Are movie trailers to movies what book covers are to books? Do you ever judge an event/movie/festival by its trailer? Promoters, like publishing houses, bet that you do. Moontower VFX is an Austin-based company that creates animation, visual effects, and video production for television, film, and games. Of recent years, one of their specialties is the music festival announcement -- having made them for Lollapalooza, the Austin City Limits Festival, and the New Orleans Jazz Fest. Recently, I got to speak with the duo that started Moontower VFX, Greg Omelchuck and Ray Pena, to see what makes these guys tick.
Julie Ingram: What was the first festival announcement that you created? How did you get the job?
Moontower VFX: Lollapalooza 2012. Daniel Gibbs from C3 Presents contacted us, and said we were referred to him by Ron Pippin, the owner of Shiny Object (a video and motion graphics company in Austin). We had a month to create the announcement, and C3 had the basic idea of a psychedelic world beginning on the Chicago 'L' that transitioned into animation and into a crazy world of things going to the fest. We were given general footage of the rapid transit system as well as footage of passengers leaving the stations. From there we were given almost full control of what happened after the train ride. Lollapalooza's website had all these fantastic characters designed in 2D, so we brought those characters into the 3D world. We used the characters as springboards for the psychedelic journey.
MVFX: For most of the festivals, it has been our pitches combined with C3 or the Peter Mayer Agency (the advertisers for the New Orleans Jazz Fest) on what they want. The Austin City Limits 2013 concept of the bats flying through the city was pretty much 100% our pitch with a few scene suggestions by C3. Jazz Fest 2014 wasn't our concept, but the script and all the details were our ideas and approved by Jazz Fest before we started production. Overall it's collaborative, but we are given a lot of leeway, and the clients seem to like our ideas and usually go with what we pitch.
JI: How is the work distributed between the two of you?
MVFX: The work is 50/50. We both have strengths and weaknesses that balance each other out. We are both involved in the concept stage and in production. Greg is more involved in the direction and flow initially, but Ray is heavy into the details and final delivery.
JI: Who picks the song for the announcement?
MVFX: The client, either C3 or Jazz Fest in our case, picks the song. For Lollapalooza 2013, we had completed the piece based off of a song that C3 had picked out. Everything was timed to that song. Right before delivery, the song changed to "Just Like Heaven" by The Cure since they were the top headliner. Fortunately, many of the beats lined up, and it still worked. It's scary to time animations for these trailers since the producers can determine changes at anytime.
JI: What differentiates the music festival announcement project from other work that you do?
MVFX: When working on the announcement, we can be more creative and get our ideas into the piece. Given time, we can experiment and push the envelope of our skills and blend many genres of animation together. With all of our projects, we are looking to push our skills, and we usually try to create something that is entertaining and innovative. The announcement videos allow for this most of the time.
JI: Are you going to any festivals this year?
MVFX: Who has time for festivals when you are working on announcements all year? Greg doesn't. Ray usually attends ACL Festival here in Austin.
Greg Omelchuck and Ray Pena are the co-owners of Moontower VFX in Austin, TX. Their music festival announcement for Jazz Fest 2014 can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EnxshehPDE. To see more of their work, go to: http://www.moontowervfx.com/