You can learn about the subtleties of working in film production and personal professional experience of composers, supervisors and other post-production guys in CG PODCAST №1. Sasha Krasnovitsky and Igor Eyt met to organize their joint project: a podcast about computer graphics.
We were also invited to the CG PODCAST №1 and talked about our product. We really enjoyed being part of the project, so we decided to interview Sasha and Igor and find out more about the association, the inner workings of podcasts, and other projects.
Welcome! Please introduce yourselves and tell me what you do aside from the podcast.
Alexander Krasnovitsky: My name is Sasha Krasnovitsky. Aside from the podcast, I’m a CG artist at MRP (MainRoad|Post — ed.), where I’ve been working for the past year and a month. Before that, I mostly worked as a compositor. I’ve been making graphics since 2010: first at ALGOUS in St. Petersburg, then at SCANDINAVA, then a year and a half in Prague, a few months in Budapest, then again in St. Petersburg, and then another year and a half in Canada. In December 2020, I returned to Russia and found myself in Moscow for the first time. That’s the story.
Igor Eyt: My name is Igor Eyt, or Eight, as I call myself on the Internet. You could probably say that I’m a CG supervisor/generalist. The podcast is probably our longest-running project. It’s in its third year now. I’ve worked for longer only at CGF. As a rule, my work is limited to a single project. Although our group, matematic.xyz, has probably been around for five years already. Our longest-lived startup. Overall, I’ve been making computer graphics since 2010: as CG artist, supervisor and onset.
How and why did you decide to create the podcast? Was it to keep up with the times?
Igor: We started out before it became mainstream. The first episode appeared on Telegram on October 11, 2019, before the pandemic.
Alexander: Yes. I can’t even remember how the idea came to be. First there was the episode you recorded with Vanya.
Who is that mysterious Vanya, by the way?
Igor: (Laughing) He is the phantom of the opera. In short, our channel appeared after we all met at the Panfilov’s 28 Men project.
Matematic.xyz has a team that comes and goes. It consists of Sasha Krasnovitsky, Vanya Godomin, Andrey Sharapko, and me. We met while working on the Panfilov’s 28 Men project. Vanya was a compositing HoD. I was a matchmove HoD and took part in RnD, Andrey was involved in on-set production and RnD, and Sasha was also a compositor. Panfilov’s 28 Men was a project of Misha Losev and Andrei Sharapko, who brought us all together.
We didn’t have a big enough post-production team for a movie of that scale, so we recruited young artists who needed to be trained. Vanya recorded several tutorials and taught the newcomers the nuances of compositing. We then decided to post those tutorials on our newly-created channel matematic.xyz. At first we thought that we would post cool educational content regularly, but we quickly ran out of energy and started posting less often. We gave lectures at events and looked for new formats, but still had no idea how to streamline the whole thing.
Alexander: We wanted to release new episodes regularly and make them less labor-consuming, as we get no money from the podcast. Even now, it manages to raise just $300 a month on Patreon.
Alexander: Well, yes. At first we talked about buttons, because most of our guests were artists. And then the pandemic began, and the whole thing just exploded.
Who suggested changing the format? On August 5, 2021, you released the first video episode on YouTube.
Igor: We wanted to experiment and record a video special.
Alexander: Actually, YouTube has always been the best source of statistics for us.
Did you use it to post tutorials, videos, and your old content?
Alexander: Yes. And it turned out that the number of views was ridiculously low. That’s when we started thinking about making videos. Our friend and cameraman Kir was looking for an office, so we suggested looking for one together and then filming podcasts there. We made the first video in spring, when Vanya came to visit, followed by a one-month break. During that time, we prepared the studio. That’s basically how it all started.
Igor: For the first year and a half we couldn’t afford it neither financially or geographically, nor timewise. At first we edited the episodes ourselves, but then we realized that we already had a smoothly-running process and that we just needed to put in a little more effort and make a small leap.
Alexander: We recorded most of the audio while I was still in Canada. We had a bunch of people from different countries involved, but now everyone who works on the podcast lives in Moscow. Audio podcasts are easy to record. You could basically do it right after waking up. Video podcasts, on the other hand, require more preparation.
Igor: Audio and video are two completely different formats. On the audio podcast, we had guests who sounded like they were lying on a couch, lazily scratching their heads.
Alexander: Or we could hear them doodling. At the same time, the video format calls for a more responsible approach. Our guests sit in an unusual setting in front of the camera and can’t do anything with their hands.
Did switching to the video format give you any boost in terms of views or recognition?
Alexander: Yes. Both, actually. We have a chat on Telegram, and a couple of times people would come and say they had seen me on the street.
Were you initially planning for the project to generate profit? Do you have any far-reaching plans? Or do you just see it as an opportunity to speak your minds?
Igor: Creating content is cool and fun.
Alexander: As for me, I’ve never had any idea how to make money from the podcast. Of course we want a million thousand views, but we also simply like meeting new people and seeing that every person you meet actually has something to say. I mean, we talk about all sorts of things on our podcast, not just graphics.
I see. Then let me explain how it looks from the outside. For a non-commercial project, you have a very expensive, high-quality production. It’s obvious that you put in a lot of effort. But for a commercial project, the dialogue is too unstructured. It sounds as if you’re just chatting with friends.
Igor: Firstly, it’s not an interview. It’s a podcast. And a podcast is when people get together to talk about the latest news, work, problems, etc. Although we do sometimes prepare a list of questions for important guests.
Alexander: But in the end it all comes down to a normal conversation.
Igor: Because having a normal conversation is always more fun. There can be no live dialogue when you’re following a strict plan.
How do you prepare for the episodes?
Igor: If it’s going to be an episode with someone we now, then we generally have an idea of what we’ll be talking about. And if it’s someone we don’t know and they’re not super famous, we google them and watch their showreels.
Can strangers to you get on your podcast?
Alexander: Of course! For example, today we’re filming an episode with Ilya Shutov, whom we both haven’t met before. We simply know that there are lots of people in the graphics industry who could be of interest to us or who could be wanting to talk to us themselves.
Igor: There are lots of people we’d like to talk to. And when you have a podcast, it gives you a great opportunity to write to someone and say, “Hi! We don’t know each other, but we’d like to chat with you.”
Which one of you communicates with potential guests?
Alexander: It’s usually me. You know, the industry is not that big. Of those involved in cinema graphics, ninety percent have heard about us and the podcast, so it’s very easy to reach out to them. If memory serves me right, we’ve had only two occasions on which people refused an invitation to the podcast, and that was either because they were too busy or because they didn’t want to speak publicly at all. But usually everyone is in favor of talking and sharing their thoughts.
Igor: People love that we have a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
Has anyone ever offered you money to get on your podcast? Or vice versa?
Igor: Well, you haven’t offered us any money, have you? We’re not popular enough for that. (laughs)
Alexander: Our episodes rarely get more than three thousand views.
Igor: In regards to money and production quality, a lot depends on Kir. All the equipment we use is his. He gives us a cameraman and we sublease his studio. We fund the podcast by running an online school.
Alexander: Everything we buy comes from the school, because it is mainly advertised through the podcast.
Igor: We have a rule: no annoying ads. The podcast shouldn’t exist for the sake of the school. We want to keep them separate.
With the transition to the video format, the audience now sees you two as the main hosts. But there is also Vanya, who seems to come and go. Could you tell me who does what for the podcast?
Alexander: The two of us do most of the work. Denis, a guy Kir has introduced us to, edits and mixes the sound, and Sasha films the videos. I mainly write stuff, invite people, and figure out what and when we’re going to shoot. Eight uploads videos, makes pictures, and makes sure the editing is fine. That’s about it.
Alexander: And Vanya is trying to launch his own mini-podcast with the school’s students.
Do you mean short feedback videos or something else?
Alexander: Short feedback videos. A couple of them are already available for watching. The format is still changing, but one day we’ll probably settle on something. Or just run out of students.
You release episodes regularly. What happens after a guest comes and you shoot a video? Who watches the final cut? Do you make any edits? Or do you just hand the material over and say that you want to get something nice back?
Igor: Our editor knows his job, so we trust him. We can usually get an idea of what the end result is going to be like during the filming process.
Alexander: If we feel that something should be edited out, we simply say so.
Igor: We’re glad that the episodes come out regularly. It hasn’t been easy, but we can finally say that we’ve got everything running smoothly. It takes us a week to shoot enough material for, let’s say, a month. Then we upload it all to the editor’s proxy server, and he gives us finished episodes that we render and release.
Do you use targeted advertising?
Igor: We actually need a targetologist, because the number of views we get doesn’t match the quality of our episodes.
Alexander: Also, as we’ve said before, this interview will help us come up with an intro. Something we can put at the start of our episodes.
Igor: In most of the podcasts we’ve seen, presenters introduce themselves. But there are exceptions. One of such podcasts I’m watching is called My Obrecheny (We’re Doomed). It’s hosted by an IT specialist and a psychologist. They simply jump into the conversation without any introductions, and it looks really good and authentic. I don’t know anyone from their industry, but it doesn’t stop me from finding their podcast very entertaining.
It could be that it’s just more niche. If you want only the people who already know you to watch your podcast, then you don’t really need to change anything. But if you want to grow, then you need to make yourselves known to a wider audience. Right?
Igor: Yes. I guess so.
The podcast is called CG Podcast No.1, but you discuss all sorts of things from restaurants to menstrual cups, so people get confused.
Igor, Alexander: Restaurants and menstrual cups! (laugh)
Alexander: Then we’ll remove the CG and simply call it Podcast No.1.
Igor: We need an ID. We need targeted advertising. We need to, at least once a month, invite famous guests and ask them to repost the episode.
What do you do to advertise your podcast? Do you simply upload your videos to wherever you can? For example, to CG Russia?
Igor: They’ve added us themselves. So now, when we post an episode, we get an option to post it in their group as well.
Let’s get back to the fact that you have very different guests on your podcast, including those you don’t know. You’ve already talked to a lot of people, and not all of them were your friends. Is there any censorship? Any taboo topics?
Igor: So far we’ve had no problems with that. We try to find an individual approach to each of our guests.
Alexander: But a couple of times people did want to listen to the episode in advance.
Were there any episodes that didn’t get released?
Igor: Yes. There was one.
Alexander: It’s just really bad. The whole conversation is very dull, and the topic is strange. So we decided not to release it.
Let’s analyze. Why did it turn out bad? Did you not prepare for the episode? Or is it simply not very interesting?
Alexander: We’ve listened to the material and decided to scrap everything. In truth, something seemed off from the start, but we decided to try and make an episode anyway. But in the end, we simply had to end the conversation out of courtesy.
Igor: You see, our guest was a bit too full of himself. At the time, we had already had much more professional and modest guests. And that guy thought way too highly about his job.
Alexander: There was also a funny story with Anton Ryabkov.
Igor: We have a buddy named Anton. At the time, he had just come back from Australia, where he was working on the movie Cats, editing out cats‘ anuses. He’s a very nice and friendly guy, and we made a great episode. But then he started worrying that he had sounded too critical about the studio.
Alexander: The podcast was then five months old and had two hundred listeners max, and Anton was worried that someone in Australia would hear him.
Igor: In the end, he still gave us the green light to release the episode. It turned out super nice. You can still listen to it. We’ve simply bleeped all the mentions of the studio.
So you did need to censor it a bit?
Igor: For the most part the censorship was in our heads and we simply turned it into a joke.
You may not get as much views as you’d like, but you’re still getting a stable 1,000–2,500 views per episode, right?
Igor: In March, we expect the number of subscribers to reach 7,000.
When it comes to comments, there seems to be more praise than hate, although I’ve seen a few critical comments. Do they offend you? Do you even read them?
Alexander: We don’t mind criticism. Actually, I have a plan that no one supports: that someday we’ll be able to simply remove CG, leaving only Podcast No.1. Then no one will be able to accuse us of getting sidetracked in our conversations. But overall, there is not too much criticism. And when there is some, it’s generally so toxic that it’d be strange to pay any attention to it.
Igor: I’ve seen many complaints about me interrupting people. But firstly, it’s a conversation, and secondly, I try to do it as little as possible. And thirdly, it’s none of your business. Just listen to another podcast if you don’t like ours.
Alexander: Guys, in case you’re wondering, this is actually the edited version. (laughs)
What about the school? Who teaches there? How many students do you have? Are you involved in it in any way, Sasha?
Igor: Sasha is the mastermind.
Alexander: I was the one who came up with the school’s name.
Igor: I really want Sasha to finally make some mini course after he wraps up all his teaching this year. It’s an interesting experience, especially given that we have our own platform.
Alexander: We have three courses: for those who are just starting their career in computer graphics, for those who want to improve their compositing skills, and for those who want to learn about matchmoving.
It’s all available online, right? And it’s just a community of cool guys who share their experience, yes?
Igor: Yes. Those are all our guys.
How old is the school?
Igor: Less than the podcast.
Alexander: It’s probably just one year old.
Igor: We’re getting ready for the fourth batch of students.
Where did you find your first students?
Igor: We found them among our podcast listeners. They came because they knew the teachers. We’re very friendly and we easily invite people from other schools. I’m talking about the teachers and the founders.
Alexander: We don’t have any rules forbidding to talk about other schools. We love sharing knowledge and information. Especially since it’s not a competitive environment. No one in the Russian educational segment will teach you how to matchmove. No one. There may be some PFTrack tutorials or stuff like that, but definitely no courses on equalizing. Trust me. I’ve checked. Maybe Andrey Savinsky or someone else is offering paid courses on similar topics, but that’s about it. Overall, our content is unique. We don’t compete with VFXLab, Online VFX, or someone else.
Could you tell me more about how it works? Do you offer pre-recorded video lessons plus homework?
Igor: The teacher designs a curriculum and records lessons. They then send those lessons to students every week and chat with them for several hours.
Are we talking about conference calls?
Igor: Yes. Absolutely. We initially offered three different formats: pre-recorded lessons, pre-recorded lessons plus conference calls, and individual lessons. But after the first course we realized that we liked only the group format, because conference calls are a great way to discuss various interesting and important topics.
Is there any feedback about your school online? Or would I get nothing if I googled AWESOME 3000?
Igor: Probably not. We’d be glad if there was. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard any negative feedback from our students.
Do you collect feedback after each course?
Igor: Yes. If someone doesn’t like something, we give them their money back. Although we still haven’t had anyone say they didn’t like the course. There was a person who paid and then moved to another city. But we are a small school and we’re ready to work individually with each student. We’ve already had three batches of students. About 150-200 in total. We’re definitely not Skillbox.
We’ve already talked about $297 on Patreon. But you also have subscriptions on YouTube, right? Do viewers subscribe to you as sponsors?
Igor: No. But we don’t promote that. To get subscribers, you need to constantly remind people to subscribe, and we only ask them to donate to us on Patreon.
So is the podcast breaking even? Or is it working at a loss?
Igor: I’d say it’s working at a loss. We take the missing funds from the school’s budget, justifying it by the fact that some of the people who come to the school have learned about it from the podcast.
Is your school commercially successful? How do you distribute the money? Only between the teachers or also between someone else?
Igor: We give 50% to the author of the course, invest 25% in development, and use the remaining 25% to pay dividends, salaries, etc. As for the podcast, it’s more of a hobby.
Alexander: It owes us.
So it’s a hobby that needs to be promoted?
Igor: Yes. As we’ve said before, we need a targetologist. For now, the podcast brings us zero profit and only eats away out money.
You spend a week each month recording new episodes. What do you do with the rest of your time? Do you work standard office hours?
Igor: Of course we work. It’s just that we get to practice our hobby for a week each month.
Alexander: That’s because Eight has moved to Sochi for the winter. Before that, we usually tried to record new episodes every once or twice a week to keep them regular, remember how to speak, and just hang out with friends as if we actually had the time to do that. You could say we were working while at work.
Igor: If we closed the podcast, we’d probably start earning more.
Do you have a business plan? For example, will you close the podcast if you don’t break even in a year? Or do you not think about such things at all?
Igor: No. Firstly, it doesn’t cost us that much. Part of the money we spend comes from the school, so we feel fine taking a little of it, given that the school and the podcast are run by the same people. But we still need a marketer, and ID, and popular guests about once a month.
So you don’t plan to close everything and hang up your boots in a year if your channel doesn’t get a hundred thousand subscribers?
Igor: No. We’ll be doing it until we get tired.
Alexander: We don’t want any big numbers. We like everything as it is. Let it all unfold naturally.
Do you ever feel burned out or tired?
Igor: Sometimes. But then we just grit our teeth and pull through, and things quickly get back to normal.
I have a question about Cerebro. Why didn’t you ask for ‘free’ school licenses?
Igor: I’m not in charge of this spring’s batch, because I’m afraid that I’ll get too tired and won’t be able to give it my all. But I’ll think about the autumn batch. As for the licenses, I’ve been offering them to the guys in the chat. Maybe they’ll follow my example.
Another question about Cerebro in terms of what you’re doing right now. Do you use both paid and free licenses for your podcast?
Igor: Well, firstly, we have successfully introduced Cerebro into our creative project COPIKORRUPT. Secondly, Sasha and I are making a series and are also using Cerebro for it. That’s already two projects.
Thanks for the answer. Would you like to add something? Maybe there is something you’d like to say that I didn’t ask about?
Igor: There is one thing, yes. It’s important not to worry about the number of views and not to get your expectations too high. If you do, you may start feeling like you’ve failed. I think the most important thing is to just have fun and at some stage make your project a part of your everyday life, so that it doesn’t feel like a chore.
Alexander: Yes. The process of preparing and recording episodes has become a part of our lives over the past two and a half years. Running a podcast is cool. Everything happens quite easily. I can’t say we’re suffering or having to endure something. I wish everything else in life were that easy.
One last question. How do you feel about the popular saying that you shouldn’t do business with friends? What if you become super successful, have a falling out, and have to fight over your business?
Igor: There is some truth to that, but we haven’t felt it yet with regards to the podcast. It doesn’t bring us any money. Although even that project demonstrates perfectly well that there is nothing more permanent than the temporary. If you have expectations, you start thinking that both you and the others must meet them. But the people who work with you may not share them. So if everything is fine, you should just enjoy the moment. And if you can’t, you should just stop. The longer the podcast lives, the better. But the main thing is that everyone has fun.