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Valley-raised digital artist helping to make your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man look good


Those that love movies, especially from a young age, would find it to be a dream come true if they had the opportunity to work on a motion picture when they grew up, in some fashion or another.

Particularly with the modern blockbuster, the magic that is seen on screen is credited to the magicians that sit behind their equipment during production, and in front of their computer afterwards.

As it turns out, courtesy of one of the visual effects artists that worked on the film, the recently released mega-hit Spider-Man: Homecoming has a Valley connection.

Ryan Hansford, who graduated from the SVRSS in 2005 and now works as a Lighting and Look Development Artist at Method Studios in Vancouver, B.C., has had his hands on the controls behind some of the visual effects seen in Marvel’s latest piece of cinematic canon.

“I’ve always been interested in visual effects, and, ever since I was really young, I loved movies,” said Hansford, who grew up on an acreage just a couple of kilometres outside of Swan River.

“My favourite memory was watching movies when our family would go camping, and my brother and I would stop at Conrad’s first to rent ‘80’s horror movies so we could watch them on our TV and VCR in a tent at night.

“I’ve always been interested in monster movies, scifi, and fantasy, and nowadays, visual effects play such a massive role in those types of movies,” Hansford continued. “It’s been a goal of mine for a long time to work on the movies I grew up loving.”

Soon after graduation from the SVRSS, Hansford attended an animation school known as New Media Campus, once located in Saskatoon, Sask., where he studied a year of Multimedia and a year of 3D Animation and Game Design.

However, Hansford noted that most of his training came from his first animation job.

“Previously, I worked at DIG Animation, a small animation studio in Saskatoon,” he said. “The majority of what I did was create SaskTel’s Little Red Riding Hood commercials, among a few other animated projects.”

Hansford started as an environment modeler and texture artist at DIG Animation, but later transitioned to Lighting, Look Development, Texturing, and Compositing, which is closer to the work that he does currently at Method Studios, where he has been employed since February of this year.

“The look development part of my job is to make the materials and objects in the movie behave and react to light exactly how they do in real life, so, when done really well, people watching the movie can’t tell if it’s real or not,” said Hansford.

“For example, making a glass material that has accurate refraction that bends the light to make objects appear slightly distorted when you look through the glass.

“The lighting part of my job is to take footage of the movie that was shot with a camera and match the lighting of the Computer Generated (CG) characters or environment to what was shot on film so that the film and CG seamlessly blend together,” Hansford continued.

“Or, if I’m working on a more cartoony animated project, the goal of the lighting artist is to make the audience feel the different emotions of the films through colour and contrast, as well as make it pleasing to the eye.”

Hansford added that even though he had been in this industry for nine years, it still feels surreal that he gets to do what he does, and see the results of his hard work, training, and talents.

“What was most rewarding for me was seeing my name scroll by the screen in the credits,” he said. “That’s when it really hit me that I accomplished my dream of working on movies.

“Other than the amazing and talented people I work with every day, what I love about my job is having a career that gives me the drive and passion to constantly try to push my skills further to create something that millions of people can be entertained by.”

Although he has a number of impressive pieces of work that he is proud of, including award-winning creations, his favourite work is still what can be seen on the silver screen in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

While he has reached pretty high in the visual effects industry, with his studio also working on the upcoming Marvel film Thor: Ragnarok, Hansford said that he hopes to one day get to work on a Star Wars movie, of which he is a big fan.

While Spider-Man: Homecoming was released in Canada on July 7, it will be playing in Star City Cinema in Swan River from Friday (July 21) to Thursday (July 27), excluding Monday.

Possible spoiler alert: watch out for when Spider-Man gets locked inside a storage facility, and when he climbs up the Washington monument to save his friends. Hansford was responsible for much of the work in those scenes.

Hansford’s portfolio is also available at ryanhansford.virb.com.

“Loremaster”, an award-winning collaboration between Hansford and a former colleague.

Jeremy Bergen