Media Arts and Science alumnus Joshua Barriger’s passion for movies led him to working today on such films as The Witcher, Quantumania, and Transformers. He graduated from Luddy IUPUI in May 2022, with a specialization in 3D and a minor in Audio and Video. and quickly found work as a compositor at MPC Technicolor in Montreal, Canada. Originally when coming to Luddy IUPUI, he wanted to pursue video game creation, but shortly after taking a few coding classes he knew the coding side of video games wasn’t for him. so he decided to pursue the 3D side of video game creation.
“What started as focusing on asset creation and modeling, soon turned into a passion for all things 3D. I felt the need to take all courses involving 3D, modeling, texturing, organic modeling, animation, unreal, lighting, etc. During this time I had also found a passion for film, learning a lot about audio and video. During my third year at IUPUI, I was told about the 3D compositing class, which had really piqued my interest in mixing film and 3D, both things I clearly had passion for. So come that fourth year, I took the 3D compositing course and I knew that was what I wanted to pursue. Having all the other 3D skills on my toolbelt definitely was a good thing to have, but now I had one specific field I wanted to get into,” Barriger said.
SoIC was just one big highlight
Barriger chose Luddy IUPUI (then School of Informatics and Computing or SoIC) because his cousin Jordan Barriger had already been there for a year prior and had told him a lot of wonderful things about the program and school, and it was just the best fit for him, being so close to home and being in the middle of downtown Indianapolis.
“There are too many great memories of my time at Luddy IUPUI/SoIC to talk about, but I will share a few. The connections and friends I made at SoIC are some of the best in my life. Without coming to SoIC, I wouldn’t have met some of these amazing people without taking courses with them through SoIC,” he said.
Barriger’s independent study with MAS lecturer Zebulun Wood was a big highlight for him, as this was the time he got to learn Nuke (VFX and film editing software) and really dive into what would eventually turn into his career. “It was an opportunity for me to teach myself, to rely solely on myself to learn and gave me all the responsibilities for a whole semester,” he said. “During this time, Zeb and I had formed a great bond and he had become a very important mentor to me. Zeb Wood had the biggest impact on me both personally and professionally. He was a mentor to me for the last 3 years at IUPUI, and continues to be a mentor and friend to me even after leaving IUPUI. Zeb had shown me not only how to apply myself in what I was learning in 3D, but how to apply myself professionally and helped me become ready for the real world. His methods of teaching in some of the courses he provides is what really helped me get through tough times in college where I wasn’t sure what I was doing was, well, what I wanted to do. He’s been a great mentor to me and a great friend.”
Barriger said his Capstone was also a huge highlight. He got to work on an amazing project where his friend Isaac Johnston and he made a short 30-second shot all in Unreal. They used a virtual camera, where they could move virtually in their Unreal scene and record the camera movement, set up and used motion capture to have our CG characters animate, and themed it all around a mash-up of WW1 and medieval crusaders. “It was an extremely ambitious project but I am super proud of what we achieved and for how many people enjoyed my presentation of it at Capstone. I set up a huge TV with the Unreal scene loaded and a VR Vive controller mounted to a camera rig, so people could walk up and become the camera man! It not only showed off our amazing work, but it informed people of what was a newer technology of virtual cameras and virtual productions, mixing real world movements and cameras with the virtual world,” he said.
I feel overall, SoIC was just one big highlight. So many memories and moments in my life are based off being part of the amazing SoIC family. I am in my career because of my SoIC family, the opportunities that arose because of being here and the knowledge shared by each of my professors and peers throughout my years at Luddy IUPUI/SoIC.
He said the biggest highlight post-graduation was obviously moving to Montreal and working at MPC. “Moving to a whole other country was a mix of emotions, happy, scared, sad and excitement. It was extremely hard leaving my family and moving to a different country. So often I thought I couldn’t do it and I would fail and come back to Indiana. But I kept going, I stuck with it and I proved myself wrong. I could do it and I did it. I am proud of all I have done in the past year,” Barriger said.
Life as a compositor: nothing but fun and excitement
Barriger’s job now is a Compositor at MPC Technicolor. He said he actually got a little lucky landing this job as originally, he was hired at Mr. X, which was in the process of merging with MPC. He had spent a lot of time job hunting but found this job through LinkedIn.
“I chose this career because of so many reasons, but it all boils down to passion. Ever since I was a kid, I had always loved movies,” he said. “The earliest movies that I had fallen in love with and really made an impact on me were the Spider-Man films, directed by Sam Raimi, and the Transformers movies. YouTube also played a big role in why VFX was so big for me. I grew up with YouTube. I got to see the beginning of the site and the beginning of a lot of great channels and YouTubers.
“No one was more impactful, though, than a channel called FreddieW. It was a channel where a group of friends worked together and uploaded short films that were full of VFX. The thing that was so special about these guys was that they all taught themselves how to make some amazing visual effects all at home on their own computer. I always thought that was amazing to me, the fact that just some random people could teach themselves some amazing skills in the comfort of their home and share with the world their work. It was just amazing and inspirational to me. A group with some of the same people that were on the FreddieW channel have their own massively popular channel on YouTube called Corridor Digital. They post some amazing things, like their popular series ‘VFX Artist React’ where they sit down on a couch and react to good, bad and all in between visual effects. It’s a great example of showing off the minds of VFX artists and the things I personally do and think about every day in my career.”
Barriger describes a compositor as the person who puts everything together and finishes up the shots. Basically, they are the one who gets the footage, gets the renders of the CG elements, and puts them together. As a quick example, if the footage has a blue or green screen, they key out the blue or green screen, and are provided with what would replace the blue or green screen to do so.
“My experience in my current job has been nothing but fun and excitement for me. I go into the office, and I get to work on movies! How awesome is that?,” Barriger asked. Some of the projects he has worked on are Amsterdam, directed by David O. Russell, The Witcher: Blood Origin, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. In each of these projects, Barriger did a number of things, from implementing CG characters and creatures, background extensions, painting out things like wires, lights and other things, adding extra people and characters into the shot, and much more. Barriger said with each project he works on, his skills and knowledge as an artist improve, and he gets to bring those skills and knowledge into the next project.
“My proudest moment so far with being at MPC was the opportunity to work on both Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. Like I mentioned before, I loved the Transformers movies and have always been a Marvel fan, and I had a feeling that within the first 2 years of my career, I would probably work on something Marvel related. I was definitely not expecting that to happen less than a full year into my career. I am super proud of the work I did on the film and super lucky to have worked with the team I worked with,” Barriger said.
Teamwork makes, well you know…
Barriger said the big thing that he feels is super important to talk about is teamwork. Each project is always different and that means each team is different. Learning to adapt and help one another is the one thing that he has really started to master after a year at MPC. “Without great teamwork, a project will not be enjoyable to work on. Working together and helping one another is fundamentally how we succeed in this industry,” he said.
“When I first moved to Montreal and started this journey, I was extremely scared and worried I would fail. This was especially the case because I had still felt like I wasn’t good enough to be in this position, to be in my field and my career. I had only taken one course to learn Nuke, which is the industry standard for compositors, and when starting my first day, I really was unsure as to how much I had remembered and extremely worried about not being able to pick it back up and re-learn. All of these things went away after the first week. I had gone through half my training, I had met and talked to some amazing artists that really made me feel like I would fit in and was already part of the team, and I was starting to feel more and more confident that I could do this,” Barriger said.
Barriger said the best advice he could give to anyone who is interested in the path and career he went down, or really any path for that matter, is to take your time. Take your time in learning the things you are learning. Take your time in exploring options in your career. Take your time in applying yourself, academically and professionally, and with applying to jobs in your field. “Before getting a job at MPC, I had applied to about 60 jobs, out of which I only had 3 interviews! That should tell you that taking your time and being patient will always pan out in the long run,” he said. “If you are passionate about something you really want to do in life, always continue trying.”