Tuesday, June 20, 2006


I know, I know...a couple weeks ago I said in a couple days I would have the first of these up...sucks to be me. But I promise it's worth the wait. Not becasue of any creative journalism on my part but because you will get to meet one of the nicest, most down to earth people I'va had the pleasure of working with...not to mention he's a damn solid animator and a technical genius.

Let me give you a bit of back story on how I came to know fine Mr McKenzie (insert flashback special effect here.....) Near the beggining of production of AntBully pretty much all of the programmers were being used to get out new pipeline up and running...can't make a movie without a pipeline. Anyway, the creation and upkeep of any tools the animation department needed fell off of their plate onto ours. Mark Behm did a damn fine job keeping us up and running (Mark's another one of those guys that's way smarter then the average bear.) The problem lay in the fact that Mark was brought in to be an animator...and a damn fine one at that, and keeping up with our tools needs quickly became a full time job. Turn your attention ladies and gentleman stage right for the enterance of the one and only Hamish McKenzie into our little play. Hamish quickly became everyone in animation's hero. With the mindset of an animator's needs he made our life livable again. It's one thing for someone to make you a tool, it's something else entirely for someone to make a tool with the needs of animation in mind from the beginning.

...and on top of all that, he's just too damn nice forwords. Over the course of production I feel very blessed to be able to call Hamish friend. So, without further mumbling on my part, here's some of the sotry of Hamish straight from the kangaroo's mouth...

Besides wrestling babies from the jaws of crocidiles, give us a quick rundown studios you've pulled from edge of ruin in your illustrious career.

Well lets see, it depends how far u wanna go back... I'll start with the first interesting place i worked coz, well... the others are boring. it was a games studio called krome. i was there for almost 3 years working as both an animator and a character modeller. kinda weird, coz I had very little experience with both. but that was cool, very few people working there at the time were any different. it was a pretty small studio back then. anyway that was a heap of fun because we had a heap of creative freedom, and we were a small team, teaching ourselves. the animation tools krome had were crap - mainly because they didn't know how to make better tools work with their game engine, but that was in hindsight a good thing because it really taught us to just concentrate on the animation. if a character had to hold another characters shoulder or whatever - there were no constraints, it was just hand animated to stick. kinda tedious, but thats cool because we were never distracted by anything. anyway, you said short right? bugger... anyhoo, from there I did a short stint on effects for a dodgy feature - george of the jungle2, and after that got a job at a startup games studio, inspirationally called "thq studio australia". don't let the name fool ya though, it was a really fun place to work. this was a great experience coz they were a startup, so we got to get ourselves in all sorts of trouble building an entire department from scratch. so after that, you crazy texans decided to fly me across the pacific to work at dna. dna was an awesome opportunity for me. it was a chance to get out and see a bit of the world, meet some awesome new people and generally just do something different. dna was its own challenge because i was coming in half way through a project. in my previous gigs i've been used to being part of creating the foundations, while at dna I found myself supporting a department that already had its own processes, and its own toolset already. so for me the challenge was more about adapting existing tools and workflows. anyway, it was awesome fun. and finally, i took a job back with thq studio australia again. i had always hoped to work back here after i left to go to dna, but i didn't think it would be so soon. so the challenges that lie ahead for this studio are the obvious next-gen issues which i'm looking forward to tackling with the rest of the animation team here.

What was your initial insperation for getting into animation?

I was just blown away when i realised i could get paid to do this sort of work. i mean who the hell gets paid to do what they love in this world? well ok lots of people do, but its good to be one of them. i dunno what my initial inspiration was... animation has always been something i've enjoyed watching, and when i started tinkering with really early animation software (mainly 2d stuff actually) i just found myself enjoying it so much, and then once i got my first gig as a character animator - i was hooked.

Did you ever consider a career as a pirate instead or maybe a cowboy?


For the readers that don't know that your smarter than Einstein, what got you
in rigging and scripting and tool creation?

Well, anyone who knows me well knows i'm phenomenally lazy. not long after starting animation, i kinda got sick of doing certain things over and over again. y'know like selecting all of a characters controls for example. so once i started using maya, mel offered an obvious solution. so i kinda found some tools that came close to what i wanted and tinkered around with them a bit till they did exactly what i wanted. anyway, i guess i'm just always looking for ways to do the least amount of work possible, and writing easy to use tools helps me do that - and luckily others seem to agree.

Who would win in a fight Nicole Kidman or Yahoo Serious?...What if Nicole
had one leg tied behind her back?

tough call... don't get me wrong, nicole is a good lookin girl, but i'm not sure shes got a lotta fight in her. and yahoo does have that serious hair.

How has being an animator (and a damn fine one I might add) helped you in the
creation of your tools?

thats kinda a question for my users... ;) but i like to think that doing the work gives me a pretty good feel for exactly what is tedious and takes away from the creativity. i know that sometimes when I'm animating, I'll avoid certain performance choices simply because i know the technical battles required to pull off that performance will make my life less fun. so by thinking about these things from an animators point of view, i usually get led down a certain path pretty natually.

Just cuz I gotta know...where the hell did Macaronikazoo come from?

i was trying to think of a reasonably unique name that was hard to forget. there was some local company at the time that had started up down the road from me - no idea what they did - but they had this cool but highly weird name that was just two normal words crammed together. so i tried to think of a bunch of words that worked well together. i kinda liked macaronikazoo. weird huh.

The animation community tries to be pretty open about sharing information with
each other on how we do things...do you find the technical community in 3D is
pretty similar?

yeah sort of. i think there are a lot of really open people out there. but there also seems to be a pretty large contingent of secret tech guys. y'know pixar, disney, pdi etc all have this huge mass of technology that is totally proprietary, and its rare to hear from the technical people at those studios. so on some levels its really open, but on others, its really closed. it kinda depends. certainly if you're starting out in this industry, there is so much freely available information out there.

Who would win in a fight...Michael Comet or a Baboon with a claw for a foot?...
What if Comet had a nail gun?

comet on both counts. he might seem mild mannered, but i have a feeling that guy could be a scrappy fighter if he needed to be. i dont think that guy writes code - i think he secretly beats it into submission at night when no one is around. y'know lord of the flies style, shirt off, blood all over him type thing.

Seeing things from both the gaming side and the feature film side and with the promises of the next gen games and consoles do you see crossing over of talent between the two becoming pretty common place or do you think there will still be some seperation?

i dont see the two industries merging anytime soon. although its becoming easier for artists and technicians to be able to transition between games and film. but games are an interactive medium, film a passive one. i think that fundamental difference between them will keep tham separate. they just need to be managed differently because of their different focusses. but yeah as i said, as a production artist, its certainly becoming easier and easier to flit between them, and thats a good thing.

Has Vegemite been ruled as a device of torture under the Geneva Convention?


Favorite animated film? Favorite film staring Pauly Shore? Favorite movie featuring a talking animal?

tough call... probably a toss up between iron giant and nemo.

As an animator/rigger/tool master/scripting god...what do you look for in the tools
that you use?

useability and scriptability. first and foremost the tool needs to be easy to use. some tools are inherently complex, which is where the challenge comes in. its all about figuring out the best way to present the information while still maintaining flexibility. from a users point of view useability is king, but from my side flexibility is a huge bonus too which is where the scriptability comes in. i try to make most of my stuff really scriptable and its paid off in spades in most cases. I constantly find new ways to integrate my tools into other tools of either my own, or a mashup of someone elses work. so yeah. the useability thing probably comes more from me being a lazy bastard too. once i write something, I really don't want to have to remember how to use it. i have the memory of a goldfish. except funnily enough when it comes to remembering mel commands... anyone screaming geek yet?

Now that you're a proud dad, will you give up your life as a secret vigilante
crime fighter and just settle down?


Since we all know that Australia was founded by criminals and n'er do wells...would I actually have to become a convict if I wanted to become a citizen?

not at all... we've gotta have some innocents around to use our vegemite on.

And finally...who would win in a fight, me or Rosie O'Donnell...what if I had a hammer and Rosie was already unconcious...and I had a running start?

dude i've seen you wield a hammer... it'd be a close fight but man - just pretend she's a comfy lounge chair and theres no way you'd lose.

..............I hope you've enjoyed this...let me know if you did and I'll keep them coming. Please take a moment and visit Hamish's site. He has tons of useful tools and scripts for you non tech peoples like me.



3DBurke said...

Well someone has a thing for australian men.

Matthew Russell said...

You've seen Hamish...do you blame me? He is H O T hot!!!

RayChase said...

He's still alive PJ...he lives in you...