Can you tell us a little bit about your roles ?
Claire: I am a Rigger Artist, my routine is never the same! On a new project, we have to start with all the anatomical reflection to be able to position our skeleton and thus create the rig, then the ergonomic reflection so that the animators can quickly understand the controllers and the options they have. On a project already in place, it will essentially be adapting the rig to the particular needs of the animation, adding options, correcting skinning… The rig is an essential and important part of a project because it allows the animation of assets and characters.
Marine: Our job is to build the mechanical skeletons on which the 3D model will be bound and deformed. We also make controls as well as some of the animation tools (user interfaces, scripts, etc.). To make an analogy, the modeler sculpts the puppet, we assemble it, and tie the strings on it – the animator is the puppeteer. Rigging, though often mystified, is actually a crossbreed between mechanic and anatomical study, (sometimes engineering and coding for the most zealous of us). In small to middle-sized projects, we often have to ensure that the pipeline is properly used so that every asset goes throughout every task, from modeling to rig, then through animation to simulation and finally, ensure that everyone’s work arrives in the render scene.
Maurine: I’m a 3D animator, so I’m in charge of bringing characters, vehicles, objects and cameras to life in 3D environments.
Joellia: I am currently a 3D Generalist at The Mill’s Parisian Studio. I always knew I wanted to work in the audiovisual field and I was very attracted to animation and VFX. At the Mill, I wear two hats, I sometimes do generalist tasks such as modeling but I also specialise in 3D animation and animation in Unreal Engine.
How did you get into this role ?
Claire: After a scientific baccalaureate, I went on to study graphic design in communication and advertising, where I discovered the world of 3D. After this BTEC, I enrolled in another school specialising in 3D and VFX; ArtFx, where I discovered the rig that matched my logical side and had the scientific thinking I was missing in image creation. Then, during our end-of-studies juries, I met Guillaume Dadaglio and Estelle Ducarteron who were recruiting for Mikros MPC, now The Mill in Paris, and this is how I got into the company.
Marine : After studying to be a 2D graphist/publicist, I switched to 3D animation and VFX – it turns out I love it! I spend my days finding solutions, building robots and weird creatures. I find it a very cool and rewarding job! I joined The Mill for a graduate internship in 2017 and then moved to my current position.
Maurine: I have always loved animation and drawing so after high school where I specialised in applied arts and design, I decided to study animation at Artfx. Then, during a job fair at school, I met The Mill’s team who asked me to join. I like to make people dream and tell stories, so being a VFX animator is truly perfect for that!
Joellia: I was able to join the studio because I was lucky enough to be chosen for an internship after my studies, which became a full-time role.
What projects are you working on or have you worked on ? Do you have a favourite project ?
Claire: The great thing about doing rig is that you can work on loads of different projects in a short amount of time. Since I’ve been at The Mill, I worked on spots for Paco Rabanne, Feu Vert, Samsung Exynos, Duracell, Castorama, two Kanye West video’s and characters/assets for feature films.
Marine: Quite a lot these last four years! You work on many projects in Advertising. If I had to make a top 3, I’d say Lego ‘Rebuild the world’ for the diversity of the assets and because I stayed on the project from the beginning of the previz to almost the end of the animation stage. I also had the chance to work with exceptional people that taught me so much. Then, the work I did on the animals for Vittel ‘Biodiversity’ because we managed to make five hyper realistic assets and created three awesome shorts! Finally, ‘Experience a World Beyond’ for Qatar because we built and maintained 10 complex rigs in a short timeline.
Maurine: At The Mill, I’ve worked on Duracell, Paco Rabanne, Peugeot and other projects but my favorite would have to be Duracell, which I discovered during my internship more than a year ago and ever since then I have loved working with the tiny pink rabbit.
Joellia: I’ve been lucky enough to contribute to the creation of automotive advertisements such as Toyota and Nissan, but also Duracell and participate in the making of Kanye West’s ‘Hurricane’. If I had to choose my favourite it would be the Unreal previz for Toyota. Currently, I am working for Heineken in 3D animation and in parallel on Mercedes in modeling.
What challenges have you encountered ?
Claire: When I arrived at The Mill, I didn’t know how to code. Fortunately, Marine is a very good teacher and took the time to explain to me how to do it. The difficulty was learning Python language, constantly finding solutions, and keeping up to date with technological advances.
Marine: Rigging is linking modeling and animation, so you have to know what to ask of your modeler in order to provide for the animation’s (and sometimes CFX) needs. This often means finding the balance between respecting the design (look, deformations and animation intentions) and mechanical and/or anatomical realism and user-friendliness for the animators. Maintaining assets through productions: The designs or intentions might evolve throughout production; and often when it happens, the animation is already ongoing. So, we have to ensure the updating of the asset is as non-destructive as possible.
Maurine: The main challenge is to adapt to the artistic and technical constraints of each shot. For example, on Paco Rabanne the most complicated thing was to tell a story in shots of less than a second. With a little imagination, we can do it!
Joellia: Having two hats is not necessarily easy because on some projects you have to combine both skills, so you have to work on two different disciplines with two different software (Maya/Unreal Engine).
What is the best part about the job ?
Claire: The diversity of the projects entrusted and the continuous learning as each project has its specificities and between colleagues, we share our knowledge to find solutions and advance together.
Marine: I like that each production is a new technical challenge, from one asset to the next it’s never exactly the same answer. Also, the technology is evolving so fast, there are always new tools, new software to play with, new techniques/skills/methods to learn.
Maurine: The teamwork, being able to exchange with all the departments and produce a film together!
Joellia: Previously, I said that the main difficulty for me was to have a double hat and juggle these skills. Nevertheless, this double skill is seen as a strength by the team here in Paris. They listen to me and allowed me to work on my two specialities.
What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career in VFX ?
Claire: I would say that you have to be very patient and organised. Learning Python is a big plus and knowing human and animal anatomy is important.
Marine : Be curious and keep an open mind, take risks and get out of your comfort zone! There’s stuff to learn everywhere around you, the larger your scope of understanding is, the better you’ll be able to understand whatever challenge is thrown at you. For the last two years, I’ve been given the chance to teach about Rigging and Workflow in Maya at ARTFX. If at first, I wasn’t very confident, the student’s motivation and eagerness to learn, after the last couple of years we’ve been through was really energising!
Back at school, we didn’t get any courses about Rigging, so I owe my mentor, Alexandre Sauthier for most of what I know as a Rigging and set-up artist. I think it’s only fair to share whatever experience I have with the next generations of riggers and I’m grateful for this opportunity.
Maurine: In animation what counts a lot is analysis, so watch a lot of reference videos, animation analysis, and videos in 0.25 speed. Then obviously animate all the time, because there is nothing better than practice to learn
Joellia: The advice I would give is to go for it, don’t be afraid of being misunderstood. Give yourself the means, whether you come from near or far, girl or boy, it is possible!