Owen Neuberger is an animator and CG specialist. We met at the Charles River Creative Art Program in Dover, MA where he taught kids music, art, and video. This year Owen is finishing his final year of college at Hampshire University. He’s preparing to make a move to Los Angeles to begin a job at Pixar. This interview was conducted via email so Owen could devote time to his thesis film, Union. You can see that film (very soon) and other work on his Vimeo channel (https://vimeo.com/oneuburger).
KXB: What is your favorite animation?
ON: That is a really tough question! This fluctuates a lot, but right now I would say my favorite animation is Loom (https://vimeo.com/24069938), created at Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg. It’s a beautiful animated short about a spider eating a moth. One of my favorite things about it is the way it seamlessly transitions from a photo realistic style to very abstract imagery, and back again. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I will always love The Triplets of Belleville, an animated feature film that everyone should see.
KXB: Who/what inspires your work?
ON: I feel the most inspired when I see animated work that makes me wonder “How the heck did they do that?”. As someone interested in animation and visual effects, I usually try to decipher the ways people produced their work. The more confused and challenged I am when doing that, the more it gets my creative juices flowing. Strangely, ever since I took an interest in CGI, it has made modern action feature films really thought provoking because of all the insane high budget visual effects that are present.
KXB: What type of animation do you specialize in?
ON: I specialize in computer generated animation. Specifically, 3D animation and the technical work that goes into a 3D production and the entire pipeline of creating a 3D movie from start to finish. I consider myself a “generalist” which is someone who has knowledge of most aspects of CG production, and doesn’t specialize in just one thing.
KXB: What does your work space look like?
ON: I love workspaces! I have two desks, one I consider the “main” desk and the other is the accessory, and is usually perpendicular to the right of the main. I have a computer with two large monitors on the main desk, a keyboard and mouse, a drawing tablet hooked up to the computer, and a giant stereo facing me on the main desk. On the second desk I keep a pen and paper for taking notes and making lists, something I find indispensable when I am working. Besides those objects, I keep the surfaces of the desks as empty as possible. Also, keeping the room well-lit with soft warm lighting is key for me.
KXB: What was the interview/application process like with Pixar?
ON: To be honest, I think it is a lot like interviewing for most jobs. I submitted a resume, cover letter, and a demo reel with my best work. They review all that from the applicants, and set up interviews with the ones that they find most promising. I was lucky enough to get an interview. Over the course of the process I interviewed with a few different people at different times, all on the phone. The main goal is for them to learn a bit about who you are and where your expertise lies.
KXB: What will you be doing there?
ON: I am going to be a Technical Director Resident, in the Rendering Group. Despite the title including “director”, I’m not actually in charge of anyone. Depending on where the production cycle is, I am either developing tools to make the rendering process more efficient and robust, or helping other departments render successfully. It is something I studied a lot in college and have a great interest in. If you are curious what exactly rendering is, the Wikipedia entry on “Rendering (Computer Graphics)” sums it up pretty well.
KXB: Do you have any advice for other animators?
ON: This is classic advice for anybody doing anything, but if you love it, do it and work hard at it! I always struggle with watching other incredible animations and feeling like my work will never meet that level of quality. Don’t let that discourage you, because it isn’t a competition, it’s just about learning, enjoying yourself, and creating something that means something to you!