Chris Maynard – cmiVFX Guru and VFX Maestro is here to share his success story.
RIP Chris Maynard cmiVFX …
In real sense, Chris had been ‘rebellion’ artist. Through his brand cmiVFX, he fought against the wrong policies of the system and strived his best to get fair price to the artist and to the end user. He was always concerned about the highest quality knowledge sharing rather making quick money.
In his own words: ” We are all about the Education and the Science.”
Chris was an exceptional VFX Maestro and Trainer. I had learned a lot from his various training videos. Words will never be enough to express. A huge thanks for your revolutionary brand who truly cared for the artists.
Just considering myself lucky to talk with him digitally one to one during his interview session. I was astonished listening his thought process, the journey he embarked and clarity of vision. You are truly an inspiration to follow.
The Animation and VFX world will always miss you SIR. God bless your family and friends.
Welcome Chris. Tell us more about cmi aka ‘Creative Minds Imaging’.
cmi has gone through many different acronyms. Originally, it was “Chris Maynard Images”. I launched cmiStudios, my production service focusing on Design. This lasted the entire length of all my other ventures and is the backbone that always holds things together. During the many many advertising campaigns, the letters CMI were used as design elements which would be followed by various words like an acronym puzzle. Some of the other words changed from Chris Maynard Imaging to Creative Minds Images, Crazy Men Inventions, and more. All light hearted attempts at levity to increase the likability of the brand. Over the last 5 year, we have been preparing for a new marketing concept for CMIVFX which would be said “SEE MY VFX”, but still be spelled “cmiVFX”.
Naturally the name is just a gateway for people to find our services. It ranges everything technical in Computer Graphics science, but now focuses on the development, invention and training of Visual Effects techniques and applications. I currently manage upward of 150 mentors at one time, which is up from 1 mentor back in 2003.
You have a huge list of impressive credentials. Kindly brief us all milestones of your career ranging from Rochester to till date.
If I were to list everything, we would never finish this interview because I am working on ideas as I answer this question. The trick is to never be idle, or you might stagnate.
Some of the keystones in my career are all related to being the 1st person to try the thing I mastered. If the readers of this interview takes anything from this, I hope it is that there are still infinite things left to be invented. Just not the easy stuff. If you look at my past, what was impossible back then, people are able to do it now. Such as, being the first to use Adobe software to print thermal heat transfer plastics, or using 3D Animation software to simulate laser holography on a super computer. In the past which can take the entire room, now its just a simple simulation on your laptop.
To sum it up, everything that I achieved in my career was based on me thinking WAY outside of the box. I wait for people to tell me it can’t be done and then I do it. Even in my design work, I break all the rules. I take as many things that should not work, and put them in together combinations to see if a new solution will be born. Often times, it produces fruit. So make sure you say YES to life, you will at least not regret anything when its all over.
What continuously inspires you to get mastery in versatile subjects of Animation and VFX?
I was born for this.
Basically, VFX is one of the most complicated things on this planet. Everything we do, inspires science and invention which follows years later. So instead of inventing things later, I like to be involved with the conception of it in VFX years before. It lets me satisfy my needs to create, and with less raw materials and cost.
How was your experience of being a freelance artist?
Being a freelancer is only good if you are on top of your game.
If you are starting your career, working in several studios first is must or you will never going to make it on your own. You need to know how things work and how to communicate with your peers. After that, it’s the best thing ever. You can travel, or you can take lots of time off. To talk on financially matters; if you are on top of the industry skill level, the pay can be fantastic. I paid my dues early and I was able to make the money people dreamed of being an artist.
The phrase ‘starving artist’ doesn’t even compute to me. Artists can get the highest paid salary in the world if they work smart.
How you stumbled upon the idea of making video tutorials for VFX training?
During my years working in studios, I ended up working on multimedia CD training for various customers. Mainly focusing on teaching medical processes to doctors, we used animation and interactive game like environments to help teach doctors about oncology or even skin care. After learning how to teach instructional design to smart customers, I took another job in multi-media training which allowed me to get into high-end compositing as part of the job.
I then got my hands on some SGI (Silicon Graphics Incorporated) machines with Shake, and decided that I was going to make my own DVD for people like myself. Back then, nobody had ever made training for any VFX specific softwares. Lightwave and Maya were about the only apps with video training but they were mainly in CG field. So the world saw what I made and a few short months later, I was doing it full time. Of course now, new comers to the industry can possibly afford to take on the bigger shops. The market is now cornered and highly competitive. That’s why I created cmiVFX as profit sharing, so new mentors could teach and sell their stuff without having to build a million dollar website setup.
We will love to hear the success story of cmiVFX, starting from its inception.
It’s a story about building roller coasters. They are fun that goes up and down, which starts off slow, then goes super fast for a while, then chugs up the next hill ever so slowly before it breaks free again at light speed. If you don’t like roller coasters, you shouldn’t run a company. It tests your hidden strengths in ways you can’t even expect. I am a glutton for punishment, so it fits my personality just fine. Now that you get the general picture in your head, here is the story.
Once upon a time, my dad brought home some pencils with Disney characters on them. I used them to draw pictures of myself. My mother’s friend who was dying of cancer like to sketch of me while she had the motivation. At the time, I just saw her has an Aunt like person who could draw my eyes with pencil and have it look like real glass around the cornea. This was the defining moment for me at the age 4. By age 6, I was able to sketch this picture of myself by memory in just a few minutes. I would say it probably looked like a freshman in high school drew it (Understand it was the only thing I would draw with a human or animal in it, and I practiced it nonstop in my in-door free time).
My dad then explained that the pencils with Disney characters were created by aunt for Disney. It was favour for my dad who was selling at Disney parks. I got obsessed with this. Later on, my father started his own specialty printing company with 2 other partners when I was young, and my aunt was one of those “starving artists”. She was typical SVA (School of Visual Arts) graduate from NYC, even named her daughter Chelsea!
To skip a bit forward and explain how this is important, I unveiled the truth about what was going on at my father’s large warehouse like company. Several printing presses, roto gravure and silkscreen took up most of the floor space, and several slitting stations to cut the materials. It was getting printed on pencils, lunch boxes to Mercedes Benz fake wooden dashboards back in the 80’s. It started off slow and then picked up much later. During this time, I spent time working for the company in some ways. I took it upon myself to try lots of things without him knowing it.
My dad took a design course at the local college and bought a Quadra AV Macintosh computer which was the biggest baddest Mac at the time. I sat at that thing once and never left. I started off playing with the simple paint program which was built in at the time. I made some photo realistic renderings in this paint program during my oil painting phase. Software’s ability to undo changed everything for me. He later bought Adobe Photoshop 3 and Illustrator 5. His company was never digital, until one day I showed him how to break up his printing plates into colors doing some manual trickery. At the time, you could not do this with any software feature alone, so Adobe found out about what I was doing and before you know it, I was working with them designing the new versions of Adobe apps. It was just a small contribution, but I was only 18 years old and they had no idea.
I started the cmiStudios bank account and started doing this custom pre-press work via FedEx and internet while I went to Rochester Institute of Technology to wrap up some of my main stream education. It allowed me to survive until graduation and on to the next phase. At this point in time, I had to leave Rochester to get away from a toxic relationship I was in. On my way home, I found that right down the road from where I grew up, was a branch of Metacreations. It was bought by Adobe. I got to help design the UI for Bryce and Poser (which is still using my UI elements!). Many of you might not know where the glass button came from. It’s still in older versions of OSX. This glass button design which lasted for a decade or more came from my work with this company. That led me into full time user interface design along side with part time digital pre-press. So now I am doing all sorts of things. Also, before leaving Rochester, I had signed up with SGI to work as a beta tester for an app code named MAYA. Yeah … I was one of the first to ever see it. It was still in pieces, but the hotbox UI caught my attention BIG TIME. And, so on, I spent a huge time helping lots of companies since making user interfaces. Every one of you reading this has used something i had designed, you just don’t know it!
In some cases, I designed entire applications. You can call this ‘Chris Maynard cmiVFX’. This allowed me to learn the apps better than the average user. SO, if we jump ahead, you can now see the bridge to how I became a trainer of VFX softwares. Of course, I worked on tons of films and TV commercials during my VFX only years. I had worked at many places and consulted 99% of them. I found that I likes to move around. I am like a boomerang which always comes back. But, when it is related to cmiVFX though, I am 100% focused and my main goal is to help others and who are working with me.
From your private label Chris Maynard cmiVFX , why you made it a profit sharing organization?
It wasn’t always!
In the beginning I would pay a few thousand bucks for a single video to be made. I would still produce and edit it, but I wanted others to join the fun ride. But, some shady practices in the industry got me frustrated. It made me to come on the decision that, I would lead the world by the hand and let artist’s work determine their pay that others would follow. It turns out that cmiVFX is still the leader in profit sharing business of visual effects.
We put our money where our mouths are. This is why our videos are the best. As a final result, our mentors and customers are the happy ones. We are all about the Education and the Science. Those other guys, we don’t know what they are about, probably money. cmiVFX is certainly not the end product. We had to take all their abandoned customers and help them get back on track. It’s frustrating to see how much money was spent and wasted before they get to us. That money could have gone to our team and given exponential treatment to the customer. We still don’t let people suffer though. If you had spent money in the wrong place, we know it’s tough to deal with and we will help you anyway. In the future, they will do their best to return the favor, and that’s good enough for us.
Any tips for fresher artists?
Each artist has his / her own mentality. You can’t be afraid to listen to others about advice, but not if it goes against your very core beliefs. Don’t be stubborn, but stick to your guns none the less. If you want an honest opinion about your work, ask several others that don’t know you and wouldn’t care what happens to you. This is how you can grow as an artist. It can be painful, only if you take it personally.
You should not get upset about your work because it means something to you. Who is the art for? If it is meant for someone else, then you should make it good for them, not for yourself. Once you get past that, you cannot lose!
Always make an extra version that breaks all the rules given to you to show as a last resort. Often times, clients will get a kick out of seeing such a thing ONLY after you do what they ask for first.
How do keep evolving in various technologies?
Every day, I get this question asked. I go back to my former statement.. “ I am a glutton for punishment”. I can’t take a beating and keep on going. So, I would say; it’s part intestinal fortitude and part insanity. Just make sure you learn something new every single day, WITHOUT FAIL.
Do share your future goals.
There are so many projects which I am running simultaneously. It’s not one to two to showcase by this time.
All comes from my head. I can’t always be right all the time, so I need to ask others many different things until all the problems get solved. If you don’t share your goals, then you won’t feel as obligated to get it done. I make sure to tell everyone that I am going to do so and so things. Then I am forced to do it, otherwise I would be a liar.
What do you do out of your digital life?
I am sort of an extreme sports enthusiast. I have done many things. Out my my tag of Chris Maynard cmiVFX; I still go for surf, snowboard, skateboard, bike, fly, jump, etc. I currently started back up with motocross. But now I am all electric! I am even reselling super high end bikes for power riders.
Outside of my personal excitement, I have love of my life and my kid who both adore me. They inspire me to be the best I can be all the time. I also spend lots of time with my animals. I have 3 sugar gliders (Kick-Flip, Pixel, Papi-seed) and my comedian chinchilla named for the lack of a better name “Chichee”.
My life is jam packed with love and work. What else can a guy ask for?