Like many moviegoers in 2010, Sergio Rincón saw Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending thriller Inception. Not only did the special visual effects astound him, the experience also paved the way for his new career path.
“When I was young, I loved movies like Star Wars and The Matrix,” says Rincón. “When I saw Inception, it blew my mind.” It also jumpstarted his passion for visual effects, a craft he’s now pursuing and succeeding in at the Academy.
Rincón, from Bucaramanga, Colombia, is earning his master’s degree at Academy of Art University’s School of Animation & Visual Effects. In spring of 2019, Rincón’s first semester, his work already stood out: At the university’s annual Spring Show, he earned a second-place award in the category of special effects for a compositing project.
Impressing the Teachers with Rapid Progress
Catherine Tate, director of Animation & Visual Effects, says that in her 15 years at the Academy, she has never seen a student excel so quickly. “He has a very good eye for design and picks things up quickly,” Tate adds. “He is easy to work with and communicates well with his instructors and other students.”
Rincón’s award-winning project was for Tate’s class ANM 342, VFX 3: Node-Based Compositing 1. Beginning with shot footage as a foundation, students were tasked with making the footage more cinematic, like something you’d see in an ad, a television show or a film, Tate says.
Using footage Rincón shot in the La Preservancia neighborhood of Bogotá, Colombia, he composited graffiti art by Australian artist Bradley Eastman onto a shot of plain buildings. His goal was to make a run-down part of the city look vibrant and beautiful.
Tate supervised Rincón throughout the process. “He took a boring environment and turned it into something magical with color, she explains. She says he made good choices in the elements he added and integrated them seamlessly. “He didn’t overcomplicate what he was trying to achieve with unnecessary additions.”
Taking the Path to VFX
Rincón’s route to studying visual effects wasn’t straightforward. He worked in advertising for four years after earning a degree in graphic design in Colombia. Most of his work was television commercials and internal videos for global companies like Coca-Cola and Mercedes.
One project, in particular, became a lightbulb moment for why he needed to learn more about visual effects. It was for a comical Dunkin’ Donuts ad that ended up being very popular in Colombia. “In that TV spot, I made an effect in which a man was inflating and then exploding,” Rincón says.
Priority Pitstop: Academy of Art
But in Colombia there wasn’t a direct way for him to develop a visual effects career, he explains. He discovered Academy of Art through research and earned a scholarship from the Colombian arts education organization COLFUTURO. With scholarship in hand, Rincón was able to attend the Academy.
It was a leap to leave his home nation—no one in his family had a similar artistic career path, Rincón says. “I left everything in my country to follow my art degree. At this moment, I think they are knowing about the field and feeling like I am doing a good job,” he says, referring to his family.
Rincón is enjoying being able to focus on specific elements of his craft through Academy courses. He says he’s learning new skills while building upon old ones. “I think my background in graphic design helps me a lot, because I learned about basic concepts like color theory, lighting, contrast, photographic composition and the fundamentals of 2D and 3D design.”
Working Where He Learned
He’s now working as a compositor in the Animation & Visual Effects School’s Studio X initiative. One project he’s contributing to is a narrative feature film called All of the Old Bells, directed by Brent Green. Another is a science fiction short film called Mass Teleportation Authority, directed by Geoffrey Smeltzer.
As the year presses on, Rincón says he’s excited for what’s next. “The Academy gave me the opportunity to grow in the field.… For me, it’s a dream come true being here, because it’s like being in the right place at the right time.”
Original article by Cristina Schreil of AcademyArt U News
Images courtesy of Sergio Rincón