Talking. Paul Lada. Visual Effects
Sep 5, 2012 - How did you get involved in 3D and Animation?
I found my route into animation quite unexpected to begin with. When I first started out in the world of Film I wanted to be involved in the Live Action shooting side of things. One thing I quickly discovered though about working in the film industry is it's hard to get your first real break. I started out as a runner working for various productions based at Pinewood Studios in England when word of mouth lead me to discover that a new animation company had moved in and may be looking for a runner. After getting the job I applied myself wholeheartedly knowing little about digital effects at the time but working with some very talented people from the trade I learnt a great deal in a relatively short amount of time. It wasn't long before the managing director of the company gave me my first job as an animator creating the Pre-vis for the film Tomb Raider II.
What do you find makes a good Animator?
For me, animation is all about strong posing and performance. I find those who have a background in art or who spend time studying and sketching form always have an advantage because they can see what make a strong pose, how things should balance and position themselves like they would do in real life. When you apply that methodology to your animation it'll look believable and feel like it has presence. The acting side of things is important as well. Individuals who have a bit of drama experience can breathe that life into a character like it was a little avatar of themselves.
What’s the most challenging aspect of being an Animator or most challenging project you’ve worked on?
I find the most challenging part of my job is not to get attached to the work I do. Working in this industry is a big process and the animation that gets produced has to be in harmony with everything else that makes the film what it is. This means that a lot can change throughout a production to get things working perfectly and ultimately the direction of a shot can change and in some cases cut out and canned altogether. I'll confess, it's disheartening when an edit changes and the animation you've been pouring your heart and effort into is no longer needed and gets omitted from the film. Animators do what they do because they genuinely love the work. You see a lot of passion from these artists and the worst thing you can do to them is deny them for their work to get shown.
As a Lead Animator on Feature Films like Prometheus what’s your responsibility?
The lead is essentially the animation supervisors right hand man. A very senior position and someone who is very knowledgeable about the inns and outs of a pipe line so that any questions that arise from the animation team can be dealt with swiftly. In my personal experience as well as creating a lot of animation on key shots I was also attending a lot of production meetings and serving as a go to person if the supervisor was unreachable. Personally I covet the lead position because as well as doing the animation that I love I also get to glimpse the bigger picture interacting with all the other departments of a production. It's really an exciting position.
What’s the difference between working on something that is entirely animated versus something where live action and 3D animation are composited?
When I'm asked something like this I'm always reminded of a graph representing budget that I saw while attending talk on 3D and film production and it goes something like this: If a film is entirely 3D it’s expensive but the line representing budget drawn on the graph is pretty straight. Same goes for a solely live action film. But when you mix the two together the line travels exponentially upwards. Reason being that to integrate 3d and live action seamlessly and convincingly it requires a lot more work. It's not just a case of slapping some good looking 3d renders on top of a live action plate and voilà. To recreate and simulate all the conditions that where happening in terms of lighting and atmosphere while filming on set and apply it to whatever element you are adding as an effect while making it look visually stunning is very challenging and in terms of computing power often a very expensive affair. You need a lot of grunt to produce all those frames and if you're looking for something that looks real and believable say a monster in your film or an action digital double for an actor it has to be perfect. Anything less and it won't work. The human brain is very hard to trick and it's very good at spotting irregularities.
We remember working with you at Pinewood on Tomb Raider II and Animotion’s, Bugs, you did a lot of 3D-modelling then, are you still Modeling or focused on Animation?
I like to think of myself as a generalist capable of applying himself to all disciplines. Be it modeling, animation, lighting or compositing I genuinely enjoy all aspects of VFX work. But if I am forced to specialize in any area it would be animation simply because I have more experience working as an animator than any other role.