“[My job] feels like breathing life into the pictures we draw, giving it attitude, and emotion – the character I am working on keeps me going.”
Ramchandra Birje, or Ravi as he is known by his peers, has been an integral part of the DNEG team for close to 9 years. As Head of Animation at DNEG in India, Ravi has worked his way up through the team and has been a part of marquee projects like Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Ant-Man, and The Fate of the Furious, to name but a few. Read on as he takes you through his journey from Applied Arts College, to studying animated movies frame by frame using a VCR, to contributing to the building DNEG’s Animation team in India.
Hi Ravi! What brought you into the world of VFX and Animation?
I’ve been very good at drawing since my childhood and took an interest in 2D art very early on – I used to draw Batman and Spiderman in various poses, amongst other things! Even though I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do as a career, I knew I wanted to join a creative field.
When I discovered the world of Art Direction I knew, I had found my calling. To gain formal training in creative arts and its techniques I decided to join an Applied Arts college and I did my major in Illustration. One day, as I was interviewing for a role, I got to see an Animator flipping drawings and creating magic on paper. I was lucky to get selected as an apprentice, an “in-between artist”, and really started living and breathing animation. After work my colleagues and I would chill at the beach doing live sketching, or study animated movies frame by frame using a VCR. I was very interested in Disney’s characters and their visual treatment – it made me want to create and work on things like that.
I got to work with and interact with great artists in the industry, and as I gained experience and skills I slowly started working my way to the top. I always had one goal – being the best animator the industry has – and I still try to achieve that to date. It still continues to motivate me and keeps me going, even today after all these years.
How has your journey been so far?
Progressing to a head of department role is something that occurred organically and I am very grateful for it.
Heading a department has its own set of challenges and learnings. That’s something that has taught me a lot. From leading a team of just 15 people (that was the size of the core team of my department when it started) to approximately 140 talented artists today across our studios in India, we’ve done quite a lot of scaling up! Naturally it has been an enriching experience, yet challenging at the same time, especially while working from home.
What is your day-to-day like as Head of Animation for DNEG in India?
It is largely about interacting with my team, understanding their issues and offering solutions to ensure the seamless delivery of our projects. We often need to move forward quickly yet effectively since time is of the essence. My day usually starts off with a scrum call to discuss the way forward on the projects at hand. With so many shows happening I need to have a bird’s eye view of all the projects that my department is working on, and focus on those that need my attention immediately.
What do you like most about your job?
To be honest, it is the magic we create here! The kind of magic that’s being created on a simple piece of paper and gets translated onto the screen! It feels like breathing life into the pictures we draw, giving it attitude, and emotion – the character I am working on keeps me going.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
Observation is a science and if you master that it will definitely help you in this industry. Observation is the most important element as far as a Animator is concerned. Observation not only helps your creativity but also propels your growth. I started in the age of pencil and paper and today I animate using incredible technology and tools, but the skills are the same.
What’s one thing that is always on your desk when you work?
I love to doodle and sketch so I always have a drawing pad and pen or pencil with me.
What’s your ‘special power’ at work?
Respect and be respected. I strive to respect every artist I work with. I feel this is a very basic trait that goes a long way: when you respect the artist, you respect the work done and you respect the effort put into creating the masterpiece. It’s something I feel should be followed across all industries, not just ours.
What do you look forward to every day?
Inspiration – I find it in small things! The most mundane tasks and even the new guys who join in. I draw a lot of inspiration from them. I also find inspiration in the new technologies that keep evolving, urging us to adapt. I find inspiration in adapting to the changing landscape.
How did you feel on your first day at DNEG?
I was quite nervous and wasn’t sure if I would survive this environment and experience… Glad to say that I have!
What is your proudest moment to date?
Many actually – when I chill and hang out with my colleagues, the sheer privilege of sharing a moment with artists and managers who focus on their goals and bring out the optimum best in the teams is really inspiring. Secondly, when I got a chance to go to London and work from the DNEG office there. It was an experience I very dearly cherish.
Finish this sentence: DNEG is…
Not a company but a large family with diverse people, talents, and cultures. It is not just about business, it’s also about 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.