“I enjoy seeing artists grow both technically and creatively during a show, becoming more confident in their ability as a Crowd artist.”
Debbie Langford is a CG Crowd Supervisor based at our DNEG studio in Vancouver. Since joining DNEG in 2015, Debbie has progressed in the Creature Department from CG Crowd TD, to Lead to Supervisor, and has worked on the likes of Uncharted, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Dune, First Man, Ant-Man and The Wasp to name but a few. Keep on reading to find out more about her journey from Layout to Motion Capture (Mocap) to CG Crowd, get a sneak peek into the Crowd work our team delivered on Dune, and learn more about DNEG’s global Crowd crew, which counts many talented women amongst its ranks!
Hi Debbie! What brought you into the world of VFX and Animation?
When I was a kid I made a thaumatrope of a bird and a cage image, which when spun quickly gave the illusion of the bird inside the cage. This triggered my fascination with optical trickery, which led me as an adult to VFX. It’s exciting to think that the imagery we create entertains and inspires others too.
I studied A-levels in Art, Technology & Film Studies and wanted to find something that combined all of these interests. My Technology teacher suggested Computer Animation. I looked into the subject and thought it would be a perfect fit for me, as it’s a great combination of creative and technical disciplines. Side note: teachers are awesome! Their enthusiasm, encouragement and guidance had an immeasurably positive effect on my life.
So I applied for a place on Bournemouth’s Computer Visualisation & Animation degree in the UK and have been working in the VFX/Animation industry ever since. I’ve worked in a lot of departments over the years – my first job was in Layout, then I moved to Mocap, then to Creature to focus on CG Crowd work. All my past professional experience contributes to becoming an accomplished Crowd artist. Layout for instance, involves camera work and shot composition, which actually helps a lot for Crowd, because you are effectively painting the scenery with people. With Mocap you analyse movement, which refines natural timing and reinforces the effectiveness of strong key poses, both crucial skills for Crowd.
Any career highlight(s) so far?
Before joining DNEG in 2015 I worked at a stop-motion animation company in the UK. It was incredible to see the animators at work, reaching through tiny model doorways, to steadily move the characters, giving them lifelike traits and personality.
Working on Dune was also a great experience. One of the sequences I worked on was ‘Paul’s fighting vision’. It’s a fully CG, very acrobatic fighting scene which I was thrilled to work on.
Fast forward (or not!) to 50:36 to hear about the VFX behind ‘Paul’s fighting vision’
What is your day-to-day like as a CG Crowd Supervisor?
I check-in with the Crowd team and see if there are any issues or questions. Lots of departments feed in and out of Crowd, so I will usually speak with the leads and supervisors in bookend departments, to anticipate any potential bottlenecks in the upcoming shot work. I’ll be writing training pages, sharing performance reference footage and giving creative and technical feedback to the team.
There are a lot of talented women in DNEG’s global Crowd team which is fantastic. We have female crowd artists, leads, supervisors, software developers, all doing incredible work. It’s great to see more women in VFX!
What do you like the most about your job?
I enjoy seeing artists grow both technically and creatively during a show, becoming more confident in their ability as a Crowd artist.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
Don’t expect your career progression to always be a linear path. Sometimes the journey to your goals takes an indirect route. Be patient but persistent!
Time for some rapid fire questions – What’s one thing that is always on your desk when you work?
A bowl of oranges that I like to snack on during my day – I love the smell of fresh fruit!
What’s your ‘special power’ at work?
Information gathering. There is too much to know and learn for just one person. However if you can reach out and combine ideas with other team members, you can achieve exceptional results that would never be possible alone.
What are you most looking forward to every day?
I enjoy looking through the newly delivered Mocap. It’s always amazing to see how some of the super-skillful stage performers can manipulate and move their bodies. Sometimes the range of movement is so extreme that we have to recalibrate our system to accommodate for it!
How did you feel on your first day at DNEG?
I had just come back from the US after working for DreamWorks Animation and I was thrilled to be back in London. It’s such a fun city! I love that DNEG is within walking distance of Regent’s Park and many of the free-entry galleries and museums. It’s very inspiring.
What is your proudest moment to date?
When someone I respect in the industry told me that I inspired them. I think it’s great to tell someone, when you admire their work. Appreciation is the best motivation. As a supervisor, I believe it’s important to let people in my team know that I appreciate their work and value their ideas.
Finish this sentence: DNEG is…
Full of awesome, amazingly talented people!
To find out about VFX at DNEG, click here. And if you are interested in joining DNEG’s Oscar-winning team, stay tuned for our next ‘FOCUS’ and click here to find out more about our open positions across our studios in North America, Europe and India.