Interview with Jonatan Catalan
Q. What advice would you give a lighting artist on how to make a shot look right in these different scenarios: bright sunlight, underwater and a lightning storm?
Bright sunlight - In this kind of lighting the most important are the colors, with warm and pleasant tones, there are times when the color is more important than light, and in this case with a direct light and some rebounds to help is enough, but you need to work with good colors to get the right feel.
Underwater - The atmosphere is the key, good depth, volumetric lights, particles and dust, some nice caustic ... the color here is important too, whenever you do something in nature you realize how complex it is to make it with all the details, a good idea is to see many pictures to see references of color and atmosphere.
Lighting Storm - I love this kind of lighting, very dramatic, desaturated, marking the outline of the characters ... is truly cinematic, it's a good chance to play with the black areas, the shadows are not our enemies! Many people think that good lighting is where you see the whole picture well and without shadows ... I think the other way around, playing with shadows is fun and having this type of lighting, we have a very strong key light to mark the important and the shadows will do the rest.
Q. What kinds of details do you look for in the way light interacts with surfaces of CG creatures and objects that tells you if it's working well or not?
I love to illuminate characters, highlight the details of the model or the feel from the acting of the animator. Following the instructions of the director, is very important to go in the right direction and a very funny process
Here it is important to have knowledge of shading, sometimes you need to adjust some of the subsurface scattering parameters to highlight the rim or backlight, working with the specular or glossy for direct light ... having a base of traditional lighting will help you know how to highlight the character or object in the best way to perform well in the picture.
Q. On Facebook we often see the cartoons of animators/artists saying all work and no pay or less pay. Are you agreeing on this?
Well it is a sensitive issue, there are times when circumstances are in a job where you find it difficult to leave, you have not a portfolio that allows you to get better jobs, or want to try other projects ... if you can keep your economy with a stable job, and in your free time you want to help a team of people to cooperate in a very interesting project, I think the opportunity may be good, maybe with that, you can get better jobs and projects.
But you can't live working for free, there are people who abuse that, and it seems that people who start or want to work in 3D, must have to start working for free, and that is wrong.
However, we can decide to do it or not, if you think you cannot work for free for 4 months (for example) and that does not interest you personally or professionally, do not start the project.
Q. Do you feel your life is more or less stressful than people in non-artistic careers?
Depends on the project, in commercials when you work 20 days without rest, making a minimum 16h per day, sleeping 5h more or less, finishing your day when the sun rises ... you may sometimes hate this work, but it is also our vocation, I could not do crazy deadlines if I don't like my work, I know that is not the best way to work, but sometimes you have to do it.
Q. How do you manage to combine your personal life and work? In other words, you got some time to work on personal projects? Do you have any hobbies?
My wife will be able to answer that question better than me haha, I have not much personal time as I'd like, but I'm working to change that. On the personal works, recently finished my reel and last year I was working on projects and in my free time I worked on the reel, it was really stressful, so I think that even I have no time for personal projects.
The photography is my other hobby, I really love go to travel, lately I have not had much time for this ... but as I say I'm working to change that :)
Q. What would you suggest to someone wanting to become part of this industry? What are the essential skills to focus on when one starts?
I think the motivation and illusion are the key, if you have it is easier to evolve in this industry, of course you need to have artistic abilities, but the motivation will make you learn much faster.
Be humble and good partner is very important to work as part of a team, you can be very good artist, the best in the world, but if you cannot work in a team you will be fired no later than a month. The beauty of this work is to see how all the pieces come together, see the result of work of the whole team, there is no room for people who think it is the most important piece of the puzzle.
To learn in this industry is so important to know that our entire business is not new, perhaps the technology itself yes, but the artistic base existed many years ago, you can start to see black and white movies to see the performance of the actors, photography, composition. .. Disney movies will teach you what it really is animation, you really need to look back to move forward, and of course you need to know what tools and techniques are used now, but will always be a step in working as an animator, illuminator, modeling ... and people are working on that many years ago in different fields : )
Q. On which projects you are working these days?
Now I'm working on the preproduction of a children's TV series as lighting & shading director, and in another very interesting project but I can't give more details for now, I can only say that the way I chose when I left my company and I started to work as freelance, is coming to an end, and the next step is near ;)