What was your first job in the industry? What did it teach you?

I was a junior VFX artist working at Method Studios about 8 years ago. I was hired after I finished my master’s degree, and my responsibility was to create CGI effects for games, TV shows and feature films. It provided me with an opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge I gained during my education to real-world projects. 

I learned a lot of technology and CGI knowledge from my talented coworker artists and from my leads and supervisors. I also learned the importance of effective communication, sharing ideas, and working together towards a common goal through these collaborative projects. I think those are the most valuable lessons it taught me. 

What project are you most proud to have worked on?

The feature film project that I’m most proud to have worked on is Spider-Man: No Way Home. I did a good chunk of VFX shots on this one and also created bunch of digital tool sets to allow other artists to create CGI content. It has been nominated Best Visual Effects for Academy Awards and won Saturn Award’s Best Superhero Film. 

The TV show project that I’m most proud to have worked on is Stranger Things Season4. I was a lead artist on multiple episodes and leading a team of artists created highly stylized CGI elements. The TV show has been nominated Outstanding Special Visual Effects for Primetime Emmy Awards and HPA Awards.

What’s the best part of your job? What’s the most challenging?

Best parts:

Creative Control: As a lead artist, I have a significant influence on the visual effects of a project. I get to have opportunities to shape the artistic direction, collaborate with other departments and bring imaginative ideas to life. It’s gratifying to see my creative vision come to fruition on the screen.

Technical Expertise: I have the opportunity to work with cutting-edge tools and software, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in visual effects and CGI. I can enhance my technical skills and stay updated with industry advancements and apply innovative techniques to achieve stunning visual results.

Leadership and Mentorship: As the lead of my team, I have the chance to guide and mentor young professionals. I love sharing my knowledge and creating a collaborative environment. I enjoy the process of seeing my team members excel in their craft and leading my team to contribute to the success of the project.

Challenging parts:

Time and Resource Management: Managing FX pipeline, allocating resources effectively and ensuring deadlines are met can be challenging sometimes. It requires me to plan the timeline beforehand, balance and manage the tasks for my team, and making critical decisions to ensure the project success.

Problem-solving under Pressure: Deadlines can be tight sometimes and also unexpected technical issues can occur. As the lead, I may face pressure to find solutions quickly and efficiently while maintaining the quality of the work. This requires me to stay calm and collaborate with the team to overcome obstacles effectively.

What do you look for when reviewing Telly Award entries? 

As a visual effect artist myself, the first key aspects to me is visual impact. I’m not talking about solely using CGI or motion graphics to add more visual effects to the image, using other techniques i.e lens choosing, editing, lighting, they all can generate great visual impact for the projects. Do they grab attention and evoke an emotional response? Are they aesthetically pleasing and effectively enhance the storytelling or messaging of the project? Visual impact is crucial in creating a memorable and engaging experience for the audience.

I also pay attention to integration and seamlessness if there is any motion graphics or CGI elements used. Also, the effects should serve a purpose beyond just being visually impressive and effectively support the overall storytelling goals.

Lastly, I would consider the overall production value of the entry. The entry should demonstrate a well-rounded and polished production, showcase a high-quality with attention to all aspects. 

How do you unwind from work mode?

This is important for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. I normally would hit the gym after work and spend quality time with my family when I’m off work. I also make plans for the weekend, such as going out for dinner with my family, book a museum trip or enjoy a movie in the movie theater.

Do you have any specific practices you lean on to fuel your creativity?

There are lots of ways to simulate creativity, to me I think exposing myself to art or music is the best. As an artist myself, I often explore different genres and styles which allow me to spark new ideas from time to time.

When did you know that this career is what you wanted to do?

I would say when I was in grad school. I was fascinated by mathematics and physics because of my grandparents as they are both mathematics professors, and I also got influenced by all kinds of artistic forms. Visual Effects is kind of perfect for me as it combines technology with art. So, I can use math, real world physics and programming language to solve problems and also create artistic visual impacts at the same time.

Who should we look out for next? 

I would highly recommend my wife, Xin (Cynthia) Chen. She is an outstanding award winning Editor and Colorist, also a founder of her own company Xin Studio. She also won People’s Telly last year and this year.

What’s a work tool you use every day and what’s one that is obsolete that you wish still existed?  

I used software like Houdini and Nuke every day to create visual effects and CGI. I don’t have any obsoletes that I wish still existed, I think the innovation and newly developed technology is going to replace the old ones – I’m very optimistic about the technology evolving which is happening every day.

Why are you interested in judging for The Telly’s

I am interested in judging for the Telly’s Awards because of my deep passion for the industry and my genuine appreciation for exceptional creative work. Throughout my career as a lead FX artist, I have had the privilege of witnessing the incredible talent and dedication that goes into producing outstanding content across various mediums. Being part of the judging panel for the Telly’s Awards would also allow me to play an active role in recognizing and celebrating the incredible achievements of artists, filmmakers, and creators. It would be an honor to contribute my expertise and experience to evaluate the submissions and help identify the most deserving winners.