ARTIST HIGHLIGHT: Mike Pindara
This week we have a discussion with one of our in-house artists, Mike Pindara!
We talk about inspirations, what makes animation cool, and misconceptions about the industry.
Can you tell me a bit about your role here at Reel Captivation?
I am one of our 3D Generalists in addition to [being] one of the animators. We [all] kind of do everything. From editing, to design, to animation, and sometimes even sound. I would say I’m more leaned to the 3D and animation world of what we do, especially since that’s what I’m most interested in. I’m starting to lean into some of the design work and roles as well.
Why did you decide to get into this field of work?
It started back when I was really little in grade school, I went to “Take Your Kid to Work Day” with my Uncle at Midway Games. And then from there, I was like, “Well obviously I’m going to make video games for a living!” Then, as I graduated high school, I was like “Okay, how do I get into that?” So I found a college that had a 3D Animation program. Not like a specialty game school or anything, but it fit a lot of the criteria that I was looking for. So I found Purdue. As I got there, I thought that maybe games wasn’t quite the right fit. I didn’t have a focus or even really knew what that all meant. So I kind of found the thread [from games] into the character animation world. So I spent my college career in character animation, trying to focus on that through the program. After I graduated, I still knew that I wanted to go specifically character animation for games or for film. Which is a pretty competitive field as it is. So the summer after my junior year, I got an internship at a motion graphics studio here in Chicago, not knowing what that was or what that entailed. I thought, “Well, they’re an animation studio, it’s in Chicago, that’s where I live, I’ll do my internship there!” That studio is where I found out about After Effects and how VFX works, Motion Graphics, and design related things as well. So as soon as I learned all of that, I discovered that THIS was exactly what I wanted to do. It’s an industry that’s really thriving in Chicago. I was interested in that whole world and what lay just beyond 3D. So my last year of school I decided, “I have to find a way into as many design classes as I can, ‘cuz I have no idea what I am doing!” And from there, I kind of went full fledged into trying to be a motion graphics artist. Now I’m here. It was a winding road for sure, but I think I definitely found the right path.
Are there artists or creators inspire you?
I follow as many artists as I possibly can on Twitter, and any Social Media things. Illustrators, to animators, to designers, all kinds of stuff. Kirk Wallace is an illustrator that I found, and I just really like his style. As well as other top animators like Beeple and Gmunk, or the motion graphics rock stars of the moment. But most of them are studios. Which means it’s not just one person who is the creator, it’s a group of people who make awesome things. Honestly, the cooler part for me, is that a bunch of people can collaborate and make one thing that looks cool.
What is your favorite genre of movie?
Animated Movies. I don’t go to the movies often, but there was this period of time that when I did, it was just 10 times in a row of seeing the newest animated movie that came out. It’s annoying for whoever has to go with me. But it’s basically “Oh, there’s this new animated movie coming out, gotta go see it!” Most recently was “The Secret Life of Pets” and then “Kubo and the Two Strings” and just ALL of the animated movies that were coming out about that time and see ALL of those.
What draws you to those movies?
I think it’s less that they have animation, and more that I can see through to the “Behind the Scenes” by just watching the movie. Rather than watching the “How they did Stuff”. Which sometimes I still do. Sometimes I’ll watch a “Behind the Scenes” video before even actually seeing the movie, just because it comes up on Youtube or whatever. And then I’ll be like, “Oh man, how they did that is awesome! I can’t wait to experience that in the context of the films.” Which I think is pretty awesome. It’s because I know HOW they do it and then seeing it executed well is the coolest part.
What kind of things do you do outside of work?
I teach marching drum-line in the winter time, and then I do more work–outside of work. Which I joke with my friends about because a lot of them have other types of careers [and they don’t experience that]. But this is the one where I [can] do the same thing all day long at my job, and when I get home, I’m still excited to be doing the same thing that I did all day. It’s such a diverse [field]. I do a lot of logo design stuff at home, which is a little different from what we do here. But, it’s definitely in the same vein with design and illustration. It’s nice being able to do the same thing, but just a different path or opportunity compared to what I would do at work, here as a whole studio.
What are some misconceptions about the industry?
That [what we do] is really easy. That’s the one that immediately sticks out to me. It’s like “Oh, you know, they just kind of made the character just move around or whatever.” But I just saw something that a studio posted and it was a breakdown of a gif of a hotdog walking. And that’s it. Just the hotdog walking. But then they show you the layers that they put into the final product. Showing how it moved, how the legs work, the body layers over it, how they did it in 3D, the shading, and even the little splashes of ketchup they drew on top of it. The really good [animation] has all of this extra detail that you may not see, but if it wasn’t there, you would notice it. That’s what makes it special. It’s not just “Oh, you drew a hot dog and moved it” it’s so much more than that. Many people don’t appreciate that [attention to detail] outside of the people who do it.
How does your job affect the way you view the world?
I would say that I am a lot more conscious of what is around. In an effort to improve my skills, I’ve tried to get into photography more. Just to give myself a better design base. Chicago is a beautiful city; so just walking around downtown one day, just looking at the buildings, seeing light, how it bounces off of the buildings, or seeing the tiny details and graffiti everywhere…. Things that people just walk right by and don’t realize they exist. Having a consciousness to think “Oh, look how that sign is being lit”. No one would ever think about that kind of thing. But now that I’m in the world of illustrating and photographing, that’s huge information to reference or use for design inspiration.
What is the dream project for you?
I would say doing something where we get to animate every last detail. Everyone gets the time crunch. There’s only so much time to do so many things. I think that [desire] stems from my original desire to be in the film world. Where every eye blink, every finger twitch, needs to be animated. I think being able to put that kind of hyper focus into every detail that’s being animated, would be pretty awesome. So maybe that is a bigger client with more time, but to me, it really doesn’t matter who it’s for, just something we can really grind down every rough area into something smooth. Making a really polished animated video is my dream situation.
Is there someone in particular you would love to have the opportunity to work for or with?
I just took a design class [with] Mike Frederick and Joey Korenman through School of Motion. Korenman runs the “School” and Mike teaches the Design Course. The two of them do some podcasts together, and they just have the best time working together. They are just really good at motion graphics, both designing and animating. I think if I got to work on a project with those two guys, it would be really inspiring. It would end up being really cool, no matter what, and I would probably end up learning 10x as much as I already know, in one project. I think it would be really cool to work with those guys.