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eye on design studio interview

studio interview

Taylor James

When it comes to high-end CGI, Taylor James is one of the

most well-known and creative studios in the business.
We find out how it stays on the cutting edge of design

hen we first came across Taylor

James, it had a reputation for high-end
retouching and incredible photorealism
when blending CGI with photography.
The studio, which first started out in 1999, has since
gone on to embrace new technologies, and can offer
a vast range of services including CGI, animation,
film, photography and post-production.
Head of retouch Josh Rogers, who has been with
the studio since 2005, has witnessed much of this
development first-hand: The launch of our CGI
department happened soon after I joined and was a
major change it opened up a broader client base
and changed the way we would approach certain
projects. Increasing our options and subsequently
our creativity meant ideas were more achievable and
affordable. We have since taken on our own in-house
photographers and live-action specialists, which
gives us a full range of skills and services.

Communication is key, both

internally and in liaising with
the agency or client. The client is
kept involved throughout and is
regularly updated
With such a wide range of skills all under one roof,
teamwork is certainly key to producing such
high-end projects for its well-known clients. For
each project, a suitable team is assigned, who get
together to discuss the brief and ideas. From there,
we set and agree the creative vision before moving
into full production, says Rogers. Communication is
key, both internally and in liaising with the agency or
client. The client is kept involved throughout and is
regularly updated on working progress, so there are
hopefully no shocks and only happy endings.
Communication is just as important in the way
that a project reaches its intended audience. This is
due to a shift in the way that advertising is delivered,
as project lead Kyle Grace, who has been with Taylor
James for two years, explains: The traditional model
of a captive audience who must sit through TV
advertising or flick past glossy print ads is no longer
valid; bidding wars for prime billboard space and
huge media space budgets are in decline. Brands
want to track and see how successful their campaign


About the studio

Taylor James

Taylor James is a high-end creative

production studio, providing
integrated services for digital
productions. Renowned for creative
and technical expertise, they
visualise print, animation, motion
and interactive campaigns.

Jerome Haupert, Creative Director

Josh Rogers, Head of Retouch

Kyle Grace, Project Lead

Louise Adams, Retouch Artist


eye on design studio interview

Brickwall Man

Louise Adams, retouch artist, talks us

through the creation of this image,
which blends CGI and photography
Brickwall Man was designed and
created by Taylor James for healthcare
agency GSW. The final images were
aimed at doctors who hit brick walls in
the process of treating patients for a
specific disorder. This job brought
together many of our in-house skill sets,
from 2D concept design to CGI,
photography and creative retouching. By
using the full range of our in-house
services, we were able to blend the
most appropriate skill sets to really
optimise the final quality.

Brickwall Man - Taylor James

Client - Epson; Agency - Albion; CGI & Post - Taylor James


Concept development

We started with rough concept sketches

to establish a low, wide-angle POV. This reinforced
the weight and scale of the wall that the character
represented. We also considered how the bricks
should be constructed, adhering to real-world
proportions and limitations of how bricks could fit
together to build a head, torso and limbs.

and message is, and there is such a wealth of

different avenues they can reach their audience
through. Advertising is becoming increasingly
targeted to specific demographics or individuals.
This change in the way that brands interact with
their audiences means that Taylor James needs to
maximise its own abilities to give clients what they
need and want: As a production studio, its no longer
just a case of print and motion, says Grace. We
constantly re-purpose our CG and photographic
assets in a number of ways; motion graphics, ad
development, immersive environments, alongside
our traditional output. Maximising the number of
outputs using the same assets allows brands to
have a variety of media with the same look and feel,
but offering different levels of user interaction. Its all


about pulling the user in, as opposed to pushing a

message to them.
This sort of project brings with it many challenges,
as so many elements need to come together. Rogers
reflects on one such brief, which was for a mobile
phone brand. The final deliverables required were for
print, digital and in-store, showcasing the full breadth
of what Taylor James can offer: The pre-production
was very important to ensure the technical aspects
of the photo shoot were correct. My role in leading
the creative retouching of these comps meant long
days and nights in order to stay on schedule, and
deliver assets on time and looking good. With many
people to approve the visuals from the client and
agency side, it meant a lot of back and forth and
delays. Because the print assets were used to create

the digital and web ads, we were unable to move

ahead until the print ads had been approved. And
considering the high-res print images were over 11k
wide and fully editable, this resulted in large file
sizes! Therefore, efficient file handling and organised
structuring was imperative in order to keep things in
order and the team all up to speed.
Being such a cutting-edge studio, Taylor James
makes the most of the high-end software available.
This includes Capture One, Bridge and Camera Raw
to deal with the photographic side of things and, of
course, Photoshop. It is used across the production
workflow, as Rogers explains: Photoshop is
generally where we composite and grade everything
print-wise at least. And more and more of our
work in Photoshop is being transferred across into



Once the client was happy with the

composition, textures and lighting, we began
rendering the image in high resolution. Using CGI
allowed us to separate the renders into many
sub-elements, including colour, lighting, reflections
and shadows, all as individual layers, so we could
control the retouch process to a much deeper level.


Chalk: pre-vis

We then began to model in 3D and

compose all the pieces into our CGI scene. We
consulted with the clients medical team to ensure
the room layout and equipment was accurately
represented. In this 3D scene, we were able to
explore camera lenses, distortion and refine the
room layout for the best composition and accuracy.



When the characters lighting and posing

was set, we chose to photograph the patients
gown. Using all the CGI camera information, we
could match the lensing and field of view in our
real-world camera. It was more cost and
time-efficient to capture the organic nature of cloth
and fabrics, rather than sculpt or simulate in 3D.


Textures, materials and lighting

We referenced lots of photography to

achieve the look and feel of the examination room.
We wanted to ensure that the materials accurately
portrayed the medical environment, from the
clinical lighting to the coved safety flooring. The
cross-lighting from the window also helped to
define the shape and depth of the wall character.



Our retouch artists honed the final image

and pushed the photographic integrity. This was
down to the eye of our retouchers, and their ability
achieved the photographic realism our work is
renowned for. It includes imperfections such as dirt
and cracks, atmospheric depth using lighting
flares, and depth of focus and colour grading.


eye on design studio interview

Photoshop users should

familiarise themselves with
motion software and how
potentially their assets could be
used in motion projects

Moving into motion in this way hasnt come

without its hurdles, Grace hopes that technology
filters down from the film and game industries to
power forward the studios motion capabilities: We
have had on-set retouchers for years; this is
especially important as we do a lot of work
integrating CG into photographic backplates (or vice
versa). With stills work, its relatively easy to drop
pre-rendered CG tests into these plates on set and
refine positioning etc. However, with motion work its
a little more complex, especially if we have moving
cameras. A lot of major film and game studios are
doing some amazing work with motion capture and
real-time pre-vis, allowing directors to view the set
with the CG in place and having the ability to move
CG elements around all in real-time! This allows for

a much more flexible and fluid approach. Hopefully,

this will filter down to the rest of the industry in the
not so distant future.
This shift in both Taylor James output, as well as
the industry as a whole, is going to affect so many
designers and the way that they work. As such, while
he doesnt think that [2D] imagery is anywhere near
dead, Grace suggests that its worth getting some
experience in motion to stay fresh: I do think its
worth it for all Photoshop users to familiarise
themselves with motion software and how their
assets could be used in motion projects, from matte
paintings in feature films to simple cinemagraphs.
Thinking about your projects in a way that allows you
to consider time and three dimensions a little more
will only help your Photoshop skills.

Top 5
production tips

Client - Red Bull; Agency - Red Bull Creative; Photography & Retouch - Taylor James

like to push ourselves creatively. More and more,

projects now involve multi-platforms, be it print,
digital or TV. My role as a creative retoucher has
evolved, and I now have a broader understanding of
pre-production, motion graphics, photography and
CGI. This is vital in production planning and ensuring
that we make the most of time and budgets.
Looking to the future, Grace explains that motion
is increasingly becoming a key area. We opened our
live-action department last year, and we are pushing
this aspect of the business hard, he says. Motion is
becoming more and more important in what we do.
We have great technical and creative minds, and we
are hungry to push things as far as we can, utilising
technology for creative gain. Weve got a lot of
versatility under one roof, so Id love to see us
working on short films.

Client FIAT; Agency - The Richards Group; Photography - Andy Glass; CGI & Post - Taylor James

Head of retouch, Josh Rogers, shares his advice

Reference reality
When retouching, always cross-reference reality, be it for a
shadow, a reflection or anything else.
Non-destructive retouching
Often you will be asked to go around the houses before an art
director settles on something you did last week. Make sure you
save regularly, especially at key stages, and organise your files.
Understand colour
Set up Photoshop to suit your workflow: colour profiles, colour
spaces, CMYK separations, gamut, monitor profile... a calibrated
workflow is vital to creating colour-accurate images!

All images Taylor James Ltd

After Effects and NUKE for animation purposes.

With grading being such an important part of the
process, its not that surprising that Rogers says that
his favourite tool in the program is the Gradient tool:
This allows subtleties in creating gradients and
vignettes on masks, and is key for me in creating
good colour grading.
Taylor James is certainly not a studio that is afraid
of change and development to keep itself at
cutting-edge, as Rogers explains: We have always
been keen to stay at the forefront of the industry and

Use the actions and automation features to quickly load layers
into a stack, stitch panoramas or apply filters.
Use Camera Raw to edit your images
Even if your image isnt a RAW file, you can use Camera Raw. Go
to Photoshop Preferences>Camera Raw>JPEG and TIFF
Handling>Open all supported TIFFs/JPEGs.

A day in the life of Jerome Haupert

the studios creative director shares with us a typical day at Taylor James


Whats new?

Time for the first meetings of the

day, a catch up with the teams to talk about a
potential job, how we are going to handle it, shoot it,
design it, who will be working on it, then plan in a
creative call with the ad agency for the afternoon.



Photo shoot

I check how setup is going for the

product shoot and can be back and forth as needed.
All images are also streamed live to our iPads while
Im in the studio, meaning I can cover a few projects
all at different stages of production.


Concept development

Brainstorming for pitches involves

finding references and inspiration. We then sketch
out those ideas, storyboard, CGI test, animation and
photo shoot, depending on the pitch. Once this is all
done, I build a treatment to present to the ad agency.


Comp and CGI

Here I will review progress on our

latest cross-platform project combining
photography and CGI, we are taking footage shot on
three cameras to create a dynamic, 2.5-dimensional
object fly through a still image.


Client review

I speak to a client in LA to share the

now comped images of their product with the CGI
environment and see if there are any final elements
to shoot. Our studio is free tomorrow, so we can
leave the setup for any adaptations.


Thats all folks... sometimes

Every day is different... I could be

directing on location, developing storyboards or
finessing an animation. Im loving the 3D character
made for our Christmas campaign. The environment
was created in Photoshop using photo references.