Men’s Day Special Interview – Tun-En Chen, Senior and Lead Compositor, Pixomondo Los Angeles
November 19, 2019 – International Men’s Day on the 19 November was founded in 1999 by Dr Jerome Teelucksingh a history lecturer at University of the West Indies in Trinidad Tabago. Interestingly calls for an International Men’s Day (IMD) have been going on since at least the 1960’s when it was reported in the New York Times, Feb 24 1969 that “Many men have been agitating privately to make February 23 International Men’s Day, the equivalent of March 8, which is International Women’s day“ This Day for women was first inaugurated in 1909.
International Men’s Day encourages men to teach the boys in their lives the values, character and responsibilities of being a man. Mahatma Gandhi said, “We must become the change we seek.” It is only when we all, both men and women, lead by example that we will create a fair and safe society which allows everyone the opportunity to flourish in their families and communities.
November is an important month for the masculine soul because it celebrates several events that are important to men. So, we encourage you to wish everyone a happy International Men’s Day on 19 November.” For more info, visit at www.internationalmensday.com
Tun-En Chen Pixomondo Los Angeles’ lead/senior compositor. With nearly ten years of experience in the VFX industry. Tun-En’s most recent work includes The Mandalorian, Star Trek: Discovery, Westworld, The Orville, Mary Poppins Returns and the Fast and the Furious franchise.
Today, Tun-En Chen talks to VFX Online about his experience about VFX and Animation Industry.
// From Tun-En Chen, Senior and Lead Compositor, Pixomondo Los Angeles
How do you describe yourself professionally?
I am a lead /senior compositor at Pixomondo. I see myself as a chef, who collects all the ingredients from different departments, fries them in a wok, and, after adding compositing magic sauce, serves the client with tasty shots. Sometimes, when the kitchen is on fire or the stove won’t turn on, my job is to figure out a way to Frankenstein a solution technically and artistically.
What sparked your interest in visual effects?
I think my interest in visual effects started with the movie Tron. I loved watching TV after school when I was in elementary school. There was a channel that always played old Hollywood movies and the one that impressed me the most was 1982’s Tron. The digital visuals and storytelling style was totally different from other films I’d seen. I couldn’t stop watching it. My mom had to drag me to the dining table just to eat dinner. I didn’t know the movie’s name at the time but it buried a seed in my heart.
How did you enter in this industry? What was the key to getting inside?
During the last semester of my master degree, I got an internship in a small studio through a school teacher. Unfortunately the studio is not around anymore, but it gave me a glimpse of what a real working environment was like. From there, I got an internship in another VFX studio on the new Tron: Legacy. This experience was critical not because it was a successbut because I failed to get the internship renewed after the project was over. Usually studios hire interns based on how well they did at their previous internship, which apparently,I did not. I kept thinking, what would I do differently if I got hired again?When I joined PIXOMONDO as junior compositor, decided to be more professional, more responsible, have a better attitude and be a better team player. Now, it’s been almost 10 years, and this work ethic is still mine to this day.
What’s your favorite shot or sequence of VFX or Animated Films?
My favorite shot is a trailer shot from the animated film “Paprika” by Satoshi Kon. There is a scene when Dr. Chiba Atsuko is investigating an abandoned theme park and when she crosses a fence to the other side, the fence and the whole theme park become 2D fabric. Dr.Chiba realizes she was tricked, and that she is actually crossing the fence from a really high building. I know it sounds weird, but if you Google it, I promise you will love that shot too.
Any particular artists/professionals that inspire you?
Satoshi Kon’s animation always sticks in my mind every time people ask me where my inspiration comes from. His shot design not only gives you visually stunning scenes but also gives you psychological impact. Unfortunately he passed away several years ago but even after several decades you may still be able to get inspired when you watch his films. Besides Satoshi Kon, I am also amazed by the visual effects from Michel Gondry in his music videos and films such as“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” His use of visual effects is subtle and beautiful, and not only helps the movie visually, but emotionally.
How has your experience been working at Pixomondo?
I have been working at PIXOMONDO almost 10 years. The experience has beenreally valuable not only on a professional level, but also on a personal level. Many colleagueshave become family friends, and we help each other grow each day. Pixomondo also gives artists the freedom to experiment with their artistic vision, so we’re all able to try new things technically and artistically. This allows our creativity to really shine on the big screen. I feel honored to be a part of this team.
How the Access VFX, Visual Effects Society and many more Organizations support for that industry?
I have been a Visual Effects Society and Television Academy member for several years. I personally like these kinds of organizations because they hold many events that showcase new technology, share best practices information, bridge different professional groups, and build up the community.
For example, in the past few years I have attended several VES award nomination judging events. Being a judge is a great way to connect to other professionals in the industry. You see how others achieve their stunning hero shots by watching their submitted shot breakdowns. Also, the attendees are not limited to artists, so you get comments and feedback from many different perspectives.
I believe that by continuing to hold such events, we can continue to build an even better VFX community that will benefit everyone.
What do you think about the future of VFX and Animation Industry?
I believe production efficiency will become much more important than ever in the VFX industry due to shortened production times brought by the advent of streaming services. They demand feature film quality work but want it done on an episodic TV schedule.
Because people have gotten used to their steaming services, going to the movies may require studios to work harder to get people in to theater seats. They may need new technologies to enhance the audience’s experience when going to a theater. I think a film such as AngLee’s Gemini Man was an attempt to try and expand the audience experience with 4K+3D+120fps format. I think if we do find a way to enhance audience’s watching experience in the theater, it would be a revolutionary step for the VFX industry. I can’t wait to see that happen.
What will be your ‘dream project’ to work on Animation or VFX?
My dream project would be to work on a new live action of Ghost in the Shell” and it would be directed by either Christopher Nolan or Kenji Kamiyama, who directed the Ghost in the Shell TV series in Japan.
What advice would you give to someone who wishes to get into this industry?
Keep learning. New tools and technologies are released every year so if you don’t keep learning, you will fall behind. Be kind to the people who work with you. Group effort is much more important than you think. Don’t be afraid to be a leader or to be ateam player when someone else is leading the way. Be patient. If a hard task comes your way, take a breath and think before beginning the work. Heading in the right direction is much better than rushing and heading nowhere. Work smart, not just hard. Knowing scripting,computer graphics, and math also helps. Watch good movies in order to develop your own artistic vision. Keep thinking what you will do differently if you had worked on the same shot.
What’s your thoughts about International Men’s Day?
International Men’s Day reminds me of my father. Recently I found some of our old family trip photos. Surprisingly, I can’t find my father in any of those photos. The photos only have three people in them: my mom, my brother and I. That’s because my father was always the one always taking the pictures. He was never in them with us. The “disappearing father” for me is a symbol of traditional male characteristics. Like my father, as males we are taught to be strong and to hold the role of leader, to not cry when we are sad, and not to show weakness if we fail. I think International Men’s Day is a good day to remind men that there is nothing wrong to be vulnerable. Failure does happen, and showing one’s strength is about facing the challenges of life head-on. So cry when you feel sad, then wipe away the tears, and keep chasing your dreams for a brighter future. Happy International Men’s Day!