Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - November/December 2012 - (Page 40)
exploring career options
richard Fournier Blue Sky Studios
interview by Melissa Hartman
Richard Fournier took only one animation class during college, but he never forgot it. After graduating, he worked in the graphic design career he’d trained for, but realized that he didn’t love it. So at night, he studied animation, first on his own and then in night classes and with a mentor. He landed his first animation job at a local game company. A few years later, after taking courses through Animation Mentor, he made the leap to Blue Sky Studios, where his animation credits include Ice Age 3, Ice Age 4, Rio, and the upcoming release, Epic.
Why did you move from games to film?
during the three years that i worked on mmos [massively multiplayer online games], i worked with great people, and i also became a more competent animator. But the work became somewhat repetitive, and i wasn’t getting to make the characters perform and do the emotional things that i wanted them to do. so one year when i went to siggraPh, a computer graphics conference, i spoke with a couple of people at Blue sky studios. i had seen the first Ice Age film and really liked it. after talking to them at siggraPh, i knew that’s where i wanted to be.
do every shot for my character, but i do oversee it to make sure it stays “on model,” or in character. i’m also assigned some of the more important shots for my character.
Can you give me an example?
as a character lead for gupta, the badger i worked on in Ice Age 4, i animated the iconic shot of the raising of the pirate flag: gupta jumps into the shot, bounces on the belly of an elephant seal, flies into the air, and crawls up the mast to unfurl the flag—by which i mean that he grabbed the top of the mast and unfurled himself and waved in the breeze. the markings in the fur on his back are a skull and crossbones. i think that was probably the coolest shot for him, and i was glad i got to do it. one of the reasons i really liked working with gupta was that he had two rigs—the “skeletons” within the 3d model that we use to control a character’s motion. one rig was for the arms, legs, and body, and the other rig allowed us to flatten him out and make him wave in the breeze. he was unique in that he was both an animal and an object, which i thought was pretty cool.
What is a typical day of work like for you?
on a typical day, i work on the shot i am currently assigned. every shot is kicked off when the director tells us exactly what the intention of the shot is and what should happen in it. We start out by shooting video of ourselves acting out the shot and use the best take as inspiration for the animation. When the initial pass is ready, i’ll show it to one of the animation leads. if there are no major notes or changes, i’ll show it to the director and get notes from him. We typically meet with leads or the director when the shot is kicked off, after our initial pass, midway through, and when the shot is final. i also check with my colleagues periodically, since they can look at my work with fresh eyes and maybe spot problems i don’t notice. We don’t work straight through the day, though; we play foosball, ping-pong, or pool, or just unwind for a few minutes away from our desks.
What was the first film you worked on?
Ice Age 3. i did principal animation, meaning that i animated the main characters. We’re assigned individual shots in the film, which could range from one second to six seconds or longer, and i animated the main characters in those shots. i was fortunate enough to animate just about every character in the film.
so you weren’t responsible for just a single character?
different studios have different ways of doing things. in some of the older 2d films, animators would have a specific character to work on, but in our films, everybody does a little bit of everything. We do have character leads—one or two animators who head up a particular character and help develop it. as a character lead, i don’t
do you work a typical eight-hour day?
i do now. But during every film, we have a period of what is called “crunch,” when we need to work extra hours to get a certain amount of work done.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - November/December 2012
Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - November/december 2012
In My Own Words
Well of Dreams
Making History Personal
A World Full of Stories
The Month of Writing Dangerously
On the Frontline of Digital Journalism
Once Upon a Summer
Awakening the Storyteller
Selected Opportunities & Resources
On the Doorstep of Discovery
When You’re Ready to Do Research
Off the Shelf
Exploring Career Options
One Step Ahead
Planning Ahead for College
Mark Your Calendar
Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - November/December 2012