Like many success stories, Jan Rybar’s journey started with a revolution, albeit a slightly more literal one than most.
In 1989, after a student-led demonstration provided the spark for Czechoslovakia’s anti-Communist Velvet Revolution, Rybar left the technical college he was attending—and the engineering degree he was pursuing—to follow a deeper passion: animation.
He fell in love with computer graphics via early software like 3D Studio 2.0 for DOS, and soon joined up with the first animation studio in Prague—also one of the first studios in Eastern Europe to utilize SGI machines—where he began animating for film and commercials using applications like Wavefront’s Dynamation and Alias’ PowerAnimator.
Another area of professional focus was architectural animations, where he cut his teeth on Lightscape and AutoCAD to hone his lighting and shading skills. Rybar then spent the early 2000s freelancing under his own imagesFX name and working full time with a company called KDLAB doing architectural animations and a bit of experimental animation and design.
But by 2010, after economic downturns in both the U.S. and Europe, Rybar needed to rethink his creative efforts in the hopes of moving back into film and commercial work. A high-profile job from a U.S. client afforded him the time to refocus his energy, during which time he met Jiri Mika. The two founded Progressive FX in 2012, and shortly thereafter brought their third partner, Lukas Keclik, into the fold.
Based in Prague, Progressive FX (or PFX for short) is a visual effects and post-production house that generates visual effects, motion graphics, and design for films, commercials, television shows, documentaries, and advertising-related content. Their client roster boasts names like Volvo, Coca-Cola, Chrysler Group, IKEA, and Motorola, to name a few. Given Rybar’s history with Autodesk, it’s no surprise the company’s software plays a large part in PFX’s workflow.
“The workflow in our company involves 3ds Max and Maya,” Rybar says. “We animate most everything in Maya, then we have a clean flow where we transfer everything to 3ds Max and do all the finishing work: environments, lighting, rendering, texturing, etcetera. It’s all about the synergy between softwares. I’ve spent eight years perfecting this flow!
“The most challenging projects are the ones that force us to create workflows that we’ve never used before,” continues Rybar, who calls out “Greenbees,” a 2013 project for Greenpeace that drew attention to their international “Save the Bees” campaign, as a prime example.
Rybar credits software like 3ds Max for democratizing the industry and leveling the playing field for boutique agencies like PFX, but what’s more impressive than those new internal workflows or even the growth of their client roster is the way in which the relationships with those clients have changed. The work they do with Chrysler Group, for instance, is more creative and collaborative in nature—a phenomenon Rybar calls “a paradigm shift from where things were before.”
“We’ve become more of a creative studio, not so much a post-production house,” he explains. “More and more clients are giving us more creativity to create something that we feel is suitable for their brands, and plays with their ideas and stories. We can test things that are more interesting and visually appealing, and are often allowed to create something that’s bigger and better, which we couldn’t do five years ago.”
Below, Rybar lists out the secrets to his company’s success and a few of his creative rules to live by:
1. Find What You Do Best and Stick with It.
2. Clients Are Coming to You for a Solution, Not Just a Service. Offer your thoughts and ideas to them and be a part of the creative process.
3. Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone. Clients are busy with their own business, so the more you can take off their plate and the less they have to worry about the final result, the better. It’s also how you build trust.
4. Stay Focused. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if you say you can’t do something. The last thing you want to do is bite off more than you can chew and not deliver.
5. Trust in Your Team. A major part of our success is the hard work of my business partners, our employees, and our freelancers.
6. Don’t Worry About the Future. Good work will find a way on its own.
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