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Colin and Greg Strause of Santa Monica-based effects house Hydraulx are trying to build a new kind of visual effects artist. The defining characteristics of this new breed: hands-on, collaborative and fast-paced. "The one thing I cannot stand is someone who is a one-trick pony," says Colin. "One of our policies is to turn all of our artists into mini supervisors. We get them on set to help the production team fix problems or understand why problems can't be fixed. It really opens their eyes up, because they start learning why things are done differently. So we have a great knowledge base here. "

Weaned on MTV, videogames and summer blockbuster films, Colin and Greg, 26 and 27, respectively, were teenage effects freaks whose father bought them an SGI workstation to stoke their creative fires. Working from their parents' suburban home outside of Chicago, the boys built a small business designing corporate logos and doing postproduction for regional commercials. It wasn't long before the Strause brothers took their act to Los Angeles and in no time at all they were working on The X-Files. The brothers quickly moved into features, creating visuals for The Nutty Professor and Volcano, and in 1997 they were part of the launch of now defunct visual effects studio Pixel Envy. The shop's first credit was the iceberg in Titanic.

The brothers' precocious careers took another turn in the late '90s when they joined producer Heather Heller at Clever Films to direct live action under the moniker the Brothers Strause (they've since moved on to HSI for commercials representation). In the meantime, working mainly in music videos and features, Pixel Envy had some years of success, but last summer the Strauses shut down the shop and launched again with Hydraulx. To help steer the company direction in this pivotal time, they brought on Eliza Randall as executive producer. One of Hydraulx's first projects was the Jackie Chan/Michael Jordan Hanes spot out of The Martin Agency. More recently, the shop completed a Cover Girl commercial via Grey/New York; and a Japanese Panasonic DVD ad starring Oliver Stone through Asatsu-DK, Tokyo.

But to date, Hydraulx's shining star is the "Stickman" series of spots for Nike Europe and Wieden+Kennedy/Amsterdam in which an all CG, 3-D stick figure character interacts with live-action athletes. "To make the campaign really cool, they used no motion control and no dollies," explains Colin. "Everything was done with a handheld camera and a bunch of wild zooms - basically everything an effects company would tell the production team not to do, we let them do."

Hydraulx is also keeping the faith as far as features go. At press time, the shop was finishing some shots for Terminator 3; Torque, a Joseph Kahn-directed action film to be released later this year; and hundreds of shots for the upcoming Warner Bros. feature Looney Toons: Back in Action.

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