Job Spotlight – Lighting and Compositing, Blue Zoo Animation
Meet Yoli. Yoli has been at Blue Zoo for over 5 years and is a Lighting and Compositing Lead. We asked her about her role, how she got here, and her experience of working for Blue Zoo.
How long have you been in your role?
I’ve worked for Blue-Zoo for over five years. Firstly as a lighter and then for the last four in some version of the lead role I am in now.
Where were you before?
Previously I worked freelance as a generalist, before that training up as junior artist in the commercials division of a post house. Unusually, my first role was as a production assistant which was a really useful foundation.
Where did you study?
Having graduated from the Scriptwriting for Film and TV course at Bournemouth, I was happily thrown in the deep-end as a taught masters student on the MA 3D Animation course, alongside a variety of artists from different backgrounds. I was initially interested in character animation, but to my surprise developed into other areas. I thought lighting sounded well boring, but thanks to a great mentor from industry and giving it a go, I discovered how much I enjoyed it.
Lighting and comp are full of creative and technical challenges, so navigating your way out of a tricky problem can be supremely satisfying.
Did you take on any other work experience?
Unfortunately, I didn’t get any related experience until I was in the workforce. I think this would have been useful to get a better sense of what the industry is like day today. Saying this, having first worked as an assistant and then a generalist, I was able to explore different areas before specialising.
How did you get the job?
Having doggedly kept email/job website tennis going for a few years, when the right role came up a friend from university put me forward and it all worked out nicely.
What does a typical day look like?
It can vary, but in full production mode, I’d normally check any new renders first thing, followed by touching base with the team. My time would be normally be split between reviewing work, addressing my own shots or tests and tackling anything that could be preventing us from moving forward. That could be planning for a later episode, liaising with the other departments or the director. It helps to be a good communicator as technical issues can show up in lighting, the last phase of the 3D pipeline. Additionally, compositing is next to edit and delivery so you need to be in close contact with the editor and production manager, especially when it comes to the deadline.
I’m a firm believer that whatever your background, with the right training, attitude and of course opportunities, anyone can get into animation and VFX.
What are the best bits of your job?
It’s an amazing feeling to create something from nothing when working on a key shot, especially as you can add so much mood with lighting. But what’s better is being able to arrange things so that those on your team can have that opportunity too. Lighting and comp are full of creative and technical challenges, so navigating your way out of a tricky problem can be supremely satisfying.
What are your biggest challenges at work?
The delicate balance between time and quality is tricky. It takes a pragmatic mindset and creative thinking, especially if you’re responsible for a team.
What software do you work with?
Since working at Blue-Zoo I use Maya predominantly, whereas before I was a generalist using the discontinued Softimage XSI. Changing software is a humbling experience, but an important one as tools are always changing. There’s always more to learn.
Some of Yoli’s handiwork on the online pre-school series Mac & Izzy.
What training have you received at Blue Zoo, and have you attended any external events?
I’ve received on the job training as my role expanded to involve compositing and I’ve also been supported on a couple of external courses, such as attending the first AWUK Achieve Programme. I’ve met students and professionals on the Blue-Zoo stand at Annecy and Siggraph Tech Talks.
Are you a regular at Blue Zoo socials?
I can usually be found in the shade of the doughnut tree at the summer social and on the dancefloor at Christmas.
What’s it like working at Blue Zoo?
Creative, collaborative and fast-paced.
What makes Blue Zoo different?
There’s a lot of opportunity for graduate level artists.
What would you like to be doing in the future?
It’s not the usual path from this end of production, but I’d like to develop some personal projects from concept as I always have plenty of ideas on the back burner. Last year I pitched as part of the internal shorts programme, which was a great experience. On a big production, your role can become quite niche, so I think it’s important to keep alternative creative pursuits going and foster an environment where that is encouraged. I’d also like to contribute to positive change within the industry at large and work towards a more balanced representation of crew and voices.
Do you have any advice for people thinking of a career in the industry?
I’m a firm believer that whatever your background, with the right training, attitude and of course opportunities, anyone can get into animation and VFX. There are so many different areas to explore and as someone who doesn’t consider themselves technical, I work in lighting which is perceived as just that. If you don’t feel like you fit the mould, all the more reason to get involved as you’re likely to have something unique to contribute.
Once you are working, I do think it’s important to be bold by being willing to try new things and even if it doesn’t come naturally to you, trying to be articulate about your skills and goals. It’s your career, so you need to be responsible for it. At the same time, work-life balance is key. Artists need time to recharge, find inspiration and just have time away from the computer screen.
A huge thank you to Yoli for sharing her experiences with us. If you think you have what it takes to work in Lighting and Compositing you can find all the details here, and don’t forget there are plenty of other roles up for grabs! Visit our jobs site here.
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