Peter Kelly was profiled in the first edition of ...Parachute 4 Teens. If you want to know basic information about being a special FX artist, check out his original profile. Below is Peter's career update.
Name: Peter Kelly Age: 34
Job title: Computer animator
Employer: Industrial Light and Magic
Years in field: 8 Salary range: $62,000-$75,000+
Fields: Computers/Special effects/Entertainment
Degrees: BA, Liberal Arts (not needed); BA, Art (needed)
Cost of training: $48,000What do you do? It's my job to create a specified performance for a computer-generated character in a motion picture. I use the computers and software here at work as my tools to get that performance the way the director wants it in the film. The characters that we use are like puppets in our computers, and we can manipulate their bodies to create that performance. I can also control all the details in a character’s face to create emotion, eye blinks, and any other traits that would help to bring that character to life.
On my current project, I am the lead animator for several characters. I make sure that the character is technically ready for all of the animators to use. I also help to keep that character's performance consistent through out the movie.
What do you like about your job? I love animation. I really enjoy studying a performance and trying to make an animated character feel as genuine as possible. Did I mention that I still love my job?
What don’t you like about your job? It can be really hard to nail exactly what your director or supervisor wants in a performance. That is definitely the hardest part of my job.
In your first profile, you made some projections about coming changes that would effect your work. Which of those have happened? We are using more mo-cap, or motion capture, in our work now then we did before. But there are also several assignments that cannot be done using mo-capture techniques. Ironman fighting 2 F-22's for instance or a Transformer running or transforming into a car. So there are still lots of projects out there that use key frame animation. There are also more directors out there who have the vision to push Computer Graphics in motion pictures. I think we have come along ways in 5 years and I am excited to see what the next 5 years will bring.
What is your ultimate career goal? I am now getting the opportunity to animate some of those big moments in our projects and I am just now starting to become a lead animator. Which is really exciting. I would love to be an animation supervisor and director some day. I also want to keep my work/life in balance. I want to have a challenging job that does not keep me away from my family.
Other interests: I like to work in my garden and spend as much time as possible with my beautiful wife, amazing daughter and new baby boy. I also love getting out on my bike for a quick ride when I can squeeze in the time.
Pete’s additional comments: I was laid off last spring because there was no work at ILM, due to the writer's strike that had rocked the entertainment industry a year earlier. It took me several months to find another job. I was very fortunate to find an amazing opportunity as a lead animator at Cinimatico,a game studio in San Francisco. I worked there for 4 months and got to see other aspects of the industry that I never would have experienced at a big studio like Industrial Light and Magic.
The layoff from ILM, may have been a good thing professionally, but it was a real blow to my self esteem and confidence as animator. When ILM called me back, I was able to negotiate a larger contract, but I am a contractor now. I don't have any paid days off, not even sick days, which is hard. But the money is better now and I have found that I am a better artist after my time away. I have a better sense of what a director wants in a shot and am able to push my animation to reach those goals. I also appreciate the blockbuster projects like Transformers, Ironman and Terminator that we get to work on at ILM.
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