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Interview with Giuseppe Improta VFX artist and Wild-Life Photographer - Nuts Computer Graphics

Interview with

Giuseppe Improta

VFX artist and Wild-Life Photographer

Hello Giuseppe, we want to thank you for this interview. Welcome on board 🙂

Really nice to meet you, it is always a pleasure sharing my experience with those who want to do this job!

1.  You started looking at computer graphics when you were only 13 years old, what made a young boy embark this journey?

It was a series of coincidences, or maybe it was fate, who knows.
At that time I used most of my time to draw. I had decided that I wanted to work as a designer for Disney.
At the same time I was learning to assemble computers and started my approach to 2D graphics thanks to my brother, 10 years older than me and Adv Graphic Designer.

Giuseppe Improta


Then one day my father comes home with the first number of a De Agostini course called “Create with your PC”. That course was exceptional and explained Photoshop, 3D Studio (version 3.0 at the time), programming and more.
It did not include software, there were just more or less interactive screens that depicted what was the things to do.
I loved it and convinced my dad to buy for me the full course, “zilione” of a floppy disk zip (google it if you do not know what it is 😀 ).
Then I saw the backstage of Jurassic Park where it was shown how they used Softimage 3D for dinosaurs, and that was the spark that lit my passion for 3D.

2. With over 12 years of experience, you’ve worked with the largest VFX and Animation productions, including Digital Domain, MPC, Image Engine Design, Sony Pictures, Imageworks and many more. Can you tell us about these experiences?

Each company is different, some are more formal then others. Even technically, some have a solid and highly productive way of working, others want to be more fluid and innovative.
The reason why I like to change company is primarily because I’m able to learn so much and analyze the pros and cons for each type of approach.
When I get to the point where I feel bored, or I realize that I’ve exhausted all I could learn again, I seek new stimuli elsewhere. But as in any life experience, what really makes the difference is the people you meet.
The supervisors determines the development of work during the long months of producing a high budget movie. I continue to encounter exceptional supervisors and artists and this gives me the boost to improve and learn new things.
Working in these international societies also means doing international friendships, learning new cultures, new ideas, and extending your own, often limited, vision in different areas.

3. You work as Lead Lighting and Lookdev TD, what is the relationship between the two?

Lead Lighting and Lookdev TD usually I manage a team of people through the process of creating materials and scenes lighting. Lookdev deals with materials and Lighting artist the lights.
The most important aspect of Lookdev is to make sure that the created materials are coherent and work in any lighting, as in reality.
The interaction between the lighting and the lookdev creates the look of the final rendering that must match the shot as for lighting, in the case of a live action movie, or color keyboards (color charts that illustrate the visual style of a sequence or a scene), in the case of an animated film.

4. You work also as Wild/Nature Adventure Photographer, what is you relationship with the photography?

Photography is my second job. I print and sell photos in some local galleries here in Canada. I’m trying to open my personal gallery, but it’s an operation that requires a great investment both in terms of time and money. I also sell online images through agencies and photographer on commission for some brands or businesses.
I work on a VFX project and then I dedicate myself to photography for a few months. Some VFX projects require a lot of commitment for long periods, especially when supervising a team’s work and feeling constant pressure.
That’s why every time I finish such a project I want to dedicate myself to something else for a while. In addition, every time I finish a movie or company change I sign up for a new course, not necessarily closely to VFX, but to other topics that I think are equally interesting, such as business management, financial management or more creative things such as painting and drawing.
Some people prefer go on vacation, I like to learn new things. Investing on myself is critical because technology moves fast and I think it’s important to expand your knowledge even beyond your own job. This gives me the opportunity to approach the next project full of energy and mind-free, so that we can push as much as possible and get the results required at the set times. I advise everyone, wherever possible, to have a budget separate from their savings to devote themselves to personal training. In this way, when you are in front of an interesting course, you can buy it directly without thinking too much about the economic side and this translates into new skills.

5. How much is important photography in what you do?

I worked in various photographic area when I was in Italy. Then I decided to specialize in naturalistic photography. Perhaps you might initially think that there is no close link to 3D, but it is actually the opposite.
When I photograph nature, animals, I can build an archive of images I also store in my memory, and this allows me to have a great range of visual references that always come back very useful, especially when working on a 3D character of fantasy. For example, skin, feathers, nails, teeth and all the details that need to be reproduced must be realistic and having direct and close experience with real animals such as bears, wolves, moose or other, allows me to have an excellent visual repertoire to do reference.
Just looking at photos taken by someone else is not the same, reality has a series of facets and flaws that you learn from direct experience and photographing at every hour of day and night. Photography, in my opinion, is a fundamental aspect in the development of a visual artist.
Supervising Lighting and Lookdev are constantly looking for real references in materials and lighting, and being outside doing photography teaches me how the light behaves in different conditions and how the materials interact with it.

6. What does it means managing a team of 30 people in a big production?

This depends on the company you are working on, but in general it means you almost never have time to do any practical task. You have to arrange production and find solutions to the problems that come with you, you have to devote yourself to supervising the work of others, attend meetings, read and respond to emails.
The more you get into the career of a VFX artist and the more you have to do with the managerial aspect of the job. But this happens more or less in every kind of career.
This is one of the reasons I have often pushed for not focusing on more important positions in my VFX career. My added value is in the lighting and lookdev and what makes me happy is overseeing this aspect of production by bringing my team to the best possible result with the time and resources available. I write this just to make it clear to those who read and want to get into this world, which does not always come to the top is what counts, you can be happy and accomplished simply by doing your job and constantly improving, never stopping.
When you head a team it is very important to be able to identify and organize what are the production priorities. It is very common to find yourself in situations where you have too many things to look out for. For example, on Spiderman Homecoming I directed the lighting and the look of our part of the movie in Digital Domain, and I did Spiderman’s lookdev, and there was so much to do, I had to lookdev practically every day from 7pm onwards … but it is Spiderman, my favorite superhero!!
Seriously, you work a lot of hours in these productions and it’s better that those who want to work in this area and on these big movies know it.

7.  Who are the artists you need to know?

It would not be correct to write some artists rather than others, I met and learned from some exceptional artists both in Lighting, in Lookdev, in Matte Painting and in Modeling and Texturing.
Not a few artists who work for big productions and have roles of responsibility have time to dedicate themselves to personal work.
Some, like me, when they can devote themselves to complement their knowledge, so many of them are not even exposed to “the public.”
One important thing, however, is to know the classical artists of the past, the masters of painting and sculpture, of photography.
I always get bored to see that so many people don’t know who Caravaggio or Leonardo or Ansel Adams are, especially abroad. Our artistic treasure separates us from many other nations and we are privileged to take a train and in a few hours  go and see the masterpieces.
In Naples, my hometown, we have several Caravaggio and I often went to observe and study paintings and sculptures in museums.
An advice that I give to all aspiring artists is not to be limited to CG alone but to space in other visual disciplines and to learn the art of the past, to understand what made this artist memorable and why. It is a process that opens the mind and offers several ideas for reflection.

8. How important is to be able to relate to others in your work environment? Tips?

I think that knowing how to relate is important in life in general and consequently in every work situation. It is a quality that develops with the experience.
Personally, I made many mistakes in this regard, but I believe it is part of the growth process of every person. Having a mentor who guides you is the best thing to avoid these mistakes and maybe losing opportunities, but I did not have this vision years ago and so I made mistake. When you start making career in big realities, you also come across so-called “politics” issues and it’s something that not everyone likes.
In my experience abroad meritocracy really works. If you engage in and try to be creative and creative in solving problems, you usually have more responsibilities, but there are always compromises to do and not always in the most relevant positions find the people you consider most fierce.
I’d say it’s a 50 and 50. In those situations where it’s dealing with difficult individuals, it’s crucial to be prepared to accept criticism.
Being in South Italy, where many people simply say what they think, it has never been a big deal for me, but I see that it is very difficult for people from other cities or nations. Also dealing with more or less large teams is important to be able to communicate with every type of person, not just those with which we are in tune, and all for the benefit of the product you are working on.
I believe that knowing how to relate to every type of person, accepting constructive criticism and knowing how to adapt is the most important quality for those who want to make a career in any kind of industry. And that does not mean being a joke, it means learning to deal intelligently with every kind of person, to prevent our personality from limiting our potential.

9. What are the projects you are currently engaged in?

At the moment, in addition to my personal photo gallery, I’m trying to produce content for my YouTube channel, LightDark Academy and I’m preparing a complete Lighting and Lookdev course for VFX and online animation.
LightDark Academy is my attempt to share with all that information I think is important to an artist who wants to enter the world of VFX, both because they are hardly found online and because they are information that others do not want to share for fear of revealing ” secrets “of the craft.
For example, when I started making 3D, and for a long time, I would have liked to know how big VFX companies work, but as long as I did not get this, it was just a curiosity. With LightDark Academy I try to provide information based on my personal experience to improve and follow what I think is the quickest and most fluid approach to becoming a good VFX artist, especially for those who want to do Lighting or Lookdev.


Thank you so much for your precious time, and we wish you the best for your present and future projects 🙂

Thank you so much for this interview and good luck to Italian artists who want to make career in the industry of VFX!