Interview with

Fabiana Ciatti

3D Animator

1. Tell us a little bit about the path that led you to become a professional animator.

I’m already laughing about this question! Let’s say I wasn’t very bright or clear-minded at first. Some of my friends and colleagues attended artistic studies from the beginning, while I started with a degree in accounting.
I worked in the administration at my family company for several years, before waking up and understanding that wasn’t my path. I remember one night at the cinema, when Pixar’s Monsters & Co opened my eyes. It was 2005 and at the time in Italy there weren’t so many schools or courses like today.
After attending evening classes on Maya at Comics I decided to quit and to really put myself out there.
I moved to Verona and for five months that was my home, while I was taking my first master’s degree at Big Rock. That gave me a general smattering about working on a 3D production, the various roles involved and so on. For what regards animation, instead, I had to roll up my sleeves and do everything by myself.
When I came back home, I spent night after night animating, with the help of the legendary “Animator’s Survival Kit” by Richard Williams. After so many exercises I managed to create something that looked like a showreel and I spent six months spamming it everywhere. Then I recieved my first proposal, for a pre-school series in Genova. And that’s where it all started.

Fabiana Ciatti

WEBSITE

Let’s say animating is a good job, which never gets you bored. Not only because I had to move so many times, all around Italy and then the whole world. But in animation it’s not so easy to say: “Ok, I got to the top”. There’s always something to learn, and that’s why, throughout the years, I decided to improve my skills by attending courses on Ianimate and Animation Mentor.
During a production, sometimes, you don’t have the actual time to take care of the animation the way you want, to take the shot you wish for, the difficult one that really gives you the opportunity to prove yourself. Above all, you don’t have the time to animate details, to clean up the arches, especially if you don’t work for movies.
Those courses gave me the chance, little by little, to improve my animations, and to prove myself in aspects where I was lacking, at the time.

2.  Your resume is very rich in both professional and training experiences. Let’s start from the latter: which ones did really contribute to your growth as a 3D Animator?

As I said before, for sure the Ianimate courses. Those really impressed me, not only because I had to get up at 4 am because they were broadcast live from LA!
Learning from mentors such as Ken Fountain, Ted Ty, Stephen Melagrano, Luke Randall really helped me improve and to take my animations on another level. For example, they taught me the importance to animate by shooting a reference.

3. You had many collaborations with major Studies and Agencies. Which was the experience that rewarded you the most as an artist?

This is a nice question. I’m an emotional person, so clearly a lot of factors affect my answer. I would say that working as a Previs Artist on “Beauty & the Beast” was a completely different experience for me, because before that I had always worked as a 3D Animator.
For two reasons:
1) Disney: you always dream about working for the US giant
2) I worked for six months in the studios
That’s an experience that I recommend, because it gives you the opportunity to understand how a movie is made. You can see it grow, watch a big empty garage turn into a real film set, thanks to the work of great artists. I always thought that actors played in big empty rooms with giant green screens, and most of the work was done on computers. But actually it’s not that easy! For that movie they had to completely rebuild a whole forest, with real trees, the entrance of the castle, the staircase, the ballroom and Belle’s bedroom. It was so exciting to have a full access on the art department, and not only to watch it from a computer screen.

4. What are the actual differences between animating for the movie industry and for the videogame industries?

There are three main differences:
1. When you work for a videogame the animation has to work on all the views.
That means the character has to be animated at 360 degrees. When you work for movies or tv, sometimes you can “cheat”, in the sense that most of the times you animate on camera, so you don’t have to bother animating what is not framed on the camera
2. Games animation always needs to be tested on a Unity or Babylon environment.
So the animator is also responsible to export the animation into the game and check that everything’s working fine, or fixing it whenever there is a problem
3. Working for games you often has to animate cycle of animations that the programmers need for the various game dynamics, such as idle, walking, running, attack and so on

5. Very often those outside the industry confuse the Animator with the Rigger. What are the differences between those roles?

Let me clarify. A Rigger builds the bones for characters (because they have skeletons, as in real life) ad creates the controls, that will let the Animator move the character or the objects. This is a very technical role, and to create advanced rigs you also need to know something about programming scripts.
The Animator is a more artistic role, who is in charge of giving life to the characters and all the inanimate objects in a scene. Usually you follow a storyboard or an animatic, often you work with references, to study the movements and making everything as realistic as possible.

6. You have also been a Previs and Postvis Animator for major movie productions, even recently. Can you explain in detail what does a Postvis Animator do and what are the differences with a Previs Animator?

Both are pre-production roles.
The Previs Artist or Previs Animator works before the movie is shot. Usually the director and the production want to watch the most difficult or complex scenes in 3D before shooting them, in order to have less margin for errors.
The Previs Artist usually works inside the film studios, and often together with the movie director or with the director of photography he creates the different shots or scene. That’s why he’s often called Shot Creator.
He mainly takes care of cameras, shots, effects, lights and animations for all the characters.

In this phase you start experimenting ideas and different animation styles for the characters. Even if some characters will be played by real-life actors, you create their 3D copies, to get an idea about their spaces and, above all, about their interactions with the actual 3D characters.
The previs can be seen as a very detailed animatic, because visually it has lights, effects and animations, sometimes very meticulous and high-quality, depending on who you work for. That’s why more and more often they require an Animator for this role.
After you deliver the previs, usually the director starts shooting the movie. When scenes are ready, they are sent back and the Postvis Artists have to make the camera tracking in a 3D environment, to pose and to animate the 3D character, to give the director an idea of the final shot. In this case we won’t have 3D copies of actors, but the actual scene shot with actors. If the director is happy it is approved, otherwise it can be shot again in the studio.

7. Is there anything you’d like to do, which you still didn’t have the chance to?

To open a bar on a remote island, but I’d leave it as a plan B, at the moment. And, well, all of us dream to put their name on an Academy-winning movie…

 

Thank you so much for your precious time, Fabiana, and good luck for your future.

Thanks a lot to you!