Q&A: Takeshi Takada – One of the Minds Behind the Magic at Alt.vfx


Born in Japan to a creative lineage, raised in Australia since he was 12, Takeshi Takada has a wealth of creative and cultural influences to draw from for his work in the ad world.

As co-founder and executive producer of Brisbane-based post-production and visual effects company Alt.vfx, Takada and his team are behind some of the most mesmerizing creations out there —pushing the “wow” factor through the roof for several of the world’s most well-known and once little-known brands.

But, rather than me droning on about the work, I’ll shut up and let it speak for itself: Here is a spot they did for Honda last year.


 

https://vimeo.com/119201635

See what I mean?

Takeshi Takada recently spoke with Branding in Asia Magazine about his creative journey, what he’s recently been up to and, interestingly enough, keeping it “real”.


What have you been up to lately?

We’re coming towards the end of a very successful year for Alt.vfx and the team is working on a number of really breathtaking spots for a variety of clients worldwide. It’s going to be a very busy, but exciting end to 2016! In the past few months I’ve been to a number of international events such as Spikes Asia, and represented Australia on the international judging panels of events like Ad Stars in Busan and Ciclope Latino in Mexico, and it’s been really inspiring for me on both a professional and personal level to see the standard of craft worldwide.


 

I think storytelling has to remain an essential part of these new experiences, technologies and platforms. Without story at the heart of what we do, the content is worthless, and won’t engage the audience.

There’s such great talent out there in the market, and a lot of really creative projects being made across the world. It’s always a good reminder for us that we need to be at the top of our game to attract these kind of people to come and collaborate with the team at Alt.

Does creativity run in your family?

I was brought up hearing a lot of stories and folklore, which is part of the heritage in Japan, so perhaps that affected my love of creative storytelling, which is something that I have carried with me into my professional life and my business. My maternal grandfather was an architect who later became a painter. Also, my paternal grandfather loved to paint as well, and I used to spend a bit of time with both of them and watch them paint on canvas. That artistic outlook has always been something that was part of me, too.

Hahn SuperDry – Never Settle

What are some projects you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of?

One that I’m proud of is the one that really kicked things off in a huge way for us – the Toohey’s ‘Nocturnal Migration’ spot, which featured herds of deer wandering through a cityscape at night. Created fully in CG, it showed our peers that this small Brisbane based start-up could create photo-realistic VFX that were on par with any feature film, and could do it with less time and less money.

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After that we won a whole heap of awards across the world, and the work just flowed towards us. That Toohey’s spot really helped us establish ourselves, and basically put us on the map and opened up a lot of doors for us to connect with people from all around the world.

Toohey’s Nocturnal Migration – VFX Breakdown

Another project that has helped reinforce our brand in Asia was the Japanese Pepsi Strong series, based on the folklore tale of Momotaro. That was a mammoth cinematic project that really showcased our creature design team. It became a cult hit in Japan, winning every creative industry award going.

Pepsi Strong – Momotaro Episode 4

Any recent work out there you look at and say, “Damn, that’s good.”

We work in a very creative industry, and there’s a lot of great work being produced, not just in Australia, but across the world.

Although not an advert, one VFX project I was incredibly impressed with was Iloura’s work on Game of Thrones for the ‘Battle of the Bastards’ scene. A huge, cinematic battle scene involving giants, hundreds of horses, and lots of swords. The end result was a truly stunning piece of television and an incredible feat of achievement by our fellow Australians!

I guess the bad thing for us is that projects like that set a level of expectation in our clients’ minds. When they see multi-million dollar VFX work, they think ‘yes, we want it like that’. We then have to exceed those expectations in a fraction of the time and with a fraction of the budget.

The depth of visuals your team creates on screen is fantastic. I wonder if clients, or even your staff, ever worry that things become too incredible and have to reign in the “wow” factor?

That’s a very interesting question. Obviously you have that ‘uncanny valley’ aspect where a CG asset can create a sense of unease in the viewer, so that’s something you have to be aware of. Thankfully, so far we’ve never ventured into that valley!

Honda Civic Coupe Square

Alt is very well known for our creature design work, and for all of these, we do extensive anatomical studies, even for mythical or invented species. We try and base every design choice in a physical world and have some kind of evolutionary logic to it. People feel reality cues at a subconscious level – they can feel something is wrong without even knowing what it is. It could be the length of the legs, the gait. We need to give things a reason for existing.

My business partner, Colin Renshaw, tells an old VFX joke about the director who wants a galloping horse which is formed out of water, but he doesn’t want it to look like CG. We deal with that every day. We love creating invisible visual effects, whether that is creatures, digital sets, cars, or whatever the project requires. The idea is the work shouldn’t be noticed. We’re a collective of people who always strive to surpass client expectations, and thankfully we’ve been able to do that consistently.

What kind of trends do you see coming in the next few years?

I think any company that is working in the creative visual industries is already looking at technologies like AR and VR, especially when all of the major tech companies are putting those technologies into the hands of consumers. Consumers need content, so the audience for AR and VR is growing steadily. We’ve invested in technology and key personnel within our Alt.R&D division, so I definitely see that growing our business in a new and interesting ways in the next few years.

When they (clients) see multi-million dollar VFX work, they think ‘yes, we want it like that’. We then have to exceed those expectations in a fraction of the time and with a fraction of the budget.

Google is doing some beautiful things with VR, and really highlighting the potential of the platform with things like Spotlight Stories. Elsewhere, their Google Daydream could be the next leap forward for bringing VR deeper into the public consciousness. Since our focus is going to be real time, game engine powered VR, we’re very excited by things like PlayStation VR, which will continue to push the limits of what we do with this new medium.

General Showreel

I think storytelling has to remain an essential part of these new experiences, technologies and platforms. Without story at the heart of what we do, the content is worthless, and won’t engage the audience. Elsewhere, emerging technologies and innovations could have a huge effect on other industries outside of advertising or entertainment. If you look at medical training, or firefighting, or mining, AR and VR could offer safe ways to train individuals without putting anyone in harm’s way.


You can see more of Alt.vfx’s work here.

Bobby McGill

Bobby McGill

Bobby is the founder and publisher of Branding in Asia.

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