We had the opportunity to chat and learn a little more about iAnimate Rigging instructor Jonah Austin.
Hey Jonah, tell us about your experience on Beowulf and Benjamin Button as a technical animator and what led you to those great production.
Yeah, well first I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where I focused on experimental and traditional animation. I took many figure drawing and anatomy classes which would be crucial later in my career. Then I moved to LA to study at Gnomon School of Visual Effects to learn Maya. Fortunately I had a great instructor, Rick Grandy, who turned me onto rigging. I had no idea what it was, but the dual technical and artistic aspects of it intrigued me. I worked hard in class and got my first job at Sony Pictures Imageworks as a technical animator (rigger). First I had to learn MEL scripting in about a week. I had very little scripting experience but the senior guys helped me a lot and I picked it up out of necessity. While there, I was also trained in Sony's proprietary facial rigging solution. That’s when I became a facial TD on Beowulf, which was a great education in the Uncanny Valley. After that I moved to Digital Domain and work for Steve Preeg on the Curious Case of Benjamin Button for 2 years. That was an amazing experience with amazing results. I feel like that was probably the most elegant rigging solution in production. Then I transitioned onto Tron:Legacy and rigged over 80 assets from Rinzler's digital double to giant floating rocks and everything in between. It was on Tron that I switched from rigging to animation, it led me to land a Lead Animator position at MPC (The Moving Picture Company).