Monday, November 06, 2006

My interview with CADesigner Magazine :)

1. Please introduce yourself?

Hi, my name is Paco Morales. I live in Mexico, and work as a freelance architectural and still life illustrator and animator.

I discovered the fascinating world of 3D in the university. It was there that I started to learn in simple programs like Minicad. I felt great relief and satisfaction building models in 3D, and being able to work with them and make changes, without doing everything over and over again, as was the case with physical scale models. It was also here that I first learned Autocad in 2D, as it was not very common (and not very user friendly!) work done in 3D. Anyway, my teachers were "old school", so they completely disliked things done with a computer.

When I finished the university, I enrolled in an Autodesk Training Center in Mexico City . And since then, I have studied by myself all I can regarding Illumination, GI, modeling. Either by experimenting, or aided by the tons of free tutorials available on the internet, and of course by participating in the forums and in the challenges periodically hosted by the main cg forums. The challenges have been specially enrichening for me, not so much for the prizes, but for the wealth of information I have learned by participating in them.

2. Your computer platform: PC/Mac ? CPU ? RAM ? 2d/3d software ?

AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 3800 + @2GHz, 4.00 GB. of DDR2 Ram, nVidia GeForce 7600 GT 256MG GDDR3 in a PCI-E slot video card.

3. Which 3D software do you like best? Why?

I use 3D Studio Max most of the time, because it has a very large user base in the architectural workshops, and they use it for a reason. It is a very complete program, which has lots and lots of useful tools that I use all the time. It is also very flexible with the workflow, easy to learn, and still has lots of power lets when you take off the newbie hat and start doing heavy stuff. There are also an enormous amount on readily available material for learning every nook and cranny of the program. Let's not forget it's very tight integration with Autocad (which is the de facto software standard for architectural working drawings).

I guess I could use Viz, but as my personal work is not that architectural-related, I do need the extra features that 3dsmax offers. As a render engine I use Vray, I like how close to reality you can get with this renderer. That, and it's very intuitive and very straightforward way of assigning material properties. It is also very fast for the kind of work I do, and it always gives predictable results. With this, I mean that if you move, value X, you get render result Y, not mysterious result Z.
For image and texture editing, I use the time-proven Photoshop for the general, mechanical, boring work, and Painter IX.5 for the fun, detailed work. And of course, HDRshop for everything related to hdr images.

4. What are the most common problems involved during modeling process ?
How did you solve these problems?

The most common problem I encounter is the lack of good quality reference material (unless it involves a beautiful female, a fancy car, or spaceships).
I almost always end up taking pictures of my own on the reference subject, the reference drawings, and the view port templates. It is an interest process because it is part of the necessary research phase, where I really get involved with my subject, it's psyche. I learn to appreciate, admire it, respect it.

5. How to create a perfect 3D model ?

Wow, that sounds quite flattering. However, I believe I still have not done a perfect 3D model!

However, I believe that your model will only be as good as your references. Your research, the time you dedicate to it, the time spent on details. Sometimes we want to skip corners to finish deadlines, but then we sacrifice quality and detail. It also helps a lot being tidy, disciplined, and organized. I need more of those three, though...

The more reference drawings, sketches, photos we have, the better we can analyze the subject. If we can get hold of a physical sample, even better But this is not always possible. But if it is, don't be shy to have your mother's (or your wive's) blender in your desk for two weeks! Doctors have eerie looking skeletons in their offices, and nobody complains!

So what do we have to analyze, to observe? EVERYTHING!!! How are it's materials? How do they behave if they are under intense light, under artificial light? How does the light refract in them? If they were transparent, how would the inside behave in light? How is it's surface?
Close your eyes, and imagine you have a bar of soap in your hand. What colours does it have? How does it behave in the light? Is it transparent? Is it shiny? Is it smooth? Is it rough? Now open your eyes and go to the bathroom, and pick the soap. Does it look like what you imagined? Most of the times, it does not. In my case, the modelling part is the easiest, and the fastest part. I concentrate myself a lot more in the texture and lighting. Once modelled, I start doing texturing tests. Quicky test render. Tweak. Quicky render. Tweak. Until I get a result I like. And then I teeak some more.
It is very important to be aware of the surprising ways that light behaves in reality. Take for instance, iridescence. It almost does not exists in reality. Only on the shells of some bugs, soap bubbles, the shine of real pearls.

But you have lots of renders out there with lots or iridescence. This only makes them seem unreal. So if you want your render to be as real as it can get, pay lots attention to light. Or your work will just be one in the bunch.
Sadly, most render engines do tricks to simulate light. Specially, because most people do not dwell too much on detail. So developing workarounds on the renderer's shortcomings is a sad necessity. This is also why it is imperative you have your software manuals at arms length at all times. They are trully gems of information, so read them. They are your best friends.
Setting up a light rig is also very important. I usually start my illumination with an Image Based Lighting solution, with some very minor lights that highlight important areas. So do yourself a favour, scourge the internet for HDR files, or buy yourself some. You will not regret it.

This are the steps I use to model any stuff.

1. Obtain the best reference material you can get.

2. Do lots and lots of sketches on the subject. Then do 2d drawings in real scale to use as viewport templates. If our measurings are not real, our subject will also do not look real. Also draw 2d guides to import as a starting point to model in 3dsmax.

3. Model. Either with nurbs or SDS. Just remember this will get textured!

4. Examine the material's objects. All it's properties. Be exhaustive.

5. Start doing the texturing. If possible, scan your own textures, and edit them in a graphic program. If not, use good commercial grade textures, no cheapskate stuff. What cannot be defined easily as a texture (like reflection, refraction, and subsurface scattering), do lots of testing and tweaking.

6. Ask, demand, feedback! Not just in the forums. Ask your niece, your grandfather, people that have nothing to do with computer graphics. They can give an unbiased opinion. They also generally spot details that we avoid, or that just skipped us by. Also look for ways how other people have done what you are doing. Use that as reference, don't be a copycat! Learn the technique, don't just clone what they did. And if you can, improve on their work.

7. Do the light rigging. Test. Tweak. Test. Tweak. Test. Tweak. Until it is perfect, or you are 30 minutes from deadline!

6. What are your sources of inspiration?
Beauty. Wherever it is found. In women (why deny it?), but also in sculpture, paintings, simple objects, nature itself. I also get lots of inspiration with anime. It is filled with creativity. I get very inspired by other artist's work, in apparently unrelated fields.
I really get inspired by what catches my fancy. I find lots of beauty in the deatils. For example, inspiration can be found in an old bottle, or even it's Rusty cap. I find it fascinating how the elements transform this objects. How this in turn give some very interesting effects. How they interact with their environment. Or how, who as kids was not marvelled with how marbles are shiny, and reflect, and look in the light? It is precisely this childish innocence and curiosity what is needed to obtain a good render.

7. How to be a good 3D artist ? tell us some suggestions ?
Well that depends on what you plan on concentrating on. I like photorealism, so I try to create a scene in 3d as close to the real world as I can. So I study what makes something look "real" in the real world, and apply that to my work.
In any case, we must become very curious, and very observant of everything around us. You never know when something might be useful. Like how rough surfaces like concrete and asphalt also can reflect light. A very subtle effect, but quite effective and real notwithstanding. So if you are into photorealism, you must become really really observant. I have also seen that all great 3d artists are not only great 3d artists, they are also sculptors, pencil illustrators. This helps. It is a foundation. So a classical arts education is very useful. Stick like glue to the uber-gurus. You will learn from them a lot! However, unless they see you work hard on your learning and your renders, they will avoid you. The more we observe our surroundings, the more we begin to be aware of all the small and subtle details. And it is this details that helps our images become real. And of course, read magazines like this one, they are a real treasure of information!

8. What is the most interesting thing when you create a 3D artwork?
For me, the excitement on how I am going to solve things in the modelling, texturing, lighting is very stimulating and interesting. I also find very interesting the research I do on my subjects. You always learn lots of things you can later brag your friends about in parties. I almost feel like a detective in a mystery novel, where I need to find out everything on the mystery, so that I will "win" in the end.

9. What's your opinion about Asia 3D artist?
I find it very important that publications like this exist. They really help not just the beginners, but also the intermediate and advanced artists to hone their skills, to get to know what is happening in the 3d world. And specifically, I find Asia 3D great, because it proves to the world that there is lots of ongoing outstanding work being done in 3D
outside of Europe and the US of A. There are lots and lots of talented 3D artists, like Stallman (this one EVERYBODY knows!, Kazuhiko in Japan, Soa Lee and Eun-Hee Choi in South Korea, Wenxian Huo in China. And so many more that sadly, are not so known outside their home countries. Asia 3D is very important to show the world what Asia has to say to the world of 3D!

10. Do you have any plan for the future ?
I want to keep studying and researching in illumination and GI, as I would like to work in a movie studio in that field. Also, to improve the quality of my work, so I can get in a position to get paid a lot and have free time to do work of my own and travel the world.

11. Which artwork you send to us is your best choice ? Why ?
I like the 3d beer work a lot, because there is a very strong tradition with beer in Mexico. It also brings me lots of good memories of times with close friends. We celebrate more with beer than we do with wine. And anyway it is not a very common theme for an image, I wanted to experiment, and do an image of something on daily life which was not so taken into account by most people.
Anyway, it was a challenge for me to create the scene, because it has lots of different materials, with lots of different properties.


Blogger Laura Roigé - ShirKa _. said...

When i saw the ball icon i was sure you´re a 3D artist
you have a great stuff, i love the dragon one
and the tree is sooo amazing!! i can´t belive it!
congratulations! =^^=

6:04 AM  
Blogger Paco Morales said...

Hello Laura :)
Thanks for your comments.

4:04 AM  
Blogger Andrew Glazebrook said...

Very nice interview !

2:29 PM  
Blogger Paco Morales said...

Thanks Andrew :)

8:15 AM  
Blogger veerendra said...

cool paco .. u rock !


8:20 PM  
Blogger Paco Morales said...

Hi Veerendra !!!

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What no updates :(

10:40 AM  
Blogger Paco Morales said...

Hi Andrew, I will post soon :)

6:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good job.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hola, estuve viendo tu blog y me parece muy interesante, es mas estoy haciendo tu tutorial. estoy aprendiendo por mi cuenta y he hecho algunas cosas básicas, jajaja ni siquiera tengo mas de 10 hdri,... estudio diseño industrial en bogotá, colombia, y si puedes hecharme una mano, estaría muy agradecido. te felicito...y que chimba!!!!! espero tu mail.

1:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mi e-mail es , me llamo oscar, soy el colombiano que te escribio antes. ... exitos,

1:03 AM  

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