Meet the Artist: Christopher Nichols

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Old 01 January 2006   #1
Meet the Artist: Christopher Nichols


Christopher Nichols
Senior Technical Director
Sony Pictures Imageworks

Like many Artists in VFX, Christopher Nichols’ background came from an unrelated field. His undergraduate degree was in Mathematics and Fine Arts from Colgate University. It was his Math background that first got him into CG that he used to visualize complex multi-dimensional space.

He then carried that interest in his graduate studies, where he got a Masters of Architecture from Rice University. His big passion in CG is in lighting. He has studied CG lighting both artistically and technically for a number of years, starting with architectural spaces, and carried through into VFX. He had studies Global Illumination techniques at an early stage, and has recently released two training DVDs on the subject that are available at the Gnomon Workshop. They are “Global Illunination: Exteriors,” and “Global Illuminations: Interiors,” and focus on Vray lighting techniques.

Christopher’s film credits include “The Day After Tomorrow”, “I, Robot”, and “Stealth,” which he worked on during his time at Digital Domain. Currently, he is a Senior Technical Director at Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Related links:
http://www.redeyetales.com/





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Old 01 January 2006   #2
Hello Christopher.

I am wondering what your most challenging assignment has been and why?

Also, what types of shots make you cringe when you think of how difficult they may be to achieve?

Thanks for taking the time to do this Q&A. It's one of the best features of CGTalk, in my opinion.
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Old 01 January 2006   #3
Hey Christopher!

How much does your education in math effect your VFX work? and what made you want to get into cg? Thanks!
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Old 01 January 2006   #4
Hello Christopher

Can I ask what's your favourite 3d app?

Also What should we the students who's interested in the VFX field be aware or concerned about? in terms of breaking in

and finally, how easy is it to break in the VFX field compared to other CG fields?

My questions might sound awkward, sryy about that

Hope you well and further success

cheers
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Old 01 January 2006   #5
Hey Christopher,

As someone with a heavy math and technical background, what has your experience been as you've transitioned to being both technically and artistically minded?

What type of path do you recommend for students and semi-pros who would eventually like to specialize in lighting and cinematography? I’ve heard that both of those fields of the industry are beginning to converge, has this been you observation?

Thanks so much for taking your time to answer our questions, the whole community really appreciates your willingness to talk with us!
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Last edited by chrisWhite : 01 January 2006 at 12:36 AM. Reason: Spelling
 
Old 01 January 2006   #6
Hello Christopher.

How many years are you doing the VFX ?

I just want to add, your work is really fantastic.

Thanks!
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Old 01 January 2006   #7
hey there i see that you worked on the day after tommorow. Im wondeing did u work on the big wave? If you did did they use mayas fluids stuff to create it or some in house software?
 
Old 01 January 2006   #8
Hey Chris, just curious, what project are you working on here at Sony and what department you're in? Also, got any details on what specific work you did on your previous films? Thanks and see ya round!
 
Old 01 January 2006   #9
Hey Chris

Hey Chris,
What are the three biggest problems that you as a director see in the noobs, fresh out of College? Aside from having a wicked portfolio, what can we as budding CG artists and animators do to get the job? Win contests? Get Degrees? Pray?
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Old 01 January 2006   #10
any advice for people studing cg on there free time with the hopes of making it into the business?
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Old 01 January 2006   #11
Hey Chris,

I just thought I'd mention that it's very inspiring to hear how you came from a totally unrelated field and then went to excel so well in cg! You are truly a master at what you do.

Take care!
-Tyson
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Old 01 January 2006   #12
I was wondering if you are at all interested in working on the animated films being made by Sony, in addition to VFX work.
 
Old 01 January 2006   #13
Hey guys... Lots of questions... Sorry for the late response, I will try to answer some of your questions below one at a time.
 
Old 01 January 2006   #14
Originally Posted by Floyd Bishop: Hello Christopher.

I am wondering what your most challenging assignment has been and why?

Also, what types of shots make you cringe when you think of how difficult they may be to achieve?

Thanks for taking the time to do this Q&A. It's one of the best features of CGTalk, in my opinion.


Well challenge is hard one to answer because, due to the nature of what we do, every new challenge, becomes the most difficult one you have done. But I would have to say trying to actually get into the VFX world was one of the hardest things. Most of that is about knowing the right people, being at the right place, finding the right project, and combine that with some luck.

What makes me cringe? It may not be the answer you are looking for, but usually what I hate is when I am asked to do things that are unnatural (in terms of lighting). I want lighting to work the way lights do in the real world. I realize that on set, lighting is not very “natural” either, but it is more natural then what we are asked to do sometimes. I guess that is why I enjoy Global Illumination so much.
 
Old 01 January 2006   #15
Originally Posted by rblitz7: Hey Christopher!

How much does your education in math effect your VFX work? and what made you want to get into cg? Thanks!


I don't do much shader writing or programming mostly because I like sticking to the artistic side of things. But Math is a very powerful educational tool. It helps you breakdown problems, understand logic, debug issues, and most importantly, try to find the most efficient way of attacking a problem. I always found that the “art” in math was to find the most elegant way to solve the problem.

I got into CG because I was interested in visualization. This started with my math background and continued through my architecture career.
 
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