Blog: Eric Bruneau

Eric Bruneau is the executive vice president and creative director of Armstrong White. An award winning digital creative director and animator with four Academy Award nominations and 25 years of experience, Eric comes from a Computer Graphics and Visual Effects background where he most recently served as Executive Vice President Digital for Speedshape. Eric was recently honored for creative direction in applying digital design and technology to the Michelin Better Web Mobility micro site at the first annual "D Show" Detroit creative awards.

Eric began his career as an entrepreneur and formed his own CG production company located in Miami. He quickly grew the company into a broadcast digital design firm. Lured by prospects of feature film development, Bruneau was recruited to Los Angeles by Sony Pictures Imageworks. Throughout the next 10 years he racked up four Academy Award nominations and worked with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, Paul Verhoeven, Roland Emmerich, John Dykstra, Scott E. Anderson and Ken Ralston on visual effects for the big screen.

Bruneau has been recognized for his composting  and supervisory work with some of the most technically challenging films ever produced including: "Contact," 
"Starship Troopers," "Stuart Little," "Minority Report," and "The Day After Tomorrow"

Eric will be writing about why Metro Detroit is full of opportunities for people in his industry and emerging trends in technology. 

Eric Bruneau - Most Recent Posts:

Post No. 4

 As I have read a lot of the blogs on this site, I can’t help but notice that everyone is extremely passionate about Detroit. There are a lot of great suggestions on how we can make Detroit better from urban design and development to assisting in the arts.

All these suggestions have great merit. In order to effectively create change we as a community must first think out side the box. With the economic condition or shall we call “recession”, we must consider all options in creating new economic opportunities within the Detroit community small and large. We must also look at the demographics of the community in order to maintain the youth of the community.  

By focusing on specific sectors of the industry and developing niche industries, we can create a diverse economy that will prosper in the future. The entertainment community can become a major force within this economy with proper direction. From the cultural arts community to production facilities, these sectors of the economy will infuse new opportunities. With the help from local and regional leaders, we can advocate new ideas to compete with other states that currently have fresh bold initiatives in the works.

The primary idea being a tax break for all production companies that specialize in broadcast, feature films, web and print to help foster new economic growth. New Mexico has already implemented such an idea and has attracted major studios within its community.

A few years ago, New Mexico had zero production companies within it’s economic model. With some forth thought, New Mexico has create a new industry with very little investment from the state.

Michigan needs to look at that model to see how this concept could help this economy and bring new business opportunities. There is currently a tax rebate within Michigan for feature film production, why not extend that same concept to all production within Michigan.  

There are several groups that help foster these economic opportunities within South East Michigan. The first being the Detroit Renaissance is a great organization advocating economic transformation within Detroit and Southeast Michigan. This organization could assist in the lobbying for new economic stimulus package to continue to build this sector of the entertainment community.

The newest group is spearheaded by Crain’s Detroit Business, which is the Detroit Creative
, which will go live sometime in Q2. This group will also be a great avenue to help foster change within our own backyard. Detroit, this is the time when we need to look at new economy opportunities and see how we can advocate change.

Post No. 3

Market growth for CGI is increasing at an aggressive pace. It is anticipated that the market will grow at a 10-to15% rate for the next five years. In part it is due to new content distribution channel with the web and a better understanding of the use and repurposing of assets.

Clients that build products with CAD data can repurpose this asset to create CGI animations and still images. By using these assets, client can introduce products and campaigns much earlier to market. This can have significant impact with competition and presales. The use of CGI is limitless, from automotive to consumer products to medical procedures and pharmaceutical. 

The opportunity for the Detroit community to become a major player within the entertainment specialty market is very real. There are more productions than ever coming from LA and NY where they are the dominant markets.

The Detroit marketplace is currently supporting between $35 and $45 million in revenue strictly from CGI production. With this continued growth market, Detroit community has an opportunity to look at ways to market CGI production to new markets throughout the country.

By the creation of a marketing campaign, the Detroit community in cooperation with local production companies has the opportunity to grow this niche market much larger than current predictions. With the formulation of a board that would oversee marketing dollars from local, region and state funding creating a new business core within the community will create new job opportunities.

We can also look at ways of attractive new business that is a derivative of CGI such as gaming companies. This can become one solution for maintain recent graduates within the Detroit community.

Another reason for developing this sector of the business is, there is currently a world-renowned education infrastructure within the community that specializes in the training of future graduates in computer animation. By continuing to develop our current infrastructure, the D can develop new core business that can attract younger generation to this great community.

Post No. 2

 Nurturing talent in a non-traditional media market is one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of any CGI company. With the growth market, CGI companies within Detroit are always searching for raw talent and hope that after months of investment and training, the individual does not decide to leave for the West Coast.

It appears so far, this market seems to have been very successful in recruiting local talent and keeping them here. In part it’s because of the values people have in Michigan. Family is extremely important therefore people really want to stay here. Also, the quality of work is improving and becoming far more challenging. 

The unfortunate thing is that there are few remaining talented people with a specialty in computer animation in Michigan. This leaves companies with little choice but to recruit out of state. Not one of the easiest tasks for small to medium size companies. I equate it to a needle in a haystack mentality. I personally have recruited nationally and globally to find key artists and each time I recruit someone, I find it fascinating why they are excited to move to Michigan. 

There are a few great specialty schools within the Detroit metropolitan area where CGI is taught however these institutions curriculum focus on topics where students have greater opportunity on the West Coast. This is a big problem in that we lose most of our good young talented students to other parts of the country. This prevents local CGI companies from expanding as quickly as the growth of the market. When local companies cannot efficiently expand to support existing capacity, work is lost to West Coast competition.  

This is not to pick on local institutions but to make them aware of the needs of local CGI community. Local educators need to support local companies and make a conscience effort to develop curriculum that will motivate individuals to stay within the local community. This will, in turn, help Detroit’s economy and local communities will prosper.  

Post No. 1

Moving my family from LA to Detroit a little more than a year ago, everyone I ran into would ask me, "WHY! All you hear is the economy in Michigan sucks (ok, I’ll agree with you), the winters are cold (yeah, but they can be really fun if you take advantage of it and look through a kids eyes). And you know, there are pockets of opportunities if you are willing to change.

Over the course of the next four days, I’ll give you some insights into a new emerging sector of business that makes Michigan really cool. This isn’t going to be the typical blog on how we can make Detroit better. This is going to tell you a story of how some sectors are achieving success within this economy. Sometimes people need to be reminded that there is good within Detroit. 

An emerging new rich media channel for content creation is gaining momentum within the Detroit market place. This is the coolest opportunity for passionate artists to develop a craft that takes imagination to a new level. This channel is called CGI or Computer Generated Imagery.

In the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, CGI was introduced in feature film and was used effectively to tell stories that might have made it nearly impossible to tell. As computers and artists continued to develop so did the level of sophistication in the use of CGI in feature films. Some of the most notable and memorable pictures that used CGI to tell a story include Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and The Abyss to name just a few. These pictures broke new ground in how CGI was used in storytelling. Nowadays, almost every picture has some sort of CGI component with some not even recognizable as CGI.  

Developing CGI for feature films eventually allowed directors to begin testing the ground in the broadcast arena. In the mid-80’s many companies began marketing CGI as a tool for storytelling for broadcast. Inherently it was extremely expensive and only a few notable commercial successes came out of  it --which Coke's Polar Bears were the most notable. The use of CGI was primarily used for Flying Logo’s during this time period.

As feature films continued the use of CGI became dominant, broadcast expanded quickly. Young, bold Directors really gravitated to this medium and began creating spots that no one had ever imagined before. Rich vivid graphics were introduced with in many spots, which allowed viewers to be completely captivated within a 30 second spot.  

Most recently, gaming has evolved into a much larger market than anyone could have ever imagined. Some of the most successful games take the user through a unique story with extremely sophisticated visual graphics. This use of CGI bred new ways of storytelling, creating a more interactive setting. 

You ask, What does this have to do with Detroit?….. 

In the last five years, the Detroit production community has made major steps in the development of strong production companies that specialize in CGI. These CGI production companies have taken what the market had to offer and expanded it into creative new content and creation channels.  

Why CGI in Detroit and not LA or NY you might ask? There are several reasons why Detroit, the biggest being, of course, the automotive industry.

Today, the automotive industry as a whole is the largest spender in advertising globally. They are also in a position to find new creative ways to cut costs wherever they can. Since there is a support infrastructure, which has been developed within the advertising community within Detroit, it makes sense for companies that specialize in CGI to succeed within this marketplace.

Advertising Agencies within the last few years have really started getting the confidence to work with local CGI production facilities. That was and continues to be an extremely difficult hurdle to overcome since the level of experience was not directly infused from broadcast or feature films. Experience had to be homegrown, which can take time to mature in order to compete with more experienced markets. 

Clients/Agencies also started seeing new channels where CGI can have immediate impact. Print campaigns have evolved over the last few years from traditional photo shoots to partial and, at times, complete digital CGI content creation. Agencies and clients saw significant cost savings in the development of brochures without losing any of the quality they expected. The automotive manufactures saw cost savings in the fact that they did not have to create hundreds of prototypes at hundreds of thousands of dollars each. They also found savings in the fact that they did not have to ship vehicles all over the world in order to generate a single image for a catalogue. That alone was enough to push for more CGI content for print.

Similarly, traditional photographers have also been able to transform their unique skills within the CGI marketplace. 

With the evolution of the web, greater content is being developed for the web through CGI. Automotive manufacturers are diverting greater portion of their marketing budgets to the web therefore new opportunities will be realized in the coming years for the creation of new creative content that will become more cinematic in nature.