Join Rob Garrott for an in-depth discussion in this video Part 1: Concept design in Modo, part of Artists and Their Work: Conversations about Mograph VFX and Digital Art.
- I've constantly thrown myself to the sharks, so to speak. Putting myself in situations that are uncomfortable and that are beyond my reach in terms of skill set. And what do you do? You adapt and you learn those skills and eventually years down the road those become your strong points if you've been doing them long enough. - So show me a little bit about what you've been working on. - Well, this is the piece that I've done for SIGGRAPH this year up in Vancouver and I'm just basically like to show a new process that I've been learning the last few years.
And it's really fun to do it because so much has changed in concept art since I started working. About 10 years ago, 2004, the way we worked and what we were learning at that time was just completely different than the way people work now. And a lot of it is just the tools at your fingertips that you have. We were learning traditional drawing and painting skills and design skills, believe it or not. I used to go through the suffering of painting this all, every single bit of it.
Because that's really all you had back then. Obviously there was 3D, but as it turns out, I learned years later that the map painting pipeline from that era is pretty much the pipeline that concept artists are expected to use now. Which is either really cool or sad, I don't know what a reflection on us but it has evolved that much where the amount of techincal program usage that they were using is now kind of what we do and they've evolved into another animal as well. - Where did you study at? - Art Center.
- Oh fantastic. - Art Center College of Design Pasadena. And fortunately the school is a very good industrial design school very good, has a lot of technical stuff at it's disposal. So we had the most at our fingertips to learn with, but just the education wasn't, no where, if it would have been anywhere I feel like it would have been there but there wasn't such a staple of concept art then. - Right. - So the guys that were using 3D, they were already map painters and they were sort of integrating it into their pipeline.
Now it's become sort of expected, and I'm all for it, it just takes those traditional foundational skills that we learned and the design foundation, and then it just amplifies that and makes you able to do whole new things you could never do. Obviously you can paint this, but it's very painstaking to do that. - So is that your background, is in illustration and art? - Yeah, yeah. I guess illustration was what we studied, but truthfully at that time, it was right before the kickoff of what is known as entertainment design now.
- Right. - We learned illustration and industrial design. There was no entertainment design which is basically a merge of the two together. So that's what we learned, is just illustration skills and then learning how stuff is built, put together, ergonomics and aerodynamics and the basic industrial design stuff. - What led you into that field? Did you always love Sci-Fi and spaceships and future and everything else? - Just like any kid growing up in the 80's, Star Wars is a huge thing and Transformers and all that kind of stuff that was appealing.
I've talked to kids years later, guys that I know that are my age and when they were kids for some reason they weren't drawn to that, but I was very drawn to Space Odyssey, at least visually. Visually Star Wars and all that kind of stuff, it was just for some reason that level just seemed fun. - Sure. A lot of folks that are at the level of work that you do also had art in their family as well. Did you have a lot of art in your family, mom and dad or-- - Yeah.
- Siblings? - Yeah, my dad works in film, he's a musician. He's been in film since, I don't even know exactly when he started, probably, I think about 40 years. And my mom is a designer as well, different kinds of design. I had the support and people-- There was no question of whether or not this existed as a job, I knew that it existed, I just didn't know exactly what form I would fit into the equation. I think if I really look back to the source, it's sort of because I knew of them, that I was drawn to that cause I saw that it existed, I got to see that it was cool to work in that field.
And then obviously games, as I started from the 80's on, sort of just exploding into a whole new thing. - Yeah. - And it's a huge industry now. It seems like a logical place to go. - Nice. So let's take a look at this piece and maybe you can break it down for us. - Sure, just to show you where it always starts, I like to start the conversation by showing the finish because it just shows where we're going to end up and then I like to go back and kind of show where it started from. I did a very quick sketch to start this off, nothing that is meant to be shown to anybody except myself, but it helps me figure out a lot of essentials for where I want to go with it and that's just a 2D quick painting that I do in an hour.
And then from there I will go into MODO in 3D and start modeling, lighting and adding some different kinds of lights and procedural basic textures. And from a technical standpoint, it's very, very simple. You can see there's the base render for the most part. And if you look at that compared to where it ended up, it's really not extremely far off, which is I think what I really wanted to show-- - Mm hmm. - Those are extras. What I was sort of trying to show was that-- There's my whole fleet of ships on top.
- I love that layer name, armada. - Yeah, it was just kind of a something I've been using lately, I was thinking of doing a series of-- - Mm hmm. - These epic sort of spaceship type of scenes, very much in the vein of some kind of crazy Star Wars stuff meets Space Odyssey, meets Transformers, Unicron type of crazy stuff. But that's basically where it sort of started out is just in MODO. Basically I keep it as simple as possible and I cover a little bit of my tracks.
I start flattening things down mainly because I don't like having too many layers. If you go in, you can see in my groups-- - Mm hmm. - There are not a ton of layers in there, in my textures there's probably the most. - Yep. - But, I keep a couple little extras just for a rainy day, in case I need to go back. It's really very simple and I keep flattening stuff down because I know I'm never going to go back to that stuff so. That's pretty much the way I like it organized. And in terms of step-by-step process, you can see that the background and all that stuff was resolved sort of early on because, as something that I've learned along the way is that the sky and the environment sort of determines the lighting everywhere else.
So if you don't resolve that it leaves sort of the base values that you're dealing with then when you go back to the finish it might, things might not quite feel the way you thought then you have to retrace your steps so I like to resolve that in the beginning. - One thing I've noticed, is that you have your textures as a seperate layer set. If you turn that off and on again a couple times. Now, I would have thought you would have done that in MODO or is that coming from MODO and you just haven't separated it out? - No, this is merging the two, kind of the two programs doing what they do best.
So texturing in MODO, looks amazing of course, but it also takes a certain amount of, you have to UV, you have to do a bit of planning in order to get them to line up right on the model. - Mm hmm. - And my model is not, let's say, strictly clean. It's a little bit quick and dirty because that's what we do. - Right. - We need to make it quick and we need to make it as-- - Fast. - As, I won't say editable, not that a clean model is very editable of course, but the whole point is just bashing it together and getting it to look good and it's clean, it's not like there's holes in the mesh but it's not as efficiently modeled as a production modeler would make it.
The texturing side of it is getting into a more technical, more tedious sort of the process then I'm willing to do, so Photoshop, I can overlay those textures very quickly and make it look as finished as it would have been in 3D. - So all of the greebling that you have going on down in the like in these areas right here. - Yeah. - Is that then all of that is hand painted or-- - Most of it yeah. If I turn it off, you can see the, sorry. If you turn it off you can see the base-- - Yep. - Model there.
There's a little bit of painting on top - Mm hmm. - That I use, the main thing that I do is, you can see stuff like this what is happening right here. - Yeah. - The main thing that separates out the model from the finished project, is breaking up those edges cause you see those razor sharp 3D edges and you say, "Oh it just looks like a render." But it takes a surprisingly very little amount of opaque painting on top to break up those edges and make it feel a little bit more custom. If you were to do that in 3D, it would take you a long time. - Could you zoom back in and turn that off and on again? - Yeah. So there's the textures.
- Oh yeah. - Right? - So you can see the paneling. It's just some kind of aircraft carrier type of industrial paneling and you need to make sure the scale feels about right. They're fairly large panels obviously, but if it's too small then you kind of won't see it. But if I go and show you the opaques, So there you can see-- - Gotcha. - If I turn off textures and that you can sort of see-- - Wonderful. - That.
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