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Meet Lighting Supervisor Ezequiel Mastrasso #Interview

Meet Ezequiel Mastrasso, our amazing Lighting Supervisor! Apart from his dazzling lighting skills, he's also an avid photographer, often responsible for our studio snaps! We caught up with him for a few minutes to chat about how he got into animation and put him in front of the lens for a change.

How did you get into animation?

A long time ago, in a country far, far away…I was called forth to programming. Since the early years in highschool my home PC had a dual boot with Solaris Sun and Unix sco, that's how much of a geek I was!

Before starting (or trying to start) college - as a temporary thing before even knowing what I wanted to do for the rest of my life - I worked as a Junior Network Administrator in a Geological Data Measurement company. They had IRIX silicon graphics as well as linux boxes in the company network. The silicon graphics boxes got me curious about their other uses, CAD/CAM and graphics. That’s where it all started.

I started as a Product Photographer, slowly moving into Industrial Design in the same company. I got asked to do some product renders for a company presentation with Apple and Rim. At the time I was working on rhinoceros and studio tools. I brought the 3d models to 3d studio max and thought… 'this is way cooler!'

The presentation went really well, the products ended up being sold in Apple stores, and I made the decision… it took me a few months to fully make the change from 3d for the manufacturing industry to the visual, but since then I have never looked back.

How long have you worked in the animation industry?

About 8 years total.

Long story short - I spent a few years in Argentina as an animator, rigger, motion-capture operator and cleaning, project lead, and project supervisor mostly for TV commercials and the Cartoon Network. I also got to freelance for a few studios around Europe. Spending about 1 year as a lead lighter & groomer in Paris. From there I jumped to Germany for a few months as a lead lighter. Got home from Germany, and little did I know that 20 days after stepping down from the Dusseldorf-Buenos Aires plane, I was getting into the Buenos Aires-Dublin one.

And…. emmh… here I am.

What's your current role and what does it involve?

Lighting Supervisor. This involves developing, implementing, maintaining and standardising the lighting, shading and compositing pipeline with a primary focus on maximising efficiency, scalability and reliability.

I support the art directors and lead lighters so they can achieve the required look for their project. I provide leadership and support for the in-house and external lighting Leads, both creatively and technically. I document and communicate the lighting, shading and compositing procedures, workflows and standards to the CG team. Inbetween which there's a lot of other software development stuff, like shader writing, and pipeline related tools.

What are your biggest influences/inspirations?

For me inspirations change a lot, while the experience and the work itself drives my interests. But they range from the amazing Chip Foose designs, to Joe Cornish photography, to some particular people which I've worked with or met somehow along the way and can’t help but to be amazed at the amount of knowledge they hold, and long that somedayI'll have at least half of that! Like Mario Marengo, Peter Bowmar, Olivier paquet, to name but a few.

What’s your favourite tool to use and why?

I've always had an internal fight over which I like more… the programming techie part or the visual part…

That’s why I would have to say I miss working in Houdini and Renderman, those two pieces of software have them both: high level tools to work, and amazing low level tools exposed under the hood to feed your wildest geeky desires.

What advice would you give someone considering getting into animation?

Forget about 3d animation and media university courses, they are too general, and you will come out only scratching the surface of the software. Instead focus on the area you like the most and go to the root. Do you like animation? Do art in college, life drawing. Do you like the techie part? Pipeline? Do computer science or programming at university.

Knowing the foundations will render you able to do what you want in the best possible way in the animation business, maximizing your potential.

What do you like most about working in animation?

The ever changing creative environment of the work place. It is relaxed and chilled. But of course it gets kind of serious when it's needed. It is a workspace after all!

What’s been the most challenging thing about working in animation?

My daily tasks involve being on top of my tasks for 3 to 5 projects at the same time. That could be pipeline, tools coding, shader writing, setting project specific requirements, a bit of look development, and the same old story - trying to make it to deadlines under tight schedules!

It can get stressful when in a big studio and a lot of people depend on your job (as a small part of a whole of course).

But lucky me, I’m pressure immune!

Outside of animation what are you most passionate about?

Phase one digital medium format photography, downhill cycling, traveling, more traveling…and yes, pretty much everything but computers!

The picture below is a Phase One photo, cycling in Chengdu China, while traveling around South East Asia for a few months last year. No computer or phone for the whole trip.

Here's the camera gear I work with: Phase One DF, P+ digital back, and two film backs (usually velvia/provia 400, and illford delta B&W loaded on them), Phase One AFD 80mm LS 2.8, Mamiya MF 35mm 3.5, Mamiya MF 180mm 4.0, Profoto B1, Rfi SoftBox, fitler holder grids, zoom Reflector and 2 Profoto Airs, Lee 105mm circular polarizer, Lee gradient ND filters .3H, .6H, .9H, and .3S.

Aaaand… that's basically the whole rig!

You can find more of Ezequiel's photography on his website and some of the great tutorials he did for us here and here!

Are you interested in getting into animation? Keep an eye on our Behind-the-Scenes and Tutorials pages for more interviews and #TopTips!

Anahita Tabarsi

Anahita is Brown Bag Films' Marketing Director, Digital & Social and drinks more than five coffees a day...

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