As we meet the people who make the magic happen here at AtmosFX, it is time to return to the animation team. We would like you to meet Jason Woodwyk, who joined AtmosFX in 2015. One of four full-time animators, there’s some good-natured discrepancy between Jason and follow animator Patrick Nobbe who arrived first. “I was hired about 30 minutes before Jason was hired,” Patrick says with a smile.
Regardless of who was here first, it is clear the animation team is running on all cylinders. It has been quite a year for the group, with the release of the first digital decorations that celebrate other holidays – like Valentine’s Day and Easter. And, with several new projects set for this year’s busy Halloween and Christmas decorating seasons, there’s a lot more to be proud of.
That the AtmosFX animators have been able to apply their craft in a wide spectrum of endeavors, appeals to them all. But certainly this is true for Jason, who seems to appreciate the diversity of projects he is tasked with. “Each new animation project is my favorite,” he says.
Jason took an unusual route to join AtmosFX. Originally from the Detroit, Michigan, area, Jason spent his early career engaging in a lot of pursuits – he was a graphic designer for a while, even DJing four nights a week. He didn’t own a computer until he was 25. His stepfather was a video producer, and from time-to-time he’d work as a production assistant. When his stepfather needed some animation for a project he was working on, Jason stepped in to fill the need – he just dived in and figured out how to do it.
There’s no better example of that than when Jason traveled to Nepal. He went there to work with a Nepalese animation studio who was beginning a project for Jason’s stepfather. The six-month gig was a huge step in helping Jason learn the art of character animation. And there, he found his passion. When he returned to the States, he dived headlong into becoming a full-time animator. He found AtmosFX and relocated to Seattle.
Here, Jason takes that same willingness to tackle whatever job needs to be solved. Whether it is modeling, rigging or animating scenes, Jason is on it. “Here, you are not assigned to one specific task,” he says. “And that is good because it is expected that you will do everything.”
Jason takes that work ethic home with him, too. What does he do in his free time? He loves watching tutorial videos on the internet – often about how to improve his craft as an animator. It helps him develop even more skills that guide his work.
“This role is perfect for me – I get to do everything I know how to do,” he says of his time here at AtmosFX. And if he doesn’t know how to do something, you can be sure he’ll figure it out.
Q: Your time working in Nepal was clearly a watershed moment for you. How did that experience affect how you approach life? And, perhaps, your work as an animator?
Jason Woodwyk: This is when I really started to feel like I was on the right track. I knew this would be an important part of my journey to becoming an animator. I don't think it was necessary to travel so far away, but it certainly made the adventure a little more exciting! It was a very eye opening, informative, motivating and memorable experience. Nepal is incredible. Having that time on my own allowed me to learn a lot about myself and what I wanted to be doing. I really started focusing all my efforts on animation. It certainly helped prepare me for working here. I experienced a real production environment, lived far from home and had an amazing introduction to character animation. These are all things that contribute to me being successful today.
Q: You love house/techno music, and you are a former DJ yourself. Who are your favorite DJs (or artists) to listen to when you are animating?
JW: Sometimes I don’t get to listen to music while I'm animating. At the moment I'm doing lip sync/face animation for one of our upcoming digital decorations. I have to listen closely to the audio of what the ghosts are saying so I can match the animation perfectly. It's kind of hard to hear the lip sync audio clearly with music playing over it. Most of the time though, I get to listen to whatever I want – and it's always house music. I've been a fan since the late ’90s when I started hearing it for the first time. It's the best! Nothing else makes me as happy as house music. I do jump around in my chair at work a lot ’cause I really get into it. I just hope I'm not distracting everyone around me. A lot of what I like often crosses over into techno, but this list is pretty much only house music. Some of my favorites artists/DJs are: Larry Levan, Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy, Tony Humphries, Masters at Work, Daft Punk, Fred Falke, Le Knight Club, Dj Sneak, Mark Farina, Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May, Derrick Carter, Maya Jane Coles, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Soul Clap, Detroit Swindle, Kerri Chandler, Moodyman, Stardust, Modjo, Cassius, Paul Johnson, etc.
Q: Is there a certain part of the animation process you enjoy the most? The least?
JW: It's all my favorite. I don't know if I prefer one part over another in particular, but modeling has always come pretty natural to me. I've also probably had more practice/experience with it than anything else. Modeling is a big part of the overall process and every shot needs different props to be built for it. I get to do a lot of modeling here and I love it! Characters are really fun to make because you eventually get to see them come alive. Some of my recent character models include "Hoppy" the Easter Bunny and the characters from an upcoming digital decoration that will be released later this year.
Q: Are there any characters/scenes that you think AtmosFX should create, regardless of whether or not the decoration would sell well?
JW: Without divulging too much, one of my favorite characters right now is a character from one of our upcoming digital decorations. It’s the cutest thing ever! I think it is going to be a favorite for many people. I think it would be great to see more little characters or mini characters like it.
Q: Not including Halloween, what is your favorite holiday?
JW: Christmas! For obvious reasons.
Q: What is your favorite movie genre – and what are your top 5 favorite movies within that genre?
JW: It's weird. Movies don't seem to have the same effect on me as they do on many people. I'm just not into them enough to have a favorite genre or a top five. What I can tell you is this: I’ve never seen a movie that I didn't like. It is true that I would rather watch animation tutorials. In fact it was the time I spent watching tutorials – not movies, that helped get me here today.