How long can you hold on to your childhood dream?

Before the outbreak of the epidemic, Niu Chuang’s home in London often organized small movie-going parties. The number of people was not large. The people who came were film lovers scattered all over London. At that time, he bought a paid account on an independent movie website, which was full of unpopular movies. Niu Chuang felt that it was a waste to watch it alone, so he simply invited interested netizens to come home.

At that time, Niu Chuang had a purple hair and looked like a “punk artist” from Shinjuku, Japan. No one in London knows his legend, but in the circle of the younger generation of special effects artists in China, he is the “great god” in the hearts of many people.

In the international special effects circle, Niu Chuang is one of the few Chinese special effects artists. In his early twenties, he entered the international special effects circle on his own. In his resume, the company that the world’s top visual effects artists aspires to—Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) is known by the industry as “in The most innovative and courageous giant in the field of special effects”, representative works include: “Star Wars”, “Jurassic Park”, “Transformers”, “Terminator”…

Industrial Light & Magic is also Niu Chuang’s dream for a long time in the past. “I wanted to go to the United States a long time ago and thought of working at Industrial Light & Magic.” This belief supported his life from the age of 8 to 30.

Niu Chuang was born in an unknown small town in Northeast China. In his words, it was a “nothing” place. When Niu Chuang was a child, he didn’t talk a lot, but only read books. His greatest pleasure was to observe things and study the things he was interested in.

In the second grade, his father bought him a DVD of “Jurassic Park”. Niu Chuang was immediately attracted by the whole story. At that time, he didn’t even know that the dinosaurs were made with CG technology, and thought it was true. In order to find out what happened to the “real” dinosaur, Niu rushed to the bookstore and library in the town to find a lot of materials before finally realizing that this was a kind of movie special effect. Throughout the history of visual effects development, “Jurassic Park” can be said to be a milestone. For the first time in the film, CG technology has been widely used to create animal characters. In the ending subtitles, Niu Chuang noticed his production company, Industrial Light & Magic.

Recalling now, Niu Chuang still remembers that ghostly afternoon, those “realistic” dinosaurs inspired his interest in movie special effects, and that afternoon was almost imprinted in his life-he wanted to do special effects and wanted to go to Industrial Light and Magic.

In the third grade of elementary school, Niu Chuang begged his parents to buy a computer for himself. This was a huge investment at that time, but it was this computer that allowed Niu Chuang to learn a lot and became a connection between him and the outside world. The only tool. He learned Photoshop and some animation rendering and 3D model making tools. At the same time, he became interested in psychology and hypnosis. DerrenBrown’s famous program for mind reading and hypnosis has no subtitles. He won English by the way through repeated viewing.

Due to the wide range of interests, Niu Chuang’s grades dropped sharply from the top three in the class. By the time he arrived in high school, Niu Chuang had mastered some basic operations such as modeling, conceptual design, texture mapping, and synthesis of lighting by self-study. He gradually realized that exam-oriented education was no longer what he was interested in, and his ambition was very clear-Industrial Light and Magic. “Don’t be the student with the best grades, otherwise you won’t have time to do what you like.” This is Niu Chuang’s later experience.

At the age of 17, Niu Chuang negotiated with his parents. He wanted to be a special effects artist, but his parents did not agree. According to his plan, Niu Chuang applied for a graphic design major at the Glas Academy of Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, and received an admission notice. However, the prerequisite for admission was to take a preparatory course. The tuition fee is high after four years, and Niu Chuang knows that his family cannot afford it. However, he did not stop because of this. In the third year of high school, Niu Chuang dropped out of school. This is a very risky behavior in the eyes of his peers, but he is extremely determined.

According to the agreement with his parents, Niu Chuang went to Shenzhen to participate in a 9-month special effects production training course to formally and systematically learn special effects. It was in this training course that he got his first job in the special effects industry. “This incident happened the day before my 18th birthday. Before that, I didn’t waste a day to fulfill my dream.” Niu Chuang thought this was the first milestone in his life.

With a stable income, Niu Chuang also gains more freedom. He no longer needs to negotiate with his parents, and he can devote himself to what he wants to do. A few months later, he jumped to Base FX, a company considered to be one of the best visual effects companies in China, but “Industrial Light & Magic” is still a knot in Niu Chuang’s heart. This is an open secret among Base FX colleagues. Everyone understands Niu Chuang’s complex and always leaves him the opportunity to participate in the best projects.

In the two years of Base FX, Niu Chuang has done a lot of special effects shots, and has successively accumulated a portfolio covering more than 20 projects. This became his stepping stone to overseas special effects companies. The British visual effects company Double Negative, who had done “Inception”, threw an olive branch to him. This company is not as well-known as Industrial Light & Magic, but it is also in the ranks of outstanding special effects companies. After “graduating” from Base FX, Niu Chuang packed up his bags and came to Britain on the other side of the ocean.

Niu Chuang’s position is special effects technical instructor. Sometimes they will “get” a more technical title-visual effects technical director; sometimes this name is changed to a more artistic title-visual effects artist. In short, what we do is all about visual effects.

“Making visual special effects is like magic. The common point is that we are all deceiving people.” Niu Chuang felt that “fake” is the most concise description of this job. The superb special effects should be infinitely close to reality, so that the viewers can’t come out. There is no sense of disobedience. Behind such a request is the composition of countless details.

There are very fine divisions in the special effects production of modern movies. Niu Chuang described the special effects industry as a factory workshop, where one person does not complete a complete shot, but a collection of various assemblies. Niu Chuang is most often involved in the production of scene effects such as explosions, hurricanes, earthquakes, waves, etc. He needs to use object dynamics, synthetic lighting and other methods to make the special effects pictures more realistic. For the explosion scene, he needs to use a computer to simulate the internal structure of the building. When an explosion occurs, how the stairs of different structures will be broken, and how different materials such as steel bars, glass and bricks will explode. “We have to consider all the materials that may be seen and design it to be broken, even where there will be smoke and where there will be sparks.”

Double Negative’s work has laid the foundation for Niu Chuang’s international visual effects work. In 2016, Niu Chuang finally received an offer from Industrial Light and Magic. At that time, he had been working in the field of visual effects for 7 years.

“You can imagine that a person born in a small city in the northeast can have the idea of ​​going to Industrial Light and Magic, but it is not feasible because it is too far from your life. But I did not expect to go step by step, the more you go The closer.” Looking back on this journey, Niu Chuang sighed in his self-report, “I originally thought it would take longer to reach this goal, but I didn’t expect that after a lot of twists and turns, the general direction still points to where I stand, which is now. .”

Niu Chuang participated in the movie “Fantasy Forest” and won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects.

However, even if he is doing his dream job, Niu Chuang often feels frustrated. “For a special effects technical instructor, it is common for a special effects technical guide to go from surprise feedback to devastating blows within a day.” In his view, The work of the special effects artist is relatively passive, “just like the process of cooking”, Niu Chuang likes this analogy. The recipe is fixed, and the dishes and kitchen hardware are prepared by others. The special effects artist only needs to fry the vegetables according to the requirements. This way is often Brings Niu Chuang a sense of frustration.

Every time a movie is released, the team will organize a viewing meeting. Niu Chuang will always watch the movie’s visual details carefully, but “it is regrettable to see many times.” For special effects artists, the biggest recognition is to ensure that there is no real or false in the industry, but in Niu Chuang’s opinion, many films can be better.

Working in the visual effects industry for more than ten years, he has received countless blockbusters. For Niu Chuang, an “old player”, the name appearing in the movie subtitles can no longer bring much disturbance. Only favorite projects can give him Bring excitement. “Fantasy Forest” is such a movie. Except for a live-action actor, all animals and environments are shot and synthesized under the blue screen. It is very difficult to complete. Niu Chuang and the visual team won the Oscar for the best special effects award for this film. .

Another one that gave him a sense of accomplishment was “Number One Player”. Spielberg once said in an internal meeting that this is the snow scene he has seen best with CG technology—Niu Chuang is responsible for the part of the snow, how the character interacts with the snow, and what will the snow do when people step on the snow The form is kicked up, and all these have to be completed by Niu Chuang and his colleagues by simulation. But all of this is familiar to Niu Chuang, who grew up in the snowfields of Northeast China.

In 2019, Niu Chuang spent his tenth year in the field of visual effects. On the eve of his birthday, he wrote this paragraph: “When you condense your life into a short period of time and space, everything looks amazing × Although it sounds like fate, it’s easy to lose control and deviate from your original trajectory when you face time and pressure, challenges and reality, and the chaos of personal and work relationships.” Childhood dreams can happen. How long to support a person? Niu Chuang has already given the answer.

Q&A
Yi: YiMagazine

N: Niu Chuang

Yi: When did you find this so-called “belief”?

N: I can’t remember the exact moment, I buried a seed, and then I felt like I was going to go a certain way. In recent years, I have always felt that no matter which country or environment you were born in, you actually have an environment that belongs to you and a living space most suitable for you in this world. Some people may be lucky. He can find this environment, experience and choose by himself. But I know that most people don’t have such a big choice. Most of the time they live to live. I am very lucky at this point.

Yi: You have already won an Oscar and you have also entered the industrial light and magic work. Do you think you have reached your goal?
N: no. To be honest, I feel quite dangerous. Because my beacon was always Industrial Light & Magic, I always wanted to work here, but I didn’t expect it to be so fast, I reached it before I was 30, and then suddenly I was lost. I don’t know what to do next. In fact, for so many years, I have always wanted to make movies by myself, and I don’t want to do special effects anymore. Fortunately, while achieving this goal, we have a new goal.

So this time I said that I should set my goal a little bigger. I want to make a movie and get another Oscar. At present, only Li Ang in China has achieved this goal. It may be achieved, and it doesn’t matter for a lifetime.

Yi: After working for so many years, what attracts you in this industry?
N: The special effects industry must have its aura to attract so many people. The things we do and the perfection we pursue are so difficult to achieve, but the process of realization is extremely beautiful. It is undoubtedly an interesting job. But we also have a lot of realistic anxiety, which is very similar to artists.