Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m from South Korea. I started my career as an animator 12 years ago. I was an animator for collaborative Animation project of Korea and Japan, known as ‘Geisters’. I moved to NC soft Game Company and I worked on MMORPG game ‘Lineage 2’. After that, I started my own studio. In the meantime I made an experimental website ‘www.xiiin.com,’ which included a lot of dynamic animations. I also worked on many architectural projects, and developed characters, but I was always eager to create an animation. Finally, I decided to study more about drawing, then moved to San Francisco about 4 years ago and studied in Academy of Art University for 2 years. I made two shorts, ‘Tom N Jerry’ and “Entering the Mind through the Mouth’ and a music video, ‘Memories of the Song’. Now I am currently working on project ‘Nimp’ for the iPhone.
How long had you been working on Tom and Jerry and Entering the Mind through the Mouth?
I worked on the two animations at the same time. ‘Tom N Jerry’ is 11 minutes 40 seconds long and “Entering the Mind through the Mouth’ (ETMTTM) is 23 minutes 40 seconds long. I’ve spent about 15 hours everyday for total 15 months. 8 months for ‘Tom N Jerry’ and 7 months for ‘ETMTTM’. Strangely It took much shorter to finish ‘ETMTTM’ than ‘Tom N Jerry’ even if it was almost twice as long as ‘Tom N Jerry’. I think it’s because I totally got used to my working process method after spending several months making ‘Tom N Jerry’. I could reduce the working time just because I used 3d software to make all scenes and I did not need the time for communicating with co-workers to let them understand what my thoughts were, which also eliminated the need for me to do a storyboard and animatic. Everything was in my head. One of the most useful ways to cut down the process time was giving up fixing many shots that I was not entirely satisfied with. Sometimes I had to fix it, but I didn’t have much time even if I really wanted to do. Another way was putting all my energy and time into only making this project. I pushed myself very hard.
What inspired you to make two animated shorts?
I grew up watching ‘Tom and Jerry’ of Hanna-Barbera duo of America. After I heard the news that Joseph Barbera passed away in 2006 I decided to make a story about Tom and Jerry (a cat and a mouse). At the I was trying to come up with the idea of two different style of animation with the story of a cat and a mouse, which became my animated films, ‘Tom N Jerry’ and ‘Entering the Mind through the Mouth’
The idea about ‘Entering the Mind through the Mouth’ came up while I was walking around union square in San Francisco. I saw an old guy walking along the street with a dog, a cat, and a mouse. The mouse was riding on the body of a cat and the cat was riding on a dog’s. That was interesting and captured my eyes for a while. I stopped walking and kept watching and thinking. I thought this could be the one story about my projects. I started to write the story about the love between a cat and a mouse.
For ‘Tom N Jerry’ I came up with this idea when I was wating for the airplane in SFO airport. A few kids were running around and bothering me. I thought that these kids could be the inspiration for my story. So I wrote the story while I was flying to South Korea from San Francisco.
When did you start learning 3d animation?
13 years ago, I began to teach myself right after finishing military service in South Korea. I was really struggling with deciding my future job, finally, I made a decision to be an animator as I have really enjoyed and loved animation since I was kid. I just bought the book for 3D Studio Max, and started to dig into it by myself, then fortunately I got a job at CG Art Institute a year later, I started to teach people 3d studio max. 8 years after that time, I wanted to learn drawing and painting, so moved to San Francisco, learned painting for around 2 years at the Academy of Art University. So those 2 years are only my education in animation and CG.
The art styles for the two films seem really different from each other, was it difficult to switch gears and change from one to the other?
It was not so difficult. The character styles between two films are little similar. Their proportion is a little alike, but the look of ‘Tom N Jerry’ is more hilarious than the other one. But the Overall mood of two shorts are totally different. That was the hard thing. Because I was developing the story about ‘Entering the Mind through the Mouth’ while I was making ‘Tom N Jerry.’ One is very funny and light feeling, but another is very dark and sometimes scary. I was confused many times. Probably, some parts of both were influenced by each other.
Everyone has busy schedules that seem to get in the way of film making. But you managed to knock out 2 shorts in a really short amount of time. How much time did you spend on creating the animated shorts per week?
I spent around 15 hours a day and I really tried to keep this schedule. In my schedule, I was supposed to finish about one minute of animation per a week for Tom N Jerry, and about 2 minutes of animation per a week for ‘Entering the Mind through the Mouth’. When I was making Tom N Jerry, I finished animations for all scenes for 3 months. But there were just boxes and cylinders instead of real environments. I filled environments later. But for ‘Entering the Mind through the Mouth’, it’s opposite way. I finished all environments first, then I started to animate all scenes for around 4 months.
Which part of making an animated short did you enjoy the most?
My favorite part of the process is creating environments. I like character design also. But I always preferred to create environments I’ve never seen. I feel fully satisfied when I see the environment finished. I really enjoy thinking how I will place people, the vehicles, or furniture, etc.
Do you have a particular scene between the two shorts that you preferred over the others?
In ‘Entering the Mind through the Mouth’ My favorite scene is when the girl is climbing up the building and standing on top of a column and wind blows through her body with lots of birds. I also like the moving cumulous clouds in this scene. In ‘Tom N Jerry’, I liked the scene when Tom and Jerry get into the conveyer belt room. I just like the color and mood for those scenes. And I also liked the scene where Tom and Jerry fly through the sky, especially the sky and clouds.
Could you provide us with a breakdown of the elements in the scene and how they were put together to create the final image?
In ‘Entering the Mind through the Mouth’ I made environments like a building, street and rooms using 3d studio max directly from my mind. Then I rendered only outlines and brought them into Corel Painter and painted them. For some scenes like the room and interior scene of the train, I painted the texture in Corel Painter and applied them to the environment objects. So I just mixed the 3d object backgrounds and 2d painting backgrounds through the whole story. I guess I used about 70% – 80% of 3D application in this short. In my shorts, I barely used light in 3d program. Usually I used only one or two light for shadow and key light. Then I completed all lighting and feeling of the scenes with After Effects. I used lots of solid layers which were used as a lighting. I just regarded all scenes as 2d painting, not 3d with real perspective space. I added the colors of light in After Effects just like putting the color in painting.
The characters in Tom and Jerry felt very toy-like, how did you accomplish this look?
Probably, I guess it’s because they have low-poly body. And I wanted to make the character style toy-like as you said when I was preparing the project at the very beginning of process. And there is no highlight spots. I got rid of any highlight on purpose. I wanted them to look matte-skinned just like a matte plastic or clay.
Did you spend a lot of time on developing the outside world of Entering the Mind Through the Mouth? How did the production of the exterior environments contrast with building the interiors?
Actually, I built the outside world first for a month, and later I made interior. I was thinking to paint all of the inside like I did for the outside environment. But I wanted to use more dynamic and variable camera movements for inside scenes. So I decided to paint all of the textures and apply them onto the objects for inside world. I tried not to lose the feeling of exterior environment while texturing the inside world.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring short film makers?
I always insist that passion is everything. Passion helps patience and concentration. And It makes it a lot of fun when making animation. The animation process is tons of works. It would be impossible to do if it wasn’t fun. As you go through the process, your mind and body can become extremely exhausted, its in those times that we need the passion to persevere in animation. I heard some people have a lot more passion than the others. I think they spend much more time on not losing their passion and making it bigger as they dig deeper and deeper into something they care about. Animation is really huge amount of works. The enjoyment of animating can be as big when working on it as when it’s finished, sometimes it’s much bigger. But you have to finish it.
‘Nimp’ for the iPhone