Meet Andrew Shanks, CreativeCOW.net Leader
COW Leaders : Andrew ShanksCreative COW Forum Host, Web Writer, Contributing Editor
I am a Visual Effects Compositor/Supervisor based in Auckland, New Zealand.
I was born into a theatrical family, and quickly scampered away from a childhood on stage to being behind the scenes (lighting/sound), which I found more fascinating. This progressed to camerawork at theatre and high school. Stop motion at age 13 was probably my first dabblings with effects of any kind, …and from there things grew (incorporating special effects ranging from horror makeup to small pyros in our skits).
I ended up leaving school and becoming an editor (despite camera work being my passion at the time, it was the only career path in television/film I was able to get into). That led to me becoming a freelance editor (I got into the business just as non-linear was really getting going, it was an exciting but scary time, exciting due to the things non-linear allowed you to do, …scary because the hardware was being pushed to the limit and hard-drive arrays would fall over frequently, taking out days of work).
When I got into non-linear editing, the first programs I learnt in tandem with the editing apps, were Adobe Photoshop and CoSA After Effects (yup, I learnt on the version before Adobe bought AE), …these we'd use for basic titles and graphics, ….but in my spare time I'd use them for effects on our home made skits (which we had continued to do when we left high school). One of these comic skits, involving a giant chicken devouring people in Auckland city, was seen by a friend of mine who happened to be Post Supervising a new teen comedy series, ....he put my name forward to the vfx supervisor, and before I knew it, I was heading up compositing for the show (I also got thrown in the deep end when the vfx supervisor fell ill and I ended up having to do my first on set greenscreen supervising day, scary but great experience).
That was 5 years ago, since then I have moved from television into doing work for feature films as well, and have gone from compositor to supervisor (although I have to admit I prefer the hands on of compositing, …so much so that if I am on set, I have rigged up a system so I can take a camera feed and do keys in my laptop and do test comps in situ for the director, ….just so I can do my hands on work). In the past 3 years I have started doing a mix of local and overseas productions (Disney and BBC/SPP being a couple of my more prominent TV clients), including recently starting to do remote work on US feature films.
In my work I use a collection of tools to get the job done. My two compositors of choice are After Effects and Shake (each has strengths and weaknesses, so being able to jump between them both is great). I also use Photoshop for matte painting (set extensions), Syntheyes for tracking/matchmoving, Softimage XSI for basic 3d animation (and 3d particles) as well as particle illusion for 2d particle animation.
I have been on Creative Cow since the beginning, and have found it a great community, …when you are a beginner it's a great resource to ask questions of your peers (something I did a lot of, way back then), and as you become more experienced you start to give back to the community by answering the questions you can. This is what I enjoy about the Cow, a pooling of knowledge, a place to share ideas and tackle tricky problems.
Articles by Andrew Shanks