Interview with

Cristian Spagnuolo

CG Supervisor

Hello Cristian and welcome.. thank you for your time ūüôā

 

1. Tell us about you and how you started this long and prolific career in the CG world!

I try to make it very short so people don’t get bored too much. I studied at IED Milan, where I graduate, with the highest score, during the three year course of Virtual Design: it was 2005.
I take a couple of months to complete my first reel that allows me to find my first job in a small post-production company in Milan XLR8, still active in the market. I realized the visual effects on my first commercials: Wind, Peugeot, Vodafone, etc.
After a year, tired of being “exploited” and not seeing great growth opportunities, I decide to give up the the job (leaving everyone with the eyes wide open) and moved to Los Angeles.
I stay there for three months, I want to figure out whether this job really works for me and if I think Italy is a limit to me or maybe I’m not good enough.

Cristian Spagnuolo

WEBSITE

However, not to waste too much time on “vacation” ( I managed projects remotely) I also enrolled in some advanced courses at the Gnomon School of VFX. Here I have the opportunity to get to know Alex Alvarez, Scott Spencer, Ryan Kingslien, Josh Herman etc. In three months I spend everything I have in my pocket … but they were very well invested. I come back to Italy, strong of my convictions and sure to be good for this job, but decided not to work anymore for any Italian company, except as a freelance; I begin to find collaborations abroad, like Singapore’s CUM.
I know I want to do this job and I know I’m good … I just need to have my chance to prove it. Then comes the first great opportunity: Pixomondo VFX Shanghai, ¬†they hired me as a support CG Supervisor for a Chevrolet project. This is the first turning point in my career.
Since then I had some freelance projects that last a few months here and there, which take me a couple of times to Shanghai, several times in London, teaching in a school in Denmark, then collaborations around Europe. Several months I also have been to Italy in Milan, where I have my apartment, from where I have collaborations remotely.
In these years I also started my partnership with Autodesk,  which I am both Certified Professional and Approved Instructor and that has allowed me also to have great professional opportunities as an official Trainer / Demo Artist. Another turning point for my career was my first collaboration here in Montreal with ModusFX; here I met Dan Charbit and Sebastian Racine (VFX Supervisor and VFX Producer), now both dear friends. They will be backing me strongly and again in Montreal for a couple of years.
This is the further turning point in my career when I find myself in Montreal for my first long-term contract with Mokko Studio and my first CG Supervisor experience on film. Now almost two years later I find myself here in Montreal again, a huge market for the VFX industry, which continues to grow exponentially with the opening of huge Studios, like Double Negative. And we come to the last (only for now) great change, perhaps the most important; in fact I find myself, I don’t even know how, CG Supervisor in MPC, one of the largest real-world visual effects companies in the world, who won the Oscar for VFX with The Jungle Book, to work on the upcoming blockbuster Marvel.
I still do not believe it !!!
Long story made short ?

2. Milan, Shanghai, London, Montreal, Singapore in a few words you have  traveled around the world for work, what did you learn from these cultures so different from each other?

Traveling in general, but above all, living and working in various areas of the world gives you the opportunity to compare yourself with realities, cultures and people who are sometimes completely different from you; so it inevitably opens your mind and gives you a completely new perspective.
It’s not always all good like you may think, because it’s not easy to adapt to cultures and ways of approaching the work completely different from yours and sometimes it’s also frustrating to be limited so you don’t affect companies / cultural balances.
However, in the end, every positive and negative experience helps you grow and give you a way to improve yourself.

3. After 15 years in this industry, today you are in Montreal as CG Supervisor at MPC, tell us a little about this experience

As I said before, this MPC experience was quite unexpected, it would be long to explain everything in detail, but anyway I came out from a turbulent  year in my work.
I did not expect that I would receive this job offer, but I picked it up; ¬†it is one of those trains that pass once in life. However, I’ve just started, so I do not have much information to fully define this experience.
Definitely for me means playing in “A series”; the pipeline, and the size of work are really something GREAT and although I’m not a beginner, I’m definitely intimidated by the thing. As always I’ll give the most and try to be up to expectations.

4. You work in big productions, but also dedicate yourself  teaching. How important is to study if you want to achieve great results?

Training is crucial and for this kind of job you will never stop studying (if you want be competitive).
I still continue to study and experiment; new software, new tools, new approaches … So, formations are fundamental and I realize that for those who want to approach now in this industry it is very difficult to choose the right course, especially in Italy.
My personal advice? Do not be dazzled by the famous and lavish names or well-publicized advertisements and banners found on industry sites and FB; The first thing you need to do is to check who the teachers will be in your course.
Be wary of those schools who don’t have a professional trainer.
When you see a teacher’s name, google him/ linkedin search to see what kind of professional experience they have. Evaluate their reel / portfolio; if the quality of thework is not good, it should be an alarm bell. ¬†Ask in forums, about ¬†that course or teacher.
School or courses are just the starting point for continuing to.
In short you don’t stop at the first inn and don’t make choices in a hurry!

5. You know very well the Autodesk Media & Entertainment suite. What do you think it has more than the others?

Honestly, today, all software are more or less the same, theoretically speaking, but I will explain it better.
In my opinion, in most cases, software doesn’t make the difference, but the person who uses it.
Also, if you work freelance in your own studio, you are free to use what software you want, If you work for large studios, you will need to adapt to the software that your company is using.
It is a fact that Maya is the most popular software in VFX, as well as 3DSMax is for the archiv and design industry; Nuke (The Foundry House) is in turn for compositing.
This does not mean that they are necessarily the best on the market.
In fact, in the last few years other software of other competitors has been made, and they are very good too. If we talk about organic modeling and sculpting ZBrush is a must.
Instead, if we talk about dynamics, FX Houdini makes real magic (AH AH AH apologize for the banal), followed by RealFlow.
For texturing Mari has the undisputed primacy, although Substance Painter and Designer are doing a lot of overwhelming thanks to their ease use and their procedural approach.
How to forget about Modo, which is bringing a real revolution in speed in modeling / prototyping and that for this reason has recently been fully integrated into the pipelines of large corporations.
In short, the market is full of software, each of them have its own strengths and weaknesses, but remember that it is always and only tools; what makes the real difference is your head, the ability you have to deal with the problems and the approach to the tasks you are assigned to.

6. To do this work you need to have excellent technical knowledge, but perhaps even more important is to have the artistic touch. How would you define yours?

I don’t think I have a great artistic sense and to say it all I have never liked the term 3D Artist; 3D artist … I don’t think so.
Certainly the artistic sense has its importance and certainly needs to be matched with years and experience, but I don’t think it is fundamental, and not in all departments.
I can’t even draw a classic baby figure, but on the other hand I’m good at anything with organic modeling and or carving in ZBrush; things are not necessarily interconnected. Certainly if you want to make the character designer, the concept artist, the matte painter etc, well then you need good basic artistic skills; as if you want to make the lighter or texture artist you have to know about photography / composition in the first case and eye for the details.
I think, however, first of all, you have to follow your natural inclinations without incurring yourself in something that you have not taken. In simple words, we all wanted to befootball players / dancers but how many have become the new Maradona or the new Carla Fracci? I apologize if this will cut off your “dreams of glory”, if you like something, it doesn’t mean that you are good at it.

7. What does a project needs in order to have your attention completely?

It should be difficult, it must face my limits, it must spur myself to overcome them to find new solutions to problems. If you never leave your comfort zone you will never learn anything new.
Of course you should do what you can and always recognize your limits, but a minimum of arrogance and madness are the key to steadily overcome yourself and study are your best allies for this.

8. If you were to enclose your essence of artist 2.0 in a quotation or movie or artwork what you will be?

Since you just called me Artist 2.0, then I will quote two, diametrically opposed to style and meaning, as well as by source.
Both are drawn from two masterpieces that have marked my childhood / teenage:
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe” (Blade Runner – 1982)
“Towards the Infinite and beyond” (Toy Story – 1995)
These two phrases enclose my story a bit, with infinite anecdotes of production life, love / hate relationship with customers, people I’ve met, strange colleagues, places I’ve been able to see, everything this always lived with the desire to never stop, to look beyond, never surrender and always pointing at the stars.
And since I want to exaggerate, to greet you, I mention one last one:
“Stay hungry stay foolish” (Steve Jobs 2005)
Thank you all for losing your precious time to read these curious words
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Thank you a lot again for your time and good luck for your future projects ūüėČ