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The Academy | Meet Lighting Trainer Ellie Cho

July 10, 2022

Hi Ellie! We hear you’re new to The Academy. Can you tell us a bit about your background?  

Hi! My name is Ellie and I’m a lighting artist and now a trainer at The Academy. For the last four years, I have worked a bit in games but mostly in animation and VFX. I’ve worked in studios like Digital Domain, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and MPC on shows like Secrets of Dumbledore, Over the Moon, and Detective Pikachu. I also taught lighting for animation at CEA in Vancouver and now I’m here!    

What drew you to lighting?  

I really didn’t know much about what I was getting into when I decided to change my career and study CG. It was really when I first lit my assignment at school that I decided this was what I wanted to do. Without lights, you only have black pixels – pure darkness. And with lights, you can bring everything to life. It’s an aspect that the audience don’t think about when they look at an image, but it has a big influence on the storytelling and makes it come to life. 

How would you explain what Lighting is to someone who had never heard of it?  

Like I mentioned above, imagine that it’s dark and you can’t see anything even if there’s something there. It’s with the lights that we place in the 3D space that you are able to see everything. In live action, it’s about matching the real-world lighting set up in 3D to make the CG element believable, as if they existed in the real world. While in animation, it’s about enhancing the story and bringing the vision of the art director and the director to life. 

Talk us through one or two of your favourite projects from Technicolor Creative Studios

My favourite project (EVER) is Detective Pikachu. This was my first show and my first movie credit. I worked on this show when I was at MPC. It was a really difficult show for me because everything was so new to me and I got to work on multiple sequences with different lighting set ups. At the same time, it was the most memorable and such a fun show to work on because I got to experience so many new things and I learned so much. I also loved that it was the first live action Pokémon movie and a lot of people watched it and were able to enjoy it with me 😊

What sort of existing skills should someone have before joining the Lighting course at The Academy?  

I think overall, as a lighting artist, it’s good to have an eye for detail, good communication skills, and problem solving skills. For the academy specifically, it’ll be good to have some experience lighting in a 3D program and a bit of Nuke. It’ll also be a plus to have some understanding of how materials work. The more understanding a lighting artist has about the pipeline from start to end, the better. We really are the end of the 3D side of the pipeline and the beginning of 2D. We need to have a general sense of what happens throughout the pipeline. 

What’s your favorite thing about being part of The Academy?  

My favorite thing is that I can be a part of someone’s journey in their career as a lighting artist as a trainer. I always felt that I wasn’t prepared to work as a lighting artist after graduating from school and had to learn a lot on the job. Of course, you will always learn more once you are in production, but this is a great opportunity for people to get ahead and be better prepared to work in the studio from day one. 

Discover more about The Academy and apply for courses here.

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