Visual Effects Society Awards AAU Alumni Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Motion Picture
When one of our own recent alumni, JungSeung Hong, was recently recognized for his work in “
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” we couldn’t have been prouder. The current
Industrial Light & Magic employee was awarded Outstanding Animated Character in a Live
Motion Picture award by the Visual Effects Society at their
annual awards ceremony on February 11, 2007. With his eye-catching capabilities to construct
imaginary characters and with the accolades pouring in, I think it’s safe to say that we, too,
might have created a monster.
AAU: What was your experience like as a student at the Academy of Art
JungSeung: I often stayed up late spending hours and hours doing the homework from
the painting classes or
animation classes. Most of the classes were just
plain fun as I knew they were my stepping stones for what I wanted to do, though, sometimes I would
feel some of the mandatory classes were taking up too much time when I wanted to spend on exploring
the tools further and understanding anatomy more in depth. Since I was a foreign student,
there was also a few times I felt really frustrated about classes that needed better communication
skills. I was already married when I first started at AAU, so I was very determined not to
get fall behind. I guess in the end I became a nerd since my grades paid off nicely.
AAU: What aspects about your current job were most easily translated because of
your education at Academy of Art University?
JungSeung: Utilizing Maya and understanding modeling workflow in Maya, which I
learned in classes, helps me a lot - even nowadays. Though ILM uses its own in-house software
for most of the work, having knowledge of Maya gives me flexibility of workflow as well as new
ideas of how to approach modeling.
AAU: What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
JungSeung: It varies, depending on which stage the production is on.
If it’s the beginning of the project, all I do is make models with many references
photos, anatomy books, or the concept artworks beside
me. As creature modeler, building characters is my usual job. While I build the model, I often ask
my peers, supervisor, art director, and texture artists to establish which approach and process of
making the character would benefit the production in which way and how it will help the other
What takes longer than building a character would be building the shapes for the character,
which is usually the next step while the production gears up. This sometimes takes up to
several weeks if the character happens to play a main part of the movie. Not only do I have
to be accurate about the anatomical and physiological structure of the head which make facial
expressions, I also need to be careful about the shapes for the lip sync, as enunciation can be a
very tricky job since it also involves the linguistics, culture, expression, and the intent of the
character all together.
Toward the end of production, I usually end up doing corrective shapes for countless shots after
shots. This process includes adding shapes to the shot to fix whatever problems the
enveloping of the creature couldn't handle, or to enhance the performance by correcting anatomical
balance inside the animation or by giving a touch of nuance that was lacking from the shape
AAU: How did you get your current gig at ILM?
JungSeung: After I finished my final review at the end of my last semester,
I made another reel, which I felt could be more suitable for ILM. I sent the reel to ILM,
though the recruiting post on their website although it didn’t say they were hiring a
modeler. I had heard that if you keep knocking on the door, that would be the best way of
getting better chance. A week later, I got a call from an ILM recruiter asking if I would be
interested in doing an interview.
Since I didn’t have any work experience at all, my position at ILM started out at the bottom
level for an ILM artist. They offered me their minimum wage for a modeler and my contract was
only for a 6 month period at the time. But I was more than happy to get in, as I knew ILM
would is a dream come true place for a modeler. November 4th of 2002 became my first date as
The next thing I needed to do was to simply do my best. There were so many talented
artists around me, so I tried to absorb as much as possible. I soon also realized my
education was far from completion and I needed to grow much stronger and faster. I held an anatomy
book when I was going to the bathroom, and I often attended sculpting sessions that ILM provides
for the modelers.
AAU: In your opinion, what’s the most impressive use of Visual Effects in a movie
that you have seen to date and why?
JungSeung: Can I say Pirates 2?? It's not because I built Davy Jones.
Okay, maybe a little. When Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest first came out, the
industry professionals all over the world thought that Davy Jones had partial human element
composed with CG. Many of them were so sure the eyes and lips were real actor's, they would
say it even publicly. When the news finally came out that Davy Jones was 100% CG, even then
some of them couldn't believe it. If you can cheat your fellow CG artists, than that just
says it’s the most impressive, in my opinion.