DISPATCHES FROM AUSTRALIA: AN OSCAR-WINNING VISUAL EFFECTS ARTIST

DISPATCHES FROM AUSTRALIA: AN OSCAR-WINNING VISUAL EFFECTS ARTIST

Visual effects artist Steve Hubbard’s LinkedIn profile is pretty impressive right from the top, sprinkled with the names of big-budget films he’s worked on for effects studios all over the world.

The bombshell is under “Honors & Awards,” though. That’s where Hubbard lists the Oscar for Visual Effects he shared with a team at Rhythm and Hues for the Ang Lee film Life of Pi. It’s right there below his Emmy for Starz show Black Sails, for which he shared in a 2014 award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role.

Hubbard (Time-Based Media Studies, 2010) —  2015 winner of the Joseph V. Canzani Alumni Award for Excellence— teaches a class at Columbus College of Art & Design all the way from Sydney, Australia, where he lives and works at visual effects studio Animal Logic. We spoke with him recently about his work.

When did your interest in film and visual effects begin? When did you know you wanted to turn it into a career?

My interest in film and visual effects goes back to when I was maybe 10 or 11 years old. Like so many of my colleagues, it was seeing Star Wars that did it for me. That hooked me on film, but back then there really wasn't even a name for visual effects. What really pushed me into pursuing a career in what we call visual effects today was seeing Lord of The Rings and how they created reality on screen.

What appeals to you about living overseas, and what are some of the drawbacks? Why might pursuing work outside the U.S. be a good career move?

Living in another country is amazing and not. Each place I've worked has had many pros and cons. Getting out to see the world is wonderful, and working in other countries affords you the opportunity to really experience a place, not just experiencing things on a couple weeks’ vacation. For students, working abroad will strengthen their network and help them learn to deal with things like currency exchange, work visas, etc. Some of the drawbacks: It’s hard to really settle down anywhere, and some local artists aren't the most inviting to foreign workers. For students, it's a great experience to work at several studios to get familiar with different pipelines and workflows.

How did CCAD prepare you for the work you're doing now?

CCAD prepared me for what I do know on so many levels. It's the fine-art side of things that really helped me prepare. Also working with the 3D department at CCAD in an art capacity really helped — being able to use design skills to make 3D models and environments — things taught at CCAD but not most other places.

What’s it like to teach a class 9,500 miles away?

I love teaching at CCAD because of the energy the students bring to class. It's wonderful. It's refreshing to interact with students who really want to learn and try new things. I've been teaching at CCAD for three semesters now, going into my fourth. All the classes I've taught have been remote, holding class via Google Hangouts and interacting outside of class through social media. The students seem to love the teaching style because, with the time difference, they basically have 24-hour access to me through a variety of communication platforms. The work the students have been producing is truly a step up in quality versus most other institutions.