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Animator worked on Leonardo di Caprio's latest film

Animator made the fur fly in the Life of Pi.



An orangutan sat in the lifeboat for a good part of the movie Life of Pi, fur dripping wet or blowing in the wind, reflecting light, absorbing shadows. Mary Lynn Machado spent nine months working on that fur. She won an Academy Award for the visual effects that made the animal seem real. Unfortunately, instead of celebrating, she was home, fighting back the tears. Machado and 300 co-workers were< blind-sided by a layoff only days before her Academy Award for the Life of Pi. Rhythm and Hues, one of the few independent animation houses, one that she had been with for 17 years was bankrupt. Machado was devastated. She didn’t go to the awards show but watched< it on TV. It was the biggest award in her career and the memory of that day still stings, in spite of another Academy Award win for The Golden Compass. Machado’s Her more recent work is in a new film starring Leonardo DiCaprio called “The Revenant”, when it comes out on Christmas day. The movie is based on a novel by Michael Punke about Hugh Glass, a frontiersman mauled nearly to death in the 1820. He survives and vows revenge on the men who left him to die. Machado says she thinks the movie will get an Academy Award for DiCaprio’s acting. She knows because she has seen the footage while she worked on the special effects. She can’t disclose what exactly goes on that required her touch but she can say that she worked on animation special effects on some of the scenes with animals including bison, wolves and a major character. From the skin and eyes of the Geiko ad lizard to the fur and skin of the Life of Pi orangutan, it’s all part of Machado’s portfolio of effects as a look/development director. Some of the productions Machado’s helped to animate include the polar bear TV commercials for Coca-Cola, Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Expendables3, The Best of Me, Hop, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonion, Babe: Pig In the City, X-Men 2, Garfield, Alvin and the Chipmunks. Her work on the Golden Compass won an Academy Award and Snow White and the Huntsmen was nominated for Academy Awards. She was also a short-listed nominee for Academy Awards for Cats & Dogs and Night At The Museum. The orangutan in The Life of Pi, says Machado, took a year and a half to create to look for the way the muscles moved under the fur, the movement of the fur, in strands and clumps. She has reference tools like photos or videos or real animals that she uses to render skin or. With the orangutan, she says that she was modeling the look of a specific female orangutan that the director had found in a zoo. He shot video and stills of her, which Machado had to match. “It was almost as hard as working on a person, there was so much skin and wrinkles. “She explains that the process starts with modeler like a sculpture, who creates a drawing of an underlying structure, then comes “grooming” software that grooms and styles hair; “- it’s like hair plugs. You distribute random hairs on cat; --these are things that will guide growth of hair.” She creates the details for the ear hair, the hair between pads of paw; every detail has to be looked at. “You have to understand real animal anatomy and how hair looks, the undercoat, the guard hairs, the top coat. As the director of the animation special effects look of the character, Machado designs the texture, the clumping that happens with fur if you touch a long hair cat. After she finishes creating the fur, the lighting department has to work on light and shadow as it changes. Another department, the simulation department takes the model and simulates the effect of wind or water on the fur. Animators create the overall movement On the other hand, Machado has also worked on characters that are based on cartoon drawings, like Alvin and the Chipmunks. With Alvin and the chipmunks Art department did sketches of Alvin, taking it from a two dimensional world to 3D, “but it’s still a drawing. You have move it, spin it around and there’s always an unknown,” “ Alvin is a good example of the challenge animators face. Even though we matched the drawing 100 per cent, client wanted him to ”look older and more realistic, “ than what resulted in adding the third dimension. “So now it was too real, and we had to design the hair to accommodate the change. ” Machado is excited to be working on a family film called 9 Lives , starring Kevin Spacey and due out in April. There’s a real cat, which has long fur, and “a comedy stunt cat.” Which involves Machado’s skills with fur and special effect. “ A long -haired cat a great challenge,” she says. With the cat animation, she is supervising the look, quality and texture. “The orangutan had so much skin, that was difficult, it had the complexity of a human but the cat is difficult because of the long fur.” Machado says that the cat can take eight months to create 200 shots, which can be 2-20 seconds of film time. When not animating furry creatures, Machado loves being around actual furry animals, especially dogs. Machado spent years breeding and exhibiting some award-winning smooth fox terriers. She lives with two terriers now and stays involved with show dogs from a distance as part owner of a champion that lives in the United States. While Life of Pi had “the highest highs and the lowest lows,” it gave her a chance to focus on photography. She took a year off and produced coffee table books for dog breed aficionados. The film industry in Vancouver is booming and Machado talent is in high demand. “There’s a huge advantage to being here. Vancouver is the leading city in world for opportunities. The government gives 40 per cent tax cut incentives for companies to hire locals. Machado’s on her 3rd film since arriving just over a year ago. At Method, the studio she is with now working on 9 Lives, with Director Brett Dowler, who recently sold his family home on Bowen after living here almost a decade. She is also working with two other coworkers who used to work with her in California when they worked on The Life of Pi together. Machado, originally from Ontario, found her way to the island after living in California and working for an animation house, Rhythm and Hues, for 17 years. She was offered a position with a company in Vancouver and jumped on it. She’d been visiting her old friend, Beth Turner on Bowen for years and had always wanted to live here. This was her chance. Within a couple weeks of the offer, and after a year out of the industry, she sold her house, bought a house, moved and started a new job and a new life on Bowen. She feels right at home here. “Bowen is full of Creatives,” she says. Machado has advice for the kids on Bowen. “ It is possible to make money as an artist. You have to be organized, plan your work flow and be methodical and investigative; - asking a lot of “why” when observing is critical.” She also admits, anyone wanting to work in this type of field has to knot that she is gone 12-hours a day between work and commute, and others in the industry work longer. That’s why you’ll find her at home on Bowen on weekends visiting with friends she’s made during the commute or walking with her highly animated dogs.