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Artist Profile

Inside Boris FX: Ben Brownlee, Director of Content

5 minute read

Go behind the scenes with your main source of training, live streams, and demos as he shares some of his fave effects and tools, and more.

If you’ve never met Ben, you’ll definitely recognize the dulcet tones of his voice as described by Brian Fox, our CMO. Ben is a long-time Boris FX user and worked in production and post-production on various film, TV, and commercial projects. He was also an expert trainer before officially joining our team in 2019. Since then, he has led our content and learning programs and seriously upped the level of Boris FX training overall. Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to keep up to date with Ben and our team's tutorials.

How did you get your start in the industry?

I studied Film and Drama at university with the clear intention of getting into theater. One of my film lecturers then showed me this article about a brand new type of camera that could shot in a new format called “DV.”  The pivot was made at that moment. I then spent all the money I had in the world on a Sony VX9000 and a computer to edit on. I had a horror film written that was going to set the world on fire. The film didn’t get finished, but at least I had my start.

What does your role as Director of Content entail?

I’m here to marry together what can be done with Boris FX tools and how you do it. When I was starting out, people kept their tricks and techniques to themselves, which made it rather difficult to learn software or replicate all those big effects that were being made. I want to share everything I find so that more talented people can push things even further. I’m always blown away by what people do with Boris FX software, but all that has to start somewhere.  I like being that “somewhere.”

ben_nycparty_demoBen demos at our NYC customer party in August.

What are a few of your favorite effect categories/tools within the Boris FX Suite?

Choosing my favorites is tough. Too tough. But I’m going to gravitate toward Sapphire’s Lighting category, and I will never deny my love of lens flares with S_LensFlare. There’s something magical about the way light bounces through a camera lens. A dirty lens, an off-kilter lens hood, anything can trigger a little surprise. S_LensFlare is the best tool I’ve found for replicating that feeling of a truly organic dancing flare inside a computer.

Of course, I’ll never go anywhere without Mocha Pro. I can’t remember the last time I completed a project without some Mocha magic. On one of the first TV commercials I did post for, I used an early version of Mocha Pro and Particle Illusion. Little did I know I’d still be rocking both pieces of software all these years later and working with the big brains involved with them!

What’s an under-the-radar effect or tool that users should know about?  

I’m not sure how under-the-radar it is, but you should probably be using Builder if you have more than one Sapphire effect in a project. It’s the easiest way to create complex effects and then simplify them in whatever host app you use. Parameter linking means I can control a whole effect with a single slider. You can’t go back when you’ve tasted that power. Don’t make me go back.

What's a keyboard shortcut you can't live without? A must-have piece of tech?

I firmly believe that my Wacom tablet(s) have been the best bit of tech I ever purchased. I find it becomes an extension of my hand, and I use it whenever I do any work. No wrist pain after a long day, and I program the buttons to do different things depending on what app I am working in at any given time.

As for keyboard shortcuts, the best shortcut has to be Ctrl-Z (or Cmd-Z). How often do you get to experiment and explore without negative consequences?   

Ben Brownlee's workstation with Wacom tabletBen's beloved Wacom tablet

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Inspiration is everywhere. There’s too much. Any window offers up a view into something special. How light hits an object, a specific color combo, a texture, it’s all there. The secret is to slow down and really look. Things we create may go by in the flash of the moment, but to get that flash looking right, you’ve got to study what goes into it.

How do you unwind outside of work?

I enjoy getting away from the screen. I’m lucky to have access to quite a bit of Nordic nature and enjoy a good wander. You’ll often see me out flying a drone, too. It lets me see a different angle on things. Also, I always have a guitar close at hand. I’m not a great player, but it’s a great way to hyperfocus on something else. 

Danish natural landscape, hill with trees and pondA stroll through Denmark's natural beauty

What’s your go-to snack/treat for a quick boost during the day?

Tea. Gallons and gallons of hot, milky tea. I wish I had a hose.

What's your favorite film and/or TV series?

Now I know you’re just phishing for my bank security questions! My standout TV series of this year has got to be The Last of Us. Great storytelling and gorgeous visuals. I know we’re spoiled for high-quality VFX in TV. I appreciated that everything was done in service of the story, not just because it would look cool.

If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Michel Gondry. He has such an assured aesthetic, and I admire his ability to condense complex ideas into a single image.

What career and/or life advice would you give your younger self?

If you want to get good at something, you’ve got to do it a lot. Repetition is key. Keep working on key skills, and don’t be afraid to ask for help and opinions to keep getting better. Oh, and take up yoga before you think you need to take up yoga. Your back will thank you.

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