Indonesian Brings Tintin to Life

Indonesian Brings Tintin to Life
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It takes whole teams of people to create the subtle details of animated characters in movies. The redness of cheeks, the hairs on necks and the expressiveness of eyes are all the result of armies of digital laborers whose collaborative efforts create movie magic but whose names are buried deep in the credits. The animators are often the unsung heroes. But it’s a labor of love, and for Rini Sugianto, going into animation was probably one of the best decisions she could have made. Now she has made a career out of her passion, which earned her a job animating for Steven Spielberg’s film “The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn.” “I always consider myself lucky because I am able to work on something that I love,” Rini said. “Animation is a tough industry, but if you are passionate about it then it is a great, fun job.” Having grown up with the classic Belgian comic book “Tintin,” the 31-year-old jumped at the chance to work on the feature film even though it meant she would have to move across the Pacific Ocean to Wellington, New Zealand. That’s where Weta Digital, “Tintin” producer Peter Jackson’s animation company, was located. “I was working in Los Angeles when a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to apply to Weta,” Rini said. “So, I applied, and to my surprise, I actually got a call back. After two weeks of talking back and forth, I finally decided that it was time to pack up and move to New Zealand.” Jackson co-founded Weta in the 1990s, and the company supplied the special effects for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “King Kong.” For Tintin, Rini worked as a character animator. “I had to animate all the characters that are in the shots,” she said. “In Tintin, I worked on 70 shots, so I think that covers all the characters in the movie.” As one of 80 animators from around the world, Rini’s work on “Tintin” lasted a little over a year. Rini was one of four Indonesians working at the company. “One of the things I like about Weta is that the people are very diverse,” Rini said. “And I worked with almost everyone in the company from different departments because it was a collaborative project.” To some extent, that collaboration included the director. Each week during production, Rini saw the director review with Spielberg via a copy of the video conference. “Unfortunately I could only see him on screen,” Rini said. “Only the visual effects supervisors got to interact with Spielberg directly. But working for him definitely made me nervous, and the pressure was there. You always wanted to do a good job and hear him say, ‘Great animation! It’s approved!’ “I love working for him because he definitely knows what he wants and how he wants it. His notes were always clear. He’s a great director.” One of Rini’s biggest challenges was animating the characters that Georges Prosper Remi, best known as Herg, the writer and artist of the “Tintin” series, had famously created. “The comic is very close to a lot of people, so I had to take that into consideration,” she said. “The images of the characters were there, and I couldn’t go too far from it. But the animators were allowed to be creative as long as they were approved by the decision makers.” Members of the production team had the chance to watch the finished project together at Embassy Theater in Wellington last month. “It was great, the vibe was awesome and seeing my name on the big screen was super exciting too,” Rini said. “It’s been a great experience coming to New Zealand and working at Weta. I’m also a very outdoors-y person, so I knew I would love the country’s nature. All the stories about the country’s beauty are true.” Rini grew up in Teluk Betung, Lampung, and her childhood revolved around sports. She was a swimmer throughout elementary and middle school. Her introduction to art came in the form of comics. “My brother and I didn’t grow up around the arts, but we certainly loved comic books, and there was an abundance of them at our house,” Rini said. The animator graduated from Parahyangan University in Bandung with a degree in architecture. She worked at a firm in Jakarta that produced 3-D presentations for clients; that was her first taste of the world of computer graphics. Eventually, Rini’s interest took her to the Academy of Arts in San Francisco. “When I was at school, I realized there were many aspects of 3-D, so I decided to focus on animation after I took my first class on Maya 3-D animation software,” Rini said. “At the end of the semester, I asked my teacher which area he thought I was most successful in. He suggested that I focus on animation. I’m glad I followed his advice.” When Rini started studying digital animation in the United States, she felt she was behind her classmates. Most of them already had experience in the field and a solid background in the craft. That made Rini feel like she needed to work harder to catch up with her peers. “I think the main difference between the animation industry in Indonesia and the United States is in the foundation of it,” Rini said. “A lot of schools in the States try to give students a solid foundation, so when they start doing their own project, they already have a good base. “In Indonesia many animators seem to be missing the basics. You can’t learn to run before learning how to walk. But I do think Indonesian animation has the potential to be a good industry. Other Asian countries can do it. Why can’t we?” Rini looks forward to doing more movies with Weta. She is currently working on “The Avengers,” which will be released next year. “‘Tintin’ was definitely a stepping stone for my career, it’s my first movie job and I’m hoping to do more,” Rini said. Taken from: The Jakarta Globe

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