Not everyone is so sure of their career path right from the start. For some of us, it takes time and some exploring to discover where our talent will lead us – and that’s half the fun! VFS’s Foundation Visual Art & Design program offers these opportunities to students like Samson Wong, who took the knowledge he gained from Foundation and applied it to a year in 3D Animation & Visual Effects.
Now, Samson’s working as a Compositor on feature films with top Hollywood talent. We had a chance to ask him a few questions about how he got from here to there.
Hi, Samson. Thanks for taking some time out of your schedule to do this. Let’s just start at the beginning. What initially drew you to this career field?
I grew up in an artistic family. Both of my grandfathers are Chinese painters, so is my dad and mom. During my childhood, I spent most of my time on drawings and music without getting any proper instruction in any art school. At the age of 23… I knew I wanted to do something artistic and creative. I started working as a freelance graphic designer with a little knowledge of Photoshop. At that point, I found out that even though I have some great concepts, I could not express them to audiences properly. So I started doing research through the web… and I decided to start with the Foundation Visual Art & Design program.
How did your year in the Foundation Visual Art & Design program prepare you for the 3D Animation & Visual Effects program?
During my year in Foundation Visual Art & Design, I was totally like a newborn baby. I basically learned to observe things that I did not pay attention to before, especially concepts and theories. Foundation taught me how to use software like Maya, Photoshop, After Effects, Illustrator, and Final Cut. I also learned about anatomy in life-drawing classes, the use of camera lenses and lighting in photography classes, film and art history, and the ability to express ideas through communication arts – it all helped prepare me for the 3D Animation & Visual Effects program.
Your 3D Animation & Visual Effects reel is impressive (over 10,000 views on YouTube!). Can you explain why you decided to create a faux-commercial to showcase off your talents?
Thank you. I would say the idea wasn’t the same as it turned out in the end. Throughout the working process, I made a lot of changes due to technical issues, time constraints, and all sorts of other factors. It is not really a superb VFX reel compared to a lot of other VFS students’ reels, but I definitely learned a lot from it, including the importance of time management in this industry.
There were two main reasons why I wanted to do a commercial. First, I always wished I could do a short film with a developed plot or theme, however, with such a limited production time, I thought that a commercial would work better than a short film. Secondly, a VFX reel needs to show the technical side (what software programs you can use and how well you can use them), but at the same time I thought it was just as important to express meaning in a demo reel.
Can you describe how you made the transition from a fresh VFS grad to working on a massive production like The Incredible Hulk?
I sent my VFS demo reels to different visual effects companies right after I graduated. After one and a half months, I received an interview request from I.E. (Image Engine), that’s how I got my first job there.
According to imdb.com, you were a “Matchmove Artist” on that film. Can you explain what that is and what your responsibilities were?
Match Move Artists (or what we call Trackers) position tracking points on live action shots and, using those tracking points, they work out the coordinates in the relevant 3D program. The information they provide allows the CG geometry to fit accurately and convincingly into the live action plates when the various elements are composited.
Aside from your recent work as a Compositor on Renee Zellweger’s newest film, New in Town, what are you up to now?
My last movie work at I.E. was Watchmen as a Compositor. We all did some really difficult wire and rig removals. We are currently working on a movie called District 9 , directed by Neill Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson. We’re all getting excited about this because we will be delivering approximately 300 visual effects shots for this movie.
Congrats on all of your success, Samson!