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Interview with Tim Borgamnn

Makingof Escalator

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Interview with SideFX / Houdini

Makingof Fuchsia

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Makingof Spider

Makingof Spider by Adrien Lambert - Autodesk 3ds max

 Interview with Tjerk Otten

Written by Benoît Saint-Moulin
Date : 2008-12-23 19:34:00


       


  Hello Tjerk Otten can you tell us about your journey before becoming a graphic designer. Have you followed classical studies or as many artists learned by yourself?

When we talk about graphics and ask artists about how they became an artist, alot of the time you get the same answer. And that answer is, that they loved to draw and design when they were young and they wanted to develop more skills. Every artist has its own role model or an artist that they want to be. When I was a little kid I had a role model and that was donald duck.

Not the guy that drew the character carl barks but just donald duck itself. I was too young at the time to realize that a comic book was made by the artist that drew the book, together with his team. When you are young you believe comic book characters really exist somehow, just like in Roger Rabbit. Its fiction, but for young people perhaps more a reality than reality is for adults. Every night when I came from school or had a day off  I started looking and reading one of the comic issues and drew one of the characters from the donald duck series.

When I got more familiar with the whole process of drawing and the production terms I wanted to be a comic book artist myself. I wanted to draw a story and tell people what I think and feel. With the years I saw that gaming and special effects really got a breakthrough and books and comics got more to the background so I thought about how I could reach people with another graphical application. That piece of hardware is the Computer.





  Before starting CG did you skill in fine arts (drawing, painting ,...)?

When I got to the Media&Design school I had to do all sorts of stuff, video editing, traditional painting, illustrating, all most every aspect of graphics. As many will agree, school is just like you are waiting for the train or bus every day and when you get on it, you will get a moment of momentum, an hour of perhaps 1 and a 5, but than its over and you have to wait again. I wanted to keep momentum, so I could grow much quicker than other students. I was working on projects alot of the time and in school I could skip theoretic film classes and go out with my team to make video projects. I didn't want to sit in a school bench and just watch the time go.

I could use this time to try out different techniques. I wanted to try everything out, with traditional art, with computer graphics, everything. I painted with oil,acrylic,water color, charcoal, just everything that other people used to develop skills. I wanted to be like somebody. In every aspect I wanted to be as good as that person. With Aerosoul art ( the professional term for graffiti ) I wanted to be as good as Mac crew and Maclaim. These were the 2 biggest crews from whole planet with the best graffiti skills around. With pencil drawings I wanted to be as good as Escher, which also was a dutch artist and he was just amazing. I'm really interested in surrealism.

You can never become as good as the artists you look up to, but nonetheless this is very good to become a better artist. If you have a low standard, than you reach your top much too soon and thats not good for progression. I love to produce traditional art but my heart lies with 3D graphics.





  You seem to be a multi talented artist with skill in painting, photography, Aerosoul Art ... is it an advantage to master several techniques to make the 3D computer graphics?

Well, I'm trying to make time for every aspect of graphics and than every time make the work better as before. Or at least try to make it better. Its hard to make a piece that everybody loved even better. Look at M. Night Shyamalan, he made the sixth sense and became world famous, but a lot of his movies after that became more and more painful too look at. Its hard to always create better pieces, but it has to be your goal to make everything better, raise the bar just a little higher. I'm always telling people that trying to master different elements makes you better in other aspects too, so I have to answer this question with a yes.

In 3D you are working with lighting, and constantly looking for the right angles and shadows. With aerosoul art ( its spelled aerosol, but I think with this aspect of graphics you have to have a lot of soul, so I often use the word aerosoul instead of aerosol ), you are making the light and shadows yourself, as for pencil drawings etc. so its good to know where the best place is to place you fictional light source. If you can draw good on paper or an a wall, than you have a better look at it in the computer also. When you have a wacom tablet and you get the know the hardware, you can create all most as good pieces as if you were drawing it on paper. 

I have to say, that normal drawing , sketching out pieces is more easy on paper, than it is on the computer. The computer allows you to crtl-z and go back though. Also the computer doesn't show ghosting lines on paper when you try to erase something, both has its advantages and disadvantages.





  How long have you been in CG / 3D?

I think I' m working with 3D programs for 6 to 7 years now, but I' m just working with it for 3 to 4 years full scale. In the earlier years I was more working with video editing, trying to shoot the right footage and everything. What I dislike about shooting movies is that you have to have a lot of actors and sound people etc. You just can't do it alone. With 3D, you can do all most everything by yourself, it will take a lot of time, but its possible.





  Are you employed in a studio or freelance? What's your kind of customers?

I worked at several studio's, but in the end I came to one conclusion. I already knew that the studio's in Holland don't really offer what I' m looking for. I got a lot of job offerings from whole the country, but its all to boxed. What do I mean with boxed, its like Bruce Banner. 80% of the company's just keeps you as Bruce banner, and when your at home you become the hulk. You explode with creativity, thats what happened to me. I had to do the usual on the working floor, and that was because there had to be money on the table. So money was the most important thing and the creativity came in second and that is wrong in an artists view. Of course , we all want to make money, but with respect. You create an creative vision and money gives respect. And if a client tells you that a artwork can be less and less than it actually could be, because else it becomes to expensive , I' m just not feeling well.

I want to give the best I can in everything. In the newspaper in Holland a few days back it had written that people from the Netherlands are the worst hospitable people on the planet earth. And someday I totally agree. There is not a lot of respect from most of the people. When people in foreign country's loved my work, the dutch people were just giving bad comments. Critics are welcome, but it has to be with a small piece of respect. With this knowledge I said to myself, I have to find a part-time job in a sector that gives me pleasure , but doesn't steal creativity from me. So Thats what I did, and my wife did the same. She is a photographer and in the field of photography you have to do a lot of weddings, and other stuff that just isn't very creative. Besides our part-time job we have enough time to create or produce projects for others. 

My clients really differ one from another. When somebody wants a mural painting, most of the time they just choose a theme and I create the digital mural painting, so that they can see what is going to be on there and thats it. When you are working with people from other country's you really have to check out, what they want, what is the deadline etc. One of those assignments was from Jan Carlo DeFan, Creator of Silverlight records, originated in Mexico, but currently in America. He saw my work and wanted me to create the cover for their new album. He wanted me to produce the whole band in 3D and also create a scenery that is in 3D, but the deadline was far too short to create all this. Clients don't really know the process of 3D graphics and think its a copy and paste situation a lot of the time. That is understandable, but its hard , because if they knew this before they asked for the assignment, they could have asked it earlier. Other clients or possible assignments are, giving 3D workshops on High schools, creating a company logo for a photographer, you name it.

Its very diverse and actually what I wanted to do. There is a downside though. I'm not making that much of money so that I could start a business myself. My wife and I want to start for ourselves, but therefor we have to get assignments that have a large budget, and all the assignments till now are low budget most of the time. I do want to start a company together with my wife, there is also the idea of creating an e-learning site for graphic aspects, so people can watch my lessons. Another idea is try to create a total work of something, just like The Chamber Of Oceans, with a making of video a lot of pictures and perhaps a special booklet etc and than sell the production. This way I can make money to make even bigger projects and go further into the world, but we have to see where it goes. An artist can have dreams, and perhaps they will become reality.

 

 

 

  What software do you use most often and what are their advantages over your need for creativity?

Well, this is also different from one assignment to the other. I think photoshop is the most used program, because you use this in every process. You use this when you are making illustrations, concept arts, 3D texturing etc. There are a lot of programs or PlugIns out there that are really useful. 90% of the time there are open-source equivalents of the programs, take photoshop. His equivalent is GIMP software. Its the same as photoshop but than open source, so it can be used for commercial and home work. 3Dstudio max is my main 3D package and PlugIns that come with that. Dreamscape, Realflow, Vray. Zbrush is a package that is an artists dream. If you can draw good on paper, you can produce some crazy stuff in here.





  During your first visit on TDT3D, you've shown us one of your achievement, "The Sunflower Fountain", can you tell us about this achievement and your starting approach?

Well, what I can say about the sunflower fountain is that this is one of the projects that became famous, because of the whole feeling I guess. I did not know that this project would do so much for me as an artist. Its funny, that when you work on a project and you feel connected yourself, sometimes when people start giving comments, and its bad comment, than your own feeling somehow drills down and you think that your feeling was misjudges, bud when even after a year people are mailing about the article I wrote and that they want to show the project in their magazine or websites, that makes you feel even more connected to the project. 

It makes you feel special. My article also got published in a magazine from India, Animation Today, and the fun thing is, I live in a very small village and you think your on a very small piece of the world, but when a magazine from India wants your story, you know you are being watched. Before I made The Sunflower Fountain, I made “ The Anchor ”. This is my first real project. I made everything myself and people saw me as an texture artist for the first time. I was a noob when It came to texturing, because I was too much watching people making textures. I did not know that my way would be different from what most people do. The Sunflower fountain was a project that made many people understand that reality can be a fantasy on its own. 

A lot of  people believed this to be a real scene, but in fact it was based on a fantasy imagination that I saw in my head. The Sunflower fountain was a very personal project. I started sketching the project with a very low profile feeling and when it was finished I had enough to trigger the things I needed in my head to unlock the graphical reflections of that.




  What was the real challenge when creating this image?

The biggest challenge was to reproduce the thing that was in my head. Because my technique is to use things from real life ( Most of the time texture wise ), and after that make it in a very high resolution. Sometimes you have 40 photo's for one objects that you have to merge in photoshop and merge it to one big texture. I think ill try to reduce this in the future, but sometimes you just have to take so many shots, because the texture that you want to create comes from an object that is 10 mtrs long in width in reality and you are just 1,73 mtr long in height. So if you cannot photograph from the right height you have to make many photo's. 

Another big challenge is to see how far you can push your computer not to make a heavy composition. The Sunflower Fountain I could pull off with a small composition, but with The Chamber Of Oceans I had to composit a lot of different scenes to make it work. Shooting a video making of besides your original project is also something that takes up even more of your time, because your doing everything yourself.



  Lately you have shown us a new composition called "The Chamber of Oceans", what was your idea behind?

The Chamber Of Oceans is about a young guy, named Lucas. The main character of the scene is Lucas. Lucas father was a fisherman. From the money that his father made they could pay the bills. This was their main income. Usually it was one week on shore and one week on the sea. Lucas was not supposed to go with his father that week, because it was too dangerous. The Sea was rough and more dangerous than normal. Lucas was begging on his knees while his father thought it over one more time. The Next morning his father approved that Lucas could come. There was one rule though. He should stay inside the safest room of the ship. The Chamber Of Oceans, thats what they called it, because it saved a lot of crewmen from death in the earlier years. They were on the water for a few hours and suddenly an awful, almost screaming sound moan into their ears. The waves crushed down on the boat, 9 members of the crew drowned and Lucas would soon find out, that his father was the only one that was still alive, at that moment.

Lucas came out of the chamber of oceans and run with his face filled with tears to his father and asked him not to leave him. Lucas Father had one wish, that Lucas would wear the old leather coat that his father owned for almost 30 years. Lucas needed this coat, or else he would die sooner than help could arrive. His father died soon after that. Lucas was in the Chamber Of Oceans for a long time. 3 Years to be precise. He only got out of this room to look for food, fish and find usable stuff for inside the room. Lucas began hallucinating a lot of the nights, and one day, when he was so wishing to get home, he looked at the painting above of the wooden cabinet. The painting of his old harbor, the harbor near his home. He was so willing, so dreaming to get home, that the painting ripped open, and water flood the room and Lucas. Lucas knew, that this was perhaps the only way to come back home.....

What I tried to produce was a scene that looked somehow real, but still with a little twist. If people are thinking, hey that door looks like its taken from somebody's apartment, It really came from a ship, and all the small details, like the painting, that is from my parents, and its hanging in there bedroom for as long as I know. I tried to make the chamber of oceans so personal, that nobody could say, hey you ripped ideas from me, or you got that from there. I Also have some concept drawings and people often think the idea is stolen from somebody, but its not. Thats why I try to use all references that relate to me, and a lot of the time are my parents involved, my family, or the surroundings that are very close to my home. 

There are so many 3D projects that are based on “ the ideas “ of a great concept painter. And although a lot of the time these pieces get the greatest awards, I think the actual award goes to the guy that visualized the concept in his head. He is the genius. The 3d modeler remodeled the idea from someone else, so these people should get an award on remodeling, but the industry just works different somehow. Its good that you can have a personal opinion about art, that is what art makes art right. The Video making of  this project is just to show that everything is not from somebody else, it came from my emotional and artistic vision. 

I' m also using my real name and thats because I feel that thats whats making you, your name. You are your name, all of your work will be announced as, “ hey did you see that painting of........ Or if somebody is saying, “ did you see that sunflower painting “. You mean from Van Gogh. Your work is your name. Thats important to artists I think.

 

 

 

  You have launch a website dedicated to the splendid Making Of on creating this image, this is very interesting to show us your each stages of research before the beginning of this image, do not you think that too often many artists to save time forget this precious decisive stage of research and documentation?

Research is 70% of your whole project. Many artists said this before me, and I think many will say it still. Research lets you play with reality. There are 2 things. You can model something, because you think its supposed to look like that, but people will see its not made the right way. Or you can make it the real deal, when you have the right research. There is even a 3rth option and that is the best. If your research is right, and you can show this to the viewer, that you know reality's vision and by knowing that you do something different. Than your judgment or differentiation is justified, because you knew how it was supposed to look. 

Research is important in many ways, and its one of the things I enjoy the most about making projects. You go to places and see what nature is doing. We try to be our own little gods. We want to create. And we are small pion's living in a great painting created by the biggest artist in the universe. Look at how god finger painted the whole galaxy, we enjoy creation because we are creations. Evolution lets us believe that a white painting and the basic colors just became a Rembrandt after millions of years themselves. To me it would become a very dusty white canvas, but still a white canvas and not a master piece. As an artist I cannot believe this evolution vision. We are creations of an mastermind. Even meditate about the places you shoot textures makes you enjoy colors and views of even more. Love creation and when you want to share this with a graphic medium, you are going to give the best results.



  Before you start to model, do you sketch on paper?

Sometimes, sketches are important to show others which way you are going. Most of the time I have a pretty clear image of what I want to create. And because I have this, I can also adjust the image when this is necessary. If I was working with a larger team I would have drawn everything on paper yes.



  Your image "The Chamber Of Oceans" has a wealth of details blowing, but curiously not placed in evidence in the final image, why? Is it for you a personal satisfaction of a job well done or simply happiness to model all the details?

Its for many reasons. I want to create a piece that is done. If I didn't put in all the detail people couldn't have enjoyed all the individual pieces as well. By creating a whole story of the process, thats how an image becomes more known. By doing this you can create something like actors. You give the objects a bigger role inside of the piece. The Main character is the piece itself, but if the supporting actors ( the objects ) have a bigger role in the scene, it makes the story a whole of a lot better, People want to know everything, everybody and why something is made. So when they go tell about your project to their friends they can share more than just, wow that was beautiful, or did you see that. Its like watching a movie, while you keep watching just 1 frame, the movie is playing inside your visionary mind.



  You have use Pixologic ZBrush for adding details of fairly intensive when creating this image, did you also used to do texturing?

Zbrush is a gods wonder. Create details like modeling with clay. What do you want more. I think zbrush is 17% of the piece. I Did a lot of displacement mapping myself. Just by creating black and white maps in photoshop. Lucas was somehow retached in Zbrush and I projected the texture maps onto Lucas in Zbrush. Its just more fun to do it like this. More realistic.




  In terms of texturing, have you encountered major problems?

Im always making my textures too big. Just trying to freak out my computer. I Don't want to loose any detail. But when more objects arrive in the scene, I' m making 3 different texture. High, Medium and Low resolution. So in the final scene you can make the objects close to camera more detailed than the smaller objects in the distance. Texturing Lucas was really hard. I give great credits to all the character modelers out there, because I have hard time creating it. I don't feel connected to it ether. My emotion goes out to surroundings and ambiances, colors etc. Thats more my things. Animals, Insects are all so interesting to me. I' m seeing to many humans everyday to enjoy creating them I guess.



  Can you say something about other problems encountered when creating this image and how you have found solutions?
 

I think the biggest problem from the whole scene was to make the final piece convincing. It happens so often, and I don't think I' m alone in this, that you are working late and you are thinking, this piece is amazing, and when you see it the next day, you think that is totally not how it could be done. And when you make the better versions and than go back to the beta versions, you are smiling and laughing because the version that you liked so much are so much worse than the final. If you make a piece thats seen by thousands of people they have to go back and be happy, tell their friends, tell everybody about this artist. That his vision is something to admire. That is what an artist wants, and thats the hardest thing to put in an Artwork. Giving the emotion from you to all of the viewers.





  Can you speak a few words about your upcoming projects?

I do have the idea for my next project. The Chamber Of Oceans took me a year to finish. I also got married in this year, so I guess I could have done it in less time, but it cost me a year. I want to focus on some traditional art assignments for a few months. A few mural paintings, and some exclusive canvasses for somebody's living room. He wanted these paintings to be exclusive, because he wanted something that wasn't been done before by me and never will be done again. I accept this challenge, because his respect his great. And respect makes you go further and of course like every human being, you enjoy the money that comes forth from it. 

I want to give all the other elements another spin and than go back full into the 3D scenes. I have some small 3D scenes that I have to finish also. But these are too small to really connect to my name or anything. I can't say to much about my next project, because i want to keep some attention. People hate waiting, but they love to work on ideas for a new scene for another artist. 

This progress is something that keeps them busy with a concept thats not done yet. Its going to be about sand,dust,horses,particle systems and its not going to be very realistic. I think this will be the first project that is not close to me. Its all ways close, but not to my home. I want to put the emotion a little bit further from home and perhaps even shoot video footage in other country's. Keep watching.



  The 3D computer graphics brought you satisfaction in your creative process?

Every graphical element is unique on its own. 3D does what I says. It lets you create a 360 freedom to enjoy your creation from every angle. And that is something everybody wants. You cannot dive into a painting and look around. Or pick a tree from a painting and twist it, thats all 3D. Thats why 3D gives me so much pleasure. 3D is much more technical than traditional painting. Its harder to work with your heart. When I' m painting something in real life. Your heart is in it 70% and your mind 30%.. When working in 3D its 50/50. But with both aspects, the end result still will be 100%. You' ill live with the process for as long as it takes to create it, but you will live with the end result for the rest of your life.





  A small word of the end for our readers TDT3D?

Something I would like to suggest to many viewers is , listen to soundtracks. Listen to hans zimmer, thomas newton howard, or something you prefer. If you have a movie and you think, from this soundtrack I go nuts. I feel pain,emotion and perhaps tears. Look up which composer made the soundtrack and listen to it. This is the greatest inspiration source for me as possible. 

You can see it like this. If you are sitting in a restaurant and you are enjoying dinner with your friends, and somehow the music stops to play, you are totally focused on things that are related to the usual things of life, music lets you go away, step out of the door of what we know and do every day, the same and the same. Music makes it beautiful and different. And when you listen to soundtracks you don't have the feeling of being a famous rapper, or a favorite star. Its pure emotion, and it usually belongs to an image of the movie, but because there is no movie, you can create that image with your own imagination and feel randomly inspired to create bigger things than you could have ever imagined.

Finally I want to say. Please look closely at the pictures and check out the written making of on 3dm3. It has a lot of details about the project. And please check out the video making of with directors commentary on!

 

Thanks for the your time and the interview for TDT3D,
Benoît Saint-Moulin.

 

 

  Internet :

Making-of Dynamo Making-of Still Life Timbre en réalité augmentée Les outils de plantes 3D ? Comparatif Terragen Vs. Vue

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