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Q&A: Emmy Award-winning BCIT Digital Arts instructor and Scanline VFX lead animator Mark Wong talks about his career

Animator Mark Wong's career ranges from Game of Thrones to Zack Snyder's Justice League and the new Godzilla vs. Kong.

Mark Wong, an Emmy Award-winning BCIT animation program instructor.

Godzilla vs. Kong is the latest in a proud line of rock ’em, sock ’em monster mash-ups.

Fans flocking to see the ape that climbed the Empire State Building face off against the Tokyo-trashing reptile in the film can credit folks such as Mark Wong for the awesome effects. Godzilla isn’t Wong’s first fire-breathing dragon either.

He previously won an Emmy Award for his work on the dragons in the final season of Game of Thrones. An instructor at the BCIT Art and Animation diploma program, Wong is also a lead animator at Scanline VFX. He stresses that the Emmy honour certainly isn’t due to his work alone.

In animation, success is always achieved by a team of talented folks working on every exciting scene. Presently, the 3D animation specialist is riding a career high with projects such as Godzilla vs. Kong, Zack Snyder’s Justice League and a host of other DC and Marvel properties all getting a lot of press.

He took time out from a busy schedule to talk about his unique craft:

Postmedia News: You have an impressive back catalogue, ranging from Game of Thrones to Spider-Man Far From Home, both versions of Justice League and much more. Where did you start your career?

Wong: I first worked in a studio in Hong Kong called Imagi, which was aligned with DreamWorks. This provided fantastic experience learning under amazing supervisors. From there, I returned to Vancouver to work at a few different cartoon and games studios. My goal had been working on sports games, because I loved playing them as a teenager. But when a chance to work on Maleficent came along, I got hooked on movies.

Q: What would you say is the key difference between working on cartoons versus films?

A: Cartoons are fast-paced and demanding. Feature films are much more about the details, because you are working for a big screen HD format. We watch almost every frame in feature work to be sure that it winds up beautiful. But both genres are rewarding to work on.

Q: Scanline VFX handled both takes on Justice League. Now that the Snyder epic is released, can you talk about the differences?

A: I worked on both versions and the big thing was the new character designs. There was a new Superman and updates on the other figures, so shots had to be redone and replaced into the reel. It’s a time-consuming process, but technology today lets you do so much. To be honest, aside from watching our parts over-and-over, I haven’t seen either film.

Q: You came into the industry when 3D was just getting started. Now it’s an industry norm isn’t it?

A: When I started 20 years ago, there wasn’t much in the way of support for 3D because it was so new and we were building everything from the bottom up. Now, my students can purchase or rent rigs (models) for characters. Then they put together a demo showcasing things such as running, jumping and parkour-type stuff as well as experimenting with audio all to get a job. I have to say, it’s much easier now than when I began, but the competition is higher.

Q: What would your advice be for students pursuing a career in animation?

A: Pay attention to everything you see and focus on the details of body mechanics of everything from watching a dog run to people standing waiting for the bus. Store those images in your head to use later in. When I worked on the Meg, I watched a lot of shark documentaries. When I worked on Spider-Man, I watched all the older versions and also nature shows to get ideas. You always need to be studying the world around you to discover new ideas to reference.

sderdeyn@postmedia.com

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