Originally from Thetford in Norfolk, England, Nicola Coppack graduated from The Arts University Bournemouth in 2008 with a degree in traditional animation and trained in using the Toon Boom pipeline. As part of its graduation program, the university offers students the possibility to work overseas and Nicola seized that opportunity to start gaining international experience. Nicola spent six months in China working at Glory and Dream, located in Nanjing, and got involved in the production of the feature film Back to the Sea as a character designer. “With this first experience, I felt comfortable working internationally and it gave me the confidence to work outside of the UK,” explained Nicola.
During her internship she contacted Sean McCormack, one of her classmates who was working at Fabrique d’Images in Luxembourg, and was offered a job to join the team right after her internship. Upon her arrival in August 2009, Nicola started working on Divodurum, a short animated movie by Randy Agostini, whose production was done completely with Toon Boom Harmony. To complement her skills as a traditional animator, Nicola was trained in digital animation and rigging techniques in Harmony. She then worked on multiple projects at Fabrique d’Images, including the teaser of Zoli & Pokey and Grenadine and Mentalo series.
Joining Fabrique d’Images proved fruitful for Nicola because the dynamic animation studio definitely knew how to grow and develop the wonderful talent working in-house. Fabrique d’Images Studio Manager Laurent Paqueteau launched an internal competition to give their animators the opportunity to pitch a ten-minute short film by submitting a concept story and artwork. The studio would then produce the selected project. “This was a unique opportunity for me to produce my own project and be involved in all animation production stages,” explained Nicola. As a result of external and internal voting Nicola’s project, The Night Light Monster, won the competition. Production on the film started in January 2012. Nicola directed the production and boarded the short with Jessica Toth, using Toon Boom Storyboard Pro. “I worked straight into the software, as I found it very comfortable. The process is much faster and it is very convenient to generate animatics. You can really feel how the shots are connecting and recognize problems early on,” commented Nicola. The pre-production phase took four months.
Nicola originally pitched the short as a hybrid of traditional and cut-out animation. However, after consulting with Vianney Thomas, a talented traditional animator, she decided to go tradigital only. As Vianney had worked previously at Fabrique d’Images and was available at the time, he joined the team as head of animation. He was in charge of cementing the style and offered constructive feedback to Nicola. She was in charge of backgrounds and compositing along with Aline Salvi while Vickie Keriel and Gillian Reid were responsible for character design. The team of animators included Geoff King, Robbi Kadar, and Mauro Morrizotto.
“I was very pleased with Harmony. I was already familiar with the network and used it extensively for the compositing. I found the software very nice for problem solving. I could try different ways to get the result I was looking for. The inking and painting process was very fast. We had three characters in total and I didn’t want lines. Characters had flat colors as well so we had to make sure they were not getting lost in the backgrounds. So we painted the characters on different layers than the lines so that we could hide the lines easily and get the right look,” explained Nicola.
While the animation production alone lasted six months and compositing two months, the entire production lasted thirteen months. The entire initiative was a great investment on Fabrique d’Images’ part, which is quite unique and laudable in the industry. “It is fantastic to have a studio turn to its own talent to let new concepts emerge and get developed,” stated Nicola.
As of early 2013, Nicola has begun a new venture in Australia, working at Bogan Studio. This very talented young lady is culminating an impressive wealth of experience in multiple aspects of animation production as well as an inspired career path that is certainly worth watching.