As video games dominate the entertainment industry in terms of revenues generated and the sheer volume of product being brought to the market, many animation professionals have found lucrative and satisfying careers in feeding the constant demand for great visuals in the interactive arena. Such is the case with Dave Hare and Michael Tigar, founders of Tigar Hare. Having recently produced in-game cinematics for EA GAMES’ Goldeneye: Rogue Agent and the animated theatrical trailer and TV spots for Microsoft’s Halo 2, this dynamic duo may also join the growing list of challengers gunning for a share of the silver screen market currently ruled by the likes of Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks.
We understand that you two have known each other for some time. How did you meet and come to form Tigar Hare?
Michael: I was working at Sony Pictures Imageworks when I decided to form my own company. One of our first jobs for Liberty Mutual required some additional help. I met Dave through some mutual friends who said he was very talented and could really help me out. Due to the project’s tight schedule, we ended up spending a lot of time together and became fast friends. We quickly agreed upon forming Tigar Hare together in 1997.
What were some of your influences growing up? (Video games, cartoons, movies?)
Michael: Movies and video games have always been a big influence in my life–particularly movies. From the time I was very little, I used to stay and watch the movie credits while my family left the theater, compiling a list of who was doing what. By the time I had earned a degree in computer science, I had formulated some ideas of where I might go next. So I called some of these companies and told them I wanted to be part of the teams that were creating the imagery that had influenced me: Young Sherlock Holmes and Poltergeist, for instance.
Dave: I got into the field through my interest in photography and still images, and my desire to develop my skills and knowledge. This led me to buying my first computer. I discovered on my own the whole world of 3D where you could create not only objects but entire environments. I was immediately hooked by the new levels and avenues of creativity made possible by computer imagery.
Halo 2 broke records to become the best-selling game of 2004. How do you think Tigar Hare contributed to the success of the title?
Michael: I think it would be fair to say that we were a significant part of the ad campaign that in and of itself was a very successful venture. We helped create the intense "buzz" around the game. The imagery we produced for the television and theatrical commercials were some of the first glimpses people had of this extremely anticipated product. I think the fact that we produced the commercials at HD resolution– even for television, bumping it up for theatrical– allowed us to create a much higher end look and people were jazzed to see the game itself.
Do you feel extra pressure to please fans when working with such high-profile properties such as Halo 2 and Goldeneye: Rogue Agent, or is it business as usual?
Dave: Honestly, I would say that it’s business as usual. I think that we try to put in as much as we can into each project, not because, as they say, "you’re only as good as your last project," but because we love it.
Michael: I would say that if there is any pressure being applied, it’s internal pressure being applied to improve from our last project. If we feel that our last project lacked in the area of chorography or character animation, it is the desire to improve on the next project that will motivate us.
Video games have gained a lot of respect in the entertainment industry at large, but do you think video game animators are getting the recognition they deserve?
Michael: We are finding that the skill sets currently being held by such companies as Sony Imageworks or Digital Domain for big feature film visual effects are migrating over to the game production companies such as EA and Atari. The migration of talent and the demand for feature film quality effects for games is earning respect for video game animators. Of course the talented artists would not be going over to the game companies if they did not recognize that product was intriguing creatively and ever increasing in quality.
What do you look for when hiring animators?
Michael: At Tigar Hare we try to create an environment that is very collaborative because we feel that the best products come from more than one creative viewpoint. When we hire animators we look for personalities that we feel are compatible with our existing staff, so that when we get into projects and the ideas are flowing, no one person feels restricted in self-expression.
How has Tigar Hare grown over the past few years? Any growing pains you care to share?
Dave: We’ve had to learn to deal effectively and efficiently with larger productions with larger shot counts and more assets to manage, more people to manage and client expectations and demands that make excellent client relations critical.
Michael: When you get into larger projects and multiple markets, your entire infrastructure begins to change. The sheer aspect of putting large quantities of material through the company requires new organization, new methods. Coming from the larger companies, we understood and were very comfortable with big project pipelines and workflow. The challenge was how to employ big company methodologies to a boutique company.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned over the course of your careers?
Dave: Being a person who can handle most of the tasks in a production, I have learned that my real strength is not what I can actually do on an individual project but my ability to problem solve for multiple people and manage a team.
Michael: Working in a smaller studio environment has made me realize that it really is the people you work with that make the difference, in terms of creative satisfaction and inspiration. A positive, enjoyable and productive work environment brings forth a high quality product that everyone can take pride in.
Is there anything in the industry you haven’t done but would like to do?
Michael: We’ve officially embarked on production of our own short animated film which we’re hoping will lead to the skill sets and lessons that will help us embark on a feature-length animated film.
What are you working on now and what can we expect from Tigar Hare in the future?
Michael: Right now we’re working on our first PC game based on Vlad the Impaler. We designed it, wrote it (including the engine), directed it and are taking it all the way to the final product. One of Tigar Hare’s goals is to continue to produce proprietary content, including feature film ideas we are now developing.