Chad Briggs grew Element X from a solo endeavor to a 25-employee team within two years, all with no outside investment or capital. The work of Element X has been featured in major industry publications such as Post Magazine, Computer Graphics World, Motionographer, and Shoot Magazine.
AM: What’s your background in VR, animation and advertising? How did you get started in your line of work?
CHAD: I've been interested in interactive storytelling and animation ever since my mom propped me up on a milk crate, so I could reach the controls of the Donkey Kong. I love combining the technical and the art aspects of storytelling, so I ended up with a degree in computer animation and computer science. So many things propelled me forward into this career over the years. Everything from the magic of Star Wars: A New Hope to the revelation of the first Toy Story to the comic noir of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns to the heartbreaking tale of The Last of Us.
AM: What motivated you to create Element X?
CHAD: It's funny because I never really set out to create a company, and yet I've helped start two of them, including an additional animation-centric non-profit: A Bunch Of Short Guys. The only thing I wanted to do was tell good, visually remarkable stories the best way I possibly could. For me the birth of all of these endeavors has been when I suddenly realize I'm at a moment in time where there is a unique opportunity, an opportunity for a group of people to do something wonderful and maybe change the face of an industry. So you just make a decision to jump in and hang on tight for the ride, steering the best you can.
We just had another exciting page turn in our story a few years ago when we merged with Post Asylum and Pure Evil Music to create a one-stop creative solution, all under one roof. That has worked out in spades, and we've been able to do more than ever before.
AM: Element X has worked with some of the biggest Fortune 500 companies in the world. What’s the collaboration process like, from the creation of the idea to the final product?
CHAD: It's highly collaborative with everyone involved, from end client down to the artist working on the project. We love to be involved early to help shape the creative and inform clients of the vast array of creative options available. We have so many different specialties under one roof, and it becomes an easy thing for us to think way outside the box to present creative solutions and mediums of storytelling that may not have been considered before. We've also honed a bundle of tools to make remote collaboration easy and seamless, because sharing creative ideas can be a challenging thing.
AM: Your company is a one-stop shop for VFX, motion graphics, animation and VR. How do you find that perfect fit of technology and storytelling that is unique for each client?
CHAD: It all depends on the brief, the brand and what the client is trying to accomplish. A traditional 2D animated motion design broadcast spot may work great for one client, but an interactive Augmented Reality app with 3D characters might be better for another. We usually do a meeting in-person or on a conference call and walk through the project. Once we have that, we can tinker on it and suggest different options. From there we start integrating the project into our custom-created pipeline and go from there.
AM: What is some new or emerging technology you’re passionate about that can help a brand better tell their story?
CHAD: There is always so much new, exciting stuff going on, it's hard to pick one. The big two that have become more prominent in our lives of late have been the use of real time game engines and GPU acceleration to produce traditional broadcast animation and the rise of augmented reality. The real-time feedback of GPU-accelerated tech allows us to iterate looks and story concept faster than ever before but still keep the quality bar very high. In augmented reality, Google's AR core and Apple's AR Kit have enabled a huge influx of truly immersive room-scale experiences on mobile. For the first time, immersive AR is easily accessible to the masses with their current cell phones.
AM: Where do you see the future intersection of VR and advertising?
CHAD: The headsets that allow untethered, full-room-scale VR experiences are slowly becoming more and more mainstream. This freedom of movement, along with the fact VR is far more suited to create true "experiences" as a medium, will let brands make deep connections with consumers and take them to places that were never before possible. Other technology, like real-time volumetric capture of live talent, will bring personal interactions closer than ever before.
AM: What is your favorite medium to work in?
CHAD: Ah, man! That's a tough one, because every medium has its own special things that make it fun. I'd say lately, though, what's been done in augmented reality is pretty exciting. The ability to drop another layer of magic and awe over our reality and tell a story through that lens has limitless possibilities. There are so many cool experiences that can be created using room-scale AR on mobile devices, or even with regular tracker-based ones. We are not quite there yet in terms of cheap, functional, hands-free AR technology, but it will ultimately change our day-to-day interaction like few things before it.
AM: What is a project from Element X that you’re the proudest of?
CHAD: Another hard one! Like asking someone to pick their favorite kid, but you've got dozens and dozens of them! There were a lot of really fun projects that were special for their own reasons, but I think the one that edges above slightly is our "Stop. Watch. Love." short we did for AICP and the YouTube YourFilm festival created by Ridley Scott. It was one of those projects that was not only creatively controlled and concepted completely by us, but every single member of the studio got to have a hand in it. The response we got from the world at-large was overwhelming and humbling, having been able to move so many people with these small, faceless, plastic figures.
AM: What are you the most excited about for with your future with Element X? What are any upcoming projects you can talk about?
CHAD: There is so much I wish I could talk about, but NDAs and all that jazz. As usual we continue to play to our strength of being able to take the best parts of very different styles of projects and think outside the box. We just wrapped 300+ VFX shots on a feature film that will hopefully be announced here soon. There are some fully 3D animated worlds we’re in the process of trying to work through on the broadcast commercial side, so hopefully we'll be able to show those at the start of the year if all goes well. There is an AR experience we’re about to wrap up that's pretty cool from a multiplayer AR standpoint, as well as a larger AR experience for some major movie brands that could kick off Q1. Also, there is another short film we’re about to start on that I've wanted to make for years, so that just kicked off here in December and hopefully will be ready by April. There are many challenging aspects of juggling such a wide variety of projects, but boredom is not one of them.