Wei Kian, Matchmove Supervisor
Wei Kian Ang is our Matchmove Supervisor and a good example of budding local talents here in Singapore! Armed with a degree in Computer Engineering and a Diploma from a local FX school, he started off as a Matchmove Artist with Dneg Singapore. At this entry level, Wei Kian’s very first show was on Captain America before moving on to John Carter of Mars.
He then took on the role of matchmove lead on shows including The Dark Knight Rises, Total Recall and Bourne Legacy. Having built a solid foundation and understanding of the VFX pipeline, he progressed on to mentor junior matchmove artists and continue his journey to becoming a Matchmove Supervisor.
How did you get into the business?
In the final year of University, I chose a couple of modules that might seem fun. I took up Game Programming as well as 3D Modeling modules and was very intrigued by them. It opened up a whole new world for me and the more I researched about it, the more interested I got. I decided to pursue a career in the CG industry after graduation and enrolled in a local animation/effects school to get myself started.
Is there anything you wish you had done before you joined the industry which would have better prepared you for your career in VFX for Film?
I wished I had known about VFX a lot sooner. I was learning a lot of useful scripting/programming skills, but it is used for a variety of real world applications. Had I known earlier, I would have chosen something related to CG as my Final Year Project (I ended up doing web based back-end programming).
Is there any advice you would give to someone coming into the business?
This is a skill-based industry, so it is very important to keep learning even in your free time. You will learn new things on the job everyday, but sometimes, that is not enough if you want to compete with the best.
What natural skills do you think lend themselves to doing your job?
I would say that it is a keen eye for detail.
Are there any particular training / courses you’d recommend?
There are loads of online tutorials that are free, and those are usually enough to get you started in general. After some familiarisation, you should be able to have an idea of which discipline interests you more (modelling, lighting etc). You can then get some of the awesome tutorials from places like Gnomon, Digital Tutors, CMIVFX etc, and concentrate on honing your skills for that particular area of interest.
What’s the worst and best thing about your job?
Best thing: Looking at the raw scans that come in and letting my imagination run wild inside my head before they add in the actual CG.
Worst thing: The spoilers. There are times where you see the ending before you even know what the show was about.
YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
From Darwin Muis: While being a Matchmove artist builds the foundation and understanding of VFX pipeline, how do you as a Matchmove artist, build core skills in your areas of interest eg: FX TD?
Being a matchmove artist will also train your eye for detail, troubleshooting skills as well as get you really familiar with the various in-house tools that are used. All those experiences can then be brought forward to other areas (usefulness depends on the area of interests, would really help with layout and animation). The troubleshooting skills that we’ve honed would be helpful for an FX TD.
From James Wrigley: If you could go back to when you were still learning about Matchmoving, what would you focus on learning? Scripting, or traditional art skills, or would you just practice more?
Both scripting and traditional art skills are helpful, but knowing scripting would definitely make your work alot easier. Especially when dealing with a complicated but powerful software like Maya, scripts can make the workflow a whole lot less complicated.
From Ricardo Musch: Have you ever had a shot that was untrackable?
Sometimes, there will be that odd shot that we can’t get reliable tracks to get a good solve out of it. For these shots, it is really important to have a clear idea of what will be going on in the current shot, and to concentrate on the key areas that will be needed to make the shot work.
From Arihant Gupta: I know Dneg like freshers to start with Matchmove/Roto, but does Dneg SG hire freshers from overseas?
Dneg SG welcomes talented individuals that have a passion for this industry, so we do hire freshers from overseas if we think you are a suitable candidate.
And, how does tracking pipeline work? In my experience of studying, sometimes some software works and sometimes the other? How does that hold up inside a big studio like Dneg?
We have in-house developed tools that complements the main tracking software that we use. The R&D department are constantly working hard to roll out improvements to these tools, based on actual user suggestions.
From Rachel White: Does a Matchmove you do have to be more accurate on a 4k or a high resolution show?
We usually track on 2k as the tracking process might slow down if we go any higher. But on certain shows/shots (especially for closeup object tracks), we do renders for checking at the actual higher resolution to check for accuracy.
And, does your role include facial and geometry tracking? What key skills do you need for such a hard yet crucial role?
We do geometry tracking, bodytracking as well as facial tracking. We have done some really complicated face replacements for a couple of shows recently, and it requires one to be really precise and have a sharp eye for details. Some shows have really strict face replacement criteria, and it usually require multiple tries before getting approved, so it is really important to not be discouraged and just push on.
From Leonardo Paolini: I’m IT graduated and after several years of IT experience I enrolled in a local 3D Academy school and in the last year worked as freelancer (and IT part time) for as many interesting projects as I could. My question is, do you think being now 30 years could be too late to move into VFX as a “real” professional? Is something a company like Dneg looks at before hiring?
It is never too late to move into VFX, it is important to like what you are doing in order to excel in it. Your IT background would be really helpful, especially if you are well versed in scripting/programming, and you could potentially translate those skills to be relevant to the technical aspect of this industry (tools/pipeline development, simulation etc).
From Chen ZG: What are the other skills you need to become a lead Matchmove supervisor? Do you need to have modelling skills? How long/how many shots did it take you to become a supervisor?
I personally think that matchmoving is very technical skill, and someone that has really good problem solving skills would do very well. You just need simple modelling skills to build proxy geometry for proof but animation skills would help out alot when doing bodytrack. I was a matchmove lead for a total of 6-7 shows before becoming a supervisor, and it took me around 2+ yrs.
And, what will you doing in your first 3 months as a junior Matchmove artist?
You will be doing matchmove training shots, which are actual shots used in previous projects. These training materials are specially selected to cover a wide range of complexity. Upon completion, you will be well equipped to start work on actual shots for production.
From Max Auer: What software do you mainly use and how do you accomplish tracking a very difficult shot?
We have a couple of tracking software available, but our main tracking software would be 3dequalizer. We also use in-house developed tools that integrates well with 3dequalizer, to help us tackle some of the most difficult shots.
From Manmohan Patel: I want to learn 3d equalizer; How can I? … Thanks!
You can head over to the official site for a href=”http://www.sci-d-vis.com/index.php”>3dequalizer as it has lots on useful information, such as flash based tutorials that covers the basic materials, as well as more advanced concepts and some example exercise.
See you very soon!