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Tuesday September 2, 2008

Moo’s dream job

A Malaysian chalks up digital honour at the movies.

IT WAS a proud moment for his parents when the credits rolled at the end of the blockbuster movie Iron Man. Under visual effects, the name Jerome Moo appeared.

It marked a major step in Moo’s career, which began at a games studio in Kuala Lumpur. The 26-year-old digital artist had always been passionate about art and when Lucasfilm Animation Singapore (LAS) officially opened its doors in 2005, he set his sights on joining the company.

It was in September 2006 that Jerome applied for a position with LAS to further enhance his skills. Since then, he has been working as a digital artist with the Digital Artist Group, which works closely with the US-based Academy Award-winning company, Industrial Light & Magic.

Moo is among many young talents in the country who have embraced new technology and are able to showcase their creativity worldwide.

It is also the independent streak in him that makes Moo aim high despite being born with a hearing disability. To him, it is not a hindrance to his work.

“I am quite fortunate to be hired by a very open-minded international company that encourages equal opportunity,” he says.

Jerome Moo: 'I did not have film experience or a film education background prior to joining Lucasfilm, so it has been a lot of hard work to learn everything relating to visual effects from scratch.' -Picture courtesy of Lucasfilm Animation Singapore

“During my time here, I have not been discriminated against by my superiors or colleagues. They are very understanding about my hearing disability and always seek to make my work flow smooth and easy.

“I really appreciate what they have done for me. I truly encourage those with disabilities to keep fighting for their dreams and not let their handicap get in their way.”

According to Amy Quek, industry relations and artistic development manager at LAS, the company’s policy is to provide equal employment opportunity and a work environment that discourages discrimination against gender, race, nationality, marital status, age, religion, language, colour, descent and physical disability.

She is quick to point out that Moo is highly creative and a valuable team member who will go far.

LAS is a fully-integrated digital animation studio designed to produce digital animated content for films, television and games for global audiences.

The studio works alongside ILM in creating visual effects for feature films and, together with Lucasfilm Animation in the United States, the Singapore studio also produced the CG animated TV series called Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

For Moo, his role in Iron Man was to come up with digital matte paintings (digimatte in short) for the jet fighter sequences in the show, as well as set up temp digimatte passes for other artists for the end battle sequence with Iron Monger.

“I also did some visual effects concepts, including possible alternate versions of the explosion at the end of the movie,” he says.

About the nature of his job in Singapore, Moo says it involves a lot of multi-tasking – utilising a variety of expertise in digital matte painting, composition, technical direction, asset modelling and conceptual art.

“My responsibilities are primarily in concept art and digimatte areas,” he says.

Leaving his home in Kuala Lumpur to take on the Singapore job was a milestone and represented a form of independence for him – being able to take care of himself on his own.

“The Digital Artist Group at Lucasfilm is an extension of ILM in San Francisco. By collaborating with team members on opposite sides of the world, we can provide a 24-hour production cycle for clients. As people in California are ending their work day, we’re just starting ours.

“Working here is a very enriching experience. I did not have film experience or a film education background prior to joining Lucasfilm, so it has been a lot of hard work to learn everything relating to visual effects from scratch.

“Thankfully, we have amazing training programmes that allow us to learn from true industry pioneers at Industrial Light & Magic.”

Moo was thrilled when he was invited by ILM to travel to San Francisco, California, to train with their Art Department earlier this year.

“During my time at ILM in San Francisco, the artists were very humble and professional at the same time. They were also very flexible, and for a concept artist, that is a very positive aspect of working with a high-profile studio. LAS has provided me with an opportunity to grow as an artist. I love my job!”

So now that he has earned some credit on Iron Man, what would his next project be?

“I’m sorry to say that it is highly confidential. But I am excited to work on the current and future projects, and assure you that they are and will be really big blockbusters!”