Interview with

Filippo Dattola

Animator

Welcome Filippo, it is a pleasure to have you with us!

 

1. Tell us a little about yourself, how your passion for this job started and how did you get to work in ILM

I have always had a passion for animation and above all it goes hand in hand with my passion for the movies.
I have always worked in the field of computer graphics, at the beginning I was in charge of modeling (I was the first Pixologic Certified Instructor for the famous ZBrush software), video editing, graphics for websites, animated banners etc. and later I started to do 3D animations.
Unfortunately at the time there were no schools and resources like today, so I studied as a self-taught.
But when I realized that this was what I wanted to do, I specialized through courses available online.

Filippo Dattola

WEBSITE | LINKEDIN

So I created my showreel, a series of animations that showed off my skills.
I was lucky enough to have been hired by the Studio TeamTO.
After a few months I was hired by MPC, where I worked for the revelation project of that year: Guardians of the Galaxy vol.1.
Even in MPC I worked only a few months since at the time (2014) the giant Industrial Light & Magic opened in London to realize the new episodes of the Star Wars saga.
I sent my Reel and they hired me to be part of the Animators core team. After several years ILM London has become one of the most important hubs (which are part of Disney, Disney Animation and Pixar) from 40 employees (only 10 animators) up to 450 employees today.

2.  What does it mean to do animation?

Generally, a Studio is divided into several departments: there is the one dedicated to modeling, where we take care of creating 3D models, the rigging department, where we create the skeletal structure to move them, the animation, muscle simulation and Lighting departments, and all together contribute in creating the final scene that will be visible in the film.
It’s a fairly complex process working frame by frame and it’s definitely a team effort.

3.  You are a Character Animator. Can you tell us more about it?

As previously mentioned, the animator, whether dealing with characters or creatures, has the task of moving the characters, making them act and in the case of Live Action movie, such as Start Wars for example, make them interact with the real actors.

4.  3D animation is becoming essential in the entertainment industry. What are the differences in the various sectors (cinema, games, TV series, advertising)?

The rules and the animation study are the same for all sectors and media.
We always start from the famous rules made by Walt Disney a few years ago … 🙂
Obviously they must be customized according to the style.
For Live Action we will generally have more realistic animations.
For Pixar or Disney animation movies, since there are no real actors, you can push harder and personalize differently.
Other different scenarios may depend on the target audience;
in the TV series for children, for example, you will probably find less detailed animations but in any case there is always an excellent animation work.

5.  What are the differences between animating a character with human features and a completely different one, such as the famous Star Wars droid BB-8?

The purpose of an animation in the end is to make a story highly credible, and it is done by trying to maintain the behavior of a character throughout the film.
So if Mr. Incredible rather than Hulk or King Kong move in a certain way, it is essential that in all the shots each of them has the same behavior.
In the case of BB-8, a character that I had the pleasure to animate and absolute my favorite one, was a particularly hard challenge express credible movements.
For example in the shot where BB-8 had to move with Poe Dameron, (try to express the feeling of nervousness), I tried to counter the head and move it left and right.
In this case there was no use of reference or specific directives, I proposed my version and they liked it.
https://youtu.be/Pq5k_HK7Xk0?t=217
In the case of characters with human features, there will be reference to the actors who play the character.
The task of the animator will be to reproduce that particular way of moving and acting. For example, to animate Snoke (Star Wars 7 and 8) or K2SO, the robot of Rogue One, we started from the actor’s acting but we had to make it even more effective, adapting the proportions that are obviously different.
The greatest difficulty lies in recreating the ‘mood’ chosen by the director.

6. Tell us about Squashnstretch.net, the online animation school where you are the teacher and  founder.

SquashnStretch.net was born from a personal need; we wanted to make access to an effective program of studies.
When I wanted to study animation there were no dedicated schools in Italy, even less in southern Italy where I come from, and the only interesting school was an online school, AnimationMentor, but besides knowing the English language well, it had huge costs, so impossible for me.
In SquashnStretch.net my wife Desiree, animator too, wanted to make it accessible to all, where prices are much lower than many other online schools, and of course everything in Italian.
We also start from the theory study and common rules for all styles of animation, and we have advanced modules dedicated to Creatures Animation. In the final modules the student can work on his personal project. The program seems to work, almost all the students who have finished the entire study program work in international productions. We have artists who worked on the Minions movie, Jurassic World and Lion King, but also video games and minor productions.
In SquashnStretch.net we focus exclusively on animation, applying very affordable prices and performing evening classes. In short, those who seriously want to do this fantastic job have no longer excuses 😀

 

Thanks again for taking your time and good luck for the future!

Thank you so much for the interview