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‘An Evening with Visual Effects, Feature Film, and Video Game Artist Ramahan Faulk’ Review

| Sunday, September 20, 2015

VisualEffect_Scene_Banner_WebLucy Du | The Observer

Visiting artist Ramahan Faulk impressed and enlightened an audience during a talk facilitated by the department of film, television and theatre Thursday evening. Faulk is a character modeling supervisor at the animation studio Blur. In the past, he’s done character modeling and rigging for video games and high-profile movies like “Avatar,” “Maleficent,” “The Adventures of Tintin,” “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” and “Eragon.”

The audience in the Browning Cinema consisted mostly of students but also included some members of the South Bend community. The talk became a question and answer session almost immediately, as members of the audience had specific questions about how Faulk broke into the industry, how he managed to balance his personal life with work and whether it was even remotely possible to stay healthy while sitting in front of a computer for up to 80 hours a week.

In answer to these questions, Faulk described his background — his path to excellence in character modeling was anything but typical. Faulk was on active duty with the U.S. Navy when his interest in technical drawings led to a growing passion for character modeling. Over the course of six months, he taught himself the craft using tutorials for animation programs like Maya. From there, he sent his work out to various studios and was eventually hired by Electronic Arts (EA) in Orlando.

Faulk has done full-time and freelance work for various clients and worked on games such as “Crysis 2,” “NFL Street” and “G.I. Joe: Valor vs. Venom.” Faulk described working on video games as much more relaxed than working on movies. Film can be very ego-driven, with a lot of politics involved, he said.

During his talk, Faulk’s passion for his work shone through his actions, from his detailed explanations of facial rigging using Mudbox, a digital sculpting tool, to his frequent exclamations of “I love this stuff!” It was easy to see how his energy pushed him to the top of his field.

When asked how he managed to be competitive in such a specialized industry, Faulk answered, “You have to be relentless. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. … If you’re going to do something, do what you love and try to be the best at it.”

Passion won’t take you far without the skills to back it up, however. According to Faulk, you have to be able to obsess over tiny details for a significant amount of time. You have to learn the various muscles and understand what happens when one tugs on another.

Being a character artist also takes “tons of studying the human face and expressions … you get a knack for it,” Faulk said. “Classical formats like painting and sculpture give you a base and help you learn to recognize basic forms.”

In response to the artist’s eternal question of mouse versus stylus, Faulk replied, “The mouse … I don’t recommend it at all.”

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