This interview was originally published in The Zocalo, a free, weekly
electronic newsletter devoted to Babylon 5. To subscribe, send your
first name, e-mail address and state/country of residence to
Well boys and girls it's time for another trip into Mister CGI's
neighborhood. Today our special guest is.... (Can you say guest? I knew ya
could!) It's the man, the myth, the legend.... (drum roll please) Mojo from
Foundation Imaging. This week I had a great opportunity to bend Mojo's ear and
ask him all the questions you "the readers of The Zocalo" have posed to me. I
will give you
the answers as they were given to me. See if you notice a similarity between
the way Mojo answers questions and the way JMS answers questions. Sorta Kosh
like!! I'm thinkin they have been hangin out a litttttle too long together.
The questions asked were ones I had and ones you the readers of The Zocalo
sent to us. This
interview was conducted by e-mail and I want to thank Mojo for taking the time
to answer the questions. Thanks also to Amy Berry for chasing him down at the
Are you still using the modeler on the Amiga or have you switched to P.C.?
We were running Video Toasters on Amigas, but we switched over the PC's last
summer when LightWave became available for the intel machines. They're much
faster and we need all the speed we can get!
Who is Mitch the effects guy?
Mitch Suskin was the on-set FX supervisor last year. This year it's Ted
Who is responsible for what? Does each artist have his own area of speciality
or do they work on one shot from beginning to end and do everything for
We have a lot of artistic freedom. Ron Thornton has final say (until it
goes to JMS), but we (the animators) pretty much interpret the script in our
own way. We usually do a shot from start to finish... sometimes when I'm
directing, I'll rough out the shots in wireframe and then hand them over to
someone else. John Teska (the other supervising animator) gravitates
towards creature stuff and character animation and I like space battles.
However, we all do a bit of everything!
Who created the Nakaleen feeder? How was it designed?
The Feeder was designed by Ron and the boys at Optic Nerve. (Optic Nerve
are the guy's responsible for the B-5 make-up for one of many things) It was
created entirely in the computer, except for the close-up shots of the 'tongue'
attaching itself to the actor's face. Some of the texture maps that made up
it's body started out as a scan of butcher meat, and I think a few medical
reference books were used as well.
Kosh in FON: How much is makeup, and how much is CGI?
There was an actor against a blue screen,(See my article in Newsletter #
31 for an explanation for blue screen) but we added the wings & the glow.
Who designs and creates ship cgi?
Most of the ships are designed by Ron, although we are all welcome to
design and build new ships as they appear in scripts. John Teska was
responsible for the Narn Transport and the Centauri Liner, while I handled the
smaller Centauri Warbird.
How long does it take to design and create a regular shot (like Shadow
ship shots, Narn crusiers etc). What is the approximate cost for one of these
It takes anywhere from a half day (simple B5 establishing shot) to 2 or 3
days (major explosion) per shot. (Here comes Kosh,Whirr, whistle, beeeeep) They
all cost exactly X amount of dollars
per shot. :-)
Why did MOJO disappear and where did he go? (Enquiring minds...)
He didn't pay his Netcom bill and got too busy to reinstate his account.
Look for him soon on America's Most Wanted.
Using amigas and macs?? How many?
We're now using Amigas & Toasters for live screen displays on
'Hypernauts.' B5 is done with PC's and DEC Alphas, while several Macs are used
for compositing and 2D effects (PPG blasts and such).
What new and exciting cgi stuff is looming on the horizon in the near
Cue Kosh again (Rattle ,burp, sound of breaking glass)
Who has final approval of cgi?
Ron at Foundation, Joe for B5, but, in the end, the VIEWERS decide!
What are cgi deadlines like? How far in advance do they work?
We get around 2 weeks per show, but if an episode is very FX heavy, JMS
try and follow it up with less FX intesive stories to give us more time on
the hard shows.
What has been the most challenging cgi effect to create? Why?
The toughest yet is probably episode 8 from season 3, "Messages from
Earth." You'll have to see it to understand why... other wise, The Feeder was
nice challenge, since it was our first creature... "Voice in the Wilderness"
had our first atmospheric and semi-planetary shots, so that took some
experimentation... the battle from "Coming of Shadows" was a personal
struggle, since it was the first sequence I directed and it took a lot of
work to make it so hard-hitting... the Kosh sequence was tough not because
of Kosh, but we had to build the entire garden! People are so caught up
with seeing Kosh they seem to have missed that the entire inside of the
station has been built in 3D!
Any nifty/funny/annoying cgi stories regarding the shop, the crew, etc?
Cue Kosh Again!(Gregorian chant,fingernails on a blackboard,chirp)
How are cgi artists trained? Good schools/how to learn & break into the
School is not neccessary, but can help. I learned the basics of 3D
animation at home on my Amiga. No one at Foundation has a degree in
anything to do with computers (although I did go to film school). Cal Arts
in Valenica, CA (where we are located) has a good computer animation
department, as does the School of Visual Arts in NYC. I also think it's
important to not just learn the technical side of 3D, but the creative side,
which is more or less filmmaking. A lot of new animators are very adept at
working the software, but have little knowledge of how to make a movie,
which is exactly what the 3D animator does - make little movies inside the
computer. Learning the basics of lighting, composition, editing and film
theory are things I personaly consider more important than all the computer
classes in the world. It will certainly help you get ahead! If you want to
go to school for this sort of thing, see if you can major in CGI and minor
in film/video. That would be a winning combo.
How do the people get along? Is it a team effort or do folks 'do their
We all hate each other, but are forced to get along for the good of the
show! Don't you know by now that computers are making everyone anti-social?!
What is more important: physics or looks?
We do the real physics as best we can, but in the end the shots have to
right, not BE right. Artistic integrity always wins out.
How picky is JMS?
How picky is Ron?
Depends how many beers he's had.
Sounds like my kinda guy. Well there ya have it. Okay so I'm no Barbara
Walters but it was a fun interview. It weally weally was!
Remember if you've got questions you can E-mail me at Necromancer@pol.org or
send your questions to the newsletter for me. To subscribe to The Zocalo, send
your first name, e-mail address and state/country of residence to
firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have ideas send them on in. Thanks again to Mojo
and to Amy. Be seeing ya!