Feature Crew

Jesus Lavin


Jesus joined Image Engine in 2007 and has held the role of Senior Compositor on such projects as District 9, Zero Dark Thirty, and Lone Survivor. More recently he has contributed to KINGSGLAIVE: FINAL FANTASY XV and Independence Day Resurgence. Below he discusses the balance of work and play at Image Engine and his thoughts on the future of compositing.

Tell us a little about your career path, and the skills you have developed over the years.

Spain is a small market in the VFX industry, so when you’re an artist over there you’re pretty much on your own. Resources are low and the hours are long, so you need to be both creative and resilient. First thing you learn is how to solve problems – polishing your skills comes afterwards.

I think that versatility helps you later on when looking for work in the bigger industries. My first job abroad in London was working at MPC London on Danny Boyle’s Sunshine in the last couple of months of the project. I worked on some shots building the exterior surface of the spaceship, mixing live action with pretty large environment work. It was quite a challenge because I had never worked with that kind of pipeline – or with any kind of pipeline at all, for that matter.

After that I arrived at Image Engine and started getting more familiar with the way larger projects work. You get more help, but at the same time the quality you need to deliver rises significantly. It’s a completely different approach, so I had to learn how to deal with that in a new way.

What have been your proudest achievements while working as a compositor at Image Engine?

I think most of the people that worked on District 9 would say that was their proudest achievement. Few other projects come close for me; not just because of the quality of the outcome, but because everybody that worked on that show truly felt that we made it our own.

Other than that, I have very fond memories of our work on Zero Dark Thirty. At a personal level, it was my first show leading a team. That brought a lot of challenges, but was also a great learning experience. We had a great team and the work we delivered was really solid.

What is it like working in Vancouver? How does it differ to your past working locations?

Vancouver is a great place to live, and that really does matter a lot when you’re considering a place to work.

You can ride your bike all year long, you have access to wonderful surroundings, you have as many parks and beaches as you need in the summertime, and there are hundreds if not thousands of great restaurants. There is a pretty good cultural environment here; everything is right there on your doorstep. You don’t have that in London or Madrid – not the quality of life, nor the time to enjoy it.

How do you feel about working at Image Engine?

Image Engine encourages the same kind of lifestyle as Vancouver – cool and relaxed! All employees get together once a month to check out the latest work and get to know each other a little bit better. We have seasonal parties for employees and family members, barbecues in the summertime and even a soccer team. It’s a great working environment, both professionally and socially.

What kind of opportunities are there to learn and grow your skill base at Image Engine?

In order to optimize our workflow, Image Engine’s pipeline department has been developing Jabuka for quite a few years. Jabuka is our proprietary Python-based asset management tool that works across the facility, so everything we do from plate ingestion, data generation (from all departments and platforms) and final output is managed in a streamlined fashion. Following up that development and trying to come up with more ideas to improve the compositing side of it is something to look forward to.

Needless to say, there is always something new to learn when it comes to compositing so I would say that becoming more familiar with stereo shows and embracing deep compositing are other areas I am interested in.

What excited you about compositing today and where it’s heading? What do you like about Image Engine’s approach to compositing?

It’s hard to say where compositing is heading. It’s seems like there is a sense of urgency in the industry that could be a little bit damaging in the long term, with people prioritizing quantity over quality – but we will see. At Image Engine we put quality at the top of our priorities when engaging in any project so I am confident we are on the right path. With my compositing work, I will be happy if we keep on delivering beautiful work with the same consistency that we have been delivering over the past several years.