Animation Student Rises in VFX

Sergio Rincón won a scholarship in his native Colombia from the organization COLFUTURO to study VFX at Academy of Art University. Photo courtesy Sergio Rincón.

Sergio Rincón sets a new record for first-semester success

By Cristina Schreil

Like many movie-goers in 2010, Sergio Rincón saw Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending thriller “Inception.” Not only did the special effects astound him, but it also paved the way for a new career path.

“When I was young, I loved movies like ‘Star Wars’ and ‘The Matrix,’ said Rincón. “When I saw ‘Inception,’ it blew my mind.” Turns out, it also jumpstarted his passion for visual effects, a craft he’s now pursuing—and already excelling at—at Academy of Art University.

Rincón, who is from Bucaramanga, Colombia, is earning his master’s at the Academy’s School of Animation & Visual Effects (ANM). Last spring, Rincón’s first semester, his work already stood out. At the Academy’s annual Spring Show, he earned a second-place award in the category of composition of special effects for a compositing project.

At the Academy’s annual Spring Show, Rincón earned a second-place award in the category of composition of special effects for a compositing project. Photo courtesy of Sergio Rincón.

Catherine Tate, director of ANM, said that in her 15 years at the Academy, she had never seen a student excel so far in their first semester. “He has a very good eye for design and picks things up quickly,” Tate added. “He is easy to work with and communicates well with his instructors and other students.”

The project for which Rincón earned an award was something he created for Tate’s ANM 342, VFX 3: Node-Based Compositing 1. For the midterm assignment, students designed their own shot. Beginning with shot footage as a foundation, they are tasked with making it more cinematic—something you’d see in a commercial, on television or in a film, Tate said.

Using footage Rincón shot in the La Preservancia neighborhood of Bogotá, he composited graffiti art by Australian artist Bradley Eastman (otherwise known as “Beastman”) onto an otherwise simple shot of plain buildings. He had one simple goal: make an old, run-down part of the city look vibrant and beautiful.

“He took a boring environment and turned it into something magical with color and by making good choices in the elements he added and integrating them seamlessly,” Tate, who supervised Rincón throughout the whole process, explained. “He didn’t over complicate what he was trying to achieve with unnecessary additions.”

Rincón mused that he’s suited for compositing because of his patience and work ethic. He spent a lot of his free time on the assignment and consistently looked to Tate for feedback.

A still from the award-winning compositing project created for ANM 342, wherein student Sergio Rincón composited graffiti art by an Australian artist over a plain strip of buildings in Bogotá. Image by Sergio Rincón.

Rincón’s path to VFX wasn’t as straightforward. He first worked in advertising for four years upon earning a degree in graphic design in his native Colombia. Most of his work comprised television commercials and internal videos for global companies like Coca Cola and Mercedes. One project, in particular, was a lightbulb moment for why he needed to learn more about visual effects. It was for a comical Dunkin’ Donuts ad that ended up being very popular in Colombia. “In that TV spot, I made an effect in which a man was inflating and then exploding,” Rincón said.

However, in Colombia, there wasn’t a direct way to develop a visual effects career, Rincón explained. Delving into research, he discovered ANM and, through a scholarship with the organization COLFUTURO, was able to attend the Academy. It was a leap to leave—no one in his family has a similar artistic career path, Rincón said. “I left everything in my country to follow my art degree. At this moment, I think they are knowing about the field and feeling like I am doing a good job,” he said, referring to his family.

He enjoys that he’s able to focus so specifically on certain elements of his craft through Academy courses. He said he’s learning new skills while building upon old ones. “I think my background in graphic design helps me a lot because I learned about basic concepts like color theory, lighting, contrast, photographic composition and the fundamentals of 2-D design and 3-D design.”

Currently, he’s working as a compositor at ANM’s Studio X, on a narrative feature film called “All of the Old Bells,” directed by Brent Green, and a short sci-fi film called “Mass Teleportation Authority,” directed by Geoffrey Smeltzer.

As the fall semester presses on, Rincón said he’s excited for what’s next. “The Academy gave me the opportunity to grow in the field that I want to … For me, it’s a dream come true being here, because it’s like being in the right place at the right time.”

To watch Rincón’s award-winning assignment, visit https://www.behance.net/gallery/81073701/Graffiti-Compositing-Runner-up-VFX-Comp-AAU.

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