3 things CG artists wish people knew about the job

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A CG artist working at DIGIPOST

As CG (computer graphics) is practically everywhere these days, there comes a question: are we taking it for granted?

Therefore, we sat down with Sophon Seangkaew, a senior 3D and VFX artist at DIGIPOST, asking him to share what he thinks people are likely missing about CG.

Timing can make it or break it.

Creativity and techniques aside, timing is very critical in CG.

Depending on effects and techniques, the whole process – modeling and texturing, animation and rendering – can take you some time between a few days and a few months.

For instance, rendering a CG that is three seconds long, the shortest possible length to show the effect, can take up to six days.

Without giving a careful consideration to timing, you may find yourself waiting for years before your dream project can be finished.

Good references are a key.

Unlike other artists who thrive on spontaneity, CG artists cannot go into creation without a proper plan for execution.

Starting a CG job headfirst is a recipe for disaster.

Sooner or later, you will find yourself working on something without having a clear idea what it is going to be or when it is going to end. Even if you can finish it, what you get in the end will hardly justify all the time and efforts you have spent.

That’s why a good CG artist will spend time finding a good reference before starting anything. References can give you ideas about what you want to achieve and how long it should take.

CG is a fun job.

Unlike many other jobs, CG artists watch cartoons and films to do their job. It is one of the most fun jobs in the world.

Unfortunately, many artists are suffering from it, because due to unclear reasons, people mistakenly think CG as a tool not an art. They think CG people are there to create what they want, instead of discussing about what is possible and what is not in a given schedule.

When artists are not allowed to have a say in what they are creating, especially what they have expertise on, it kills their creativity and energy.

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‘O Color, Why Should I Bother?’

Here’s the reason why you need to hire a professional colorist to grade your works

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A screenshot from Bobby Nguyen – The photographer, a short film produced by RICE and color graded by DIGIPOST

Since “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” was released in 2000 and became the first feature film to get fully digital color grading, color grading techniques have gone through a huge evolution.

Nowadays anyone can color grade their works quickly and effectively like a pro with the assistance of advanced software. Or, so the software marketers have been telling you.

That has raised a critical question: if color grading sounds that easy, do you still need to pay high prices to hire a professional colorist to do your works?

Definitely yes. Here’s why.

In order to add the emotional engagement to your works, and big one at that, you do not need someone who masters grading techniques only.

You need someone who is also an artist, or a painter in particular. Someone who has a taste and an eye for colors. Someone who knows how to choose the right color to provoke desired emotions from audience.

And, that taste is something natural. Either you have it or you do not. Just like in arts, it’s one thing that you can paint, but whether you are a talented painter is another thing.

“Color grading is about shaping the emotional effects of a scene, rather than just fixing technical errors happening during filming such as lighting,” Laura, a colorist at DIGIPOST, said.

“It’s like sculpting,” she said.

In an old interview on the breakthrough color grading of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Randy Starr, VFX producer at Cinesite, which did the film’s VFX, once said color was like a character in a movie.

“As a character, it let you feel the period of time. It let you feel the heat in the air. It let you feel the sweats on the body. And that’s something a filmmaker couldn’t capture on a camera.”

In other words, without a professional colorist who plays as a good director to bring out the best of that character, your works are never complete, emotionally.

It’s time to break that prejudice towards Vietnam post-production

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A screenshot from a TVC completed by DIGIPOST

Director Luong Dinh Dung recently told local media that he sent his highly-anticipated movie “Cha cong con” (Father and Son) to South Korea for post-production. He said most of local directors had their works posted overseas, since post-production technologies in Vietnam are not comparable to other regional countries.

The claim is not new, as similar statements have been reported in local media over the past decade.

But how correct are the claims? Is it true that after more than 10 years, there is not a singular improvement in Vietnam’s post-production technologies at all?

It’s not.

The high-profile movie “Tam Cam: The Untold,” released at the end of August, was praised for its visual effects that were created by Vietnamese artists. Major newspapers such as Thanh Nien and Saigon Giai Phong have reported how Vietnam’s post-production technologies have been on par with regional and even Hollywood standards in recent years.

Vietnam’s young artists even have upped their game and created an animated short film, using the latest 3D Virtual Reality technology.

“These days, how advanced your technologies are no longer matters in post-production,” Andy Ho, executive producer at DIGIPOST, commented on the evolution of post-production. “Anyone who has money to spend on high-end software and other top tools can create standard effects.”

“Post-production is now about professionalism,” he said. “What distinguishes a top post house from average ones is how professional its workflows and personnel are.”

A Ho Chi Minh City-based post house with more than 22 years of experience and a team of international professionals, DIGIPOST, for instance, has provided services for both local and international film studios.

Now, however, due to business reasons, DIGIPOST only makes post-production for feature films selectively, like when its services are meant as a support for young filmmakers, Andy said.

“While feature films demand longer workflows and more complicate technologies, they take post houses longer time to recoup investment, compared to TV commercials,” he said in an explanation why DIGIPOST has focused more on TVCs in recent years.

“When the post-production market grows, DIGIPOST will expand its range. Meanwhile, it will continue to focus on the sector of TVCs where it has proved to be a leader in Vietnam,” Andy said.