024: The Power of Internships with Sanketh Yayathi

Sanketh Yayathi is a very talented motion graphics artist at Riot Games, working on publishing for a very popular game called “League of Legends.”

Mentioned in this episode:
Riot Games Vimeo Page:

Dan Ebbert’s Motionscript:

Websites: www.sankethy.com | www.riotgames.com | www.behance.net/SankethY | www.leagueoflegends.com

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Sanketh Yayathi Interview Transcript

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:00:04] Hello Ukramedia Family! Vladimir Prokhnevskiy here and welcome to episode number 24 of the Ukramedia podcast, where I serve our Ukramedia family with weekly interviews from highly creative people.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:00:15] Today’s guest is Sanketh Yayathi.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:00:17] He’s a very talented Motion Graphics Artist at Riot Games, working on publishing for a very popular game called League of Legends.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:00:24] Sanketh, welcome to the show. Feel free to fill in the gaps from the intro and tell us about your personal life.

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:00:29] Hey, yeah thanks for having me. You covered a lot of it, I’m just a 29 year old Motion Designer. I’m living in Los Angeles, California. I’ve worked at a lot of different ad agencies and stuff before landing at Riot Games, so that’s where I’m at now. ‘m just kind of having a good time living in LA, enjoying the sun, riding the bike, playing video games, yeah.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:00:52] Sounds good. Listen we have so much in common. I was just looking at your bio and we both lived in Ohio. We both kind of have like immigrant roots.

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:01:00] Yea, totally!

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:01:00] You move to Los Angeles. You went out West. I moved to the South. To Charlotte, North Carolina. It seems like everyone from Ohio moves to Charlotte.

Every time I drive on the road, I always see cars with Ohio State stickers and all that good stuff. But there’s one thing both of us kept. I find that interesting, because I’ve noticed that your phone number starts with 614 area code. Now, it’s interesting because I haven’t changed mine either. It took me two years to change my license places, but I kept my cell phone number. Is there a reason why you kept yours?

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:01:27] I don’t think there’s a reason other than convenience. I guess I didn’t really think about it, but I do kind of like to have it around and it actually took me like a couple of years to change my Ohio plates as well when I first got here.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:01:38] I was procrastinating because in North Carolina the price is like five times of what it was in Ohio to renew the license plates. So I was trying to go for as long as they could.

Now speaking of Ohio, do you have any family in Ohio?

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:01:51] Yeah my parents still live up there. So my mom and dad and then I have a brother as well. But he moved to Texas. He’s in Houston now.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:01:58] Wow! You guys are moving all over the country. You pretty much got the whole country covered between Texas, Los Angeles, California and Ohio.

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:02:05] Yea, we are pretty spread out right now, so we are trying to maybe reconsolidate sometimes. Yeah, we’ll see.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:02:10] Same here, my whole family is all over the place, but my parents also live in Columbus, Ohio, so there’s somebody else we have in common.

Now let’s start from the very beginning. I’d love to know how you got into Motion Graphics, Gaming, Music and all that stuff. Walk me through that.

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:02:24] Yeah, I guess if you want to start from the very beginning like when I was a kid and stuff. In elementary school I loved my cartoons and stuff like everyone else in the world. I liked drawing. Me and my friends would draw comics and stuff.

Then by the time I was in middle school, my older brother was a computer techie kind of guy. So he introduced me to Adobe Photoshop and just things like that. And actually, me and my friend even would make animations in PowerPoint actually.

Because back in the day computers were slower. When you were to make a Power Point animation and if you set the timer to zero and tell it to kind of automatically go to the next slide, you can basically make like a flipbook animation and it would just basically try to run through it as fast as it could. So you can kind of make like a flipbook animations on that.

So we would even sort of animate using PowerPoint back in the day.It is kind of funny. By the time I hit high school, I kind of gotten to this multimedia class and me and my friends were making home movies and stuff so that kind of got me into the world of messing with Adobe Flash and Adobe Photoshop, a tiny bit of Adobe After Effects.

Although, I barely used it in high school and just doing video stuff. It kind of just got me into that whole general category, I guess. But it’s funny cause I didn’t even know what motion graphics was really until like over a year into college. Sadly, so yeah it’s kind of crazy.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:03:41] You said that your brother introduced you to this stuff. Is he in th same field as you?

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:03:46] No, he’s actually an engineer. He did Electrical Engineering actually at Ohio State University and then Mechanical Engineering in Texas later. And he actually worked for NASA for like 10 years and was making like this crazy humanoid robot that went to the International Space Station and all the stuff. I was in high school when he was doing that stuff and I was just like oh my God… I’m never going to top that. So yeah, I ended up going the creating route.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:04:09] Out of curiosity, because I’m from Columbus, my wife is from Columbus and I lived there I think for like nine years. What high school did you go to in Columbus?

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:04:17] I went to Thomas Worthington High School. It’s kind of like just below the I-270 on the North Side.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:04:24] Gotcha, and then you decided to go to college. You didn’t go to Ohio State, you went to a college in Cincinnati, right?

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:04:31] Yeah, that’s right. I feel like almost all my friends went to Ohio State University but me. So that was kind of sad leaving them to go out there.

But yeah, I wasn’t too far. It was a good time going down there. I actually kind of stumbled into that program. I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do after high school. I kind of figured OK, I can do this kind of visual stuff a little bit, so I guess I should try to do something in that field.

And I only applied to like three colleges, which is a terrible idea. If anyone’s out there is in high school, apply to way more than that. I was really dumb. But one of the things I got accepted to was University of Cincinnati, so went down there and checked out the program, which is called Digital Design at a time and I kind of got a look at it and it seemed like it was this kind of mash up of all these different kinds of visual things.

So I was like… well you know I’m not totally sure what I want to do exactly. So this seems like a good place to start. So I kind of went into that program because it seemed like it had a bit of design, a little bit of programming stuff, a little bit of animation. So it seemed like a good place to kind of get my start.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:05:25] It’s interesting. I’m looking at your resume. I always say that if you’re going to go to college, you got to take advantage of internships. Take as many as you can.

I counted earlier and I think it was like five or six internships that you’ve taken over your college career and some of them are pretty big companies like P&G, University of Cincinnati College of Nursing.

Anywhere from San Francisco, Los Angeles and Cincinnati. So you’ve been very busy with internships. How did internships help you in your career?

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:05:57] Yes, so they were absolutely massive and I somehow managed to not mention this, but by far the best thing about UC’s program is that you have to do six internships to graduate. It’s actually a part of the curriculum.

I think after the first summer, I basically didn’t have any more summers off for the next like four years out of the five year program because basically you just would go to school for three months and then go on an internship for three months wherever that is. Then you go back to school and you’d alternate like that for basically four years straight.

So that’s the reason why I have so many. It’s kind of just part of what I had to do, but yeah they’re super valuable because like I said, I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do when I first went to college and all that stuff.

That really helped me figure it out, because when you’re doing internships it’s really good because you’re getting real world experience and you actually kind of start seeing the differences between what you’re learning in school and the real world, which does differ quite a bit sometimes.

But then on top of that you kind of get to try something out for real. So like you said, I started off going to the UC’s College of Nursing, which is kind of like a working at a college, doing media for college related things.

It was more design work related. So I got to try that there and then I went over to Procter Gamble and I got to do product simulation kind of stuff and figuring out what a product is going to look like or try to pitch it and things like that.

So that was kind of like a very corporate kind of huge company as you know. But then after that I think it was my first time coming to California and I worked at a small design agency that was doing work for clients like Carmen Miller and like Tillamook Cheese. It’s was more brand related work and then after that, the last couple were all kind of entertainment industry like advertising for movies and games and things like that.

So across all those internships, I got this huge picture of all these different places I could work in like what it’s like and you know.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:07:47] So you got a good taste for the industries. You started out as a design intern. The first three were design internships. And then the next one was motion design.

So you’ve done a little bit of everything and this is the way to do it. If you’re going to go to college, you got to take advantage of internships. I think that’s a smart thing you did.

Another thing I’m very impressed with is  your Behance profile. That’s how I found you. You’re kind of a big deal on Behance.

You have well over 244,000 projects view with almost 5,000 followers and 15000 appreciations. My goodness. Did that help you at all?

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:08:27] Yeah, I think. I don’t really know honestly, because I think it may have helped me get my job at Riot, I guess.

I made this account and I kind of jumped on to a couple projects that I worked on at my last company which is Ignition, because my Creative Director kind of made one. It was like, hey we should all just jump on this.

If you look at a lot of the views, most of it probably came from like The X-Men projects and like Disney and stuff like that. But the thing is I really made that towards the end of my tenure at Ignition and then I applied for Riot Games and stuff after that.

And then I got the job shortly after. So I don’t really know that view count and stuff necessarily helped me, because I kind of had my portfolio on a separate site, which I think I sent. And then beyond that I’ve just been working at Riot.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:09:15] Yeah, but if you google your name, it would be easy to find your Behance account and I saw that you’ve been featured by Adobe After Effects. It was included in your profiles, so yeah this is pretty impressive.

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:09:24] I’m sure in the future it would definitely help for sure. I just don’t know if it helped me at the moment, but at the same time it’s definitely great for exposure and like I’ve connected with lots of different people.

Some people messaged me for questions and help. I’m happy to shoot them messages back. It’s great to be able to give back to the community a little bit that way as well.

So, it’s definitely awesome and I just figured it’s a nice way to get my work out there. And also it’s kind of like a lazy portfolio, because I haven’t updated my old one since I joined Riot.

So it’s kind of a nice way to just be able to post whatever I’m working on and just kind of keep it up to date, which is totally awesome.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:09:58] And speaking of your work. It’s beautiful. You do some really cool detailed stuff. You don’t get 15,000 appreciations for no reason. Very impressive stuff. Share some of the best projects you worked on? What’s one best project that you are so proud of?

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:10:15] I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to pick one because I do lots of these animated log in screens. I kind of do them steadily rather than working on one gigantic project. I like a bunch of different ones for different reasons, but I think one of my favorites was maybe Ivern.

He’s like this like kind of forest she-man and he’s kind of like this gentle caretaker of nature. His whole thing that made him unique was that he kind of didn’t like to kill these monsters that are often killed in the jungle of our game.

Instead, he kind of like makes friends with them and then he sets them free. And because of that, you kind of get this really happy gentle character, which is kind of less common I guess in our game, because usually people are very edgy and angry and like you know bad ass and stuff like that more often than not.

So he’s kind of this cool gentle caretaker. The log in screen was kind of fun because I had to animate him kind of taking care of this little flower and kind of try to bring it back to life by all these cute puppies and wolfs were kind of watching intently at him. Little birds chirping on him and stuff like that. So it was kind of a fun departure I guess from a lot of other screens I do.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:11:20] Were you a fan of League of Legends before you start working at Riot.

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:11:24] Yeah, so it’s funny because way back in 2009 or actually if I rewind back in like middle school, honestly. I used to play this game called DOTA, which was what League of Legends was kind of based on.

I played that a ton through high school and stuff. It was kind of this GenKey like custom game inside of another game, which was called Warcraft 3. 

Sometime in college, I think sophomore year in like 2009 I found out that this company Riot Games was making this actual game. Like a standalone game that was called League of Legends that was kind of like that Dota genre and I was like oh you know that’s so sick. I can actually play this game. There’s all these new mechanics and stuff and it’s actually free to play.

So I was like yeah, this is awesome! I’m going to try that. So back in 2009, I picked up the game and played the open beta with my buddy Tim. I liked it a lot. It was really fun. You can actually re-connect to the game, which is amazing at the time because the old game like Dota… someone would leaving and the game would be ruined.

So I was like, this is great! This is really fun. I actually started playing way back then for like a year and I actually tried to apply to intern at Riot as well throughout my college career because the developers of the game seemed really cool and I thought it would be great to work at a game company.

So I kept applying, but actually never heard back all throughout college, so it’s kind of funny that I ended up here many years later after trying to get in there since 2009.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:12:47] That is pretty cool. What advice would you give to someone who is now getting into college? If you had to go back in time, what would you do to get into the industry?

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:12:58] Do you mean like kind of motion graphic stuff or gaming?

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:13:01] Motion Graphics or gaming. I’ll let you choose.

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:13:03] I guess lets go back to the work experience thing of being able to take some internships or do freelance work or something and really just doing real projects, because I think companies really look for that and appreciate it.

Doing student projects is cool and if you can make great ones, that’s really awesome. But it also says something about yourself when you’re working under deadlines and kind of working for clients and you’re seeing how you actually perform, you know?

So I think the whole internship thing that we went over, that actually is super important If you can do that, but also freelancing is another great option.

So if you can’t find internships. Try to find freelance work if you can get it or make some collaborative projects and just kind of taking that initiative. I think that’s super important.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:13:47] Do you still do freelance work?

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:13:47] Yeah, just here and there. I kind of spend most of my time just working on the Riot projects and whatnot, so there’s not as much time, but I have some friends who freelance a bunch and stuff too and some who actually moved into that world because they really like the variety of work.

So that’s actually kind of a cool thing too. If you freelance, you can be your own boss and kind of work wherever you want or take time off or you take the types of projects you want in very different places.

Whereas on the flipside, if you’re working in-house, you’re probably working on similar types of projects, similar tone and whatnot. So, that’s another cool thing is if you are able to try out both worlds. That’s also a great thing to do.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:14:28] Sounds like you’ve tried everything. I was going through all your work and it is so beautiful, so perfect, so much detail. I don’t think I’ve ever interviewed anyone in the gaming industry. Have you ever thought about starting your own YouTube channel doing tutorials? Anything like that?

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:14:44] It’s actually really funny you say that because I didn’t really think about starting my own one but at Riot, we actually were trying to see what we could do to kind of get in the community more and help people out and stuff. We actually started a Vimeo channel, so I guess I could plug that right now. You can probably just google Riot Games Vimeo channel and I think you can probably find it that way.

But yea, we started this channel just recently and I actually made a tutorial on kind of how to go through the basic process of rigging up of character in After Effects.

Kind of like how I do in a lot of these screens and some of the tools that we use and some of the process. It’s kind of more of a technical tutorial I guess. But if you’re interested in that, you can head over there and check that out.

Hopefully, we can add to that pile and upload more Tutorials, because there’s all kinds of random, weird techniques that we do over there.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:15:31] And I’ll make sure to link that in our show notes. You are such a creative person. How do you deal with creative blocks? Do you have any tips, techniques for us that we can apply?

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:15:43] Sure yeah. I guess before that I would just like to say like I think that it might seem like oh man there’s all these crazy animations with all these details and stuff, but honestly, it’s a super big team effort and a there’s lot of ways to get around creative blocks.

You have to go back to the source of things. A lot of this work is log in screens for these champions and what that means is like you have this new character in the game and they have this whole back story.

They have this lore, they have this personality and even beyond that. I don’t paint this art, because I’m horrible at drawing and thankfully, I get to work with amazing illustrators who actually create the scene itself and like where it is.

That kind of brings me back to design thinking and just kind of approaching problem solving as problem solving, I guess. Versus trying to just make things up randomly, because it not only strengthen your work but it also helps you work through problems.

For instance, I’m trying to think a good example. Maybe I can think of a recent one that’s helpful. So I guess there’s this character named Kai’Sa and she’s this character who’s kind of trapped into this void space.

I’m trying to explain this to people who aren’t really familiar with league. She gets trapped down there, she gets kind of corrupted and she gets this power but she ends up using it to stop these crazy void creatures from entering the real world and messing with humanity.

Meanwhile, she’s kind of seen as this monster sometimes, so she’s kind of like in this deep dark place alone fighting off all these creatures. So when approaching that animation for instance, I could probably have her do like a million different things, but we chose to have her in this kind of frantic pose where she’s looking around every which way because she’s completely surrounded and glancing around and ready to fire in any direction.

Getting that idea comes from thinking about who the character is and where they are and what you want to get across. So I think when you’re trying to work through something and you’re stuck. It helps to think about why you’re making what you’re making and what can strengthen the goal of the piece itself.

I think going back to the core of that idea really helps work through problems I guess, if that makes sense.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:17:43] Yes. It does. Now share one online resource that you find very helpful.

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:17:48] Sure. I think something that was really cool was I think it’s called Motion Script by Dan Ebert. It’s kind of this website that was probably made like forever ago because it looks pretty old but it kind of actually goes through the basics of expressions and how expressions work in Adobe After Effects.

It’s also explained in a really clear way. Before coming to Riot I actually didn’t really have much experience with expressions. I just kind of did like a loop out, I think. That’s probably about it, but it completely changed how I work personally in Adobe After Effects.

It opened up a whole new world of ways to work faster and more effectively and you know that guy is actually really awesome in terms of getting your feet wet and in terms of like what you can do with expressions, because you can do all kinds of crazy stuff.

You can attach different parameters to each other. So when something moves, you can make something else move a totally different way. It’s almost like a digital color meter like from the MAC OS, where you can kind of like sample pixel values and you can use that to drive other animations, so like say if something is you know, you have this like fire source in your scene that’s kind of like raging.

If it gets really bright, you can actually tie that to lighting layers somewhere else and use that as a temperature monitor to make the light go up in another part of your scene.

So there’s all these crazy cool things I never even knew were possible that you can do and yea that Dan Ebert is a really awesome guy in the community who made tons of really good scripts. You can check out and learn how to script for yourself. So, I think that’s really cool.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:19:06] I definitely heard of the guy and we just recently came out with an Expression Course Sergei put together. It is a six hour course, which I’m curious to have you take on it. I’ll send you log in info. I’m curious to know what you think of it. I would love to hear your feedback.

What are you most excited about today?

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:19:22] I’m always excited about stuff in gaming I guess because things are just shooting forward really fast

In terms of the visual world and graphics world, I think it’s really cool that companies more and more now are making their tools available even like you know trials or free versions for people who just want to learn.

Back in the day you know we totally were pirating stuff at home and that kind of stuff but now it’s cool because people are making their tools available to do that in a legit way.

Even if there’s watermarks and whatnot, you can still download all these different tools like Adobe stuff. Especially, 3D programs and also game engines.

I think just having a wide array of tools that people can try and explore is really great. Especially, for people who are starting out. They can kind of just poke their head into different places and see what they like.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:20:18] Yeah definitely. It’s an exciting time to be alive for sure. Everything’s affordable, you can try it out before you buy it. They’re taking away that fear from sales. They’re making it so simple to where you can really try it out before you buy it.

Now how can people get in touch with you?

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:20:36] I guess Behance is probably a good way to do that, because you can send people messages there.

So if you want to send me a message on Behance, feel free to do that. I have an e-mail address as well, which is on my portfolio, I think.

So you can shoot me an email if you’d live. You can follow me on Vimeo or Behance if you want to see what I am up to. I think that’s the best way to contact.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:20:54] Alright, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it. Thank you!

Sanketh Yayathi: [00:20:58] Yeah, thanks man!

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:20:59] I hope you enjoy my conversation with Sanketh Yayathi. All the links and resources mentioned this episode are also available on our website at Ukramedia.com/24.

Don’t forget to join our online mentoring group on Facebook. Simply go to Ukramedia.com/Community. We have well over 2,000 people in his group. It is a great online resource for those of you trying to grow and is absolutely free.

Thank you so much for joining me on the journey of this podcast. I appreciate you and I look forward to serving you in the next episode of the Ukramedia podcast!


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