Kaleb Kern – CGI Artist

Kaleb Kern is a small town guy who grew up in a country lifestyle from Marion, Indiana.  He decided to move to LA when he was in high school because of his drive and passion for wanting to work as a CGI artist.  He told his parents that he would be living in California because that is where all the companies he wanted to work for were located.  Once he graduated from college, he took the necessary steps to move to LA, moving him that much closer to pursuing his dream.  Learn more about his journey in the interview below.

Angel Alzona – When did you decide you wanted to get into film?  More specifically when did you decide on being a CGI artist?  Not too many people know what that position entails, Can you give a brief description of the actual job?

Kaleb Kern – I knew I wanted to be involved in the movie and television industry since I was in high school. My favorite part is the process of it all. I wanted originally to do traditional animation like my favorite film Peter Pan by Disney. Since the world is always changing and growing those positions are not as common anymore. I decided to learn the newer modern route.  A CGI or computer generated imagery artist is someone whom creates computer created imagery by hand from start to finish on a computer, whether it exists in this world or does not. There is no limit to what a person can create or do. The job of a CGI artist depending on a person’s specialty consists of 10 specific talents. These are in order and a few can be moved around depending on the person’s personal workflow and they are: story, concept art/ design, modeling, uving, rigging, animating, texturing, lighting, rendering, and compositing. You can choose to only do one, or become a generalist and have a working knowledge of all the jobs in the industry.

AA – What steps did you take or are you taking into pursuing your dream?

KK – First, I moved to Los Angeles, CA. I stay constantly working on projects to improve my skills in my field. Next, was to get a job and or meet people that can get my foot in the door. I have currently achieved that goal! Finally, work my way up until I reach my goal or place of employment.

AA – Did you go to school for this?  Where did you go?  Do you recommend your school or going to school in general?  What classes are a MUST take for this field?

KK –  I did go to school for Animation. I went to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. I do, it just really depends on the area you live in. Now, graduate school on the other hand, I recommend going somewhere near animation studios, that way you’ll constantly meet professionals in the animation industry. Classes depend on the school. My school was all about having the natural artist background, like life drawing classes. Some schools prefer one to have a computer science background only. It depends on how the student feels. I personally really enjoyed taking the art classes, that way I was not always on the computer. The classes I really enjoyed taking and felt like they gave me a hands on experience was glass blowing, drawing, and sculpture.

AA – What was the first program you worked on related to your job, and what do you use now?

KK – Autodesk Maya, and Photoshop. I still use those programs to date, just the most updated versions.

AA – What equipment do you use currently?

KK – I utilize a dual monitored PC with these programs: Autodesk Maya and Mudbox 2012, Adobe After Effects and Photoshop CS5. Always learning and staying up to date with each software package.

AA – If someone wanted to become a CGI artist, what is a good startup kit for equipment?

KK – A good computer, a University e-mail address, comfortable desk, fast internet and a Digital Tutors account

AA – What are 3 things people might not know about the work?

KK – It is very time consuming, there is a large process involved, and the computer software used is very expensive.

AA – Where do you aspire to be?

KK – I want to be working with a large company such as Disney Animation, Warner Brothers Animation, Nickelodeon or Dreamworks Animation Studios.

AA – What advice do you have for those pursuing a career in CGI?

KK – Never be afraid to ask questions, do not over critique someone else’s work.

AA – Any last words?

KK – Never forget where you came from.

UPDATE 1/3/12 – Today Kaleb starts his new job as a Central Production Assistant on Dreamwork’s How To Train Your Dragon the TV series through Wild Brain Entertainment.  Congrats Kaleb on your new position from the entire ARC team!

Check out more of Kaleb Kern’s work here:

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