Orcas Island Featured Maker

James Coddington

Over the past 4 years or so, Orcas Island TV has focused much energy and resources on bringing about local economic improvements. Unlike top-down efforts, like national programs and projects, or even State projects, OI TV has focused on local issues. One of the most popular efforts is reducing the difficulty and cost to find items in the local community. San Juan Islands Buy, Sell, Trade does that.

Another key contribution that OI TV makes is promoting Island Makers. You’ll find many on our Facebook Page, called “Made in the San Juan Islands”. The page promotes San Juan Islands businesses and individuals that create. You’ll find farms, ranches, orchards as well as artists and crafts people. Its amazing how much the San Juan Islands produce that mainlanders and even international customers can enjoy. And of course, it doesn’t escape our thoughts that the more we bring to the Islands the better off the entire community is.

Recently, I’ve worked with James Coddington a local 3D animator and designer, that makes his home on Orcas Island. Its great to see such dedication. He and his lovely wife Nicole have been involved in the local community for years, but few know of James talents and commitment to the community. Recently James completed an EMT course and he contributes to the community by volunteering his skills to the Orcas Island Fire and Rescue Team.

But there’s more. I had a chance to dig with James and talk about 3D Animation and all that goes with it. Here’s what we talked about:

Alex: “When did you decide that animation was of interest?”

James: “That’s a good question. It all started in a bar in Chicago. I was very broke (what was I doing in a bar then??) and kinda depressed. I was doodling on a napkin, kinda hating my life. A stranger was sitting next to me and after a few beverages and tests of strength and pain he noticed my scribblings. He said, “Why aren’t you in the art industry?” “Doing what?” I asked. “Something you love!” he said. Well, I gave that some thought. The next day, I went to the local film schools and posted on their tag boards my ability to draw storyboards in the hopes I would get hired by an aspiring film maker. It was at this time I decided to start my own comic book too and use that as part of a portfolio. Portfolio for what? I didn’t have the slightest idea. Am I rambling? OK, I will shorten this up… I decided, hell, why am I not in some expensive university selling my soul and credit away to become a better artist with a degree? Screw all this crappy work (I was repairing and setting up musical gear for celebrities at the time and it SUCKED. That in itself is an interesting story). So, I painted a few paintings, wrote a script and made a comic book. I took those to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the most expensive schools in the nation. This is not to be confused with the Institute of Art. Not knocking them, they are just a totally different league. Upon entering the school (I had already gotten an associates in aviation, so all my general ed classes were out of the way) and I took some classes I would not normally have taken. Theory, sculpture and of course, art technology. It was this class that I fell in love with the combination of artistry and technology and a career was born. After graduation I started interning at an advertising firm in Chicago and was on my way to fame and fortune. OK, that is an exaggeration, I struggled a lot over the years trying to freelance and pay rent.”

Alex: “What drew you to the PNW?”

James: “Along with my art side I have a music side. I have been writing, producing and DJing electronic music for years (since 1997). I met Darin Leong and Michael Manahan one year at Burning Man (a great festival in NV) that I was DJing at. They decided to have me come up to Orcas to play at their new years party for 2006/07. It was a hoot and my wife (the sweet and tender Nicole Gulotta) and I decided if we ever got the chanve to move up here we would. A couple years later we were coerced into moving to Seattle with our friend Michael. Living in Seattle was OK, but after spending 7 years in Chicago in the deep dark urban jungle we really needed to find our way back to nature. Nicole and I are from Boulder Colorado so we were hurting for the rocks and greenery of the great outdoors. Long story short, we started caretaking up on Grindstone Harbor for a very sweet lady named Joan Lamb. She helped us out a lot and we did our best to make her place amazing. It turned out well. Been working and living here ever since 2008. I am now a proud member of Orcas Island Fire and Rescue and do my best to give back to the community we love. We are very hopeful to stay for as long as possible. Truth be told, I might be getting sucked into a big project in LA and we could be forced to move there if things don’t pick up a bit. Remember folks, I can make commercials, animations and basically anything you can think of! I will post links below to give you a taste.”

Alex: “Which tools do you use?”

James: “Ah! An answer I can give without going off the deep end.”

Maya for 3D modeling, lighting, rigging and animation. http://usa.autodesk.com/maya/

Z Brush for 3D modeling. http://www.pixologic.com/home.php

Vue Extreme 9.5 for natural scenery and environments ((what they used in Avatar)). http://www.e-onsoftware.com/

After Effects (for motion graphics/design, credits and motion text and even editing, I prefer AE over premier and Final Cut).

Adobe Photoshop (The best program ever, I use it for almost everything, but in my career world for textures and final touches on my concept art).

Adobe Illustrator (can’t make a vector without it! Mostly use it for graphic design during my webdesign process).

And ofcourse may Mac 4 core with Wacom cintiq


Alex: “How long have you been involved with creating motion footage?”

James: “I started doing all this stuff in 2004. Got to start getting really good gigs in 2007.”

Alex: “Where can people find your work?”

James: ” http://www.soaringbrain.com or


and a plane old commercial I did with After Effects


last but not least, an intro credit for Breath TV.

http://soaringbrain.com/breathe.html “

Alex: “Who do you admire in the industry?”

James: “Wow! Big question, I would say that without a doubt it would be Mark Goerner (http://www.grnr.com), Syd Mead (http://sydmead.com/) and John Berkey (http://www.johnberkey.com/).They are the best in the business. I was trained for a short time by Mark Goerner and got the most out of my time with him. Mark was, in turn, trained by Syd Mead.”

Alex: “What breakthroughs do you expect in the future?”

James: “I would expect that computers that create the kind of work I do to get faster and better. This would enable real-time rendering and no more waiting for things to render out. That is the biggest pain about doing what I do, waiting for something to render only to find out that it is no good.”

Alex: “What local community park blocks project are you involved in?” 🙂

James: “I am doing my best to help out the Eastsound Parkblocks project. Despite it’s controversial nature I feel the project would benefit our community and businesses. I envision something along the lines of Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall with outdoor walking paths, sculptures, flowerbeds, trees, artists, musicians and gardens. If we can find a place to make the parking work better, this could really be the thing that draws in twice as many tourists as we have currently. “

Alex: “How do people learn how to do what you do?”

James: “For me it was a combination of schooling, mentoring and internships, then, of course, the trial by fire of the industry. I have had the privilege of working on some really special projects in my time as a digital media specialist. That’s what I am, by the way.”

Alex: “How did this view come to mind, how long did it take and do you have any other images, websites or links to share?”

James: “I have always been fascinated by the surreal, so I suppose that is a strong part of my overall asthetic.

And for the love of God, check out my Orcas Island UFO! This project is one hundred percent CGI, no real footage at all. This took about 4 weeks to complete at about 2 hours a day.

Here is an oldy but goody from artschool, doing more with less. It was loved by all. This took a considerable bit longer than the other.


Thank you SO MUCH for the opportunity to talk a little about my work and life! I hope you all consider me for some local work, be it pre-visualization, TV or Web Commercials, concept art, indy film projects or heck, even web design, as I would love to keep my skills in our area and stop selling out to the man down south. I just love this community and would love to see it flourish. This site is the best and I wish you all the best of luck!! “

Alex: “Thank you James. I’m hopeful that with greater connectivity in the Islands, through Social Networks, as well as through better broadband more of your work will be accessible to more Islanders, and most importantly to mainlanders and international viewers. OI TV gets about 6,000 pageviews a day on average now, and hopefully that brings greater success to Island Makers like you, James Coddington. I’ll look forward to your next magical video.”

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