Goodbye Kansas Studios Team talked about their company and what they work on, approach to VFX, animation, and mocap projects, and the industry in general.
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About the Company
Peter Levin, CEO: As a brand, Goodbye Kansas was founded in 2014. Then in 2017 four of the companies owned by Goodbye Kansas merged together to become Goodbye Kansas Studios. We presently have production facilities in two locations: Stockholm, which is our HQ (VFX for film/TV, game cinematic production, performance capture), and London (VFX for film/TV). We also have offices in Hamburg and Los Angeles.
All in all, we are well over 200 people. Most of us work in Stockholm, followed by London. Currently, many of our talented artists are working remotely from their homes around the globe.
We’re currently working on some big game cinematics for AAA clients (but can’t reveal their names of course) and delivering VFX for TV-series like “Vigil “Carnival Row” for Amazon Prime, “Irregulars” for Netflix,” and the feature film “355” from director Simon Kinberg. And as you would expect, a bunch of other projects as well.
When Goodbye Kansas was founded, our team already had many years of experience thanks to the merging of the previous companies. This way we could hit the ground running and quickly build an impressive portfolio. As with all companies, we grew organically with every new project and built our reputation piece by piece. Our teams are unique in that they can take a project from a basic napkin sketch to the final product on screen. We have the possibility of meeting our client’s needs and collaborating together with them to achieve the best results. We provide comprehensive pre-production resources with in-house concept development, scriptwriting, and previz shoots combined with world-class performance and facial capture, as well as proven full CG shot production capabilities which enable us to focus on creating the best narrative possible within the scope and budget of the project.
Goodbye Kansas Studios was diverse from the start thanks to the different profiles of the companies that merged to become Goodbye Kansas back in 2017, ranging from VFX, animation, and character & creature design to game cinematic productions, motion capture and 3D scanning. From the start, Goodbye Kansas Studios was uniquely equipped to offer a wide range of high-quality services for the TV/film industry as well as the gaming and advertising industry. We are a “one stop shop”, a creative boutique studio that can help clients with productions from A to Z.
For example, when it comes to our game cinematics, we handle all stages of those productions in-house – from script development, pre-production (including casting, character & creature design, etc.) to production (including performance capture, animation, FX, etc.) and post-production. We like to keep all these different areas within the family, so to say. It’s cost-effective and fast to have everything you need under one roof, and it has helped us forge a very smart workflow – as well as a creative company culture.
Joel Lindman, VFX Supervisor: We work with high-end VFX and animation, for games, films, TV-series and commercials. This also includes concept design, creature & character design, asset build, rigging, lookdev, performance capture and/or keyframe animation, lighting, compositing, etc. A whole bunch of departments that every shot needs to pass through. My job as a VFX Supervisor is to guide all those effects from A to Z, to make sure they are produced in the best way and meet the high-quality demands we have. Game-related productions are mostly full CG productions, and when it comes to VFX for films and TV series we usually work with live plates.
For offline work, we use a variety of software classics like ZBrush, Houdini, Vray, Nuke, etc. For real-time projects, we rely on Unreal Engine and other real-time software, and for FX (particles, water, fire, etc.) we often use Houdini. But we always approach every effect with an open mind; what's the best – and smartest – way to solve this effect? How can we use our experience to make it even better within time and budget?
Most effects involve a development phase, where we find out the look and methodology, and plan the work going forward. The earlier we are involved in a project, the better. That way we can suggest the smartest way to shoot the scene and involve our in-house art department to help the client get visual targets. Creating VFX is a process that starts before a shoot. As for handling large productions, it’s all about good planning and pipeline.
Anton Söderhäll, Executive Producer: We mainly work in the entertainment area, film/TV, games, experience, etc., but occasionally do things more related to research and science.
We try to stay agnostic in our approach and adapt to what’s the best approach for the specific project. However, in our studio facility we’re currently on a Motion Analysis system as our main system, but have a Qualisys system as a secondary system. Both are optical and very robust and are multiple actor and complex set piece friendly. With the system being a permanent installation, we’ve been able to really fine-tune the setup for optimal data capture quality and paired that up with a solid pipeline on the post-processing side. In addition to the body and prop capturing system, we are running Standard Deviation HMC units for facial capture. Very light weight head rigs with great comfort for actors and precise and detailed video to enable best possible conditions for post-processing.
The stage is also sound proofed and acoustically treated for optimal audio recording. We usually do this with near field hi and low sense mics. Everything is synced with the house master clock to ensure frame accuracy sync and a file naming system that’s automised to minimise the human error factor.
The mocap department's main goal is to make sure the translation from acting to digital is flawless, giving the director possibility to sign off already on stage.
When a project starts it’s usually up to the animation director to decide on which animation method they want to rely upon. In most productions, we have a combination of motion capture and key frame methods. When we have a mocap base in place, that’s when key-frame animation might happen on shot specific basis due to direction tweaks.
How Next-Gen Technologies Will Affect the Industry
Nobody knows what the future will bring, but it’s a safe bet to say that we have only seen the beginning of the possibilities that game engines like Unreal Engine brings. The advent of real-time VFX will change a lot in the industry, the demand for digital solutions like virtual productions will grow for sure. We also see an increasing need for digital humans – not just for games, films, and TV but also as virtual influencers or spokespersons for companies outside of the entertainment industry. This is why Digital Humans is one of our focus areas. We recently won a VES Award for the Dex character in Cyberpunk 2077, and he’s just one of all the Digital Humans that we’ve created so far. Thanks to our in-house scanning facilities, performance capture studio, and facial animation expertise, we are one of the best worldwide at creating lifelike Digital Humans.
The Industry is Growing
Peter Levin, CEO: VFX is an ever-growing industry – and not just for films. In the last decade, we’ve seen how TV and streaming companies demand more and more VFX. And the gaming industry is growing as well – more or less unaffected by the ongoing pandemic – and with an ever-increasing demand for digital services.
Software is getting better and better, so these services are more affordable for many companies. However, expectations are also getting higher and higher. To make all these amazing tools work together in one effective smart pipeline, in order to meet these expectations, is a different story. Our IT and tech teams are constantly improving our pipelines and workflow, to give us that edge. So yes, workflow needs constant improvement in order to stay fast and competitive.
Meeting the Challenges
Early on, we predicted that the game and film/TV industry would converge when it came to digital solutions. In many ways, both industries need the same kind of talents, so we built our company based on that idea and now we keep one foot in the film/TV industry and one in the gaming industry – a strategy that makes us less vulnerable for fluctuations in the separate markets. But we’re also expanding into new business segments, now hand in hand with our new owners at Bublar Group.
Digital solutions and creative uses of digital technology can be used in so many fields these days, and we are curious by nature, so we are excited to explore these new industries. One of the other challenges we expect to face is how we can continue to evolve and keep our position as trail blazers. But we’re not too worried about that just yet!
Are You Hiring?
We’re always hiring! As our company continues to grow and expand, we are always on the lookout for exceptionally talented artists who want to evolve together with us and share our passion for this great industry.