Meet the artists of VFX Legion! We sat down with CG lead Rommel S. Calderon, who works with Legion at our Burbank-based headquarters. How did you first become involved in the VFX industry?
I was born in Manila, Philippines and moved to the US when I was six. I grew up just 30 minutes outside of Los Angeles in La Puenta, CA. My journey into the VFX industry began with my father’s passion for Star Trek – a passion he soon passed on to me. Another of his favourite hobbies also quickly became my favourite hobby: remote-controlled cars, planes, train sets, and plastic models. It was this, coupled with my life as a Trekkie and love of movies and television, that’s developed my desire to be a VFX artist. That was back in the 1980s. My curiosities naturally ventured into miniature work, as that was where the spotlight was at the time.
When I was 13, though, Jurassic Park changed the game entirely, and redirected my career trajectory towards computer animation. Luckily I was into computers at this point, so it was the perfect combination of my two passions. I went to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Georgia and received my Bachelor's Degree in Computer Arts in 2000.
Other than Star Trek, what other television shows and movies shaped your passion for the industry Star Trek was one of my main passions – to me, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the pinnacle of the Star Trek universe. Next to Star Trek, one of the biggest influences was the Macross saga. Besides that, Joss Whedon, Bryan Fuller, Ronald D. Moore, Amy Sherman-Palladino, and JJ Abrams shaped my adult television life. I will pretty much watch anything they release! I’m also a big fan of all of Steven Spielberg’s work; James Cameron’s filmography (yes, even Piranha II); and Shane Black movies – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my all-time favourites. In terms of animators/creators/designers, Hayao Miyazaki and Shoji Kawamori are two of my favourites.
What are some of the biggest projects you have worked on during your career? Perhaps the biggest project I had the pleasure of working on was The Golden Compass. It won four awards for Best Visual Effects, so it's a nice jewel in my resume. I’m really proud to say I also worked on Pushing Daisies, Pan Am, Falling Skies, and, the HD remaster of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I could easily write a whole essay on just one Star Trek episode I worked on! Other films I’ve had the opportunity to work on include Alvin and the Chipmunks, Premium Rush, Captain America, The Muppets, and Jem and the Holograms. What drew you towards working with the VFX Legion team?
I was drawn to VFX Legion because I was fortunate to have worked with most of the founders. We had been through the trenches together on many a television project over the years. I would say that working with the founders and other artists is my favorite aspect of working at Legion. I started my journey with VFX Legion as a remote artist, but I now live in Los Angeles, working out of the company’s headquarters in Burbank as CG lead.
Which projects have you been most proud to work on at VFX Legion?
I really enjoyed working on Jem and the Holograms. It was a challenging project, but it’s that kind of creative challenge that I really enjoy. I was one of the senior lighters on the project and I had to re-work my usual methods of lighting to accommodate the needs of the show. It was difficult, but it's good to change up and refresh abilities!
What are the core skills that you bring to the VFX Legion team?
I’m a 3D artist. I work mainly as a generalist and I feel I bring a lot to the table. I can model, texture, light, animate a bit, and even do some FX work. If I specialize in anything, it's shading and lighting.
Why do you think remote working is so important for today’s VFX industry?
I feel that the biggest and most important aspect of VFX Legion's remote model is our ability to hire the best artists, no matter where in the world they are. They could be in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Colorado, New York, or Germany – remote working allows us to access the best of the best. There are challenges, but overall I feel that the 24-hour schedule gives us a distinct advantage as a company.
What are your hobbies/passions outside of work?
I'm an avid cyclist, and completed my first half Ironman race back in October. I fundraise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and I am a volunteer coach for Team In Training every now and again. I still have a passion for plastic models, albeit I collect kits, not necessarily build them. I'm an avid TV watcher as well, and spend a lot of time with my family and friends. I've been married for just over a year now too, so spend a lot of my time just enjoying being a newlywed.