Since joining RSP in 2017, she has applied her diverse technical and creative skills to projects including the blockbusters Thor: Ragnarok and
Tomb Raider. Next month, she will be teaching the texturing component of ‘Look Development and Lighting,’
a new second year elective course associated with UniSA’s Media Arts degree.
Christina recently spoke with RSP about her career and the upcoming course.
How did you get your start in visual effects?
When I graduated from school, my plan was to become a veterinarian. I did three years of a science degree but decided it was not for me, so I took a year off. I did some teaching in the veterinary science program, but I’d always loved animation and found that I missed drawing, so when the Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) opened in Adelaide, I decided to jump in and give it a go. I did that for two years and, with six months left, landed my first job at a place called Monkeystack. Working in the industry while finishing my Advanced Diploma was very valuable. I learned to do modeling and texturing to a professional standard very quickly. We had to produce a lot of assets in a short time and I developed those skills through pure practice. Then a year and a half ago, a position opened at RSP.
What can you tell us about the upcoming class in Look Development and Lighting? Have you taught in RSP Education program before?
No, this is my first time teaching at RSP, but I have teaching experience in my background and I enjoy teaching very much. I’ve also presented to RSP Graduate Certificate students as part of the ‘Day in the Life’ program. I’ll be teaching this course alongside Sam Hodge. I’ll do look development; Sam will take the lighting side of things.
What can students expect to learn?
I’ll be teaching real-life texturing and surfacing of assets. RSP uses a combination of Mari and Substance Painter for texturing, and Houdini for surfacing and rendering. I have developed my teaching predominantly around Substance Painter, as it’s an amazing piece of software, quite easy for students to pick up and produce excellent results. They will learn how to build textures, how to use them to alter the material properties of an asset to get it looking realistic.
Are there prerequisites for this course?
Students coming into the course are in the second year of their Media Arts degrees, so would have completed the pre-requisite unit “Intro to CGI and some have also completed a previous course in modeling and texturing also delivered at RSP. We assume some industry knowledge, but in terms of texturing, we start from the ground up.
Do students need to have artistic talent to be good at modeling and texturing?
It’s helpful for students to have some sort of creative background. It doesn’t have to be digital. It could be traditional drawing, pencil sketching, sculpting or building. Anything where you’ve been creatively challenged. It helps in having the attention to detail we require. However, there is also a technical side to this work. My job is not just painting and texturing. It’s also problem solving. I believe that my science degree helped me to develop some of those problem-solving skills. If you have a creative knack, technical facility and a willingness to learn, you’ll do well in this career.
Is texturing a skill that all young artists should learn?
Yes, most certainly. Visual effects artists tend to specialize in one area, but it’s fantastic to understand other aspects of the pipeline and how they all fit in. As a look development artist, it’s important for me to understand the modeling process that precedes my work and the lighting that comes later. I work closely with the modeling to ensure I get what I need to do my job, and I also work quite tightly with lighting to make sure I pass along what they require. Whilst, I might not be able to jump into the compositing department and do that role, I need to understand what they do.
Have you had a chance to work with students involved in RSP’s education program?
I worked with students enrolled in the Graduate Certificate program’s 12-week lighting and effects and composting courses. I helped them with look development and texture work on their class project, the short film Lucy and DiC. The quality of the work produced by those students was phenomenal. Amazing.
How do students benefit from taking classes in a working visual effects studio?
They’re taught by industry professionals who know current practices and procedures. And they are in an environment where they are expected to deliver work that meets professional standards. If students have interests in particular specialties, they can chat with artists who are already working in those departments and seek advice on how to achieve their goals.
What advice would you offer to a young person thinking of enrolling in your course?
Learn the basic skills. Also, focus on building a showreel as that is the most important tool you can emerge with through our courses. A showreel is how you present yourself to a prospective employer. It’s how you show you understand the core principles of a department. The object of a course like this is not to create amazing creatures. It’s about mastering skills that you will apply in industry. You should also come into this course with an open mind. You might enter the class thinking that you want to do animation, only to discover that you love modeling or texturing.
Does the visual effects industry offer good career opportunities?
Most certainly. The industry's growing, especially in South Australia. The government’s rebate programs allow established companies like RSP to grow and new companies to form. So, jobs are popping up all the time. Once you establish yourself in the industry, you will always find work, and not just in Australia, but around the world. It’s your ticket to travel. And it can be a very satisfying career. You get to do something you love every single day. You develop creative and technical skills. It’s the best of both worlds.