Georgios Cherouvim: Computer Graphics & Animation

by Kate Andrews | September 23, 2010

Georgios Cherouvim was born in Athens in 1981. While doing compulsory national service in the Greek army he discovered the world of computer graphics and analog photography. In 2001 he joined the top UK course for Computer Animation at Bournemouth University. 3 years later, Georgios graduated with a first class degree and an award for the best final year project for his short animated film, ‘Theros’. After graduating Georgios joined Moving Picture Company, where his work was seen in X-Men3, Harry Potter 5, and on commercial spots for Greenpeace, Sony, Nokia, Sky, Renault and many more. In 2009 and after 4 years of work in the industry, Georgios decided to move back to Greece for a long break, to work on his personal projects again. Instead of flying, he cycled his way back home, covering 4325km in 66 days and raising money for Medecins Sans Frontieres. We caught up with Georgios this month as he settles into his next career step in Vancouver.

Notes on Design: Can you give us a brief insight into who you are, what you do and how your career started?

Georgios: I was born and raised in the capital of Greece, but I’ve already spent a quarter of my life abroad, studying and working. Professionally, I am an FX Technical Director working for film and television, but in my personal time I try to explore any fields of visual arts. Ideally I’d love to do more animated shorts, but unfortunately that’s almost impossible whilst working full time in the VFX (Visual Effects) industry. Animation just takes too much time and dedication, so instead I spend my spare time experimenting with illustration, sculpture and photography.

In late 2005, at Bournemouth’s National Centre of Computer Animation (NCCA) degree show, I was offered a job at Moving Picture Company (MPC), a London based post production facility, where I worked as an FX Technical Director for feature films and commercials. I was working straight away on X-Men 3, Harry Potter 5, and commercial spots for Greenpeace, Sony, Nokia, Sky, Renault and others. I then moved to the commercial department where I spent another 2 years working.

Notes on Design: Why did you choose a career in Animation?

Georgios: My dream as a teenager was always to become a commercial pilot, but around the age of 16 I discovered the world of computer graphics and animation. The more I was experimenting and learning the tools, the more I was getting into it and slowly I made a drift from my initial plan, thinking that it would be more interesting to try and make a living out of what was a hobby at the time. At that stage, I never thought I would end up working on big cinematic productions. At that point I was just enjoying making and learning new things but that was what has brought me to where I am today.

Notes on Design: What would you say was your creative break, and what has been the pivotal piece of work you are most proud of?

Georgios: Up until I went to university, I was mainly interested in the technical side of computer animation. I already had some basic knowledge of computer programming through my high school. But luckily, during the university course, I was exposed to the more fundamental principles of the arts. I started reading about traditional artists, appreciating their work and learning more and more about the theory behind the image. At the last year of the course, I decided I should try to do a more artistically challenging, rather than technical, project. The result of that thinking was ‘Theros’, which really sparked the beginning of a new era for me.

Notes on Design: Theros was very well received, can you tell us more about the project and the response to it?

Georgios: From an industry perspective “Theros”, which means ‘harvesting’ in Greek, is a non-narrative piece using strong imagery and repetitive animation to deliver a visual, emotional and political message. Theros was a very interesting project to work on. It was initiated by a little sketch I did on the beach the summer before and the whole idea started developing around it. Many of the elements started as a random design that I thought would add to the visual style of the animation. Other times, it was a message that I wanted to get across that would drive a design. After gathering all these visual and conceptual elements, it was just a matter of fitting them all together in a sensible way. The progress of the production was very fluid with things changing all the time. Up until the last month I wasn’t really sure of how the final piece would look like.

Theros won an award for the best major project of my year and it has been screened in dozens of festivals worldwide, including SIGGRAPH, OneDotZero, Animago and ArtFutura. It has also been featured in 3DWorld magazine, Computer Arts and CGSociety.

Notes on Design: Do you have any self-led projects you’d like to tell us about?

Georgios: After the success of Theros, it was a little disappointing that I no longer had time to work on more personal animations. It was only when I took a long break from work that I managed to finish my next animation. “Erebus” started as a project that would only last a couple of months or so and its sole purpose was to make something visually pleasing without necessarily any meaning to it. I ended up spending several hundred hours on it over a period of two years and it is safe to say that if I had known that in advanced, I probably would have put a little more thinking into the concept of the animation. One way or another, I am very pleased with the final result though. The images came out nicer and a little more colorful than I expected and the music that Nic Birmingham wrote for me just took the piece to another level. Erebus has already been screened at a couple of festivals in Athens and I am planning to send it to many others worldwide.

Realizing that doing 3D at home after spending 8-12 hours in front of the monitor at work was very hard and unhealthy, I started looking into other ways to express my self. For over a period of two years in London, I was attending an afternoon class in Morley College doing stone carving and metal work. It is probably one of the most satisfying things I’ve done. Hammering a stone or using brute force on metal was the best way to get the day’s stress and frustration out, all whilst being creative at the same time. Working with stone or metal is more direct and physical, something that is definitely missing in the world of computer graphics, where everything exists behind a screen.

Notes on Design: Last year, you rode a bike back to your home of Athens? Can you tell us about the journey and how life in Athens has been?

Georgios: After living in England for 7 years, I didn’t just want to get on a plane and get back home within a few hours. A better epilogue had to be written for that chapter of my life. The idea of slow traveling always appealed to me and riding across a whole continent was a great, but in the same time feasible challenge. It took me about a month to convince my self and another two to prepare my equipment and plan the trip. I spend a little more than 2 months on a bike with just the essentials, covering a distance of about 4500km. I went over mountains, through hundreds of cities and villages, cycled through amazing landscapes, I met dozens of people and ate loads of delicious food. It was an experience of a life time that taught me a lot about the world around me, helped me clear my mind and re-evaluate things in life. Throughout the entire trip, I was documenting and updating my blog, where photos and text can still be found for each day.

Arriving back in Athens after such a long time was great as well. It was good to reunite with family and friends, and generally do things I didn’t have the chance to do while working. Apart from many small projects, I spend a significant amount of time working on Erebus that luckily was finished just on time to participate in two animation festivals in Athens that took place while I was there.

Notes on Design: So, where and what are you working on at the moment?

Georgios: Since May 2010 I’ve been living in Vancouver, where I work for MPC as a Senior Effects Technical Director. At the moment I am involved in Zack Snyder’s latest movie Sucker Punch, which will be screened on March 2011. MPC is responsible for the dream sequence of Baby Doll fighting with three giant Samurai within a Pagoda. The fight is exaggerated and a little over the top, which makes it a more interesting and fun project to work on. There are many time stretches, powerful compositions and very moody grading.

Despite the unhealthy working hours, I do my best to squeeze a drawing or a photo here and there, but nothing as big as an animation short for the time being.


See more of Georgios’ work at www.ch3.gr.

Designer and writer Kate Andrews was the original editor of Notes on Design blog, founded in 2007.

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