Rebekah King-Britton is head of CG at Saddington Baynes, a London production studio specializing in brand engagement with a simple tagline: “Imagery that inspires.” King-Britton leads the Saddington Baynes 3D team on digital environments, characters and products, works with clients to develop visual ideas, and shepherds jobs from concept to render. Having worked previously at Smoke & Mirrors, Jellyfish Pictures, Mainframe and The VFX Company, among others, she brings a wealth of practical 3D experience to bear for clients. We asked her about her work, what’s changing in the world of CG, what keeps her up at night, and what inspires her.
StudioDaily: Tell us a little about your background. When and how did you develop a passion for CG?
Rebekah King-Britton: Quite by accident really. I did my degree in industrial design. I became aware of CG whilst visiting a friend of the family and thought, “I could do that.” I managed to convince enough people to take me on as a junior on the basis of my product design portfolio. I don’t think it could happen these days, but I do still come across quite a few product designers who have made the transition to CG. It might not seem to be an obvious connection, but if you think about it, it works. Not many artists are trained to think in three dimensions, which gives an edge to creatives with experience in industrial design. It’s a very relevant background for what we do.
What’s your day like at Saddington Baynes? How many projects are you typically managing at once, and how many hats do you wear?
I deal a lot with potential clients, helping to refine their creative vision and judge the scope of work involved for any given project. However, there’s no such thing as a typical day at Saddington Baynes. We try to innovate and take a fresh approach for every new project. Several long-term campaigns tend to run over many months, but we also tackle agile, one-off projects. A range of work helps keep the team engaged and creative juices flowing. There’s always something to keep our brains ticking in-studio, from the meticulous precision of an auto configurator to wildcard creative projects that come out of left field.
Of course, I try to interact with the team on a regular basis too. As the head of CG, I endeavor to mentor, teach, inform and support my colleagues wherever possible. I also act as the glue between artists and technical production… because sometimes the CG geekery needs to be translated into English! Data sets are increasingly complex and cumbersome. We constantly strive to streamline process so that the artists are able to spend more time creating and less time wrestling. There are always new developments that pop up that we can benefit from, so I like to keep up with emerging technology.
I saw a short piece Saddington Baynes produced titled “Redefining Beauty.” Tell us about the ideas behind that.
“Redefining Beauty” is a short film designed to showcase creative solutions for the beauty industry. Saddington Baynes hope to challenge traditional perceptions within the beauty advertising. Released in New York this month, “Redefining Beauty” explores the power of CGI and visual effects — taking reference from iconic trailblazers such as Alexander Mcqueen and Kevyn Aucoin — to present a forward-thinking style for beauty brands. Developed by our in-house creative team, SB Labs, “Redefining Beauty” incorporates many different approaches to imagery – from live action shots to complex VFX simulations, and meticulous lighting and texturing. Imagery in the beauty sector is changing. Saddington Baynes want to add our voices to that conversation, disrupting the status quo.
What’s more creatively stimulating — enhancing a live-action world with CG characters or effects, or creating an animated world from scratch?
I work in both camps and neither is more challenging or creative – the two approaches are just different.
Adding CG into a live-action background is part of the classic post-production pipeline, working in tandem with a shoot director. This means we’d be limited to the lighting and angles captured on set. At Saddington Baynes, we usually carry out our own live-action shoots to maintain control over a set, ensuring every possible creative direction is accounted for.
Whereas if the shot is fully CG, we have more flexibility and can make adjustments to a shot at any time. However, it takes a bit longer to pin down the overall look of a shot without initial references from the director. We have to confirm what the client’s vision is from very early stages in production.
What technological innovations have changed the way you work over the last two to three years? Have you started using anything new as part of your work lately?
A very simple example would be Cryptomatte – technology developed by [NYC production company] Psyop that creates ID mattes automatically, made available to the wider CG community. In the past, we’d have to create a matte for every single small object, either red, green, blue or alpha. That could add up to hundreds and hundreds in complicated shots. It’s wasn’t sexy, but necessary. Compositors and retouchers need to be able to isolate a particular piece of an object. Cryptomatte streamlines that whole painful process, saving time and preventing headaches.
The next exciting thing coming up is GPU rendering. It’s been around for ages but not necessarily picked up as industry-standard. Ongoing software and hardware developments mean that this workflow is becoming more and more accessible. GPU rendering will allow artists to stay creative and turnaround more iterations without being held up by expensive or delayed renders. It’s something we’ve recently introduced to the Saddington Baynes pipeline. With GPU rendering, artists can explore extra lighting and texturing options throughout the working day, without losing their train of thought. Artists are also more likely to notice any potential errors or issues as they appear.
What changes are taking place in the way you work with clients?
When I first started working in this business, we’d always work with clients face-to-face. Now, everything is done via calls, shared desktops, proofing software and real-time video applications. Visual communication technologies are secure and speedy enough to keep up with the demands of everyday animation and CG software. We’ve gone through a global production revolution. Sometimes this can be challenging, as the creative nuances of a project might get lost in emails and phone calls, but it also means that we can also be more nimble and jump on a quick call without disturbing the client’s working day.
What kind of challenges — be they technical, creative, or business issues — keep you awake at night?
Renders genuinely do keep me awake at night. I check renders frequently, even when I’m meant to be sleeping! However, I do so because it’s now very easy to login and work on a project remotely. Overall, this is definitely a benefit for CG artists and will completely change the way we work in future.
What has inspired you recently?
It sounds cheesy, but my team is a constant inspiration to me. There are so many insanely talented people in the world, often closer than you think, and they are forever surprising me with their knowledge and talent. Saddington Baynes’ art director, Luis Cardoso, is always a big inspiration. He knows everything there is to know about lighting glass, and how to make it look beautiful. Many of his shots feature in our CGI renders of perfume bottles for Jo Malone London. In short, I learn something new from my colleagues every day — it’s good to know that there is never a limit on creativity.