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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Chris Thunig

No, this is not an ad for 1965 Pontiac Bonneville. Notice
the wheels. Chris Thunig's futuristic vehicle has
mastered the science of levitation.
A car from fifty years ago
inspires the future.
If you've never heard of Chris Thunig, don't worry about it. Up to about four hours ago I never had either. I chose to write about Chris, not because he's a great artist, well-known, rich, or famous, but because he's none of that. Chris lives in the Orange County area of Southern California where he works in the film industry as a visual effects artist, sometimes art director, and digital matte artist for Blizzard Entertainment. An informed guess would suggest he earns in the neighborhood of $75,000 to $100,000 per year. Chris studied to learn his art at the Universität Leipzig in Germany. His professional involvement in producing concept art and visual effects began in 1999 when he went to work as a storyboard and preproduction artist at a Babelsberg Film Studios near Berlin, Germany, (a 3D animation company). As part of a small team he was able to expand his skills in computer animation before getting his first job as a digital matte artist for a French visual effects company in Paris. After spending more than a year on a feature production headed by renowned comic artist and director Enki Bilal, Thunig joined The Moving Picture Company in London.

Matte painting concept art, City of Troy, Chris Thunig

Chris Thunig
Both in London and the U.S. Chris has worked on the special effects for an impressive number of major films including Troy (above), Kingdom of Heaven, Corpse Bride, The Da Vinci Code, Alien vs. Pre-dator, and Sunshine. Of course, Blizzard Entertainment did not make these films, they and their artists such as Chris were simply contracted to do pre-production art to suggest to companies such as Warner Brothers (as in the case of The Da Vinci Code) what various scenes might look like as guidance for the production manager, and in-house set designers, carpenters, special effects designers, storyboard art-ists, and lighting coordinators. Artists such as Chris are conceptual, with a special talent for communicating their vision of the film to others.

I'm not positive, but I'm guessing this piece was done by
Thunig in preparation for The Da Vinci Code. It appears to
depict Leonardo, secretly working in the dead of night studying human anatomy by performing a cadaver dissection. (Such
activities were illegal at the time.) His assistant is probably
a grave digger. 
Fantasy Sci-fi.
An artist working in the motion picture industry is only as good as his or her resume; and is often paid accordingly. That of Chris Thunig includes his current position as 2D Art Director at Bliz-zard Entertainment (producing and coordinating art and artists for video games); Senior Digital Matte Artist/Concept Artist Digital Matte Artist at The Moving Picture Company (London), and Digital Matte Artist at Duran Cinematics (Paris). In his first major motion picture, Immortal, (right) working for Duran, Thunig was just one of eighty other visual effects artists. Today, depending upon the complexity of the project, Thunig often supervises up to one-hundred such concept artist, who not only design visual effects, but are also tasked with figuring out how to create them on film (and on schedule, and on budget).

A futuristic waterfront by Thunig.
For the benefit of any artists interested in a career similar to Thunig's, visual effects artists require some formal education, but not necessarily a college degree, though it's typical for them to earn a bachelor's degree in computer animation or visual effects. Such artists need to be skilled in technical software in order to create designs and showcase their talents to potential employers. As in the case of Chris Thunig, visual effects artists are responsible for creating computer-generated animations and special effects on screens at home and in theaters. Industry-standard software programs include Autodesk Maya, Adobe, and RenderMan. Job growth during the next ten years is anticipated to be around 6% with median salaries around $64,000 per year.

A Chris Thunig digital animation frame.
Visual effects artists usually create imagery working from movie scripts or story outlines. Often writers conceive scenes which are either impractical or impossible to film. That's when the visual effects artists are called in. Nearly all such work is currently done on a computer. According to The Wall Street Journal, this work can include creating animations or fixing up details for television shows, commercials, feature films, and other film media. Visual effects artists often work with tight deadlines due to theatrical release dates and other constraints related to the film industry. The job usually involves following verbal instructions from a client or supervisor which may not allow for the possibility of much personalized input. However, true professionals in this field gain satisfaction in knowing that their work contributes significantly to the completion of a major media project.

A digital matte image by Thunig--a hell of a lot cheaper
than sending a camera crew to Switzerland.


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