Artist Highlight: Creativity and Collaboration with Ben Lodge
It’s time for another artist highlight. Today, we’re focusing on Associate Creative Director Ben Lodge and his evolving role at FUSE. Ben talks about developing his creative skills, memorable 3D projects, and supporting the creative team.
About the Artist
Ben has been working at FUSE since 2012. He started shortly after graduating from the Arts Institute International Minnesota, where he studied animation. He’s been a senior animator and project lead for some time and recently moved into an Associate Creative Director role.
Outside of work, he’s been working on a group game project. This involves building character models and environments, along with game logic and programming. His favorite projects involve character work. Though we don’t get a call for that type of work often, he jumps at the chance when we do.
A few years ago, FUSE worked with Federal Ammunition to create three short animations. They wanted to show cartoon animals interacting with their new product but left most of the details up to us.
Ben had a blast sculpting, painting, and animating these characters. That passion definitely came through in the final animations. They turned out great, and the client loved them.
Landing at FUSE
When Ben first interviewed with FUSE, he learned that their main 3D program was Cinema 4D. It’s a great program that they still use today, but at the time…Ben wasn’t familiar with it. At all.
So, what did he do? Ben spent a week doing every online tutorial he could get his hands on. Then, he created and sent in a 5-second bumper of the FUSE logo. The demo showed off every skill he had, from modeling and lighting to texturing and editing.
He got a call 20 minutes later and has been working at FUSE ever since.
His teachers liked telling this story to other students to highlight how important it is to set yourself apart; to think outside of the box. Not only to be noticed by a future employer but because these are skills that artists like Ben use every day to solve problems for clients.
Learning to Tie Kinvara Shoes
One of Ben’s first projects at FUSE is an excellent example of this. The team had just finished creating 3D renders of the Saucony Kinvara 4 shoe for a client. Not wanting to let the models go to waste, they decided to whip up an exciting proof of concept.
The entire team worked on this animation, each tackling a different part.
Ben, the newest team member at the time, was tasked with tying the shoelaces into a bow. Except…he had no idea how to animate that. He spent weeks trying to get the animation right. After all that work, Ben’s part turned out great. It’s his favorite part of the entire piece.
“That’s something that hasn’t changed,” Ben says. “There’s always something I don’t know how to do and have to figure out. I love that challenge, that creative problem-solving.”
Connecting with the Mission Crossbow Customer
Ben’s first project as a lead was with Mission Crossbows. The client wanted a three-part video that showed off the product’s main features. The FUSE team has done projects like this before, but this was a particularly memorable experience for Ben.
He got to try out these crossbows with the company. This wasn’t just to see the product or spend an afternoon shooting crossbows. Using the product helped him understand how these features make a difference for their customers.
“That’s why we had to test it out. I needed to understand why those cams were special; learn why each feature is special, and why it’s important to the user. I wouldn’t have understood if I hadn’t experienced it first-hand.”
One of the benefits of 3D rendering is that artists can develop photorealistic visuals and animations without ever needing to see a physical product. No prototype, test model, or parts needed.
However, handling the products and seeing how they’re made gives our artists a deeper understanding of the client’s motivation. By using these crossbows, Ben was able to put himself in the customers’ shoes.
Letting Creativity Thrive
The team at FUSE is a very collaborative group. Working at a close-knit 3D studio has allowed everyone to develop and expand their problem solving and creative thinking skills. You could even say it’s forced these skills, considering some of the challenges they’ve faced.
But that’s really the only way to grow, Ben says.
Creativity craves constraint. You’re not going to do your best work if there’s no challenge. When you come up against a problem, that’s when you start diving in and work to find a creative solution. In other words, if you don’t have limits, you’re not going to grow and develop those skills.
“That’s what we get here a lot – constraints,” Ben explains. “Clients want to show their products in the best way without any of the flaws. Often, that means breaking reality. How can we show the things they want to show without being limited in some way by their legal team or marketing agency?”
Sometimes, they need to do several weeks’ worth of work in just a one. While that’s a tough situation, there’s an upside. Working through challenges like this lets them find ways to work more efficiently. After tackling that, now they’re able to cut down on production time.
The above shot is from a BLOS Integrator Extended Range drone animation. Ben animated the drone flying in an environment to show technical info in an engaging way.
Leadership and Collaboration at FUSE
The FUSE team is made up of incredibly talented artists who lean on each other for advice and feedback. This is what’s so great about supporting the team, Ben says.
“We’re greater than the sum of our parts. We can do more with five of us together than just one on our own… that’s what makes it easy to come to work. Everyone’s super talented and knows what they’re doing.”
Ben’s excited to continue with this leadership role, especially with the talented team of artists at FUSE.