I think being diligent in your focus to always listen to your clients to exceed their expectations.
James Knight is AMD’s Virtual Production Director based in Los Angeles, CA. In addition to being Performance Capture Supervisor on Columbia Pictures’ The Amazing Spiderman, he spent four years managing the motion capture for James Cameron’s Avatar. Additionally he has done Performance Capture and Virtual Production for films including I Am Legend, 2012, Hulk and Prince Caspian and various video games including, Batman Arkham City, Scene It, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Gotham Racing. He is a member of the Visual Effects Society (VES), on the Board of Directors at the British Academy’s Los Angeles chapter (BAFTA-LA), and a member of the Scientific and Technical Achievement Committee at The Academy (AMPAS).
Where did the idea for Blustreak media come from?
It came from the fact that we as a team had all worked on AVATAR and we wanted to continue working in Virtual Production and Visual Effects. The name comes from Blu (for the Navi’s in Avatar) and Streak (a british missile – since some of us in the team are British!)
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Well, we do a fair amount of traveling, depending on where a shoot or a VFX company is based. Barring that, it’s meetings, troubleshooting and emails. 😉
How do you bring ideas to life?
We take the assets from studios or production companies, like for example an alien or a super-hero in a suit, in CG form; then we create a skeleton, complete with joints, etc. (This is called rigging). Then we put actors in suits, put markers on the suits, and set up a motion capture volume to capture their motion and turn those CG characters into moving creatures with real motion and emotion!
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The virtual reality (VR) trend really excites me. This is going to change a lot, and it’s a huge focus for us personally!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I think being diligent in your focus to always listen to your clients to exceed their expectations. We almost obsess over making a project the best it could be.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job I had was working at a wall covering company. They sold professional wallpaper. I learnt that everyone should afford themselves the luxury of working in a field they have passion for!
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I probably would have paid more attention in school to the subjects I think deem as important! But professionally, I would likely be more careful in who I hire and who I align myself with. As you move forward in a professional career you get better at perceiving a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Realize that no client or project ever comes in the neat little box we want it to! This helps you frame your own expectations on a project. If you don’t fathom things this way going in, you’ll experience frustration and disappointment.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
I suppose being true professionals but also being fudgable. This means, listening to a client’s needs, but also thinking a few steps beyond what they might need and thinking of ways to push the project beyond what they’ve expected. Fudgable in that we don’t nickel and dime clients, and we’re never petulant.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Hiring and aligning ourselves with the wrong people. We are still overcoming this, but the silver lining is we are humbled by our mistakes and are stronger for making them.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Randomly we’ve had this idea for a while: Someone needs to invent an application for all the sports fans around the world who watch games delayed, and need to access the news from before when the game started. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve googled a team, and accidentally seen the score of a game I’m about to watch!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Honestly, buying some new plants for my balcony and buying the book “When Hitler did cocaine and Lenin lost his brain.” I love bizarre stories in History, and I’m learning a good work/life balance.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Almost all Autodesk’s software. Also Nuke. I love them because they’re powerful, easy to use, and everyone in our industry uses them to sharing project files is quite easy.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Catcher in the Rye – Anyone who reads it will see themselves in the lead character. There’s a reason a movie has never been made of this; it’s because everyone receives it differently, and a movie would never live up to all the individual expectations.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Winston Churchill has really influenced my thinking. He was an impactful leader and was stern when he had to be; but did it in such a way that came across in a way that individuals and a culture would get behind him.
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