Tangram Solutions interviews me

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During my work in Sweden, Miguel Gómez of Tangram Solutions gave me an interview about my career. The interview is in spanish, but I’m going to try to do an english translation.

You can find the original interview here:

https://tangramsolutions.es/entrevista-edu-leon-jimenez-fido-vfx/

 

  • Before we begin, thank you for answering our questions Edu.

Thank you for your interest and for giving me the opportunity to share my experience.

  • The trigger for your interest in VFXs is sure to be shared by some of you who read this interview.

When I was a teenager (back in 1998), I “devoured” computer magazines and publications. At that time, every month, I got the latest issue of the magazines Micromanía and PCManía. In one of the sections of the latter, called Rendermanía, the first steps of 3D for computer graphics, as we know it today, were presented.

A CD containing material, such as software and libraries, was included with the publication. Thanks to that, I began to experience what 3D was like as a game, following the tutorials and tips that explained step by step, with somewhat rudimentary applications like Imagine or very early versions of 3D Studio Max.

I got quite hooked on it and later on I decided to send what I created to the magazine (on diskettes and by post: the Internet was still far away!). I was published quite a few things at the time, as well as winning a few prizes in the digital art creation contests that they held in each issue.

After finishing high school, I knew I wanted to go down that road. But after seeing that the most common study options weren’t going to provide me with what I was looking for, I got into a fight with my father trying to convince him that “moving dolls around the screen” could be a profession. He reluctantly agreed that I should start studying what was already more than just a hobby for me. So I entered the IDEP in Barcelona, to do the course of animation and 3D modeling with Maya (from Alias-Wavefront at the time).

 

  • It all started with 3D but your work experience led you to other specialties, such as editing and composition.

Exactly. When I was studying, much of what I was learning was focused on 3D animation, leaving the rest of the processes largely unknown. During the last few months at IDEP, I was an intern at a television advertising production company, where I was eventually hired. There I saw for the first time, really, what composition and editing was all about.

I also discovered something that was not explained in the magazines or at school: The dizzying pace of production. We were very few in the department, with limited resources (compared to what we usually have today) and time was always a scarce commodity. So the work required some extra effort on my part and new knowledge that I lacked to get things done. I also learned how to compose with Combustion, how to edit with Final Cut Pro and how to experiment with simulation programs like RealFlow, which was quite new at the time. We made advertisements for companies such as La Caixa, Ambi-Pur, Multiopticas or El Corte Inglés.

To be a first work experience, I have to confess that it wasn’t exactly a bed of roses: Working in advertising can be very hard and finding oneself in what scenarios, as soon as you land in the world of visual effects, you can think about whether or not to take a next step in the future. However, I don’t think there was a clear turning point when I said I was leaving 3D for composition. I felt that the composition was an extension of what I had learned before and that, although I hardly knew it existed when I left school, I now saw that it was more than necessary. It may have been a bit of a rough start, but I knew I liked this and that I had to keep going.

 

  • In 2010 you made your debut in the animation cinema with Wrinkles by Ignacio Ferreras with Cromosoma. A special moment?

If there’s one moment in my career that I remember with special affection, it’s my time at Cromosoma. From being in small teams, I went on to be in productions with several structured departments. It was here that I began to compose with Apple Shake some children’s animated series such as Conni (Berta in its hispanic version), Pixi or Lila.

Most of them were animated with Toon Boom Harmony or in 3D with Autodesk Maya, to then compose the shots giving them a 2D freehand drawing aesthetic. The treatment at Shake was quite simple, unless something more creative had to be done. So the shots that a single composer could do a day were counted by the dozens (a much higher number than one can get per day in a regular production).

After some time in the series, I joined the production team for the animated film Wrinkles, directed by Ignacio Ferreras, composing with After Effects and doing FX with Maya. Some of the scenes I worked on required some simulation of light or atmospheric effects, such as the sequences of the pool or the story of the cloud.

 

Parallel to “Wrinkles” I was working on the composition of some sequences of the animated film “Dad, I’m a zombie“, in a collaboration for Digital Dreams Films. This was the first production where I used Nuke to compose.

And everything has to be said: I had played Shake (which also works by nodes), but Nuke in a first impression was like facing an alien entity, since many concepts changed from the point of view of other composition programs and also went deeper into others, such as 3D. But once the initial scare was over and I discovered the great freedom that is to compose with this software, I grasped it with strength and since then I haven’t let go of it.

Cromosoma reminds me of some companies I have seen outside of Spain because of their size and structure. I learned many things and met people I keep in touch with (like David Cubero: director of photography for Wrinkles and lead composer for many of the works we did).

Wrinkles and Dad, I’m a Zombie competed at the same time in the Goyas for Best Animated Film in 2012. Of these, the first one won the award in addition to the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Shortly after this, Cromosoma closed after the death of its founder, Oriol Ivern. And truth be told, I was very sad that the company disappeared, especially because of such sad and unexpected news.

  • Another interesting project in your professional career was the film “La Rosa de Foc” by Manel Huerga. What did you do for a living?

The film “La Rosa de Foc” (The Rose Of Fire) was a rather unusual project. The film consisted of about 150 locations, filmed by the city of Barcelona and entirely in stereo. All the shots that had been shot (and had absolutely nothing to do with each other) had to be linked together to form sequence shots. The film had to give the impression that the viewer was moving and that, without transitions or cuts, he was moving from one place to the next.

So there were some creative solutions, the simplest ones, such as going through windows or doors, to those of radically changing the movement of the camera and recreating the shot using 3D models or projections so that everything would fit into place. In other words, a gigantic batch of Tetris. We used Nuke to compose the shots, but the final forming was done in Mistika with our VFX supervisor, from whom I learned many new concepts, the veteran Sergio Ochoa.

 

  • An experience that led you to take the leap to a benchmark in Spain: El Ranchito.

Until then I had worked mostly in animation and advertising, and “La Rosa de Foc” had been rather experimental. So it was at El Ranchito that I first worked on films using the usual working method.

There I was composing for “Warcraft: The Origin” (with ILM supervising everything remotely). Among others, there was an interesting shot in which one of the characters has a vision and sees what is happening to the world from a great height. Apart from the composition (in which not only I was involved), one of the main challenges was to create a realistic river. At first, perhaps it could have been done by fluid simulation, but there is nothing more real than nature itself. So parts of a real riverbed were shot with a drone. Then with Nuke I stabilized each of the shots, and then joined them together in 3D to form the stretch of the fictitious river and the different passes of the material. From time to time we had changes in lighting, so I devised a system so that, in the different layers of the river, the type of water (cloudy, transparent, stagnant, etc.), as well as the river bed (sand, rocks, algae, etc.) could be chosen.

Parallel to “Warcraft: The Origin” I was also composing some shots for “Anacleto: Agente Secreto” (Spy Time) and “Ahora O Nunca“. Of these, the former won, among others, the Goya Award for Best Special Effects in 2016.

In El Ranchito I met a lot of good professionals of the trade, with whom I try to keep in touch and with whom I would love to work again!

 

  • After El Ranchito and Glassworks Barcelona, the temptation to go abroad soon came knocking on your door.

After my stay at El Ranchito, I was again working on shorter projects (for example at Glassworks Barcelona helping with “A Monster Calls”  by Juan Antonio Bayona). I was tempted to go outside Spain and had tried several times, but it didn’t happen until a Friday afternoon, when I was finishing a music clip when I was called to be in Munich on Sunday to work with Trixter on “Captain America: Civil War“. I don’t think I’ve ever packed so fast!

There I met a whole army of professionals from all over the world. It was hard work and I learned a lot of new resources. Plus how to do so many other things I already knew, but in a more efficient way. Although we worked hard, Trixter was a really nice experience and one that I would definitely repeat.

 

  • Currently, you work as a digital visual effects composer at FIDO. How did you get to them and what are you working on?

FIDO is a well-known visual effects company in Stockholm. Since relatively recently, they have merged with other studios to form the current Goodbye Kansas. Here we make visual effects for film, advertising, motion graphics, video games and much more. Being professionals from close but different guilds in the same place, it makes the company run a creative torrent quite interesting.

As for how I got to them, a very high percentage of freelance jobs come to me through my website or the LinkedIn social network. But this time they contacted me through Zerply. Very similar to LinkedIn, but focused on visual effects and video games, with a totally personal and dedicated attention. I recommend it!

I am currently working on the big screen adaptation of the korean comic “Along With The Gods“.

 

  • What differences do you appreciate in the production of VFX in Spain and other countries?

Within our country, I see a greater tendency to be committed and to have people close to me who have already worked with us in the past. It is vital to have a strong network if you are a freelancer. Outside our borders, I see that there is a lot of interest and resources being put into the organization itself, such as having a clear production and R&D pipeline.

Working in a production is always getting into trouble,” someone once told me, and it’s true. Producing a film is always a small challenge, as the intention is to create something original. For the same reason, working on visual effects is trying to fit something unpredictable into a spreadsheet. Like someone wants to put a hypothetical elephant in a cage. You may get it on the first try, with a docile animal, but unexpected things can also happen, such as it refusing to enter the cabin or becoming violent. It is therefore necessary to be prepared according to which scenarios, thinking ahead and providing technicians with the tools and strategies necessary to address a problem or create something never seen before. Investing in pipeline and development is time and money saved afterwards, as well as a considerable increase in quality.

 

  • Will we see you soon in Spain or will you continue in productions in Europe?

I’m in the final stage of this production at FIDO and although I was planning to return to Spain, I’m likely to stay here in Sweden for a while longer, as I have the opportunity to participate in new projects during the summer and part of the autumn. After my stay here, I will surely take a break in our country, but I don’t rule out going away again.

At the moment it doesn’t handicap me with my personal life and after all, I like the adventure of discovering new and different places. It’s something that I think makes the experience of working on visual effects even greater!

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