How Czar Ryan Ompad Became a 3D Modeler for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Filipinos have been making waves in animation for decades. They’ve long been behind the scenes of major animated projects, like Finding Nemo, Inside Out, and Wall-E. Name an animated film, and odds are that Filipino talent helped bring the story to life. The same thing can be said of the highly-anticipated film Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
Just a few years ago, Filipino animator and 3D modeler Czar Ryan Ompad dreamed of being part of an animated film—and now, he’s part of one of the greatest superhero trilogies in the world. We’ve said this time and again: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the best Spider-Man film (sorry, Tom Holland). Not just because of its storytelling but also because of how the film pushed the envelope and challenged every animation studio in the world to keep up. The sequel is expected to do the same, and we had the chance to talk to Ompad about his contributions to the upcoming film.
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A Filipino in the Spider-Verse
Animation in 2023 requires more than just sketches—there’s a whole infrastructure in place to create films like Across the Spider-Verse. One of the crucial pillars of that infrastructure is 3D modeling, which was Ompad’s role in the sequel.
“I worked as a 3D modeling artist on Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and built 3D models of environments, props, and characters. As 3D modeling artists, we’re responsible for creating 3D models to be used in other departments such as texturing, rigging, and animation,” explained Ompad to Esquire Philippines. “We create the starting look of the environment, props, and characters. [We’re] pretty much building the set and creating the characters—but in 3D.”
If you still can’t wrap your head around that, Ompad has a simple analogy: “Think of it as AutoCad architecture, but for movies.”
Before Across the Spider-Verse, the Sony Pictures Imageworks modeler worked movies like Vivo, Over the Moon, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Antman: Quantum Mania, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
While Spider-Man fans are eager to witness the rest of Miles Morales’ story, the film industry is holding its breath to see just how far Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse will raise the bar. No critic worth his salt ever has anything bad to say about the trilogy’s visual effects. Guillermo del Toro himself stated, “We are in a Spartacus moment in animation—and Spider-Verse will mean a lot to the medium.”
But groundbreaking work requires groundbreaking effort. As the title suggests, Across the Spider-Verse dives into every dimension and world in the great Spider-Verse—with every world requiring a unique animation style. This was an Olympian task for the film’s visual effects team.
“The team really did a great job on creating the most unique look in an animated movie and I haven't seen anything like this before. I remember in our meetings, every day a different department showed their ideas of how they were going to tackle a certain shot from a technical standpoint. It wasn't easy as a 3D modeler because [we weren’t] just 3D modeling one style of look. Instead, we had to keep in mind that different worlds have a different way on creating the model,” explained Ompad.
As the 3D modeler, Ompad describes the concept as “mind-boggling” and “mesmerizing,” all in one sentence. It gives a new appreciation for the multiverse—and the people making it happen behind the scenes.
3D modeler Czar Ryan Ompad holds the Oscar and Golden Globe Awards for Best Animated Feature for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, with (left) director Peter Ramsey and (right) Head of Character Animation Josh Beveridge
From Davao to Cebu to the Spider-Verse
Before all of this success, Ompad’s animation journey started in a familiar place: Windows Movie Maker. It might be meme-able now, but Movie Maker was once hot shit. It got us through class assignments and group projects, and oddly enough, it was the starting point of this Spider-Verse 3D modeler. It all started when Ompad saw his brother add a DIY muzzle flash effect in Movie Maker for a school project. Then he saw Transformers for the first time when he was 11 years old, which pushed him to learn After Effects and Sony Vegas Pro.
Animated films like Toy Story and Transformers: Beast Wars were Ompad’s entry point to animation, but it wasn’t just Western content that inspired him.
“I remember seeing the first-ever Filipino animated movie RPG Metanoia. I was really hyped at that time when I saw it because it's the very first 3D animated Movie created by Filipinos,” said Ompad. “Actually, one Filipino artist who worked on that film also worked in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse—shout-out to Leon Enriquez, who showed me the ins and outs when I first started working in Sony.”
Born in Davao and raised in Cebu, Ompad would experiment on his computer doing all sorts of projects, from creating a User Interface VFX of the Iron Man Suit to making the Rasengan effect from Naruto. It became a hobby when he’d create small projects with classmates using a digicam, editing during lunch breaks and his spare time.
But things soon got serious when he realized that his hobby could become a career.
“When I was a kid, I was really fascinated by how VFX and animated movies were made, but it didn't get into my mind that people do it for a living as I thought it was just a hobby and not considered as a career. It changed when we moved to Cebu,” shared Ompad.
“I went to the University of San Carlos to study cinema as it's the closest thing that you could find that has something to do with movies (in USC), and I taught myself how to use 3D’s Max, Maya, and Zbrush. From there, it really pushed me to learn the process of creating CG artwork.”
Eventually, his family migrated from Cebu to Canada, and Ompad’s training began to really take off.
“I studied again at Vancouver Film School (VFS), where I met a lot of aspiring artists and learned things from there. I just didn't expect the blessings and opportunities that I got,” said Ompad. “To be able to work here in the industry is really unexpected, coming from a small town in Cebu to working for Sony Imageworks is a really great feat that I have ever experienced in my life.”
Filipinos in Animation
From Leon Enriquez to Ronnie del Carmen, who were both born and trained in the Philippines, there are plenty of amazing Filipinos in animation in the U.S. and Canada. As a member of this aspirational group of people, Ompad has a few words of wisdom for young creatives who dream of working on projects like Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse:
“The advice that I can share to young artists, especially for those who want to dive into this industry, is to keep posting your artwork on social media. I’d recommend starting small. Let's say for 3D modelers, try to create small props and make a scene or story out of it. Start with foundations where you are able to confidently use the software and be able to think ahead on approaching what techniques to use,” shared Ompad.
“It is easy to get lost on your objective/goal, [but] be consistent and focus on your work. Finish the project that you started. It is always easy to have a great idea and start building it but to finish it is a commitment. It's better to take small steps rather than taking big ones not
realizing that you’ve missed something in the process of learning.”
It’s a big and overwhelming industry, but Ompad insists that your work should speak for itself—just as his does, which helped him land a role in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Thankful for his family, friends, and colleagues at Sony Pictures Imageworks, Ompad can’t wait for audiences to see the hard work they’ve put into Across the Spider-Verse.
It’s going to be groundbreaking.
Catch Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse in cinemas on May 31.