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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
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