Ric Holland's Blog

Nick Pill interview

Ric - So Nick if you could just introduce yourself …

Nick - Well my name’s Nick Pill, I’m the Visual Effects Art Director at Rising Sun Pictures.  I’ve been here a good two to three years now and my purpose here is to give an overall visual guide and direction to film projects we’re working on.

Ric - So how long have you actually been using Wacom tablets in your daily work?

Nick - It first started I think on Happy Feet, is where it became the most important while I was doing environment design.  So that was a year’s worth of that.  It was probably about three years ago now when I first started on the Wacom as full time equipment.  Previously before that I had a Wacom for just private use at home which I used on Photoshop for doing simple illustrations, a lot of comic book work in my own time.  So I think in total I probably started using the Wacom about seven years ago.

Ric - So your background is as an illustrator?

Nick - Yeah originally it was graphic design that I got into and then I moved into working at Disney doing layouts and backgrounds.  That was all very traditional using pencil and paper, graphite paper.  But in my spare time I was always interested in doing things more digital and a lot more finished.  That was something that was never around when I was younger, going through college, so it was nice to finally come across a means of drawing digitally as opposed to drawing on paper. So I have been working on a Wacom for seven years roughly I guess and these days mainly the Intuos 3 tablet.

Ric - And it’s great to see you sitting in front of this beautiful Cintiq 21 screen tablet.

Nick - I’m becoming very fond of the Cintiq.

Ric - So now if you can tell me just a little bit more about your work.

Nick - Well my job here predominately is concept art and the purpose is to read screen plays for upcoming feature films, selecting things with more of a visual effects spin on them that Rising Sun Pictures is more likely to pick up. I concentrate on conceptualising the environments, characters, mood or atmosphere and then create digital paintings for sending off as part of the bid package, as well as cost structure from the producer’s side of things, just to kind of sweeten the deal and then make things look beautiful.

Ric - So what areas do you feel Wacom tablets have given you an advantage or allowed you to do something that you just couldn’t do otherwise.

Nick - I think Wacom tablets with their pressure sensitive pen support through any sort of digital medium, whether it be using Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator, It enables me that confidence of actually being able to explore a lot more.  I can be fast, fluent and it’s easier to understand and get right down and get working because speed is of the essence generally.  I mean time is expensive. There’s a lot of things that you can try that you normally wouldn’t do if you were using traditional mediums and you can re-grade things, you can paint straight over with another colour and grade that in and change the complete atmosphere of what you have just done.

Ric - At the whim of any director?

Nick - Exactly and then there’s a lot more iterations and people can comment on those much faster so it’s about turn around time basically.  It’s a lot quicker than using any traditional pencils or pens.

Ric So if Wacom could give you some new innovations in the tablet, what might that be? If you could have anything that you wanted, or is there something that you don’t’ have right now that you would like?

Nick - Yeah I think Wacom tablets and the pens seem to be fairly responsive.  They’ve come along way since Intuos 2.  I’ve got an Intuos 2 at home for my private use which I use occasionally and I find those just aren’t quite as sensitive when you’re doing art and illustrative work and so I borrow the Intuos3 from work for use at home.

Ric - So there was a good reason to upgrade then.

Nick - That’s right, oh yeah, a very good reason to upgrade.  I haven’t specifically found anything that I feel at this stage is lacking.  It’s one of those things where the technology of it doesn’t get in the way of what you’re doing artistically and I think if it’s operating at that level then it’s working fine for my purposes.  Once I start finding it complicated and I’m getting lost amongst it then I think there would need to be changes, but at this stage no problem.

Ric - Things like the Express Keys and Touch Strip you’re not finding useful by the sounds of it, you prefer to use the keyboard short cuts?

Nick - Yeah I still use the keyboard rather than Express Keys.  But I think that’s just from my own laziness.  I think what I need to do is probably start using the express keys and setting them up for particular needs that I have.  It would probably help my posture a bit more and whatever instead of leaning across.

Ric - But I noticed when you started working with the Cintiq that you liked putting it at a portrait angle.  So of course then you’d probably like to have the software reorientate itself for portrait. 

Nick - Yeah something like that would be pretty cool.

Ric - An innovation for the Cintiq in the future maybe?

Nick - Yeah I think the automatic orientation would be a pretty handy thing.  Especially if you’re twisting and rotating the screen quite fast while you’re working.  Because once you actually get in the zone it’s kind of cool to almost twist yourself.  But if you could twist the canvas it would be excellent.  I mean that to me would be pretty cool.

Ric - We might have to talk to the Adobe Photoshop development team about adding that feature. So what do you think about the various accessory pens of Intous3 and Cintiq?

Nick - I’ve had a look at them, the Airbrush and the Artist Pen as well and it’s almost like you can get that response anyway from the standard stylus pen.

Ric - Yes the pen that comes standard is very, very good.

Nick - I think as well people just get used to it… which is a great thing because mostly when you make an outlay like that for a Cintq you don’t want to be making anymore outlays in a hurry.

Ric - Where as if you were typically an airbrush artist and you’re crossing over from traditional to digital tools, then that’s probably where that airbrush pen comes in handy because you get that same flow control.

Nick - Yeah and it feels a bit like an airbrush tool to hold. It’s like digital cameras still making that clicking noise but they don’t really need to anymore so it links you with the feel of the original tool.

Ric - Yes, very true. Well now thanks so much Nick for giving us your time and to see your beautiful work that’s displayed in this book and good luck with your next feature film.

Nick - Thank you.