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Alumni Interview with MPC Lead Animator Gabriele Ranfagni

MPC Lead Animator and a pioneer iAnimate Alumni Gabriele Ranfagni shares his stories and inspirations and how he succeeded in his animation journey.

Gabriele Ranfagni is a veteran of the animation industry. With 15 years of 2d animation and storyboarding, he decided to shift his career to CGI. He has a wide experience in leading teams, and he has also taught several years of animation, gesture drawing, and animal and human anatomy. In Gabriele’s free time, he explores new tools for animation and new fields of animation production, like lighting, shading, texturing, grooming, rigging, and muscle and skin simulation. He is currently working as a Lead Animator at MPC, supervising and leading the animations in Montreal, Canada.

Alumni Interview

Animation Journey and Inspiration

iAnimate: Tell us a bit about your animation journey and throughout your time with us. Who or What inspired you to become an animator? How did you become an animator, and when did iAnimate become part of your journey?

Gabriele: Well, I began in 1995 as a 2d animator and storyboard artist in Italy. I worked for 5 years as a 2d animator and 10 years as a storyboard artist. Storyboard was a cool job, but I really want to come back to animation.

In 2008 my father, a few weeks before dying, following a conversation we had about my dreams, bought me one of the first convertible tablets, a hp tm2, and I began to re-study animation from scratch with a 2d software called Plastic Animation Paper. I remember I made a promise to my father to pursue my career as an animator no matter what.

Following a mail exchange with Jason Ryan where I asked him for some feedback about my animations. Jason told me about an online course he was setting up and asked if I would enroll when the course began. I remember waiting a few months, and I started IAnimate as one of the first students enrolled in the school in September 2010, sharing my journey in the same class with awesome animators like Angelo Catalina and Marcos Gonzales with the awesome Ken Fountain.

In the meantime, I did a test in the summer of 2010, and I was landing my first 3d animation job at TeamTo. At the age of 35, I began my career from scratch. It was not an easy journey because, most of the time to pay my bills, I needed to do a lot of different jobs, and I took some pauses during the workshops. But finally, in 2013, I completed IAnimate.

After some experiences in Axis and a couple of other studios in Iceland and Belgium in 2017, I had a call from Cinesite to work under Jason Ryan and Ryan Yee in the Montreal Feature department. It was a dream come true. Jason Ryan is an amazing human being and a great head of animation and supervisor, and I learned a lot during one year and a half. After some projects and studios, I have slightly moved to VFX, always in Montreal, and now I'm the lead animator in MPC.

I finished the first season of House of the Dragon, and I'm now on a wonderful project about which I can't speak :)

In September, I will also begin teaching at a school here in Montreal, 3d Animation.

What IAnimate gives me is not just knowledge, but basically helps me build my career in CGI animation and change my life. I couldn't be more grateful, and this school will always have a special place in my heart.

iAnimate: Can you tell us more about your role and responsibilities?

Gabriele: In House of the Dragon, I supervised/led a couple of sequences, and, in the project, I work on now, I basically supervise and lead the animation here in Montreal. But I animate too. I use my experience as a 2d animator to give feedback on draw overs, and, in the meanwhile, I mentor animators and give them some workshops about workflows and technics to help them improve their skills.

iAnimate: What do you do to stay inspired and motivated animator?

Gabriele: I also animate when I come back home, and I always learn new stuff. I learned in this year's rig, cfx, muscle simulations, grooming, modeling, and lighting because I love learning new things, and this helps me to stay motivated. And overall, everything is connected, right? Understanding how the other parts of the production work helped to improve my workflow. Sometimes I do some demos about the workflow I use, and I publish on LinkedIn to have some feedback and see the reactions. This helps me also to stay motivated and inspires me and others.

Gabriele Ranfagni

Animation Lessons and Growth

iAnimate: How did iAnimate help prepare you for the industry? What were the most important things you learned at iAnimate?

Gabriele: iAnimate gives me all the tools to grow as an animator. I learned from my mistakes, and that is wonderful. I learned to receive feedback, have a workflow, and also find inspiration for my animation journey. Most importantly, iAnimate made me the animator I'm now.

iAnimate: What is the most challenging shot you’ve ever animated, and why did you succeed at the shot?

Gabriele: Every shot for me has its complexity and challenge, but, technically speaking, it was 15 seconds acting shot in The Star for Sony with five characters, body mechanics, and acting. For the first time, I shot references, and since then, I have always used references for my animations.

Gabriele's Current Animation Reel

You can reach Gabriele via:

iAnimate: Do you have any demo reel or interview advice you can share with animators on the job hunt?

Gabriele: Always put in your demo reel not just the best work you have, of course, but also 2 or more personal works to show what your preferred style is and what you like to do more in production.

iAnimate: What other advice do you have for current or future iAnimate students?

Gabriele: Stay always inspired, and use the feedback to learn how to improve from your mistakes. Animation can be frustrating sometimes, but every step you take is always a step forward in your journey.

Animation Career Advice & Tips

iAnimate: If there’s one animation tip or technique you’d share with someone wanting to animate in a feature film, what would it be?

Gabriele: Always use references. Don't stick with the first reference you shot but use this time to do a kind of creative brainstorm about the shot you will animate. And overall, in Creature Animation, we find a lot of references to understand the mechanics and the behavior well. Spend time on the references and on the blocking. It’s the basis of your animation.

iAnimate: Given that there’s so much to learn, how would you recommend a brand new animator start their training?

Gabriele: It will sound obvious, but the exercise of the ball :) It is everything. And also, use in the first exercise a clean and solid workflow.

iAnimate: What makes a great animator or an animator a studio would hire?

Gabriele: In my opinion, the ego. You can be the best animator ever, but if you are full of yourself and you are not open to feedback, you have just 50% of the skills.

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