September 26, 2017

F.I.R.S.T. Institute Students Work with Monkey Chow Productions

Meet Jeff Scheetz, a man who’s based his entire career on computer animations. He’s created special effects on various projects, including the TV shows “Start Track Voyager” and “515.” Scheetz opened The Dave School in 2000. It was a computer animation school located at Universal Studios, in Universal City, CA.

A couple of years ago, the entrepreneur left The Dave School and opened Monkey Chow Productions. Among other things, the company primarily provides animation and pre-visualization for Universal Studios, theme park development companies. Its pet project is known as NASA Seals.

The Birth & Evolution of NASA Seals

It all began in 2004. NASA Seals started as a student project at Monkey Chow Productions. In the beginning, it was a live version. Then, in 2008, it was transformed into an animated version of the film. Eventually, the team used the same premise to transform the project into an animated screen play.

The goal was to create something that wasn’t motivated by politics. They just wanted the Navy Seals to “get in there” and destroy the robots… that simple. However, in the process of disturbing one robot, all of them are activated. This, of course, leads to utter chaos. And, that’s where the challenges begin.

Sheetz’s Favorite Part of the NASA Seals Project

Jeff Scheetz says his favorite part of it all is directing motion capture. He truly enjoys working directly with actors and camera angles. Motion capture is so cool because you have so many options. Once you have the actors captured in there, you can observe how the shot looks from various angles.

To make it all work, Jeff literally makes play blasts, editing them together just moments after they’re complete. Then, if he decides he needs another shot, he simply moves the camera over, and gets that shot too! That brings him creative excitement.

Scheetz finds this to be an exciting way to do things. However, he makes it clear that he respects those who use other animation techniques. It’s just that he personally enjoys the work flow that comes with doing it his way.

F.I.R.S.T. Institute Students: Recording Raw Sound & the Original Score

Meet Nevan Burns, Team Leader & Field Recording Artist for Monkey Chow Productions. During the creation of NASA Seals, the F.I.R.S.T. Institute student walked around, out in the field, collecting raw sounds, along with another team member. Then, they spent time editing a large portion of the project for NASA Seals, giving them hands-on experience they’ll use during their careers in the real world.

Meet Kayla Smith, she’s responsible for the Original Score production on the NASA Seals project. She says the score itself was probably her favorite part of the project. She worked on a team that started with just a video… which had no sound at all.

In her opinion, the score helped to “push it” a bit. She says the score told what was happening throughout the action and dramatic scenes of the animation. Along with the other sounds they infused, this really made it all come together. This hands-on experience will last her a lifetime.

Jeff Scheetz Praises the Recording Arts Program at F.I.R.S.T. Institute

As an educator, Jeff Scheetz says it’s good to give the students opportunities to work on things that aren’t just basic assignments thrown at them by instructors. Instead, they need projects that include real world challenges and real problems that need to be solved.

Scheetz says that he’d heard of some similar assignments being done at F.I.R.S.T. Institute. And, from what he heard, they were “really good.” In the back of his mind, he had plans to come to F.I.R.S.T. Institute for assistance if he ever came up with a project that was the right length.

So, when he found the right project, NASA Seals, he wrote Allen and Donnie at F.I.R.S.T. Institute. They sent over a team of really great, ambitious students. The students enthusiastically told Scheetz about their backgrounds and abilities. Scheetz explained his expectations for the project.

According to the instructor, the F.I.R.S.T. Institute team made a lot of instinctive choices. And, it all worked well. “It was right. It was good,” he says.

Nothing needed to be changed, says Scheetz. He was really pleased with the work the F.I.R.S.T. Institute students did on the project. To him, this says a lot about the quality of the recording arts program at F.I.R.S.T. Institute.

F.I.R.S.T. Institute Students: Foley Artistry & Score Editing

Meet Jean Vachier, Foley Artist on the NASA Seals project for Monkey Chow Productions. The student says his favorite part of the project was the mindset in which it put him. He enjoyed seeing what sounds could be created for this specific project, and seeing what fits and what doesn’t.

In the end, it was cool seeing it all come together, the F.I.R.S.T. Institute student says. He believes the team created a great piece, which was later presented to the animation studio.

Meet Steven Denmon, another Foley Artist on the project. He says, in the beginning, the time slot can make things a bit chaotic. But they overcame it.

The F.I.R.S.T. Institute student says his favorite part of the NASA Seals project came up about halfway through when things were finally coming together. That’s when there’s an actual end that you can visualize, and you can strive to get to that end.

Meet Jia Manning, the project’s Assistant Score Editor. She tells us that her favorite part of the Monkey Chow Productions project was visiting Jeff’s studio. This F.I.R.S.T. Institute student loves the environment there, which she describes as peaceful.

Working in the studio gave her a chance to get better insight into how a real animation studio is set up. Manning thought it was really cool to learn the processes in the studio hands-on. This is an experience she can start to build her career on for sure!

F.I.R.S.T. Institute Students Help Make NASA Seals a Success

Jeff Scheetz admits that he was in no way shocked that the audio for NASA Seals came out so well. He truly believes in the teachings of the F.I.R.S.T. Institute. So, when he contacted them, there was no doubt that the project would be a success.

Scheetz was extremely interested in just how much time and energy the students put into working on the project. They had accumulated pre-recorded sound effects of just about anything you can imagine. This was done through large amounts of field recording and Foley work.

The Monkey Chow Productions owner believes this experience was good for the F.I.R.S.T. Institute. It helped to make the project even better.

And… with great pride, Jeff Scheetz shows off the first clip from the Monkey Chow Productions project known as NASA Seals…

Monkey Chow Productions.