Horses, Chupacabras and QVC don’t often get mentioned in the same breath, but together they’ve been keeping us pretty busy. This week we launched three great projects – Sun River Equine Ranch, Goats R Delicious and a QVC commercial.
Sun River is a Treasure Valley non-profit that uses horses as therapy tools for kids. We spent many hours with the Sun River staff getting to know them, their needs and understanding the life-changing events that can take place at the ranch.
Goats R Delicious has been in multiple stages of design and development for the better part of 15 months. The project includes four 3D animated shorts, three websites, multiple viral videos and a Unity-powered video game for the iPhone and iPad.
The QVC project included 3D animation and special FX for a hair treatment product.
It all started with a phone call. The woman on the other line claimed that she was our client and was unhappy with our services. Naturally, this was deeply concerning as the satisfaction of our clients is a core value. However, the package of services she was receiving was something we would never provide, yet someone from Pixel Fish had come into her shop and sold her video services and web placement. After further research into the matter, we found that a company in southern California had begun to hire contractors in Boise. These contractors are selling videos and online aggregator placement under the name Pixel Fish to businesses all over the Treasure Valley. We knew that the reputation of our name was being influenced by people we don’t even know and we had to make a shift. So from here on out, if you meet someone from Pixel Fish, just remember they aren’t the local guys.
Whether it be a website redesign, a custom CMS or a video game, it’s not uncommon for companies to have internal projects they’re working on to help advance or better self-promote the company and its goals. Typically though these projects take a back seat to client projects.
We started Dozer Dash with the full intent of building it all the way out in a timely manner. However business happened, which made us happy, and we found ourselves using all of our resources to keep up with the incoming workload and projects.
Fast forward half a year and things are moving along better than we anticipated. So at this time our internal project, Dozer Dash, is being postponed indefinitely… unless there is a sudden interest from CAT.
We recently had the opportunity to work on a small ecommerce project for a company in eastern Idaho. We don’t do a lot of these and whenever we’re approached about them we go into research mode trying to find a good cart solution.
Our biggest issue though is that we use Expression Engine as our CMS and want something that integrates nicely. The idea of sending the client to two different CPs to update the site and the store isn’t ideal. This obviously limits the number choices out there to three that we’re aware of. They consist of Foxy Cart with Foxee, brilliantretail and CartThrob. At the time the project was starting we weren’t aware of brilliantretail, so the choice was between Foxee and CartThrob. After doing some research we decided to go with CartThrob because they appeared to be closer to their EE 2.0 compatible cart. Not that this was a deal breaker, but it showed us that the CartThrob team was still actively engaged.
What we found was that CartThrob is extremely flexible. Just as Expression Engine doesn’t tell you how to design, CartThrob doesn’t tell you how to structure your cart. They give some examples and advice, but it really falls on the developer to use the CartThrob tags and mold the store to the client’s liking. CartThrob supports all major payment gateways, looks seamless with the rest of the site and building custom plugins isn’t too difficult (as we found). Plus there is one control panel to rule them all which meets one of our most important criteria.
CartThrob isn’t for everyone as some knowledge of Expression Engine is recommended, but the forums and the tech support team are second to none if you get stuck. Should another ecommerce project come up, we’ll definitely look at CartThrob again.
Within the confines of Pixel Fish Studios rages a small yet heated battle. It’s not political, religious or even about sports. No it’s about something much more important- 3D software. In our studio the heavyweights are Maya and Lightwave and the smack talk never seems to die. Now to be honest, we’ve been moving away from Lightwave because of certain issues with UVs and game design, but it’s still considered a competent tool and it was the only thing we used for many years. You might say Lightwave has that old flannel shirt feel to it.
But when we were hired to do the Alpine Village previsualization project, it was naturally assumed we’d easily go from the architect’s program to Maya for texturing and rendering because after all, Maya is the “best” (so we’d been told). Except that it wasn’t. Time and time again the file import resulted in mangled meshes, missing UVs and head scratching.
So what does one do when faced with repeated Maya failure? Yep, Lightwave to the rescue. The pipeline plan changed to include both Maya and Lightwave and proved to be incredibly successful. So why do I even bring this up? Because it goes to show that all options should be placed on the table. Pride could have easily gotten in the way on this project. And while I’m sure an all-Maya solution could have been found, the better way was to fall back to an old friend.
Last week after many hours of 3D modeling, model texturing, game development and web design, we were happy to announce the beta of Dozer Dash De-Construction Yard. The gameplay for the current and future levels will consist of piloting a bulldozer and other props in order to clear the various levels of boulders. But these aren’t just your run-of-the-mill boulders. These are the exploding variety that can damage your surroundings and cost you money.
If that sounds like your kind of fun, we hope you’ll take the time to try out our game and provide some feedback via the comment form.
About the project:
Dozer Dash will be an ongoing game project with multiple level releases planned throughout the year. The game is being developed with the Unity game engine and all development and aspects of the game are happening inside the walls of Pixel Fish Studios. It has always been the goal to develop a vibrant 3D and independent video game studio here in Boise and we feel this is an important step in seeing that goal come true.
For the past two months, members of Pixel Fish team have been involved in the locally filmed feature by Greg Green of Abruzzo Productions. Three of a Kind is a dramatic story set in Chicago, but was filmed mostly in Boise using a film crew made up of Salt Lake and Boise area freelancers.
While a large majority of the cast was based out of Los Angeles, several local actors also played small roles. Jesse Cordtz acted as a Second Unit Director and 2nd AD to the team while Pixel Fish supported the efforts of Abruzzo Productions with pre-production, post production and special effects.
Here’s what the Director and owner of Abruzzo Productions had to say about us -
“Working 30 years in this business I have yet to encounter a company that delivers what they say they can deliver…until now. Not only does Pixel Fish Studios in Boise deliver the goods, they excel in every area including; attention to detail, customer service, on-time delivery and a superb final product. Jess Cordtz and his group are amazing – I’m surprised they aren’t in LA or New York. The company is truly a gem.”
Abruzzo Productions LLC
Cinema Partners, Inc.
Links to local news stories about the projects below.
On Wednesday we had the pleasure of hosting some kids for a job shadowing event organized through DisAbility Rights Idaho. During their time here the kids played and tested some of our games and gave us some incredible (really incredible) feedback on how to improve them.
The highlight though was when we brought out the motion capture suit and showed them how their physical movements are translated to a 3D character. We think it’s pretty cool too.
Thanks again to DisAbility Rights Idaho for approaching us about this opportunity.
Pixel Fish Studios was excited to learn that we are among the recipients of the New Filmmaker Grant Program created by the Idaho Film Office. Our portion of the grant will be used to develop our upcoming video game Swarm – Backyard Buzz.
We’d like to thank the Idaho Film Office for their support and shared vision of creating new jobs and opportunities for our state. Pixel Fish Studios is committed to fostering the video game and 3D/CGI industry in Idaho and creating new employment opportunities. We feel that Swarm is a key step in reaching this goal.
About the game: Swarm – Backyard Buzz will be a third-person multiplayer web-based game centered around some of the characteristics and the community of bees. Development and design is expected to take approximately one year.
Unity recently released version 3 of their game engine with a host of new features and nice-to-haves including export to XBOX 360 and PS3, Beast Lightmapping, source-level debugging and new lens effects.