The Animation Alum Has Worked On Everything From Aquaman To Hobbs & Shaw

Marlon Rivas is an Animation program alum who has seen his career explode over the past several years. You’ve likely seen his work on films such as Spider-Man:Far From Home, Westworld, or the DC superhero film, Aquaman. As a passionate visual artist, Marlon is still an incredibly humble person, and generously discussed part of his story about where he’s from, and where he’s going.

How did you first get inspired to work in animation?
Honestly, it was something I always wanted to do ever since I was young. It remained a dream for me until I completed my service in the military, which helped open new doors for my career.

How did the military help prepare you for the film industry?
That’s a great question. You come out of the service with a solid work ethic, drive, and a sense of purpose. When you take on a project, you’re going to get it done, and see it through to the end. That’s not enough, though. You have to have as much fun as you can while you work toward a common goal together.

What was the first piece of software you used to create animation?
The first software I used was Adobe Photoshop. From there, and still to this day, I use Autodesk Maya. Maya’s the industry-standard software suite for animators and VFX artists, and I use it daily. Aside from that, I use Adobe After Effects, Pixelogic Zbrush, Adobe After Effects and Nuke. Whenever a new piece of software comes out, I like to get my hands on it and see what it’s all about, especially tools for compositing.

How would you describe compositing to someone who isn’t familiar with the concept?
The integration of two or more images to make it look seamless.

You’ve worked quite a bit with Visual Effects company Crafty Apes. How did that get started?
Throughout my time at The Los Angeles Film School, instructors would tell us to go out and network as much as we can. I went out and networked with people, knowing that there wouldn’t be instant gratification. My wife actually recommended that I volunteer with the Visual Effects Society, so I went out and did that. When I arrived and got to work helping them out at events, I started asking my peers questions, and established relationships along the way. One day while volunteering, someone asked, “alright, who wants to star their career?” I raised my hand, and we started talking. Shortly after that, I landed a gig three at Proof Inc. This happened three months before I graduated.

What did you enjoy most about working on Aquaman?
I loved handling the visual assets. The art director was a really great person, and taught me a great deal about 3D, rigging, and understanding scenes and assets. Everything was disorganized at first, and I was able to make my way into the process, and eventually find myself getting assets, scenes and lighting approved by the VFX department.

What software did you use on Aquaman?
Nuke is what I use all the time. You have to be well versed in it to be successful.
For tracking, I use VF Track, Synthize. For 3D, Maya is industry standard.

What was the process of getting to work on Spider-Man: Far From Home?
After Aquaman, I did litigation support, doing high-quality 3D modeling for several cases. During that, I also started to do some pro bono work on an independent film. While working on that independent film, I met someone who works at Crafty Apes. He noticed my hard work and dedication to the project and was impressed. He brought me in, and I started to work at Crafty Apes. The first film that I worked on there was Aquaman.

Let’s go back to your first day working on Spider-Man. What did it feel like?
When I first got the shots for Spider-Man, I felt so excited. We were going into final compositing. I was nervous at first, but the first shot came back with notes. The folks at Crafty Apes told me something that helped me get through the process, “There’s always a learning curve. Don’t feel bad.” After making the updates based on their notes, we were approved. I also did rotoscoping work on the work, which I hadn’t touched in a year prior to getting started on the project. While at The Los Angeles Film School, I had really good instructors, like Rob Rowles. He showed me a lot of great tips on doing roto work and compositing. I owe a lot to Joffery and Dan Fiske as well. I looked back at what I had done in school, and applied it both before getting started on Aquaman, and while I was working on Spider-Man: Far From Home.

What are some other projects that you are proud to have worked on?
Beats, a Netflix film with Anthony Anderson. There were compositing shots that I did for the film that were so rewarding to work on. There were things that I had to remove and add to scenes, and I ran into obstacles, but learned solutions that helped propel me forward. Over the course of that project, I was taught the right way to use these tools, and I have found that I apply everything I learn to all of the things I worked on in subsequent projects.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into this industry?
Network and network. be humble, and be friendly. A lot of the people in our field are introverted. You must get outside your comfort zone. It will take you a long way. You can be the best artist possible, but if you aren’t getting out there and meeting people, it is a really tightly knit community, and challenging to break in. You’re going to know someone who knows someone, and you want to leave a good impression. Also, whenever you’re given an opportunity, don’t act like a job is beneath you. Also, this is very important. Don’t have personality issues. Work collaboratively and positively with others, and build one another up.

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