Territory Studio Senior Artist Zack Freeman’s tendency toward creativity brought him to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, exploring media and digital effects before design work beckoned in the Golden City.
Positions overseeing The CW Network’s online presence and design work for a local CBS TV news affiliate led to a freelance career culminating in animation for tech giant Apple. The project introduced Zach to Cinema 4D after building promotional content launching the first generation iPhone.
Zack joined Territory Studio at the beginning of the pandemic and answers questions including work in isolation, the value of classical animation, and the high-resolution pixel race.
I love new tech, but traditional animation has been invaluable to my work over the years. I believe that older design knowledge is still important in helping develop your artistic pallet.– Zack Freeman
70% of the US workforce has been forced to work remotely since the Covid pandemic hit. How have you managed your creative output during isolation, and what are you looking forward to in a post-pandemic world?
We all know that creativity can’t live in a vacuum. Nobody can be anybody without somebody being around. It’s been difficult to organize projects remotely when everyone is working on the same assets, so efficiencies become complex and sometimes tedious. It’s been a time of improving efficiencies and knowing where to spend my time on specific parts of the creative process.
My first day of full-time work was remote, so I’m looking forward to some real world interaction with artists, inspired by each other and exchanging ideas in person. I miss those creative conversions.
What have been some of the challenges for you as an artist?
I’d say some problems are the same as before Covid, that it can be hard to find balance when you sit at a computer tackling artistic and technical problems all day. It can be more damaging when you are on your own in isolation of course.
We all fight the temptation to take a break, especially on deadline, but to go back to being purely artistic you need some kind of harmony. You need to maintain energy, as well as your love for the work. Going out for a walk or focusing on an alternate task to change your perspective can do a world of good.
I’ve developed a pretty good process of being solo. You have to know how to manage your files and your time. When you try to accomplish too many things at once it becomes a struggle. I don’t want to get disorganized. When you are working with a team remotely it becomes harder to organize. It can also sometimes be difficult to get individuals to adapt to new technologies to speed up the process whereas the office is a more uniform delivery experience.
You recently created beautiful key assets for the PS5 title Godfall. How was that experience?
The idea of creating key art is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. Value sketches led to renderings embellished with hand-painted effects while always being cognizant of how light reflects from different textures and surfaces.
It was a different workflow from projects requiring extensive rendering simulations. Spending so much energy focused on one frame at a time was a refreshing change.
The client requested final files at 16K resolution. What are your thoughts on the resolution race, and when is enough enough?
It depends on how close you get to something. At the end of the day, it’s really about getting proportional results. Clients often want the biggest and the best. Higher resolution will continue to be important for VR and AR applications, heavy pixel density to achieve retinal resolution and make experiences work.
Thoughts on hand-drawn vs. computer animation? Has traditional animation seen its day?
Computed animated technology is widely available but the content often feels repetitive and boring. It doesn’t inspire because everything looks the same.
I think there needs to be a desire to pull from well-studied areas of animation, maybe shine a light on the beauty of classical techniques instead of using the latest bleeding-edge technology. I believe that older design knowledge is still important in helping develop your artistic pallet. I love new tech, but traditional animation has been invaluable to my work over the years.
What do you see for future uses of VR / AR / MR?
I see embeddable tech and the ability to render out surroundings at will, a mixed reality of real-world and digital objects that interact together. Why not clean up the world by re-projecting it to erase ugly skylines that crowd our cities? We wouldn’t need as many physical things, create less waste, and compensate for the garbage that continues to pile up around us.
Using technology for good to sustain our world?
Yes, because there is too much monopolization over technology right now. It’s hard for anyone to adopt anything when technology remains centralized. I also see the rise of NFTs as a huge opportunity to change the face of commerce and creativity across all industries.
With technology evolving at breakneck speed, real-time rendering jobs will need higher resolution capabilities. Octane is already building a motion design RNDR token operating on a decentralized system to track and manage rendering jobs using connected 3D assets.
There is also no universally accessible location for artists to store their designs and creations, but the blockchain promises to make this a reality.