Earlier this summer, we mentioned that 3D grad Allen Holbrook had a hand in animating Transformers. We’ve now caught up with Allen, who was kind enough to tell us everything we wanted to know–including how he got started, and some valuable lessons.
Can you tell us a bit about how your career has evolved since VFS?
After VFS, I moved down to Los Angeles to look for work. With LA being the heart of the film industry, I reasoned that it would be a good place to start. After freelancing for a few small companies, I got a call from ILM asking if I could help a team do some data wrangling for Disney‘s 3d Stereoscopic version of Chicken Little.
I immediately jumped at the chance to work for them. While the job wasn’t artistic in nature, the opportunity to work on site at Disney Feature Animation while having ILM on my resume was a lucky break for me. Also, part of my job entailed going frame by frame making sure the renders went well, so I ended up closely studying Disney animation all day, which I found very helpful. At the end of that project I had an interview with Jamy Wheless, ILM’s animation supervisor on Star Wars Episode 3.
The interview went well, but the fact of the matter was that my reel wasn’t quite feature quality animation. So after moping around for a month, struggling to do my own animation by myself at home, I got a call from a friend I met on the Disney job, letting me know that Rhythm & Hues was looking for match movers. I was reluctant to apply, since I wanted to do character animation, but he convinced me that getting your foot in the door of a big name company is a much wiser career move than sitting at home trying to pull feature quality animation out of thin air.
At Rhythm & Hues I started in match moving and then moved into technical animation (which is fur, fat, & muscle simulation). During this time I bugged and bothered the talented animation supervisors for animation critiques of clips I worked on at home. Through their help I was able to gain the skill needed to move into the character animation team on Night at the Museum. I’ll always be grateful to R&H for giving me opportunities to advance and grow.
After Museum, there was a lull in work in Los Angeles, but ILM was looking for animators for Pirates of the Caribbean 3, so R&H helped set us up with interviews with them. Fortunately, I was asked to come up, and I couldn’t say yes fast enough. While working on Pirates, I met Jamy Wheless again and he remembered me from my interview the previous year. After I was lucky enough to be asked to continue on to Transformers, I gleaned animation reference techniques from Jamy while he was working on the “My name is Optimus Prime” shot.
After Transformers, the Bay area slowed down while Los Angeles ramped up; such is the nature of the film industry. While R&H expressed interested in having me back, I wanted to try something different, because up until that point I had been doing visual effects animation. I wanted to try my hand at a full length CG feature. I was contacted by Vanguard Animation here in Vancouver, and I had an interview with Adam Wood, the animation director who had previously worked at Pixar for many years. The interview went well, and now I’m back in Vancouver, enjoying the work and the lovely city.
We’re sure Vancouver’s enjoying you, too. How is working at Vanguard?
Being at Vanguard working on the full length CG feature Space Chimps has been great experience for me. I’m getting back into pushing timing and poses that you can’t get away with in a live action visual effects movie. Working with the very talented animation team is terrific and I’m constantly learning character animation tips and techniques.
Because we’re movie geeks, can you tell us a bit about the specific shots you worked on on Transformers?
The shots I worked on in Transformers that are memorable are:
1. After Megatron and Optimus fall off the building, they’re lying on the ground, and Megatron starts to get up but notices a human next to him. He flicks the human away while saying “Disgusting”.
2. Optimus tells Ratchet to “hit the lights” and Ironhide says “Come on, hurry” while they’re waiting for Sam to find the glasses. Sam is freaking out and telling Ratchet and Ironhide to turn off the light.
3. A wide shot where Megatron picks up Optimus and throws him down a street.
4. The shot where the Autobots are surrounding the Sector 7 agents and Jazz uses his hand as a magnet to pull all their guns out of their hands.
I had other, smaller shots, but those are the ones that stick out for me.
Clearly, we can’t just leave it at that. We’re going to want to talk more about those shots, and Allen’s process. We’re planning on sitting down with him on camera, a la Ori Ben-Shabat and Ben Sanders soon. Stay tuned!