Avatar, Skyline, Battle: Los Angeles 2011, Jonah Hex, 2012 & X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today Eugene, so let’s start off with how’s everything since working on Avatar? Did you guys get a lot of praise and some contracts for future projects out of that?
Once Avatar was over, there was a small break of about a month before we ramped back up for multiple feature films. The VFX house I work at would agree that working on Avatar is great for business.
Can you give us some background about yourself, like how you broke into the industry and what were some of the challenges?
For starters, I am a native San Diegan who loves the Chargers, super sad about LT. After a comment by my sister, I checked out Platt and totally dug the environment. I broke into the industry by becoming an awesome video game tester. A tip by a peer at Platt pointed me in the direction of game testing for Sony Computer Entertainment America San Diego in Sorrento Mesa. I did that for a couple of months then moved across the street to the development division. After a referral from a classmate, I interviewed for an internship that led to working with veterans from the movie business. Later on, they called me up to Los Angeles for my first Visual Effects job. There were some challenges early on with contract work ending and having months of down time. I recommend the every artist to save their dough after their first gig. That job can be gone at any moment if you’re a contractor. Life as a freelancer can be tough.
Sounds like you had one crazy journey… Would you recommend internships to everyone that’s trying to break into the industry?
It has been a crazy journey indeed. I do recommend internships for anyone who is able. Three months is the usual length, and at the end you might get a contract. If not, you’ve gained three months of “on the job” experience that can go a long way in your next job interview. Platt played a big role in my career as well, mostly due to people I went to class with. It was my network of friends that threw me leads for gigs here and there. Also Platt’s curriculum prepared me for what was to come.
Between making movie magic and making games, which do you prefer?
Maya is such a beautiful software package. With it, you can build video games, make short films, animate South Park, or create cinema magic. In my experience, there’s more prestige in cinema. The gaming industry is more like a vacation from the movie industry. At the moment, I prefer working in cinema.
I totally agree with you on Maya being the foundation. What other software knowledge would you say is essential for someone trying to get into 3D art?
It depends on the discipline, I guess. If you’re a modeler, you better know Photoshop and know it well. Zbrush, Vue, and Mudbox are definite pluses. Maybe some knowledge of UV unwrap software will come in handy. For animators, I’ve seen Motion Builder being used, but usually it’s just Maya animation. realFlow for dynamics people goes a long way. Also, for any discipline, it’s good to know how to slap a composite together either in After Effects, Shake, or any available composite program.
So just out of curiosity, walk me through your typical day at the office when you’re working on a project…
Before I even get to the office, I know exactly what I’m going to tackle that first few hours. I work in a room with 6 other artists. There is never a dull moment in there. During work, I have a task list that I try to get done. Sometimes things come up, also known as “fires”, and someone has to “put them out”. Sometimes, they’re small “fires”, other times they can be big. They can happen at any moment and are to be avoided! Usually I’ll just joke with the guys as I get work done as the day goes on. Most studios will buy lunches and dinners for the artists during projects that run long. So throughout the day we’ll take breaks, chill, and eat.
As a character animator, are you given a lot of freedom and creativity with your work, or are some things more strict?
Character animators are at the mercy of the client. Whatever the client wants is what the animation supervisor is going to tell you to do. For the most part, there is little “freedom” for animators, Motion Capture (mocap) being one of them. Some projects are mocap driven, which means animators might be cleaning up motion capture. Also, it can be a real bummer when the client doesn’t like what you like.
For any beginning artist, understand that there will be a lot of on-the-job training and learning. On your first job, your employer knows you’re fresh out of college and knows what to expect.
Thanks again for your time Eugene, everyone here at Platt is proud to see your success and we’re looking forward to what else you pull out from the magician’s hat!