Think about animations that helped you unfold your imaginary world as a child. Animations deliver warm and lingering messages as well as sensuous fun through unique characters even to adults. They give us a mysterious and fantastic experience and also help us realize the lessons of life. The modeling artists who produce these graphics play an important role in production, because all the characters and backgrounds are implemented through CG technology. Modeling artists embody the characters that will be our friends. SMT met Choi Seungyoung, a modeling artist for the global animation company DreamWorks.
Before starting the interview, please give a brief introduction to SMWU students.
Hello. I'm Choi Seungyoung and I've been working at DreamWorks Animation for 19 years. Also, I have another name, which is Sean Choi, in the company. You can find "Sean" in the movie credits.
First, could you explain what the work of a modeling artist is like? Please tell us the modeling artists role in animation production.
A modeling artist is a job that creates data through a technique called modeling. The data that the artist modeled and created is shared with the different departments that make the video. The video is finally completed through these various steps. Everything that is seen through the eyes of the audience in movies with animation or CG is based on a 3D model. So, every CG movie needs this kind of work and no videos can be made without 3D modeling. As it is the basis and foundation of CG work, students who study CG for the first time try their hand at modeling a lot.
How did you choose your job as a modeling artist? We wonder what kind of work or other media influenced your choice.
I have always been interested in creative work such as design. Before working at DreamWorks, I worked as a clay modeler, designing cars for an automobile company's design team. While working as a car designer, I became interested in animation after seeing CG feature-length animation that began to appear in Hollywood around 1998. Then, I quit my job due to various difficulties. At that time, I challenged myself to study and get a job in the U.S., which I had always dreamed of. It was not an easy decision, but while studying abroad, I met many great people and got help from them. I think I became a modeling artist through this experience. After that, I entered the Academy of Art University (AAU) in the United States to materialize my interest in animation.
As DreamWorks is a global animation company, various characters appear in its movies. We wonder how they are created and produced.
Pre-production begins with the story of the movie. Usually, character designs are proposed to suit the story concept, and some of them are reproduced through 3D modeling. Once this is set to some extent, the team is formed and the team will officially create post-production. In addition, characters are created through rigging, which virtualizes the characters, and CFX, which controls the characters' clothes and hair.
We are sure you participated in the production process of many movies while working for DreamWorks for 19 years. What movie that you have worked on is the most impressive and why?
I think I've done quite a lot of animation since 2004. <Flushed Away>, <Over the Hedge>, <Kung Fu Panda 1 and 2>, <How to Train Your Dragon 1, 2, and 3: The Hidden World>, <Madagascar 3>, <The Penguins of Madagascar>, <Rise of the Guardians>, <Home>, <Trolls World Tour>, <Puss in Boots: The Last Wish>, and <Bad Guys>. My most impressive work is <How to Train Your Dragon>. I spent a lot of time on this until the story was completed, and despite re-creating the whole story later in the production, the results were pretty good. I learned a lot from this work, so it is the work I feel most affection for.
DreamWorks is commonly called "a dream workplace." What was special about DreamWorks that you experienced?
In the past, it was not wrong to call DreamWorks "a dream workplace." Above all, I felt that the producer cared for, respected, and thoroughly guaranteed the ability of the artist. There were many people in the company who wanted to work for a long time before retirement and it was an environment where many people could do that.
Recently, interest in CG animation in movies is increasing. We expect there have been many changes such as new programs compared to when you first started working. Please tell us about the changes in your work compared to the past.
In terms of programming software, compared to when I first started, the program Maya seems to have changed a lot. Maya is a programming tool often used by modeling artists. Most of the changes seem to be for the development of convenience and performance. These days, unlike before, I think it is a big change that we can handle enormous amounts of data that we couldn't conceive of in the past for the audience and the changing of the times. This change is likely to continue for the time being.
What do you think is the most important part of modeling? And we would like to ask you why.
In order to engage in the field of modeling, more effort and meticulousness are required than you might expect. We need to have common sense about visible objects, including how structures were built and why such a design came out. In the end, we need an eye that can see and feel everything to create a balance and plan accurately and can be reproduced through CG modeling. Especially in animation studios, I think this kind of training is even more necessary.
As modeling itself requires a lot of creativity and implementation skills, it seems that constant imagination and ideas will be required. Do you have any ways to get inspiration?
Modeling is a work that requires training to see, observe, and experience many things. Photography is the best training for capturing the light and shadows needed for reproducing everything. In particular, photographs deal with light, so you can examine the light, giving you an eye for the same object differently. So, I spend most of my free time taking pictures. When an object is familiar to you, it is possible to model the details in a real way. If you take a lot of pictures, you will encounter various objects, so you can shorten the modeling time. Also, it is important to observe a number of objects exactly. Even in everyday life, I try to observe many things when I'm on the road or eating at a restaurant.
We wonder if you have your own rules for modeling work.
What I think is important is time. Therefore, I try to manage my schedule by myself and never miss a deadline.
Lastly, please give some messages to Sookmyungians who are dreaming of becoming artists.
When I first got a job in America and 19 years as a graphic designer, I was guaranteed a lot of freedom. However, a responsibility is followed in order to protect all these freedoms. I realized a lot that I can't get freedom without taking responsibility. There are many in reality and the students may have new opportunities. A good chance can come at any time, but nobody knows when it will come. So, be ready to seize any opportunity, and don't give up!
- <Over the Hedge>, <Flushed Away>, <Kung Fu Panda>(2006~2008)
- <How to Train your Dragon>, <Kung Fu Panda: The Kaboom of Doom>(2010~2011)
- <Madagascar 3>, <Rise of The Guardians>(2012)
- <How to Train your Dragon 2>, <Penguins of Madagascar>(2014)
- <Home>, <Trolls>, <Boss Baby>(2015~2017)
- <How to Train your Dragon 3>, <Trolls 2: World Tour>(2019~2020)
- <Bad Guys>, <Puss in Boots 2 Last wish>, <Trolls 3>(2021~2023)