Interview with Adam Belfer, Founder/COO of Cartuna, Which Made the Amazing SpongeBob Portal Chase Series Come True
Fox Renderfarm, as the world-leading cloud rendering services provider, is super thrilled to support the SpongeBob Portal Chase animated series, which is made by Cartuna, an award-winning full-service animation studio producing world-class content for television, feature films, music videos, shorts, and commercials.
Mr. Adam Belfer, Founder/COO of Cartuna, had an exclusive interview with us, in which he shared how his team has made this amazing series come true. Moreover, Adam talked about how Cartuna has progressed into a multi-content creation studio with an impressive portfolio.
Fox Renderfarm: Hi Adam, thank you so much for accepting our interview! Could you give us a brief introduction?
Adam: My name is Adam Belfer and I’m one of the founders of Cartuna, an animation studio based in Brooklyn, New York.
Fox Renderfarm: Congratulation on the new SpongeBob animation? How did you come with the idea of making this series? How many episodes will you deliver in total?
Adam: This was an idea that was started by producers at Nickelodeon. They had made a few episodes in 2D but wanted to increase the production quality and create something in 3D. The idea was to create a new villain – a slug monster – who steals all the slime that powers Nickelodeon. It’s up to a group of characters from various Nickelodeon cartoons to band together and beat the slug. Along the way, they meet other popular characters from other Nickelodeon cartoons while they navigate through different video game worlds.
Fox Renderfarm: What software and plugins did you use for making this series? How long did it take to make each episode?
Adam: We mainly use Maya to make the 3D animation, Substance Painter for texturing, Redshift for render engine. We also use plugin Studio Library to efficiently key animation. It took us about 7 months to complete all of the episodes. On average, it would take us more than one month to produce one episode.
Fox Renderfarm: Could you share with us the pipeline of the creation?
Adam: At the beginning, it starts with storyboards and everything else will be based on that. After completing the pre-production, we move into CG production which includes modeling, texturing, rigging, previs, animation, lighting, rendering, and compositing. We also have a lot of 2D fx which is composed during the very last stage.
Fox Renderfarm: What are the most unforgettable scenes to you in this Spongebob series?
Adam: The final episode (episode 6) is the best. The whole series builds into a climax. The showdown between our heroes and the villain is well worth the payoff. It’s the most artistically ambitious and the most exciting and action-packed. Seeing all the characters we met along the way team up to have one final fight scene was very rewarding.
Fox Renderfarm: What’s the most difficult part of making this series? How did Cartuna solve it?
Adam: Creating an entirely 3D production remotely was an interesting challenge. File sharing and communication became very important as we were not able to be in one location due to the pandemic. Having tools like Slack for communication, Google Drive for file sharing, and Fox Renderfarm for rendering all were essential to make this series run smoothly.
Fox Renderfarm: In creating the Spongebob animation series, did Cartuna do anything to optimize the productivity and efficiency of the cooperation among your team?
Adam: We have built several pipeline tools specifically in Maya, so while we are working on it, some of the repetitive but time-consuming jobs can be resolved by a simple button, which makes the 3D production much more efficient. We also build certain naming rules and workflow for our production, so every single file can be organized well and easily accessed by the artists.
Fox Renderfarm: Could you introduce Cartuna to us? How many members are there in Cartuna?
Adam: There is 6 full-time staff at Cartuna. We are unique in that most of our studio is made up of producers, writers and editors. For each production we have a rotating group of artists based on the style of the project. For example, on Portal Chase we had 30 artists. This included directors, storyboard artists, modeler/texturing artists, 2D animators, 3D animators, lighters, compositors, sound designers and more.
Fox Renderfarm: How did you and your team constantly form the unique visual style and keep it uniform in all your works?
Adam: We had a concept artist start before anyone else. Our art director / director made sure to do their research and development before the rest of the art team started. From there, the background designers and modelers, as well as the 2D FX artists all contributed to the unique look – putting their own personal style to make something one-of-a-kind that all meshed together into one uniform style.
Normani’s 2019 VMA performance of “Motivation” © Cartuna
Fox Renderfarm: Cartuna has a very contentful portfolio both original and branded ones. What is the most unforgettable project that you have created respectively (original and branded)?
Adam: Cartuna started as a studio that produced exclusively original projects. Facebook Watch bought one of these first shows, Human Kind Of. It was a project made in-house and the series order validated what we were building. That project was later nominated for best Animated Television Production at the Annie Award and lost to BoJack Horseman (it was also in competition with Bob’s Burgers, Big Mouth and others). To even be in the same class as those shows was awesome.
Human Kind Of (Watch Full Series)
The branded piece we love the most, besides Portal Chase, is our SpongeBob 360 piece. It was amazing to figure out how to build the pipeline for that project and it was our first time working with SpongeBob which was an iconic cartoon for us all growing up.
Go 360° Inside the Krusty Krab!
Fox Renderfarm: Any new steps?
Adam: We’re pitching some original shows and we hope to get one sold next year. And we’re doing a bunch of awesome client work – including a new SpongeBob 360 video (and hopefully more Portal Chase in the future too).
Fox Renderfarm: How did you encounter CG? Could you share with us your education and career experience?
Adam: The majority of my animation career has been working in 2D animation, so it’s been a relatively new path working in CG. Before building an animation studio, my background was in marketing, digital communication and PR – and I had a liberal arts education. I’ve always had a passion for cartoons and building things, so working with my brother we formed Cartuna and have been happily making animation for 6 years.
Lil Nas X’s 2019 VMA Performance of "Panini"
Fox Renderfarm: From your resume on LinkedIn, we found that you were working on law, why did you make the change and choose the CG industry?
Adam: I entertained the idea of law when I was in school, but ultimately found that type of education too rigid and not as creative. I come from an entrepreneurial family so I always wanted to start my own business. I wouldn’t say we’re exclusively in the CG business now, but more broadly in the animation industry. We try to distinguish ourselves as a studio by not having a set house style, so CG has been something we’re happily learning and enjoying making more projects in that art form.
Under Covers (A Stop Motion Animated Film)
Fox Renderfarm: Any artwork or artist inspires you the most?
Adam: Van Gogh’s Irises inspired me the most. While Van Gogh was living in the asylum, he created the piece from nature in the asylum’s garden. All of the Irises in the painting are blue. There’s only one in the corner which is white. In my opinion, it represents Van Gogh’s uniqueness and difference among the art style of the artists at the time. It may also tell Van Gogh’s loneliness and eagerness to be understood. The painting really touches me. Being an artist, we all want to be unique in a certain way, but also want to be accepted in the world and understood by some people who will recognize you.
Irises © Vincent van Gogh
Fox Renderfarm: How do you feel about the cloud rendering services provided by Fox Renderfarm?
Adam: The Fox Renderfarm team was always willing to work with us and meet our needs. The output was professional-grade and the prices were affordable. We have tried out a few different services, and we felt Fox Renderfarm best suited our needs for this project.
Fox Renderfarm: Anything else you want to share with CG enthusiasts?
Adam: In addition to Portal Chase, check out our project My Squishy Little Dumplings (also with Nickelodeon). We’re constantly growing our CG Portfolio and excited to take on more in 2022. If any CG artists are looking for work, we’re always willing to collaborate!
Let's Get It Popping! (Music Video) | My Squishy Little Dumplings
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