Becoming a Motion Designer: A Guide From Rookies Alum Pascal El Murr

Becoming a Motion Designer: A Guide From Rookies Alum Pascal El Murr

FX Barcelona Film School graduating student and Rookie Alum Pascal El Murr, a Motion Designer based in Lebanon, leverages his architectural design background to craft innovative work for various clients, making him a valuable resource for those seeking insights into the motion design field.

FX Barcelona Film School graduating student and Rookies Alum Pascal El Murr is a Motion Designer based in Lebanon. Pascal draws on his foundation in architectural design to create groundbreaking work for a diverse range of clients, including architectural firms and marketing agencies. If you are looking for advice and guidance about what it's like to be a motion designer, this article is your next read.

The Journey

What's your current role and what does it involve?

Currently, I operate as a freelance architect and motion designer, specialising in 3D rendering, animation, and motion graphics. In the architectural domain, I translate blueprints into vivid visualisations, creating detailed 3D models and photorealistic renderings that capture both aesthetics and functionality. Additionally, I leverage motion graphics to breathe life into architectural concepts, producing dynamic presentations and immersive experiences. As a freelancer, I collaborate with diverse clients, including architectural firms and marketing agencies, delivering tailored visual solutions that exceed expectations and leave a lasting impact. My role bridges the gap between design expertise and creative storytelling, enriching architectural projects with compelling visuals that engage and inspire.

Where do you work, and what type of projects are they involved with?

I serve as the co-founder and creative director of Mpac Studio in Lebanon. Our studio specialises in Architecture, Arch-Viz and Motion Graphics.

Within architecture rendering, we undertake expansive projects, bringing architectural concepts to life through intricate 3D models and photorealistic renderings. Our expertise extends to interior spaces, where we excel in visualising customised furniture arrangements to enhance the ambiance and functionality of the design.

In the realm of motion design, we leverage animation to showcase products in captivating ways, combining creativity with technical precision to highlight their features and benefits. Furthermore, we produce cinematic intros for YouTube channels and TV series, crafting compelling visual narratives that captivate audiences and set the tone for the content that follows.

Occasionally, we also delve into branding projects, where we apply our design prowess to develop cohesive visual identities that resonate with target audiences and reinforce brand messaging. As the creative director, I lead our team in pushing creative boundaries, ensuring that each project reflects our commitment to excellence and innovation, ultimately delivering visual solutions that leave a lasting impression.

When did you first realise you wanted to work in this industry?

I first realised my passion for the industry during my time at a high-end architecture firm in Los Angeles about three years ago. After completing seven years of architecture school, I found myself increasingly drawn to the creative potential of 3D modeling and rendering. What began as a tool for enhancing my architecture presentations during school quickly evolved into a passion as I discovered a natural talent for producing stunning visualisations. While pursuing freelance rendering projects to supplement my income, I gradually came to the realisation that my true love lay in the freedom of expression afforded by the world of 3D artistry. In contrast to the constraints I felt within the architectural profession, transitioning to a career as a 3D artist offered me limitless opportunities to unleash my creativity without compromising artistic vision.

How did you get your first big break?

My first big break came unexpectedly through an error while submitting my work to The Rookies awards. Despite inadvertently submitting an incomplete project, the judges noticed the potential in my portfolio and awarded me Portfolio of the Week and a Draft Selection badge. This recognition provided a significant boost to my visibility within the industry and bolstered my confidence to pursue further opportunities and advancements in my career.

Rookie Awards 2023 entry

This recognition not only elevated my profile within the industry but also served as a catalyst for attracting clients and securing motion design projects. The exposure gained from these accolades opened doors to new opportunities, as clients began to take notice of my work and reach out to collaborate on various projects. This influx of projects not only allowed me to further refine my skills but also solidified my reputation as a talented and sought-after 3D artist and motion designer.

Describe the journey you took into your current role?

My journey into my current role as a 3D artist and motion designer began with a bold decision to pursue my passion. After realising that my true calling lay in the world of 3D artistry, I made the difficult choice to leave my job in Los Angeles and return to Lebanon to embark on a path of self-discovery and skill development.

My first step was to raise the necessary funds to enrol in FX Barcelona Film School, where I pursued a higher master's degree in 2D/3D motion design. This intensive program provided me with the technical expertise and creative insights needed to excel in the field. Concurrently, I began taking freelance projects for architectural rendering more seriously, leveraging my growing proficiency in 3D modeling and rendering to deliver exceptional visualisations to clients.

[The Rookie Awards] judges noticed the potential in my portfolio and awarded me Portfolio of the Week and a Draft Selection badge. This recognition provided a significant boost to my visibility within the industry and bolstered my confidence to pursue further opportunities and advancements in my career.

Over the years, I diligently honed my craft and built a reputation for delivering high-quality work that exceeded client expectations. Through dedication and professionalism, I cultivated a loyal client base who relied on our services to enhance their architectural presentations and secure important pitches through our renderings. This journey has been characterised by perseverance, continuous learning, and a relentless pursuit of excellence in every project undertaken.

Why did you choose to study at FX Barcelona Film School?

I chose to study at FX Barcelona Film School after discovering it through The Rookies school rankings. Initially drawn to the world of VFX, my interest shifted when I explored the motion graphics section on FX Barcelona Film School's website. The captivating demo reels showcased the immense potential and creativity within the field, capturing my imagination and igniting a passion for motion design. The dynamic and innovative approach of FFX Barcelona Film School's curriculum, combined with the impressive work of their students, convinced me that it was the perfect place to cultivate my skills and pursue my aspirations in 2D/3D motion design.

How does your education complement your work?

My education at FX Barcelona Film School has been instrumental in complementing my work as a 3D artist and motion designer in several ways. Firstly, learning the professional workflow of animation projects provided me with invaluable insights and techniques to enhance the quality and efficiency of my work. Understanding the intricacies of the industry-standard processes allowed me to streamline my approach to projects and deliver results that meet or exceed client expectations.

Additionally, having an experienced teacher like Miss Raquel Lamelo guiding me through the curriculum was immensely beneficial, especially since I was still in Lebanon during the early stages of my education. Her expertise and guidance, even through online channels, helped me grasp complex concepts and techniques more effectively.

Furthermore, my education equipped me with the knowledge and skills to effectively communicate and collaborate with clients throughout the duration of a project. Learning to navigate client interactions and manage expectations became much smoother, resulting in more successful outcomes and satisfied clients.

Finally, while I initially relied on YouTube tutorials for self-education, I recognised the limitations of this approach. Attending a formal education institution like FX Barcelona Film School provided me with a structured learning environment and access to industry-standard practices that are difficult to attain through self-study alone. This comprehensive education has been invaluable in elevating the quality of my work and positioning me as a professional in the field of 3D artistry and motion design.

Day in the life

Describe a typical day for you and your team?

Our typical day begins with a morning routine of checking emails and messages, followed by a brief team meeting to align on priorities. As we dive into our tasks, which may include refining 3D models or creating animations, collaboration is key. Midday sees us coming together to review each other's work, provide feedback, and communicate with clients for updates or revisions.

Work by Pascal El Murr

In the afternoon, our focus remains on delivering high-quality work efficiently while managing project deadlines effectively. We adapt our workflow as needed to ensure we meet client expectations. As the day winds down, we wrap up our tasks, reflect on our progress, and perhaps engage in some team bonding activities to foster camaraderie and positivity. This cycle of creativity, collaboration, and commitment defines our daily rhythm.

What third-party and proprietary tools do you use on a daily basis?

On a daily basis, my toolkit comprises a mix of third-party and proprietary software tailored to the demands of my work. For motion graphics, I rely heavily on Cinema 4D and After Effects, leveraging their powerful features for creating dynamic visualisations and animations. In the realm of architecture, my go-to tools include AutoCAD, Rhino, and Photoshop, each serving a distinct purpose in the design and presentation process. To bring my architectural renderings to life, I utilise Twinmotion as my render engine of choice.

In addition to these primary software applications, I also frequently use Illustrator and Premiere for various tasks related to graphic design and video editing. Furthermore, to accommodate the diverse range of file formats encountered in my work, I regularly interface with other 3D software such as 3ds Max, SketchUp, Blender, and Revit, ensuring seamless compatibility and efficient collaboration with clients and colleagues. This comprehensive suite of tools empowers me to tackle projects with versatility, precision, and creativity across multiple disciplines within the realms of motion graphics and architecture.

What does your workflow look like?

My workflow draws heavily from the structured approach I learned during my architecture schooling, which I've adapted and refined to suit the demands of my current work as a 3D artist and motion designer.

  1. Understanding Client Needs: The first step is to thoroughly understand the client's requirements and objectives for the project. This involves engaging in detailed discussions, gathering reference materials, and clarifying any ambiguities to ensure alignment between vision and execution.
  2. Conceptualisation and Ideation: With a clear understanding of the project goals, I embark on the conceptualisation phase, brainstorming ideas and exploring design possibilities. This stage may involve sketching, storyboarding, or creating mood boards to visually communicate concepts and gather feedback from the client.
  3. Pre-production Planning: Once the concept is finalised, I transition into the pre-production phase, where I meticulously plan the execution of the project. This involves establishing timelines, allocating resources, and identifying the tools and techniques needed to bring the concept to life.
  4. Asset Creation: With the groundwork laid, I proceed to create the necessary assets for the project. This may include modeling 3D objects, texturing, lighting, and animating elements as required. Attention to detail is paramount during this phase to ensure the fidelity and quality of the final output.
  5. Integration and Composition: As the individual components take shape, I focus on integrating them seamlessly within the project environment. This involves arranging elements within the scene, adjusting camera angles, and fine-tuning compositions to achieve the desired aesthetic and narrative coherence.
  6. Rendering and Post-production: With the scene assembled, I move on to the rendering phase, where I generate high-quality visuals or animations using rendering software like Twinmotion. Post-production follows, during which I refine the output through color correction, compositing, and adding visual effects using software like After Effects.
  7. Client Review and Iteration: The final stage involves presenting the deliverables to the client for review and feedback. I welcome constructive criticism and iterate on the work as necessary to ensure it aligns with the client's vision and expectations.
  8. Delivery and Finalisation: Once the client is satisfied with the results, I deliver the final files or renderings, ensuring that all specifications and requirements are met. I also archive project files for future reference or revisions if needed.

By following this structured workflow, grounded in architectural principles of thorough planning, attention to detail, and client collaboration, I'm able to consistently deliver high-quality work that meets and exceeds expectations.

My education at [FX Barcelona Film School] equipped me with the knowledge and skills to effectively communicate and collaborate with clients throughout the duration of a project. Learning to navigate client interactions and manage expectations became much smoother, resulting in more successful outcomes and satisfied clients.
Student project, SUB-ZERO: The series

Which departments and key people do you work closely with?

In my role, I collaborate closely with several departments and key individuals depending on the nature of the project:

  1. Designers and Architects: In architectural visualisation (archi-viz), I work closely with designers and architects to understand project requirements, interpret design concepts, and ensure accuracy in visual representations. This collaboration involves frequent communication, feedback exchange, and alignment on design intent.
  2. Marketing Departments: For motion graphics projects, particularly those geared towards promotional or branding purposes, I collaborate extensively with marketing departments. This involves understanding marketing objectives, translating brand messaging into visual narratives, and delivering engaging content that resonates with the target audience.
  3. Creative Directors: In both archi-viz and motion graphics, I often liaise with creative directors who oversee the artistic direction and overall vision of the project. Their guidance and feedback help shape the creative direction, ensuring that it aligns with client expectations and project goals.
  4. Clients: Whether in archi-viz or motion graphics, direct communication with clients is crucial. I work closely with clients to understand their needs, gather feedback, and keep them informed about project progress. Building a strong client relationship based on trust and transparency is essential for successful project outcomes.

By collaborating effectively with these departments and key individuals, I'm able to leverage their expertise, insights, and feedback to deliver projects that meet or exceed expectations while ensuring alignment with client objectives and project goals.

There are several industry trends that are significantly impacting the nature of my role as a 3D artist and motion designer:

  1. Real-time Rendering: The emergence of real-time rendering technologies, such as Unreal Engine and Unity, is revolutionising the visualisation industry. These tools allow for immersive, interactive experiences with high-fidelity visuals in real time, enabling faster iteration and more dynamic presentations.
  2. Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR): The adoption of VR and AR technologies is transforming how architectural visualizations and motion graphics are experienced. Clients now expect immersive virtual tours and interactive experiences, driving the need for skills in creating content optimized for these platforms.
  3. AI and Automation: AI-driven tools and automation are streamlining workflows and speeding up production processes in both archi-viz and motion graphics. From automating repetitive tasks to generating photorealistic images, AI is reshaping the way we work and allowing for greater efficiency and scalability.
  4. Sustainability and Green Design: With growing awareness of environmental issues, there's a shift towards sustainable and green design practices in architecture and design. As a result, there's an increased demand for visualizations that showcase sustainable features and environmentally friendly design solutions.
  5. Remote Collaboration: The rise of remote work has accelerated the need for seamless collaboration tools and workflows. Cloud-based platforms and project management tools facilitate collaboration among distributed teams, enabling real-time communication, file sharing, and version control.
  6. Cross-disciplinary Skills: There's a growing demand for 3D artists and motion designers with cross-disciplinary skills, such as combining architectural visualization with motion graphics or incorporating 3D elements into video production. This trend reflects the convergence of different creative disciplines and the need for versatile professionals who can adapt to diverse project requirements.

Overall, these industry trends are reshaping the landscape of 3D artistry and motion design, requiring professionals to stay adaptable, innovative, and continuously upskill to remain relevant in an ever-evolving industry.

One thing you’d never change about your job?

One thing I'd never change about my job is the opportunity it provides for continuous learning and creativity. Each project presents new challenges, pushing me to expand my skills, explore innovative techniques, and think outside the box. This constant evolution keeps the work exciting and fulfilling, fostering a sense of growth and development that I deeply value. The ability to express creativity and pursue lifelong learning is something I cherish and would never want to lose in any role I undertake.

But one thing you wouldn’t mind seeing changed is?

One thing I wouldn't mind seeing changed is the industry's tendency to undervalue the time and expertise of creative professionals. While passion drives much of our work, fair compensation and recognition for the value we bring to projects are essential. Seeing a shift towards greater appreciation and fair compensation for creative work would be a welcome change, ensuring a more sustainable and rewarding career path for professionals in the field.

Career Advice

Is formal education essential for someone aspiring to do your job?

Formal education isn't necessarily essential for someone aspiring to do my job, but it can certainly provide valuable benefits. Here's how:

  1. Technical Skills: Formal education, such as a degree or specialised training program, can provide a structured environment for learning essential technical skills in areas like 3D modeling, animation, and rendering. While it's possible to learn these skills through self-study and online tutorials, formal education often offers comprehensive curriculum and hands-on training that accelerates the learning process.
  2. Industry Knowledge: Education programs often include coursework that covers industry trends, best practices, and professional standards, giving aspiring professionals a solid foundation of industry knowledge. This understanding can be invaluable when navigating the complexities of the field and collaborating with clients and colleagues.
  3. Networking Opportunities: Formal education settings provide opportunities for networking with peers, instructors, and industry professionals. Building relationships within the industry can open doors to job opportunities, mentorship, and collaboration opportunities that may not be as readily available through self-study alone.
  4. Credibility and Credentials: Having a degree or certification from a reputable institution can lend credibility to a professional's resume and portfolio, especially when seeking employment or pitching to clients. While talent and skill are paramount, formal credentials can help differentiate oneself in a competitive job market.

That said, there are many successful professionals in the field who have pursued alternative paths, such as self-directed learning, apprenticeships, or mentorship programs. What's most important is a combination of talent, dedication, and a willingness to continuously learn and adapt to the evolving demands of the industry. Ultimately, whether formal education is essential depends on the individual's goals, resources, and learning style.

What tasks would you be typically asked to do as a junior artist?

As a junior artist, you'll typically support the creative team by assisting senior artists with various tasks, such as modeling, texturing, lighting, and animation. Your role involves continuous learning and improvement, with opportunities for training and skill development through online courses and workshops. You'll contribute to projects by creating 3D models, textures, and other assets, as well as assisting with rendering, compositing, and quality assurance tasks. Additionally, you'll provide general project support, including organizing files, maintaining documentation, and collaborating closely with team members to ensure tasks are completed effectively and on time. Overall, as a junior artist, you'll gain valuable experience and gradually build your skills and expertise in the field.

Work by Pascal El Murr

What skills do you look for when hiring an artist?

When hiring an artist, key skills we look for include technical proficiency in software like Cinema 4D, Maya, and Adobe Creative Suite, as well as creativity in design and visual storytelling. Attention to detail, problem-solving abilities, and effective communication are also crucial. We value artists who can manage their time efficiently, collaborate well with others, and adapt to evolving industry trends. Overall, we seek individuals with a passion for their craft, a commitment to quality, and a willingness to continuously learn and improve.

What skills seem to be missing all too often?

One skill that seems to be missing all too often is a strong understanding of project management and client communication. While technical skills and artistic talent are essential, the ability to effectively manage projects, communicate with clients, and meet deadlines is often overlooked. Additionally, skills in self-promotion and marketing oneself as an artist are sometimes lacking, as many artists focus solely on their craft without considering the business aspects of their work. Finally, a lack of adaptability and willingness to learn new tools and techniques can hinder an artist's growth and success in a rapidly evolving industry.

Describe your attitude towards your job?

My attitude towards my job is one of passion, dedication, and continuous growth. I approach each project with enthusiasm and a commitment to delivering the highest quality work possible. Creativity fuels my drive, and I'm always eager to explore new ideas, techniques, and technologies to push the boundaries of my craft. I value collaboration and thrive in team environments, where I can learn from others, share ideas, and collectively bring projects to life. Additionally, I embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and see setbacks as learning experiences that ultimately contribute to my development as an artist. Overall, my attitude towards my job is characterised by a relentless pursuit of excellence, a love for what I do, and a determination to continuously evolve and improve in my field.

Where do you get your inspiration from and how do you implement it into your work?

I draw inspiration from a variety of sources, including nature, art, architecture, films, and everyday experiences. I find that immersing myself in different creative mediums and exploring diverse cultures and environments sparks new ideas and perspectives. Additionally, I'm inspired by the work of other artists and designers, both within and outside my field, whose innovative approaches and unique styles challenge and motivate me to push the boundaries of my own creativity.

To implement inspiration into my work, I often start by gathering reference materials, sketches, and mood boards that capture the essence of the concepts I want to explore. I then experiment with different techniques, colours, compositions, and visual elements to bring these ideas to life. Whether I'm creating a 3D model, an animation, or a motion graphic, I strive to infuse each project with a sense of narrative, emotion, and visual impact that resonates with the viewer.

Moreover, I remain open to feedback and collaboration throughout the creative process, welcoming input from colleagues, clients, and peers to refine and enhance the final outcome. By constantly seeking inspiration, staying curious, and embracing experimentation, I ensure that my work remains fresh, dynamic, and reflective of my evolving artistic vision.

Describe a project brief that you’d recommend artists create for their portfolio?

Crafting a succinct project brief is crucial for effectively communicating the essence of a portfolio piece. The overview should encapsulate the project's purpose and audience, setting the stage for what follows. Providing a snapshot of the client's background and requirements adds context, while clearly outlining the project scope ensures clarity on deliverables and expectations. A brief summary of the creative approach gives insight into the artist's vision and interpretation of the brief, followed by a glimpse into the process and methodology employed to bring the project to life. Highlighting the results and impact of the project showcases its tangible outcomes, reinforcing the value of the artist's work. Visual assets serve as the centerpiece, offering a tangible representation of the artist's skills and creativity. Finally, reflecting on key learnings demonstrates growth and adaptability, rounding out the brief with insights gained from the experience. By distilling these elements into a concise yet informative paragraph, artists can effectively showcase their work and capabilities in their portfolio.

What mistakes do you see artists making when applying for jobs?

Common mistakes artists make when applying for jobs include not tailoring their applications to the specific job or company, presenting their portfolio or materials in a disorganized manner, and overlooking research about the company or role. They may also have inadequate portfolios that don't showcase their best work, ignore application instructions, or fail to network effectively. Additionally, some artists underestimate the importance of soft skills and neglect to follow up after submitting an application or attending an interview. By addressing these pitfalls and taking a strategic approach to the job application process, artists can enhance their chances of securing desired opportunities.

If you could give one piece of advice to artists starting out, what would it be?

If I could offer one piece of advice to artists starting out, it would be to embrace experimentation and never stop learning. The creative journey is a continuous evolution, and by exploring new techniques, mediums, and styles, you'll not only expand your skill set but also discover your unique voice as an artist. Don't be afraid to take risks, make mistakes, and push the boundaries of your creativity. Seek inspiration from a variety of sources, engage with the artistic community, and be open to feedback and constructive criticism. Remember that growth comes from stepping outside your comfort zone and challenging yourself to continually improve. Above all, stay passionate, persistent, and patient on your artistic journey, and trust in your ability to achieve your goals with dedication and determination.

If you could go back in time to when you first started out, what advice would you give yourself?

If I could go back in time to when I first started out, the advice I would give myself is to embrace failure as a necessary part of the learning process. In the pursuit of mastery, setbacks and mistakes are inevitable, but they also offer valuable opportunities for growth and improvement. Instead of being discouraged by challenges or setbacks, I would encourage myself to view them as learning experiences and opportunities to refine my skills and perspective. I would remind myself to stay resilient, patient, and persistent in the face of adversity, knowing that every obstacle I overcome brings me one step closer to achieving my goals. Additionally, I would emphasise the importance of seeking mentorship, guidance, and support from experienced professionals in the field, as their insights and wisdom can provide invaluable guidance on my journey. Above all, I would remind myself to stay true to my passion, maintain a sense of curiosity and wonder, and never lose sight of the joy and fulfillment that comes from creating art.

Hala Hala, I'm Pascal. I'm an architectural designer living in Lebanon. However, my passion for visual storytelling led me to explore the world of motion graphics. Drawing upon my architectural background, I bring a unique perspective to this field. It's an exhilarating path that allows me to express my creativity in exciting ways. With each project, I strive to push my boundaries further, constantly challenging myself to create visually stunning and impactful work.

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