Jacques Tege

A not-so-brief history of Jacques Tégé, Jr.

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They say an appetite for exploration is an important part of a healthy childhood. I say it’s essential to finding who you really are. It’s all about your perception of the world in its many facets. Healthy or not, at the age of 6 I found fascination and solace exploring the world of comics on one hand, and that of scientific curiosity on the other. Between the two my perception of the world was set.

With formalin submerged sheeps’ brains and cow eyes lining my bookshelves among the coloring books and action figures, it wasn’t long before I found that I could affect the outcome of any narrative, simply by illustrating my own. Superman, Batman, Shazam and the Hulk, along with Luke Cage, the Master of Kung-Fu, Professor Xavier’s X-men and others illustrated by Adams, Buscema, Kirby, Austin and Byrne, defined my visual reality and served as a beacon of hope for that kid who seemed to want to draw his life away. In contrast, I was also the eternal tinkerer within the physical world– attempting to design new ways of using 220Volt AC current and all manner of available flammable substance to fit some wild inventive thought or some often misunderstood creative purpose.

One afternoon an obscure Mel Brooks Young Frankenstein flip book serendipitously gave me some insight into how to get my drawings to actually appear to move, and triggered my interest in cell animation. But it wasn’t until I took notice of the work of Ray Harryhausen that I understood that the world possible with animation in-the-round was where I wanted to lose myself…or find myself. By age 12 I had partnered with a JHS buddy and we formed a creative entity focused, self-indulgently, on stop-motion animation and visual effects. Fangora magazine was our monthly guidebook, giving us insights into how to build armatures, use latex skinning techniques and more. We spent our spare time filming arbitrary effects sequences using real pyro-technics and rudimentary post-production methods (like emulsion scratching to create laser fire!). It’s sheer luck that no structures were burned down in the process. Our first film was a live action and stop-motion science fiction about time-travel. We got away with submitting this art project in lieu of a real science project by using a contrived scientific theme – An exploration in stop-motion photography as a study in perception of the moving image.

As a teenager I was lucky enough to surround myself with creative friends that I could collaborate with to craft anything from epic comic tales, to immersive illustrated roll-playing environments as well as more short films. In high school I also developed an unhealthy affinity for geometry and trig, especially associated theorems, implied relationships and contemplation of how they applied to my art. It was unhealthy because contemplation of this absorbed a lot of my free time, while nothing new was gleaned – I was merely discovering for myself what the Renaissance masters had, and appreciating it in the context of my artistic interests. Computer science classes were using punch-card programming at the time, and I had absolutely no interest in that, as I had no real vision of how it could apply to me. By now the work of Lucas, Spielberg, Kubric, Cameron and Scott (Ridley) had begun to have their influences.

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I don’t mean to bore the reader, but rather to illustrate how CG became my perfect playground, and how 3dmax allows me to continue writing new chapters to this narrative.
I studied commercial illustration as an undergraduate, while filling my electives with what physics I could. Out of college I began working in the large-format media projection industry as an optical effects artist. It was here that I discovered the computer as a graphics tool. But it wasn’t until I attended an animation festival in 1987 and saw The Adventures of Andre and Wally B along with Luxo, Jr. that I was hooked on CG. Unable to persuade the companies that relied on traditional optical photography to embark on this new and awesome path, I soon found myself on a 4 year stint in graduate school studying computer graphics. My heroes became Lasseter, Catmull, Laposky and other CG pioneers (before the current fame they enjoy). Here I was introduced to C programming, which inspired the tinkerer, and opened the door to scripting and thinking in terms of tool building as much as using. During this time my primary focus was on yielding high-end results using accessible desktop computing. Newtek’s Lightwave was my first real production 3d application, but I’d later make the switch 3d studio, R3 (that’s right, dos!).

sample_mccoffee_JTMy first true foray into commercial CGI production and business management was during this period, when, while still in grad school, I opened up a boutique CGI graphics and animation shop in Chelsea NYC with three partners. While in graduate school, understanding the potential of a career working in this medium, in addition to the CG class load, I tried to take as many business classes as were offered by the Institute at the time.

Subsequent to the shop in Chelsea, which had a two year run, I had the opportunity to help found one of the first ever streaming media driven internet companies. Over a 6 year period we grew to over 200 employees. It’s here that I began working with 3dstudio, first as the core development tool in building real-time navigable 3d environments, then later using 3dstudio Max as our main 3d animation application to develop graphics packages for broadcast content.

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In truth, eventually managing projects, budgets and personnel became more important than being creative. Despite this, while there, I was able to develop several character animation pieces, and experiment with concepts in procedural animation while keeping these explorations relevant to our creative initiatives – I was heavily drawn to animation systems development and physics simulations of various types.

What I do now?

I’ve been consulting on a freelance basis since we closed our doors at the internet firm in the fall of 2000. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of working with very creative people, on various commercial and film productions, working with companies to streamline production workflows and develop tools to help in those workflows. Professionally, my goal is always to find the creative solution that best fits the client’s needs. I enjoy almost all aspects of the process, from modeling and animation, to lighting and shading, dynamics simulation and animation system rigging and scripting, to scripted plugin development. Ideally, the finding of that ideal solution gives rise to exploration of new technologies and techniques that allow us to push the envelope ever farther. It’s definitely a challenge keeping up with the ever expanding event horizon of CG, but it is and always will be one hell of a creative ride!

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Since the incident with the towers in 2001 I’ve been in working mostly from my remote office just outside of Princeton, NJ. My alter-ego serves as a martial arts instructor – fodder for a separate bio. It serves to relieve the stress inherent in CG production, and helps to restore essential balance to life. I am blessed with a very supportive immediate and extended family which includes 3 wonderful children, a wonderful wife, wonderful sisters, cousins, parents, in-laws and friends. Our family is closer than most and is the basis of my moral, ethical and spiritual code. I mention this because CG, like any deadline driven industry, can be stressful, demanding and draining. Striving to maintain a balanced life, while challenging, is essential to replenishing ourselves, and thus to our longevity and quality of life.

Tools I use?

3dsmax (of course!), Maya, V-Ray, RealFlow, Thinking Particles, After Effects, etc. These days I’m also getting my time in on Mudbox and Nuke. There’s always more to learn…including how to write a more succinct bio! Thanks for reading. I hope it was helpful. TTFN.

 

Jacques Tege

You can find out more about his work and background by visiting his WEBSITE:
http://www.vmfanimation.com/

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written by

Cache Media Inc®

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