Interview w/ Jon Nielsen of MSM & Rebel Spirit Clothing

16 Jul, 2012

Jon Nielsen and Kid Rock

As a former professional football player, Jon Nielsen began working in the video gaming industry doing motion capture work for sports video games and acting in commercials such as for Gatorade, and became a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Through his work with the gaming and entertainment industry he developed Motion Sports Management (MSM) ( MSM provides motion capture and voice-over talent for the video game industry through work with athletes that have major college and professional sports experience along with SAG Actors that work in both the commercial and motion picture industry. He is President and CEO of both MSM and Aquaries Entertainment.

Dig In Magazine: You’re the President and CEO of two companies, Motion Sports Management and Aquaries Entertainment, how did you become such an entrepreneur? What motivated you to start your own businesses?

Jon Nielsen: When I was playing professional football, I was able to meet all different kinds of people in different professions. I decided that when I was done playing I didn’t want to go the corporate route. Motion Sports Management (MSM) fell into place. I was doing mocap (motion capture) for Microsoft’s game, NFL Fever. When I went to go play my season, the producers still called to get my friends involved with the game. When I retired, a lot of my contacts had gone on to other companies like EA and Midway. My phone kept ringing to get players, thus MSM was founded.

DIM: What is your role in each of the companies as President and CEO?

JN: The companies can only grown as much as I want them to. I am a one-man operation at this point in time. I over see everything from day-to-day work to mapping out the business plans for each of them. It is a never ending cycle, but a great problem to have.

DIM:What made you decide to create a voice over and motion capture company for the video gaming industry?

JN: While I was playing professional football, I was also a SAG actor in the industry. I focused mainly on sport related commercials. I had contacts to a lot of my friends who were also in the industry and just decided to jump behind the scenes of the game. There is a need for motion capture talent. The video game industry is a very small one and I am fortunate enough to have a great name in the business. I have gotten a lot of business from word of mouth or producers looking at their competitors game credits to find out who they used for mocap.

Jon Nielsen with New Edition

DIM: And how did Aquaries Entertainment, a company that services the sports and entertainment industry, come to be?

JN: I founded Aquaries Entertainment before I founded Motion Sports Management. I have gotten to know and become good friends with a lot of sports and entertainment personalities from my playing days. I became good friends with Ricky Bell of New Edition and BBD back in 2000. He brought me into the New Edition camp in 2003 when they were signed with Bad Boy Records. I hooked all the members up with clothes for the “One Love” album tour. I have since established work with all the members of New Edition and continue to work with them today. One great positive that came out of that work was my introduction to the legendary group Boyz II Men. New Edition’s PR contact at the time, Heidi Buech Crescendo PR, put me in touch with Boyz II Men for a Dub Magazine photo shoot. Their manager and I hit it off as well as the Boyz and they hired me on as their fashion coordinator. I have been part of them BIIM crew since 2004. My role with them has expanded over the years. I do a lot of work with them individually as well as help bring some deals to the table.

DIM: So, you used to be one of the actors that did the motion capture work, how did you make the jump from that to being President and CEO of Motion Sports Management, your own motion sports company?

JN: Ben Cammarano (Microsoft) hired me to work on NFL Fever back in 1999. I did the quarterback mocap for all of the NFL Fever games. Through that, one of their producers, David Ortiz, left and went to EA. He brought me and my MSM crew over to work on NFL Madden, NFL Street, and NCAA. I still supply the football talent for NFL Madden and NCAA to this day. It was an easy transition.

Jon Nielsen and his company Motion Sports ManagementDIM: I know MSM worked on Madden Football, what are the most well-known and popular games that MSM has been a part of?

JN: Microsoft NFL Fever series, EA NFL Madden, EA NCAA College Football, Midway Blitz I and II, the 2K NBA series, 2K March Madness, EA NBA Live, EA NCAA Basketball, Sony NBA series, Ubisoft Wheelman, and the Nerjyzed BCFX: Doug Williams Edition.

DIM: Who do you hire for your voice over and motion capture work? Are most of them professional actors and professional and college athletes?

JN: All of MSM’s talent roster have either played professional or at major college programs. Most of my guys/girls are also SAG actors as well.

DIM: What types of sports in video games do you focus on, i.e. basketball, football, etc., any other sports?

JN: MSM has the football and basketball industry on lock. I can only branch out MSM to other projects as my personal time permits. I have a lot of stunt men in my stable. I am going to go after some of the fighting/army games in the future.

Jon Nielsen and his company Motion Sports ManagementVideo Games: Gettin’ Technical

DIM: How long does it usually take to shoot, do voice overs and capture everything for a video game?

JN: Typical mocap sessions are 8 hour days and voice overs are typically less than that.

DIM: Are you in the studio for the voice-over work to record and do motion-capture?

JN: I do usually supervise the mocap shoots from time to time. I have been working on some of these titles for many years, so my being present is not necessary. If it’s a new client, I try and attend to make sure they get what they want.

DIG: How many times does it take until you get a perfect motion capture for the finished product of a game? For example, how many tackles or passes/catches in a football video game until it is perfect?

JN: It depends on the degree of difficulty of the take. My guys usually knock it out in one take unless they want a variation of the move.

DIM: What type of equipment do you need and use for doing motion capture for a sports video game?

JN: Every game is sports specific. Football shoots will have football equipment plus trainers and technical advisors on hand to help ensure safety. For basketball, just your standard basketball equipment is provided.

Motion Sports Management in actionDIM: Who comes up with the ideas for video games? Does MSM work with other companies like movie studios or animation studios in the creation of games? Can you name a couple of other companies that you work with?

JN: MSM works with: Sony, Electronic Arts (EA), Take 2 (2K), Nerjyzed, Midway/Ubisoft, Giant Studios, and House of Moves. I have consulted on a few football projects, but for the most part we make come alive what the producers and animators envision. My crew is really good at making the impossible into reality. You have to understand some of the moves they have to capture are technically unsound and dangerous, MSM finds a way to make it all happen. That translates into great playing games.

DIM: After you do your part of the voice over work and motion capture work, who does the animation to create the actual game working with your company’s motions?

JN: Motion capture is a key essential to bringing reality to any game. The animators of the games take the mocap and bring it to life in the game. My guys laugh all the time, because we can tell who did what moves when playing the games.

DIM: Would you say that your actors are paid well now that the video gaming industry is booming? How is MSM doing in term of the gaming industry?

JN: My crew of guys receive a nice amount of money for their hard work. We are great at what we do. That is why we always get repeat work from the different companies. We don’t do a lot of takes to capture what the client needs. That is what really sets MSM apart from athletes off the streets. You waste time and money trying to teach a novice athlete how to create the move you want. MSM provides elite service!

DIM: When does Madden 2010 and Black College Football Experience come out?

JN: NFL Madden 2010 drops on August 14, 2009. BCFX will be dropping within the next couple of months.

DIM: Any new games in the works?

JN: Just had some of my basketball guys do some finishing touches on 2Ks basketball games and EAS Basketball games. We are set to do a Madden 2011 shoot in the next couple of months.

DIM: As an ex-professional football player and a commercial actor, do you still do the voice over and motion capture stuff even though these days you’re the man running the show?

JN: I jump in and do some fill in work when needed, but for the most part I am retired from active duty. I can still physically do all of that stuff, but I rather have one of my guys do it. It saves the wear and tear on my body!!!


Aquaries Entertainment

Sean Paul in Rebel Spirit Clothing

DIM: So, Aquaries Entertainment (AQ) is a company that has to do with fashion and styling those in the entertainment industry, right? What services does Aquaries offer sports and entertainment personalities?

JN: AQ has broadened its services. We have added road managing and consulting services. The industry is ever changing and I strive to be ahead of the curve. Certain people are good at certain things. I am able to provide a lot of different things that most people can’t provide.

DIM: Who are some of the stars that you have worked with in the past and are currently working with in terms of both sports and entertainment? I know there might be too many to name, but who are a few of them?

JN: Boyz II Men, New Edition, BBD, Joey Fatone, comedian Jo Koy, Barry Bonds, actor Jason Kyson Lee, actor Miguel Nunez, American Idol’s Randy Jackson, Ne-Yo, Young Lloyd, Musiq Soulchild, NFL players: Davone Bess, Colt Brennan, and Will Blackmon.

Barry Bonds in Rebel Spirit Clothing

DIM: What type of clothing lines are you associated with?

JN: AQ has relationships with several clothing lines. I have been involved in the clothing game since my professional football playing days.

DIM: Would you consider yourself a fashion designer or stylist?

JN: Neither!!! Haaa…what I do is bring people together from different industries. I guess you can say I am still playing “quarterback” in the clothing industry. I am not pigeon holed into having an official title. I like it that way.

DIM: What is Rebel Spirit? Is that your new clothing line? Who wears it?

JN: Rebel Spirit clothing has been around for the past 5 years. I am in charge of their sports/entertainment marketing of the brand. I have expanded their image by putting it on some A-list clients. Boyz II Men are big supporters, Joey Fatone, Randy Jackson, Barry Bonds, Miguel Nunez, Jason Kyson Lee are a few of the people I have brought into the Rebel family.

DIM: What types of fashion do you usually work with? For example, jeans and casual wear or formal attire?

JN: I have connections from suits to sneakers to jewelry. I have contacts in every facet of the industry.

DIM: What big events have you dressed your stars for? Anyone who was at this year’s BET Music Awards wearing your gear?

JN: Rebel Spirit clothing did a gifting suite for the BET Awards this year. A lot of celebs came through. The brand is doing well at the retail boutiques as well as department stores like The Buckle and Metro Park.

DIM: So, do you go shopping with your clients or do you bring the fashion to them?

JN: I am not a personal shopper. I just take care of my clients needs and get them in the hottest brands that are out there.


Acting and Commercials

Jon Nielsen in Bud Light Print Ad

DIM: How did you get into acting?

JN: While playing professional football during the off-season, some of my friends brought me to an audition. I actually booked my first national commercial for Motrin that day. I have been a member of SAG since 1999.

DIM: What commercials have you been in? Have you done print ads, as well as television commercials?

JN: I have done several national commercials: Gatorade, SBC Communications, Budweiser, Motrin, McDonalds, Coors Light plus several modeling print ads: A. Tiziano and billboards for Coors Light.


Video Games: Gettin’ Personal

DIM: Now on a more personal level, what is your favorite gaming system and what are your favorite video games? Would you consider yourself a video game junkie? Do you ever play your own video games that MSM has worked on?

JN: I have the Wii, PS3, and the 360, but I don’t play any of them.!! Haaa, my nephews come over and play on all the systems. I am not a video game junkie at all. I take great pride in the games MSM works on, but I don’t have the time to actually play the games!!

DIG: One last question, what are your current and upcoming projects? What can we expect to see from MSM, Aquaries Entertainment and Jon Nielsen, the entrepreneur, in the months ahead?

JN: MSM is back working on all of our sport titles and hopefully some new titles as well. Aquaries Entertainment is busy expanding our entertainment marketing. Look for some new brands to pop up as AQ clients in the next few months.

About the author

Cindy Maram

Cindy Maram is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Dig In Magazine. She is an accredited film journalist for Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Mill Valley Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival and CAAMFest, as well as writer, vlogger, designer, digital, online & social media marketer. She possesses a B.A from UC Davis and a M.A. in Mass Communications + Popular Culture Studies emphasis in Film/Marketing/Writing from Cal State Fullerton.

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