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PROXIMITY is a new short film by Joshua Cox, the Technical Director at Bent Image Lab, and the Director/Art Director at his own firm, JOSS UA. From the short’s website;

“Proximity is a suspenseful romantic crime drama involving ceramic statues. Two of the figures a Victorian gentlemen and a sixties cowgirl explore the depths of love and betrayal. Closeness can create an illusion of an unspoken bond, but when challenged by desire it can be turned on it’s head and shatter our reality.”


What was your inspiration and reason for creating PROXIMITY?

Someone once said “It is the limitation of means that determines
style, gives rise to new forms and makes creativity possible.” With
Proximity I knew that I would have no animators at my disposal and I
have very little time for rendering so I needed to work within those
limitations. So I had an idea some months back that was inspired by
my grandmothers living room in Kentucky. She must have had over a
thousand ceramic birds. I used to sit and wonder what magic held them
there still and motionless. This is how Proximity was born. I could
make a CG short that consisted mostly of cuts and the tension could
build from them being frozen and helpless, unable to move. This
allowed for a lot of still shots and minimal stop motion style
animation, which would happen only during a time lapse. I must have
watched fifty or so You Tube videos of growing tomatoes in front of a
window to discover the visual language for a time lapse sequence. I
have always liked the Noir style films and the films of Allfred
Hitchcock because I enjoy the drama and suspense that they carefully
craft. I wanted to have a innocent setting like my grandmothers
living room and contrast that space with betrayal followed by a fowl
heartbroken murder.


Did you try any new techniques when making the film?

I developed a system for growing dust on the surface of the ceramics.
The dust is a character in itself, as it grows during the time lapse
sequences it forces the lady of the house to dust a ceramic character
and then she might move it to another space. Therefore creating an
opportunity for a character to catch another character in the act of
cheating for example. I also developed a particle system for those
little floaty dust particles.


You said you used Lagoa in making this film – can you elaborate on how
you did that?

I used Lagoa to develop shaders and lighting for the main characters.
After developing the materials I tested different HDRI’s to see what
reflected best in the ceramics. I also used it to figure out how
heavy and out of focus I wanted the shots to be at varying angles.
Lagoa was easy to use and I could see the feedback of the changes
happen quickly. It also allowed for other users to change material
settings, edit textures, and lighting in real time. It’s a great tool
for collaboration and look development for a film like this one. A
few of the final shots that were still with no camera moves used Lagoa
renders in the final product. I hope to be able to render sequences
and animation soon. Would be good, no?

What was your experience using the software?

It was easy to load models and apply textures. It was very intuitive.


How are you implementing cloud based applications into your current
workflow, and how do you see them being implemented going forward?

I am an independent director and work with artists that are making
films with little to no studio support. A lot of us work in the
commercial industry but have little resources of our own for our
personal projects. We also have little time to work on them, we are
working after hours to create projects that are close to our hearts.
I think as we find easier and faster methods of communicating and
sharing ideas we will be able to better work together. Through cloud
rendering we can render sequences without having to have a huge render
farm and the space to house the machines. I am looking in to using
that as we speak.


Currently you work as a Technical Direct for Bent Image Lab, and on
several of your works you are listed under “Art Direction” – what do
these sorts of positions do?

As a technical director at Bent Image Lab I supervise other 3d artists
and compositors and give them advice or help steer the project in the
right direction. I also do a lot of look development and take on a
few shots from start to finish. Recently, I have stepped into art
direction and even do a little directing. Art directing involves
developing the look and style of a spot as opposed to just strictly
figuring out the technical aspects of the job. You are also in close
contact with the director listening to what it is he is looking for

Working with BENT image lab has been great for my developing as an artist
when it comes to implementing practical realism to my CG. We have an art
department at BENT that produces puppets and set models and they shoot on
stages here frequently. I can always walk back and look at the detail and
lighting involved in reality. Recently, they have given more opportunities
to direct CG / live action spots and I love figuring out how best to marry
the two. We have so many talented artist here on both sides of the fence.
So fortunate to be able to create with them and learn from them.



Tell us more about JOSS UA?

The JOSS part stands for Joshua. I have been directing for 5 years
now. It started by taking a chance and doing a video for the band
“STRFKR”. After that I just kept building on what I learned in that
first video. And the UA stands for united artists. I really
appreciate the talents of the people around me and feel that studios
have been slipping when it comes to giving artists their recognition.
I am continually seeing films where the visuals and 3dFX look
fantastic while the story is found lacking. Sometimes I feel that we
are “managed” by producers and treated like cattle. In the end the
creativity and vision are less than. Production assistants have
assistants. The artist I work with are sophisticated and can keep
track of managing a schedule with tools like Ftrack or Shotgun. I
could see us using tools like Lagoa to show clients changes faster and
get feedback via chat instantly, even if they are on the other side of
the world. In short, It could finally possibly put the artist in the
drivers seat without playing telephone. I think we will be there
soon. It would be nice to be able to approach clients more directly
and work with agencies more directly. Not sure how that will work out
peeling back the layers of that onion. So JOSS UA is the work I make
with my talented friends. It is the work I spend nights developing
after hours. Also, soon I hope it becomes the work that allows these
people to be paid to work on things they love. There are a lot of
talented people sweeping floors.

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