Andrew Hwang is having a good summer. The 2006 Computer Animation graduate worked on the visual effects for massive hit The Avengers, and will see three other high profile credits hit screens before the end of the season – Battleship, Men in Black III, and Total Recall.
“It’s kind of unreal to think about, I look at my IMDB page and feel like I’m looking at someone else’s,” he says. “It’s really satisfying to be a part of these bigger films because a lot of people don’t get those kinds of opportunities.”
Andrew contributed to these films and a long list of other well-known projects at The Third Floor, a Los Angeles studio where he’s been a pre-visualization artist since 2008. Pre-vis is an early stage of digital effects preproduction where artists like Andrew creates animatics that help filmmakers plan out the composition of a scene and its action sequences before shooting.
“This part of the process is really fun because we’re on the creative development side,” he says. “The art department is still figuring out exactly what they want things to look like, and sometimes they’ll ask us to brainstorm and come up with ideas too.”
“For a movie like Battleship I would make digital versions of environments that they wanted to build live on set and eventually destroy, which was really cool. We did the part you see in the trailer where one of the alien ships launches a ‘shredder ball.’ That’s one of the most visually impressive things I’ve been a part of.”
Andrew has helped create a lot of memorable images during his career, but still finds it surreal being associated with many of the franchises he grew up on, like this summer’s Men in Black III. The film is the first entry in the series in a decade, and he admitted a strange sense of déjà vu as he worked on the scenes involving the ‘uni-bike’ that Will Smith is seen riding in the trailers.
“I remember being a kid going to the theater to watch the Men in Black movies, and I honestly never could have imagined working on them,” he says. “The series is so much fun, and the effects they came up with for this one are really creative so being on it was a really good time for me. It also has a great sense of humor because of the time travel aspect they’ve introduced, so I know the fans will really like it.”
Being able to contribute ideas for films of this scale would be a dream for any visual artist, and it’s probably safe to say that 2012 might turn out to be Andrew’s most memorable summer yet. The joy he has for his work is infectious as you speak with him, and what continues to put his career in perspective is the thought that most people would be excited just to see this lineup of projects, let alone help create them.
“Watching Avengers in the theater was just a reminder of how cool my job is – seeing all those people freaking out about it,” he says. “I feel like Battleship, Men in Black, and Total Recall are going to come out just as good, and I can’t wait to hear what people think. We did a really great job with each of the movies, and just looking at some of the finished sequences and edits I’ve seen I don’t think they’ll disappoint anyone. That’s always the goal, to do great work for the fans.”