'Exciting' to work on Rise Of Skywalker, says local animator
For local animator Eric Leong, working on Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker was “very exciting” as he has been a fan of the sci-fi film franchise fan from a young age.
An associate animation supervisor at the Singapore outpost of visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), he was the animation supervisor for the latest movie sequel, which is currently showing here.
He and his team were responsible for creating the performance of computer graphics characters and movement of inanimate objects, such as vehicles and spaceships.
Some of the scenes they worked on include the one where Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) reveals Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) connection to the evil Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).
They also had a hand in the duo’s Death Star lightsaber duel and Rey’s harrowing journey to the abandoned space station prior.
Mr Leong, who is in his 40s, has worked on a series of notable Hollywood films since joining ILM in 2009.
The Nanyang Polytechnic graduate, who has a diploma in digital media design (animation), was the animation supervisor for Aladdin (2019) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018).
He was also the lead animator for Ready Player One (2018), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows (2016), Warcraft (2016), Transformers: Age Of Extinction (2014) and Pacific Rim (2013).
The Rise Of Skywalker marks a peak in his career, a step up from being lead animator for the Star Wars spin-off Rogue One.
He told The New Paper: “When I was working on Rogue One, I was in charge of smaller and more specific scenes.
“As a supervisor on The Rise Of Skywalker, I oversaw the various sequences and the quality of the big picture.”
His job also required him to liaise with other departments as well as the visual effects supervisors to ensure the final product is suitable for the client.
The Rise Of Skywalker was more challenging compared to other titles he has worked on before because it was not “creature-based”.
He said: “Every show has its own set of technical difficulties. However, this is science fiction. There are many machines involved, and you have to understand how they work as if in real life as compared to more organic, natural items such as plants or animals.”
However, the toughest aspect of creating sequences did not lie in the content, but rather its fluctuations.
“There were changes to the scenes right down to the last minute - almost to 180 degrees. We were forced to rework many scenes.”
For some sequences, the team was only given a “blank slate with a one-liner” as indication of how the scene should proceed.
However, the efforts were worth it. Mr Leong said: “It felt very good watching the end product. It’s really great to see your hard work pay off, and be able to contribute to the franchise.”
His favourite scene is when Rey rides a series of rough waves on Kef Bir to get to the Death Star in a bid to find the Wayfinder which will locate Palpatine.
“For that scene, we had to communicate a lot with the other departments in order to make the waves and other elements look realistic.”
There was another challenge too - that of not being able to tell his wife or friends about the plot.
He said: “The fact that I couldn’t reveal what happened was very tough. My wife is an even bigger Star Wars fan than me, so she badgered me often.”