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DreamWorks' Sebastien Wojda: Artist Interview

By 3dtotal staff

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Date Added: 17th February 2015

We chat to talented DreamWorks' Animator Sebastien Wojda about his education at Gobelins, and how he broke into DreamWorks Glendale after improving skills at DDU!

As well as working on Madly Madagascar at the DDU, he also got to work on the feature film Madagascar 3


3dtotal: Can you introduce us with a little background information about you, and briefly explain your journey so far?
Sebastien Wojda: Hello! I have been a CG animator at DreamWorks Animation for 2 years now. After a scientific high school diploma, I went to the University of Corte in Corsica, France, and I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. During that last year, I mainly focused on the preparation for an entry exam to animation schools.

The following year, I was accepted at the EMCA (school of animation) in Angoulême, in the south west of France, where I spent 2 years. I was then accepted to onto Year 3 of animation training at the Gobelins school in Paris - which is the best animation school in France! During the final year, I co-directed a movie called Voodoo, a 2D short film.

When I left school, I wanted to go home to Corsica, and there I co-directed a short film with my wife - who is also an animator! For me, the goal of this experience was to learn how to animate in CG, because all the training I had done before was based on 2D. Even though I had been able to try CG techniques through some exercises at Gobelins, it wasn't enough, given my level.

After 6 months, once the film finished, we moved to Paris, where I started my first professional job at Cube Creative for a couple of months. This great experience really helped me to progress. Following that, I worked on different 2D and 3D productions at several Parisian studios.

I've always dreamed about working for a big studio, because the quality of what comes out corresponded to the level I wanted to achieve. So I ended up sending my animation reel to DreamWorks Animation. Unfortunately, I didn't have the level to work there at the time, but Shelley Page, who recruits for the company in Europe, still enjoyed my work and offered me a job at DDU (DreamWorks Dedicated Unit) in India.

I knew I had a lot to learn and I was very motivated, so I jumped at the chance! While at DDU, I worked on short films including Scared Shrekless and Madly Madagascar, as well as the feature films Puss in Boots and Madagascar 3. At the end of my contract in India, I wanted to try again at DreamWorks Animation in California. So I sent my animation reel - and I received a job offer within a week!

How To Train Your Dragon 2 is one of Sebastien's proudest credits, being that it's already won a Golden Globe, 6 Annie Awards, and is nominated for the best animated feature film at the Oscars this year

3dt: Can you tell us why you decided to specialize in character animation? Why do you feel you excel in this role?
SW: I guess, like a lot of artists, I always loved to draw. And when I was a kid growing up in the 80s in France, we had a lot Japanese anime and series like Dragon Ball, Knights of the Zodiac, and so on. I thought it was so cool that I wanted to do the same thing, and this is really when I started to draw comics and characters, and decided that I wanted to do something similar for a living. During this time I also discovered the great Disney classics!

Later, as a teenager, I saw a broadcast on a French TV channel about the famous Gobelins animation school, and all the French animators working at Dreamworks Animation, and I realized it was possible to make animation a real job, and there there was a school that could train me for that! Since that moment, I never stopped thinking about it, and worked continuously to accomplish my goal.

I don't know if I excel in this role as such, but I'm very passionate about my job, and I don't really count the hours I spend on each of my shots; I always try to push the details as far as I can and make the most believable acting I can. Perhaps most of all, I constantly question myself about my work, trying to learn new things and make progress; it's very important in this very competitive field.

DreamWorks has developed a new software called Premo, which is much faster and more intuitive than its predecessor, Emo

3dt: Tell us about your role as an Character Animator at DreamWorks? What's a typical day like in this role?
SW: There isn't really typical day; each day is different from another. But in a general sense, the week is composed of various meetings. Every morning we have "dailies": animators and directors meet in a room where shots are screened to get directions, validate or to make corrections.

When I start working on a shot, I go to the dailies in order to have the director launch me and give me the direction to follow. Then, depending on the type of shot I have - acting or action - I shoot a reference. It's perfect to find ideas quickly, and sometimes I even draw thumbnails to break down my shot.

I then make a blocking; I like to keep it in steps for this stage, which means there will be no in-betweens - only the main key poses. I like to really detail it, so I create a pose every 4 images, or sometimes 2 images. Then I show this to the director, or, if I'm really happy with a reference I've shot I'll show that instead; if I can sell my ideas with this, it's a lot of time saved!

I have notes, I address them during the animation process; I spline my curves, meaning I work on the in-betweens so the animation becomes fluid and more believable, and I show it once more to the director. If he's happy, I'll do a polish pass on the animation, adding details - and then it's over. Meanwhile, I can also see my supervisor to show him my work if I need help, and my HOCA (Head of Character Animation) during what we call "rounds"; this is where they come to see each animator at their desk.

The week is also composed of meetings where production shows the latest animated sequences, so everybody can see what stage is the film at. We have quite busy weeks!

How To Train Your Dragon 2 was one of 2014's blockbuster hits! Sebastien is proud to be a part of this marker in the history books

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