January 2011 Archives
As a compositor for 12 years; three in Vancouver, one freelance, three in Berkeley, and five in Los Angeles, my career has been punctuated by moments where I have had a chance to dictate the development and progression of a show or sequence. The first was a moment in Australia, on a project called Ghost Ship, in 2002. I came on late, but was able to work quickly and efficiently in moving up the ladder, and was credited as a lead 2d artist. I wasn't initially a lead 2d artist, and I didn't work on a huge number of sequences or be in charge of a bunch of shots, but the shots I did have and the way I delegated them apparently had an impact.
During my time at Tippett Studio, I had a chance to lead a couple commercial projects in late 2005 / early 2006 (roughly seven to eight years into my career). These commercials were small, less than twenty shots apiece, but it enabled me to have more control and input over the way shots were constructed and how they were presented. I was also a part of the team that met with the client and discussed how shots were faring, what to change, what was good. One of my job criteria was to disseminate that information to the artists working for me on the show. A critical skill was communication of ideas between client and artist. This vital skill is one that some people may or may not have, and can occasionally be the stone that blocks one's path toward the higher levels of production.
After leaving Tippett and heading to Digital Domain in first quarter 2006, I almost had to start from scratch, in terms of proving myself to the supervisors and leads here. This is a theme that runs through every company that you may work for during your career. This can be a hard choice, and can be fraught with frustration. Take it in stride, listen to the notes, address them, and keep your mouth shut. Too many times I have see artists come in, have a huge ego, hear the notes, but never address them. I am about to close out my fifth year at Digital Domain, and after having worked on 14 films as a compositor, I made a big leap to compositing lead. This position is a big one, largely because Digital Domain is a well recognized company, the compositing teams here are top notch, and the show I'm leading on is a huge one. I've worked on some big shows before, but nothing like this. The sequences I'm leading comprise of a total of about 150 shots, with over 600 in total. Those other 450 shots are split among three other compositing leads, each having about the same workload as I. We have close to ~35 compositors total, so each lead retains about a quarter of that for our sequences, with some overlap. My position here as a comp lead is very similar to my other comp lead positions at other companies, the only difference being that it IS Digital Domain, there are a TON more shots to overlook, and a TON of people looking at the work you are doing and supervising.
The general thing about leading, not necessarily here, is that there is a skill to it. Some people don't have it, and some people don't want it. It's not necessarily being the best compositor, but being there for the artists if they need help, if they need completion of some task, helping them muscle through a shot, oversee the look of the sequence, delegating those responsibilities to the artists, giving and keeping accurate notes, providing options to techniques in comp, helping complete a shot should it be necessary, and keeping morale high. A happy artist is a valuable artist. A lead, needless to say, is a leader I guess. A person the team can turn to should they need help with anything, and a person that the team can feel comfortable taking direction from. Not everyone can do it or want to do it, and it's not necessary to have a career in the field. There are still a ton of requests for senior artists that know what they're doing.
Well, I'll be. It's a new year, a new show, and a ton of new stuff has happened since the last time I posted 6 (SIX!) months ago! Wow! If you've been following the blog for a little while, you might have noticed digitalGypsy going down for most of December, right around the same time that VFXTalk was having a little meltdown/fiasco. didn't know about the craziness that was happening until I was contacted via Twitter and told of both my website being down, and the fiasco on VFXTalk.
Let's recap what's been happening in the world of visual effects, and how we fit into it. During late summer there was a number of recent discussions concerning freelance wages, unions, committees, you name it. There have been a plethora of blogs out there that are decidedly more appropriate, and there has been momentum on that front. I've removed myself from speaking about it, simply because of the time constraints I have, and there are people way more eloquent than me discussing and organizing things. I'm going to link o them here. Both VFXSoldier and VFXLaw have been good for the community, way more so than I have, and while they both choose to remain anonymous, I heartily recommend their blogs for reading! Often, anonymity is the smart choice. There was recently an IAMA on Reddit entitled 'IAMA vfx artist for 14 years, and it sucks and I don't care anymore' or something to that effect. Professionals can often get stigmatized for what they may post online, even if it's unrelated to the company they work for! Personally, I'm not anonymous, anyone can contact me, and I have received flack for posting opinions here, on CGTalk (most definitely, banned from there for talking about salaries and wages!), and on VFXTalk.
Since July/August of last year, I've been heavily involved in the next big show (well, one of the next big shows!) that Digital Domain is doing, Real Steel. There is a production website for this, steelgetsreal.com, where you can see the trailer for the film, released last month, mind you, full frame Flash content on that site. I'm one of four lead compositors on the show, which encompass a number of amazing effects, several of which you can see in the trailer. We have a pretty big compositing team, almost 30 or so, and roughly seven of them under me. The robot names have not been released yet, so I'm not going to mention them. However we are doing a fair number of robots! And no, this is no relation to the fighting robots of Rock'Em Sock'Em. I think some other company is trying to get that off the ground. From what I've heard and read, this is more a story piece than a film about robots fighting. I'm hoping it does well.
For this show, we ended up getting another comp intern. Well actually, two! One of them is working directly with me, while the other is working with another lead. This time around there was less instruction, and more production. The interns are actually having to complete production shots! Shouldn't be too difficult, right? :) Time will tell. They've been extended to the end of the show, very similar to how Tom, my intern from last year fared. Speaking of Tom, he's now back at Digital Domain in our roto/paint department, proving his worth.
On the outside vfx side of things, you may have seen my machine shop from the previous post six months ago. I'm currently working on a aluminum puzzle cube, similar in fashion to a Rubiks Cube. There are several differences of course, one being that mine is made of metal. The other being that it's see-through. What? You say? Check out the other website I created for it, Skeleton Cube.com. I put the website up last week in about an hour, and will continue to update it with pictures as the work progresses.
I am hoping to update the blog a little more frequently! Keep visiting, or click that RSS feed up there on the right.