown on Tuesday, June 14 from 10am to 5pm.

The next Spotlight Story, Nexus’ charming Rain or Shine, will have its worldwide debut alongside NFB’s Minotaur on Wednesday, June 15 from 10am to 5pm.

And the thoroughly fun creative VR painting app Tilt Brush will be available for live demos on Thursday, June 16 from 9am to noon.

And oh yes, lots of good old linear, non-interactive rectangular films will be shown at the festival too! Here’s the full program. I’ll be there Sunday through Thursday. Vive le lapin!

“Pearl” to premiere at Tribeca Film Festival

A scene from "Pearl".
A scene from “Pearl”.

News is finally starting to come out about the project I’ve been working on for the past year at Google Spotlight Stories. It’s an interactive 360º story, directed by Patrick Osborne, called “Pearl”. We’re simultaneously making a 2D film version of the story, which will have its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on Sunday, April 17th at 6pm.

It’s been an amazing experience so far, full of exciting artistic and technical challenges, and it’s opened my mind to some astonishing new things. I’ll post more about it when we’re done, but in the meantime, Cartoon Brew has a nice writeup with some images from the show. And if you’re in New York that weekend, swing by and say hi!