Interview with CG Artist, Prashanth Pandurangaiah
Prashanth Pandurangaiah is a technical director from Bangalore, India who has always dreamed of working in animation. He pursued his masters at the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at Carnegie Mellon University, then found his way to Blue Sky Studios. At Blue Sky Prashanth has worked on projects such as Ice Age: Collision Course, Rio 2, The Peanuts Movie, and Epic. I recently talked with Prashanth to find out more about his background and experiences.
What was it that first drew you to animation?
I have always been fascinated with animation, ever since I was a child. I couldn’t wait to get back home from school to watch cartoons on TV. The various cartoons that drew me in were Tom and Jerry, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy. The joy I would feel when I’d lose myself in these fantastical worlds would often make me wonder about the artists behind them all. I realized quite early on that I wanted to be one of those artists who could put smiles on the faces of adults and kids alike, all over the world.
What were some of the research projects you worked on at the Computer Graphics Research Lab at Carnegie Mellon University?
During my internship at the CG Research Lab, I worked on a project called Drug Discovery, which was a citizen-science game prototype for the iOS where players compare and contrast drug molecules, aided by dynamic alignment algorithms. The idea was to discover new drug molecules by solving puzzles, which utilized video game mechanics to make it more fun. I also worked on another project, DrawAFriend, which is a crowd-sourced iOS game prototype aimed at researching algorithms for stroke correction. This utilized video game mechanics as well and the idea was to make drawing on a touchscreen more fluid by analyzing various strokes and gestures of a large number of players. These projects made me realize that computer graphics can be used for a multitude of purposes.
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced when trying to break into the industry?
One of the hardest challenges was to get into the program at the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University. I did not have much experience with any of the software used in animation, so I spent my entire winter vacation learning Maya and creating my first demo reel. Getting an internship at the CG Research Lab at CMU was a huge deal for me as I was learning from the elites in the industry, and gained valuable experience.
What has been your primary role at Blue Sky?
I mainly develop tools/software to assist us in our workflow. I also work on the digital sets and environments.
What's a normal work day like at Blue Sky?
A typical day for me could be anything from developing new tools that we could use to work a bit faster and that automate various tasks or I could be working on the digital sets in a sequence. I enjoy doing both and each day has something new to teach me.
Having worked on several feature films at Blue Sky, do you have a favorite?
The first ever 3D animated movie I watched was Ice Age. From that to working on the 5th installment of Ice Age has been such a great honor for me. While I love the Ice Age series, I want to say that my favorite movie is Epic. Incidentally, Epic was the first movie I ever worked on, and I loved every moment of it.
You mentioned that you are a member of the International Animated Film Association (ASIFA-Hollywood). Can you share some details about this?
ASIFA-Hollywood is an association that was established by veterans of the industry to support and encourage animation, recognizing achievements of excellence in the industry by presenting the Annie Awards. Being a professional member allows me to vote for the Annie Awards every year in a variety of categories including Best Animated Feature to Best Animated TV Commercial to Best Animated Student Film.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on Ferdinand that’ll hit the theaters this December. Please do check out the trailer:
What Hobbies away from the computer do you have?
I love playing board games. It feels great having to think while not looking at a computer. I’ve also been learning to play the guitar. I like hiking and discovering good restaurants in the city.
Any advice for someone looking to get their foot in the door at Blue Sky?
Having a solid demo reel or a portfolio helps. Jump at every opportunity to learn and do not be intimidated. I was nervous when I got the internship at the CG Lab at CMU. But my adviser, Prof Adrien Treuille, was very accommodating and helped me a lot to understand the concepts and get working. I also networked with a lot of people in the industry through CMU and various conferences, reaching out and seeking advice on my portfolio. So to aspiring students: do not be afraid to reach out if you have questions, people in the industry will always try to help.
When was your last vacation and what did you do?
I recently visited Mexico. I’ve been intrigued by the Mayans and got to visit some of the ruins in various places around the Mayan Riviera and east Mexico. They also have some of the best beaches I’ve been to, with clear water and that was really cool.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today.
Thank you so much for the opportunity. It was great talking to you as well.