MancsMachine VFX interview

ManvsMachine Motion Designer Ollie Harris Q&A: 3D, Live Action Shooting, Design Approach and more

Ollie Harris from Award Winning Motion & Design Agency, ManvsMachine, talks shop about VFX, 3D apps, Macs and more

ManvsMachine is an independent design & motion studio based in London, England.
Since opening its doors in early 2007, ManvsMachine has grown into a multi award winning, multi national team of creative specialists producing & directing globally acclaimed branding, commercials, animation & film.
In our second Create Pro Q&A we talk to Ollie Harris, ManvsMachine Motion Designer.
So without further ado, let’s get into it.

As a company you work with a wide variety of clients, does your approach change depending on who it is you are working with, or do you have a method that seems to work universally?
Our method generally follows a flexible creative blueprint, but this is very much dependant on the type of project, and it’s specific requirements. Each job is very much bespoke, and offers a new challenge and approach.

Obviously your work relies heavily on software and computers, what role do analogue formats such as the pencil and paper play in your work, if any? Has this changed over the years, and do you see it changing in the future?
Unfortunately I rarely pickup a pencil these days apart from taking notes in meetings. My Wacom tablet has given me the freedom to just ‘undo’, this is priceless when working to deadlines. I can’t see myself going back to paper and pencil anytime soon, at least in a working capacity.

With such a large number of different specialties in your industry, how do you handle bringing it all together? Are there any specific issues that you have had to think outside of the box to deal with?
Most of our team at ManvsMachine come from a design background, we’ve grown up with the Adobe suite which we generally use for design and compositing. Maxon’s C4D is our current go-to 3D application. So from a technical perspective, being able to run all these applications on the same operating system, and exchange files and ideas is paramount.

You produce both full GFX work as well as GFX combined with live shooting, how does your approach differ on these two types of projects?
The approach for the most part is much the same at least from a designers perspective, but the execution is obviously very different. Live action shoots take a lot of planning, you may only get one take. Whereas, for example, in 3D you can tinker and hone camera moves until it’s perfect.

What spec Mac Pro did you go for? Why did you choose this spec?
My studio system is 12-Core Intel Xeon at 3.33, 48GBs of DDR3 RAM, and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 2048MB graphics card. You should always buy the best processor available, it’s the most important component and the trickiest to upgrade. At the time this was the fastest available, so that decision was made. Currently Nvidia cards are the only option for running the Adobe Suite at it’s full potential due to it’s CUDA integration. I have a similar 6-Core Create Pro system at home, but with a Nvidia GTX TITAN graphics card.

What do you use your Mac Pro for? Which software do you run & how does the system handle it?
My role at ManvsMachine is as a motion designer, which involves using multiple applications at once. We often preview and render projects in the background while continuing to work, so having a system that can handle this is essential.

How integral is your system/software to your workflow? Do you see your reliance on your Mac/software increasing in the future?
The latest Macs are great, but we prefer the value for money and flexibility of the Create Pro Macs. Create Pro Macs allow us to customise and upgrade our systems specifically for our needs. The popularity of Mac systems is definitely increasing, our reliance on them really depends on the specifications and wether they can keep up with the competition.

Do you use any additional hardware in your workflow? What impact does this have on how you use your Mac Pro/software?
All our team use Mac Pros on a daily basis, unless we need to use a specific software package. Generally speaking different types of hardware talk to each other pretty well these days, it’s becoming less and less of a worry.

Are you currently working on any projects using the Mac Pro? How does your workstation fit in with this project specifically?
Yes, as mentioned in the question above, our Mac Pro workstations are in constant use.

How important is your systems performance to you? Does not having to worry about what you workstation can handle help you spend more time on being creative?
Performance is extremely important, some of our more complex projects are very processor intensive. Without this power under the hood, we couldn’t even open some of our projects.

We’d like to thank Ollie Harris from ManvsMachine for taking the time to answer our questions, and also Tim Swift and ManvsMachine.
Check out some of ManvsMachines incredible work below, as well as various links to where you can find them online.