THIS MEXICAN CREATIVE WORKS AT THE INTERSECTION OF CINEMATOGRAPHY AND ANIMATION AND USES LIGHTING AS HIS MAIN TOOL FOR STORYTELLING.
Sunday May 21st, 20177
Photos: Courtesy of the artist.
Text: Lorena Canales
We met with Edgar Vega, a Mexican cinematographer, and animator who lives in New York, to talk about the use of lighting in his practice. Edgar has worked in lighting and compositing teams for several animated projects such as “Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos” from the Mexican franchise Huevocartoon and Nick Jr’s recent franchise, Block Party.
So, first off, what is lighting and compositing?
“Lighting in a CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) environment is generating the lights within a 3D software using a rendering engine, that is, that within your shot you get cinematographic characteristics that the director wants (light, shadow, contrast, texture, color, etcetera).
Compositing is managing the different render layers to get one final image. Similar to photoshop, where you have multiple overlapping layer, but in this case you have characters and stages.
These steps are usually the last in a production.”
Tell us about your experience working on Nick Jr’s project, Block Party.
“The short is about unity and teamwork, it was directed by Christopher Papa y Scott Kennell. In terms of production, it took around 2 months to put together, there were 3 different teams working on it, only in lighting and compositing, which is where I contributed, it took around 120 hours. In its first week it got 2 million views on the website only, it was a hit.”
The main differences, according to his experience, between an animated production in Mexico and one in the US, is the production company’s pipeline, more robust in the US, and the use of cinematographic language, “ In Mexico (in general) movies rely heavily on the animation for storytelling and usually don’t pay much attention to other tools.”
What do you see as the intersection between cinematography and animation?
“Throughout the years of the digital era, it looks like we are obsessed with showing more and more definition and resolution, this has denaturalized the way things and people are shown. Through the experimentation with different lighting and imaging techniques, mostly film now, I’ve been able to experiment over and over by taking a “carbon copy” of reality. My ultimate goal would be to mix both worlds, the digital, highly processed, with the organic result of past techniques.
Both worlds could have different conceptions and directions, but it doesn’t mean that they live in enmity, it’s all about the process, older imaging techniques educate people differently, you’d become more rational about your framing, waste of film and cost of doing it, also people are very used to seeing skin tones, sky colors, etcetera. The film doesn’t lie or it does it pretty well that we don’t notice, by applying this knowledge at the time of doing animation or other lighting techniques, no shot is wasted and the result is closer to the trained eye.”
Edgar’s interest in lighting as a storytelling tool reveals itself in his latest photo series shot entirely in medium format, he explores landscapes, urbanscapes, snippets of people in the city and portrait, experimenting with different films, and settings in order to “carbon copy” reality.
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