Interview: David Corral
Welcome to Dimensión 2.5 David ¿How are you feeling before your adventure in the USA in one the largest animation companies?.
To be honest a bit nervous, the thing is that it was a big surprise to find they contacted me and right now everything is going very fast. The worst thing is the VISA. It is being very tricky to prepare all the documentation they are asking for.
A part from all this, I am very excited about it.
How did you start in 3D animation?.
I started a bit more than 10 years ago. I always liked to draw, but, as the drawing life was even more difficult than the 3D life, I started to study some alternatives.
The first full time job I had was in Cromosoma, an animation production Company in Barcelona. I started painting characters, then backgrounds and from there, I ended in the 3D department, where I was working in projects such as “Las tres Mellizas”, “Juanito Jones” and “Tom”.
The truth is that the 3D department was quite big by that time, about 30 artists. I learnt the basis that I was going to use to experiment by myself in the future. At that time, more or less, was when I started to specialize myself in the technical part of the 3D.
And what about your beginnings as a character riger?.
After my time in Cromosoma I started seriously with rigging. I started a small studio with some of the colleges and friends I had in Cromosoma: 23lunes (where I work nowadays). I had a lot of time to experiment and learn then.
Sometime later I worked as a rigger in “Lion Toons”, company closed today. There I met a lot of very good professionals and since then I only work as a Character TD.
What is your main working tool?.
Do you develop your own scripts and Animation tools?.
Yes, always. Sometimes if I find a script that I like I retouch it as I like. But the normal thing is that I develop everything from zero, this way I take it to my necessities that I have at that moment.
When did you start in programming?.
Seven years ago I started with MEL (maya), essential if you work in rigging or FX, but I had never considered myself a “hardcore programmer”.
In my stage at Grin I had the opportunity to work with the best programmers of Europe, and it was this way that I started to learn Maya API, what let me work on deformers and tools of skinning at another level. I also started with Python, which I use for Maya and Houdini.
Which are the advantages and disadvantages between MAXscript, MEL, MAYA API and Python?.
I do not work with 3DS MAX since long time ago, but once in a while I’ve had to write some simple script under 3DS MAX and I felt quite comfortable. It seems to be very versatile.
In Maya, for “scripting” I keep on working with MEL. Python is not well integrated from the point of view of commands, but I really love Maya Python API. Previously, with C++, you could spend a lot of time in order to make a plug-in for Maya, but now, with Python API it’s quicker and more comfortable.
As a curiosity I can tell you that since I work with Houdini I program much less, because despite what people think, Houdini is thought for using few nodes and expressions for doing the same thing you could do with a large script in Maya. Houdini has got thousands of useful expressions.
Besides, you can access much quicker to the point information than you can do it with Maya and other Software.
What is the working flux when creating a setup?.
I normally analyze the topology of the character and try to discover which parts could be problematic when deforming, and then, if necessary, give it back to the modeling department.
Once it’s aproved, I apply an “autorig” that I’ve been developing since some years ago (“dc_rigger”), so the rig ends to be quite automatic which gives me much more time to care about the facial and the deformer system, in which I am more involved.
Which are the aspects you have to consider when rigging?.
First of all analyzing from the beginning to the end what you’re going to need and then foresee the possible problems you are going to have. Then you have to talk with the animation department and see what the necessities for them are, if the character is cartoon or realistic, biped, quadruped, etc.
Something important to take into consideration is that animators are going to ask for several things sometimes risky from the point of view of the workflow, and as a technical you have to make Riggs very stable. So at the end you have to find a balance to permit velocity in the animation.
You have been also working with Houdini, a new value in the 3D and Vfx professionals. What was the reason to initiate you in Houdini?.
Three years ago I met an artist who worked in “The Matrix” making several Vfx sequences. I had enough only with 15 minutes of show to convince myself about Houdini’s potential.
I recommend Houdini to anyone with a technical profile or simply someone with a special interest in the internal functionality of CG. It has changed a lot he way I understand several things, with more perspective than with other software where you must use specific tools.
If you need a specific type of deformer which does not exist in Maya you have to end in the API. In Houdini you have several ways to do the same thing, for example, a very interesting tool is the VOP (Vector Operator) which allows you programming in a graphic mode.
In your website it’s said that you have a procedural wave system developed in Houdini. Could you tell me anything else about it?.
The Project was about several shots for a documentary and, as the timming was very small we had to start working before shooting. That is why we started developing a wave system, similar to the one developed by Sony Imageworks in “Surf’s Up”, obviously with clear differences ;)
The system permitted changing the shape, speed, high, etc creating particles and foam in a procedural way. This allowed us to finish the shots in a few days.
Is there much difference between a set up in Maya and Houdini?.
For me Maya is the standard and reference for rigging, for the speed and versatility. Houdini is still at the beginning in this sense. Despite the procedural Houdini’s way of thinking will contribute a lot in the world of CG.
In your present rigging reel you have a character modeled by Abner Marín and Alex Huguet. How did you prepare its rigging and animation? Which aspects would you underline?.
The Abner Marin’s character rigging (wolfman) is developed with “fusiform muscles” under a joint system which permits a more quick interaction and a good result with not much necessary development.
Then, in order to correct the deformations, I worked with another layer of corrective shapes, with a pose-space deformer system similar to Michael Comet’s.
With Alex Huguet’s character (Rhinoman) I tried something different. The muscles work as wireDoformer, this way you get a non lineal deformation. It is more natural and it behaves like tendons would do.
A part from this, it has got the same corrective shapes system than Abner’s in order to correct some imperfection in the deformation. To finish, I aggregate few time ago was the “cMuscle”, but I only use the “selfCollision deformer”, and it works very well to keep the volume in the collisions.
The experiences you have are always important. Which are the experiences you value more in the different companies you’ve been working for? What was your job in each of them?.
I keep a very good memory of all of them, but if I have to choose one I would mention the year I spent in Island working for the children’s show “Lazytown“. It’s not very well known here, but in USA and UK the show is really famous. It’s the most expensive children’s show of the history (from 600.000 $ to 1.000.000$ for episode!).
I traveled to Reykjavik with Eduardo Martín y Remo Balcells, and there we were developing the “double digital” of the main character of the Series: Sportacus. The truth is that the job as the stay in Reykjavik was incredible.
Lately I’ve been working in Grin as Lead Character TD in the project “Wanted: weapons of fate” for XBox360 and PS3. It was the first time that I worked for a video game and I learnt quite a lot surrounded by so many programmers and graphic artists.
It’s a complete different world and you have to take care of the optimization of the characters and try to do the best deformations with the minimum.
Although the real time engine was very good there were a lot of limitations. As an example, the characters could not have more than 52 bones, or you could not use more than two “blendshapes”.
In the last days I received the information about the closure of Grin Barcelona.
Yes, it’s a pity things do not go very well. “Wanted” was not a great video game but, as the first project it was at a very high level. The regular reviews of Grin’s video games and the international crisis played against the studios in Barcelona and Gothenburg. I wish the studio in Stockholm gets stronger and trust again in the Barcelona.
Thanks you very much David for your time. Good luck!.