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The Global Mission of Pixel Corps

Content creators' guild focuses on training and preparing production teams By Frank Moldstad

Alex Lindsay, Chief Architect
Alex Lindsay got the idea for Pixel Corps while working at Industrial Light & Magic on Star Wars: Episode I, where he saw how difficult it was for production companies to find digital artists with the specific skills needed for a project. Now, nearly five years later, Pixel Corps offers extensive training programs and is engaged in the ongoing development of production-ready teams of artists.

In the following interview, Lindsay talks about how content creation is changing, as smaller teams of artists take on a much bigger share of the work that used to be done by one facility. And he says that one of Pixel Corps' aims is to prepare its members to be part of this trend, instead of victims of it. "By organizing, training and standardizing our members on the basics, we provide companies like ILM and others a great resource to find consistent talent while also providing members with the ability to take on their own projects and scale accordingly," he notes.





What is Pixel Corps?

The Pixel Corps is a Global Guild of content creators. Our members range from students to writers to VFX supervisors.

Why did you start it?

While working at ILM, I noticed an ironic twist ... production companies needed more people, and thousands wanted to work for them but they werent finding one another at the right time. The artists that applied didnt have the skills or experience the production companies needed. Though a lot of people wanted to get in, what many didn't know was that working at a facility was a somewhat unstable environment. You would get really good at building skin folds on Jar Jars elbow, but what then? Who else needed that? It seemed the production companies needed a stable and consistent supply of artists while the artists needed a larger community to be part of when they were looking for the next gig. Artists also needed ongoing training to keep them in the front of a rapidly changing industry. Beyond that, I saw that much of the future isnt about working ?for anyone. Ten years ago, a show was created by one post company, now its done by 10. The future of most of this work is companies of 10 or 20 people that clump together to form something bigger for a specific project. They dont do that effectively right now because there are no standard practices, no basic skill sets, no standard naming conventions, no consistent file formats. By organizing, training and standardizing our members on the basics, we provide companies like ILM and others a great resource to find consistent talent while also providing members with the ability to take on their own projects and scale accordingly.

How many members are there now?

Nearly 1,500 in 35 countries. Weve been careful about growing faster than we can manage the membership. Were looking to expand more rapidly in 2006.

Why do people join?

You have a few different groups of people that join the Pixel Corps. Some members just want to have more fun with graphics. They are ?serious hobbyists that love learning how to do Matchmoving or Motion Capture or even just Photoshop. They dont expect to do it for work, they just enjoy doing it. Others really want to get into the industry. They are students and amateurs that want to find a way to either get a job in the industry or work as freelancers. Finally, we have members who are already working in the industry that use the Pixel Corps to refine their skills, add new tools, and cross-train to move into an area with more growth potential or more interesting challenges.

Is the emphasis on Mac-based software?

In some areas, like editing, yes. Weve standardized on Final Cut Pro and many of the Final Cut Studio applications for content development. We also depend heavily on Shake for Visual Effects compositing. That said, almost half of our members primary platform is a PC. We train in XSI, which is a PC-only application, but everything else is cross platform.

What kinds of training do beginning digital artists need most?

Photoshop, of course. Knowing Photoshop in and out is the most important skill to have because it informs all the other skills. The next thing is to understand the entire pipeline. Understanding how each piece fits into the puzzle makes you better at the part of that puzzle you intend to fill. 

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Related Keywords:Alex Lindsay, Pixel Corps, training, VFX, artists, content creation, production

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