Matija Koraksic: Post-production is done in a battery charging environment

Matija Koraksic is an experienced artist that has been working in Crater Studio for over 6 years and during this time he had a chance to participate in an envious number of projects for some of Crater’s biggest clients, which his IMDb profile solidifies as well.

In the studio, he works as a Senior Digital Compositing Artist, and in our school, he teaches a course dedicated to exactly this field of work. So, how this not-meant-to-be professor of literature rose up to a senior title in postproduction, we reveal right here in this interview.

Despite settling on a completely different art path in my youth, I’ve always felt the need to express myself visually, whether that would be through drawing or wood carving later on. Finally, I got into graphic design, marking the last step before entering the world of cinema which I marveled at for the longest time – Matija starts off.

CTC: That was actually when you enrolled in our course. How did this decision come to be?

Matija: Right before enrolling I found out there was a studio here that conducts work competitively in this field on a global scale. Then it seemed to me, which I now firmly believe, that this profession is a convergence of all areas I have an affinity for, that it represents a true definition of work dynamic with minimal repetition and monotony, something I most certainly wanted to avoid in my years of employment. Having leisure time also motivates me in my work. Besides, if I wasn’t a compositing artist, I would have been a carpenter; radio music would be continuously on anyways. Family, friends, even fishing, or any kind of trip in nature always serves as a job motivator.

CTC: How did your beginning steps in this industry look like?

Matija: For me everything began with the course in Crater Training Center purely because my familiarity with this industry was, to say the least, modest. The four of us attendees were lucky enough to have a chance to take part in our first commercial project during the internship (which was after finishing the course), followed by an invite just after a couple of months to join the team. The sheer conjunction with Crater for someone who comes from its school gives a very tangible sense of achievement, due to the fact that the school itself is physically below the working studio, hence the imperative “ascend” to the studio. It was my first ever employment of that kind. Previous jobs I had only served to buy me some time during my search for a fulfilling profession. I was immediately met with incredible energy. You see the people who cherish the passion towards their work and it rubs off on others. I wanted to be a part of it.

During the first couple of years we all grew together nicely, there was an abundance of work so we younglings were quickly “thrown into the fire” as well. More experienced colleagues were prepared to selflessly let us pick their brains, to help out when we are stuck, all until you ask the same question twice. That’s how I started to obtain craft skills and aesthetic postulates of the work, which continues on to this very day.

Sweatheart, istoimeno čudovište iz hororca na kojem je radio Matija.

CTC: What’s the typical workday at Crater like?

Matija: A workday at Crater starts with a coffee somewhere between 9 and 9:30, with lunch break being at 1 pm – and those would be the only two things that are constant. Apart from that, every day has its own dynamic, tasks, and challenges. I inherited some broad frameworks from senior colleagues and mentors – for example, the tendency to, after each working day, somewhat construct a plan for the next and form a to-do list. Another thing is that U usually focus on the creative part of my work before noon, while I’m still fresh and rested, and I tend to complete routine tasks in the afternoon. Of course, a lot of things change as you go along. You adapt to the given situation and priorities almost all the time, which is what gives the day its charm, as the calling itself, because that’s the nature of the work we do. This is a craft that’s done in a comfortable environment, good surroundings, mostly with music on headphones, which to me is an important aspect of life.

CTC: May we ask which is your favorite project you have worked on? Do you have a favorite or are all your projects “your children”?

Matija: Well, over time there were plenty of diverse projects, and in order for one to pleasantly stick in your mind you would need to have many parameters aligned. Of course, the quality of a project is the most important factor and it largely depends on the production. After all, we’re in the business of visual effects exactly for those kinds of opportunities, and in them, we always see a chance to prove our worth and how willing we are to grow as a team and individuals. Then regardless of the cumbersome work, often staying in late a few days in a row, you bear witness to a pleasant atmosphere – and finally, the collective satisfaction of frazzled people. Here I would point out Netflix’s TV show Series of Unfortunate Events, movies The Shallows, Sweetheart, and the most recent one Don’t Breathe 2.

There were a few surreal sequences that we’ve done for a few Bollywood productions whose quality I wouldn’t underestimate. The requirements were on a high level from which we try not to steer away from as-is, and at the end of the day you say to yourself: “It’s unlikely I will ever work on a ship that sails the sky powered by horses made of clouds again”

I would highlight another animated movie that we did called Pig on the Hill and it is very wholesome. It stuck in my mind due to the easygoingness and delight we had making it. We were struck by rare luck to not have it overlap with any other projects, therefore we gave it just that more affection. All in all, the mood you are in while taking up a project is important too, as are your energy reserves.

CTC: Your profession is art-based at its core, but considering the fact you do a lot of projects for clients from different backgrounds and that your final product heavily depends on their requirements, how much does that kind of predisposed turf allow you to move freely and form your own style? How do you balance compositing as a service on one side and artistic expression on the other?

Matija: I used to ask myself similar questions at the beginning of my career. Then you realize that all of us in the film industry, each to our own extent, are just the director’s tools. Each gets their own frame of work, from the actor to the postproduction, and you should strive to do your job the best you can while staying within those boundaries. You leave the ego aside and wait for a chance to express yourself. With time you start getting more loose directives, you develop the overall image of an idea more often and you start giving suggestions. But limits are inevitable until you make your own creation, film or picture.

Most important of all is, as a junior in this field of work, you don’t really have a better way of learning than from these guidelines – first from your supervisor, then in compliance with the clients’ requirements and comments, or more accurately called, external supervisor. There were countless occasions where we believed something could have been solved in some other way, to us a better way, but it almost always ends up being the client’s way. However, I do think this is not exclusively tied to our industry, I consider it to be like this in numerous similar crafts. In any case, you are always left with your own personal area to express yourself, many people need to express that creativity somewhere.

The Pig on the Hill jedan je od omiljenih projekata tima Crater.

CTC: How much did the process of compositing itself change from a technical standpoint during the time you were active in the industry? 

Matija: It changed and it keeps changing. That process seems unstoppable and you don’t have any other choice rather than to follow in its footsteps. I consider myself relatively a newcomer in this field and from that technological improvement perspective – especially when I listen to stories of pioneers in the industry about how much time and resourcefulness did it take to make anything, it’s then I feel privileged. Today the tools are being perfected, the product of labor is becoming tangible faster, there is an upcoming of new and more intuitive and optimized tools to work with. What I mean to say is, it’s getting easier and there are fewer boring repetitive tasks.

CTC: As someone who majored in literature, how do you connect your background with what you are doing today?

Matija: Yeah, I chose that route at the end of high school. I love literature and the fact that I chose it as my major, but I also love that I stopped in my tracks when I realized that it’s not something I want to do for a living. It’s difficult to find a correlation between literature and this calling that I am doing now, but I did always love to draw and I had drawn even more after my studies, I was developing some kind of my own personal style. I drew motives from some of my own depths which certainly wouldn’t have that level of sensibility if I had have given years of my life to something else. Now drawing Is something I could relate to compositing.

I would also like to mention that during the time when I was taking up literature in college I only used the computer for watching movies, like a total technological illiterate. I am saying this as words of encouragement to someone who might consider this problem to be an insurmountable handicap.

Breakdown Matijinog kadra iz filma Shallows

CTC: Not too long ago you took up a role of an assistant in a course dedicated to digital compositing at Crater. How does this broad picture look like from a student’s viewpoint, and how is it now as a teacher?

Matija: I believe the school has done an amazing job during these years. As an individual whose further self-development for work is key as well as the industry as a whole. I can testify just how many people, among them high-quality artists in our team, have accomplished great heights in their careers after going through some of the courses. I see the Digital Compositing course as an excellent chance for mastering this skill, and it’s obviously one of the professions in deficit, domestically as well as internationally.

To me the role of an educator, to be a more precise assistant, is very appealing. Nuke doesn’t require strictly one type of logic, it has its own set of rules but gives a great variety of solutions and approaches to problems. That’s always interesting to observe in people trying it out for the first time. In working with beginners patience is key and I think I draw it from exactly those memories when everything was new for me and how many walls I had to tear down in that course in order to arm myself for what was waiting for me later, which was the internship in a studio I am still working in at the moment.
This year Digital Compositing is being taught by Nikola Vučenović, my Compositing Supervisor colleague from Crater studio, a fanatic lover of the visual effects world and backed up by firm knowledge and experience. And most importantly, Nikola really is a thorough educator. It is going to be an honor to be working on the course, as I firmly believe it will be for him too.

If this conversation with Matija tickled your imagination enough that you yourself wish to try out postproduction, more specifically compositing, check out the Digital Compositing course page and make sure to contact us if interested.

Interviewed by Branka Malenica