What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Constantine Krystallis and I am a Senior Character animator and Visual Effects artist in the Computer Game company in Athens, Greece.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Animation was always my goal so I tried to get into it immediately after college. I landed a job in an advertising firm doing mostly visualization and graphic design work. There was very little animation involved so I was on the look out for something else. I have also worked in an archeological site scanning pictures for the digital database. The place was so hot I had to place a wet cloth over the scanner for it to work because it was overheating.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
How did you become interested in animation?
Besides the fact that I loved watching animations and Sci-fi movies as a kid, I had a mother that was always concerned about what I would do when I would grow up. So during the period at the age of 6 or 7, when I would come back home from school and watch The Empire Strikes Back for weeks in a row, my Mom asked me “Would you like to do the special effects for films when you grow up?” This sounded like an excellent idea to me! Therefore this lead my parents to supply me with many books and videos about animation and special effects, for which I am very grateful now.Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I am from Athens, Greece and I got into the advertising business as a visualizer after finishing an 3D Animation and multimedia Design program in a local institution. Not much animation was involved and I wasn’t feeling confident enough about my work so I went on to a Masters of Animation Degree which opened a lot more doors for me. In my first job as a visualizer I reached out for contacts in an attempt to get into something animation related. By the time I returned to Greece after acquiring my Masters, I had a job waiting for me just because I had said ‘hi’ to the right person 2 years before.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I arrive at the office at around 9 or 10 am and after preparing my much-needed coffee I get to work. This may mean a meeting with my Art Director about what has to be done or continuing work that I had started on a previous day. This could involve character animation or special effects depending on the requirements of the game. We are a small company so people are required to serve more than one purpose. I don’t mind that as you get exposed to more things and learn more, thus giving you a greater understanding about how the whole game business works. I then get up for a lunch break at around 2pm and after its back to work. Then I may have to discuss details for certain issues with a programmer and how to deal with problems that may occur or anything else. Though the work load is much, the team tries to be fast and efficient, so we try to stick to deadlines. This usually isn’t a problem but many times we go into “crunch mode”, especially before a patch or expansion. When this happens I may come home in the early hours past midnight, but more often it is the case that my day ends at 6 or 7pm.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like animating the characters or monsters! It is always fun to bring stuff to life. I especially love making character act to dialogue but there is practically none of that in the game I am working on.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Processing and exporting stuff into the game engine. Once a character is ready to be brought into the game there is a series of careful manual work to be done in order for it to work. Not very creative but necessary due to the way the system works. I very often find skinning burdensome while other times it relaxes me… strange.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The long hours are often a problem for me as I have a family with 2 children. I often do work at home for some extra income but that always steals time from my family so I try to avoid it as much as possible. I also believe that there is also the matter of criticism that troubles an artist. We put so much work and labor into our work that can be dismissed as garbage by another person so easily. You learn to accept it but always have to find the stomach to swallow it. It is always good to have a sound rational behind you work to support your art.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I use my pencil and scrap book for notes and sketches, but I spent most of my time in 3D software, like 3D Studio Max. I also use a lot of Adobe Photoshop for texturing and sketching.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I am very fortunate to have met Bill Kroyer, one of the main animators who worked on TRON. I was in LA in 2009 for a film festival where my short was screening and a common acquaintance of ours arranged for me to meet him. Since I was used to small European cities I had no idea that you were doomed if you didn’t have a car in LA. So mr. Kroyer was so kind as to come pick me up from my hotel and show me all around town. Everything was very impressive and too much to take in. He also took me to Rythm and Hues and gave me the tour, I sat in a meeting with him (!) and them we went out to lunch with a few excellent people from R&H and talked about movies and what not. I had a great time.
Describe a tough situation you had in life. Any side projects you’re working on you’d like to share details of?
Finishing High school I was turned down by all the Universities I applied too. I ended up going to a local College but that still worked. Nope nothing specific…
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Get ready for a lot of hard work and be willing to do it. A proper education is good. A good College is great in a way that it supplies you with theory and practice -possible more theory than practice. But you should not reject that knowledge. You will and must get as much practice as you can on your own. Learn to “see” by watching animations or films and dissect them. Draw. Make contacts and keep them. Always be motivated and don’t get angry with your computer… it’s probably your fault the darn thing isn’t working right.