Maine Film Association Supporting Business Member Infusion Studios, located in downtown Portland, is the brainchild of computer graphics artists Samuel Conlogue and Russell Sprague. They've been creating CG imagery and VFX for a range of clients since 2002, and joined the MFA in January 2019. We recently caught up with Infusion Studios' 3D Artist / Visualization Director Samuel Conlogue to learn more about their work.
MFA: Tell us a bit about Infusion Studios and the work you do.
Samuel: All of us here at Infusion are 3D artists creating CG imagery and experiences in the form of still renders, animations, VFX, virtual reality, augmented reality and more. We are involved in many industries spanning from architectural to aerospace, though the bulk of our clients are related to the automotive industry. We work with Porsche, BMW, Mini, Mercedes, Toyota and many others to do everything from visualize automotive experiential campaigns to digital content creation and interactive engagements.
MFA: Infusion Studios has been doing great work since 2002. What brought you and Russell together as partners-- what was your career path that led up to the formation of Infusion Studios?
Samuel: Russ and I go way back. As far back as middle school band where Russ played tenor sax and I was on alto, but we both preferred guitar. We became friends and had our creative passions. In the mid to late 90's Russ went on to study art at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and I studied Composing for Film/TV at Berklee College of Music in Boston. After that I got a gig working with Alf Clausen (the Simpsons) and Jonathan Wolf (Seinfeld, Will and Grace etc.), assisting in their studios in Los Angeles and at times orchestrating or assistant music editing on Prime Time shows.
Fortuitously I returned to the East Coast at the same time that Russ returned from Detroit. We both ended up working for the same small company that supported architecture and engineering companies in the Portland area. It was there that we started learning 3D and programming. Where we lived became a much more important aspect to our lives--we were willing to shape our careers to make that work. We've lived many places and nowhere is better than Portland, Maine!
It wasn't long after that we started our own two-man firm in 2002, with me creating 3D graphics and Russ doing interactive development and eventually moving over to 3D as well. That's how Infusion Studios was born. In 2015 we sold Infusion to our largest client Czarnowski out of Chicago and stayed on in essentially our same roles as heads of the studio. We're now located in our new office on Middle Street in the Old Port with 7 employees and growing!
MFA: Why is it important to Infusion Studios to support the MFA and its work?
Samuel: Much of our work is closely related to the various skill sets of the film and television industries. Even the nomenclature and methodologies of CGI are firmly rooted in traditional cinematography. From lens selection, shot composition, lighting and white balance to f-stop, shutter speed and ISO these are all things we consider daily in our work. We are excited to see a strong community of industry practitioners, educators, students, and enthusiasts taking hold. Myself along with a handful of our 3D artists had the pleasure of attending the MFA Production Bootcamp in February which was very well attended and extremely informative! We plan to attend MFA events as often as we can! Honestly anything that helps the creative economy in Southern Maine mature and grow, we want to support!
MFA: What are some of your favorite pieces of work that Infusion Studios has created?
Samuel: We do a wide variety of work so it's always hard to pick favorites. Every project is demanding with its own unique challenges. That said, some projects that stick in my brain include:
- Architectural visualizations and virtual cinematography we created while contracting on the reveal of Zaha Hadid's stadium design for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. I've always been a fan of Zaha's designs and being involved with her FIFA stadium work was very exciting!
- In partnership with our parent company we recently won General Motors "Innovator of the Year" Award, which is typically reserved innovations in autonomous driving technologies, safety innovations etc. In this case it was first time the award had been given for General Motors related LED content. The project involved creating a large scale forced perspective LED animation for GMC's U.S. auto shows which cleverly masqueraded as stone block matching that of the auto-stand architecture. To the surprise of attendees the 50' stretch of LED they assumed was fixed stone block wall begins to move and peel away to reveal the GMC run of show content. Originally GM wanted actual motorized blocks to create this effect which was a cool idea, but totally blew the budget to bits. So we committed to achieving a similar wow factor digitally as a fraction of the cost. This was a case of "Is this idea going to work at all?" becoming "Wow! That really works great!" by being willing to take some risks and trusting in the process we crafted specifically to pull off this effect. R&D is key to so much of what we do.
- Another recent General Motors project involved recreating some truly one of a kind historic vehicles in CG through a complex process of laser scanning the original vehicles on-site at GM's private car museum, which we then re-modeled, and look developed as CG assets which needed to clear the very high bar of passing muster with GM design and Heritage Center staff for accuracy and realism. Developing these vehicle CG assets was only part of our work on the project which culminated with us working in Shanghai China creating a series of live "holographic" dioramas for GM's largest auto show presence outside the US.
When it comes to rushes. I'm particularly proud of the bulk of auto show visualization work we've successfully delivered again and again over the years. Typically with only a week or two per project to go from the show designers concept models to finished 2-3 minute high-quality animated showcases, stills, VR views etc. that are then pitched to a small but very selective audience of marketing executives at the various major auto manufacturers. It's often crazy turnarounds, but we always deliver, make the clients take notice ultimately helping garner pitch wins and millions of dollars in contracts for our clients. We always come together as a team and knock these projects out of the park!
MFA: What else do you want MFA Members and our broader audiences to learn about Infusion Studios?
Samuel: We are fiercely locally minded and have a very real interest in seeing southern Maine develop talent and keep that talent in the state if at all possible. We're always looking out for our next potential hires and would love for them to be Mainers! We're also here for any local professionals, students or enthusiasts that are interested in 3D graphics, VR / AR etc. We love to have visitors and talk shop!