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Lighting DreamWorks projects with Greg Jennings

By 3dtotal staff

Web: www.greg-jennings.com (will open in new window)

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Date Added: 17th April 2014
Images courtesy of Dreamworks, and used with permission

DreamWorks lighting specialist Greg Jennings has worked on top titles, including Scared Shrekless, and reveals what it's like working at a top animation studio.


Greg Jennings is a CG supervisor specializing in lighting who currently works at DreamWorks. His latest project is Penguins of Madagascar, but he has worked on many top animated movies such as Kung Fu Panda 2 and Scared Shrekless. His training began with sculpture and resin modeling, before he came across 3ds Max and changed the course of his career completely. He hasn't looked back since, and talks to us about his work at DreamWorks and future plans.

3dtotal: Hi Greg, thanks for agreeing to an interview with 3dtotal! To start, could you tell us a little about your background in digital art? Where did it all begin?

Greg Jennings: It all began while studying sculpture applied to synthetic materials in France. I was doing sculpture and resin molds but didn't really know where it would lead me. Then, for my final degree project, I decided to look into computer graphics and started thinking of ways to integrate some 3D elements.

I looked up what was available and came across 3ds Max which was a revelation. It didn't really help me get my degree but from that moment I knew that I wanted to work in CG.

The following year, I started a new course in Paris and then moved to the North of France to study in Supinfocom for two years.

3dt: In the past, you've worked on a variety of projects: How does working on cartoons at DreamWorks compare to live-action feature films at BUF Compagnie, both in terms of work and atmosphere?

GJ: The main difference is the rhythm. Working for BUF was very hard but rewarding at the same time.

It's a great experience for any junior artist because it is a very demanding environment and even though the work isn't very sexy in the beginning (a lot of rotoscopy, model integration, paint fixing…) one can evolve and get to learn many aspects of a VFX production, very fast. I actually didn't stay very long, but only because I wanted to try working as a freelance on shorter projects.

On the other hand, at DreamWorks, artists have more time to complete their work and the whole atmosphere is much more pleasant and friendly. It's a totally different culture compared to France and I have come to really appreciate this kind of environment in the long run.

Lighting-wise, I find that working on animated features is more interesting because it is closer to painting and we cheat a lot of things whereas in VFX it's more about matching the live plate.

The other aspect I like is the different interpretation of light from one movie to another – Kung Fu Panda is very graphical and has bold colors whereas Shrek uses a more realistic approach.

Natural sun lighting in Madagascar 3
Images courtesy of Dreamworks, and used with permission

Depicting a natural sunny African scene in Madagascar 3
Images courtesy of Dreamworks, and used with permission

3dt: Animation sounds like a lot of fun! Do you have any favorite projects to date? Or any that have been particularly challenging?

GJ: Every project has some good and bad in it, but I think it is essential to always focus on what each project can teach you as an artist. If I don't like the style I try and learn some new techniques, in return if the shot isn't challenging technically, I spend more time on trying to push it artistically.
Among the projects I have had the privilege to work on, I have fond memories of being part of the Madagascar 2 team. It was my first experience at DreamWorks and I learned a lot from the Production Designer, Kendal Cronkhite which was invaluable.

Merry Madagascar and Scared Shrekless were also amazing experiences because I was supervising a team for the first time. The Indian team had recently been put together and it was a challenge to find the right rhythm but it all worked out really well in the end and I'm very proud to have taken part in this endeavor.

I also enjoyed Kung Fu Panda 2 because it was a fresh project with awesome graphical sequences which allowed a painterly approach.

The end shots in Shrek Forever After and the opening of Madagascar 3 were also interesting to work on because they are hero shots which need extra attention and I like to have that kind of pressure.

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