Alejandro Robledo Mejia: a gifted artist

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Mejia created the animations and liquid simulations for the opening sequence of the new Marvel Studio movie, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Earlier this year, Alejandro also worked on another project for Marvel, creating the visual effects and animations for
Loki, streaming on Disney+.

As a highly sought-after digital artist, Mejia also works directly with Latin superstar Maluma; Part 1 of their NFT collaborative art series recently dropped on Ethernity, selling in over six figures.

Having worked closely with Maluma since 2019, Maluma has once again brought Mejia on board to work on his Papi Juancho World Tour, which resumed this fall and showcases Maluma’s work through the on-stage animations and visual effects displayed at the show. ‘screen.

Here, Mejia talks to CGW about his work and his innate ability to push the boundaries of design, technology and computer engineering.

How did you get interested in digital art?

I loved drawing when I was young and creating art. I started by drawing superheroes — in particular Dragon Ball Z characters. I was really passionate about it. Then, as a professional water skier, I learned to draw on my boardshorts and started selling them at tournaments. By the end of high school, I wasn’t particularly interested in any of the subjects at school, and drawing still motivated me a lot. So I decided to pursue my passion and signed up for graphic design because I was not very good at illustration. Graphics didn’t motivate me as much, so I used my free time to learn 3D, which became my profession.

Where did you go to school?

I studied graphic design at MICA in Baltimore. Then I studied (SideFX) Houdini in Spectrum CG for two years, and I continue to study with YouTube videos and tutorials in my spare time.

What satisfies you in 3D?

It’s very heartwarming whenever I create something out of my own creative ideas, where I can express myself and make images in my head come true.

Do you also do non-digital art?

Not really. I loved drawing, but everything needs practice to get to a high level, so I’ve spent all my time and effort learning Houdini for the past few years, so I haven’t drawn for a long time now.

Why do you prefer numerical methods?

I favor digital methods because they involve the tools I know how to use and allow me to create captivating images. I always find traditional art intriguing, however, I much prefer to use the tools I know. Over time, I discovered that I could also create traditional-looking work with digital methods, and it’s very rewarding.


For Shang Chi, what direction were you given by the filmmakers?

The Perception team specifically gave me a lot of guidelines. They had a vision for creating liquid simulations, and it allowed me to use the tools I know best at Houdini and allowed me to put together a solid concept that won the pitch.

What look were you going for?

I was inspired by the work of Elastic on the main titles of daredevil. This liquid look has always inspired me in the past, years before I had the chance to use liquids on a line. It also helped shape the idea of ​​creating iconic images using simulations.

Where did you get inspiration for this particular work?

Inspiration was drawn to some extent from daredevilthe main titles. However, the Perception team gave me some really nice liquid simulation work, and from there I tried to stay away from too many references to try and create something unique.

What other tools did you use?

The work I did was entirely in Houdini. The Perception team took the simulations I was doing and imported them into Cinema 4D, then composited them in After Effects.

Was there anything unique about the process?

The process I used in Houdini was very unique because of the way I used normals in the geometry to conduct liquids in a very artistic way. This helped the film makers to manipulate liquids into specific motions. The techniques and tools were things I had practiced for years. It took me a long time to understand the limitations of liquid simulations, and it was really relieving to see them useful on this project.

Tell me about simulations, particles, etc.

Liquid simulations come from particle simulations. In other words, particles are points that move with physical properties towards real materials. In this case, we simulated the particles to look like water using a solver called Flip Fluids. These particles are then meshed, which means that they form a geometry, and this geometry looks like sculptures.

What was the most difficult aspect and how did you overcome it?

The challenge here was to control the liquids to move in slow motion at certain points in the piece. It’s hard to defy the laws of physics, even when creating visual effects.

Did you do the work yourself or do you have other people working with you?

There were many more people involved in the project. This kind of project starts on a smaller scale during the pitch and design phases, in which I was much more involved alongside the creative director of Perception. Then, after winning the pitch, a lot more people were brought onto the project due to the crazy amount of work that needs to be done to live up to Marvel’s standards of perfection.

How long did it take to go from concept to completion?

This project took several months to complete. From negotiations to concept, pitch, execution and delivery, I would calculate around six months.

How long is the sequence?

Titles last about 1 minute.

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