UP, interview of Simon Christen

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UP, interview of Simon Christen

Post by VinceFX on Fri Nov 27, 2009 12:12 pm

Here's an exclusive interview of Simon Christen who works at Pixar !!
He talks to us about how it come at Pixar and his work on UP.

Don't forget to see his great showreel (on the "animation" part) on his website.


Hi Simon, can you tell us how did you come at Pixar?

I was interested in CG from early on and started playing around with Photoshop and later 3D Studio Max while studying at the Gymnasium in Bern.
After countless hours in front of the computer and many personal CG projects, I decided I wanted to try and make it my career. Searching the internet I found a school in San Francisco, California - Academy of Art University - which seemed to be really promising. The school offered a 4 year BFA program and being with close proximity to Studios such as Pixar, PDI and ILM, I hoped there might be some good teachers teaching the classes.

So I moved to San Francisco and started Art school. After 2 years I got accepted into the advanced Animation classes, which at the time were taught by Pixar animators. I worked on numerous animation exercises and was able to put my first demo reel together. During a summer semester I was able to work as an intern at a small Computer Games company and get some industry animation experience.



After graduating I applied for the Pixar Animation Internship and was extremely fortunate to get accepted. It was an incredible learning experience and we worked again on different animation exercises ranging from Luxo interacting with a ball to dialogue tests. After 3 months the internship was coming to an end and all of us interns were of course hoping to get picked up. I was offered a Fix Animation position on "Ratatouille". A dream came true for me. For the next 10 months I was fixing shots for the movie and getting to see how a real production works. Unfortunately after "Ratatouille" was over they didn't have enough space to keep me on the team, so I sent my reel out and got picked up as an animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios where I got to work on "Bolt". It was again a great experience and interesting to see how another studio works. After "Bolt" was wrapping up I reapplied at Pixar and got hired back on, this time as full time animator on "UP".



What was your job position on Up?

I was an animator responsible for character animation.

On which sequences and characters have you worked on?

As an animator at Pixar you are responsible to animate an entire scene including every character within. Therefore you get to work on multiple characters which is challenging and interesting at the same time.
There were a bunch of smaller scenes throughout the movie but the two bigger chunks of shots were:
Where Carl is holding on to the hose hoping Russell, Kevin and Dug didn't die after the house fell off the dirigible. He rushes forward to the edge trying to take a peak, has a second of uncertainty before the trio swings happily forward and Russell shouting "That was cooooooool". Russell then starts to climb up the hose.
Another chunk of shots I worked on is towards the end where Alpha attacks Dug and eventually gets stuck in "the cone of shame".
At the very end of the show I was running out of work and I got to animate all the pages of the adventure book for the end credits. :-)



What was the most complicated character to animate?

In Up I would have to say Russell. I struggled a lot with the shot where Russell is climbing up on the hose. His arms are just too short to be able to reach far enough. It involved a lot of “cheating” to get it to read the way I wanted it.
Also Kevin was tricky.



Which software did you use?

At Pixar we animate in a program called Marionette which is proprietary software.
It works much the same like Maya, but has some cool additional features.



Have you encounters any difficulties?
Difficulties with the software or with animating? Either way, both offer plenty of opportunities to be challenged. The software is very sophisticated but you still run into hiccups from time to time. The good thing is that the software is constantly updated and bugs are taken care of very quickly.

Animation itself poses a lot of difficulties and for me it is a daily challenge to come up with interesting acting choices and turning my ideas into polished finished animation. Sometime it helps to step away from it for a little bit and then come back to it later and start fresh again.



What's your next project?
I just finished working on a teaser for the re-release of “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2” in 3D.
Currently I am animating on Toy Story 3, which is scheduled for release in the US June 18th 2010

Thanks a lot for your time !!


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