Interview with -Chris Browne CG Supervisor at DreamWorks Animation

Interview with -Chris Browne CG Supervisor at DreamWorks Animation

Vfxexpress -Can you introduce yourself to our audience who are new to the industry?

Chris Browne -My name is Chris Browne and I am currently working as a CG Supervisor for Dreamworks.

Although I have experience overseeing all aspects of production, my primary focus has been overseeing the Lighting, Compositing, and Visual Effects.

If I were to boil it down, I would say I marry the creative and technical to achieve the highest quality cinematography that we can accomplish.

I am also an award winning filmmaker who makes live action visual effects heavy films on the side. On these projects I take on the opportunity to do all of the CGI and visual effects work myself.

Vfxexpress- How did your journey start in Computer graphics? Was this your childhood dream or you picked up along the way?

Chris Browne-It was always a childhood dream to work in film and computer graphics. When I was 10 years old I saved up my allowance to buy an old used VHS camcorder.  This gave me the opportunity to make films and animations with my brothers and friends.

I recall always trying to squeeze in as many effects and animations as possible into these little productions.

It first started with claymations and physical models of spaceships. But as soon as I got my hands on an animation software I was hooked. It was only a primitive 2d paint program at the time, but I found a way to incorporate it into my filmmaking.

Finally when I was introduced to full CGI, I knew right away it was going to be where I would put my focus. And my passion for it has only gotten stronger over the years.

Vfxexpress- What does it take to be a CG Supervisor? What were the challenges you faced in your past experiences?

Chris Browne-As CG Supervisor I would first do hands-on work creating the look development for projects. 

This means I got to create the very first shots on a show. Then I would present that work to clients and executives.

When it got approved, it was up to me to build the processes to achieve that look across teams of hundreds of artists who would work on thousands of shots.

To be a CG supervisor you have to be knowledgeable in all areas of CG production (Model, Rig, Texture, Light, Comp and Visual Effects). Some CG Sups can have a stronger focus in certain areas over others, however they still need to know how all departments fit together.

They need to not only have the technical skills with the software and workflows, but also have strong creative skills.

This is to be able to lead a team in achieving an artistic vision.  And also be able to critique artists’ work, so they know what they need to do to make it better.

Strong leadership is very important.

Vfxexpress- Does your background (2D and 3D) have an impact on our workflow or thought process as a supervisor?

Chris Browne– I feel from early on in my career my experience has been tailor made for the role of CG Supervisor. In 2002 I started my own company which I ran for nine years with a staff of 40. It was a small studio taking on very ambitious projects in animation and live-action visual effects.

As the studio head I wore many hats, overseeing all aspects of our projects. I worked very closely with the team, and always found a way to get our productions across the finish line while making our clients happy and wanting to come back for more.

After successfully running the company for 9 years, I decided to take an opportunity at a larger company as Studio CG Supervisor. I got to oversee all CG productions.

When I started there was only a staff of 80 but it quickly grew to over 500 artists working in three different locations. There were over a dozen different series and films being made at the studio at once. This was a huge opportunity to grow as a leader very quickly.

Vfxexpress – How does programming help the pipeline? Why is it essential?

Chris Browne– If you are working on smaller projects like my experience with TV commercials, you can do everything very custom; however, when working on an ongoing series with hundreds of shots due every week, you need a strong pipeline and toolset to be able to allow the artists to focus their time on being creative rather than doing manual tasks.

This is where the programming and tool making comes in. Because of my experience at smaller studios I had to take this aspect on myself. I have also been very fortunate to work with some great pipeline supervisors and software engineers to learn from.

Vfxexpress- Do you have a programming background? How was your experience of learning?

Chris Browne- I have taken various online scripting and programming courses over the years. They have been very helpful, but nothing made me learn as much as diving straight into the deep end of setting up the pipeline for production for the first time. But you need a good foundation before you start.

My advice to someone who wants to focus on programming is, I would first start by just learning the programming language on it’s own.

For instance learn python and how to write programs for it outside of anything to do with CG. This is to get a good feel for the language before you start using it in maya or houdini or any another CG package.

Vfxexpress- Where can one learn how to program and learn enough to apply it in their projects?

Chris Browne- Coursera has some good basic courses to start with for just learning how to code. Which I recommend first, and then you can expand from there.

Vfxexpress- You have supervised on one of Universal/Dreamworks’ biggest franchises FAST AND FURIOUS: SPY RACERS, as well as Emmy winning shows (ALL HAIL KING JULIEN, DRAGON PRINCE, and many more!). Can you share some of your experiences from these shows?

Chris Browne – Each show has had their own unique challenges. 

Often I would have a strong creative leadership role where I could really drive the look, while others we would have in-house directors where I would make sure their vision is accomplished and it was up to me to align the team to deliver on that vision.

They have each had their own challenges sometimes creative and sometimes technical, but all of them have been fun and exciting.

Vfxexpress- Does a CG pipeline differ from the feature film, television series, and Commercials?

Chris Browne– For feature vs. TV there can be differences in workflows, and tools, etc. but I have also seen a LOT of cross-over. I would say the differences are becoming less and less.

In my experience Commercials can be very custom because they are so short term and can be very ‘one off’.

Live-Action Visual effects can be very custom at times as well but it always helps to have systems, tools, and templates set up on any production.

Vfxexpress- Can you tell me more about your independent productions?

Chris Browne- I have made over a half dozen short films that have been in over 30 international film festivals winning multiple awards. My earlier film about alien abductions won an LEO award for best visual effects, and my latest film DARK FIBRE (about Robots) is currently being developed into a feature-length script as I am actively working on the sequel for the short.

Vfxexpress- Ritto prabu Thank you Chris Browne For sharing lots of Information with us.

Chris Browne- Thank you Ritto

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