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Alum Anand Recalls Work on 'Constantine'

Anuj Anand is a relative newcomer to the visual effects industry, but already has experience on the much anticipated film, Constantine, and is currently working on The Cave for Luma Pictures. He talks to vfxblog about his journey so far.

Interview by Ian Failes, republished with permission from vfxblog.

Can you tell me about your background and training in visual effects and animation? What was involved in your course at the Academy of Art?

Ian, firstly I’d like to thank you for having me on your site.

I’m originally from Delhi, India. Like most kids I too loved sci-fi movies. Star Wars, Blade Runner, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. But the movie that drove me to jump into visual effects was THE MATRIX (1999). I was amazed by the visuals and couldn’t wait to learn more about it. At that time I had just finished my 1st bachelor's in business and was helping my father in his publishing business. On the side I was also doing a certificate course in multimedia and animation. I always had a strong liking towards animation but never thought of it as a career, 'till The Matrix was released. I remember I used to watch the TV show called “The Movie Magic”, which used to air every Thursday evening, where they would show behind the scenes/making of the movies. All of these things drove me to pursue my passion for film visual effects and animation. I did a thorough research on film/animation schools and courses in US and Europe for a year and finally in Fall 2000 I joined Academy Of Art University.

Academy was one of the best times in my life, a great place for learning and a source of inspiration. I had no previous art background, so I had to go through the formal training in traditional arts, all the foundation classes - figure drawing, anatomy, perspective, analysis of form, color & design etc. After finishing the foundation classes I jumped to the digital side where I learnt the 2D and 3D aspects of visual effects. I was fortunate enough to have studied under some of the great instructors from the industry such as Brian Connor, C. Andrew Nelson, Sean Mitchell, Tim Dobbert and Jeremy Birns to name a few.

Was it always your goal to work in the visual effects industry?

Ever since my childhood I was fascinated by movies, especially the visual effects and when I joined Academy I knew exactly what I wanted to do. So to answer your question, yes. I always wanted to work in the visual effects industry.

What kind of art or filmmaking do you think has influenced you?

I get most of my inspiration from films, TV, art books and great artists. The movies that I enjoy the most are the ones where the visual effects are a part of the storytelling. Movies like Amelie, Run Lola Run, Gangs Of New York, The Minority Report, Gladiator, The Lord Of The Rings. I love the character development in all these movies and how visual effects are there to compliment the story. Directors like Chris Cunningham, Michel Gondry, Stanley Kubrick, Scorcese, Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, and Ridley Scott (the list goes on) have had a huge influence on me. The inspiration is all around you; you just have to “look”.

Can you talk about how you were able to get a job at Esc Entertainment and the kind of work you did for 'Constantine'?

After completing my bachelors from Academy of Art I started applying for a job in the industry. It was in April 2004, that I got a call from ESC Entertainment for a matchmoving position. At that time they were working on Catwoman and Constantine. I was hired as a matchmover to work on Constantine. Beside the regular camera matches (zoom, pan, tilt), I was also doing intricate character matches (matchamation). By the end of the show I also got the opportunity to do some compositing work, which was a lot of fun.

Have you got a favorite sequence or shot from a project you've worked on, or from anything you've seen?

I wish I could talk more about Constantine - there are a few sequences in Constantine that I am personally very proud of, from the trailer, there’s a time slow sequence which was lot of fun. Also, the Gabriel Wings Sequence was fun too. The Cave is another project that I am currently working on and it has a couple of creature sequences, which are really cool.

Do you have time for personal projects?

No, I haven’t had time to work on my projects but I really intend to do so in the near future. Currently I’m learning new stuff and also working on ideas for a short.

Your showreel has some amazing work on it.  Can you talk about or break down any of the shots on there (such as the San Francisco Airport or Robo Chase)?

San Francisco Airport was a great fun project to work on. My friend Quan Tran and I went out to film some stuff for our final project and it was Quan’s idea to shoot the airport. We jumped on the SF Airport Shuttle that circles around the airport both inside and outside and I remember it was a lovely evening, cool blue diffuse lighting, I shot lot of footage, and as you saw in the shot, did lot of work – matchmove, roto, 3D matte painting, texturing/lighting/animation and last but not the least compositing. Overall fun project.

Robo Chase was quite an experience too. We were supposed to shoot inside the Sony Metreon theater, but because of the safety issues we were not able to shoot and so we ended up shooting it at the yerba Buena gardens. It was quite a challenge, as there were no markers for tracking and the actor was blocking the most part of the shot. It took a lot of Red Bulls and coffees and late hours in the lab but somehow I managed to pull it off. Roto as always was time consuming. Modeling/texturing/lighting of the Robo and the hovercraft was a lot of fun. Special thanks to Javier Alverez and Melvin Mathew (a very talented upcoming animator) for animation help. Lot of work but fun stuff.

Any suggestions for new players wanting to get into the industry?

Hard work is the key to success. Be persistent. It’s totally worth it. You should do what you love to do and not worry about the job, when you are in school, as it will show in your work. Another suggestion - be honest with yourself, knowing what you are good at is also very important. Look at other great artist’s work and learn from them, train your eye to “See”. Don’t lose hope as art takes time, it can be really frustrating and every artist goes through this phase, but you have to keep fighting. Once again my advice is be persistent. At the end you’ll love it.

What's next for you?

I am currently working at Luma Pictures down in Santa Monica, CA, as a compositing artist on the show called The Cave. I’d like to work on my short, while working in the industry and gaining experience and knowledge. There’s always something you can learn. In the future I’d like to see myself as supervising a visual effects sequence.


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