News 28.01.22

NICK TRIPODI PROVIDES INSIGHT ON THE METHOD STUDIOS ETHOS

METHOD MELBOURNE’S HEAD OF ANIMATION, NICK TRIPODI TALKS ABOUT STAYING NIMBLE AND THE SECRETS OF A SUCCESSFUL ANIMATION TEAM

Nick, tell us a bit about you, and your role at Method Melbourne?

 I’ve been working with this core group of people since 2005. I came on board as a generalist in the TVC department; I’m now the Head of Animation for the Melbourne studio. I’ve worked on over forty feature films (and counting!) My day to day role is quite varied. I generally supervise two to three shows, manage a team of around twenty to thirty artists, and also animate shots. The days are full but also very satisfying. I enjoy the opportunity to foster a strong sense of camaraderie and team spirit with my department.

What are the best things about the job?

Every day holds new surprises and challenges, it’s never dull! Working with such a talented group, everyone is focused on doing the best job they possibly can do, with positivity and humour, and it’s immensely rewarding. My favourite part of the job is pitching for new work. Having a bit more creative freedom to express our ideas on what a new show could look like really motivates me.

What are some of the favourite projects you’ve worked on and why?

Without a doubt – Game of Thrones Season S6 E9 Battle of the Bastards (2016). This show was a big opportunity for us. The scale and scope of what we were aiming to achieve forced us to develop new animation tools and workflows. We had to really level up our motion capture and crowd abilities. There was a big emphasis on making sure the action felt very believable and visceral. We worked really hard to get the details of the horse and rider animation to look as realistic as possible.  Ultimately, ‘the battle’ was a big hit with fans. It was great to see such a positive reaction to our hard work. On the opposite end of the scale, Christopher Robin (2018) was a much calmer show, full of heart and tenderness. We were responsible for animating a large portion of Winnie the Pooh’s performance. With such a limited palette of movement and facial expressions to use, a lot of care was taken to bring Pooh to life with subtle details and acting cues. I think the team really delivered a great performance, bringing such an iconic character to life with such care and respect for the source material.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced over the past 2 years?

The biggest challenge has been the disruption in production schedules due to the pandemic. Delayed turnover and unforeseen hiatuses played havoc with our scheduling. We have had to be very flexible and adaptive to production scenarios that seem to change scope almost weekly!

On the other hand, our shift to remote work actually was surprisingly easy, due to the incredible accomplishments of our Tech-team in setting us up. Since then we have gone from strength to strength, delivering large volumes of high-quality work whilst also enjoying an improved work/life balance. The shift to remote/hybrid work has been a really positive experience for the majority of the team.

Tell us about your team. What makes you successful?

I’m really proud of the positive team spirit we have fostered. As a group we try to offer support and inclusion to all members; everyone is willing to pitch in and help where needed. We really emphasise frequent communication between the team; everyone is welcome in reviews. I try to get to know everyone’s skillset and carefully cater to their strengths and interests with regards to the types of tasks they are assigned, while also helping to develop areas where they may need a little more support. This approach is backed up by a core group of long-term team members, who have worked together for many years now. This provides a very strong and unified leadership base. Often, our animators will need to jump from project to project at short notice to fulfil certain deadline demands. This keeps us, as a team, quite nimble and flexible, able to turn around client notes with speed. The team is really receptive to feedback. We all try to stay humble and open to constructive critique. Having such talented animators to bounce ideas off is invaluable.

What animation work have you seen recently that you admire?

Arcane really impressed me. French animation studio Fortiche did an incredible job developing a strong graphical style whilst maintaining some really impressive expression out of the character’s facial performance. The hand-animated particle FX (smoke fire, etc) were a standout for me too. Another project I admire was Luca by Pixar. The subject matter was really refreshing and the stylised character design was gorgeous. It’s a real treasure of a film.