We continue our series of interviews with various artists from different levels of seniority and backgrounds! 

We will be exploring Artist’s parcours, career paths, and artistic choices. 


Today we talk to Graeme McDougall, CG Lead/Supervisor, who has worked with us on many projects including the most recent Zemeckis’ The Witches and His Dark Materials.

Graeme McDougall

– Hi Graeme ! Thanks for taking some time to discuss your job today! What would you say a CG Supervisor, or Assistant CFX Art Director entails? 

– Hello! Well as a CG Lead in a smaller company, my work still involves quite a lot of hands-on 3D work. It regularly falls to me to come up with technical solutions to challenges in production, or to help evaluate the pros & cons of different approaches to a design challenge. I’ll often look at different pieces of software or plugins & try them out to see which might give the best results for the task at hand. I’d say for a CG Lead, you should have an overview of most areas of 3D work, from modelling, texturing, shaders & lighting, scripting/ TD type work, rigging & animation. You’ll need to know enough about compositing & matte-painting to be able to support those artists & provide them what they need to be able to do their work smoothly. You don’t have to be an expert in all fields of course, we all have our strengths & areas of expertise. You need to trust the other people in the team to do their work when they can get a result faster or better than you can. I think a lot of us start out wanting to make everything from scratch & do every part of the process ourselves but the realities of pre-production & deadlines gradually teach us that we need to make use of all the assets and resources available to us. When you’re working in smaller, more nimble teams in pre-production, it’s very useful to be able to jump in & fill a gap, whether that’s UVing a model, fixing the weighting on a character or putting together a quick slap-comp to demonstrate an idea.

– Sounds..busy! How did you come to be in this position today, was it something that was pre-planned ?

– It can be.. I started out from a character rigging & animation background. Then there was a period where the company wasn’t doing much pre-vis, instead we were doing a lot of concept art for sets & stylised matte-paintings. Most of it was for adverts, so it would be a new job every week. So I thought to myself  ‘I really need to learn how to do lighting & rendering if I’m going to be useful here‘, so I set about learning that. At some point I decided to learn some python scripting & over the years I made a few simple scripts to help with our workflows at times. Working with concept artists & matte-painters, then later compositors, taught me more about what they did & what they wanted from 3D to help make their work better & faster. So over the years, I got to the point where I had a pretty good overview of the 3D side of pre-production, of where it was most useful & of how we interface with all the other teams in Art Department, in concept art etc. So overall, I didn’t really plan it, it happened quite organically.
Nike, The Last Game  (2014)
Nike, The Last Game (2014)

 

 – Cool! Which show/film or general project have you been on makes you the most proud of your work/you like the most?

 – Nike’s ‘The Game’ world cup short film was a fun one, we were working on very big, expansive backgrounds of whole cities. Looking back, I shudder a bit at the way we did some things but I thought the end result was really successful. Software & hardware have come on so much in those 6 years.  Also, a lot of the concept art we’ve produced for His Dark Materials – it’s just hard because we see it on screen so long after we work on it, you get a little impatient to see it out there. Of course in every job, some of it will never see the light of day, those ideas on the cutting room floor. But that’s the nature of the job.

Thanks for the insight Graeme,  and keep up the excellent work!

 

His Dark Materials, BBC/HBO