We are thrilled to introduce you to Craig Hunter Parker, perhaps one of the best visual fx designer and cinematographer in Africa. This South African designer works for Africa’s leading motion graphic design studio, Orijin, specializing in 3D&2D Animation, visual effects and film. If you watch MNET you might have come across one of his awesome titles. Parker’s work has not only set a high standard for visual effects in Africa but it has also inspired countless of Africans to take up the craft.
Tell us about yourself? Give us a brief introduction, what do you do, what are you passionate about?
Born in Cape Town and raised on a farm in Phillipi, I was always into ‘make-believe’ from an very early age.
I have a strong fascination with sci-fi movies and so I was drawing my own comic books before I could write. I even remember bringing my own version of Battle of the Planets to grade 1 and getting the teacher to read it to the rest of the class. How embarrassing when I think of it now.
How did you discover your talent? How did it turn into a profession?
My older cousin used to sketch in his spare time and I got basically inspired to do the same. I remember drawing an image of superman when I was about 5 or 6 and figured it looked quite a bit like Christopher Reeve (in my little opinion). My parents were very encouraging at the time and I ended up taking it up as a hobby. It wasn’t really until a teacher in junior school sent me to an art college for a day where I truly started to get into it. I studied art in high school and took it further with Graphic Design in college. There I think I learned to get a ‘finish’ to my work and, along with photography, I majored in illustration. I joined Ogilvy & Mather and worked there for a few years before moving more into experiential advertising where I began to pick up on 3d animation and digital video editing. I did my stint in multimedia for a few years and now pretty much work full-time in visual effects, animation & motion graphics.
Tell us a little about Orijin, how did it get started, is it a team effort, what are some of its mission and goals?
Orijin is an award-winning, leading broadcast design group in South Africa. We specialize in animation, on-air promos, channel ID design, film, post-production and visual effects. It started about 9 years ago and has grown into a team that’s based in Cape Town as well as Johannesburg.
Where do you find design Inspiration?
I find inspiration anywhere I look I suppose. It’s hard for me to sit still at times, so I’m constantly feeding myself with all kinds of material and content. Whether this is from graphic novels, books, music, short films, illustrations, photography, art or movies. I have a big collection of dvds at home. I particularly enjoy collecting rare films. The collection currently sits somewhere just under 400 right now. So I think that might qualify as at least one source stream.
How do you define your style?
I try not to be too concerned about what my style is. I believe that no ‘style’ or ‘subject matter’ is ever something that’s going to define you. How you see the world is what connects others to you. When you’re at that point where your vision becomes clear enough so that others may see it instantly, I believe it’s then when you begin to distinguish yourself.
Tell us about your creative process, how does a typical project go from start to finish.
Most projects I’m involved with are moulded by the time-frame they’re expected to be achieved within. With this sort of ‘factor’ involved, I can either approach something very ‘off-the-cuff’ or more meticulously. The ‘Mnet Magic Studios’ job was undertaken in about 3.5 months. The first 2 or so weeks of this time was spent primarily in pre-production, planning the storyboards and cinematics. A lot of the time I tend to go for creating a poster or image that best encompasses what the essence of the final piece will portray. If you have that poster, you have a vision to work towards.
How do you improve your work and technique?
I think the best way of improving is setting a benchmark for yourself that isn’t measured amongst those around you. It’s measured up against the best of what is out there. If you’re always pushing to meet international standards, you’ll be growing with the industry and pushing boundaries in the process.
How does Africa inspire your work?
There is a wealth of cultures in Africa that is so unique and, at times, severely untapped, on all forms of media. I always find the term ‘dark continent’ to be something that holds as much mystery as it does promise. I’m happy to be able to draw upon some of the many forms of inspiration my country, alone, delivers. I’m a disciple of subtlety when it’s required and greatness when it’s desired. I think that mystery is a key to what I will always endeavor to portray in a lot of what I do.
In your opinion what does the motion/animation industry look like in South Africa? What are some of its strengths and weaknesses?
As of late, I see few weaknesses regarding the motion/animation industry in South Africa. If there is any, it’s that there are few really well-trained, albeit talented, individuals. The drive is there but the focus needs to be shifted up a few notches to push itself in the headspace of being contenders internationally. I’m not saying it isn’t there, because I’ve seen it. The good animators are certainly here. And when they’re good, they’re seriously good. I guess I’m just more receptive to a general celebration of mediocrity that seems to be more prevalent for some reason and as a result there are only the few that seriously end up pushing themselves further. On a more positive side though, the strengths are still most dominant. There are such fresh approaches to design and animation in this country and what’s really wonderful is the ability to experience work that retains the unique voices of the artists.
Any advice for upcoming artists getting started in the industry.
There is an open canvas to a medium that’s still very much in it’s early stages of growth and it affords the opportunity to experiment as much as you want. It’s waiting for you. Go for it. Push it in every way possible. Impress yourself.
Finally do you have any upcoming projects/events we should know about?
I couldn’t really mention what’s in the pipeline workwise, the hope to do my best work still I suppose. On a personal note, I have a digital photography/illustration series that I hope to complete at some stage, along with a project that might entail some of it realized in movie-form. I still aim to get a short film produced in the near future.