Demo Reel

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Another Exciting Week!

Things got a bit hectic last week. Worked with The Teaching Company, BET and Castle Gate Media. Finished everything though and I've got some more work to nail out over the weekend.

Underwent a Maya trial by fire working on the logos for a new talk show (above), and a new reality show for BET. The P&G project wrapped, though most of the work I did wasn't used as there was a mix up in communication. *shrug, that's show business :p. Also finished some instructional animations for CFC on behalf of Castle Gate Media. Not to mention the cool map look I came up with for a course on the Dead Sea Scrolls for Teachco (below), and the sample lecture on Germ Theory I finished for them. Very interesting look at the history of disease and disease prevention.

Most exciting thing last week, I would have to give to my wife Stacy's Birthday on 08/22. I picked up a nice bottle of champagne and cooked a romantic dinner for two. I think she had a great time, and I managed to get things cleaned up a little. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday :). I might have gone a little bit overboard, but it's worth it to see her smile :D.

Next week holds new work, wonders and fun!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Now We Know...

Hi again!

I felt so bad for not updating more frequently that I've done a record two posts in one day!

I just realized that I completely forgot to mention this simple promo I threw together for BET two weeks ago. They wanted to do 3 spots for the new G.I. Joe movie that hit theaters a week ago and asked me to do a type of "Breaking News interruption," for them.

They wrote the script, shot the footage on green screen and I handled the compositing and news graphics look and feel in After Effects. This was the first draft of the video so there's still timecode and a watermark on some of the footage that Paramount provided us. The footage of the Eiffel Tower I ripped off from the HD trailer on the movie's website :D.

Sadly neither of the spots I produced will see the air waves as Paramount and the Ad Sales department of BET could not reach a compromise on the direction of the campaign. That's show business. Regardless, I got paid and I had fun, so I'm not really worried about it :p.

Please be gentle on my lens flare, I used one to give it even more of a cheesy, local news look.

Back in Action!

Hello readers! I'm back in action.

My apologies for the lack of updates throughout the remainder of June and the complete and utter lack of them in July, but I have been quite busy! For example; SHORTV IS FINISHED!!! Yay! Above is the call for entries video. I imagine they'll be needing more episodes shortly, but I've yet to hear anything yet so we'll see what happens.

As for everything else, I'm currently producing educational sample lectures with the Teaching Company and working on a project for P & G at BET. I also just wrapped a project with Castle Gate Media for the CFC and a Flash banner for a restaurant in Charlottesville, VA.

I turned 26 on the 5th as well!

Once more, my apologies for the complete lack of anything even remotely resembling an update as of late. If you don't already, follow me on Twitter to get more up to the minute updates if you're interested :D.

I'll get some of the BET stuff up once everything wraps. but in the mean time, thanks for bearing with me :).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What happened to May?

I want to begin by apologizing for my complete and utter lack of updates for the month of May (and the majority of June). Spent the majority of the month working on landing new gigs and doing a little traveling and babysitting my nephew. I have been keeping up with Twitter, but that doesn’t update here so again, my apologies.

On the business end I’m back working with The Teaching Company onsite in Chantilly as of May 26. I enjoy the gig because it’s interesting work, I learn a lot, and there’s always LOTS of it :D.

Biggest news is the completion of the rough-cut of the final episode of ShorTV. The new deadline for the end of July will not only be met, but met nearly a month early. YAY! Once the show airs (which should be some time in Autumn), I'm throwing a party to watch the premiere. It's not every day you can point at the TV and say "See that show there? I produced that. The whole thing." Needles to say, quite excited about the whole thing. I don't want to post any animated examples until the show airs, however I should be able to post the call for entries animation once I add some sound effects and music to it. More on that soon.

I also started work with a new company in May called hi road productions: It’s an interesting company; they do storyboards and animatics exclusively. I’ve seen some of the commercials they’ve done pre-production on and I’m familiar with all the brands they’ve worked with. I worked on some Petsmart spots and a few scenes for a Realize Waist Band spot for them. I hadn’t done too many animatics since college so it was a great opportunity to re-familiarize myself with the process.

I’m also getting ready to re-vamp my Café Press store after thumbing through some stuff on Threadless. Tremendous website if you’ve never been there: HIGHLY recommended for anyone looking for really dynamic and funny shirts.

On the personal front I was recently spotted traversing the wild south of Virginia exploring such sites as Foam Henge, Enchanted Dinosaur Kingdom, Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum, Professor Cline’s Monster Museum, Natural Bridge, a parade float museum and TONS more! Went with Stacy and my good friend James who brought his new girlfriend along for the ride. We were both driving Honda Fits through the state in a pseudo-convoy. I folded the seats down in my fit to accommodate the 3 dogs riding in the back. 2 day road trip + 4 people + 3 dogs = tons of fun anecdotes that I don’t have time to get into, but will post about in a separate entry :D. You can consider the picture above this entry as a tease :p.

Again, sorry I haven’t been keeping up on the posts as often as I should. I’m getting ready to begin work on a personal project with a tight deadline. I know my post will most likely become infrequent again, but ideally I’m looking to post updates as I work such as sketches, notes about the plot, etc…

Enojoy June! It only comes about once a year after all :D.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Toddler Tales!

Finally! Toddler Tales makes it way to my blog; and only two months after completing the project. The characters were all created in Illustrator and animation was completed in After Effects. We scrapped the first voice we had and got an eight-year-old to lay down the final audio. It sounds good, but it took hours to cut it all together into something cohesive. The client was very happy with the end product and I believe it is still airing on BET.

On a side note, I’m going to try and upload more of my examples to this blog, perhaps link to YouTube so users will be able to watch a High-Quality version instead of the little Blogger version… Hmmm, more on that later.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

D.C. Motion Graphics Artists Meetup: PART DEUX!

As Promised, the second D.C.-area Motion Graphics meet is upon us. We had an alright turnout the last time around and I'd like to see even more people come out this time! I've fixed a few of the issues we had with the last meeting place and have found a venue that is Metro-accessible, serves food and is a little bit brighter.

The next meet up will take place at Johnny Rockets at Penn Galleria. Here's a link to their locations page:

There were some people that recommended this place for the last meeting, and I think it would be a better venue then the Palace of Wonders-if only for the Metro access and the fact that they serve food. as for the time, I think 6:30 on a Sunday would work best because people won't have to stay out too late on a school night and it shouldn't interfere with most weekend plans.

If anyone has questions or concerns let me know and I will address them ASAP. I will also have my laptop there if anyone wants to show off their reel and get a live critique.

See you there!

Nick Vaka

April 26 2009
6:30 PM
Johnny Rockets

2000 Pennsylvania Ave, NE, Ste. 10
Washington DC, 20006 USA
Phone: 703-626-9363

Free Time? Time to Train!

Logo © Sega Enterprises

So last week was a bit slow on the work front so I did what any freelancer should do when they find themselves with too much time (besides landing new gigs :D), I learned a new skill! I've started playing around with Cinema 4D. So far, I'm ecstatic. The interface is far more intuitive than other 3D suites I've used, and the integration with After Effects is a powerful tool. The end result of working with the software was this: A quick little logo animation with some simple materials and a camera. I didn't worry too much about specular highlights or reflections at this stage. I just wanted to get familiar with the tools and the interface a little. I'll put something a bit more advanced up in the near future, but for now, just letting you know what I'm up to. My next task (beyond getting more familiar with the material editor), will be playing with Mograph!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Out Like a Lamb

Looks like things are starting to slow down a little bit. Which has a positive and negative side to it. On the positive, it lets me follow up this month’s first blog title (“In Like a Lion”), and now I have a chance to get my office back in one piece. On the negative however, that means that I’ve got to hit the bricks and shake some stuff loose. Gotta love this new-fangled digital age we’re all lucky to be a part of. This is much easier than hitting the street or cold calling. It’s a tremendous benefit to be able to scout out new work so easily and to be able to keep in touch with all of my clients at the touch of a button.

Got to see Toddler Tales air. I’ve had stuff air in the past, but I was most excited that my parents got to see it and called me right after. My father-in-law called to congratulate me as well. Very happy moment, I’ll get the vid up here soon for you to check out (next post perhaps).

Beyond work, I’ve also got some fun personal stuff going on lately. Stacy and I will be walking for the Animal Welfare league of Arlington coming up soon. The badge at the top of this entry is the design I came up with for our shirts. If you’d like to own your own “PAWesome CRIMEFIGHTERS” shirt, follow the merchandise link on the right. All profits will go towards our donation goal to the league. If you don’t want an awesome, er... “PAWesome”, shirt, you can still contribute to the league by following this LINK.

It’s shaping up to be a fun event that will do a lot of animals a world of good. Our team is in second place for most money earned and-to the best of my knowledge-is also the only team who has designed their own shirts (at least until another team reads this post). Help us support the AWLA!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Nationwide Debut!

I just received word today that the Huggies spot I did for BET is debuting tonight! It's a 30-second vignette--the "Toddler Tales" piece I've been yammering on about. You can catch it on BET tonight at 12:29am or tomorrow night at 10:46pm (that's Eastern Time, for those of you who aren't in Virginia). Yeah, it's on a little late, so DVR it and let me know what you think! I'll post the video here soon!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Coming Through!

Perhaps this isn’t the clearest analogy, but let me try and explain it anyway. The image above is that of a double-decker bus moving at high speed. Sounds tough to handle right? What I’m trying to say is it’s not a great idea to double book clients, unless you know exactly what you’re doing.

Right now I’m working with a couple of clients. Some of them have very lenient schedules and others are less forgiving. Every one has work to be done, and you’re their guy to do it! That said, working with a few different clients isn’t easy, and it’s very easy to miss deadlines, or worse, sever business connections with shoddy work or poor attendance and crimped availability. Here are some things to keep in mind before you attempt the possible impossible.

You have to be honest with yourself and your clients, and it’s not a bad idea to be aware of the number of hours in a week, which is 168 total. That’s 168 hours for working, driving from site to site, eating, hygiene and sleep. So actually working 80 hours a week is quite plausible. After all, that leaves you with 88 hours to do everything else you need to, right? There’s always going to be a few all-nighters here and there, but that’s just what you’re going to have to be ready for in this business. Sure its fun work, but nobody said it was easy. 

If you’re doing on-site work, you also have to be aware of when the office opens. Working 5:30 to 13:30 at one office and then getting to another office to work 14:30 to 22:30 might sound like a good, fat 16-hour day, but if the first office opens at 9:30, you’re sort of stuck up the creek without a paddle. My recommendation in this situation would either be to cut loose a project, or to take one on that you can finish at home in the early mornings or late evenings.

The math makes it sound good, but really before you tackle this sort of thing you need to know whether or not you can deliver to all of your clients. Juggling different clients is a great way to make money, but it will backfire terribly if your deliverables are late, your availability becomes too pinched, or worse, the quality of your work suffers. If your client needs you there for 40 hours, you need to make it happen. Make sure you can handle the workload and that your clients’ schedules don’t conflict.

I hope this helps anyone out there facing a similar situation, I’d love to hear about your situation (you don’t need to tell me who your working with ;P). Good luck out there!

P.S. I haven’t forgotten about Toddler Tales. As you’ve probably gathered from this post, I simply haven’t had the time to ask for permission. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

In Like a Lion!

March is here! Which means I’ve kept this thing going for a whole month! Awesome! I’ve got all kinds of new stuff to work on and write about too! Looks like I’ll be back at The Teaching Company through March as a graphic artist (I’ve been editing for them), and I just got finished with some work for BET International (hence the delayed posting). Speaking of delayed postings however, I’ve decided to simply post when something worth writing about happens. Otherwise I’m simply limiting myself so writing once a week on a set schedule and really, a lot happens in a week that warrants attention. 

It looks like Toddler Tales is going to air on BET soon. Keep your eyes peeled for it from this month through next if you happen to be watching the station. If they decide to do a bunch of these it will be a phenomenal addition to my reel, and could help to usher in some new work :D. I will post the video on this site as soon as I have confirmation that it’s airing and that the client doesn’t mind. For anybody that doesn’t speak with me everyday (which I hope are at least some of the people reading this), Toddler Tales is a vignette for BET that will hopefully spawn more vignettes for other products. We’re out of the gate with a spot for Pullups Training Pants.  Not hardcore, head banging awesome stuff, but a cute and quirky piece nonetheless that I’m quite happy with. More on that when I post it. 

I’ve also just signed up for Twitter, I have a small following now, but I’m certain it will grow. Please feel free to check it out here: I will add a link to the right sooner or later (kinda beat after today and can’t muster the energy right now). 

Until next time!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What a Week!

Meetings and forums and gigs! Oh my! Yes, I am a bit late with this latest posting (two days by my count), but with good reason I assure you.

Last week was the first of the D.C. Motion Graphics Artists meet ups I’ve attempted to organize, and we had a pretty good turnout. We would have had far more people, but there were a few inherent mistakes I made that will not be repeated. Keep your eyes peeled for the next meet up. Next time we’re doing a different venue and giving much further ahead notice than last time around. I hope to see you there!

Once more this past week I had to deal with the reality that if you schedule two gigs on opposing weeks, that something will almost always happen at each one that will move them both into the same week. Then the job you’re doing at home will call and give you a go-ahead to proceed. That’s part of the reason my post is slightly delayed, but I will tell you this; I wouldn’t have it any other way.  As long as I’m keeping busy I’m being successful, as long as I’m successful, I’m getting paid and so long as I’m getting paid, I come ever closer to achieving the illusive “American Dream.” I would much rather be going crazy and doing eight things at once then sitting at home and waiting for my phone to ring.

This past weekend I also had another special treat. I got the opportunity to hear industry heavyweights such as Sam Ellis of 70/30 Productions, Brian Muelhaupt with Standoff Studios, and Sergio Edma of EA-Mythic along with a multitude of other creative professionals speak at the Art Institute of Washington. It was exciting to hear what they had to say and to watch some of their demos to get a taste of what other studios are doing. I also had a chance to catch up with some of my old instructors and classmates, and to see the campus again.

More fun and excitement this week I’m sure. I won’t spoil anything, so for the time being, adieu.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

D.C. Graphic Artists, Unite!

As anyone who has read my bio here can guess, I am located in Alexandria Virginia. Not a big deal, right? Well, being in the D.C. area, I’ve met many creative professionals, but I know there are more out there, and I would love to meet them! What am I proposing then, you ask? I propose a meeting of D.C.-area graphic artists in the city. I’ve put a post on to call out for people, but I would like to get some more momentum going forward.

It’s this Tuesday at 8:00 PM at “The Palace of Wonders,” in Washington D.C. It’s a great little bar in the District.

Here’s the URL for my post calling people out to come along:

Here’s the URL for the venue:

I think this will be a tremendous opportunity for ANYONE working in the industry to throw a few back and get to know their fellow creatives.

Don’t hesitate to reply to the post, drop me a line or even call me to verify any information. Anyone who wants to go should write me to swap info so we can all find each other on Tuesday.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

First Year Down

I just finished up my first year freelancing and am happy to report that I did in fact turn a profit! It’s very exhilarating to know I can do what I love and make money. Not the easiest thing in the world though. In fact, the only thing that was tougher than keeping up with the Joneses, was figuring out the tax situation at the end of the year.

Going through Turbo Tax however, Stacy and I were able to find all sorts of wonderful business deductions. Did you know that you can even write off floor space in your home office? That coupled with hardware depreciation, hardware and software purchased for the business and mileage driven for meetings and on-site engagements, made for a pretty good and full list of deductions. It was disheartening to see how much my Mac had decreased in monetary value, but encouraging to know that the machine has more than paid for itself over the past year.

If you’re just getting into business for yourself I would recommend saving all your business related receipts, logging mileage driven for business, and possibly hiring an accountant. I am fortunate that my wife enjoys doing taxes and numbers in general; otherwise I would no doubt be knocking on an accountant’s door for help.

In other news, I was just picked up to do another spot with one of my larger clients, BET. The company they’re working with is Maybelline, and they’re looking to do an illustrated spot describing how to get the fullest, curliest lashes. Production starts next week right after I finish their spot for Huggies.

So far so good, now the only trick is keeping up the pace, and knocking down projects as soon as they come up.

Oh, and if anyone would be interested in purchasing stuff from my Café Press shop, here is a link to a site featuring coupons for money off pretty much anything on the site.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Animation Caffeinated

Reel Environment

Animation Caffeinated. I am a freelance motion graphics artist based in Alexandria VA. As you might have guessed from the title of this blog, freelancing offers many surprises, and sometimes you have to pull very long hours commuting between different offices in the same day to be successful. Sometimes, you get to sit around and wait for feedback or (God forbid), work to come to you. If there’s anything that I’ve learned, it’s that work almost never “just comes to you.” You have to be persistent with your clients, and work hard to meet deadlines. You must also have a vehement work ethic and be able to network with other professionals to make contacts with potential clients, or you will not succeed. I started this blog not only to talk about my experiences in the field, but also to help guide new artist looking to make it on their own, without a company to worry about your taxes, your clients, invoicing and yes, getting new work. I’m still relatively new to the freelance game, so everyone will be able to see where I can make improvements, and learn to avoid the same mistakes.

I will be updating this blog weekly, talking about what I’m currently working on, whom I’m working with, and what’s new in my professional life. If you’d like to get a better idea of my work, I would encourage you to visit my website here: There you will find my demo reel and contact information.