Monday, November 21st, 2011 Posted by Jim Thacker

Q&A: David Breaux, creature animator

Originally from New Orleans, David Breaux studied Illustration at Columbus College of Art and Design, with a dream to become an animator or creature effects/makeup artist, whichever came first. Many years later, he still gets a kick out of seeing the final product after everyone on the team has contributed their department’s magic.

From his early days in the videogame industry to recent film projects like TRON: Legacy and Real Steel, David has had the chance to work on character and creature effects at some of the world’s cutting-edge facilities. He is currently working for commercial and TV visual effects studios on projects like the Steven Spielberg-produced series Terra Nova and the Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City cinematic.

In his session for the Gnomon School of Visual Effects Master Classes, which go out online between 5-19 December, David discusses the process of creating believable creature animation for VFX projects: observing the behaviour of real animals and using that knowledge to inform the movement of a fantasy creature.

During the class, David will discuss some of the techniques he uses during the production process to block out, refine and finalise a shot. He will also provides some of his tips for planning shot and tackling the issues an animator is confronted with on a day-to-day basis. We caught up with him to find out more.

CG Channel: If you had to give a five-word pitch for the class, what would it be?

David Breaux: ‘How to animate realistic creatures.’

CGC: That certainly does what it says on the tin. What do you hope people will remember after finishing it?

DB: I hope everyone can find something to add to their toolbox, or open their eyes to thinking about this stuff in a different way.

Keep your eyes open, advises David Breaux. Not everyone in the industry – particularly those on the business side – have your best interests at heart.

CGC: What one piece of advice would you give to a young artist hoping to become a character animator?

DB: If you’re single and mobile, stay that way. The business is tough, and getting tougher, and you’ll be travelling a lot if you want to find work in film. And be careful: there are a lot of shady business people out there. Don’t assume they have your best interests at heart.

That being said… don’t be afraid to take chances: some can really change your life. In the end, it’s worth it to see your work up on the big screen

CGC: So if you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

DB: I’d make ‘tax incentives’ – for which, read ‘legal bribes’ – illegal. Let the studios get the work based on quality. I’d like to see an end to the race-to-the-bottom mentality of the industry.

A still from the Steven Spielberg-produced series Terra Nova. “The energy in this business is just insane,” says David Breaux.

CGC: That’s the dark side of the business. What part of your working day most makes you think: ‘This is why I do this job?’

DB: The last time I actually said that out loud was to my fiancée. We were walking around the floor at Comic-Con and the energy in the air was just insane. I love the creativity, the variety of work, and the people involved.

CGC: Actors often say that they find it difficult to leave characters behind at night. Is the same true for creature animators? If so, which one stuck in your head the most?

DB: I don’t know if I have a favorite. I just really dig being on the box and working out a shot.

Visit David Breaux’s website

Register for the Gnomon School of Visual Effects’ online Master Classes ($295 for all 14 sessions)

Full disclosure: CG Channel is owned by the Gnomon School of Visual Effects.