What is your name and your current occupation?
Darren Kiner – CGI Lighter / Compositor / Supervisor.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Optical Effects for a surf film, before moving to LA. I also worked my way through college as a busboy. Sorry, not very crazy.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Aladdin, Iron Giant, Fantasia 2000, Thirteen Days, Charlie Wilson’s War (the last two being somewhat historically relevant).
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
Escondido, CA – UCSD Film School – Lucky to get the job on Aladdin (CGI Magic Carpet)
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I light shots in Maya, render them (using various renderers), composite them in Nuke. I also work with many talented people sitting at computers around me, doing similar work.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Lighting. I’m really good at it. Â I also really enjoy my own projects that I work on at home. I recommend that everyone keeps developing there own art, in addition to their day job.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Being mistreated by studios that look up me as a “resource”. Short schedules and tight (unnecessarily stressful) deadlines because a producer didn’t plan properly.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
I use Maya every day, sometimes all day. There hasn’t been much change because Maya is stagnant and there are no competition threats to Autodesk. Hopefully that will change in the future. The big thing that has impacted my job is the shift toward compositing, which is faster (cheaper) than relighting and rerendering. Consequently, Nuke has become a big influence.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Being shown the door, immediately after working very hard, long hours for a big studio. It would be nice to at least get a Thank You sometime. I find the studios very unappreciative.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Yes, I was very happy to work for John Musker and Ron Clements on Aladdin, and have had the luck to talk with Eric Goldberg on several occasions. Mark Dindal and Randy Follmer were great to work for on Chicken Little, and Steve Anderson was very nice on Meet the Robinsons. Â In visual effects, I have been very lucky to work for Mike Fink several times, who really know his stuff, and also Richard Edlund, on Charlie Wilson’s War.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
When I was a baby, I reacted to the (live) Sabin polio vaccine. It stunted my growth and caused me to have a milk allergy. Consequently, I was a small, sickly kid with lung issues. Luckily, I discovered exercise, which has helped me my entire life, and which I recommend to everyone. Be healthy!
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I am currently developing my Monster Max property. It is a children’s book that I wrote many years ago, which you can read on my website. Â I am reworking Max as an animated eBook, with a 2.5D look.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I ride horses and swim as often as I can, especially in the ocean.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Help as many people as you can, and work very hard. Also, always keep working on your own projects, they almost always end up helping your career.