Quit your job, become an ... animation lighting technician

Written by
Gail Piyanan
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Katha Na Badalung, 33, animation lighting technician and CG supervisor at The Monk Studio

What does an animation lighting technician do?

An animation lighting technician, or a lighter, is responsible for smoothening and controlling the light of an animation, based on its mood, tone and design. The idea of animation lighting is similar to adjusting the light for a theater stage. 

How and why did you decide to become a lighter?

It was a journey from when I was a student at the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts back at Thammasat University. My friend invited me one day to create a short animated film and send it to the Tam Awards animation competition. I took a short course in animation before starting to work on my first-ever short animation and then submitted it. I won third prize and I’ve never quit the animation-film industry since.  Also, I want to be the one who gets to see the final look of a film before its released. Other filmmakers and animators only get to see their own shots in small chunks.

What are the differences between movie and animation lighting?

Lighting in films focuses on how to make things look natural while lighting in animation is more similar to what you see in theater where the lighting can be anything from natural to super dramatic. Imagine a Disney cartoon character like Rapunzel singing a song; the light is brightened up to give her more focus. 

What kind of skills do you need for this job?

You need a sense of vision and some knowledge on the color theory. Also, knowing basic photography skills—focus and which tones deliver the right mood—will be very beneficial. 

Do you still remember the first film you worked on as a lighter ?   

Of course! When I started working at the The Monk Studios, the company asked me to do the lighting for the animation part in the film, Howl (2010). I got so excited to take part in making a Hollywood film, although I heard
it got bad reviews.

What’s the best part of this job?

 

There is also a mix of art and technology in what I do which I love. I’ll never get bored of it as I get to move from one project to another from time to time.  

What’s your least favorite part of the job?

 

Waiting. When you finish working on the lighting in one picture, you need to send it to the computer. So, details such as the background, foreground, midground and the character can be all put together. We call this process “rendering.” Waiting can be the hardest part of the job as you have no control over the computer, and rendering can last from four minutes to ten hours per frame! 

 

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