Monday, 30 September 2013

What exactly is a Character TD? Karen Halliwell reveals all...

Karen Halliwell on the panel at Bucks New University
Karen Halliwell is a very experienced Character TD who appeared on a panel discussion at Bucks this past week to talk about some of the latest trends in the business. Karen has worked on countless film projects including World War Z, John Carter, Rango, and Golden Compass. She told us a little about what it is that a Character TD actually does for a living.

Bucks: So...what is it that a Character TD does, exactly?

Karen: A Character TD is usually called a rigger. The work is really a kind of digital puppetry. You are creating the architecture for a character, creating the skeleton (known as a "rig") that holds it all together and permits it to move. Visual Effects is a very specialist business, and digital artists tend to specialize in one area. 
Rigging a human hand. Source: Wikipedia
Bucks: How has the industry changed in recent years?

Karen: Back in the old days you did a bit of everything. Rigging didn’t really exist as a separate discipline. Digital artists tended to be generalists, doing a bit of modeling, rigging - even the lighting. But, as the business of VFX got bigger and more sophisticated, everyone got more and more specialized. I chose to specialise in rigging.

Bucks: Where did you train?

Karen: Mainly at Jim Hensen's Creature Shop in London. I did a lot of facial rigs, basically doing Jim Henson’s creature work. Later I worked on Rango at ILM, and then at Framestore.

Bucks: what are your favourite projects that you have worked on?

Karen: I have lots of favourite projects but among them are World War Z (which, actually, I haven’t seen), and also John Carter, which is actually a very good film, even though audiences stayed away. I also enjoyed Rango, which was an amazing project. And Golden Compass. I have worked on a lot of talking dog movies, such as Marmaduke, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua, which were fun to do. I also worked recently on the animation for Maclaren; I did the rigging for that. It was a great project - sadly all the work is now done in India.
John Carter
Bucks: How can graduates break into the business?

Karen: Well, you may have to start as a runner. Don't despise these entry level jobs - they are good ways to begin.  And most companies will honour their commitment to you; they will progress you.

(Editor's note: We're hoping to get Karen to visit Bucks regularly and do some rigging masterclasses - so that we can all benefit from her huge industry experience.)

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