What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Igor Stefanovic, I am Character Technical Director / Rigger at DreamWorks Animation. My job is to build internal skeletons, animation controls, face expressions and body deformations for digital characters. I create something like a digital marionette, which animators move around in shots. It is a job that is both artistic and technical. I have a good understanding of anatomy so I make sure that face and skin of character look good in every pose, just like real actor. I also work on hair and cloth, which are more on the technical side. Animators then take my work and breathe life into it. You could say, if animation department is the heart of animation process, then rigging is its brain.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Well I grew up in Belgrade, in Serbia. I started drawing very young. So in my teen years I started doing some simple marketing designs. First it was business cards, then larger prints and billboards, and finally I started doing tv commercials. One freelance job always led to another, so I ended up working every summer break during high school. Those were fun days, I got in contact with various people and learned a lot about life. So most of the stuff about computer graphics I learned on the go, through work. This continued through my college years, and finally I decided to make my own animated short. I wanted to have very good characters, so I ended up making detailed face and body setups for two characters, an old fisherman and a raccoon. By that point I realized I could make demo reel just out of these setups, so I postponed my short for some better days, put together demo reel, and applied for rigging position in several companies. I was lucky to get a job at Framestore in London. First really big company, working on Hollywood projects. I stayed there for two years, then got a job at DreamWorks Animation in Los Angeles. I am here for three years now. I have worked on four animated movies for them so far, including Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss In Boots. But still those early beginnings are great memories. Those were days when future seemed distant and anything seemed possible.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
There are two types of projects that can make someone in this business proud. There are big projects with famous names, that everybody has seen in cinemas or on tv. I guess for me, those are Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss In Boots. And there are those, which don’t necessarily have to be famous, but where I had greater responsibility and got more personally invested. In London I was working for over a year on Universal Studios animation The Tale Of Despereaux. It was smaller team than on DreamWorks productions, plus my first Hollywood movie so I put a lot of effort in it. In the end it was ok movie, it did so so in the cinemas, but for me it opened doors to other things.
How did you become interested in animation?
As I mentioned, I was drawing since I was a kid. At one point I realized that (more…)