Richard Squires has been a motion designer for more than 20 years. Originally from the UK, Richard has worked in London and New York and is now based in Melbourne where he has his broadcast design company Reg. He is inspired by the world around him and loves having the freedom to experiment.
How did you get into video and eventually start Reg?
I studied graphic design at Central St Martins in London in the late 80s and gravitated towards the early Apple Macs in the computer room and an electronic paint system called the Pluto. It was fantastic! I was always interested in film and animation so it was natural for me to follow that path. After college I sort of fell into a career in broadcast design. It was a very tiny industry back then – computer graphics was in its infancy. My first job was at Digital Pictures, one of the top CG companies at the time. I was kind of a glorified tea boy, but I loved it. My first proper TV job was at Television South. A few years later I set up a company called Mighty with a friend, and then moved to English+Pockett in the late 90s. Then I was offered a job in New York at Lee Hunt Associates – an opportunity too good to turn down. After a couple of years there, my family and I moved to my wife’s home country of Australia and I set up Reg as a one-man shop. Even though I had experience with clients like the BBC, Discovery Channel and Disney, when I did try and get work, Melbourne was a very closed shop. But out of the blue, a now great friend of mine, Matt Timson, rang me and asked me if I’d like to design the scoring system for Channel Nine’s AFL coverage. I leapt at the chance and never looked back.
Tell us about a typical day at Reg?
It’s not really defined and that’s the beauty, and occasionally the curse, of working from home. I never see what I do as work. I do have an area set apart from the house over the garage that is my studio. I listen to loud music most of the time, and the lack of people allows me to get a lot done. For breaks I attack the drum kit for ten minutes or so to let off steam or when I am rendering. Being free to pick up the kids from school mid afternoon and having tea with them is one of the perks of working from home. I’ll speak with Alex Rolls who’s the creative director at Wide World of Sports most days. But most of all a typical day is usually never typical and that’s what keeps things from going stale.
What’s the biggest challenge in your video projects right now?
Only having one pair of hands. It gets very hard to muster the required energy and produce the vision in your head when you’re the only person doing it. Typically I will be involved in many different facets of a project, be it visualising set design, score graphic layout and opener designs and their production. Recently I have started working with someone else and I hope that this will produce much better work. I’ve worked in sports graphic design for a long time now and it is getting harder to be original and retain the excitement of the first time you’re given a project. This is perhaps why I am trying to approach stuff I do currently from a very different angle. There isn’t a rulebook that says things have to be a certain way, and the freedom I have to experiment is something I am constantly grateful for.
How were you collaborating before Wipster?
I was using Vimeo. At first this was pretty amazing but I became more and more frustrated with it. It became a little unreliable and even looking at other people’s stuff on Vimeo, where it would spend ages buffering for no real reason, was turning me off it. A mate on Twitter suggested I try Wipster. From the moment I fired it up, its responsiveness and uncluttered layout really made a great impression. Add the collaboration features, which are just brilliant, and I was sold. I now use Wipster to show work in progress and sample graphics to my client Alex Rolls. He isn’t that technically savvy and he would be the first to admit this. So it was hard at first for him to grasp the idea that you could comment on videos by actually clicking on them and writing your thoughts. I mentioned this to Wipster CEO Rollo Wenlock and he sent Alex an email. Now Alex loves the collaborative features.
Where do you look for inspiration?
One early inspiration was the legendary make-up effects artist Dick Smith who sadly died very recently. His perfectionism, professionalism, and perhaps more importantly his willingness to share his secrets so completely, had a profound effect on me. In a similar vein so did the great Ray Harryhausen. I love film so I am constantly watching; be it old classics or new movies. Obviously I’m inspired by current designers and studios like Psyop, Imaginary Forces and Antibody, but I think it’s because they manage to combine a technical excellence with sound ideas. You are born creative, but you can learn to be technical. And a technically minded creative is a very powerful combination. A great example of that wicked combo is Gmunk (Bradley G Munkowitz) whose work never fails to impress. For my 3D work, just looking outside of the screen at the real world is the best inspiration. And whenever I start a new project I find immersing myself in as much information as possible about the subject is the best inspiration.
Do you follow any blogs?
I don’t really follow many blogs, which is desperately old fashioned isn’t it? I may dip into fcp.co or Philip Bloom’s site once in a while, but it’s not something I actively set time aside to do. But I am a visual learner so I do constantly search for tutorials on YouTube or Vimeo to expand my knowledge about software I am using, or just how other people approach similar projects. Once I see someone doing something it sticks. The wealth of knowledge out there is truly astounding and I find I am constantly learning. I have recorded one or two tutorials myself and it’s something I really enjoy doing, and I’d like to do more of it in the future. I think it’s important to share knowledge especially when you have been doing it for as long as I have.
What separates a good motion designer from a great one?
Ideas are key to great motion design or indeed design in general. Without a solid idea all you have is surface, and more often than not just more noise. Anyone can learn techniques and the web is full of very same-y stuff that people try to pass off as design. To rise above the noise it’s important to engage the viewer emotionally, and ideas are paramount to that connection. Ideas are what makes something memorable and that’s what differentiates really great design from just the average. An eye for aesthetics is also key and often the best motion designers have a distinct vision that is rarely diluted by committee. Any video production benefits from there being a trusting relationship between the client and the producer.
What’s in store for the future of video?
That’s the million dollar question. When I first started, producing video and film was a very expensive business. In the 80s Soho post production houses charged £600 (NZ$1180) an hour for edit suites and that didn’t include the operator. The pressure if you were on a limited budget was crazy. Now you can pick up Final Cut Pro X for $299. With a relatively small investment in gear you can produce broadcast quality work, if you have the aptitude for it. The difference is staggering. And everyone, even your gran uses video now. It is the norm. We all have a device in our hand that can shoot video in HD at 120 fps. Traditional broadcasters are fast becoming outdated and cumbersome compared to the lightweight bedroom broadcaster. I think most businesses in the future will benefit from some form of in-house video unit, be it one person or a small team. Video is so much more engaging, and if done well really elevates you above your competition. So if you are in the business of motion design or video production, then it’s a very exciting time.
Is there one piece of advice you would give video creatives just starting out in their careers?
Don’t sit there worrying about it. Just do stuff. Do stuff that fails dismally. Do stuff that surprises you. Look at stuff. Take CG for instance. The more I look at the real world the better my 3D skills become. Textures need chaos or some form of distress. Even the most beautiful brand new Ferrari has undulations in its paint surface. Looking at how people photograph and film in the real world will help your composition and camera movement in the virtual world. Constantly search for stuff that helps you learn. The best advice is really to get stuck in. Whenever I hit the wall with a design the best thing I find is either take a break from it or literally break it. Sometimes things come out of this which you least expect, and surprise you.