Posted on : 06/06/2019 03:58pm
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Meet Megha Davalath: UT computer science alumnus, DreamWorks character technical director and fervent panda enthusiast.
Davalath worked on the set of “Kung Fu Panda 3” where she specialized in rigging, or designing a digital skeleton around characters so animators can bend them into desired poses. Specifically, Davalath focused on the pigs and baby pandas.
“Rigging is like taking a stuffed animal and placing joints inside and programming a computer system that will allow that stuffed animal to move,” Davalath said. “You’re basically breathing life into the character.”
~~Rigging requires an astute knowledge of programming, animation and anatomy. Since the first Kung Fu Panda movie, technology has changed the way riggers develop the animated characters.
“It was really exciting getting assigned characters I had seen in the previous Kung Fu Panda movies and then converting them to new technology,” Davalath said. “It was different than any other movie I had ever worked on.”
According to Davalath, the opportunity to work on “Kung Fu Panda 3” was special because of her early interest in both pandas and movie animation.
Megha Davalath has had quite an interesting (and inspiring!) career path on her journey to becoming a top animator. We asked Megha all about her passions and goals, as well as about the trajectory that led her all the way to DreamWorks, where she most recently worked on the 2016 film “Trolls” starring Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick, among many others. Here’s what this Texan-Bangalorean had to say about the art of seizing your dreams
Tell us about your background.
I was born in Beaumont, Texas and grew up in San Antonio, Texas where I was part of a small South Asian community. I grew up learning Bharatanatyam dancing and Carnatic classical music, and I was involved with the local temple (as part of a balavihar and various cultural plays and dances). I lived in Bangalore, India for one year during the 9th grade and was really able to absorb the culture and traditions. This was a very unique and a life-defining experience for me. It was while I was in Bangalore that I took my very first animation class as a side hobby and was introduced to the world of animation.
After coming back to the U.S. and finishing up high school, I attended the University of Texas at Austin where I earned a Bachelor’s in Computer Science, and during my time there, I had the opportunity to intern with Infosys, Ltd. in Bangalore for a summer. This was another wonderful opportunity to see India in a different light. After graduating with my Bachelor’s in 2008, I attended Texas A&M University where I earned a Master’s in Visualization and where I honed in on my animation skills.
How did you get into an offbeat, unconventional and cool career such as animation?
Growing up, I really enjoyed animated movies and cartoons. The escapist fantasies are what made my childhood, and many others, so magical. The ability to string together a sequence of thirty images a second to create a visual representation of a whole new world mesmerized me and drew me to become a strong supporter of this art.
Any advice for budding animators?
Animation is mostly about dedication and hard work; about never giving up and learning every single day. The tools are out there and the earlier you get a head start, the better. Research is key. Find a role model in the field and follow their trajectory and try to mimic it! That’s what I did.
Choose a role model and become them: stirring and inspiring guidance from a woman who serves as a living example. Be on the lookout for her upcoming work, especially in the return of the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise. Thank you, Megha, for keeping the childhood magic of escapist fantasies alive!
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