PageCrush has now added a CrushReviews chapter. Giving some of the top featured designers a place of recognition in today’s developing world of multimedia and design. PageCrush has had the fine opportunity to start this section off by interviewing Nicholas Da Silva, the founder of ZOOLOOK, a San Francisco-based new media company established in 1996 that utilizes Adobe’s creative suite of products as a storytelling medium to produce award-winning entertainment properties that promote a multicultural experience.
His digital graphic novel series
Nicholas served as Lead Graphic Designer for Lewis & Partner Advertising in 1994. Two years later, he was promoted to Design Studio Manager where oversaw all creative for clients such as Nestlé, Oregon Chai, Gardenburger, Union Bank of California and Specialty Brands. Nicholas left the agency in 1999 to work full time on his passion, ZOOLOOK Entertainment. In December 2000, Nicholas brainstormed the tagline I Want My FlashTV, and seven months later, FlashTV was born. He is the creator, designer, producer and webmaster behind this award-winning, global community site dedicated to the development and support of Flash-generated film shorts and animations created by independent storytellers from around the world. In 2003, Nicholas launched The Greatest Story Never Told, the biggest Flash storytelling competition ever. The annual event invites independent storytellers from around the world to use Macromedia Flash MX to produce an original stories for the web, dvd, television, film and interactive entertainment.
His interests include snowboarding, traveling, movies, eating, music, writing and dreaming. He is currently working on his third book from his fiction series entitled Dread & Alive. He’s also currently producing a digital graphic novel series entitled Hitless.
Q. Where are you located?
San Francisco, CA (Nob Hill) USA
Q. What is your company?
ZOOLOOK is a new media agency established in 1996. Through ZOOLOOK, I utilize Adobe’s creative suite of products to produce print and online designs for my clients. I also produced original entertainment properties that promote a multicultural experience.
Q. Do you work alone or with a team?
I do both, depending on the project. I find that some of my personal projects attract the attention of other artists eager to be part of a team. I like working as part of a team. I usual provide the concepts and ideas and then work with other artists on the production side. You gotta get your hands dirty to get results.
Q. Did you always have a passion for design when younger? If so, about what age did you know when this is what you wanted to do?
Design was in my blood at birth. I was drawing at the age of 2 and haven’t looked back. In my early years, I enjoyed drawing cars and buildings. Then, characters and logos. At the age of 10, I designed my own sports car and sent it in to Ford Motor company. A month in a half later, I received a letter from Ford which stated that they didn’t accept unsolicited materials but that they were very impressed with my work. They enclosed a check for $1500 for me to pursue a career in car design. My mother still has the letter. The check was cashed. ; )
Q. How did you first get noticed and with what project?
It was back in 2001 with the launch of FlashTV! I wanted to created a community for Flash Animators who were using Flash to create film shorts and animation. I received the FWA and Ultrashock award and it took off from there. The site grew quickly, catching the attention of the folks at Macromedia who gave the site it’s nod for SITE OF THE DAY.
Q. What is your biggest project to date?
That’s a tough question. FlashTV and TGSNT (The Greatest Story Never Told) have been very big projects however, the two current projects are about equal in size. They are the HITLESS digital graphic novel series and the Cave Dudez movie; TGSNT! With HITLESS, I am trying to redefine comics by eliminating the need to go to print and instead embracing the digital age. I’ve develop a unique production technique that allows me to create one comic book yet easily format it for the different handheld devices on the market. Cave Dudez is my attempt to produce a full length animated feature film and distribute it on the web and tv through FlashTV. It’s a fun project and the response from the fans are amazing. I recently announced a first of its kind; an online casting call inviting the public to participate in the movie by being a cave dude or cave betty in the film. My first signup was the famous French Chef, Hubert Keller, who signed on immediately. We have other big name celebs who have signed on which has made this a exciting project.
Q. Do you usually submit your work to producers or potential movie studios or leave it for a chance to get noticed?
Good question. I’ve haven’t in the past. Back in 1997, the producers of I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER contacted me inquiring about the rights to my Dread & Alive series, an urban comic book project that originally started with 2 novels. Since then, I’ve elected to take the independent route. HITLESS is a project very dear to me. I would love to have Michael Mann as director because he is my mentor. Next month, I will release issue #2 of HITLESS, which will shed some major light on what the true premise of the story is about. Then I’ll start reaching out to the studios.
Q. Speaking of mentors, what artists you would consider an influence?
Let’s see … David Martin and the guys at Fantasy Interface. They push the boundaries of design and web technology. Rodney Buchemi, the illustrator extraordinaire from Bigjack Studios in Belo Horizonte, Brasil. Kol Belov from Russia is one of the most intriguing and amazing Flash Animator on the planet. And I can’t forget the guys from France; Team Chman, including the likes of RUN and Osmoze.
Q. How did you go about your proposal to make your Hitless series fly on PSP?
When the PSP first came out, I fell in love with the device. I did some experiments with images displaying on the screen and was blown away by the beauty of how things looked on the device. It then got me thinking about rethinking comics. I was originally going to produce HITLESS like a regular comic book designed for print. I then sat down and studied the principles behind widescreen and regular tv and then it hit me. I can produce one comic book and format it for the PSP (widescreen) and the iPOD (regular tv). I just have to lay out my pages differently.
Q. It’s been said you’re writing a book. Can you elaborate on that?
I’ve been working on a Flash Filmmaking book for Thomson Course PTR. The books will walk the reader through the process of creating a 1 minute movie in flash. I’m hoping to have this finish by February. I believe the book is due on in March 2007. I’m using 3 of the Cave Dudez characters in a mini story that also teaches the reader about the principles of creating a great story; the three act structure; the Setup, the Conflict and the Resolution.
Q. Did you go to school for what you do?
In my junior high school years, I lived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where I really got to show off my art skills. When I attended college at Marshall University (We are Marshall), I was taking pre-engineering. I only last 2 years and decided to GO WEST and pursue my real passion, art and music (and some street-style skateboarding. I’m truly a self-taught artists.
Q. Do you think school can teach talent or is it something that comes with just getting out there and making it happen?
I think that self-taught artists tend to be trendsetters; artists who follow a different beat. I do think schools play an important role because they help teach the principles of art so the one has a better understanding. I liken self-taught artists to the Howard Shultz, the Michael Dell’s, the Bill Gates of the worlds. Individuals with a vision!
Q. What inspires you? Such as, what gives you ideas for your projects or storylines?
I’m inspired by many things … traveling to a place I’ve never been before; an original movie (The Usual Suspects, Manhunter, Smilia’s Sense of Snow; all types of music inspire me, architecture, other artists pushing the limits of their creativity, PageCrush!
Q. Does your location of San Francisco give you inspiration?
It does. The scenery, the Victorian buildings and the people. I’m also inspired by the city’s past which definitely contributes to my storytelling. I like to mesh fact with fiction, giving my stories a sense of realism.
Q. What’s your biggest achievement that you’re very proud of?
My daughter, Mariana Mai Da Silva. She is 3 now and the heir to my dreams. ; ) I’ve done many things … wrote 2 novels, produced 2 albums, developed many websites, won numerous awards, and nothing compares to being with my daughter.
Q. What do you hope to achieve with your work in the long run?
I hope to be able to offer my work directly to my audience and reap the benefits of the work that I’ve put into it. The current distribution models that exist don’t favor the independent artists. That has to change if we are to co-exist with the big boys.
Q. Is your drawing technique in making it digital a secret? Do you draw it out first then trace it in vector?
In creating HITLESS, we first start with a script that is flushed into storyboards. We then take the storyboards and create first pencils to show each panel layout. If the panels are good, we then do final pencils and then go to the inking stage. Once that’s done, we go to color, which is done digitally using Adobe Photoshop. We then have our final panels which are saved in a hires format so that we can cross-purpose the panels for other mediums. Lettering comes next and then the reformatting of the panels for each devices ends the process.
It’s a fun process because as you go through it, you start to see the final product evolve which is exciting.
Q. What was the toughest challenge you had with your designs?
My toughest challenge would have to be when I was designing the current FlashTV site. I wanted to use Flash Video (FLV) instead of the standard export format; swfs. Most of the artists appearing on the site knew how to animated in flash but not necessarily how to animate their files (swf’s) so that they could be easily exported to quicktime and flv. I found myself having to help many of the artists achieve this with their movies which didn’t always translate perfectly. For example, movieclips don’t translate well to quicktime. The trick is to convert movieclips into animated symbols instead. Trial and error always prevail.
Q. How do you think digital multimedia will be in the future?
I think digital multimedia will provide more power and control to the independents. You will see more independent content being produce from home studios that rival the big house productions. And with iTV from Apple and JOOST, you will see new channels being developed from independent artists who are tired of waiting for Hollywood to come knocking. I can’t wait!
Q. Any advice you’d like to leave inspired artists and designers with?
Sure! I encourage all artists to open your mind to the world. There’s amazing things out there that can inspire you. And be passionate about your work. Do it first for the love and everything else will follow. I think it’s also important to share and collaborate with other artists. We all learn from each other. Tink diffran mon!
It was a great pleasure to talk with you. You are truly an inspiration. Keep up the fantastic work! PageCrush thanks you for your time and dedication.
For more of Nicholas Da Silva’s work, please visit:
ZOOLOOK Entertainment Sites: