Argonaut Interview: Chris Roe

By Vince Echavaria

To give an example of the type of visual effects his Venice studio can create, Chris Roe could point to the opening title sequences for a number of hit TV shows such as “The Bachelor,” “American Gladiators” and “Deal or No Deal.”

When such reality or competition shows open with their titles and logos appearing with 3D and graphics effects, they can have the mark of Roe and his motion graphic design studio, Fish Eggs.

Roe is the founder and executive creative director of Fish Eggs, which specializes in motion graphic design for entertainment and marketing and provides original branding from concept through completion. Working out of a studio on Electric Avenue, Fish Eggs got its name from the same meaning of its founder’s last name, but Roe says it can also serve as a metaphor for the company’s vision: “the creative incubation of ideas.”

The studio’s clients have included every major television network. One of the more recent clients is the NBC competition series “Stars Earn Stripes,” in which celebrities are challenged to complete complicated missions inspired by real military exercises.

Fish Eggs uses its own green screen stage to create many of its effects and performs other tasks such as slow motion graphics, motion tracking, 3D modeling, compositing and finishing.

Roe is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and graphic designer whose feature-length documentary “Pop & Me” led him to an Academy Award nomination and an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

He met with The Argonaut recently to discuss the motion graphic work that is a specialty of his company as well as his thoughts on 3D effects and its evolution in the entertainment industry.

What’s the vision for this studio and what you’re trying to create?

We are kind of creative partners with the productions that we work with. A lot of our goal is that every job that we’re on and every client and person we work with is to enhance this creative experience. If you don’t really love the creative process it can be really frustrating. So we always try to enhance and make that creative process more exciting, more fun, more rewarding.

Do you see companies like yours as part of the Silicon Beach movement?

It’s still separated but I definitely see it coming closer and closer together. Most of Silicon Beach is from the web startup and it’s still not integrated with what we’re doing with motion graphics and effects work. Once somebody figures out how to make a good interactive television – and I think it’s still 3-5 years away – we’re gonna be doing stuff that’s a lot more with interactive based television especially the type of shows that we work on – competition reality shows like the voting shows and game shows where you can play along. I think a lot of the reason that Silicon Beach is coming into this area is because it was already an area where there was a lot of graphics, music, digital creative companies so they fit into it well. At some point web and TV are gonna become basically the same thing, where the TV is gonna be basically some sort of a large iPad. When they figure out how to make the television with the screen that’s on your wall interactive, then I think the graphics and effects people are gonna be much more meshed with the Internet startup technology people.

What is some of the most innovative, unique work you guys are doing here?

We’re integrating 3D graphics with live action green screen footage in a basically fully digital environment. For us it’s exciting because we’re able to do it on a budget that actually works for TV shows as opposed to only giant big blockbuster movies. The fact that we’re doing stuff that blockbusters were doing five years ago and we can afford to do it on TV shows is probably one of the more exciting things that we’re doing now. The way the software works, the way the cost of everything and storage has come to be is that it’s very reasonable for us to compete with the big shots.

How has it become more affordable and reasonable to do this work now?

The processor speeds that used to have a room worth of computers to render this stuff now you can do it on a desktop. The processing speeds have made huge differences and the digital storage has gotten so much cheaper as well – that’s a big part of it. There’s also a kind of trickle down effect of software and knowledge of more and more people learning more and more things.

Do you think 3D effects will eventually be used for the majority of film and television?

Some shows work better in 3D than others, just like in some movies it works great and in some it’s not really necessary. More than 3D TV, which I think is a little further away and still probably gonna be for limited programs, I think there will be interactive TV. For some TV shows like comedies and drama people are gonna just want to sit back and be fed the information, they’re not gonna want to interact. But for game shows, competition reality shows, there’s going to be a lot of areas of television that some degree of interactivity is gonna be important. Obviously the advertising world likes it because they can integrate their products more into the show as well as allow it to be interactive so if you like what somebody is wearing you can click and find out and even buy it.

I still think there are certain type of shows and movies that don’t really want or need any type of 3D. But that being said, just because of the cost and the control and the easier to use sense, more and more shows of all types of productions from webisodes to big movies and everything in between are integrating more 3D graphics and effects in a way that you don’t even know that it’s happening.

How are you able to create the effects you work with?

It’s the tools and understanding and mastering the tools. I see green screen as a tool, I see different software applications as tools. For me the biggest challenge is coming up with an idea that conceptually is exciting and finding the right tools to make it work. We’re always learning new tools and techniques to do cool things but ultimately it has to be a strong concept that drives it.

How do you think the work you’re doing compares to what people see in the big budget 3D movies?

It’s a little bit both ways. We definitely look to the big budget movies for inspiration and ideas but I’d like to think that movies and anybody who’s in the graphics world is looking at what anybody else is doing that’s cool, fun and interesting.

Where do you see the role of 3D in films and entertainment and what do you think it is that makes it so appealing?

The trend which is happening a lot more than we even know now is where it doesn’t look like it’s 3D graphics, it looks like it’s real. Most of the trend now is that most people don’t even know what is 3D or not because it’s so well integrated and so pervasive. The appeal for us and our clients is you have a lot more control. It looks real but you have a lot more control and it often ends up being less expensive than shooting.

Do you see 3D evolving beyond film and TV to be applied to other types of technology like cell phones?

The biggest thing I think, particularly for a lot of the work we do in television, is gonna be merging with the web world. Your TV is gonna be just another computer screen; already people are getting a lot of their TV content through the Internet and online and it’s gonna be much better integrated with 3D, with effects, with interactivity and the ability to play along, chat, and have live streaming video. ¤