The 3 Working Lives of Claudius Urban
A day in the (mostly real) life of TRIXTER's Head of Animation
A day in the (mostly real) life of TRIXTER's Head of Animation
The Kangaroo Conspiracy (Die Känguru-Verschwörung) hopped into cinemas this past week, and the reviews so far are looking hop-ful (okayyy, no more Kangaroo puns, we promise).
Here at TRIXTER, we were lucky enough to be the studio behind the Kangaroo, and we must admit- our teams really came together to pull this one off! As someone who led the Animation Team as Supervisor during this project, Claudius Urban played a key role in bringing the Kangaroo to life- not only in this film, but also in 2020’s The Kangaroo Chronicles. After the project wrapped, he was bumped up to Head of Animation for TRIXTER, and we figured he’d be rather interesting person to interview.
Claudius is well-known around the studio for being as lively and animated as the spirited characters he creates. Having originally teamed up with TRIXTER back in 2012 for Iron Man, Claudius went on a world tour, working with other major studios before joining us full time back in 2017.
(And, prepare yourself: A surprising amount of crying occurs)
Hallöchen, Claudius. Thanks for taking time to chat- we know you’ve been busy working on The Kangaroo Conspiracy: the smashing follow-up to 2020’s The Kangaroo Chronicles: So, let’s dive right in, shall we?
Did you always want to be an animator? Was it a difficult path to follow?
C: Growing up, my head was always full of pictures and stories. I came across CG for the first time in 9th grade, I decided that I wanted to be an animator. After finishing school, I worked in the gaming industry and studied at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. Eventually, I started working as a freelance animator for games, commercials, and movies. I was pretty lucky!
What does professional success mean to you?
C: It means finding a good balance between work and social life.
What does an average working day look like for you? Is it different in home office than in the studio? Can you walk us through it?
C: Ready? Here we go.
In The Studio: I arrive as early as possible, grab a coffee (heaped with a mountain of foamed milk and a sprinkling of sugar), and answer emails, messages, and various tickets. I’ll then check Ftrack next for any new animation submissions, and I’ll provide my first round of feedback —I prefer to have rolling rounds throughout the day instead of taking it all at once. I feel smug and productive as the first animation team members start to arrive (later than me); we launch banter at each other and someone usually ends up crying (just kidding!) (or maybe not!). We then have a morning meeting; catching up about client feedback, challenges, and progress on a show.
Home Office: I attempt to roll out of bed and directly into my desk chair, but I land on the floor. My kids see me on the floor and take their chance to start jumping on my belly. I pick myself up and find my way into the chair, defeated, and drink my home coffee (which isn’t as good as the studio coffee, less foamed milk… but caffeine is caffeine). Repeat a similar routine to what happens at the studio, but the meetings and banter go full digital. I click on ‘Mute’ while I cry.
In My Head: My wife surprises me with waffles, hand-delivered by my beautifully-groomed kids directly in bed. My phone rings, and a mysterious voice tells me that the world is in danger and I need to rescue it! The phone self-destructs right after I listen to the message. I immediately jump out of bed and get dressed, my family is overcome with admiration when they hear of my dangerous mission. I hop into a flying car and make the quick commute to the space station, ready to carry out my mission: Stopping the asteroid which is hurtling towards the earth at a million miles a second!
In The Studio: After another round of feedback, I check with the team regarding technical issues that may prevent them from making progress on their shots. I set aside some time for valuable one-on-one meetings with team members, and work on pipeline improvements, general R&D, and catching up with our animation TD. I put on my headphones, play air drums for a bit, and head out to lunch. Once I’m back at my desk, I check again for animation submissions, and take some time to animate a shot myself (I think it’s super important for an animation supervisor to do some hands-on work, which helps me to stay aware of any issues within a production environment).
Home Office: No need to play air drums at home — I sit at my real drum set and play System of a Down to perk me up. Smiling from ear to ear, I catch up with animators in online one-on-ones, give feedback, and work on general R&D. My drum set keeps beckoning to me, so I end up playing Rise Against and Tool at lunch time. I empty the dishwasher, cleaning some of the mess my kids left in the morning, but my wife comes out and insults me for not cleaning well enough. I start to cry and feel the urge to play the drums again.
In My Head: I fire up my top-of-the-line spaceship and fly fearlessly towards the asteroid, ready to blast it apart. But! Oh No! TRIXTER, we have a problem! My weapons systems are jammed! I alert ground control, but they can’t help— they’re out of range! I’m losing contact with them! Looks like the future of humanity is in my hands, and my hands alone. There is no lunch break in space, so instead I come up with a plan. A master plan: I’m going to sacrifice myself. I will pilot my starship directly into the hurtling asteroid, altering its trajectory and saving the world.
In The Studio: A short coffee break (a mountain of foamed milk, of course) and catch up with my Animation Lead. The banter continues as most of the animation team members come back from lunch. I interface with the Production team to make sure we’re on schedule, discuss technical issues with the CG Supervisor, and then it’s time for VFX Supervisor reviews! I’ll then give the last round of feedback for the day, take part in client reviews, and then wind down with another little bit of animating and R&D work (And of course, try to come up with better banter for next time). I relish the warm feeling in my stomach shortly before my day comes to an end, and then practice my new quips on the team on the way out. I stick to the shadows so nobody can see my tears as I make my way home.
Home Office: As the day winds down, I take a cursory look over animation submissions and schedule. Start to cry immediately, wondering if there is a better fit for me regarding my profession (Would I be a good shepherd?) I sneakily play Foo Fighters on the drums, which makes me feel better. It always feels good to loudly hit something. But, of course, I need to keep up the act that I’m still working, so I take part in various online meetings, trying to fake expertise (thanks, Google!) Inevitably, my kids come back home, the general noise level increases immediately, and I turn off my machine and cry inside until the next day begins.
In My Head: Wait, do I need to sacrifice my life? Or is there another way of saving the world? I suit up, preparing myself to leave the safety of my spaceship and try to accomplish the impossible. I valiantly float out of the hatch, into the black, starry abyss. The asteroid looms intimidatingly across my field of vision. Using my spacesuit’s thrusters, I fly closer and closer to the asteroid, until it’s within reach. I reach out my hands, and START PUSHING: With all of my might! It really is incredible what adrenaline, determination, and pure brute strength can make happen in a moment of planetary emergency. With a mighty SHOVE, I push the asteroid clear out of its flight path – saving earth from catastrophic annihilation.
Job done, I float back towards my spaceship, which conveniently parachutes me down to my apartment in Berlin. My family is awaiting me, crying tears of joy. Well, it’s all part of a day’s work.
By the way…. You accepted the LOLA Award on behalf of Team TRIXTER in 2020! How did that feel?
C: It felt great to accept it in the name of TRIXTER… I’m pretty proud of what all of us achieved with The Känguru Chroniken, and the entire Kangaroo team at TRIXTER should be proud too!
Are you interested in working with Team TRIXTER?
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