Spotlight is a series of ComingSoon interviews with obscure and/or up-and-coming talents in the TV and film world. Our goal is to draw attention to the various positions that make the entertainment you love possible, rather than focusing solely on actors and directors.
Jeff Ames of ComingSoon spoke with hair and hairstylist Victor J. Garza about his work on the DreamWorks animated series. Dragons: Nine Worldsthe second season of which recently premiered on Hulu and Peacock.
Jeff Ames: What inspired you to become a hair and grooming specialist?
Victor J. Garza: I have always been interested in the technical side of computer art. It’s not really possible to bypass the technical side of using computers for generation, but there are some specialties that require less technical know-how than others.
Before I started grooming, I worked as an all-rounder with a particular focus on CFX. So before getting into body care, I did a lot of dynamic simulation of hair and clothing. Working in a commercial studio as a CG Generalist allows you to switch hats, as they say, and take on any task that can’t be focused on a single skill, such as modeling or animation. So when a project came up that required creating hair, I jumped at the chance to try my hand at creating hair, not just imitation hair.
Since then, I have found that I enjoy grooming hair and fur, and through my experience with CFX, I am able to create grooms with an assembly line mindset, knowing how this asset will be used down the line. After all, hair care for me is technical and artistic in equal measure, and I love being in this nice place.
What was it about Dragons: The Nine Realms that made you want to work on it?
Like many people around the world, I am a fan How to Train Your Dragon a series of films. When we learned that DreamWorks was developing a series set in the world HTTYD TV series, but set in the future, my interest peaked. It’s hard to create hair that looks good on its own, but still serves as a design element to the show. It can be easy to get too realistic with hair that can contrast sharply with the stylized approach to character design and the aesthetic of the world the characters live in, so finding the right balance is a welcome challenge.
On the technical side, we rarely sit on Dreamworks Animation Television, so there were a lot of changes in the hair production process leading up to production on this show. We have moved from the hair solution we used on our previous projects to one that is more robust and flexible. The speed and volume at which an animated show moves requires a hair solution that can scale and adapt to the needs of the show.
With a new hair conveyor at the ready, and Dragons: Nine Worlds production started, the timing was perfect and we got to work.
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What was the most difficult part of Dragons: The Nine Realms and how did you deal with it?
The biggest challenge was matching the quality of the hair from the movies. Hair in a TV production is a challenge given the filming schedule and volume (number of episodes), so we need to make great looking hair that runs as smoothly as possible going forward, i.e. the hair looks good and behaves good when the characters are animated. , and the scenes are rendered. With Dragons: Nine Worldsthis show takes place in a world created dragons series of films, and one aesthetic of the franchise that they wanted to carry over from the films to the shows was braids. Braided hair, braided beards, braided braids.
While we’ve done braided hair in past productions, we try to avoid hairstyles that might be too taxing for a TV production, but in the case of Dragons, we couldn’t avoid it given that braids are very prominent in the Viking hairstyles created in the films. So we took on the challenge of creating a braided hairstyle and I feel like we’ve been successful. It was a saving grace that this series was set in the future, where we could lean on more modern hairstyles and keep braided hair for the hero characters.
Do you have any funny behind-the-scenes stories about the making of Dragons: The Nine Realms?
Because we were in total lockdown working from home during this production, there was no room for office shenanigans. Remote work meant a lot of virtual meetings, which are often accompanied by technical shenanigans even to this day, 2 years later. There was one incident that I remember as the moment when my hand touched my face. The story goes: with video conferencing, you can technically be in two meetings at the same time. Emphasis on the word «technically».
The first and last time I attended two meetings at the same time was once when I was in a design meeting with dragons team, as well as in another meeting. At some point in the «other» meeting I attended, the conversation turned to a new (at the time) streaming platform called HBO Max. Then I turned on the sound to talk about the service and share my opinion about it.
When I was selling a new service to the team, I was pinged like crazy in the work chat. I ignored it and continued for quite some time before actually reading one of the messages. The message was from a team member who was in another meeting that I was actually sitting in, letting me know that my sound was not muted, after which I apologized to everyone in that meeting for interrupting them with my inappropriate opinion on why they should try out the HBO Max.
Luckily, I’m not the only one who had a virtual meeting mess, and probably won’t be the last. The design team and everyone at the meeting were thrilled and thanked me for the detailed HBO Max story, and that was the last time I tried to participate in multi-tasking meetings.
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What are some things you’ve learned from Dragons: The Nine Realms that you can’t wait to apply to your future endeavors?
The great thing about computer technology is the speed at which it develops. When I look at the grooms we were able to create 8 years ago, I see how far we’ve come in terms of how much better our hair looks, as well as the wider variety of hairstyles we can do.
With Dragons: Nine Worldswe have implemented our new hair conveyor which we have kept improving since we started with Dragons: Nine Worlds. On a technical level, we are pleased with the stability and quality of the new hair conveyor, which allows us to focus more on the grooms themselves. Work on Dragons: Nine Worlds, we better understand the strengths of the new pipeline and what we can improve. It’s exciting because we can move on to the next production with more confidence, and as technology improves, so will our ability to handle new hairstyles.
Do you have any other projects that you could share with us?
At the same time that we were hard at work on Dragons: Nine Worldswe were also working on a new show from the world of Kung Fu Panda called Kung Fu Panda: Dragon Knight. Where dragons made us work on cool human hairstyles, Kung Fu Panda: Dragon Knight kicks it up a notch and made us take on all-fur characters. Fur is a special challenge that supports my grooming skills.