I have to admit, there was never a master plan to get into post production. When I was a child, I wanted what every child dreams of: to be a rocket pilot.
Everything I have learned, I’ve learned on the job. I found my way into the industry by accident, straight out of school, working in Hilversum for the major Dutch broadcast stations, such as Veronica, designing graphics and the first CG animations.
One day, Peter van Leeuwen, creative business partner, Etcetera, and Jacques Vereecken, executive producer and partner, Caviar Amsterdam, came into my suite with the first Sega commercial. It was the first commercial work I had done, but it gave me the bug and opened up a new world of opportunities for me.
They were going to the Cannes Lions Festival with the first Young Dogs delegation from the Netherlands and they invited me to jump on the bus — literally! I struck up friendships with many industry folks that week and decided then and there that I wanted to get more heavily into the crazy world they all inhabited.
From there we opened up a post production, VFX suite with Valkieser Capital Images, working on all the big commercial projects at that time in the Netherlands.
After a decade, I got the urge to spread my wings, both geographically and in terms of the work I did. I hopped on a plane to Vancouver and got a job at Rainmaker Digital Pictures, where I worked for the film and TV industry, bringing VFX to such classics as Free Willy and The X Files. My work even picked up a few Emmy Award nominations along the way, which was a thrill.
Back then, the film world was so far ahead of the commercial world in terms of VFX. This was mainly down to the difference in budgets and the fact that CG was so much more expensive to do on any large scale. In Vancouver, I learned so much about photoreal, CG compositing and the possibilities for VFX, which gave me the urge, after five years, to bring this skill back to home turf and the commercial industry where I started out.
The cool thing about The Ambassadors is that it was started by a group of five of us — all artists, all experts in different areas of the post production business. That means that we can handle the process from start to finish, from so many different angles, such as sound, animation, tech innovation, edit, grading and VFX.
Today there are 50-plus Ambassadors, all based in Amsterdam but working with clients from all over the world — both agencies and directly with brands. As well as post production, we have a tech innovation team — The Ambassadors Lab — which allows us to come up with solutions to industry problems, such as 3D printing equipment for the recent Terre des Hommes Amani VR experience (https://www.terredeshommes.nl/vr
What do I most love about my current role? I have masses of energy — when I’m not at the office, I’m snowboarding, cycling, swimming… anything active — and see myself as the glue that holds the business together. I’m a born organizer and get a real kick from working with a group of extremely-talented people to deliver a complex project — such as next week’s shoot with Lionel Messi.
Another passion for me is getting the most out of the next generation of post production stars. At The Ambassadors, we are always on the look out for our next team members — not just finding people fresh out of university, but also, if we see someone who hasn’t got that formal training but is making cool stuff online, getting in touch to ask them if they would like to join us. They can learn on the job and work on amazing, international commercial projects.
I will never forget how lucky I was to get my first start. Back then a Flame computer would cost over a million Euros — and they were understandably difficult to get your hands on. These days, kids can experiment in their bedrooms to build their skills and try things out. I may not have made it to the rocket pilot training but the future is very bright for VFX if you ask me!
Halbo van der Klaauw is the Founder of The Ambassadors (http://theambassadors.nl), an artist driven production studio in The Netherlands that was founded in 2007 by a group of best-of-breed VFX compositors, editors, sound designers, music composers and innovators. Their united diversity of talent allows them to turn the traditional production / post production model on its head and create outstanding projects from start to finish, all under one roof. You can follow him online at @Halboot and @TheAMChannel.