Who are you and where are you from?
I’m Juan from Maracaibo, Venezuela. I am currently living here too, but with plans to move.
Do you remember how you started as an artist?
I started animating when I was 7. Video games had a huge influence on me, I’d just never skip cutscenes, just stare, got lost looking at all the effects and moving things over and over again. So I used to “animate” my toys on our family computer using MS Paint, this was in the early 2000’s, also we didn’t have internet in the house yet. I would create the backgrounds, then the characters on a separate file with different poses, then just copy and paste with transparent background, rinse and repeat and that’s how I would create my frames and got them to move I’d open all of these images and press the right arrow key so they would play very fast and thus, give the illusion of movement.
After that, my main animation program became PowerPoint, then Windows Movie Maker, then I quit because the home computer broke and I lost everything. When I was 12, I got into online games and into animation again, this time was my first introduction into actual animation software such as GIMP and Macromedia Flash; here I learned sprite animation and I did this for 4 years. It was a lot of tedious and mechanical work, I got tired of doing the same things over and over with very little sense of accomplishment; I thought to myself “really all this effort for just a couple of seconds or few minutes of animation? there’s no way I choose this as a job in my life.” and so I quit again.
Skip to 2016, I got a Marketing degree because my parents wanted me to at least have something, I never knew or cared to choose what I wanted to work in and I was not interested in going to work for someone else since my father has his own small business. One day, he heard on the radio about a digital video and animation course from the same university I had graduated in and encouraged me to join, so I did, and that course alone opened my eyes and defined what I was going to do next; I did not know what motion graphics were, I didn’t know any film language, and let alone that there was an actual job where I could combine what I had learned in university and my childhood hobby.
What is your favorite part about working on projects?
I love collaboration. I don’t think I’m very good at design right now, so I love being given a fun script with cool frames that I can get my hands on, and then figuring out what is the best way to animate this, how can we make this work, how can we make it different from what we’ve done in the past, could we recycle some resources we’ve created in the past, what can be improved, what can be repurposed, etc.
What motivates you and the work you do?
I have a bad habit of over-explaining and making things more complicated than they should be, what motivates me is seeing how I can make something different and stand out on its own and I find constant exploration to be the way forward.
WORKING WITH MILE 80
What challenges have you faced so far?
Since I did not have a formal training in film or design, I’ve had to learn a bit of everything on my own; before joining Mile80 I only knew about 20% of the concepts I now recognise.
I have been pushed out of my element many times, like designing different frames, learning 3D animation, 3D character animation & rigging, learning a video game engine, how to edit, audio etc.
Some other challenging moments were represented by some clients and crazy last minute requests, some clients asking for a bunch of changes every day, some clients asking us to do something but contradicting themselves while giving us feedback, learning industry jargon & acronyms - like why do we have so many words that mean the same thing why can’t we just use the one word?
Animation, 3D character animation & designing frames are just a few of the things Juan likes doing at Mile80.
What do you like best about working at Mile 80?
There’s a wide range of projects, in fact I'd say animation per se is what we get the least of, I mean characters and stories as compared to sales videos with motion graphics; we've had from artsy videos where the goal is making it as cool and fancy as possible, to zoom presentations with slides; we recently did a sandbox type of game prototype… and that same wide range of projects is what drove me to learn and apply my newfound knowledge in mainly video editing and 3D animation. I always feel like I’m continuously learning.
PROJECT HIGHLIGHT: ZEMBULA ARMAGEDDON
What's your favorite project you worked on at Mile80 and why?
There’s a project called Zembula Armageddon. This is about a company that creates emails (I know, very thrilling). So we had almost total freedom to do whatever we wanted with the script and go as crazy as we wanted; this project has it all and it’s very different from the traditional explainer videos, so I love it when the client trusts us to make something crazy-looking and it’s not just a sales video, it’s fun to look at and I’m invested in this email character we created.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
I can get heavily invested on one single thing and I want to know everything about it and that will be my hobby for many months, so right now I want to balance all of those things I’ve liked such as video games, metal music, learning songs, learning software, reading, movies & series and looking for new food to try in the city.
Is there any special place you would call it ‘your dream vacation?
I feel like any of the Asian countries would be very different from the west and that’s very interesting for me; if I had to pick one I’d say somewhere in Japan where you can get a good mix of both the modern and the rural.
Is food part of your culture? Tell us your favorite.
I love seafood in all of its presentations. What stands out for me would be paella or ceviche, anything with fish is A-Ok for me and my favorite dessert is brownie with ice-cream.
Last, but not least: what advice would you give yourself when you first started working as a lead animator?
It’s good to be detail focused, but don’t focus 100% on the details. To be self driven is also a good thing but, it is also very difficult to get things right on the first try, you will feel incompetent and feel that you’re not moving forward; the point of being on a team is that all of us complement our shortcomings, you are making things much harder on yourself by not asking for help and thinking you don’t want to bother anyone.
Learning new things means to enjoy the ride.
In some cases, the client won’t know what they want, what they are doing or give enough information about the project or their requests; at the same time; it might also be your first time being responsible for something you don’t even know how to do yourself and you will feel like you are on the Titanic, good news is that the icebergs are likely tiny, so just try to enjoy the ride and learn new things. Ryan is the one looking into the distance for any major troubles that may occur but, it is your responsibility to also let him know if something in the ship is not working.