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Home » Community » Interviews » Gregory Chalenko - Fusion Artist
Gregory, Gringo as he is known throughout the VFX industry, talks to eyeon about being a VFX artist in Russia, how he does what he does, and why Fusion is his tool of choice.

Visit Gregory's website!
Q: Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I was born in the city of Kemerovo, West Siberia, surrounded by the great Taiga forest, where Russian bears drink vodka and play balalaikas when they feel sad.

Then I moved to Belarus, the East European country famous for its potatoes and huge trucks, with my parents. I graduated from school and went to study at the Architectural Faculty of the State Polytechnic Academy.

Now I live in Moscow and spend most of my time creating VFX for films and creating new compositing tools. 
Q: Can you tell me what made you decide to become a VFX artist?
It wasn't a one-time decision but rather a long term decision I made as a transition from architecture to interior design to TV design to VFX for commercials and feature films.

Architectural education gives you many options and a lot of possibilities. It incorporates artistic disciplines as well as technical ones, just like compositing does.

I used to doubt if I could apply various technical knowledge, like chemistry or physics and math, but amazingly, my first real job was about creating 3D-animations showing chemical reactions and physical phenomena. Then I used different opportunities in the architectural or design field until I came to the VFX industry.

For a young person, it's important to try different trades to find what the best occupation is for him or her.
Q: What artist/event/person inspires you?
I like cinema, especially one that is VFX rich. It's interesting to watch other people's work and guess how things were done. If I see mistakes, I think to myself it could be done better in appropriate terms. If effects overwhelm me with the quality and beauty, I understand there is a lot of space for further growth.

Probably, the most inspiring aspect of my work is when strangers on the street or people on the internet discuss your work and find it interesting. I felt this for the first time when we'd finished Night Watch. Walking in the city and hearing pieces of people's conversations about our film made me think all those sleepless nights and working without days off for many months weren't in vain.
Q: How long have you been working with Fusion as an artist? Where did you learn your compositing skills, and how did you first get started using Fusion?
It's hard to say how long I've been creating CG, whether I should count from my first exercises back in 1993 or from my first real architectural works or CG for broadcast commercials, but I remember exactly the moment I opened Fusion for the first time. It was December 2002, right before the New Year. I was working as the lead designer on a Russian-American TV-channel. When I first saw the interface of Digital Fusion 3.12a I thought Wow! It seemed to be the best New Year's gift considering all those CG fireworks and snowflakes a designer has to create by the end of the year.

After the first excitement, I found Fusion very intuitive. I was able to start working immediately. Furthermore, node-based structure lets me create much more complicated projects without being lost. 
Q: What is the VFX industry like in Moscow?

The Russian VFX Industry started evolving not long ago. I think of Timur Beankmambetov's Night Watch (finished in 2004) as the starting point. It was a big project for us with a relatively big budget and it made a tremendous impact on the industry. Many people and studios that had been busy with commercials got film experience on the project and changed their profile completely towards film making. The industry's youth defines involved people. The artists are all big enthusiasts of their profession and the average age is around 26.

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          Before Shot

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          After Shot

Although Russian companies still suffer from poor organization, people's passion and intention to do their best help us achieve great results.

Q: Fusion has some amazing tools, which ones are your favorites?
Having used many different compositing packages in the past and trying new versions of competitive software from time to time, I can say Fusion's workflow and toolset are superior in many ways. What really distinguishes Fusion from other software packages is the amazing 2.5D particles and almighty Text+.

I use Fusion particles on every single feature project for various purposes: sparkles, fireworks, fire, smoke, rain, snow, crowd replication…and find it a comprehensive solution. Ultimately, a Fusion artist can create almost any particle effect. Even if you are missing some peculiar particle tool, you can use pCustom which allows you to create your own forces, dependencies, and styling effects.

Now, Fusion 6 has a unique 3D suite. One can discover some tools like bumpmapping, falloff, different shading models, and UV-mapping which you never expect to find in a compositing software. I'm a long-term Softimage user; still, I've already used the new 3D-tools successfully in an upcoming Russian film with the working title Black Lightning. 

Q: How did you enjoy your experience with the eyeon SWAT team at IBC in Amsterdam?
It was a great pleasure for me to meet the eyeon team in Amsterdam. They were nice and helpful with all the questions I had concerning my presentation. Although I hadn't expected to learn anything new about Fusion, I picked up some new tricks and techniques which were shown by Robert Zeltsch and Eric Westphal from the European team.

What can I say...you should know that people developing such great software are great themselves!
Q: What trends do you see emerging in Visual Effects? How do you see the role of the VFX artist changing, and where do you see yourself in 10 years?
As I can see, the most evolving contemporary trend is stereo. It's another great step in visual presentations like color cinema after decades of black and white or like sound after silent films. It takes you to a completely new level of perception and submerges a spectator much deeper in the plot.

About myself, I like traveling and I want to try working on VFX in a foreign environment to gain new experience and to work in a well-organized, creative team. Shock from relocation is what I need to shake my bones and set new priorities. 

For more information about Gregory Chalenko, please visit his website at, www.compositing.ru.

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