Jan Hendrik Lange - 'The Man who makes paintings come alive'
Della had an interview with Jan Lange and enjoyed immensely hearing the story of the animation of Vladimir Kush's paintings for Metaphorical Voyage - a great video and DVD for animation/art students or young adults/adults that want to explore the surreal - full of wonder, imagination and non violent!
"Tell me something about yourself":
"I was born in Bloemfontein South Africa in 1973 to parents who were both in academia. We moved to the U.S during the 80’s. After high school, I went to Drexel University in Philadelphia for Electrical Engineering, graduated, got married, and started working in the software industry which was just becoming red hot due to the advent of the World Wide Web in the mid nineties. I chose software over electrical engineering because I had been doing it since age 14 and it came naturally and I loved it. I worked in that industry for a long time, eventually started my own consulting company, was very successful and got bored. I finally decided one day that I was not going to write software anymore, I was only going to do animation or video production."
"So what got you interested in Animation?"
"For me it was not watching cartoons or growing up with the idea that I wanted to become an animator or anything like that. My sister was the artist, I was the engineer, and I would never have dreamed that I would become interested in Art. I did not walk around with a sketch pad, and did not own art supplies. I did however take mechanical drawing classes in my early engineering courses and that was interesting. I was first exposed to an early version of an Autodesk 2D animation program back in the early 90’s and I learned a lot of the key framing concepts from just playing around with it. My first job after college was with a consulting company that was an IBM subsidiary. I got the opportunity to work on a multimedia project to promote the services of the company. The cool thing was that they gave me lots of fun software to play with. I saw 3d Studio (now called 3ds Max) and it grabbed my attention right away. Having a little AutoCAD knowledge from college helped too. That project was a huge success. I learned a ton about video production and animation, and at that point the seed was planted firmly.
The thing that kept me interested was the coolness of the technology. Being a geek already, I could already write a piece of software to make a computer do anything I wanted it to do, but now I was learning how to make any image that I could conceive digitally. I kept up with all the stuff over the years and took courses and learned on my own. I played a lot. I eventually had to come to a decision whether I wanted to solve the same boring corporate problems over and over or whether I wanted to blow people away with visual imagery. The visual stuff eventually won me over in the end."
"Why Vladimir Kush?"
I saw my first Kush painting in Las Vegas in 2001. It was the painting called Wind, and I was determined to purchase it. I had been a fan of Salvador Dali, but Kush was different for me because of his ideas. I liked that he took this idea of metaphor and used nature to make it real. He also placed puzzles and hidden gems in his paintings that you only discover later. There are paintings of his that I have looked at for years and then one day I notice something and it blows my mind all over again. I really cannot say that of any other painters so that is why I chose Kush."
"What was involved?"
"Vladimir and I worked on this film for at least a year before we saw each other again after our first meeting in Lahaina. As soon as I saw his work I realized it was adaptable for animation. This film could have been done in many ways. We could have done the whole thing as a 3d film. And let me tell you now that would have been a ton easier because we would not have had to duplicate the look of the paintings. In the beginning we started with just some animations for the Kush Fine Art galleries. People started asking how they could get copies of those animations. This spawned this idea of a DVD that people could buy. So we went with the idea of keeping with paintings and keeping the viewer reminded that they are viewing the work of a painter, but at the same time still making it into an experience for them. In other words, we created a voyage through the paintings. We started out by deciding what paintings to use, and Vladimir and his father decided on the arrangement of those paintings. There is a logical order to them, although since the beginning of the project it has changed some. I started the animation and modeling. There was a ton of 3D modeling, texturing and lighting which I did even though it did not seem like it. Just creating frames for the paintings took a while since I created those from scratch in 3D just for copyright reasons. Then you have all the little flying things and any other objects that may appear, and these had to be created and animated. The thing that took by far the longest was modifying paintings in Photoshop. Many people collaborated on the production for particle effects, music, sound effects . Iasos helped me with some particle effects for a few of the paintings. He does great work in this field and it is not an area that I enjoy as much as he does. The transitions between paintings were interesting projects in and of themselves as each one is different.We didn’t know what to do about the music for a long time didn’t eventually Brian Thomas Lambert wrote the score and we loved it. He was easy to work with and he was very professional. David Mieloch added sound effects to the animations. Animation blooms with sound effects to accent what happens. Brian Lambert supplemented some of those effects and there was a lot of back and forth about what effects would be good for specific events in the visuals so that the viewer would not miss them. This was not just a film that we created though it was a DVD and we decided to give people a gallery of paintings to look at. It contains almost two hundred of Vladimir’s paintings in this gallery. Robin Silver came in late in the game and wrote the musical score for that – all the music on the DVD is original."
"How long did it take?"
"We started on the Idea for the DVD in 2005, but I think my wife would probably say it took longer than what I would say. Near the end of 2006 we went back to the drawing board and there was a major re editing to do. The film was done by the end of 2008 but after that there was still a lot of other things to do such as promotional website, authoring the DVD, getting all the release strategies done which was in 2009. So from my wife’s perspective, and therefore most outsiders perspectives, four years would be the number I would go with for the length of time it took to completion."
"What is my Advice for students?"
"I guess my biggest advice for students is to stay in school. There are two big branches, animation for the video game industry and everything else- my advice would be the same for both. I can think of the following four things that are important if you are at all interested in pursuing something in the world of animation. The first, your talent and your creativity and your passion, without those, the rest don’t matter.
The second, your ability to work with other people is super important. These days we see beautiful movies like Avatar. Looking through the credit list, almost every visual effects company in Hollywood participated in that movie because every shot had animation, compositing, visual effects, lighting, texturing, etc in it. Working well with others is paramount to your success, and that starts all the way back in school. Third, be an expert in Photoshop, if you are going to be in this business, know it well. Employers expect you to know it. You use it all the time.
The last, become an expert in a few pieces of 3D software or even just one. Rather than spreading your time across multiple packages, invest your time into one or two packages. They all have strengths and weaknesses, but you can accomplish the same stuff in all of them."