Guest: Marla Rausch
Presenter: Henry Acosta
Guest Bio: Born and raised in the Philippines, Marla Rausch wanted to introduce the vast creative talent of artists from her home country to the 3D animation and motion capture industry. Prior to establishing Animation Vertigo, Marla worked freelance in Spectrum Studios and Sony Computer Entertainment America as a motion capture tracker. It was here that Marla learned the ins and outs and gained knowledge and experience of the animation and motion capture industry. Today, Marla is a member of the Motion Capture Society and the International Game Developers Association. She resides in Irvine with her husband and two children.
In addition to raising the motion capture and animation industry bar, Rausch is also passionate about giving back to organizations, particularly those that support the entrepreneurial spirit and mentor girls and women. Throughout the past decade, Rausch has participated in educational field trips, speaking opportunities and one-on-one mentorship.
Segment overview: Marla Rausch founded Animation Vertigo in 2004 to provide unparalleled quality solutions to leaders in film, television and video games. Since its founding, Animation Vertigo continues to set the standard in motion capture animation, consistently exceeding client expectations with timely, quality results. Considered a trailblazer in the motion capture outsourcing industry, Rausch’s roster of projects include leading video games such as Call of Duty®: Black Ops 3, Advanced Warfare by Activision®, Heavy Rain™ and Beyond: Two Souls™, both from Quantic Dream™, Mortal Kombat X by NetherRealm and Hitman by IO Interactive.
For more than seven years, Animation Vertigo has leveraged the expertise and skills of leaders in motion capture to produce high quality output with the fastest turnaround time possible. Animation Vertigo also contributes to the efforts of charitable organizations providing assistance during times of calamities in the Philippines, such as typhoons. Rausch has proven through the years that she takes sincere interest in the world around her, and through Animation Vertigo, she invests time and funds to causes and organizations that will improve the world we live in.
Address: 9F Unit 94, The Columbia Tower, Ortigas Avenue, Mandaluyong City, 1550, Metro Manila
Contact Number: US (858) 427-5242
To know more about Animation Vertigo, listen to the podcast below.
The interview will start at the 2:50 of the podcast episode.
Henry Acosta: I’m Henry Acosta and welcome to the Outsourcing and Offshoring in the Philippines podcast. Today we have Marla Rausch of Animation Vertigo, she founded Animation Vertigo back in 2004. Animation Vertigo is a company that strives to provide unparalleled quality solutions for leaders in film, television and video game. Since its birth Animation Vertigo has its standard in motion capture animation and always exceeded clients’ expectations with great result. Considered as a trailblazer in the motion capture outsourcing industry, her roster of projects include video games such as Call of Duty Black Ops 3, Advanced Warfare by Activision, Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls both by Quantic Dream, Mortal Kombat 10 by NetherRealm and Hitman by IO Interactive. Thank you for coming in the show Marla and it’s a great honor having you here.
Marla Rausch: Thank you so much Henry. It’s a pleasure to be here and to answer your questions.
Henry: Awesome. So for our first question can you give us a quick introduction about who you are and what you do for Animation Vertigo now?
Marla: So I’m Marla Rausch, De Castro Rausch actually for my Filipino family. I am the founder and CEO of Animation Vertigo, I’ve been working probably 14 years now for Animation Vertigo and before that I was doing some freelance work in Motion Capture Tracking which is why we kind of gotten to the whole deciding that we should try to build a company that does Motion capture…
Henry: And what inspired you to having the idea of building this business specifically here in the Philippines?
Marla: Well a couple of reasons, being living in California and working in the industry kind of saw the swing as far as hiring people, training people and then letting them go because the project was done. There’s constant influx of hiring and retreating and releasing was kind of problematic for a few companies because when you spend the time and effort and money to train someone and then you have to let them go, sometimes when you try to get them back you don’t have that opportunity because they’ve found another job or they’ve decided to move so we decided that Animation Vertigo would be a great way to be able to fill that particular need. I decided that it would be a good idea what if there was a company that had full time motion editors that would be able to, that production company, to be able to hire when they need them and then when they don’t need them they’ll still be around and available next time that project comes up. The Philippines came to mind because having been born and raised in the Philippines I was very familiar with the landscape, with the challenge of the Filipinos as well as how business generally works there. So it wasn’t a big stretch for me to think if I want us to fill a need why wouldn’t I have the great talents from the Philippines? Being I set up the business and that kind of how I got to where we are today.
Henry: And what do you think makes the Philippines different compared to maybe other countries that you tried looking at?
Marla: The biggest advantage that the Philippines has I think is the great command of English especially when I first started, a lot of the clients I had was in the United States so there’s certain new… terminologies and sarcastic with for example that Filipinos get, that they do understand and I don’t need to explain too much. That said, also the fact that I was familiar with the 3D animation talents that the Philippines has so putting those together gave me an opportunity to take advantage of my heritage and go back to the Philippines so that I can give opportunities for people who are in the Philippines to work on things that are not available for them and give them an opportunity to have their names for example in credits, in video games and things like that so that was kind of nice to be able to do.
Henry: Yes, it sounds very cool. With regards to any cultural barriers or differences, what do you think is the main cultural difference that you had to tackle when you started out here in the Philippines?
Marla: I think well one thing for me definitely was especially in Motion Capture and Animation sometimes people make mistakes, there are problems that come up with quality or problems that come up with expectations and generally here in the US for example if something like that comes up it’s pretty easy to tell someone ‘Hey that was wrong, can you redo it?’ and no hard feelings. In the Philippines, something that I did realize is that you had to be careful with how you say things. You have to be a little bit more sensitive to people’s feelings, not that people are way too sensitive or not that people in the US were insensitive but it was just a little bit, you needed to have a little bit more care when you give any sort of criticism on the work and I think it’s because people in the Philippines really, they pride in what they do and they want to make sure that what they’re doing is correct and they don’t want to give the impression of either not understanding or not comprehending what you were looking for so that is a tough one because sometimes you just want to say ‘Can you do it again? It’s just wrong’ but you need to the time to explain and make sure that they felt okay with what you were saying and they understood and that takes a little bit of skill. I think another thing that I had to be careful about was how I approach things if I tend to speak too fast or tend to try to explain things and think to myself that it’s an easy thing but then have a lot of better force in trying to explain things. Sometimes that’s a little tough because I might not be as clear as I thought I was so there are those things that I have to kind of pay attention to so that I can make sure that my guys understand me and at the same time we’re successful.
Henry: And what do you think makes Animation Vertigo different from other motion capture agencies out here, everywhere in the world actually?
Marla: Well I think one of the differentiators for us is that I’m actually, I work very closely with the leaders and the developers in Motion Capture. I’m proud to be working closely with people who either are in the development side of the software or the hardware. I know a lot of the people who have worked on Motion Capture for a very long time and that sort of relationship with them allows me the ability to understand how the software, the hardware works better. It helps me also understand the potential problems and bugs that can come up and gives me the ability to explain this and train my guys and get them to truly understand how motion capture works and how to best utilize their performance. I think having that kind of understanding and having that kind of relationship to the specialists in Motion Capture is something very different from a lot of other companies. It’s easy for companies to set up a Motion Capture stage thinking ‘Ohh hey this will be very easy, it’s faster than doing any… animation and look we just need a stage and we could put it all together’ but Motion Capture is more than that. I’ve once seen an ad that said something about it’s just connecting dots and oh my gosh I can’t tell you how many Motion capture technicians and specialists I knew we’re just absolutely insulted by that idea. There’s a lot of complexities to Motion Capture and I really admire the people who are involved in it because they’re just really amazingly smart and innovative people.
Henry: And can you share with us the mission and vision of Animation Vertigo?
Marla: Pretty straight forward, our goal is to be the one stop shop when it comes to Motion Capture animation servicing. That any company that needs motion capture services we will be able to not only partner with you to solve the need that you have but also to make sure that we are like a team. We like to consider like being a plug in to the company, everything that they can do in there it’s like having their own team but it’s not actually in-house.
Henry: And can you share with us any experiences of your clients that stand out when you guys were starting up or stand out like recently?
Marla: It’s really cool because the people I’ve met as clients in the past 13 years or so that we’ve been around, I like the fact that they’re not only our clients but we become friends. A lot of the clients that I had when I first started back in 2004 remain not only good partners but good friends as well. I’ve got few of that which was really cool because one of the things about being a Motion Capture service provider is that sometimes clients can try other people out or other companies out and you understand that. They want to be able to make sure that they’re not only being fair to their bottom line but also see what else is out there. I had a one particular client who had gone out and tried another group and probably half way through their production had contacted me and basically said ‘Okay, Marla we’re on fire. There’s a lot of things we need. It’s not getting done the way we need it. Can we just send it back to you? We’re really sorry.’ and which is really kind of funny if you think about it because if you just have a client-vendor relationship you don’t really hear the words ‘I’m sorry, we tried but can you get it back?’ so I kind of like that, that it’s a more personal relationship that we have with our clients and partners and I like the fact that even though they try other people, they still come back to us just because they’re sure that we would be able to make things work for them.
Henry: Yes, and how do you guys get your clients?
Marla: Well there’s various ways. I think one of the best things that I’m proud of is the fact that a lot of my clients I got through word of mouth, not even through direct marketing or going out and meeting them in conventions. A lot of the clients that I’ve had and have came because somebody else referred me to them. The quality and the workmanship that we were doing for a client of ours, they talked to another person and say ‘You need to work with Animation Vertigo. They really helped us out. They solved this problem we’ve been having. It’s been great.’ So that sort of thing is pretty cool because you realize that you matter to your clients and they think of you high enough to refer you. On the other hand it also means that I need to make sure that I don’t embarrass them for referring me so I need to make sure that my quality level and the expectation of that provide for the people they refer me to and the companies they refer me to are up to par. Other times we’ve had clients because one company for example, we work with Midway before and Midway unfortunately had shut down and so various people had left the company and gone to simply other places, in that instance when they went to other Motion Capture production company they contacted me from there and said ‘Hey Marla I’m here now, I want to introduce you to our Motion Capture production guy and we’d like to continue working with you.’ So that’s pretty cool because that meant that what work we did was actually quality work and something they appreciated.
Henry: With anyone who’s interested with becoming an employee for Animation Vertigo, how do they become an employee and what do you look for inside an employee?
Marla: Well there’s a few things. If it’s going to be in the Philippines everybody can actually go to my website at www.animationvertigo.com and there’s a jobs tab there where you can sign in and fill out. I always ask for cover letter and a resume because we want to know more about you not just what you do. Just send that to us and it can either go to the US Company or to the Philippine studio. What do I look for when I hire employees? I’m looking for people who have an animation eye. Who are what I call technical artists, that they’re artists but they’re also pretty savvy with the technical part, programming, knowing Python is a big thing, having an animator’s eye is very important and by that I mean if you can look at a character… and you can see when something pops or you can see when something looking unnatural that’s going to be a good sign for me that you know what you’re looking at, you’d be surprised Henry the number of times where you’re looking at something and when you apply in a position at our company we do require training and testing because there’s not a lot Motion Capture. There’s actually no other Motion Capture service provider in the Philippines so we do provide the training and the number of times when a test would be given and as you apply, how many times people actually fail to see a pop or an unnatural or non-natural… or a neck issue in an animation and those are the things that we look for because that was sort of quality level that we expect from our very, very basic employee. So if anyone out there is looking to be a technical artist and wanting to do more in the Motion Capture side of animation, feel free to visit my website.
Henry: Awesome. Can you say that the businesses of your clients have grown since they started working with you guys?
Marla: Definitely. We have had more work that they can pass through their stages. It used to be that they were kind of limited by the amount of motions and shot and shoot days that they can do because they have to imagine how much time it would take for a company to turn that around and make sure that it goes into their motion capture animation pipeline. Nowadays that part of ‘Oh let’s only do a few days, two days or let’s see they’ll have a best shot list,’ it’s not that way anymore. They can actually really literally do hundreds of motions, this side ‘Yeah let’s just go do this it’s pretty simple, Marla and her team can get it done pretty quickly and then we’ll just select afterwards’. I think in that sense they grow because they’re no longer limited by either time or how much work can come back to them to be able to be animators so that’s a good thing because then the product actually come out better because they’re able to choose animation and themes that are the best.
Henry: What are the common misconceptions that you usually face when you guys get clients?
Marla: I think one of the biggest one is the potential for IP to not be protected. The Philippines isn’t known for their high IP protection, in fact sometimes you worry about piracy, you worry about well just making sure that their IP is protected. It’s certainly something that requires further government intervention, making sure that the government and the law are able to provide reassurance to foreign companies that if they do bring in any technology or any type of IP into the country, that any breach of that will be protected and will be rather not protected but will be taken care of. A lot of the clients are very concerned that their intellectual property might not be protected in the Philippines so that’s something that I kind of have to reassure constantly because we can protect ourselves and we can do things that will be, that would allow us to protect our clients’ IP. Another common misconception which I’m still trying to work at is the fact that we actually work in beaches. I like to tell my clients are welcome to come to the Philippines and visit us, see the company and things like that and then go to the beach which is 3 or 4 hours away but we don’t actually work by the shore or on beaches and that would be nice but I think I’d really like that, I think my team would like that if we work by the beach but I don’t know if our production will actually be so efficient.
Henry: And since you lived here in the Philippines, can you share with us any memorable experiences that you’ve had here?
Marla: I think something that happened just recently. I think it was one of the biggest typhoons in Metro Manila that had hit and Metro Manila doesn’t get hit by big typhoons that much and that particular time there were a lot of flooding. A lot of members of our team have actually been affected and it was pretty amazing to me and I think it made a mark for a lot of my clients and friends here in the US because I was telling them how some of my guys were at the office during the height of the storm and they decided not to go home because they weren’t sure if the other people, other team members would be able to come in to work and there were deadlines coming up and so they decided they’ll stay put, they’ll continue working, they’ll work from the office, other members of the the team worked to get back to the office so that they can go to the studio knowing that we had a huge deadline coming up and waited through the flood waters and got to the office. And it was really something quite different, my husband had said something about it’s pretty amazing the work ethic that the Filipino people have when it comes to making sure that they’re able to do what they’re responsible for doing. They care for the company in a way that’s quite different from how people here in the US for example might care for the company. And in the other side of that, when we had few members who had lost homes, property, we opted to gather together and we make sure that the company itself was able to provide groceries, items that they could use so that they can get back on their feet, things like that. I tapped clients then to be able, if they were willing to send items to the Philippines to help not only my team but also those who had lost things and I tell you there we’re probably 9 or 10 boxes that we were able to send to the Philippines at that time with our marketing stuff and t-shirts and blankets and things like that from our various clients and I thought that was pretty amazing. It was memorable for me because it reminded me of what the people can do when things get tough, they kind of bond together, they are family together and I’m pretty proud of that.
Henry: That sounds very remarkable. And for our last question, how can anyone who’s interested in working with Animation Vertigo get in touch with you?
Marla: Our website animationvertigo.com you can always find us on Facebook Animation Vertigo and again there’s that job tab that you can use in our website or send us a message and we will be replying back to you.
Henry: Awesome. Thanks for being in the show Marla and we really appreciate you taking the time doing this interview.
Marla: Not a problem. Thank you so much Henry for having me and that was really fun. Thank you.
Henry: Awesome. Again that was Marla Rausch founder of Animation Vertigo, she founded Animation Vertigo back in 2004 and has been to help push forward and lead the Motion Capture industry. She’s now not only very successful with Animation Vertigo but she’s also a great philanthropist, she’s a great example of everyone around the world who strive to build a successful career on what they want to do for the rest of their lives. So thanks for being on the show Marla and it’s an honor having you here and to all the listeners out there, thank you for sticking with us. If you have missed the interview or want to listen to it again it’s available on offshoring.com.ph, you can also find us on SoundCloud and iTunes so please hit the subscribe button there.