“When I see my work on the big screen, I feel humbled. I have a deeper understanding of the images in front of me. Months—more often years—of blood, sweat, and tears are poured into these projects by hundreds of highly skilled, hard working artists.”
-Michael Billette, 3D Modeling for Animation & Games diploma, The Art Institute of Vancouver, 2011
One of this summer’s most anticipated films, “Jurassic World,” picks up 22 years after its enormously successful predecessor “Jurassic Park” and aims to show off how far special effects have come in the past two decades.
Seven graduates of The Art Institute of Vancouver played roles in creating the eye-popping effects that will bring dinosaurs to life on screen. And three of them, Michael Billette, Charmaine Childs, and Calvin Christensen shared with the Ai Blog their insights into the movie’s creation.
Michael Billette, who in 2011 earned a 3D Modeling for Animation & Games diploma from The Art Institutes of Vancouver, worked for six months on "Jurassic World." Michael’s role as a 3D Modeler and Layout Artist means he created a CG jungle for the raptors to run through during one of the film’s action sequences.
“The best thing about working on Jurassic World was that everyone was a fan of the original. It helped to add an extra level of passion and energy to everyone's work, and held us to a higher standard of quality,” he says.
While the excitement fueled his momentum, Michael did run into challenges—specifically helping to create a solution for the interaction between characters/raptors and the surrounding vegetation. “Every plant in the jungle needed the capability to react accurately to being brushed or trampled. This problem required a couple of people, some clever thinking, and a few months of hard work to resolve.”
Michael utilized the education he received from The Art Institute of Vancouver to help solve these issues when they arose. “In a lot of ways, The Art Institute of Vancouver parallels the film industry. By the time I graduated I was prepared for the rigorous, demanding, rewarding work that followed,” he says.
Like Michael, Charmaine used the tools she acquired during her studies to overcome challenges in her role as a Background Prep Artist. Charmaine earned a VFX for Film & Television diploma in 2013 from The Art Institute of Vancouver. She worked with the team responsible for the roto mattes and paint fixes on the filmed footage.
Charmaine says that it’s difficult to explain the thrill of working on such a huge film “I mean, it’s 'Jurassic World!' The earlier films had been such a part of my childhood movie experience, so naturally I was pretty stoked when we heard of the upcoming project,” she states.
She adds that in her line of work, detail is critical. “The accuracy of the plate is very important to keep, so trying to keep the original detail and minimizing your impact is something you need to be aware of. This means your work has to be pretty much perfect.”
That perfection can be difficult to achieve, but it’s worth it when the final product is released to the public. Charmaine explains that seeing her work on the big screen elicits feelings of great accomplishment. “[I feel] pride for the team. It is very much a joint effort and everybody does a fine job at what they do.”
Calvin Christensen jokes that he missed the big screen debut of the first movie he worked on, “Legend of Hercules.” But he won’t be making that same mistake with “Jurassic World.” “It will be pretty exciting to finally see a creature animation on the big screen,” he says. “Raptors are particularly fun to animate.”
Calvin worked as a tech animator on the film. He spent 3 months finishing up shots for the animators. “[I] checked for geo crashes, muscle sims, added the tails to shots and even did minor animation notes.”
He adds that the most challenging part of his work was not to become discouraged at the number of iterations a shot required. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of needing to try different versions to find what works.”
Calvin says that his education helped him to become successful in the industry. “Certainly all of it got me here. But on this production, the key skill I applied was maintaining a clean workflow to allow me to do as many iterations of a shot as the director called for—without having to scrap everything I did before.”