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Interview of Daniel Gregoire, Board Chairman of Halon Entertainment

Daniel Gregoire is a HALON Board Chairman, Executive board for BAFTA’s VR committee, Consultant to 20th Century Fox, Partner at Ghostar, Owner at MATTERvr.

Daniel 20 years of experience includes: Daniel has worked as a Previs Supervisor/Director with the leading directors in the film including George Lucas on Star Wars Episode II and III, Steven Spielberg on War of the Worlds and Indiana Jones 4, JJ Abrams on Star Trek, Marc Forster on World War Z and Jon Favreau on Cowboys & Aliens. He was most recently the Visual Effects Supervisor on Michael Mann’s Blackhat and the director of game trailers for the award-winning mega-hits EVOLVE, XCom and Tom Clancy’s The Division. 

In this interview we talked about:

  • What has been the evolution of technology in the movie industry?

  • Talking about his company, Halon is always implementing untried, new technology. What is the decision process like to implement new technology?

  • Other than the ability to do new things with new technology. Are there any other decisions that play a part in implementing new technology such as having a barrier of entry for competitors or being the only ones that can fill a niche?

  • What are we going to see in the coming years that might shock or surprise some in terms of technology?

  • Any new learning from COVID and what would be an impact change?

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The transcript was generated using an Artificial Intelligence program and then scanned over; we would like to thank you in advance for understanding that there might be some inaccuracies. While reading, one might also notice that there are times were the sentences are not grammatically correct and due to changes in advertisements, the timestamps do not always align with the show. We are keeping the text as true to the interview as possible and hope that the transcript can be used for a reference in conjunction with the Podcast audio. Thank you and enjoy.

Intro: 0:01

This is Silicon Valley Tech behind the scenes a podcast hosted by Shawn Flynn and Sunil S. Ranka. Here's where we talk to the real heroes to find out how decisions are made and how they're executed to create the thriving businesses of tomorrow.

Daniel Gregoire 0:19

George was in Australia Shooting Star Wars Episode Three and had many outstanding sequences that needed to be visualized. And so George sent me out to Stevens house on a laptop with some special software that I am a design that was sort of a nonlinear editor that they'd custom-built for my at the time, and I spent several weeks either at Stevens office in Los Angeles or at Stevens guest house in the Hamptons, essentially sitting one on one with him banging out sequences for Star Wars Episode Three.

Shawn Flynn 0:48

This is the President and Chairman of Halon Entertainment Daniel Gregoire, who is leading-edge pre visual director and supervisor and today we talk about the technology that is changing Hollywood, Bollywood, and some of the success stories that Daniels had with his experiences with Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas and what he thinks is going to happen to the entertainment world, post COVID-19. This and much more on today's episode. So let's get started. Dan, thank you for taking the time today to be on Silicon Valley Tech. Now you've had this amazing background. But before we even talk about your career up to this point, I got to ask, was there any childhood experiences or any events that happened to you when you were young that kind of shaped your mindset, kind of who you are today?

Daniel Gregoire 1:36

Sure. Thanks for having me, Shawn. And I'm happy to be here to talk about the past the present and the future. So yeah, I mean, you know, I've given several presentations. In fact, I get quite a few talks a year, at least I did last year. This is slowed down a little bit. But throughout my life, I think I've been put in situations where I had to either sink or swim and I've become very comfortable with adversity, diversity and with change In effect, I find myself most comfortable when I am in a situation where there is a lot of change. And I think a lot of that stems from probably the earliest part of it was when my parents separated and divorced when I was 10 years old and I moved across from Wisconsin to Minneapolis and ended up living in my aunt's basement for a few months.

You know, for still if it was burlap and a paintbrush. Instead of you know, paper and pencil or it was some other medium that he was constantly challenging me and never really letting me get away with the status quo. In one particular instance, we were molding these clay heads. I remember very distinctly being very focused on getting like all the little details and the portions and the nostrils in the eyes and really trying to make the most perfect played I could possibly make and they were these were one to one, you know, play lumps, right? They're pretty big. And he came over he saw what I was doing and you know, I was so angry when he did this, but just to his credit, he came over and started like pushing and pulling and he grabbed a crosshatch knife and started like making all these lines in the side of the head and like making the nose crooked and then he kind of goes he goes Oh, yeah, that's a lot better. And then sort of walked off and I was just like, how dare this a-hole? Like do this to this thing. I've been working so hard on like for two days straight and I have a very high threshold for pain. But when that fuse goes, man, it goes so I grabbed that thing around the neck I squeezed I was taking out all my anger and frustration and then I Yup, calm down and I slowly pulled my fingers out. Because you know, if anybody's worked with clay, you know that it really sucks you in, right? So I had to sort of slowly pull my fingers out of this thing to not completely ruin what had happened. And from that, I got completely inspired and ended up making like this fish head dude with a giant Mohawk and scales and bridge nose, and you know, like this big fork tongue. And because these marks in the neck that I had created, reminded me of fishman from late 70s, or movies. And so that moment in time had I think has formed my thinking about everything that I do going forward, nothing that is presented to me is good enough, the status quo will never be enough. And I'm always thinking, Oh, well, that's awesome. But what else can we do? Where else can we go? How can we change this? How can we apply this to different things? And so there have been a myriad of things in my life like that. But that is those two particulars is I think we're probably the most important in terms of forming the thought process that I tried to employ across everything. Do today.

Shawn Flynn 5:02

Now let's take that thought process. Now. Can we go back in your own career up to this point because our listeners at home right now are probably thinking, Okay, who's head Mohawk? Who is this guy? You know, what's your story?

Daniel Gregoire 5:14 Sure. So in high school actually had played hero-worship of Glen Plake, you know, late 80s, early 90s, an extreme skier who had a giant Mohawk and so I actually have some pictures of myself my normal hairdo in the 90s or late 80s was, you know, pluck a seagulls mullet basically, which I could find pictures for later if you want but occasionally I would spike that up but not gelatin into a Mohawk and go around in my Oakley sunglasses and pretend like I was Glenn play. But you know, but that was kind of my artistic side. I think I embody two particular people. My father, my mother, obviously my father being artistic and outgoing and verbal, bohemian person who lives a certain life and travels around the country and that's what he enjoys and my mom who is a little more business oriented and likes to be close to home, and it My two grandfather's, both of whom owned their own businesses as well. So I think I fight between those two a lot. And so in terms of my career, I'm always fighting between my creative side who just wants to go out and be a bohemian and paint some stuff, or sculpt some things on the computer or do 3d animation or all the things I did as an artist for decade and a half. And in my business side who that wants to wants to explore technology and run spreadsheets and find creative applications of technologies and all these sorts of strange side adventures that I tend to find myself going out. So in terms of my path, I actually started college in 1990, in small school in southern Minnesota called Mankato State University, and I went there because they had an awesome business aviation program. So I actually thought I was going to be a commercial airline pilot. In fact, some of my friends who I went to school with did end up finally realizing that dream and follow that path, but just working out for me, and about two and a half years into it.

I dropped it and went into open studies and I dropped it because I had discovered technology education. There was a professor named Bill Brown, who's not with us anymore who had a Macintosh to ci. And this is one of the first Macintosh that I saw with an awesome like thousand depth color monitor. And he had crazy software on there like Photoshop and all this illustrator infinity Macromedia director, all sorts of companies and programs that I'm sure nobody really remembers anymore. But he saw my passion for these applications and essentially gave me the keys to his office and said, listen, if you want to sit here all day, and all night long, go for it. But while you're doing it, why don't you take independent studies on every one of these applications and write lesson plans for me because I'm going to be offering classes for the summer. Yeah, I mean, nobody's making me do this. That sounds like a fantastic idea. I mean, I need the credits to graduate anyway, I was kind of on the seven-year plan at that point after dropping aviation and he was giving me full three-credit independent studies per application. I mean, this was a dream come true. So I spent a good year basically in his office learning these things, writing lesson plans, and then when he offered the summer session classes I was essentially his PA and then more or less teaching these classes because you know, is great guys he was he really never had time to read the lesson plans or learn the applications themselves. And at this point, it was basically me teaching professors in the different departments that school about these applications. My graphic arts professor, we were still, you know, I was still taking his classes, and he was we're still hand lettering fonts and typefaces with markers, and I'm like, here's Illustrator. As you can see the color drain out of his face. It was like, Oh, no, this my whole my whole life has just been replaced by a piece of software. Yeah. Which is not the case really. So you know, you still need the basic art fundamentals in order to actually be an artist with a computer at the computer system on the paintbrush. So that was sort of the beginning of getting them and all in through that process. I created a demo reel. I ended up leaving Mankato a little early and I went to another school in Minneapolis called the School of Communication Arts where I took an Associate Program to learn Softimage and 3d Studio no backs yet on PCs and through that process, my ended up graduating both at the same time because again, Bill Brown came to my rescue. And he was like, Well listen, if you want to leave my kid, I'll go to the Associate Program, I'll give you full credit for the Associate Program down here at Mack kiddo. And that actually pushed me over the limit to the graduate. So he was really sort of a guardian angel and an individual who saw that this was a path that could actually lead somewhere. So I got pretty lucky, which is really think of the underlying theme of my entire career, a good amount of luck, some hard work and perseverance and just making decisions at the right time. So so that was kind of the start. And then after that, I made a demo reel, and that demo reel went everywhere. In fact, I still have the I've kept a flip-up book of all the rejection letters I got from all the different studios, Westwood Studios, Pixar, Lucasfilm, you name it, I got rejected from the best of them and over that six months, I made another demo reel and sent it out again and got rejected again. And eventually what happened and I have learned this through people who are very good friends of mine now a studio in San Diego in 1996 called Presto Studios. They were one of the first CD ROM adventure game companies they shipped on Apple's initial CD ROM demo disc that shipped with the first Apple CD ROM drives buried in time. The journeyman project actually was just a journeyman project at that time then after that was buried in time, etc, but they saw my first real sets of back half rewinded or half watts, I should say, the second real, they called me had me come out to San Diego, give me an interview, and then give me a job. And that was really the beginning of it all working for an amazing game company in San Diego from 96 to 99, an amazing group of individuals who have all gone off and done even more amazing things. Since then, they sort of taught me what it was like to be in production showed me the ropes trusted me to learn new software and gave me a huge opportunity. And I can't be more thankful to that group of individuals than I am today.

Sunil Ranka 10:46

Dan this is great. A great lesson learned many rejections and then the success we have heard it many, many times and over and over again. We all live in a world where Hollywood and I come from Bollywood. Now growing up is very fascinating. How did that transition happen?

Daniel Gregoire 11:02

So when I finished up my last game at Presto Studios, we had a little bit of time off, and I'd experienced some downtime between projects before but this time I got a call from some friends up at Lucas film. It just so happened that my boss who had left presto studios about a year earlier went to go up and work at the rebel mac unit and Island rebel mac unit, for those who don't know is a unit set up by John Knoll for a Star Wars Episode One that was set out to prove that desktop computers iE Macintoshes. And off the shelf software, like electric image could actually play a role in a high end visual effects film like Star Wars Episode One. And so when he went up, became very interested in that path and tried to maintain contact with him and I went up to visit once and he had these two roommates Kevin Bailey and Ryan Tebow, who I found out later had been hired directly out of high school by one of my old mentors and bosses to resorts to work as pre visualization artists on Star Wars Episode One. I didn't know any of this at all. But because Shoddy my former boss was working at ILM. I kept sending him updates on my work, but he didn't have email access, I limit the time restricted email access for security reasons. And so I sent that to Kevin and Ryan as well because I had met them on my visit and, and they had relaxed and responded to my emails. So I knew they were getting them. So blindly one day, I got an offer to come up and work with them. And I said, Well listen to sounds amazing, but I don't really want to leave presto, why don't I come up, they'll take a leave of absence from presto and I'll come up and they'll do this work. And so that's how it works. But by the time that it all wrapped up, and this was on my first visual effects project, the wake Angel sequence and the ice crystal sequence from movie tiny and I was like you know what, this is really more where my heart is that I need to go pursue this. So I decided to stick with those guys. My next project which was Moulin Rouge, which distorts set me up to Australia don't do and it was supposed to be a two-week project quick hop over Australian back. And through that process, I learned what previous was all about. So we worked on Macintosh laptops and electric image and we worked with Baz Luhrmann and Chris Godfrey, the visual Next supervisor to help Fox understand what Basil's vision was for that film. He wanted to do these giant shots for the camera move seamlessly between the interior of the move on the exterior courtyard past the elephant through the windmill, and on the Christians apartment and a bunch of other ideas. And these are all individual sets. Here it was on stage one, the exterior courtyard was on stage two and the windmill and Christian’s department were on stage for something like that. And, and Fox at the time didn't have confidence that this could be done. So we were called in to essentially build those locations, dish them together digitally, and then prove that these big ideas could be accomplished. And we did just that through the course of two months, we built out a bunch of different concepts ideas like this. Baz Luhrmann was able to take them to the studio and essentially sell the concepts the studio said, Oh, I get it. And that was the birth of my experience with previous Now fortunately, Kevin and Ryan me suddenly the gentleman I was working with in Australia and David resorts happened to be the team from Skywalker Ranch that had done pretty As for Star Wars Episode One, so they were like, Hey, you know, Dan seems to be doing pretty well here. Why don't we invite them over to the ranch and we'll put them on Star Wars. And that was the beginning of the picture.

Sunil Ranka 14:09

Beautiful. And when I met you for the first time in your Santa Monica office, I never knew what Travis means. And I'm sure most of us do not. Would you mind telling us a little bit more about what exactly the previous mean?

Danel Gregoire 14:22

Sure, pre-visualization is essentially a digital animated process by which we use professional off the shelf visual effects software to create a quick and dirty and iterative version of a filmmaker’s vision before they go shoot it. Now, it doesn't always happen, doesn't always happen before they go shoot it. Sometimes it happens well before they even have the funding to do it. So that's what we call pitch visualization. We'll work with a filmmaker to actually come up with a concept piece that is their vision for what the film could eventually be and they can use that to actually sell the concept and raise money or gain, you know, gain favor with a studio who is interested in doing the project.

So then there's an also answered visualization, which is coupled now with virtual production where we'll actually go on set and continue the iterative process of digital storytelling, while a filmmaker is actually in the process of filming. And this is actually very useful because when you're on set, you know you're burning 100 $200,000 a day. And it's super important to have your concepts and your ideas buttoned down. And for producers be able to know like, what equipment goes, where, what your scheduled impacts are, etc. And sometimes shots can cost a million dollars, and you want to have a plan going into that. So we are there to help facilitate those sorts of things. And then we also do a lot of post visualization as well, which we did a ton of on Star Wars, which was to take the plates that have been shot on set the actors and knock out the green screen put in the digital characters, and that over editorial actually has something to cut with, I'm sure people will recognize in today's blockbuster environment, a lot of characters and environments are just simply not there when they shoot the Hulk is not there. They have Mark Ruffalo a giant costume you know with markers all over his face and that needs to be replaced. And so what happens is when it occurs goes to cut that it's very hard to understand the flow and context of a scene when the digital characters just simply aren't there. And so we will go in and put those in, in a very quick rudimentary fashion so that editorial can actually cut and make decisions that can save them thousands or not, if not hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars once it goes into Visual Effects pipeline.

Sunil Ranka 16:20

I keep hearing that you did something unusual, which means you're pushing the envelope all the time, how's that experience has been.

Daniel Gregoire 16:27

There's been an overarching realization from the studio side that digital assets that they pay visual effects vendors to build for their films are just as valuable as the films themselves if not more in cases because it can help save them money for sequels and other content like location-based entertainment, VR experiences, video games, etc. So there has been classically a tendency for studios like ours, like visual effects studios or even game companies to deliver assets that are built for one particular purpose for completing the visual effects from doing visualization for building video games, and we took an overall thought process around digital asset creation and simply said, Well listen, is there a way that we can build these assets through one process one pipeline and still use them for all the different use cases that come up? And this was about a nine-month effort that be built a small team around and essentially approved that yes, there are actually ways that you can build assets that with the proper upfront planning can tap out the different specific assets that each trade or craft or use case might require. And so I think that's going to be a very relevant conversation moving forward, especially as we start talking about virtual production where we're moving a lot of the decision making and the workflows back to the front of the process where the key decision-makers like the DPS, the directors, the producers, are on set to make decisions on the day about where we're building giant led walls and putting real-time graphics on those led walls that represents the final picture so you can actually get your shots completely in-camera now without having to go through a video fact effects process these assets need to be built in order to accommodate not only these real-time solutions that end up on these real-time led walls, but also be able to trickle down to visual effects so that they can do any last-minute polish or even complete large sequences that also require the same assets off to location-based entertainment, after video games and all the different places where digital assets have become a commodity now.

Sunil Ranka 18:25

Sounds like technology has taken front seat into the movies. What are the new things you have seen in the last few years, which is making an important part of the decision for movie making?

Daniel Gregoire 18:36

Sure. So the big thing that we are working on and this dovetails specifically with real-time technology is something called virtual production. Now, this is something that myself and my company Halo n are working tirelessly on and are engaging with vendors and are engaging with film studios and vendors and storytellers with on a daily basis. Now, virtual production is is kind of a catch-all. It's a big phrase, it means, you know, there's been tried to be defined. But in the end, it's really a collection of digital tools and processes that come together to help filmmakers tell stories. And it includes game engines includes led walls. It includes performance capture, which is motion capture, plus, face capture, includes all sorts of includes all of these tools brought together into a cohesive fashion for a specific purpose. Not all films, not all creative. Not all stories require all the different parts of virtual production. You can break pieces off and use it ad hoc but as an ecosystem, it is a really amazing, exciting time right now and frankly, we see it as how Hollywood is going to get moving again during this whole COVID pandemic.

Shawn Flynn 19:46

Halon is always implemented untried new technology kind of what are the decision process in implementing this new technology? What are the discussions like?

Daniel Gregoire 19:54 And previous this isn't just Halon this is really previous as well. Although Halon tends to be at the cutting edge of this as well because I have a very high threshold for pain and I tend to take on projects that are always doing things that are a little out there on the edge and crazy but previous in as it's part of its DNA has always been ahead on technology like me nine 2000 previous exists because of the democratization of consumer off the shelf hardware and software. It just would not exist without that. And we took that idea and that philosophy and we pushed it into everything we did. So anytime a piece of technology became commoditized became consumer-level became available to any kid in his bedroom across the world. We were like that's for us. And this technology has been percolating for a long time especially game engine talk technology, the really the biggest obstacle for us on game to image technology was the cost when valve came out with Half-life to the first trailer, I happened to find myself on a private jet with George Lucas and I was like this is my opportunity. I could show George real-time technology and try to convince him to use this to make movies and you know, I showed him the trailer and he was pretty receptive It was like, wow, you know, this is amazing, but you know, I'm gonna be gone before this stuff is really ready to use for primetime and you kids, you're gonna get all the fun, right? And I was like, Okay, okay, the wrong message, but he gets it right. So then the same thing happened during calls or no calls on a call of duty Gears of War. So the same thing happened again, with Gears of War, when Epic Games came out with the Gears of War franchise, they released a trailer and then they actually showed the trailer running real time in their engine. And it showed like all the dirty behind the scenes stuff, the character jumping all over the place, and the camera moving and props changing and the lighting changing per shot. And this was like a huge watershed moment. And this was a tool that they had developed called bat and I at the time was on contract with Steven Spielberg for visualization and I got a chance to go in and present this to him right, a couple of the epic guys along with me, which is actually why I have such a great relationship with them. It started a long time back. And Steven saw this and was fascinated and he understood it as well. But again, the technology wasn't quite there and the license for use vision was a million dollars. And there was all these sorts of things that we just couldn't get past. And so when Tim Sweeney came in About five years ago and released a YouTube video that said, Listen, if you love something, set it free. That was the moment, Epic Games gave Unreal Engine away for free and put all their source code on GitHub. And it may have been good prior to that. But the licensing structure for linear entertainment and media like ours, the license was free. That was our moment. And I think about a week after that, I convened the entire senior structure of our company in our motion capture volume, and I said, Guys, this is what's happening.

The engine is free, we are going to use it. I don't care how hard it is, I don't care what we have to write to make it work for us. I don't care, you know that it's going to be slower, and then we're gonna have to train new people. This is the future this is what we have to do. And of course, you know, like you always get there are some people that are excited. There are some people that grumble a little bit because there are practical implications to the business side of things on these kinds of decisions. But we got really lucky we found at the time a visual effects producer and Ryan Stafford and he actually saw the potential he saw the opportunity And he gave us a soft cushion to be able to go in and use this technology on War for Planet of the Apes, and they knew is going to take training, they knew it was going to be slower there, they knew it are going to be hurdles and obstacles and they're going to be worse and problems, but they were willing to take the chance to do it. And through the crucible of that experience, the team that we put on it, led by AJ Brown, and Casey and one of our supervisors, they figured it out, they made it work and that for us cascaded into essentially what we consider to be the core component of our pipeline. Now, Unreal Engine sits at the core of everything we do as a company, and that in and of itself has created a situation where we have been able to diversify and grow our business almost 100% in those years.

Shawn Flynn 23:50

I want to ask you a lot of questions about implementing new technology board and those conversations and the barriers that also implement the technology. But you just mentioned George Lucas and Steven Spielberg as if it was nothing, I got to hear at least one or two stories. That's something in Hollywood just for our listeners.

Daniel Gregoire 24:07

Well, that's actually the amazing part about those two individuals, George Lucas, you know, he did all this production up at Skywalker Ranch, which is a beautiful functioning ranch with cows and horses and grapevines and olive trees and, you know, amazing production facilities. You know, I speak about George in a casual sense, because that's the environment he created. Once I remember getting yelled at by our producer, Rick McCallum was because I was treating George with kid gloves, and you know, like, I needed to schedule everything around with the proper channels and all that kind of stuff. And Rick was like, honey, you gotta just, you know, you have a relationship with George, if you need to talk to George, just go talk to George like you don't need to bother everybody with all this. Questions. Right? And so that was the environment you just when you want to need George for something, you know, obviously, he was a busy person and he had a schedule, whatnot. But if he was an editorial, you went down, you knocked on the door, said, Hey, George, I have a question about this or that and then he would answer it for you. And that was that and you know, at the end of the day, everybody's just people, we're all just people, we're just trying to survive. And that's cannot be more true than for people like George and Steven as well. You know, we all are human, and we're all fallible, but at the end of the day, you know, we want to be loved. We want to be respected and we want to work with people to create awesome stuff. And so that was pretty much my experience working with George and I can't thank George enough for for everything he done for us as a community, but he also introduced me to Steven I remember specifically, but what really happened to facilitate an ongoing relationship where there was summer that we did Star Wars Episode Three, Steven was slated to start filming Munich, I believe, and it got pushed, so he was on the phone with George telling him he was going to be bored all summer sitting at home with nothing to do and George was in Australia Shooting Star Wars Episode Three and had many outstanding sequences that needed to be visualized. And so George sent me out to the human's house on a laptop with some special software that I am a design that was sort of anonymous. In your editor that they'd custom-built for Maya at the time and I spent several weeks either at Stevens office in Los Angeles or at Stevens guesthouse in the Hamptons, essentially sitting one on one with him banging out sequences for Star Wars Episode Three, he would sketch things on napkins, we had a little key code you know, like a circle of some lines through it was Obi Wan for the beard a circle with you know, with axes or whatever it was this other character you know, we had a whole thing and so I would basically bang out a shot on the laptop he would sketch another one work on that for a little bit he'd sketch another one we just kept going back and forth like this.

We did five I think sequences for Star Wars up so so episode three like this, we did the Yoda Palpatine fight in the Senate. We did most of our battle between Obi Wan and Anakin. We did order 66 we did the lizard Chase and noodle POW at least one other one we're getting right now. But you know what's what I was done blocking it out. They would look over my shoulder say yeah, that's it or no, let's change this around a little bit. And we've just kind of continue and then we'd play the whole sequence together in Maya and that was a huge, you know, craziness because Maya wasn't set up to handle compartmentalize time and money. In a near real-time linear workflow so I changed one shot and it would break the other one so Steven would be like oh no, did we just destroy it all? And I'd be like, No, no, just wait I'll fix it right so I go and I tweak it I go home I spent all night in my hotel room afterward fixing it, bring it back the next day and say, see you I saved it you know, and then they can be like, Oh, good, okay, it's all there. But it was a fantastic experience and through that experience, when Steven got called by Paramount to do War of the Worlds summer of five and he called Georgia said hey, listen, I know you guys are wrapping up Star Wars I could really use previous to help me get War of the Worlds and theaters because War of the Worlds was a unique beast, Paramount somehow had something move and discover that didn't have a summer tadpole for 2006. And they had nine months to do a visual effects tadpole film from stead stop to in theaters. These films take two years minimum typically even today. And so Steven realized that through the previous process, with my help and the help of the team members that were at the ranch that wrapping up the ranch, he could actually completely direct to film before he stepped on set control his vision defined specifically for ILM, what needed to be done and the process worked seamlessly. He moved his desk into our office to do the previous for a full month along with his copious other duties as a film director. When we went on set, I traveled with him the whole time continuing the process of working with Dennis Mirren and Adam Sumner, the first ad Steven and Kathy Kennedy, the producers on the film to make sure that everything was buttoned up, and it was exactly what he wanted, so that as he shot, that's what he shot as he handed things off to ILM, pylon knew exactly what they had to do. I don't even know if it's been done since frankly, but ILM did the visual effects for the worlds in two or three months, which is an insane schedule for the volume of work that had to be accounted for that film. So that was my introduction to Hollywood, which was unlike any introduction to Hollywood that I think anybody has probably experienced for quite some time.

Sunil Ranka 28:52

Amazing. What do you think is post-COVID, how this movie industry is going to change and how technology is going to help pick up from where we have left off.

Daniel Gregoire 29:02

Sure. So COVID has been quite an awakening, I think, for us as a company. But I think for the industry as a whole as well. And I think it has ripple effects across a lot of other industries as well. And I've talked to some friends and other companies about this. We have been investigating cloud services for a long time we work where the actions right we go, where the action, you know, we mean going on set. We love computers with us, if we go somebody else's office, we lift up and push a whole infrastructure over there, security servers, NASA's on the whole thing. So we've been looking at cloud infrastructure work from home, hiring people abroad, all this kind of stuff, but it's really never made much sense. Well, we pulled it off in two days, when we realized that it needed to happen like COVID was a thing and we were all we had a thumb on it. We're like, Okay, at this has to happen, right. And I think a lot of people are finding that the old thoughts, the old methodologies that sort of creaky approach to progress that we all tend to take because we don't want to upset the course of things or we don't want to put ourselves in too big of risk basket basically all the time. The window now with the horrible mess that is the pandemic, there is a tremendous opportunity for change. The mental flexibility is there for people to accept that is going to be the case like they're malleable now they're much more malleable than they have been in the past. And I think we're going to see tremendous amounts of progress in terms of technical processes, we're going to start seeing virtual production, I believe is going to be one of the things that allow us to get productions moving in just flat out usually you would send you know, 10-20 people to a location to do a location scout, that's not going to happen anymore.

You're going to send one or two people to scan that location, digitally, put it in a game engine, like unreal, you're going to put it in an LED wall cave so that people can explore you get to put on a VR headset now and work collaboratively from home you know, all of these things are you know, while they've kind of been on the periphery and amazing people like John Fabro and Meg Opus and other companies have been doing this kind of stuff for Lion King and The Jungle Book and other projects in the Mandalorian. I think people saw them as sort of a fringe tournament expensive fringe experiment that, you know was necessary for those specific projects. But it didn't really apply to me, right? And now everybody is looking around going holy cow like I got nothing to do, how can we make this apply to me? So that is, you know, something that I'm really heavily focused on several different tracks consulting to direct execution as something Halon, my company my visualization company is focused on across Hollywood is now how do we employ real-time rendering led walls virtual reality, augmented reality than to get Hollywood up and running again, that is a huge thing that has to happen.

Sunil Ranka 31:32

In short, if the listeners want to know what exactly Halon does what you do, would you mind just sharing more?

Daniel Gregoire 31:40

Sure, well, I actually since I founded the company about 18 years ago, I was a visualization supervisor for about 15 of those years and then decided that I really wanted to try and branch out and do other things. So I've tried, I've been directing. I've been directing Game Trailers my latest one was the three trailer for Borderlands three. I also direct motion capture shoots and performance capture shoots, so actors on set wearing funny suits and balls on them and then head cameras and stuff. I also do a lot of technological pursuits like the transmedia asset pipeline experiments chase cloud solutions, just recently completed, actually was a 60 square mile photogrammetry shoot and a large national monument. So you know, I'm always taking on sort of these crazy fringe projects. But so I'm a little bit different than what Halon is specifically. But I tried to guide and push a line forward in that regard. So Halon and in and of itself, as a visualization company. Primarily, we utilize real-time technology to tell stories. Now we do that across video games, cinematics, trailers, we do that for feature films. We do that for TV shows, we do that for location-based entertainment, we do a little bit of virtual reality work as well and some augmented reality work. And we do that for both Entertainment and Department of Defense and anything that we can really get our hands on from a real-time engine perspective if it relates to telling a story that is pretty much our bread and butter. And that's what digital visualization really is.

Shawn Flynn 32:55

And then if anyone wants to find out more information about yourself, your company, what's the best way to go about doing it.

Daniel Gregoire 33:02

The best way to find information about us is probably to go up to from there you can bounce off to our Vimeo portal and new various news sites and our Twitter feed as well. I think we're team Halon on Twitter. I can send you that information after half Halon previous that's our Twitter handle.

Sunil Ranka 33:19

Beautiful. Thank you so much, Dan.

Outro 33:23

Thank you for listening to Silicon Valley Tech behind the scenes. To find out more contact the team or to be a guest on the show, visit our website at We look forward to hearing from you and remember to support the show by leaving a review to encourage us to keep creating great content like this.

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