Animated tale: graphic artist brings characters to life – Career At A Glance

Animated tale: graphic artist brings characters to life – Career At A Glance – Lyndon Barrois

Carolyn M. Brown

AGE: 39

TITLE: Animator director/supervisor

COMPANY: ESC Entertainment

DUTIES: Scheduling production of shots,

overseeing budgets, and hiring

and directing animators

SALARY: $40,000-$150,000

Character animation conjures up images of singing aliens (Lilo & Stitch) and superheroes leaping from skyscrapers (Spiderman). With the advent of computers, more people have become exposed to computer graphic animation and special effects animation as seen in movies like The Matrix.

For the past 10 years, Lyndon Barrois has been a character animator. He is currently serving as animation director /supervisor for The Matrix sequels Reloaded and Revolution for ESC Entertainment in Alameda, California. Despite the widespread popularity of computer graphics in filmmaking, “it is a misnomer that you have to study computer science to be a computer animator,” he says.

It wasn’t until Barrois landed a job with Los Angeles’ Rhythm & Hues studios in 1996 that he even learned how to use the computer as an animation tool.

* Storytelling through motion: As animation director/supervisor for The Matrix sequels (Reloaded bit the theatres in May and Revolution is slated for November 2003), Barrois’ duties include scheduling the production of shots, managing budgets, and hiring and directing a team of animators. “To put special effects into some of the live-action settings involved in the film,” says Barrois, “I spent two months on the set in Sydney, Australia, making sure the live-action plates were properly shot in terms of interaction with the character and environments.”

Barrois knows that a good movie starts with a good story. “Visual effects should enhance the story, not just serve as eye candy,” says Barrois, who earned an M.F.A. in film and experimental animation from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Valencia, California. The 39-year-old animator’s handiwork can also be seen in Babe: Pig In The City, Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, and Scooby Doo.

* More than a hobby: Although Barrois is at the top of his field, he backed into animation. “I’ve always had an interest in movies, but never in special-effects heavy films like Star Wars. My interests were more in dramas and comedies,” he recalls. “I always drew pictures and sculpted things with clay, wire, and paper.”

He was well on his way to becoming an established graphic artist and miniature sculptor by the time he entered Xavier University in New Orleans. His one-inch high, painted sculptures of athletes, created from chewing gum wrappers, caught the eye of one of his college professors. “He was blown away and encouraged me to exhibit the sculptures at Super Bowl XXIV … my miniatures took off.”

While working as an instructor at an art guild called Young Aspirations/Young Artists, Barrois came across a catalog for CalArts. “I applied to film school with the idea of animating my sculptured,” he says. In the fall of 1992, Barrois moved to California. He pursued his interest in stop-animation, where intricate puppets are moved one increment and one frame at a time. When the film or videotape is played back, the movement is seen in real time, as in the television series The PJs, on which Barrois served as director.

* It’s all in the timing: Animators must have technical ability, as well as a keen sense of timing. Bringing diverse fields of study together, the animator brings inanimate characters to life.

Barrois says he has African American colleagues who hold key position at major studios, including PDI/Dreamworks, Rhythm and Hues, and SONY Pictures Imageworks. Many top-notch animators start out with traditional cel animation (Disney animation, for example) and advance to high-end computer visual effects for feature films, television, and games. “I am always on the lookout for ways to expose … our involvement in this industry It’s not that we can’t do it, it’s that we generally don’t know these opportunities exist.”

COPYRIGHT 2003 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group