Whether you’re staring at one of his print pieces or being mesmerized by his motion work, Chris Hewitt has an unmistakable style that cannot be ignored. You’re compelled to absorb the work in its entirety, be it a short title sequence for a children’s show or an inspirational conceptual piece. Now that he’s taken his fate into his own hands freelancing, Chris is living his dream daily and his happiness shows in each frame of content that passes in front of you.
PIXELSURGEON: Thanks for taking some time out for PixelSurgeon. Your latest Dstrukt redesign features some really exceptional motion, design and photography work. Tell us a bit about your efforts under the “guise” Dstrukt and your transition from NOWWASHYOURHANDS.
CHRIS: Dstrukt came about when I was roughly 18, so 5 years ago now. It was your average “experimental platform” (I hate that phrase but it works for what it was) to start with and slowly over the years has morphed between a personal site, a portfolio and now to my company site. I think the point when Dstrukt became recognizable was when I released Relokation NE at BD4D 7. Relokation started out as a bit of a mosh from playing in 3d Max along with After Effects. Then one night the two Ryan’s where at my place and asked if I’d like to show it at the next event.
Things kind of took off from there really, I started to freelance for the usual suspects such as Computer Arts, Digitalvision and Friends of Ed and by the time I knew it, I had a fairly decent portfolio on the go. I owe a lot to the two Ryan’s plus Jason, Rich and Rina. Without those guys I wouldn’t like to think where I’d be now. Jason especially, I’ve worked with him in a couple of different agencies, NWYH being one of them and the amount I’ve learnt from him is crazy. The guy is a “design machine”. He lives and breathes it like no one else.
I was at NWYH for 3 years in total, it’s one of the very few agencies I’ve been at that felt like home. I made the decision to leave after a good few months of thinking hard about what I was planning on doing. It was scary, everyone there felt like family and I knew I’d miss them all but after 3 years I needed a new challenge and the biggest one I could find was doing my own thing. Dstrukt.
The transition went like a dream and once again I have someone to thank for this. Rob from The Ronin. I’ve known Rob now for a long time, his work always blew me away and we collaborated on a few bits and pieces in the past. When I told him I was going freelance he managed to feed me work threw just when it was needed. Since then we’ve worked together under our Devoid of Yesterday. guise on projects for IDN and the BBC.
What was also interesting was the fact my housemate and best friend Tim Jarvis from Magnasoma had made the same leap a year earlier. He had left Kleber to set up his own agency Profission. We’re both working hard to do our own thing with the long term intention of meeting somewhere in the middle to rebuild The Systm Network in years to come.
You mentioned it was a scary move at first to leave NWYH. For some of the people who have considered freelance fulltime, what was your biggest fear of all? How have you over come that fear and what other obstacles should persons of similar aspirations watch out for?
The main fear of going freelance was the most obvious, making enough money. The security blanket of having a steady income suddenly disappears and you’re left completely to fend for yourself. Luckily since going freelance I’ve had a solid stream of good work coming in, particularly the spots for Channel 5, BBC and most recently MTV. Aside from the fear of having to live on baked beans due to the lack of cash there were also other elements I had to take into consideration. New equipment for one, I had to invest a fair few pennies on a couple of new machines, hard-drives, software and so on.
I think the fear of not having any money coming in will always be there… but that fear is also a challenge so to speak. It’s something that keeps you motivated to produce work of the highest quality because being self employed everything falls on you, no one else.
Tell us a bit about some of your most recent work. What types of things are you doing for MTV for example and how is it different working with each of these clients?
I’ve recently finished two promos for MTV Overdrive. Overdrive has two spin off shows called MTV Meets and MTV Best of. I was asked to create the two brand identities and then produce a 6 second promo for each. It was an amazingly fun job to work on simply as the brief was open and I got to do kind of what I wanted.
Each client is always different as far as methods of working. Being freelance you can deal with large agencies, small outfits and the client direct. The majority of my work has been a mix, which suits me fine… variation is a good thing. I particularly enjoy working with MTV as they have a good notion of what aesthetically works.
Who do you think is doing the hottest motion work these days (either individual or agency)? What are they doing that has put them at the forefront of the industry?
Psyops, Digital Kitchen and Motion Theory are currently making me want to give up motion graphics and become a spaghetti farmer. Every time these guys release something new I’m in awe at the technologies used and how well polished everything is. As much as it’s a powerful source of inspiration to watch their work also makes you feel like your fighting a losing battle at being the best in your game. But hey that’s what drives us right?
As far as individuals go and without sounding completely bias, Rob from The Ronin continues to inspire me. His approach and styling adds contrast to a lot of the motion work out there, plus I know how hard this guy works day in day out… whilst also being a full-time Dad.
What software packages are you using for your motion work? What’s your background with them?
Mainly I use After Effects and 3D Studio Max for my motion graphics work plus a ton of extra bits and bobs such as Vray, Boujou & Final Cut. I’ve been using After Effects now for a good 5 years, I love its simplicity and the array of 3rd party plug-ins available. 3D Max I’ve used for around the same amount of time, it never ceases to amaze me how much there is to learn inside this piece of software. I’ve spent 5 years with it now and I still get moments when my brain melts.
What type of advice would you give to students or designers interested in motion design facing all these array of choices?
As many different applications there are out there most of them do the same job, it’s all about picking the ones which work for you best. As a student you will always get your hands on what ever is available for the obvious reasons, so there is some restriction, plus software doesn’t come cheaply! My personal reasons for using After Effects is its simplicity and as stated earlier, the array of 3rd party plug-ins which always become useful.
As far as 3d max goes I’ve used it for a long time now and instantly felt at home with it, tools such as Pflow and external plug-ins such as Vray and Final Render just work perfectly for what I want to do. At the end of the day it’s all about what feels right for you and your work, do some research, read about and play around.
How has your experience with photography influenced your motion work if at all?
Very much so, I’ve always been a keen Photographer but it wasn’t till working with Pixelsurgeon’s very own Mr. Arber that I took it a step further. Both myself and Jason did a number of promotional shoots for NWYH, one of which is the NWYH Portraits featured on Dstrukt.
Roughly a year ago I started collaborating with an old Photographer friend of mine James Cambourne. We both had a love for fairly messed up and dark concepts so we started doing shoots together over the weekends one of which is Pretty Tied Up also viewable on Dstrukt. Unfortunately James moved to Dubai roughly a year ago so we haven’t been able to work together since. I think photography is a good way to learn about composition and framing, you can take these skills and apply them to a range of other mediums such as print and moving image.
If ever the chance to use my own photography in my motion or static work comes up I jump at it, Kaliedra and IDN for instance. When myself and Rob kicked off the IDN trailer we knew exactly what we wanted to do, I did the model shoot here in London on a green-screen and small lighting rig whilst Rob went out and did the environmental shots. We treated the photo sequence as a piece of footage and simply keyed it – with a few tweaks on the curves and a matte choke here and there we did a semi decent job at making the two scenes sync together. It was a lot of fun producing a sequence that’s built entirely from your own resources and photographs.
Is there a dream client or a dream project you’d love to do in the near future? Why would it be “the” client/project of choice?
Good question, to be honest I’m not sure. There are so many amazing companies out there I’d like to produce for but it’s all brief dependent. I’d much rather choose a good open brief from a mid weight client over a world famous brand offering a restricted brief… not sure if that’s good logic but seems to be the way I’d like to play it at this moment in time.
Like most motion designers though I’d like to push into more film related work, title sequences, promos etc. Also it would be great to get arts funding to produce some short films. Both myself and Rob have a fair few concepts we’d love to get out under our Devoid of Yesterday guise but lack both time and resources.
Apart from your day job, what fuels you day to day? Are you into sports? music? movies? How does this add fuel to your fire?
Music is a huge part of my life. I’ve always been into my music as much as design. I spent a couple of years DJing and also doing some small productions but slowly drifted out due to work. It’s amazing how hard it is for me to spend a day without music despite what I’m doing. Also film and reading, like music, are a huge inspiration… reading sometimes proves more thought provoking than film.
I’m not really a huge sports fan but I do Kickboxing. Full contact sports are much more appealing to me than say football or cricket. It’s a great way to keep in shape, get rid of anxiety and learn a form or self-defense… as brutal as it maybe sometimes.
I think what really fuels me through the day is the fact I’m extremely happy in the position I’m in right now, work is going really well and luckily every new brief that comes through the door is more and more challenging.
Thanks for you time Chris. Any parting words for the audience?
Whatever Uncle Arber tells you about lefties is all lies! He has a beard and shouldn’t be trusted.