Q&A: Chris Thompson

This month, Computer Arts talks to London-based designer and animator Chris Thompson about his work in animation and title design and his recent plans to work at Loyal Kaspar in New York.

Computer Arts: How do you get started on a client job?

Chris Thompson: There are two types of jobs: one where the client knows exactly what it wants and will go straight through and deliver that product; and another where the client doesn't really know what it wants but there's something it needs to sell and no-one has an idea. I keep a folder for inspiration with loads of images, movies etc, and I take a look through and think, "What would help me out with this project?"

CA: How did you get into this area?

CT: I went to Bath Spa University and we did screen-based design in the first year. I was trained in print design, but I kind of got a bit bored of it and I took it upon myself to learn After Effects and 3ds Max. If you've studied print then you're always going to get a good idea of composition, which I think translates well to motion design. I guess the only difference is timing. You don't really get that in print.

CA: Your storyboards are very detailed. Is pen and pencil not enough?

CT: Generally speaking, I've never actually handed in a storyboard completed using just pen and paper. With the line of work I've been in, the standard thing that is accepted is that, to a certain degree, the frames you produce should mimic what you think the final animation should look like, which can be quite difficult with just a pen and paper.

CA: Would you use the same tools in the pitch that you use for the final piece?

CT: Pretty much, although sometimes I wouldn't jump straight into 3D to save time and might do a little bit in Photoshop. Mostly I'd use the tools I'd use in the final job if possible. Usually the client will okay a storyboard but then say, 'Can we tweak it? Maybe change the colours?', and that way I can get the storyboard looking exactly how they want it to look.

CA: So do you have your own style?

CT: All respect to people who have a 'style', but I think of myself as a designer who doesn't. I'd like to think I could approach every project differently and that comes through in my showreel. That approach keeps things interesting because I don't have to do the same thing over and over again. I do tend to get a bit bored.

CA: What was it that attracted you to New York and Loyal Kaspar?

CT: I went to New York about six months ago thinking I'd probably like to move out there and I emailed a bunch of places I thought that I'd like to work. Luckily, Loyal Kaspar got back to me and decided they liked my work. Any designer is influenced by their surroundings and so the idea of working in one of the most multicultural and varied cities in the world has always been extremely appealing to me. That will inevitably bleed through into my work and from there will hopefully lead to a much more varied portfolio.

INFO Chris Thompson's personal portfolio can be viewed at www.the-garden.net.