We recently spoke with York Schueller, R&D Senior Technical Artist at SEED-Electronic Arts to get the scoop on all things R&D related! York comes to us with years of experience in designing, developing and implementing character/facial rigging setups for feature films, game engines, episodic and commercial broadcasts such as The Tick, American Horror Story, I Am Legend, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Avatar, Call of Duty-Black Ops IV(2018), and where he provides technical solutions with artistic attention to detail.
Q: Hi York! You have an interesting background with a ton of R&D experience on some great projects from many different areas of entertainment. Could you tell us more about your educational background and how you got to where you are today?
As far as my education, I started out on the hardware side of things getting an A.S. degree in Electronics followed by an internship at NASA working in wind tunnels. I was always interested in artistic pursuits and while working on my B.S. at SJSU, I minored in Computer Music as well as International Business. Those minors led to a job at Apple Computer where my interest in animation and software took off. At the time, Silicon Graphics was what the animation studios were mostly using so I started taking classes at Academy of Art learning animation, illustration and Softimage. The software and animation knowledge led to a job at Silicon Graphics, Alias|wavefront, then Dreamworks. I’m currently at SEED which is a research and development group within Electronic Arts.
Q. Our readers often wonder about the software, could you tell us what software you use mostly for your job or for personal projects you work on?
I’ve been using Maya mostly for rigging since about 2000, before that it was Softimage. Lately, UE4 is really grabbing my interest! I think if you understand the principles of what you are trying to do, the software is secondary… it’s just the tool. Every tool has limitations and knowing how to work within and around those limitations is what makes you valuable as an artist, technician or craftsperson. Often you’ll need to learn a new tool or need to build one.
Q. How do you train both your artistic and analytical mind as it seems you have done both.
It’s always been a struggle for me to learn subjects I don’t have an interest in. I try to see the value or application in learning something as it applies to an interest I have.Thankfully, I have many interests so I can usually get myself into the subject matter if it’s becoming more of a chore. I’ve found the sooner I can start using what I’ve learned, the sooner it becomes more interesting and that fuels the fascination. That’s what keeps me learning.
Q. How many and which coding languages do you know?
Most of what I code these days I do in Python and some MEL but over my career I’ve used BASIC, Pascal and Hex code when programming microprocessors. I would really like to learn more C++ and it’s on the to-do list.
Q. Could you tell us a little bit about the tool you developed for Next Media to integrate into their realtime news animation pipeline. In 18 seconds animators are able to apply mocap data and be off and running.
That character generator was something I built to get characters out quickly as our animation was on a 24 hour production cycle. That tool was the result of an awesome effort by modelers building meshes to very tight specs so we could blend our character builds between infants to full adults. Once we had the meshes modeled I was able to place joints via scripts and build characters based on the UI settings. We could save out the UI settings as a number array and recall characters based on the UI arrays. It was all scripted so you just needed to adjust the sliders, check boxes and off you went. The cool part of that pipeline was the hookup to Unreal so you could preview work in progress in-engine. A bunch of that team went on and founded PiSquare and is continuing that work for the previz and virtual production markets, among others. More info: http://www.pisquare.com.tw
Q. What do you recommend for someone just starting out that is interested in following a similar path to yours?
Students these days have a number of options to get into rigging and technical art disciplines. Not only do some schools offer rigging-focused degree tracks but online resources like Rigging Dojo, Coursera and Udemy have plenty of software and rigging options as well. As far as choosing a career path like mine, I would really have to add that it was more like it chose me… not the other way around. As soon as I saw what was possible in 3D animation, the fire was lit. Once I got into character and particularly facial rigging, I was hooked! I couldn’t really see myself doing anything else. If problem solving doesn’t drive you, keeping your mind spinning at night while you’re trying to sleep… and you don’t need a deep sense of satisfaction from a character performance nailed on a rig you built… I would say it’s not for you.
Q: Is there anything else you can tell us about yourself that we haven’t discussed to give our readers a sense of who you are on a more personal level? Any cool hobbies, businesses, upcoming events, workshop’s you are doing or would like to do?
I was lucky to be raised bilingually and got to live in Germany for a bit growing up. That experience really broadened my interests and understanding of different cultures, perspectives and customs. I’ve got a lot of interests as do most of the artists and engineers I work with at SEED. A lot of those interests are not related to my work but they all inform it. I enjoy mountain biking, cooking, guitar, history, have a seaplane pilot rating… I enjoy variety. Almost all of the really good artists and technical artists I know have similar, varied interests. It really helps to keep a flexible perspective and keeps the problem solving eclectic. Some coworkers are pilots, kite surfers, carpenters …lots ride mountain bikes or climb. A lot of them like to cook and are musically oriented too. As far as upcoming learning, I’m looking forward to a FACS workshop coming up studying facial movement. I would really enjoy taking one of the Anatomy Tools workshops at some point.
Q: Last but certainly not least, do you have any advice to give students that are just starting out? Which forums, workshops, networking events would you recommend?
SOCIAL MEDIA INFO
We hope you enjoyed our interview with York Schueller, check out his links above for more information on his work.
If you have any questions or feedback on this blog, we’d love to hear it in the comment section below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author:
Lori Hammond, CG Circuit
Author & Content Producer
Experienced multi-talented Artist/Designer/Blogger with an extensive background in the Arts & Entertainment Industry(Animation, VFX, Game & Product Design)