Titmouse is an animation juggernaut – that’s a simple fact.
If you’ve seen a cartoon in the last few years personified by wild energy, boundless creativity, and an irreverent, off-kilter tone, then there’s a strong chance that Titmouse’s imaginative animators had a hand in it.
Founded by president Chris Prynoski and his wife, vice president Shannon Prynoski, Titmouse has pumped out some of the most memorable and hilarious shows on TV: from Adult Swim’s Metalocalypse and The Venture Brothers to Comedy Central’s Moonbeam City and Disney XD’s Motorcity. The studio has recently earned a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Animated Program for Niko and the Sword of Light, an animated comic book for Amazon.
And while its creativity has grown in leaps and bounds over the last 15 years, Titmouse’s real estate has developed too – the company now spans three studios in animation hotspots Los Angeles, New York City and Vancouver.
Across these three studios – and with the help of a raft of global freelancers – Titmouse exhibits an almost endless capacity for creativity, often juggling several in-house and commissioned projects at once. Ensuring a level of consistent innovation and quality is a challenge, but with cineSync, the studio can ensure each and every shot has as much trademark Titmouse dynamism as the last.
Keeping things close
An important tenet of Titmouse’s set-up is promoting a close-knit culture within – and indeed across – each of its studios.
Early on, when Titmouse was based solely in Los Angeles, watching dailies was part of the everyday schedule – the entire staff would pile into the conference room to check out the latest footage, compare notes, and discuss techniques. And even today, with Titmouse growing on a global scale, this practice remains in place.
“TV animation is fast, and a lot of studios don’t have time for dailies sessions with their crews; we’ve always viewed dailies as a vital part of the process,” begins Ben Kalina, Titmouse Vice President and Supervising Producer. “When the team watches work-in-progress footage together, the overall quality of the show goes up.”
Titmouse ensures these processes remain in place despite vast differences in geographical location via cineSync – a solution it adopted six years ago following the opening of its New York office.
“An average daily review for animation and composites at Titmouse might include anywhere from 26 to 40 scenes per project. We include artists, supervisors and directors from areas as diverse as Los Angeles, New York, Kentucky, Vancouver, New Zealand, Korea, and Japan – all at the same time!” says Kalina. “Using cineSync means we can handle all of that complexity with ease.”
Whether it’s for television work, feature film, or the tons of other projects Titmouse keeps busy with, the studio relies on cineSync to ensure its separate teams continue to act as one.
“For TV animation, cineSync is a must,” says Kalina. “It’s easy for studios to get stuck in the traditional process of waiting until animation is complete and review everything at once. With cineSync, we can work with remote teams and easily track the footage scene by scene, and collaborate throughout the process.
“Being able to do real-time scrubbing and draw-overs is really helpful in that process,” he continues. “Before digital pipelines, you’d get an animation scene folder, flip pages, make notes in pencil, and then hand them back to your animator. Now we can watch QuickTime files played at speed, then stop, scrub the footage, draw over the scene and have a guy on the other side of the world watching you in real-time. It’s crazy.”
Outside of the box, out of the box
cineSync has done more than just streamline reviews at Titmouse – it’s also enabled the team to tap into an international talent pool, essentially growing the team while simultaneously pulling the artists closer together.
For instance, while producing Niko and the Sword of Light, Titmouse brought several European artists onto the project, and communicated with them daily via cineSync.
“Working with a remote team of European artists extended beyond Niko and the Sword of Light,,” says Kalina. “Thanks to cineSync, workflow is more streamlined and we can easily review their shots for any project. That opens us up to the best talent around the world, as we can keep creative conversations going online.”
This functionality has helped strengthen other in-house processes too. Titmouse creative director Antonio Canobbio also uses cineSync to remotely train teams from Los Angeles, with a composite team in New York City and a background team in Vancouver receiving live instruction without the cost and hassle of travel.
And from the employees to the clients, Titmouse has found cineSync useful as a pitching tool, showcasing its ideas from screen-to-screen when in-person pitches just aren’t feasible.
“We tried screen sharing in the past, but the lag in displaying artwork always hurt the pitches and led to people becoming frustrated,” says Kalina. “Now we use cineSync and we can flip panels in real time with no lag. That’s something we couldn’t do five years ago!”
Going to Nerdland
Alongside many short films, commercials, video game cinematics – and quite a lot else – Titmouse also recently launched into its very first independent feature film: Nerdland.
Directed by Chris Prynoski, Nerdland is an adult animated satire about Hollywood and the depraved lengths some will go to attain celebrity. It features some top-tier talent too, with Andrew Kevin Walker of Seven fame on writing duties, and voice work by Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt.
Nerdland commenced as an independent in-house project, worked on in between TV commitments, in a piece-by-piece fashion.
“At Titmouse we often have projects starting and stopping in several cities simultaneously,” explains Kalina. “When we’d wrap a TV series in New York City with a month between projects, the available team would jump on Nerdland. Then a team in L.A. would become available and they’d take on a few sequences. When we had locked the entire story reel and needed crew fast, we sought out freelancers and animators working from home in France, Belgium, New Zealand, and Canada.”
cineSync was used by the Los Angeles team and the freelance artists elsewhere to keep the project on point. It came in particularly helpful for Prynoski, who was often traveling on Titmouse business.
“Chris used cineSync to review footage while he was out of town,” says Kalina. “He even put together a ‘travel studio’ with a Wacom Companion, and would review footage from his hotel room. That really helped keep everything on track for what was, at times, quite a piecemeal project!”
Beyond a theatrical release of Nerdland, Titmouse is working on a full season of Niko and the Sword of Light, as well as Son of Zorn, a live-action/animated hybrid for Fox. The imaginatively titled Brad Neely’s Harg Nallin Sclopio Peepio will also air on Adult Swim this summer, keeping Titmouse more than busy alongside many of the smaller projects it has on the go.
And another big focus for Titmouse? Virtual reality. “We’re always trying to figure out new and interesting ways to bring comedy and cartoon storytelling into the interactive world,” says Prynoski. “We want to use VR to make the viewer’s eyes bleed from amazement…not just from staring into hot LCD screens one inch away from their pupils.”
However you frame it, Titmouse is one prolific studio, using any ounce of free time mustered to add yet another vibrant, zany project to its portfolio. Thanks to cineSync, it can do this without losing any of the community feel its artists had when sat together in that single LA conference room, wherever the artists artists may be located.
“We’re an artist-run studio, and we’re always looking for new ways to make shows, whether it be different visual styles or just new ways to structure our pipeline,” says Kalina. “cineSync enables us to do that without disrupting the way we like to collaborate. That’s a special thing.”