|   Personal Information:   |
I am currently a modeling/rigging artist/T.D. at Pixar Animation Studios.
Around August of 2004 I moved to Dallas, Texas. I worked as the Character Rigging Supervisor at DNA Productions for their second feature film entitled "The Ant Bully".
Prior to that I was at Blue Sky Studios in White Plains, New York where I worked on the movie "Robots". I did character and prop rigging and numerous tools, scripts and plug-ins.
Before then I was at Big Idea as CG-Supervisor of the Video Team, as well as Video Team Lead Rigger and an animator. I escaped shortly before they fired the entire studio, due to out-sourcing production to Canada which happened in early spring of 2003.
Prior to all of that, I worked as lead animator with the PC video game company Volition Inc., which is where the picture on the left was taken.
I was born in Cleveland,Ohio and graduated from Case Western Reserve University also in Cleveland. I actually have a computer science major, but have managed to work my way over to the art side of computer animation and graphics, which is a great blend of things I love to do.
Some of my interests (besides animation and art) include martial arts, playing the drums, medieval stuff including period music (I play the hammered dulcimer), dachsunds, zany poetry, sushi, theatre, and singing out loud for no apparent reason.
Here on the left we have an old picture of me when I was a kid pretending I was an Indian, without the bow and arrow amazingly too....hmmm....
I was married to Marci Brumback (now Marci Comet) on September 1, 2001. We then took a trip to
Hawaii for our honeymoon. Here are a few pics:
Michael going Snuba Diving
Scenic Overlook looking at the West side Maui
Road to Hana Park Stop
Marci taking a picture
Coast of Kuai from Helicopter Tour
|   How I Got Started in 3D Graphics:   |
In about 1991 my Dad was thinking about starting a new buisiness doing video production. We stopped into an Amiga shop to check out this new (it was new then) Video Toaster. Though we didn't buy one right away, I saw a demo of a 3D animation on one of the Amigas. I had wanted to do 3D stuff before but never knew it was possible on a PC. Upon realizing I could actually ray trace on a home computer I was hooked.
I ended up getting an Amiga 3000 and a Copy of Imagine 1.0. (Also brand new at the time). I started making animations and working on basic 3D skills. I did some graphics for my High School talent show as well as a logo here and there, but for the most part I just did it for fun. A few years later, Imagine 3.0 came out for the PC. So I picked up the PC version and switched to that platform. While my Dad had gotten a toaster, it was in a slow A2000 and I never really did much more than look at it a little bit. Also during this entire time I had been programming on the PC doing things like that VGA Paint programs and games, and starting my own 3D modeler and renderer for Windows.
Eventually, I was off to college. I met this person on campus, "TJ", who was doing a SciFi magazine on CDROM and ended up doing some graphics and animations for them with Imagine 3.0 PC. The CDROM never got published (TJ landed a fulltime job doing CDROM work in Florida) but I got some experience. In addition to all my computer classes I enrolled in drawing and painting. I also bought a PAR board so I could output onto tape. By that point I had graduated and had started working at the University as a network software engineer.
I started looking around for graphics jobs around this time.
I found I could get a job as a technical director since I had both good
graphics and programming experience. However I wasn't sure if it was what
I really wanted to do. So I decided to hold off and try to work on more
animation work and character work.
A while later Lightwave 3D 4.0 stand-alone came out for the PC. I switched to that and started using it. At the same time I met this guy on the internet who was working on a PC video game, Vicious Circle. He was looking for 3D animators to do some character animation stuff for the game. I decided to work on it in hopes I would get good royalties and good experience. I ended up designing and animating this mutant person and cyborg character for the game (which still hasn't been published as far as I know). During the same time I also did some logo designs and freelance for people I knew.
Now it happens that when I was using Imagine, I wrote the Imagine FAQ for the mailing list. One of the guys on the list, Doug Kelly, was also from Cleveland, though he lived out of town at the time. However, way back then he had visted and we got together and exchanged some models and things. After I switched to Lightwave (and wrote the FAQ for that) I found out he had moved back to Cleveland and actually now worked at the same University I graduated from (and now worked at myself).
So we got together and talked about graphics and things. It ended up he was writing a book about Character Animation and Lightwave 3D. He asked if I was interested in helping out with the book as well as this short film he wanted to make. I said sure and ended up helping him with Lightwave techniques for the book and modeling a character for his film.
Since I was helping with the book the publisher paid for us to go to SIGGRAPH 96. I looked for some jobs there, and found while I had now started to do more character work, I was still mostly qualified as a technical director and not an animator. So I decided to work more on animation and joined the CG-Char list. I got a bit better and kept a lookout for other job openings.
A little while later I found some video game companies that were hiring for a jack of all trades type person who would specifically be good at the cinematic cutscenes. This is exactly what I was looking for since I could utilize my T.D. skills as well as work on character animation and things like that. I ended up getting a job at Parallax Software now called Volition Inc., where I worked from around 1997-2000. My primary focus was character animation and setup for cinematics and realtime.
While working fulltime, I continued to do some freelance as well as help with other books. For example, I have some sections in Doug Kelly's "Character Animation In Depth" book (that's my frog image on the spine there), and I've also written a chapter on Magpie in Bill Flemings "Animating Facial Features & Expressions" book. I also now maintain the FAQ for the CG-Char mailing list.
After becoming lead animator at Volition and working there for 3 years, I left to become lead at Creative Digital Images where I was working on a direct to video childrens cartoon. After a brief period of time I decided to move on to something more stable, and started as a 3D Artist/Animator at Big Idea (makers of Veggie Tales, outside of Chicago, IL) where I worked on the first 3 video releases of the cartoons series, "3-2-1 Penguins".
I have been published in many books and articles, and have spoken at Siggraph 2001 in the Production Overviews Sketch, where I talked about our process and tools used on "3-2-1 Penguins".
Eventually, Penguins got outsourced to Canada. At that point I and the rest of the Penguins team
moved onto doing Veggie Videos while the rest of the studio finished up Jonah, Big Idea's first
feature film. I became Lead Engineer/Character T.D. for the Video Team as well as continuing to
animate for the series. I worked on "The Star of Christmas" among other videos. Continuing
technically, developing new tools and techniques as well as animating, I became the CG-Supervisor
of the Video Team crew and started work on a few veggie video releases after the Christmas show.
In the beginning of 2003 I decided to join Blue Sky Studios in White Plains, New York to work as a Rigger/T.D. for their second feature film, "Robots". I worked on do character and prop rigging, as well as scripting tools and plugins for rigging and animation.
Also at Blue Sky I delved into R&D work for Ice Age 2. I developed the trunk and tail rig
script and tools, as well as designed new eyes rigs and related C++ plugins. I also did
preliminary rigging on several of the characters.
In August of 2004 I moved to Dallas, TX to work at DNA Productions.
I was the Rigging Supervisor where I helped develop a new rigging pipeline and
related tools and plug-ins for DNA's second feature film titled "The Ant Bully".
In July of 2006 I moved to the San Francisco bay area to work as a T.D./Generalist at Pixar Animation Studios which is now a subsidiary of Disney. I worked as a modeling and rigging artist on the 2009 release of "Up" directed by Pete Doctor. My work includes Beta the rottweiler, the married life version of Carl during the montage sequence, and several other characters and props. I am currently working on a future Pixar film.
For fun, I have an Old Image Gallery page that has a lot of old Imagine and AMIGA renderings from when I was first getting started. Might be funny to look at. Just be warned this is really really old stuff. But it shows everyone starts somewhere.
That's a "not so short" description of how I got started in 3D animation. I probably should get back to animating now...
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