With immense professional experience, In-Ah Mellor is lead character animator and trainer.
In-Ah is a graduate of Gobelins, l’ecole de l’image in traditional and 3D animation in France. She has worked in the industry at companies such as Framestore, Double Negative, MPC and Sony. Her film credits include Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Tale of Despereaux, Where the Wild Things Are, Iron Man 2, Paul, The Smurfs, Hotel Transylvania, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, The Amazing Spiderman 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Goosebumps. She was nominated for a VES Award for her work as Lead Animator on China Doll in Oz, the Great and Powerful. As a German-Korean hybrid, In-Ah has a passion for travel and languages, and gives animation workshops in Europe every year. When she is not animating or teaching she loves to paint on large canvases and tries to participate in the annual Rascal Art Event.
Check out her exclusive interview.
The Virtual Assist welcomes In-Ah (Roediger) Mellor. Kindly share your educational background.
I started learning 2D Animation at the Lycee Technique des Arts et Metiers in Luxembourg, which lead on to being selected for the graduation year in 2D animation at the Gobelins, l’ecole de l’image in Paris, France. I continued on to their 3D program, which was separate back then and required re-applying for the same school. After graduating in 2003, I had the chance to spend a year at the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg to work on my own short film. My student films prior to that were all collaborations.
How you inclined towards the creative art of Animation?
I always loved drawing and cartoons, as many kids do! I hadn’t even heard about animation as a career until I finished school and was looking into what studies to take up. It was actually during an internship at a radio station (RTL Luxembourg) that I heard about the LTAM where you could get a 2 year higher diploma in 2D animation!
I was drawing caricatures of the DJs, which lead to me designing and drawing the RTL christmas card, which then lead to an internship at a graphics design studio and hearing about the animation school. Once I heard this and imagined working in animation it felt like fate had lead me to what I was always destined to do! Corny? Yes, but for a 20 year-old that’s how it felt!
According to you, how knowledge and aesthetics of 2D Animation helps for better 3D Animation.
Many excellent 3D animators nowadays have no experience in 2D animation. In my opinion you do not need 2D knowledge to animate well, however it does help in getting strong poses and thinking about silhouettes when posing your character.
Please let us know in detail about your professional credentials.
Do you mean projects I have worked on? You can find this information here: https://www.in-ah.com/cv
How do you prepare yourself for Animation of any new character? How do you study for it from real world and other materials?
The most important step, next to gathering a lot of reference material, is to know your rig well. How well you can animate what you have studied in live action material, or maybe sketched and studied in real life, also depends on how well the rig you are working with is developed. In terms of studying reference material it really comes down to heaps of observation, understanding the movement and how it comes about (e.g. anatomy), and interpreting or exaggerating what you are seeing to make it a stronger performance for your 3D character.
What are your own list of do’s and don’ts for Animation?
I don’t have a proper list, but I try to stick by a few rules:
- Try to get a good feeling for the character next to observing body mechanics;
- Start animating with basic controls and then work your way up to the details once the performance is solid;
- Aim to block shots as fast as possible using solid video reference in order to get feedback as soon as possible;
- Don’t hide when you get stuck – ask for help and get it solved, if it’s a common problem share the solution with peers;
- If you feel unhappy with your animation, change it or start over – avoid small adjustments to an existing problem, delete and try again!
You had worked in leading industry studios like Framestore, DNEG, Sony Picture Imageworks, MPC and many other studios. How do you find difference in various Animation pipelines?
I have found workplaces to be fairly similar. Every studio has their own pipeline and way of doing things, but there are parallels throughout. You adapt to the one you are currently using fairly quickly IMO.
Animation is based on techniques, not softwares. But, according to you, which are best softwares for 3D Animation?
Most studios use Maya, so that would be the software I am most comfortable with and so prefer. I have worked with 3D Studio Max, but only at one commercials Studio. If you are looking into which software to learn in order to ‘get into’ the animation industry I think Maya would be the software of choice.
Which were your most challenging Animation projects and how you tackled them successfully?
Every project has had it’s challenges for me. It varies from challenges with animation itself, challenges with production schedules, and challenges with working environments. I am not sure if I always tackle them successfully, but I try to stay positive, remove myself from the situation if I need to, and just forge on and get through it. So if it’s a challenging animation for example, and I feel like I have been banging my head against a wall, I would go for a walk and try to give it a fresh approach when I return to my desk.
With challenging work hours it’s all about getting through it without losing your marbles. Eat well, sleep well, or try and at least mix that into the late nights and drinking that comes with overtime.
What inspired you to jump to Academics after huge experience in production?
After having children the demands of feature film production and it’s sometimes grueling hours where no longer feasible for me. I always loved teaching and mentoring next to working on projects, so it was a natural transition to teaching part time, and felt like the perfect work/life solution. I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to do so, and I am so very grateful to Vanarts for giving me the possibility to work and teach in a field that I am so passionate about, while also having enough time to connect with my family.
What are your advice for aspiring Animators?
Keep on animating, a lot. Practice may not make you perfect right away, but it will definitely help you improve. Don’t be shy to show your work for feedback, and take constructive criticism on board. Show that you are a team player and not a prima donna that is high maintenance.
Apart from an expert Animator, how is In-Ah in real life?
At the moment, sleep deprived! Having small children is probably the most challenging and at the same time rewarding thing I have ever done. I am looking forward to all the fun adventures we will have, and hope that they will enjoy art, animation, and travel as much as I do.
We thanks In-Ah for such inspiring interview. Wishing her huge success for all her endevours.