VFS grad Trent Noble has done a lot of different things since he graduated from the then nascent VFS 3D program, including development for a bizarre comedy series about the last days of Adolf Hitler (All in the Bunker) with director Andrew Overtoom, (Sponge Bob Square Pants TV show and movie, the live action feature My Life With Morrisey and who also happens to be a VFS grad).
Now he’s working at the National Film Board (NFB) as Lead 3D Artist with Vancouver-based photographer, filmmaker and multimedia installation artist Stan Douglas (whose large photographic reproduction of the 1971 Gastown Riots is a main feature in the foyer of Vancouver’s historic Woodward’s building where the NFB is also now housed).
Trent can’t say too much about the secret augmented reality iPad app he’s working on for Stan, other than it is about another piece of Vancouver history, but we can update you about it when it is released in January. In the meantime, we sat down with him to find out a bit more detail concerning his time at VFS, his activities post graduation, and what he thinks about the state of 3D Animation these days.
Hi Trent So, to start this off, when did you graduate from VFS?
Trent: I graduated in 2000 from the 3D program, which was a new program at the time.
You mentioned that the 3D program was located in a strange place. Where was that?
Trent: It was actually the 2D program, which I took beforehand in 1997. Which I think is a necessity for every aspiring 3D animator.
Oh, so you actually went to VFS twice?
Trent: Yeah, our classroom for the 2D program was located above an old thrift shop in a squeaky old building across from the Cambie pub. The floors were uneven and it smelled like my Grandpa’s chicken house. [Ed. note: Rest assured, the Classical Animation program's campus no longer smells anything like livestock!]
What was it like going to VFS? Was it intense? Was it difficult? Did you enjoy it?
Trent: Coming from a 2D background, I was a little naive when it came to 3D. I remember feeling like I wouldn’t have to do as much work because all my in-betweens would be done at the push of a button. But then that one push became 20 pushes, then 200, then 2000. The intensity definitely became apparent when I found myself sleeping under my desk while render wrangling I guess you could call that enjoyable.
When you were studying at VFS, what did you imagine you were going to be/do?
Trent: I honestly didn’t plan that far ahead, as I was convinced I would be dead by the end of the year.
What software did you use back then was it Maya? If it was something different, how did you get introduced to Maya? If it was Maya, how did you keep up with developments.
Trent: We were taught on Maya 2.5. It was a great application you had to go through three separate steps in the menu just to put a coloured texture on a sphere. That was 13 years ago, so Maya has come a long way. Now you can make the sphere hairy, melt it and have it blow away in the wind and break into sprites in five steps.
What have you been doing since you graduated? Did you get a job doing what you wanted to do? Did you end up doing something different from what you had planned or expected? What are you doing now?
Trent: Once I graduated, I made the decision to leave town. It felt like half the town was competing for the same thing. Those were the days of VHS tapes, so I took a bag of my reels down to L.A. and started weaseling my way into the major studios, by first looking up the name of the recruiting agent, then asking for them by name at the front desk, acting like we had already set up an interview. So yeah, that didn’t work too well… I wound up getting a job walking dogs for celebrities (Sarah Silverman’s dalmatian is an *******), and in the meantime, I was mailing my reel to anywhere that was hiring. I didn’t care where, I just wanted a job in the field. After 4-5 months of that, I got a response from a small studio in Buffalo NY, who hired me full time on a dodgy work visa, but that’s a whole other story… From there I’ve taken on jobs that have brought me all over the world (including to Norway, doing 3D work for the Rockheim Museum).
So, the lesson I learned is, sometimes you have to go where the work is. Don’t limit yourself to one market, be adventurous, and you’ll enjoy your career much more.
As of now I’m working with Stan Douglas and the National Film Board of Canada creating an augmented reality application for the iPad. (That’s about all I can say unless everybody who reads this signs an N.D.A.)
We’d like to include your reel at the end of the post, and I understand you have an opinion about the way most reels are made these days; do you think some people have the wrong idea about what a reel should include in order to properly showcase their talents?
Trent: Actually, I don’t really have a reel, but you can show some vignettes I recently did. I wouldn’t say so much that people have the wrong idea, I just think that a good majority of them have lost their originality. How many times do we need to watch a demo reel with a model of a dragon spinning on a turntable to the worse music ever? Or these montages with small clips from some animated piece you did with no context to the story, set to a techno song from 1996? Your reel needs to stand out, so come up with something new. If you want to be an animator, show that you can tell a story, evoke emotion and have some acting skills. Lose the soundtrack and use some dialogue shots, or create a short film. It’s up to you to make your reel memorable, and it if looks like everyone else’s with the same format, then you may be walking dogs for longer than you think.
Thanks for talking with us Trent. We look forward to hearing more about your secret project when it’s released in the new year!
Trent: Hey, anytime but you won’t have to hear about it next year — You can see it with your own eyes!
Check out this vignette by Trent Noble below, and see a few more of them at his Tumblr site