Behind the Title: Iloura lead animator Dean Elliott

NAME: Dean Elliott

COMPANY: Iloura (@iloura_vfx)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR ILOURA?
Based in Melbourne and Sydney, Iloura houses a collective of animation and VFX artists.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Lead Animator

THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
My role can change depending on the project that I’m working on at the time. On a production with only a small scope for character animation like Mad Max: Fury Road, I will work purely as an animator producing shots for the film, whereas on a larger character-based film like SpongeBob SquarePants I would work as a more traditional lead — helping other animators to hit required notes, communicating direction and working as a sounding board for any performance ideas they may have.

Then on a production like Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards, l spent most of my time supervising the complex crowd system we developed to extend the scope of our hero keyframe animation.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Somehow l seem to have ended up spending a lot of time in the mocap suit over the past 12 months. This isn’t something l had intended, but it does make it a lot easier when l can plan and generate complex performances that would be otherwise very difficult to achieve directing other actors, or purely by keyframing.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING IN VFX?
I’ve been working as an animator for over 15 years now at various studios.

HOW HAS YOUR PART OF THE INDUSTRY CHANGED IN THE TIME YOU’VE BEEN WORKING? 
As an animator, I haven’t seen any great advances in the technology we use to do our job. At the end of the day, animators only really have to deal with timing and poses. The biggest change has been the career becoming more accessible as a profession, and it’s been a good one. The tools have leveled the playing field, and now when we look for animators we don’t need to look for traditional art skills like drawing. As long as they understand performance and movement they can produce amazing work.

DID A PARTICULAR FILM INSPIRE YOU ALONG THIS PATH IN ENTERTAINMENT?
Like most people in the industry I had a lot of influences that led me in this direction, but the main film that finally tipped me over was A Bug’s Life. I could see a very strong future for 3D animation watching that film; that was when l thought l could make a career out of a hobby.

DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL FOR ANIMATION?
Not for animation. There were no courses available for animation when l left school. So instead l studied illustration to build my creative skills, and in my spare time researched animation on the Internet and taught myself at home.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I really enjoy the start of each production. Doing motion tests to establish how a character will move and looking at the storyboards or previs for the first time.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
When you’re getting close to the deadline and the schedule becomes more important than reworking the shot because you came up with a better idea for the character.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I’d love to say l would be a pilot. But then again, l spent so much time drawing in school that my grades weren’t very good, so l doubt anyone would have let me fly 50 tons of metal across the sky. (Which is probably best, now that l think of it.)

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We recently finished production on Underworld 5, and before that we completed the Battle of the Bastards sequence in Season 6, Episode 9 of Game of Thrones.

The Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards

WHAT IS THE PROJECT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I think Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards has been the most rewarding. We set out to greatly improve our crowd animation for the sequence, and it’s probably the only project l’ve worked on where the final result looked as good what I had imagined it would be when I started.

WHAT TOOLS DO YOU USE DAY TO DAY?
Along with a number of in-house tools, we rely on Maya day to day for all of our keyframe animation. We have also recently started using Massive for crowds and iPi Motion Capture in a small in-house mocap space.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
Many places. It’s very easy to find your way to a lot of very impressive work on the Internet these days. I’m probably most inspired by work in other films, and I follow a lot of illustrators and artists as well.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Leave work and go home.


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