BROUGHT TO LIFE: Nguyễn Lê Hoàng (left) is now living his dream as a visual effects supervisor at Duy Tân University’s Silver Swallows Studio. Photo by Duy Tân University
From an IT student to the co-creator of one of the biggest movie hits of Việt Nam’s visual effects industry, The First Swallows, Nguyễn Lê Hoàng’s journey has been marked by hard work, passion and dedication. The career of the 31-year-old graphic artist reached a new high in April, when he won the Fox’s Got Talent contest organised by Fox Renderfarm -- a famous global tech company. Behind the success, though, was a huge amount of effort that inspired Việt Nam’s entire graphic design industry. Việt Nam News reporter Hoàng Hồ sat down with Hoàng to talk about his career.
Inner Sanctum: Congratulations on the award. How did you feel?
I was very happy because it was the first time I had received an international award. When I entered the contest I never expected to win, because the other entries were outstanding and came from people who are famous within the graphic design industry.
When the organisers told me I had won the April Fox’s Got Talent competition, it caught me by surprise.
Inner Sanctum: What was the inspiration behind your idea of creating white cliffs? How much time and effort did you put into it?
I worked on it for a week, including brainstorming. The original idea was simple. The inspiration for me to do it started with the Pixar movie Up. But to tell a visual story, I had to create the cliffs, the grass, and the flowers in the most realistic way possible.
There are real white cliffs in New Zealand, which I re-created in 3D.
All of the details, from the trees, the grass, and stones to the houses and the doors were all created by hand. The white cliffs were the most difficult. I had to carefully create cliffs that both looked real and expressed my idea, which was the depiction of a peaceful scene from childhood.
IMAGINEERING: Nguyễn Lê Hoàng studied IT but has pursued his passion for visual effects. Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Lê Hoàng
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell us more about your career? Why are you so into graphics? How did you learn how to do it and then practise it?
I’ve been passionate about graphics since I was young. I always felt excited when watching a movie with visual effects (VFX) or 3D graphics. Later, when I studied information technology, I found it was very much related to graphics, because modern graphics rely on computers a great deal.
The reason I chose graphics was because it’s my major passion, and I also wanted to be involved in the production of films using VFX and 3D effects.
I was fortunate to be involved in The First Swallows, which re-creates the history of Việt Nam’s first air battle against the US air force and uses 3D graphics produced by Duy Tân University.
Inner Sanctum: What can you tell us about the movie?
It’s about the first battle the Vietnamese air force fought against the US air force. The battle resulted in many deaths on both sides. But, importantly, Việt Nam showed its ability against the well-equipped and well-trained US airmen.
The idea was first mooted by Duy Tân University’s principal Lê Nguyên Bảo six years ago. Production, conceptualisation, and documentation then took three years.
The film received great support from viewers. Some people even wanted to donate money, because they didn’t expect that a university could produce such a well-made film.
Inner Sanctum: What have been some of the highlights in your career?
A lot of my time has been devoted to this film. The most memorable graphic I created during those six years was probably the MIG 17 aircraft, which was used by the Vietnamese air force in those first battles. That is probably the most indelible mark I’ve left in my career.
The creation of graphics is a meaningful endeavour. They can be hugely inspiring for the community and enable the re-creation of what was previously only in our imagination, even the craziest of ideas.
Graphic design is always evolving, so we must continue to learn and change in order to stay abreast of its development.
Inner Sanctum: What are your thoughts on Việt Nam’s visual effects industry? What do you expect in the future?
The local visual effects industry is still quite limited in terms of talent and the conditions needed to build a team for productions with visual effects. It takes a massive amount of time, money, and effort. And human resources must be well trained. The visual effects community in Việt Nam is small, and people mainly pursue it as a passion.
The studio and the university are proud of the film’s success and plan to continue with other productions.
The film is a tribute to Vietnamese history and has received good reviews for its graphics. This gives me hope that the local graphic design industry has the capacity to develop in the future.
The crew has a second film in mind, and that’s the focus of my future plans. VNS