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Top Tips to Help Studios with SADD Behave



INFLUENCER Piranha Bar’s Gavin Kelly weighs up the significance of the hybrid production studio’s latest ‘diagnosis'

Top Tips to Help Studios with SADD Behave

So I’ve been pondering some heavy news that dropped at the studio recently. And hey - why hide it? Our Dublin based boutique production outfit has been diagnosed with SADD - Studio Attention Deficit Disorder.


Seeking to spread our wings beyond the moss-draped barbed wire fence surrounding the emerald isle, the studio engaged a business consultant for a thorough ‘medical’. Breathe in deeply and hold.

After much undignified probing and prodding of the business plan, his diagnosis was alarming: “A fundamental pathology manifests itself in the studio's restless pursuit of novelty and elaborate visual frolics which shift with the predictability of an Arabian dust storm and whose only apparent motivation seems to be that they ‘think it's fun, man.’”

Ouch. There's someone who grew up with a hatred of multi disciplinary creative practices. But hey, at least we now have a restrictive and stigmatising label.

Studio Attention Deficit Disorder... And you thought you had problems.

Like anyone faced with a potentially life-changing diagnosis, the studio has two choices. Fight it, or embrace it. Refuse to accept that we're different - or get with the freaks and celebrate our otherness and unrepentant deviancy?

And since we're asking the difficult questions, what does the future look like for a studio with a crippling developmental disorder anyway?

Does this mean we can't be both a production company, VFX/animation studio, motion design house, content developer, edit house and VR dabbler any more?

Tommy McAnairey - Gas Networks Ireland - Rothco

Know the Signs

In case some of the above is making you feel nervous, here is a list of symptoms to check for:

• Restless focus - Over indulgence in multiple genres of work and varying techniques. 

• Roving creativity - Constantly seeking out novelty and the unexpected. 

• Elastic versatility - Not respecting boundaries within the content ecosystem. 

• Obsessive engagement - Over investment in tasks deemed to be 'fun'. 

Clearly a responsible studio should hone it's speciality, focus on a narrow sliver of the market, innovate, and do it well. How can we compete globally, in multiple areas, for which there are already specialised players, targeting a subsection of a subsection - and nailing it?

Yet our studio relishes the diversity of the creative production landscape. We love cameras and performance. We love computers. We love cutting things out and gluing them together. We love colouring outside the lines. More than anything, we love it when all these things have great conversations with each other. - 'Wheelotrope' - Guns or Knives

Patient History

Looking back, I can see the seeds of this tragic diagnosis in my own education. At Art School, I was energised and excited by all the creative possibilities. Before then, no one cared if you wanted to write, paint, draw comics, build nudes with egg boxes, whatever. But when you make it to Art School, it's streaming time. Want to be a crusty painter? An esoteric sculptor? Or maybe a visual communication sell out? I was happy to be all three but everyone knows you have to choose a focus, right? Everyone has to get into the correct lane and stay there. ‘No overtaking or lane switching please.’

Fast forward a few years and I found myself concealing my work in 3D animation to avoid angering the post production company I was working in (I was supposed to be a compositor, tut tut). That’s when I realised I was done with traditional post.

I made the leap with a like-minded producer and Piranha Bar was born. We wanted to liberate cool digital tools from the facility model and unleash their capabilities on content and commercials. We took on projects as creative challenges and responded to a brief in a way that went beyond a rate card. It was the beginning of the explosion of styles in animation and motion design - and we got stuck in with gusto.

When digital cameras came along, a new tool became accessible to us for the first time. Picking up a camera gave us the opportunity to frame stories in live action just has we had been doing in 3D. Even though the film world had an impenetrable mystique and post production companies are not supposed to shoot, we saw no barriers and pressed 'record'.

As a hybrid live action, VFX and animation company we’ve filmed in South Africa, Jamaica, Thailand and LA - as well as all over Ireland. It's been fun. But the animation guys can't just turn around and pretend to be live action guys, right? What company is going to switch from the safe haven of one discipline to another practically overnight?

Except we didn't switch. We’re still obsessing over high end animation projects - like the daring 3D ‘Tommy McAnairey’ carbon monoxide campaign which uses a grizzled, morbid canary folk singer to warn about the dangers of the lethal gas. Watch the same guys ditch 3D completely and film meticulously designed, paper zoetrope discs for UK site We’ve also linked a reader and journalist in different countries with one camera move for The Irish Times and even blended a CG pom pom (and friends) with a live action film detailing a parcel’s journey for the Post Office. The point is, we like mixing it up.

But clearly we are hindering our development and confusing our clients by working across different genres and techniques. I mean, if we don't address this lack of focus, we will be tragically condemned to continue creating diverse projects which benefit from the close integration of difficult techniques. Without swift intervention we will keep on discovering links between different crafts and connecting them on screen. Unless we can find an effective treatment, we are doomed to pursue endlessly varied and satisfying technical challenges. - DDB


With a business plan resembling a plate of spaghetti flung at a wall maybe we should tackle this SADD thing. The question is, will the remedy shackle us to an antiquated production company model and subdue the passions of our multi disciplinary team?

What if our SADD is not a debilitating disorder but rather a versatility which enables us to create hybrid projects for a newly hybridized world. No one tells Takashi Murakami he can't make toys and art. No one tells Tom Ford he can't design clothes and make films. No one scolds Grimes for writing songs, playing every instrument and producing the beats. As creative possibilities multiply and techniques proliferate, I think I finally know what our speciality is. We're specialists at having no speciality. If you're not invested in individual solutions, the answer to a creative problem can truly be free.



An Post - The Journey of Things - Target McConnels

Gavin Kelly is Creative Director and partner at Piranha Bar. Piranha Bar is a full-service production studio based in Dublin, Ireland, specialising in a multi-disciplinary approach to visual storytelling, combining live action with animation, design and VFX. Piranha Bar creates cross-platform branded and original content, alongside  an award winning Edit house and VFX facility. Their work has been recognised by award shows including the Kinsale Sharks, Rushes Soho Shorts, ICADs and the Irish Animation Awards.

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Genres: Animatics, Animation, People, In-camera effects, Visual VFX

Piranha Bar, Fri, 04 Nov 2016 16:03:32 GMT