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We caught up with Kit­bash3d co-founders Banks Boutté and Maxx Bur­man to find out how they’re fu­elling the lim­it­less cre­ativ­ity of artists ev­ery­where

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Amatte pain­ter and art di­rec­tor, Maxx Bur­man has worked on Iron Man 3, Halo, Far Cry and Game Of Thrones, as Kit­bash3d co-founder Banks Boutté ex­plains to us, pro­vid­ing an adu­la­tory in­tro­duc­tion to his friend and fel­low founder Maxx Bur­man.

Bur­man re­turns the favour by stat­ing, “Banks is a pro­ducer who’s al­ways been on the front­lines of where en­ter­tain­ment is go­ing, pro­duc­ing things like the first-ever so­cial me­dia cre­ated se­ries and a lot of VR projects over the last cou­ple of years. He’s al­ways look­ing at where en­ter­tain­ment and con­tent is go­ing.”

The pair met when Bur­man was work­ing on Iron Man 3 and stayed in close con­tact for sev­eral years. “We kept just check­ing in with one another and even­tu­ally found it was the right time to step out of what we had been do­ing and cre­ate our own path to­gether,” says Boutté. “We saw tech­nol­ogy and the world around us chang­ing in the same way and we re­ally wanted to do some­thing.”

“Dig­i­tal worlds are only get­ting more preva­lent and the amount of peo­ple creat­ing dig­i­tal con­tent is just ex­pand­ing at an amaz­ing rate,” con­tin­ues Bur­man. “We wanted to be at the fore­front of this and one of the ve­hi­cles to do that is kit­bash.” The ethos be­hind Kit­bash3d’s pro­duc­tion of pre­mium 3D as­sets for VFX, con­cept art and de­sign is a pure one, as Bur­man ex­plains, “We looked at this global com­mu­nity of artists who are build­ing these worlds and thought ‘what tools can we make to en­able and in­spire them as they cre­ate?’.”

Ex­pert qual­ity as­sets

With soft­ware be­com­ing in­creas­ingly easy to use and 3D art grow­ing more ac­ces­si­ble, the pair no­ticed a lack of con­sis­tency when it came to the qual­ity of artists’ work, hence the pre­mium na­ture of Kit­bash3d’s as­sets. “There were a lot of places that were open plat­forms where any­one could come on and pro­duce a model. What we felt we re­ally wanted to do was make a pre­mium as­set, so that every time you open up a Kit­bash3d kit you know you’re go­ing to get some­thing of a spe­cific qual­ity,” ad­mits Boutté. Although the kits are of a pre­mium qual­ity, Bur­man and Boutté in­sist that they aren’t re­served for only pre­mium artists. “We have a ton of young artists who are just get­ting into the in­dus­try who have found that with our kits they can break them open re­ally quickly and get the things that they are try­ing to cre­ate faster,” says Boutté. “It’s crazy how di­verse our cus­tomers are. They’re al­most evenly spread be­tween hob­by­ists, free­lancers and the stu­dio world.” Kit­bash3d’s di­verse range of kits are worked on

on by an ever-ex­pand­ing team of around ten artists, whom the founders have met at events or had been sug­gested to them by the 3D com­mu­nity at large. Bur­man adds, “Some­times we find port­fo­lios on­line and just reach out to the artist. We’ve hired peo­ple off Artstation, but most of it has been through rec­om­men­da­tions and word of mouth.”

A solid lineup of artists al­lows the founders to cater to­wards an in­di­vid­ual’s strengths when dream­ing up the theme of their next kit. “One of the first things that we do is see what the mod­eller is ac­tu­ally in­ter­ested in. Be­cause if they’re re­ally in­ter­ested in a type of theme or ar­chi­tec­ture then they’re go­ing to do a much bet­ter job of it,” ex­plains Bur­man.

He con­tin­ues, “A re­ally good ex­am­ple of this is our new An­cient Rome kit. Michal who mod­elled it ac­tu­ally stud­ied Ro­man ar­chi­tec­ture in col­lege and got his bach­e­lor’s de­gree in it. He’s ex­tremely pas­sion­ate about the sub­ject and be­cause of that when he was de­sign­ing this kit every sin­gle thing was his­tor­i­cally ac­cu­rate. He paid at­ten­tion to how the Ro­mans de­signed and built their build­ings as well as the ex­act ma­te­ri­als they used at the time.”

As a re­sult of this at­ten­tion to de­tail Kit­bash3d has been giv­ing more de­sign re­spon­si­bil­ity to the artists, as Bur­man makes clear, “When they get a prompt like our Wild West kit [mod­elled by

Ne­nad Merzel] for ex­am­ple, it’s not just ‘here’s a bunch of ref­er­ences to copy’. We want them to study the ar­chi­tec­ture of the Wild West and find the in­ter­est­ing shape lan­guage within that theme.”

“With some­thing like Fu­ture Slums or Utopia [both mod­elled by Mi­hailo Ra­do­se­vic] you start to get into a dif­fer­ent process where you don’t have some­thing his­tor­i­cal to base it off and that re­quires a lot more work on the de­sign side,” con­tin­ues Bur­man. “For the Fairy­tale kit [mod­elled by­matthew Paquin] we tried to base it par­tially in re­al­ity and then stretch it. That was a tricky kit be­cause we wanted to cre­ate some­thing fan­tas­ti­cal, that doesn’t ex­ist in this world, but in order to keep it grounded we looked at a lot of towns in Aus­tria, Ger­many and Bel­gium. We looked at the ar­chi­tec­tural style of those more medieval towns and pulled out the common el­e­ments we liked, then ex­ag­ger­ated them to cre­ate some­thing a lit­tle more stylised.”


Each artist is given three months to com­plete their kit, with time ded­i­cated to per­fect­ing each piece. “Be­fore we start the kit we put to­gether a big ref­er­ence doc­u­ment that lays out the types of pieces we’re look­ing for, ba­sic shape lan­guage, the over­all goal of the kit and a load of ref­er­ence paint­ings,” ex­plains Bur­man. “From there we do a rough low-poly block­out of one piece. When that gets ap­proved we

take one of those pieces all the way to fi­nals, set­ting our bench­mark of what every piece will be be­fore we carry it across to the rest of the kit.”

A lot of work also goes into the cover art that ac­com­pa­nies each new kit, each be­ing the work of a handpicked artist with an ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ship to the sub­ject mat­ter. “I think a re­ally good ex­am­ple of this is Jort van Wel­ber­gen who did the Space Colony cover, half of the [mod­el­ling] ref­er­ences were his con­cepts any­way,” ex­plains Bur­man. “It was the same with Leon Tukker when he did the Utopia cover. We were look­ing at his paint­ings as a ref­er­ence be­fore we even built the kit. So when it came time to do the cover it was a nat­u­ral fit.”

De­spite be­ing a quicker process than creat­ing the models them­selves, Kit­bash3d’s cover art does present its own chal­lenges. Bur­man states, “We re­ally want artists to cre­ate a piece of art­work that rep­re­sents their sen­si­bil­i­ties but also show­cases the kit. It can be a tough thing as an artist to have a lot free­dom and not much di­rec­tion. Then within that free­dom to try and bal­ance show­cas­ing the kit and in­spir­ing ev­ery­one with which worlds can be cre­ated with these pieces, that’s a big chal­lenge.”

For Bur­man, run­ning the art side of Kit­bash3d is an op­por­tu­nity for him to use ev­ery­thing he’s learned through­out his ca­reer, but it isn’t just the tech­niques that he deems so im­por­tant. “My goal is to give artists the cre­ativ­ity, free­dom, ap­pre­ci­a­tion and own­er­ship of their work that I al­ways wanted when I was work­ing as an artist. Yes on a tech­ni­cal level I’ve learnt what I like and don’t like, but more so than that I’ve learned how I like to be treated as an artist and we strive to cre­ate that en­vi­ron­ment for all of our artists.”

a CEL­E­BRATED Com­mu­nity

In its short life­span Kit­bash3d has birthed a vi­brant com­mu­nity of artists that use the kits to bol­ster their own cre­ativ­ity and cre­ate as­ton­ish­ing new en­vi­ron­ments and con­cepts. Boutté has fond memories of the first time an artist blew his mind us­ing one of their kits, “When we launched we held the Kit­bash3d Fes­ti­val. Em­manuel Shiu came on and did a set where he came and broke open all four of our launch kits to­gether and bashed his own space sta­tion with a full ar­mada of ships. He took Art Deco build­ings, turned them on their sides and used the an­ten­nas from the Neo-tokyo kit to make can­nons. That was the first time I saw some­one cre­ate a world com­pletely of their own from our el­e­ments.”

For Bur­man the stand­out pieces are more left of cen­tre, “I al­ways get ex­cited when I see peo­ple us­ing our kits to cre­ate some­thing more ab­stract and not nec­es­sar­ily a straight-up city or planet. Com­bin­ing them to cre­ate more ab­stract com­po­si­tions and crazy colours, see­ing how far you can push the style and emo­tion by us­ing the pieces as build­ing blocks.”

It is clear that for Boutté and Bur­man the Kit­bash3d jour­ney is only just be­gin­ning, but they’ve al­ready learnt some valu­able lessons.

For Bur­man those lessons have been all about tak­ing a step back from his artist role. “Oc­to­ber last year I was do­ing all the cov­ers for all the kits my­self. Banks was telling me we could never grow this with me in front of that com­puter for one or two weeks out of every month,” he says.

“The process of let­ting go and giv­ing the spot­light to other artists, trust­ing them to do some­thing bet­ter than I ever could has been an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s been so much more ful­fill­ing to be able to step back and en­able other artists to do their best work, then watch as they come back and blow us away,” he con­cludes.

For Boutté dis­cov­er­ing a global com­mu­nity of pas­sion­ate 3D artists has been the ul­ti­mate les­son, “This is my first op­por­tu­nity to see how tech­nol­ogy can bring us to­gether on such a mas­sive scale and it’s amaz­ing to be a part of that. On our show we have the same peo­ple show up in the chat week to week and we get to know these peo­ple, their goals, tri­als, stum­bles and their suc­cesses all to­gether.”

pablo Car­pio, cre­ated this piece of cover art for Wild West

utopia’s cover art was cre­ated by Leon tukker

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