Jeeyun Sung Chisholm is Blue Sky Studios’ Lighting Supervisor and has been with the studio since the creation of 2005 Robots. After finishing art school in Seoul, Korea, where Jeeyun was born and raised, she took her talents to Pratt Institute in New York City where she studied computer graphics and graphic design. Check out what inspires, challenges, and even helped Jeeyun land a job here at Blue Sky Studios!

Hi jeeyun! What do you do here at bss?

I am a Lighting Supervisor.  I help create the Director’s vision by helping the lighting artists create frames that are as great as they can be... ON TIME!

Everyone in the Lighting Department is capable of creating something beautiful. I try to make sure their creations are in-line with the Director’s vision and see that their storytelling goals are met in each particular part of the film.

Most of the time you can find me in screening rooms reviewing frames with teams that represent each sequence in the film.  We study the frames and make sure everyone is lighting in the same cohesive manner so the look and feel is consistent from sequence to sequence.

What are some of the challenges you have to overcome in the lighting department?

The Lighting Department is at the tail end of production; so one of the biggest challenges is to keep up with the changes to the film, as the film is constantly changing in different stages of the pipeline. We have to be ready for delayed inventory but we can’t delay our process!

When shots come into the Lighting Department, it is pretty much the last chance anyone has to raise an issue. Although our primary task is lighting, we make sure we’re assembling everything correctly for the final film. Although it’s not unique to the Lighting Department, balancing the quality and the resource is always the biggest challenge.

What is it that you love most about lighting?

The completed picture! And the craft that goes into getting it there. With our unique method of lighting (creating the lighting from a blank text file by typing and then scientifically correct rendering) the results are as satisfying as making pottery from a handful of soil. You can really create something beautiful from scratch and have the control to give things completely different looks. The art and science combination is a fun challenge.

I often compare our process to building Legos- each block piece represents each shot of our films- some long, some short, some in unique shapes, some in simple shapes- we piece them together one by one. There are holes and loose parts, but eventually it becomes this massive structure and we are all proud of it. It’s hard to imagine the final piece when you’re in the middle of the process, but we always get there and it’s always beautiful!

when did you have that 'ah-ha' moment when you realized, 'hey i really like this! i think i can make this my job!'

My earliest desire to work in this industry was to work on sci-fi films. I couldn’t believe the things that were being done in this genre! I grew up watching Star Wars (thanks to my geeky brother) so my goal was to work on those films and to learn how to use computers. At that time I knew nothing about each specific job that was required to make these films happen!

At my first job, I had several different roles as a general Technical Director, depending on which project I worked on. When I worked on lighting, with the nature of the 3D pipeline, when the animators went home after finishing their work, my work began. I spent countless nights trying to make things as visually appealing as I could and actually didn’t mind working until 3am, 5am… or until lunchtime the next day. Waiting for the rendered results gave a new meaning to ‘morning’ in my life and that’s when I realized I wanted to become a Lighter.

what were some of your first jobs in the industry?

The only job I had before joining Blue Sky was working in a commercial production studio in New York City called Curious Pictures. I started as an intern during my senior year at Pratt Institute and worked in many different parts of animation production. They also had a traditional 2D Animation and Stop Motion Department and had some great opportunities making props for stop motion shoots, painting water colors for 2D backgrounds in TV shows, going to live action shoots and modeling 3D props on set and compositing them in real time and texturing and lighting. I believe that my years spent at Curious Pictures prepared me for what I do now. Deadlines definitely seemed reasonable after working for the hectic advertising industry!

how did you eventually land a full time role at blue sky?

I heard that Blue Sky was starting a production called Robots. To me, especially at the time, there wasn’t a better project to be on! The city was made from metal pieces and rustic robots with shiny reflections- it was a dream project for a Lighter. I knew that nothing would stop me from working on this project- I did everything I possibly could. I remember arriving early for the interview on a snowy day after walking from the train station, soaking wet, in spring clothes!

What do you think makes working at bss so unique?

The people who work here and their sense of pride and honesty. There is something very unique about the group of people I work with. They are here because they want to be here. Everyone I work with always puts in extra effort to make things look better regardless of what they have to do to finish the task. Blue Sky is more than where we work. People are here for their craft and I think that is so special. That’s why I believe everything we create outdoes what we’ve created before.

what inspires you the most?

Everyday life. There are always things I notice that I didn’t notice the day before. For example, the way clouds look, trees change, objects look on the streets, tiles on buildings, fabric prints, etc. The sun also inspires me- the way it penetrates through the leaves and the shadows it creates...I can go on and on.

In addition, the creatives who capture all these things beautifully, manipulating what they see to recreate them in a new form such as in film, books, photos, paintings, etc… inspire me.

from your time here at bss, what were the most challenging sequences/shots to light? how did you overcome them?

The ending sequence of Robots. It was the scene when Rodney and his father were celebrated at the Town Hall with a crowd of robots cheering in front of them. I didn’t know exactly how to handle rendering hundreds of robots at the time. To make things even more difficult, the Robots had to reflect off storefront windows!

From what I remember, one of the shots was about 600 frames long. It was a technical nightmare! At the time I didn’t know half the things I know now. It was so hard that matching the look didn’t seem so important- all I could hope for was to render ONE frame of all layers without any errors! In addition, this was one of the last shots to be delivered for the film, so everyone was waiting for the finished render.

Eventually it all rendered fine with the help of the many talented people on my team. I had a valuable experience but I was sure glad when it was done!

What advice can you give to someone who wants to break into the industry as a lighter?

Focus on your craft. Try to create and show what proves your craft more than technique or trend. Watch lots of good films that have great cinematography and notice the way in which things are done to help the scene.

Understand the shadow that comes with light!