3DTotal: Hi Kevin, firstly can we have a little introduction to and some background info about yourself? Is it possible to flash your life past us in two or three sentences?! Kevin: I was born and raised in Belgium, where I originally pursued an academic career in philosophy. Due to a mind-boggling sequence of fortunate events, I ended up at Alias Wavefront, and from there on to The Mill, The Moving Picture Company, and now Sony Picture Imageworks.
A consuming love for deep (technical) diving drives me to scour the globe, alternating between a life as
VFX TD and SCUBA instructor, most recently
in Ecuador, Malaysia, The Philippines, New Zealand, Micronesia and Thailand.
3DTotal: Those are two very different career paths! But I can definitely connect with the desire to find some work in a completely different environment to the studio. Do you find that your outdoor career helps you with your studio work in any way? Kevin: I try to alternate between diving and CG as much as I can. Up until my move to the United States, I would rarely take a contract longer than a few months. I would do one movie in London, for example, and then work as a SCUBA instructor in the Philippines or Malaysia for a while. This alternating lifestyle keeps the passion for both careers burning, because either one can become brutal on the mind and body after a while.
Don't be fooled by idyllic images of tropical islands; diving instructors are up before dawn seven days a week, and often don't
get to bed until way after dark. The physical, outdoor life is obviously also a nice shift from being chained to a desk, away from sunlight, day in day out. Being away from it all also allows me not get attached to material things too much, because of the realization that on an island in the Philippines you can survive on very little – even with what a SCUBA instructor makes (which is very little).
3DTotal: What have been your most memorable projects you have worked on in the past, for both good and bad reasons? Kevin: At The Mill we worked 16-hour days for weeks on a series of commercials for the BBC that featured stunning sequences of swarming heads forming faces of famous personalities. Of the four commercials we slaved ourselves to death
on, only one got aired. The rest got canned because there were complaints it was too gruesome. If anything, it was cute! The viewing public is fickle.
I felt really honored to be part of the hair team on G-Force. This movie is not going to win any Oscars for original screen-writing, but the FX are some of the best I ever worked on; the hair in particular.
The hair team developed a pipeline that allowed us to crank out hundreds of shots with several furry creatures per shot – sometimes literally with the push of a button. The team itself consisted of such a bunch of goofy geniuses that months of crazy hours didn't bother me too much. All in all, it was an awesome experience.
Because it is my first step in the world of running a business, TD-College has been a challenge from a whole different level. Dealing with investors, clients, vendors and running a business in general can be both bone-crushingly frustrating and tremendously rewarding. However, since continuously learning new things and facing exponentially bigger challenges are the guiding principles throughout my life, I embrace both the frustrating and rewarding with both arms.
3DTotal: Can you tell us about TD-College (http://td-college.com)? What are the objectives of the college and how does it achieve them? Kevin: TD-College is the first and only school that truly prepares the students for the realm of CG-production by personally pairing them up with the artists behind movies like, The Day After Tomorrow, King Kong, The Matrix, and many more. TD-College's personalized mentor system will put each student one-on-one with artists from major studios like ILM, Dreamworks, Weta Digital, Disney and Digital Domain. Mentors’ credits include all blockbusters in recent memory.
Our courses focus exactly on what the student will be faced with when he/she gets thrown into the fiery depths of feature film production. Even the curricula of famous schools here in Hollywood rarely venture beyond basic content in all their courses. To be frank, if you want to learn hard-core CG from hard-core professionals, there is nothing else out there than TD-College. For example, if you are a technical director in this industry and you want to learn more about Python or Houdini, it's very hard to find courses specifically for the visual effects, written by people who know what they're doing. That is the reason why we started TD-College.
As a quick example: a while back we had a student who was taking one course at TD-College, and two other at very well known CG training schools. When I asked him how the three courses compared, he laughed and said there was no comparison with TD-College. He said that the other institutions just brushed the surface and the courseware didn't go deep at all; while TD-College's courses are expert-level, applicable knowledge.
Again, we are production-based, so students will be presented with similar challenges as found in today's feature film industry. Each week's homework is very demanding and requires the student's utmost attention. That being said, since we are first and foremost a school, there is a plethora of support mechanisms in place: each week every student gets a personal, one-on-one session with his or her mentor; there are weekly, mentor-guided group sessions, we have message boards where mentors, peers and guest-mentors alike provide feedback and answer questions.