The Drum's 'Unsung Heroes' series is a celebration of the people in the industry who slog hard behind the limelight for their companies, brands and clients. As they are seldom in the spotlight for their contribution to the success of campaigns, this is their time to shine.
Describing animated marketing work for The Lego Batman Movie as one the campaigns he is most proud of, Patton Tunstall, a computer graphics (CG) supervisor at ATK PLN, says he loves his job because it is more than just 'superhero movies and explosions'.
Why is your job important?
I help to define how we do things and how we want to do things. In a very general sense, it’s up to me to put our team in a position where we can execute art to the full extent of our ability.
That includes working with our production team on job/resource planning, and reviewing with artists to facilitate communication. It also includes maintaining a structured workflow and evaluating technical developments that we can utilise.
It’s a bit of a multi-tiered role, and I am fortunate to work with a ton a brilliant people who help me figure it out.
What is the hardest and most stressful part of your job?
Managing communication between a team of passionate artists. Each artist brings their own personality and skill-set to the team, and it is important for me to tailor my communication with that in mind.
While that is the trickiest part, when I’m effective in doing so, and optimising everyone’s talents, the result is so much fun.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Being able to push the envelope technically and produce work that connects with audiences in a unique way.
What is the first thing that comes to people’s minds when you tell them your job?
To be honest, superhero movies and explosions. As a CG Supervisor with a background in VFX shot execution, people instantly think that I am digitally blowing things up all the time.
How would you correct/explain to them what you do?
Oh man, it is hard. There’s no short answer. There is just so much more to VFX and CG than most realize! I would probably start with pointing out the constant presence of CG in movies, TV and commercials.
Half the time people do not even realise what is and is not fake (which is admittedly what we shoot for), and pointing little things out help to explain. It might be a little overwhelming for them if I begin talking about all elements of a workflow.
Is there anything you want to change in your job?
In short, no. I love what I do, and the people I work with. That said, this industry relies on constant evolution. It is important for all of us to look for ways we can optimize our workflow and roles, and work in technology that is always changing.
Flexibility is key in my world, and part of the fun is changing things up project to project.
Which campaign that you’ve worked on, that you are most proud of?
Our Lego campaigns really make me proud. When we first started with a campaign for The Lego Batman Movie, we decided to create a brand new pipeline just for the work. This enabled us to do our best to hit film quality rendering on a commercial timeline. It was probably the craziest three months of my life, building a the pipeline while executing a multiple spot campaign at the same time.
The success of the project opened our eyes to the benefits of taking risks and pushing the envelope. We’ve now worked on marketing campaigns for The Lego Batman Movie, The Lego Ninjago Movie and are just starting some work for The Lego Movie 2.
We have continued adding to the “Lego” pipeline and now use it for various projects that benefit from GPU rendering. To look back and see where we started to where we are now, it really blows my mind.
Is there a person in your industry you’re keen to emulate?
I would not say there is one specific person that I emulate. I respect and admire the work of thousands of artists, from the shot work of massive blockbusters to ink sketches on Instagram.
But I think that it is incredibly important for all of us to bring our own approach and perspective to our work, and look to each other to learn and grow.
The best part of our industry is that it’s such a collaborative environment and we all just want to work together to keep pushing limits!
If you weren’t a CG supervisor, what would you be?
I have put effort and time into this question. I would have to be in this industry, there is no other answer. CG is my life, and that could never change. If not a supervisor, I would be doing anything needed to be a part of the team.