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Tom Bertino Wizards of Ahs Q&A: Tom Bertino


I am interested in becoming a computer animator and would like to learn some of the basic programs. I was wondering which program(s) that your company uses, and what ones are the most commonly used programs in the animation industry.

(name witheld by request)

Response from Tom Bertino:

ILM uses a lot of programs that are available, such as Softimage 3D, Alias/Wavefront Maya, Pixar Renderman, Avid Matador and Elastic Reality and a lot of others that are written by our software team here. Other programs used throughout the industry are After Effects, Commotion, Electric Image, and 3D Studio Max. Reading magazines like Animation, 3D Design, and Cinefex are good sources of information regarding software.


In your career at ILM, is there any special effect that you or ILM would not attempt?

My second question is do the creative people that work for ILM or Skywalker Sound continue with any type of education to improve their craft or is it hands on education?

For any of the questions you can answer I do appreciate, and I will be looking forward to viewing another accomplishment of yours and the team at Lucas Digital. Thank you for your time.

Michael Jones
Ithaca, NY

Response from Tom Bertino:

Frankly, I can't think of an instance where ILM has hesitated to tackle a "problem" effect, once the idea presented itself. Naturally, the most interesting problem to tackle is the thing that's never been done before, but that's also, by definition, the scariest thing to attempt. To be honest, I could name many instances where a creative team has come away from a meeting, saying, "How in hell are we going to do that?!" But somehow, we always find a way. It's how we keep learning.

Most of us are big believers in "ongoing education" and enroll in various classes and available seminars. In a number of cases people also put a good deal of work into personal outside projects as well, to keep their "chops up."


From a creative standpoint do you find this field to be fullfilling, and where in the process does the creative element play the biggest part?

Greg Johns
Dallas, Texas

Response from Tom Bertino:

There's no question that I find this work to be creatively fulfilling, and only more so as time has gone on. My main interest is character performance, and with the dawn of the digital age, opportunities for exploration in that area have really exploded. I can't really pinpoint any one place where the "creative element" plays a bigger part than any other. Sometimes it starts with the original concept...something that comes up at the storyboard stage. Other times all the elements will come together, and then some little tweak that's added the last day will suddenly make your whole shot glow with life. There really is no step that's more important than another, just as no one person in the pipeline is more important than another. Everyone takes their turn at creating "the difference that makes the difference."


I am a recent graduate from UW-Milwaukee in the area of graphic design. I am currently working on a film to show at the FUSE conference in New York this next year. I am using Premier and Director. After seeing the episode of NOVA about special effects, I am very interested in an internship in this field. Do any of you know of any posibilities for me? I am willing to relocate and am a very diligent worker.

Richard D. Mitchell
Milwaukee, WI

Response from Tom Bertino:

ILM has an internship program and a website ( where you can get information about the program plus some background on the company and a listing of open positions.

[For more education and career information related to visual effects, please see Resources.]

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