Blog: Eric Bruneau

Eric Bruneau is the executive vice president and creative director of Armstrong White. An Academy Award nominated computer animator, Eric is also an entrepreneur and award winning digital creative director. He'll be writing about why Metro Detroit is full of opportunities for people in his field.

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.