Sequence breakdowns for 2019 showreel

Who are you?

I'm a CG technician/artist/supervisor based in Wellington, New Zealand. I specialise in creatures and characters. I've been in the business for about 15 years, and I've worked on a couple dozen major motion pictures...among other projects. Most of these were at either Weta Digital, in Wellington, or at Blue Sky Studios, back when it was in New York. Check out some of the links below (imdb, linkedin) for more information about me and my work.

What's "creature engineering"? Do you mean rigging?

The most successful CG creatures involve four broadly overlapping disciplines:

- Rigging : The production of puppets of various types, driven by animation curves. These puppets may be realtime, or they may be slower, in order to provide more WYSIWYG feedback to stakeholders. They may involve animation controls and hence UX, however this isn't always the case.

- Creature Effects and Finaling : From static deformers to muscle, cloth, and hair simulations. This is where the artistry and realism happens, and is often the most expensive part of high end builds.

- Tooling and Pipeline : An array of work, from build schemas, to cutting edge MPM solver technology, to snippets of MEL used to organise shot options, to data wrangling backends designed to keep the creature factories pumping geometry through the system and into shots.

- Creature Supervision : Holistic creature-as-product; sculpting, lighting, surfacing, grooming, and the above three disciplines interwoven technologically and organisationally with motion (animation, performance capture, simulation, proceduralism) in order to produce the best possible overall results for clients. Producing the best CG is as much about relationships as it is technology and artistry, and this is where those relationships develop.


I was Creatures Lead on Rampage. I supervised all of the work which the Creatures Department produced for the film. I took requirements from clients (VFX Supes), bid them, assigned them to team members in creatures, and ran various types of dailies for the duration of the production in order to deliver our products (creature bakes and puppets) to shots groups and motion groups, respectively. I mentored members of my team, helped them out when they were stuck, implemented technology, and generally provided them with both guidance and support. All of the main characters were fully anatomically simulated.

Also, I did TD work both on assets (creating all of two of the three hero ape builds for the show) and on shots, creating bespoke shot performances and effects. "Builds" in this case refers to various puppet products, anatomical deformations, and pipelining of creature assets for motion and shots.

Lizzie, meet George

A setpiece shot featuring the fully mutated George and Lizzie characters, and a prop weapon (crane).

Attack at Wacker Drive

Another setpiece shot, featuring mostly George and also Ralph, the mutant wolf. Also dozens of digital doubles, props, weapons, and fx proxies.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

My role on "Apes 2" was Creatures Lead. For about half the show I supervised, running dailies and overseeing the work which the Creatures Department delivered. I was the first TD on the show, and had to support the entire cast of apes for a portion of it. Although we had a lot of groundwork to build on from "Apes 1", every character ended up being completely rebuilt. I did the hands-on creature work on Caesar and River throughout the show, and all of the chimps derived from those builds. Creature work refers to various puppet products, anatomical deformations, and pipelining of creature assets for motion and shots. In addition to modernising those builds with new techniques and software, I built and supported systems for distributing changes across most of the cast. This enabled us to quickly propagate changes and improvements right up until wrap.

This show was nominated for the VFX academy Award in 2015. Also, the character I was on, Caesar, was given the 2015 VES Society Outstanding Performance of an Animated Character in a Photoreal/Live Action Feature Motion Picture award.

River Falls

The apes and horses here are CG. This sequence was especially difficult due to the time ramping. River is featured.

Ape Not Kill Ape

This sequence was problematic because of the speed of the apes here--extreme forces tend to cause anatomical simulations to fail. But it happened early in production and led to some effective changes in how we implemented tissue, which were distribuited across the cast.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

My role on "LVL" was Creatures Lead at Weta. I supervised all of the work which the Creatures Department provided: puppets for motion departments, and baked geometry for shots. I also did the creature work on a few builds, most notably the rock/energy tentacles seen throughout our sequence. "Builds" in this case refers to various puppet products, deformations, and pipelining of creature assets for motion and shots. I ran dailies and provided direction on both the what and the how of Creatures Department products, over the course of nearly a year on the show.

Weta's work on this show was nominated for the VFX Academy Award in 2018.

Ego's Tentacles

A setpiece representation of our primary hero build for the show, Rocket, who had a very complex costume, in layers of fur, cloth, and rigid parts, on top of a full anatomical simulation. Also seen here are the rock tentacles, a digital double Star-Lord, and several props and FX proxies.


On BFG I got to do a lot of development work. I was tasked with a couple hero giant builds, Fleshlumpeater (the film's antagonist) and Gizzardgulper. "Builds" in this case refers to various puppet products, anatomical deformations, and pipelining of creature assets for motion and shots groups. My energies were directed here into a completely novel tissue build, recreating some skeletal and muscle systems from scratch, based on both advancements in the software's capabilities and my understanding of it. The result was increased realism in the performance of the muscle systems, and the techniques were carried forward into subsequent shows.

Fleshlumpeater Flex

I built the guy throwing (FLE) and and receiving (Gizzardgulper) here. Shots like these were fun because I got to dial in FLE's muscles very specifically.


I jumped at the chance to be involved with a Ridley Scott Alien franchise. It was one of my favourite franchises as a kid and helped get me into the business. I got incredibly lucky in being assigned to the creature which most resembled an alien and was featured in the closing cliffhanger sequence of the film.

Weta ended up getting nominated for a VFX Academy Award for the work we did on the show.

The Deacon

This cute little bugger had a fully simulated muscle system which helped give the impression of life. I was responsible for most of the puppet and anatomical build and support.

The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit productions went on for years at Weta. They were sprawling affairs with thousands of assets and thousands of shots. I was a Senior Creature TD at the time of the first film, and did a few creature builds, both puppets and anatomical simulation setups. Weta was going though growing pains at the time, and the era saw a lot of new technology brought to bear--mostly so we could handle both the scale and the rapid fire pace of changes late in the game.

The first Hobbit film was nominated for the VFX Academy Award.

Radagast's Rabbits

The rabbits were novel builds. We had nothing to base them on and had to build them from scratch. The fur ended up being a saving grace, as often their speed caused simulation artifacts--our software was maturing. I did puppets and the anatomical sims and creature build/release/bake pipelining here.

Goblin Rush

We had a "rush order" for about 15 different goblins when the director decided that the live action versions wouldn't work. I and two other TDs produced this crew of mutants which feature in an extended sequence of grossness, so I built about 1/3 of these--puppets, anatomical setups, and pipeline. I worked here as well to build tools to distribute creature work from one character to another.

Warg Matriarch Takes Charge

The Wargs were one of the first big creature builds I did from start to finish--puppet and anatomical setups and pipeline--at Weta. They derived from quadruped work done on Tintin (Snowy), but being not really canines, very little of that creature remained in the final product. This build showed the need for distributing work to variants (there were several types of wargs, seen here), which would come in handy later on.

Horton Hears a Who

This was the first time in my career I was responsible for a big slice of creature work on a major film. I spent the majority of my time working directly on the main Who character of the show, the Mayor. My work was then proceduralised and distributed to the entire cast of Whoville, as the basis for look and creature techniques across the entire show. The project was both original-looking and heavily art directed, and I spent a great deal of time working tightly with the directors in order to produce the desired result. Several useful creature technologies resulted from the unusal work on this show.

The Mayor

I stared at this guy's face for more than a year. I've not subsequently experienced this level of collaboration between myself, animation, modeling, grooming, and art direction. I did all the creature work on the Mayor except for portions of the eyebrows.