How Do You Become an Arch-viz Modelling Artist?
What's your current role and what does it involve?
I am a senior modelling lead, which means I help modellers plan better workflows based on current projects, and connect them with other departments to optimize communication. I also take care of anything from the creation of complex models to detailed assets and look development.
Where do you work, and what type of projects are they involved with?
I work at Binyan Studios, in our awesome Sydney office. Initially, I had worked on all kinds of small and big projects like houses, towers, and large residential and commercial areas, but also small-scale projects that require more attention to detail. I now focus on creating unique assets like furniture, accessories, sculptures and anything that requires custom made resources.
When did you first realise you wanted to work in this industry?
I believe that happened when I first started to properly learn 3d modelling, and wanted to replicate some images I had seen in a design magazine. The website evermotion.com also kept me inspired and motivated, not to mention the awesome work of Alex Roman’s "The Third and the Seventh" which I still consider a great inspiration.
How did you get your first big break?
Back in Italy, when I was 13, I went with a friend and his family to a local exposition, called "Futureshow". One of the exhibition stalls was related to CGI and that's where I was introduced to Bryce 3d. I didn't know how to use it properly, but damn that was super fun. It quickly triggered my interest, and when I saw that Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament had level editors, I immediately understood that CG was my thing.
Describe the journey you took into your current role?
I have started my freelancing career in Melbourne, working with a very talented 3d artist called David Fraher, later co-founder of FKD Studio. I owe him a lot, especially for the opportunity he gave me and the help I got from that experience, since the beginning.
At the end of my experience in Melbourne, I found Binyan Studios, which could hire me and also sponsor me to stay in Australia. We immediately got along very well. They needed a modeler, and I loved their work. Plus, I was surrounded by incredible people from the very start.
I always had a deep interest for small details and quality modelling, so every now and then at Binyan, I was able to be exposed to even more exciting tasks. I also mentor, and share knowledge with other talented artists, run workshops and small research and development projects.
Day in the life
Describe a typical day for you and your team?
I usually get a lot of challenging requests from our artists which keeps me very busy. These requests range from the creation of a rug up to the specs of our clients, to a wall texture that has some very unique features, a sculpture, a monument or whatever they believe would help make our projects stand out more. I also deal a lot with clothing, bedding, fluid simulation, and so on.
What third-party and proprietary tools do you use on a daily basis?
We use 3dsMax and its plugins like forest pack, Railclone, Phoenix Fd etc., as the base for our scenes, with V-Ray and Corona render as engines. Along with that I frequently use ZBrush (on 50% of my work), Rizom Uv for my unwrapping, and Substance Painter which make my models look great in no time. Every now and then I’m required to do some photogrammetry work and my preference is to use Reality Capture. It's fast, easy and very reliable.
We are quite flexible and love to explore new tools.
Which departments and key people do you work closely with?
I work with our project managers and anyone involved in production, from modelling to still renders and animation. So, with everyone, really. I love to be across the entire pipeline and help where I can. It also gives me a better idea of how my colleagues can utilise my work, and what I can do to help them further.
Are there any industry trends that are changing the nature of your role?
The constant evolution of the software we use illustrates how everything is colliding to some standard workflows. If we use this correctly, it can help us achieve something more, and also in less time.
That's what I think has massively influenced the nature of my role. Making different programs interact with each other is my thing and I always take advantage of the variety of software we can use to optimize time, quality and creativity.
One thing you’d never change about your job?
Being surrounded by people, with no walls in between. It's an awesome feeling to have the possibility to learn anything you may need, just by asking questions to the colleague next to you. It also helps to constantly inspire each other.
But one thing you wouldn’t mind seeing changed is?
Possibly, everything. Because evolution means growth. I don't like feeling static.
Is formal education essential for someone aspiring to do your job?
Formal education isn’t really essential, but of course it's really valuable and it can help a lot for sure. I'm self-taught, and I have always been learning things only because of my passion. I think that was perfect for my experience and it helped me go exactly in the right direction.
Practice, passion and perseverance are very good teachers.
What tasks would you typically ask a junior artist to handle?
When possible, I usually try to delegate tasks that makes them enjoy their work, and to improve their skills. I love to see them enjoy the struggle and try again from scratch, because that's the way!
It could be a particular challenging element that needs to have some proper topology, or something that needs to be approached with a different logic. Every person is a different world of passions and skills and I love to see that grow.
What skills do you look for when hiring an artist?
There are a lot of talented artists out there, but I believe that while it's easy to check when someone has enough experience, proper portfolio, and good references, communication skills are a must. It's easy to get lost in technicalities and in creative outbursts, and that's why communication is an essential skill.
Passion and patience are also very attractive skills of new applicants, and good work culture is a good one, too.
What skills seem to be missing all too often?
I believe that understanding the nature of the business you're in, is something that could help anyone be better at what they do. We do all get involved in our little or big tasks but we sometimes forget the big picture. It's good to keep that in mind, and be mindful of how important we are for the team. It needs a bit of experience and practice to put it to good use.
Describe a project brief that you’d recommend artists create for their portfolio?
If you're a visualizer: get some nice images from those design trends websites and from the architects you love, and build your own image using real photography as reference. Add some style if you want, but keep it simple.
Architecture is very different from country to country, so keep that in mind. Also, moody weather 3d renders are for Europe: here in Australia, they love the sun! Consider the country you're applying to, but keep the style across your images- make them look like they're yours.
If you're applying for an architectural modelling role: Try to replicate some complicated buildings structures, but also simple houses; show a range of projects you can work with. That'll help a lot. Keep it clean and light, and use layers properly.
What mistakes do you see artists making when applying for jobs?
Too often I see artists presenting a portfolio that has a lot of beautiful images, but not the right ones. If you are approaching a studio that does character art, use character art. If it's product design, show product design. If it's a studio doing architectural visualisation, show arch-viz examples. When they're all mixed up it doesn't help us understand what you want to focus on.
If you could give one piece of advice to artists starting out, what would it be?
I have two:
1- Remember that being crazy is not essential, but it helps a lot!
2-Listen to Jeremy Soule's music.
If you could go back in time to when you first started out, what advice would you give yourself?
Just keep pushing!