While Apple Commits to U.S. Manufacturing, BOXX has been Made in the U.S.A. for over 20 years!

According to the Austin Business Journal, Apple CEO Tim Cook, when speaking to the shareholders at the company’s annual meeting, said that the tech giant remains committed to U.S. manufacturing, reminding those assembled that two-thirds of Apple employees work in the United States. Of course, that also means that a third of Apple’s workforce is located overseas. Although that sounds much less positive, the good news for our local economy is that 6000 residents of Austin, Texas, earn a paycheck from Apple.

BOXX employs but a fraction of that labor force, but then again, the core of our business is building professional grade computer workstations, not smart phones. Nevertheless, since Apple was once committed to the media &entertainment market we serve, it must be said that our state-of-the-art hardware solutions (including the custom chassis), are designed, built, tested, sold, and supported in the USA. For VFX artists, animators, and motion media pros, as well as engineers, product designers, architects, and others, that’s the value-add in choosing BOXX.

Without fail, U.S. political or economic news these days includes politicians and corporations talking about bringing American manufacturing back home. Talk is cheap. Apple manufactures in China. HP does too (along with Mexico). Dell is in Mexico as well, in addition to Asia, South America. . .you get the idea. I wish all these multi-national commodity computer manufacturers would bring those jobs and dollars back to our shores, but I would also ask that when you see these stories, keep in mind that BOXX never left.

For 21 years, industry publications, benchmark tests, and (of course) the recommendations of customers worldwide—from high profile corporations, firms, and studios, to small businesses and independent operators, have heralded the power and performance of BOXX workstations and rendering systems. But if you delve deeper, you’ll also discover what “Made in the USA” means to our customers. To them, it’s more than a slogan. The same goes for us.

The expert BOXX performance specialist who listens to your workflow issues and provides you with the specific solution, the engineers at BOXXlabs who design and thoroughly test your BOXX solution, the skilled production techs who build it, and the professionals of legendary BOXX Technical Support who can solve any problem you may encounter, can be found at BOXX headquarters in Austin, Texas. And the revenue? It stays here too.

No other U.S.-based computer company can make that claim.

My Active Studio

WorkingShot

Steve Choo’s boutique design, VFX, and animation studio, My Active Driveway, goes big with BOXX, creating national commercials for high profile clients.

By John Vondrak

Awhile back, BOXX Technologies’ Inside Sales Manager Dustin Leifheit approached me regarding a customer named Steve Choo. ”He has a company called My Active Driveway,” Dustin said, “and I think it would make a great customer story.” Dustin, like all of our performance specialists, occasionally feeds me the names of BOXX customers (or BOXXers as we like to refer to them) that other BOXXers, and those who wish to be BOXXers, may enjoy learning about. Since we try to alternate our customer story subjects to equally represent our different industry segments I’ll confess that my response to Dustin’s suggestion was decidedly lackluster. I had just completed an architecture/construction customer story and was not keen to immediately follow it with another. “I just wrapped an AEC story,” I said, “so I may hold off on this one for awhile.”
“It’s a VFX and animation studio in New York,” Dustin replied. I was having trouble reconciling the name My Active Driveway. It sounded as if they were into concrete, building driveways or roads. “Interesting name, I know,” he smiled.

So, when I first reached the perpetually busy Steve Choo, my first question was obvious. “What’s with the name?” I inquired. After first insisting that it was “really not a great story,” he relented. “When I first moved to New York,” Choo said, “I was trying to go to a friend of mine’s art gallery opening. I was driving around the Lower East Side just looking and looking for a parking space and every time I thought I had found one, there was a ‘No Parking: Active Driveway’ sign there. So I said to myself, one of these days, if I ever open my own company, I’m going to have my own active driveway.”


MAD_01Making a Go

Steve Choo arrived in the Big Apple right after graduating with a BFA in painting from the Kansas City Art Institute. He went to work as a Flame artist, then a 3D Maya artist (prior to its existence as a power animator) in the production department at BBDO, the worldwide advertising agency. Yet in the wake of 9/11, he decided to start his own company.” It was a time when a lot of my friends were leaving,” he recalls. “They just left town, some going as far as to leave the country, but I decided to stick around. I was going to try and make a go at starting my own company in New York— try to rebuild a little bit here and keep the work local. It might have always been in my subconscious, but after that day, my thought was ‘You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, so if I want to do this I should do it now.”

So My Active Driveway INC. a boutique design, VFX, and animation studio, was founded in New York City in 2001. According to Choo, the past 15 years have seen the studio scale up and down in staff size, property, square footage, machinery, and equipment. “We’ve made ourselves adaptable to the industry’s climate, says Choo. “Having come from an agency background at BBDO NY, I had a solid understanding of the ups and downs of the industry. When business is good, we’re running on all cylinders, pumping out work as fast as possible. But when there’s downtime, you want to make sure you’re not just burning fuel.” Choo believes that this level of experience and understanding ultimately led him to BOXX. “It’s why,” he says, “after trying so many other products, we stick by BOXX as the backbone of our studio.”

At one point, Choo and his My Active Driveway team did what a lot of other studios have tried. In an effort to save money, they built their own systems instead of adding to or upgrading from their existing Dell computers and BOXX workstations (in this case, a 2008 model 3DBOXX 8404 and a 3DBOXX 4860 purchased in 2011). “Workstations, custom render farms, and custom servers,” Choo recalls, “you name it, we tried it. We always thought, we can save money by just doing it ourselves and that sort of worked for awhile—until it didn’t. Then we were in a deadline and panicking because there was no support for our custom-made equipment that broke down during the job.” To make matters worse, there were other mitigating factors that Choo had never really considered. “Honestly, in the long run, if you calculate all the hours and research, as well as enormous electric bills, we wasted a lot of time, money, and frustration,” he admits. “Not to mention, every freelancer that worked with us was always fighting over who got to use the BOXX workstations, rather than our custom builds, or even the Dell systems.”

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The Go-To Guy for 3D

zimmermanThe American Society of Architectural Illustrators (ASAI), founded in 1986, includes professional illustrators, architects, designers, teachers, students, corporations, and others engaged in the serious pursuit of architectural illustration. The goal of ASAI is to improve architectural visualization throughout the world and every year, after poring over a wealth of submissions, they select approximately 60 works to be honored in the Architecture In Perspective publication and exhibit. This year, ZimmermanVisual, or more specifically, Ken Zimmerman, was among those chosen for that honor for his illustration of the Scottsdale Quarters Hotel.

Originally from Austin, Texas, Ken Zimmerman graduated from Texas Tech University, spent a few years in Dallas, and then moved to California where he earned his master’s degree from the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles. After graduation, Zimmerman elected to stay in California, plying his trade at a number of architectural firms. “I was always kind of their go-to 3D guy,” he says, “but eventually I got tired of doing it for other people and started doing it for myself.” Zimmerman admits that being self-employed was a bit rough in the beginning, but over the past few years, Zimmerman Visual has been doing well, and better yet, he’s enjoying it.

CREATIVE BACK AND FORTH

In most instances, Zimmerman’s creative process begins with a call from a developer, architect, or interior designer requesting one or multiple renderings or animation. “Usually, what I get from them is a 3D model of some sort, either in Sketch Up or Autodesk Revit and then I go from there,” he says. “I talk to them and see what they want as far as types of views and what they’re looking for. Sometimes, if they don’t know what they’re trying to achieve, I’ll send them a series of block outs, just rough white renders, blocking out the basic form or geometry of the architecture, then we’ll have some back and forth and eventually settle on the right ones.” Continue reading