Oliver told us about a scary looking character he has been creating using industry-level 3D modelling software, Maya, and gives incoming freshers advice about what to expect.
What have you been working on lately in class?
I have been working on a collaborative group project, working with environment artists and other character artists to create a detailed video game level. So I have been creating a character to be placed in a sort of gothic, medieval horror-style castle. The character is a four-metre-tall insect like monster with lots of scary pointy bits and sharp teeth. The inspiration for the character (whom we have affectionately named “Keith”) was the large spidery characters in games like Skyrim, and movies such as Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. The work involves creating an initial design for the character before creating a 3D model of it in Maya, an industry-level 3D modelling software. Then when the model is complete, we use the ZBrush software to sculpt and colour the model.
What have been the most challenging aspects of this project?
So far, the main challenge has been creating the 3D model itself, as it is a very long and occasionally arduous process. It was difficult but never boring. There’s something very satisfying about working in Maya. Sometimes, though, the work gets a little fiddly and it can be frustrating when one tiny detail isn’t working how I want it to. Specifically for my model, attaching the legs proved troublesome as I was connecting two meshes of different poly-counts, which can be tricky.
What skills do you think you have that make you a good animator/VFX artist?
I think it’s very important to have patience when doing this type of work. It’s possible to create anything and everything you can think of in Maya, it’s just a question of how long it’s going to take. I also think it’s good to be able to take a step back and try to look at a problem from a different perspective, as it’s quite easy to get bogged down with something that’s not working. It also helps, I think, to have a good imagination. You don’t have to be born with imagination: it’s possible to train and develop your imagination just like a muscle. For me, I use drawing to keep my imagination flexible, but it could be anything: music, cooking, sculpting, writing, whatever. Just as long as you are constantly giving your imagination a work-out and keeping it fresh.
What is your favourite thing that you have done on the Visual Effects and Animation course so far?
So far, I have loved learning the fundamentals of the 3D software. That moment when you realise you understand how the program works, an infinite world of potential opens up and you can just set yourself loose in the software. That moment was really special.
If you had to sum up your experience so far at SAE in one sentence, what would you say?
Awesome teachers, chilled out classmates and a practical, hands-on approach to learning which emphasizes skills used in the industry.
What are your career ambitions - do you know what area you want to go into after graduating?
My passion is making characters, so I’d love to work in a studio where I get to model characters, then get to actually see them in the game when it comes out. I imagine that would be an incredible feeling of pride and satisfaction.
Do you have any advice to our incoming freshers about how to succeed in the subject?
When full-on production time comes around, my advice is to find a good audiobook or podcast or just your favourite music and get to work. The first ten minutes might feel like work, but then you’ll get into the flow of it. All of a sudden you start working at 11am, then what feels like half an hour later you look at the clock and somehow it’s 7pm. Spend a lot of time in the software, get used to the navigation and then just try and make the things you see or the things you’ve made up, and enjoy it.