What is it like to work as a CG Supervisor at Nickelodeon?

One of Ernest's Characters

One of Ernest's Characters

Cogswell graduate, Ernest Chan (class of 1999) offers insight into his job and how to prepare if this is your career goal.

1. Company name, your job title, a brief description of your job responsibilities and how long you have worked there.
I work for Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank, California. I’ve been with Nick since 2001 where I was a CG Animator on the series “Invader Zim.” In 2005 I was promoted to Post Production CG Supervisor where I supervised two animators. The group has since grown to four animators and a production assistant.

2. Can you give an example of what you might do on a ‘typical’ day?
Most of my day is spent approving shots, providing feedback to my animators, going over schedules and budgets. On some days I have review sessions with directors to go over the shots they want fixed. Sometimes I need to break storyboards down, watch an episode’s animatic or go to storyboard pitches. When I can I try to squeeze in the occasional shot for me to work on.

-Bonnie Phelps, Dean of Institutional Advancement

3. Can you give an example of something that surprised you about your job when you first started?
The biggest change from when I was just an animator is all the multi-tasking that I have to do now. When I was just an animator, I only needed to worry about the shots that were assigned to me. Now that I manage a team I have to manage our workload, notes that are being called, schedules, budgets and interact with various people in the studio.

4. Describe your piece of the production cycle. How does what you do move the project forward?
My group lets the director add finishing touches to their show. It can range from re-animating a shot from scratch to doing minor fixes. Even though we’re in the Post department sometimes we’re given work on a show that’s in Pre-Production. This gives the director the chance to experiment with ideas or prepare files for shipment to an overseas studio.

5. How big is the team you are part of for a typical project? What kind of interaction do you have with other team members?
I have daily interaction with members of my team. It can range from providing feedback on their shots to providing technical direction. There are a total of four animators and one production assistant. Each of my animators is a generalist which is important because the type of work that we do varies so much.

6. What projects have you worked on in the past?
Since I’m in the Post Department I’ve had my hand on most of the shows at Nickelodeon. I’ve worked on SpongeBob SquarePants, Danny Phantom, The Fairly Odd Parents, Ni-hao Kai-lan, Tak and the Power of Juju and Invader Zim to name a few.

7. What do you find most rewarding about your job?
When a director gets excited about the work that we do for them, that’s the best. Sometimes we’re not given a lot of time to fix something, so when we pull it off and it exceeds their expectation, that’s a really great feeling.

8. What advice would you give students preparing for a career as a CG Supervisor?
I would recommend that they become very proficient in the various areas of CG. Different problems require different solutions so the more you know the easier it’ll be to find a specific solution. Being able to handle stress and communicate effectively is important.

9. How did Cogswell help prepare you for this career?
Cogswell was my first real structured introduction to CG. In addition to the CG instruction, the classes were run in such a way that they prepared you for a real working environment.

10. What qualities does someone need to have to be successful in this field?
Having talent helps but more importantly, being a hard worker is key. Being able to work with a team and other people is important.

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