.

I have always dreamed of directing the opening credits for a major motion picture, where I can really cut loose with all I have learned about animation and 3D. That is one of my number one goals for the future.

  It's been over four years since we last interviewed you. Please update us on your bio and what you've been up to.

Wow, has it been that long? Well, I'm still President and Chief Creative Officer of 2Advanced Studios in Aliso Viejo, California.

The last couple of months I was mainly wrapped up in finishing 2Advanced V.5, dubbed "Attractor," which just recently launched on June 1st (finally).

It's been one of the hardest times for me in terms of workload and mental stress. But I did manage to get through it all and survive to tell the tale.

V.5 was such a massive undertaking because I am such a perfectionist and always want to push things a little bit further than what I did last.

I believe it was sometime in June of 2004 that I took a "vacation" by myself to the Caribbean (St. John Island specifically). It was intended to be a "clear the mind for V.5" type of trip, but I actually spent a lot of time coming up with concepts for V.5 and experimenting with different ideas.

I had a little bungalow near the beach where I sat with my laptop for a week and started pushing out ideas.

The process I took was a little different from previous versions.

I actually began writing the music for V.5 before anything else, because I felt that it would really set the mood.

I recorded and sampled a ton of audio from my hardware synthesizers at home before I left for St. John, so that I could have them with me on the trip and start writing some scores that would get things off the ground.

I brought SoundForge and an early version of Ableton Live to lay down the track.

It was really great because I was sitting on this beautiful beach in the absolute middle of paradise writing music for V.5 on my notebook. The environment was just awesome, and it really brought out some great ideas.

After a few days, a track started to emerge with some interesting melodies and these deep

Koto drums that would later be used as the foundation for "Atorakutibu," which is the current soundtrack for V.5.

What was great about laying down my ideas for sound first was that I had something that I could listen to as I drew up sketches and laid things out in Photoshop.

I spent a few days comping up designs on the beach and taking photos of the island (which actually later became the reference material for the plant life in "River of Eschaton"...the 2nd V.5 matte painting of the "Attractor" series).

During the last 3 days of my trip the island was hit by a small hurricane, so I stayed confined to my bungalow and finalized the designs for V.5. It was then that I decided on the idea of having a black background with multiple colored sections.

Months later after getting back from my trip, it was suggested by a few team members that we go a different route than what I had originally envisioned.

We had a lot of roundtable meetings talking about usability and SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and I think we just got wrapped up in it and lost sight of what 2Advanced is all about.

There was some bumping of heads around the studio and a few heated discussions on which way to go. This is perfectly natural in the course of a creative project where you have a lot of different people involved who all have different ideas.

Not everyone is always going to see eye to eye.

However, it was a tough time for me because I was pushing for something that I saw clearly in my mind, but no one really understood the concept or how to sell to it.

This was somewhat understandable as my ideas tend to be pretty out there and not everyone thinks the same way I do. I had a hard time convincing people to see the strengths of my concept and to have faith in them.

Eventually, this new route was scrapped and we went back to the drawing board, yet AGAIN. But, the third time turned out to be the charm.

This time we used some of the concepts and design elements which I had created in the Caribbean, mixed with a new digital matte painting direction (that I had been learning and studying at the time), and infused with some great ideas on usability and pushing the functionality of Flash to make it more browser friendly without having to go with a hybrid design.

So I think the 1-2 years we spent going back and forth trying to figure out the general direction of V.5 were worthwhile, because it really helped us clearly define a site direction that satisfied everyone and still kept to the true essence of 2Advanced.

So we were able to maintain that sense of emotional connection with 2A, but empower it with new functionality that makes it really usable and accessible.

There is a lot more I could talk about, but that's another story for another interview.

And that's pretty much the big part of what I have been working on since 2004.

What's amazing is that during all this, I was able to handle client work and still meet a great deal of our deadlines.

Ah, good times. I am only recently learning what it's like to sleep again.

  How many hours do you work each week?

After V.5, I am slowly returning back to more manageable work hours, but I still work harder than is probably healthy for me.

I put in a good 9-10 hours at the studio, head home and continue working a good 5-6 hours in the evening.

If I am not at the computer, I am sitting up in bed drawing sketches or writing down ideas. I also keep a pad of paper and a pen on my nightstand in case something pops up in my mind as I am drifting off to sleep or if I have a dream that sparks an idea.

  How do you relax or unwind?

My main method of releasing energy is exercise. I work out 3-5 times a week with free weights, and I am starting to get into running.

If I am feeling particularly stressed, I'll hit the Jacuzzi.

But my all time favorite way of unwinding is sitting by the pool on a sunny day with my

Ipod, listening to music and going for a swim. Being out in the sun always reenergizes me; it's just good for the soul.

Another technique I use for unwinding is meditation. I am not talking about some strange new-age type of meditation, rather just learning to clear the mind of obstructions and the junk that constantly fills our head.

The clearer your mind is of the "radio noise" that the human mind generates, the more room there is for creative breakthroughs.

This has helped me a lot lately. I highly recommend Dan Millman's Peaceful Warrior training (available in books and audio format).

The audio training is amazing and I use it everyday to remind myself about what life is all about. It has a lot of useful real-world techniques you can use to reduce stress, which can allow you to be more creative. I live by it.

  Is there a particular moment in your career that stands out?

I wouldn't say there is a particular moment that is any more important or different than the rest, because it is always changing.

There are always ups and downs, evolutions, transformations.

I am trying to learn to live in the moment, rather than get hung up on things in the past or worry about the future too much.

At the moment, I am so glad to have the 5th installment of 2Advanced finally out.

I have always treated our site as a kind of saga, with different parts of the story being told from version to version. But creating the installments is a lot like making a motion picture. There is so much involved in creating it that you work yourself to death for a period of time.

I am simply glad that it has been released into the world and I can focus on other things right now.

  In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?

There are actually several programs I am trying to learn at the moment.

One of the big ones is Vue 5 by E-ON Software. It's an amazing program used for generating natural-looking CG landscapes. I originally started using it as a plug-in for Cinema 4D, but you have so much more control in the standalone application.

I have also been learning the X-Frog Cinema 4D module, which allows you to create vegetation and animate nearly all parameters of what you create. I am using it primarily to simulate the growth of plant life in animation work.

Also at the top of my list is getting to know After Effects 7.0, which just recently released. I have been so busy in recent months that I have not had the chance to really sit down with the new version and get to know it intimately.

I had been looking into AVID systems recently to see if they had something better to offer than After Effects, but there simply aren't enough advantages of Avid over After Effects that could justify me changing over. So I have renewed my vows with After Effects, so to speak.

  How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?

This year we had as many as 40 projects at one time. That was a really tough part of 2006 because the production queue was so large and we had V.5 under development at the same time.

However, we have been in high gear for the past month cranking stuff out and making way for new things. So, we are back to a more manageable level now with about 20 projects in the pipeline.

  Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?

The last 5 years are hard to remember as far as sites that stood out in my mind, primarily because I usually have my head down in my own work and don't pay too much attention to all the great work that is coming out.

One that stands out in my mind as of recent is the new Vodaphone site done by North Kingdom. The 3D compositing and video integration in that site are flawless, really great work. It makes me want to hit the green screen stage again as soon as possible.

  Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?

FWA has earned a lot of respect over the years as a very reputable and credible source of award winning sites, so the awards do bring a lot of high exposure for our work which is always a good thing for any design studio.

  When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?

Sometimes it's really difficult, other times it's really easy.

The key is to come up with concepts that can appeal to everyone and all that requires is just a little extra creative thinking.

Sure, that might mean some extra work, but I don't fret over that too much since I love what I do for a living.

I find that if you have enough creative people involved in a project, there are bound to be ideas generated in brainstorming sessions that will satisfy the requirements for different audiences.

  Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?

Well, just looking at how much has happened in the past 10 years, I don't think anyone could have predicted that they would have come as far as they have now.

So 10 years down the line, I can only imagine how incredible the technology will be.

Also, I have noticed that in the past year or so, there have been a ton of new studios coming out of the wood-work, and most of them have been creating work that is really raising the bar.

So it seems like we are in some sort of industry upswing, where people are really jazzed about pushing things and it's going to help move things along even faster.

  Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?

I am always the most proud of the latest version of 2When V.3 came out, it was that. When V.4 came out, it was that. Now, it's V.5 most definitely.

This is mainly because EVERYONE in the studio, no matter who they are or what their skill set is, gets involved somehow. Everyone puts their personal lives on hold and really pulls out all the stops to make it something amazing.

I've watched the team sleep under desks, go 36 hours straight without sleep, live on diets of Redbull, and give up weekend after weekend to make the latest 2Advanced be something special.

So I am always proud of our newest version because I see first-hand how much heart and effort is poured into it.

  In the UK, television programmes covering the web are way behind what is really happening in terms of web design and development. Is it the same in your location and why do you think this is?

When television programs in the U.S. talk about the Web, they are usually pretty caught up with the technology. However, what is lacking is the AMOUNT of programs on TV covering the Web.

  How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?

Two simple ways:

1.) I have a stack of magazines on my desk that I browse through while either Cinema 4D or After Effects is rendering frames,

2.) From links that the guys send around in the office via instant messenger.

  What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?

Japan has some amazing stuff happening in mobile right now. As far as countries go, Japan is well ahead of the technology curve in many respects.

  There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?

I have always dreamed of directing the opening credits for a major motion picture, where I can really cut loose with all I have learned about animation and 3D. That is one of my number one goals for the future.

  How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?

It is EXTREMELY difficult. Finding the right individuals with the right skill set AND who fit into the culture of 2Advanced has always been an issue for us.

What makes it hard is that we look for people who have a broad set of skills, and who really integrate well with the rest of the people here.

We are a really close team here, it's like a family, so finding people with the right personality and an understanding of a lot of different tools has been a challenge to say the least.

  How do you keep up with the latest capabilities of Flash or do you rely on other members of you team to do this?

2Advanced is typically part of the Flash Beta team, so we are lucky enough to be a part of latest advancements.

In fact, the Adobe Flash team showed up to our studio this afternoon to discuss with us some of the upcoming features of the next version of Flash, and gave us the opportunity to share our ideas and offer suggestions on how to better improve the software.

  What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?

Hyper spatial transporter, hands down. But, I may have to wait a few years before I can get my hands on one.

  Do you have any links to photographs of your offices you could share with us?

Sure thing. These are some older photos of our smaller space. Next interview, I promise to have some new shots.

http://www.2advanced.com/studio/

  What does the future hold for your company?

Hopefully, a lot of fun & challenging projects, happy clients, and good times at the studio. I know it's a simple answer, but that's all I can ask for.

  Once again, it's been a privilege. Thank you very much indeed.

Thank you, Rob. Always a pleasure.


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