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Kevin Herjono: Taking it to the next level

Allison Hore
Allison Hore

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Tue, February 6, 2018 | 09:04 am
Kevin Herjono: Taking it to the next level

Robot hero: A scene from N0-A, a full CG animated short film directed by Liam Murphy that tells the story of a robot saving a young girl. Kevin was responsible for this project as a light lead. (Red Dot Award/File)

Those who enjoy both art and tech might want to consider following in the footsteps of Kevin Herjono, who has pursued a career in the visual effects (VFX) industry.

Kevin Herjono fell into the industry by accident, but now his career has taken him to the United States where he has been working and studying since 2010.

“During high school, they had a sort of film festival for my school,” he said.

“After that, I thought it was something I might be interested in.”

Visual effects have not always been part of Kevin’s path. Before he got into it, he was accepted into a hospitality school, but then he thought a career in art or tech better suited him.

“I’m kind of into computers and art, so I think that visual effects is a kind of a combination between the two.”

After completing high school in his hometown of Semarang in Central Java, he studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design in the US. After graduating, he interned at Framestore, a British studio behind some of the effects in Guardians of the Galaxy and the Harry Potter films. Now, he works at Blur Studio, a California-based company that produces visual effects and 3D character animation for feature films, television and video game cut scenes and trailers.

Recently, a trailer for Halo Wars 2, a video game he worked on, was shown at the 2016 Electronic Entertainment Exhibition ( E3 ) in Los Angeles, a prestigious event where publishers and developers introduce their upcoming games and related products. Kevin said it was the project he loved the most.

“It was my very first project released at Blur. And, also, for it to be screened at E3, which is like the biggest gaming exhibition in the world, it’s really something to me. This is amazing.”

In the battlefield: A scene in the Halo Wars 2 video game. Kevin worked on the trailer of the game.In the battlefield: A scene in the Halo Wars 2 video game. Kevin worked on the trailer of the game. (Halowaypoint.com/File)

He said, as an artist, it was sometimes hard to judge his own work, especially projects he spent a lot of time on.

“You start pointing out flaws, because you’ve been seeing it for so long and don’t have a fresh eye for seeing it. I have to try to be objective sometimes.”

But reflecting on his past and how far he has come — he moved from Indonesia to the US — he feels a sense of pride in himself. Employment of multimedia artists and animators is expected to grow in the US.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates employment will grow about 8 percent from 2016 to 2026. The reason is simple: customer demand for more realistic video games, special effects and 3D animated movies. App and game development for smartphones is also an area of expected growth in the industry because customers have growing expectations for graphics on mobile devices.

Kevin said those hoping to get into the industry should keep practicing and building their skills.

“Never stop learning. All this software and knowledge and visual effects techniques are improving every day.”

What is wonderful about the creative industry is the fact that there is no limit to what can be done to keep it from growing.

“[...] In the creative industry or art industry, there is no right or wrong. Only good and bad. And good is very subjective.”

Moving to the US is not the only way for budding animators in Indonesia to get a foot in the door at global visual effects studios. Western animation studios have always had a presence in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. And now their presence in Southeast Asia is growing due mostly to demand for low-cost production. Currently, about 90 percent of all American television animation is produced in Asia.

Kevin Herjono has pursued a career in the visual effects (VFX) industry.Kevin Herjono has pursued a career in the visual effects (VFX) industry. (Kevin Herjono/File)

Local animation studios, like Bali Animasi Solusi Ekakarsa (BASE) and Supreme VFX in Bandung, are producing for both the local and international market.

Kevin said in the next 10 or 15 years, he would like to move back to Indonesia and put the skills he learned in the US to use.

“What I’m really interested in are local stories. It is probably kind of cool if we can combine those with American-style animation.”

Kevin would also like to teach visual effects to Indonesians. Last year, he started carrying out short workshops at a visual effects college in Central Java. The reception to the courses has been positive so far.

“At vocational schools, they have to learn a new skill and learn English at the same time, which is hard for them. Me being Indonesian and teaching them, it’s very helpful because I can translate and integrate it in Indonesia.”

Although he enjoys working in the US, Kevin says he “misses Indonesia a lot.”

“When I live in Indonesia, everything seems ‘business as usual,’ like [there is] nothing to be proud of. But as soon as you go far away, become a foreigner in another country, your patriotism just goes up.”

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The writer is an intern under the ACICIS program

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