3D World

Meet the artist

The art di­rec­tor talks to 3D World about his back­ground, stu­dio setup, in­spi­ra­tions, and day-to-day life work­ing on light­ing and ef­fects at Blender An­i­ma­tion Stu­dio

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We in­ter­view art di­rec­tor Andy Go­ral­czyk about his role at Blender An­i­ma­tion Stu­dio

Blender started mak­ing short films in 2006. Th­ese Open Movies are a test­ing ground for open source soft­ware and a show­case for what’s pos­si­ble with those tools. Since 2007, the Blender head­quar­ters in Am­s­ter­dam have em­ployed de­vel­op­ers in tan­dem with a thriv­ing an­i­ma­tion stu­dio.

As a Blender vet­eran, Andy Go­ral­czyk has con­trib­uted to nu­mer­ous film projects at the stu­dio. He made furry ro­dents for Big Buck Bunny and ren­dered ro­bots in Tears Of Steel. In Cos­mos Laun­dro­mat he was re­spon­si­ble for sim­u­lat­ing a colour­ful tor­nado, and re­cently he di­rected the short film Spring, in­spired by his child­hood in the moun­tains of Ger­many.

Can you tell us about your back­ground in 3D?

My jour­ney in 3D is tightly knit with the his­tory of Blender. I started learn­ing 3D as a hobby while I was in high school. That was roughly 20 years ago! Back then Blender re­ally was the un­der­dog of 3D graph­ics, but it of­fered me my first steps in this ex­cit­ing uni­verse. Over the years, my hobby turned

into my job as I be­came more in­volved with Blender’s devel­op­ment. My first pro­fes­sional gig in 3D was also Blender’s first Open Movie pro­ject: Ele­phants Dream in 2006.

I re­turned to Am­s­ter­dam nu­mer­ous times start­ing in 2007 for var­i­ous film projects and fi­nally took a full-time con­tract when we made Cos­mos Laun­dro­mat: First Cy­cle in 2015. Since then, Blender has grown as a com­pany thanks to the Blender Cloud and Blender Devel­op­ment Fund, and along with our stu­dio art team I’ve worked on sev­eral more film projects.

My big­gest learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences re­cently have in­volved work­ing as a pro­duc­tion de­signer on Agent 327: Op­er­a­tion Bar­ber­shop and di­rect­ing my own short film Spring.

What is your day-to-day life as an artist like?

I try to keep as reg­u­lar a sched­ule as pos­si­ble with sane, nor­mal work­ing hours. I get to work around 9 AM, look over the pre­vi­ous day’s work, read and re­spond to emails. Usu­ally we have a daily with the stu­dio artist crew at 11 o’clock ev­ery morn­ing.

We are cur­rently in pre-pro­duc­tion, so I have a range of tasks re­lated to set­ting up the main pro­duc­tion of the film. Giv­ing feed­back to the con­cept artists, mock­ing up sets, mod­el­ling props, light­ing and shad­ing tests, and hair groom­ing.

Dur­ing peak pro­duc­tion I also light film shots di­rectly. In the past I’ve of­ten found my­self work­ing on around five to

Among other tasks, Go­ral­czyk di­rected and over­saw the light­ing

eight shots a week, de­pend­ing on their com­plex­ity. In many short movies I also did smoke, fluid, hair and de­struc­tion sim­u­la­tion, so that’s still an area I end up work­ing in.

My day will of­ten end with some video calls in the even­ing since Matthew, our cur­rent film di­rec­tor, is based in a dif­fer­ent time zone.

Go­ral­czyk’s pre-pan­demic work­place at the Blender Stu­dio

“AT THE BLENDER HEAD­QUAR­TERS, WE HAVE A STRICT POL­ICY OF US­ING ONLY OPEN SOURCE SOFT­WARE AT OUR WORKSTATIO­NS”

How do you keep things in­ter­est­ing for your­self as an artist?

It’s def­i­nitely a good idea to step out­side your com­fort zone ev­ery once in a while and pick up a new skill that’s not di­rectly re­lated to your ev­ery­day work. I went to univer­sity af­ter I de­cided on com­puter graph­ics as my main ca­reer path. I stud­ied me­dia arts, which was very re­fresh­ing.

Although we had a 3D de­part­ment at our school, I tried to avoid it and do more ex­per­i­men­tal stuff out­side the realm of 3D art. Hav­ing the re­sources to do this was a huge lux­ury: I learned a lot about au­dio, both the art and en­gi­neer­ing side. I spent about five years with fel­low stu­dents cre­at­ing a very am­bi­tious stop-mo­tion film set in a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic world. That was ab­so­lutely mind-bog­gling! Fur­ther­more, I did some elec­tron­ics and ro­bot­ics, and even built my own syn­the­siz­ers.

Fi­nally, when it was time for my diploma pro­ject, I com­bined ev­ery­thing I’d learnt and added 3D print­ing to the mix. I built a ‘gar­den’ out of 3D-printed (de­signed us­ing Blender of course!) ro­botic plants that ab­sorbed light and re­acted to the viewer.

In that sense I went full cir­cle, and I’ve been try­ing to fuse art and tech­nol­ogy with play­ful tin­ker­ing ever since.

Can you take us through a typ­i­cal pro­ject for you, from con­cep­tion to fi­nal ren­der?

In my work­flow I hardly leave Blender. Re­cently I have been do­ing a lot of con­cept art us­ing Grease Pen­cil. This al­lows me to have a full 3D scene set up, but in­stead of mod­els, I just have Grease Pen­cil lines. Hav­ing such pow­er­ful 2D draw­ing tools in your 3D view­port is re­ally a game changer and saves a lot of time later in the process.

As a next step I block out the main geom­e­try us­ing low-res­o­lu­tion meshes, which I de­tail in sculpt­ing. Of­ten, I also model poly-by-poly rather than a more com­mon re­topol­ogy work­flow. I’m a bit old school that way.

In gen­eral, Blender’s tex­ture paint­ing tools are solid enough for my line of work, so af­ter un­wrap­ping I just dive right into colour and bump paint­ing.

Of all the dif­fer­ent pro­cesses, I enjoy light­ing in the Cy­cles ren­der en­gine the most. How­ever, as re­cent projects have been re­ly­ing on the new Eevee real-time ren­derer, I’ve been us­ing it more and more to put to­gether im­ages.

What kinds of tools do you use in your work?

Work­ing at the Blender head­quar­ters, it’s a given that we’re us­ing Blender most of the time. We have a strict pol­icy of us­ing only open source soft­ware at our workstatio­ns. This way we can con­trib­ute to many FLOSS projects all around the world. Krita is my main paint­ing soft­ware. I also use Inkscape a lot for vec­tor-based graph­ics and nat­u­rally all our sys­tems run Linux.

On the hard­ware side, I cur­rently have an NVIDIA Quadro P6000 and a Quadro RTX 8000 in my work­sta­tion (its CPUS amount to 56 threads) which also dou­bles as a bench­mark ma­chine to test and de­bug new Blender fea­tures. All that GPU and CPU power makes ren­der­ing a breeze. Still, I al­ways seem to find ways to push the de­tail qual­ity higher and slow the ren­der again.

Can you tell us about your cur­rent stu­dio setup?

I re­ally enjoy work­ing in our up­stairs open space of­fice at Blender. There are usu­ally six to eight of us up there, so it never gets too loud. But the con­stant buzz of ideas is re­ally in­spir­ing and keeps the en­ergy up.

Like many of my fel­low artists, I enjoy keep­ing lots of fig­urines and mod­els on my

desk. How­ever, I try to keep a strict bal­ance be­tween com­mer­cial stat­ues and ones that I 3D printed and painted my­self. Oth­er­wise, I might go on a shop­ping spree and have no money left for rent!

When we all moved our desks home dur­ing the pan­demic, I was for­tu­nate enough to have a spare room in my apart­ment. It’s small and light, and can be closed off from the rest of the apart­ment, so I have a clear sep­a­ra­tion from my work life.

An­other plus is that I didn’t have to sac­ri­fice my ‘home desk’, which houses most of my mu­sic and au­dio equip­ment. It’s very im­por­tant for me to have a healthy work-life bal­ance and still have time for my hob­bies.

How do you get in­spired to cre­ate CG art?

When I was first start­ing out, I was deeply in­spired by the new­est, daz­zling spe­cial ef­fects sum­mer block­buster, like many young artists. How­ever, in the last ten years that’s died down a bit. I still watch a lot of movies, but now it’s for their pho­tog­ra­phy, pro­duc­tion de­sign and cos­tume de­sign. I’m a big fan of Roger Deakins’ style of cin­e­matog­ra­phy and I’m con­stantly try­ing to use tra­di­tional film light­ing meth­ods in my work.

What keeps me in­spired above all is the buzz of cre­ativ­ity among my col­leagues at the stu­dio. We have a large va­ri­ety of artists and de­vel­op­ers from all kinds of back­grounds and dif­fer­ent parts of the world. Their in­ter­ests range from game de­sign, model-mak­ing, role-play­ing, elec­tron­ics, de­sign and more. Ev­ery­one al­ways wants to push the qual­ity of their work fur­ther. It’s in­cred­i­bly in­spir­ing to be part of such a pas­sion­ate group of peo­ple. Find­ing peo­ple whose feed­back you can trust is the best source of in­spi­ra­tion and can re­ally help you when you’re in a pickle.

How do you keep your Blender skills sharp?

Since our stu­dio uses Blender as its pri­mary tool, hardly a day passes when I don’t get to use it. Re­cently I started do­ing a bit of script­ing and add-on devel­op­ment, based on a tu­to­rial se­ries we pub­lished on the Blender Cloud by my col­league Sy­bren Stüvel. It re­ally pushed me out of my com­fort zone, but helped my work­flow im­mensely. I can highly rec­om­mend get­ting into Blender’s Python API.

The devel­op­ment of Blender is so fast­paced, it’s some­times hard to keep up with all the new cool fea­tures that are be­ing de­vel­oped. Even if I don’t man­age to keep up with Blender devel­op­ment for a week, I get all the news from my col­leagues. That’s pretty neat!

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 ??  ?? Spring
Spring
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 ??  ?? The colour­ful tor­nado of Cos­mos Laun­dro­mat proved to be a chal­lenge
The colour­ful tor­nado of Cos­mos Laun­dro­mat proved to be a chal­lenge
 ??  ?? This sea crea­ture was ren­dered in Blender’s real-time ren­derer Eevee
This sea crea­ture was ren­dered in Blender’s real-time ren­derer Eevee
 ??  ?? ‘Wak­ing the For­est’ was cre­ated for a tu­to­rial se­ries on Blender Cloud
‘Wak­ing the For­est’ was cre­ated for a tu­to­rial se­ries on Blender Cloud
 ??  ?? Go­ral­czyk’s work on Agent 327 in­cluded light­ing and pro­duc­tion de­sign
Go­ral­czyk’s work on Agent 327 in­cluded light­ing and pro­duc­tion de­sign
 ??  ?? Spring fea­tures dra­matic moun­tain land­scapes and rich light­ing
Spring fea­tures dra­matic moun­tain land­scapes and rich light­ing

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