Interview with our alumni Ruben Berkeley, checker of the film "Klaus"
Christmas animation

Interview with our alumni Ruben Berkeley, checker of the film "Klaus"

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December 29, 2020

We are in the best time of the year to rewatch Klaus, the Spanish animation film directed by Sergio Pablos that succeed in the last edition of the Annie Awards with seven prizes, won the BAFTA for Best Animated Film and was nominated for the Goya Awards and the Oscars (in which it competed hand in hand with Toy Story 4).

Its creator is The SPA Studios, the animation studio based in Madrid where the story of Despicable Me was born, and among the professionals who developed the Netflix Christmas movie we find Ruben Berkeley, alumni of our University Diploma in 2D and 3D Animation. After the premiere of Klaus and the great response from the audience, we talked with him about his experience as a checker in the Shot Prep Department:

- How was your day-to-day life during the seven months you were working on the film?

It was a very special period for me. Obviously it is not easy, as in any job there are good days and bad days. Motivation comes and goes, but it helps a lot to know that you are part of something bigger and that you are passionate about what you do. I think it would have been very different if I had not liked the project.

My colleagues were fantastic, there was a very good atmosphere in the studio. Even when problems arose, we helped each other and understood that no one has all the answers. In short, my days in SPA were a rollercoaster of moments of fun and laughter, others of strain, of rest, of pride, of curiosity... No two were the same.

- How do you achieve the special aesthetics of Klaus?

The key is in the lighting and the textures. The software that the lighting artists essentially used facilitated the animation and tracking of masks and, thanks to that, they were able to automate part of the process. It is a new way of working with 2D rendering and you have to admire the talent and adaptability that these artists had to carry it out so successfully.

- How did you experience the adaptation to other software?

There was no problem at all. In a studio like SPA there are people from every specialty with a lot of experience. You will never get stuck in an environment like this. Not only because of the help you receive, but because you start to adopt a research and problem-solving mentality. With software you always have to be patient and understand that, if you lose time in understanding them well, you will recover that time later.

- Did you receive any additional training?

Constantly. We did trainings and masterclasses frequently (I gave a small training about my specialty). The pipeline was never rigid, we were evolving as we went along. If we found a more efficient work process or if we saw that mistakes were beginning to appear for X reason, or simply that something could be done better, the most suitable person was sought to give a talk focused on the topic. This is one of my favorite things about the studio, that encourages learning as a work tool.

- How was your transition to the world of work when you finished your studies with us?

It was gradual. During my training I had the great luck to do an internship in two incredible studios. My demo reel got me the interview, but it was that experience that allowed me to get the job.

- Finally, what advice would you give our students as future professionals in the sector?

First of all, that they go for each and every opportunity that comes their way. When they can't because they overlap, they will know they are doing well. Secondly, that wherever they go, they will be eager to learn and to share what they learn. And finally, and most importantly, that they respect and value their personal time.

If you haven't seen Klaus yet, enjoy this holiday season with a film full of talent and creativity. Don't miss it!

Interview published in Renderout! (no. 24, March 2020).

Animation and Video Games
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