Senior Layout Artist at Sony Pictures Imageworks, Arem Kim, talks about the importance of previs and layouts in the movie industry, the essential skills you need to make a career in previs and her exciting ideas about developments in real time rendering…
3dtotal: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
My name is Arem Kim and I am a Previs/Layout artist working on animated and vfx live action films. I currently live in the beautiful city of Vancouver.
3dt: Who has had the greatest influence on your life and your art?
The great cinematographers in film history are my heroes. I've been a big fan of cinema ever since I was allowed to watch movies in the theater. As a teenager, I used to watch John Alcott, Vittorio Storaro, Roger Deakins, Christopher Doyle, Emmanuel Lubezki, and so many other masters films over and over again. I believe that was the moment when I started to appreciate the beauty of Cinematography.
3dt: What does a Senior Layout Artist do? Where does your role begin and end?
Layout artist's job starts when we receive an animatic (a.k.a. story reel) of a sequence. The layout department sits somewhere in between story and animation. By talking to directors and supervisors, we try to find what camera language to use. Then I jump into the shot, start blocking out characters' action, decide camera position, lens, and composition of the picture. When it is necessary, I have to model temporary sets and props. I also add rough lights and effects if it helps the intention of shot. Basically we are making the initial picture of the movie in 3D space.
3dt: What would you say is the single most important aspect in previsualization and layouts?
There are so many things that we need to pay attention in previs and layout. Shot continuity, eye line, beautiful composition, lens, believable camera movement, interesting blocking, et cetera. However, if I have to pick only one thing, I would say it is visual storytelling. Everything in the movie has one final goal. It needs to serve the story. That is the reason why I always spend some time at the beginning on planning phase. It is critical to understand the story and emotion of the sequence before placing cameras into the scene. Without it, a camera is only a spectator in the scene, not a storyteller.
3dt: What kinds of tools and techniques do you use, in your job and in personal work?
In most cases, I use Maya
. However, it is highly dependent on the studio's pipeline and preference. Technically, ninety percent of my job includes animation skills. It is because I have to animate cameras and characters in the scene. When I don't deal with graph editor, the basic 3d generalist skillset, such as lighting, modeling, texturing, shading, comes in handy. Occasionally I need to build depends on what is needed in the shot and available to me in the studio library.
3dt: Which piece of work are you most proud of? Which has been the most exciting to work on?
It is difficult to pick one film. I am always filled with excitement every time a new project begins. That being said, I am very proud of the current project that I am working on, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Every project is unique and special in its own way. However, what sticks with me from a project are the people I worked with. When I am surrounded by teammates I love, that is the best experience to me.
3dt: What's your dream project? What would you like to do more than anything else?
I would love to experience many different genres of films that I haven't touched yet. I believe that would help me greatly to grow as an artist. I love challenges when it comes to work. When I have to drop everything I learned and start again on a new project and its style, that make me excited for the journey to come. I still have so much to learn on this job. All I can wish for is a great learning experience from talented people out there.
3dt: Is there any advice can you give to any aspiring artists out there looking to get into previs and or being a layouts artist?
I believe making a short film is the best way to learn previs and layout as a student. You will face constant challenge and problem solving while dealing with every aspect of film making process. Also I would love to advise them to watch many films as possible. Start from the classic films. You will learn how they created one of the most beautiful images in history with limited equipment. Sometimes, CG camera artists fall into the trap of unlimited possibility. A masterpiece from the 1940s will teach you what real life camera physics is.
3dt: If you weren't an artist what do you think you'd be doing with your life?
I have never imagined of myself working in non-art related industry. I am not sure... maybe a writer for film and TV? Or maybe I could have stayed in school, studying and teaching students on film. It is very difficult to see myself without film in life.
3dt: What can we expect to see from you next? Any cool projects we should look out for?
With the rise of real time rendering, one man production is becoming more accessible nowadays. I would love start making a short film again. Professional work is always glorious and fun, but personal projects fulfills my artists' satisfaction side. Recently, I have been watching a lot of videos about real time render engine, so I could start planning on my next personal project.
Arem Kim's IMDb page
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