When did you start as a 3d artist ?
My first 3d experience was using POV-Ray back in '94. Previous to that I was drawing
video game sprites pixel by pixel in Paintshop for several video games that never
got produced. Then I got into 3dStudio, then MAX, which is the software I use
for pretty much everything now days.
What interested you in 3d graphics ?
I've always been interested in science fiction and fantasy images. I was a big
Star Wars and Star Trek fan, and have been drawing and painting scenes similar
to my 3d work since I was four years old. But I never felt I was good enough to
make the scenes as realistic as I wanted. Then I discovered 3d graphics, and I
could use them to produce almost exactly the kind of stuff I had in my head, and
so I was hooked.
Where do you work ?
Nowhere yet, I'm still in University.
What are your sources of inspiration ?
Pretty much everything I see and hear. But particularly, artists like Giger, Heidi
Taillefer. Movies like Star Wars, Terminator, Alien(s), Predator and all those
corny Sci Fi films from the 80s. Comic artists like Dale Keown, Jim Lee, Marc
Silvestri, Todd McFarlane, Stephen Platt, and Michael Turner. Japanese Anime.
And music. I can't work unless I have music playing, like Fear Factory, Meshuggah,
Strapping Young Lad, Metallica, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson…
Tell us a little about "Nightmare II".
I created this as part of the nightmare series I had been working on.
How much time did it take you to create ?
This one was pretty fast, since the scene wasn't really very complex. Maybe 2
weeks maximum, and a lot of that time was tweaking the lens flare.
What does it represent ?
Well, the title says it all. As a kid I had these things called "night terrors",
which is like a nightmare except you wake up and start hallucinating the things
that you just dreamed of. Not fun stuff (and thank god I don't have them anymore),
but they will provide me with lots of material for future images.
How did you model the monster ?
There's one main cylinder that runs down the length of the beast. Then I took
a second cylinder, which is maybe 1/20th the height of the main cylinder, but
slightly wider, and copied it up the length of the main cylinder. That made the
ribs. Then I bent the main cylinder and all the smaller ribs with a common bend
modifier. The mouth of the monster was a set of spheres that I booleaned together
and then smoothed using relax. The eye sockets were made using Edit Mesh and Affect
Region. The teeth are just cones. The arms are 4 sided cylinders that are bent
and have a strong bump map applied to them.
How did you model the spikes ?
The spikes on the ground were spheres that I booleaned together using the union
command, then I smoothed the result using relax, then I used a noise modifier
to make them jagged again.
Have you ever got problems with boolean unions ?
Yes, booleans in max have always had their problems. As an object gets more complex,
it gets tougher to perform a proper boolean. But there are several articles about
how to maximize the chance of a boolean being successful, and I usually follow
their rules. The most important few rules are:
- Try and make sure the surfaces you're booleaning togeather have a similar mesh
density (as in their polygons are about the same size)
- Avoid booleaning things togeather who's faces are very long and skinny
- Avoid booleaning object togeather that have self intersecting faces.
Let's talk about the lens flares. What are the different
effects for the different lens flares ?
A standard Glow, which has fractal noise applied to it makes up the fiery background.
Then there's about 15 secondary flares of different sizes and shapes. If you own
Reallensflares, the secondaries are very similar to the "secondaries" preset that
ships with the product, which I wrote.
How did you create the atmosphere ?
The atmosphere is a background image made from various types of noise. Then the
fog in the scene was created using the volumetric fog atmosphere with a procedural
noise function in its opacity slot.
Do you think these plug-ins (RLF, Particles) are important
in a scene ? Do they add impact to it ?
They can, if not over used. If used properly and creatively, they can add impact
to a scene, but that doesn't mean that adding them will automatically make a scene
look better. Too many artists these days think that adding a lens flare to the
scene will automatically make it look cool, which is quite false. And yes, you
can make a good scene without these extra plugins.
How did you texture the spikes and the creature ?
Both have very simple textures. The monster has a bump map that I created Photoshop,
and a texture map made with noise. It also has shininess map so it it's uniformly
shiny all over. The spikes have a noise bump map and texture map.
What did you use Kai's Power Tools for in this image
The texture on the worm uses a map created in Kai's Texture Explorer in Photoshop.
Tell us a little about "Eclipse".
I had just seen this scene in Babylon 5 with this giant ship passing in
front of the sun, and I tried to recreate something similar using Reallensflares.
How did you model the smaller ships ?
The smaller ships are just variations of the main ship. The main ship is two overlapping
cones. The outer cone has several sections booleaned from it to reveal the inner
cone. The inner cone has the window texture on it, which is done by a texture
and illumination map. The outer cone has a soft bump map.
As we can see, the ships are repeated a lot of time.
Did you use a particle system with the ship as emitter shape ?
Yes, that's where Particle Cloud came into it. At the time, Particle Cloud was
the only type of particle system that would let you use instanced geometry.
What are the effects of the lens flares in this scene
Very similar to Nightmare II (actually, Nightmare II is similar to Eclipse since
Eclipse came first). I used my secondaries preset, and had a strong glow with
about 45 random streaks of various widths.
Have you ever tried Genesis ?
Not really. I had the demo version for awhile, but I never had time to play with
it much. There are just so many plugins out there I'd love to play with for hours,
but if I did that, I'd never have time to make images. If I ever had an effect
though that needed Genesis and it's abilities, I'd definitely use it (if I had
Tell us a little about "Hatred II".
I had this idea for a scene with a human eye being hooked up to a system of wires,
sort of like a giant mechanical web, with the organic eye as it's central core.
The composition of the piece reminded me of an image I had previously done (Hatred
I), so I named this one Hatred II. The teeth came at the end, when I felt that
the corner of the image needed a visual interesting and unique element to hold
the composition together.
What are the main functions (i.e. extrude, lathe)
you used to create the mechanical parts around the eye?
A little bit of everything really. Most of the connectors are sets of overlapping
cylinders. A few are lofts, there's a torus knot here and there, several booleans,
and some of the cylinders were modified with a ripple modifier so they would look
As we can see, the small bumps at the connections
between the cables and the eye add realism. How did you modify the surface of
the eye ?
I selected the faces being pierced by the wires with edit mesh, and then moved
the vertexes outwards to make it seem like the eye skin is meeting the mechanical
How did you texture the eye ? What are its shininess,
shin. strength, ... settings ?
The eye pupil texture is was painted in Photoshop. Then I painted the white part
of the eye in Photoshop (which has lots of veins). The two maps are combined with
a circular map so that the pupil is round, and everywhere else you see the white
of the eye. There's also a soft bump map similar to the eye white texture. Lastly,
I applied a shininess map (once again, painted in Photoshop) that made the highlight
in the eye.
As we can see in the wireframe of Hatred, you used
Combustion for the flames. Did you manage to get what you wanted ? Don't you think
working with particles emitters, facing, particle combustion, would give a more
realistic effect ?
Particle systems weren't an option because I'd need to manufacture some sort of
fire texture, which I have yet to do to my liking. And particle combustion didn't
even exist yet. When I make an image, I make it to the best of my ability, and
then I release it and stop working on it. I generally don't go back to old images
and touch them up using new plugins. When an image is finished, that's it, time
to move onto something else. As for your direct question though, I do actually
like the effect. I think the fire isn't quite as sharp as I would like it, but
otherwise I'm quite happy with it knowing the tools I had available at the time.
Blur has released a new combustion type plugin called Blur Fire that makes much
more realistic fire, I'd probably use it in the image if I were working on it
Tell us a little about "The Factory".
A Max image competition was coming up, and I wanted to do an incredibly complex
image. So I created Factory, since mechanical stuff can get quite complex if done
As we can see in the wireframe, it's incredibly complex.
How many time did it take you to model it ?
About a month of hard work, maybe 3-4 hours a night.
The scene must have made your computer very slow.
How did you mange not to go mad and commit suicide ?
I'm not sure exactly :) Actually, I have lots to entertain me in my room, like
my guitar, my comic books, tons of things to see and do. So while I'm waiting
for my computer to finish calculating things, I just grab whatever's near to me
and go with it. Never a boring moment.
You use Scatter. What does it do ?
Scatter lets you take a single object, and copy it as many times as you want with
slight changes in it's position, rotation and scale. It also lets you align many
copies of an object over the faces of a second object.
How did you model the head of the robot ?
It's three spheres. Two of them have been booleaned and modified in shape using
FFD. Then I added two eyes which were then glowed using RLF.
Many objects, many textures. Did you take the time
to apply all of them correctly to the objects ? Or do you think it wasn't very
important because of the dark aspect of the scene ?
Textures were incredibly important in this scene. I wanted metal that looked dented
and rusty. Just about every object in the scene has a unique texture, except for
some of the wires and the ceiling grate. I was really going for realism here,
in the sense that I didn't want any nice smooth chrome.
Are you satisfied with the result ? Would you have
changed something ?
I'm very satisfied with the result. If I could change something, it would probably
be the robot hands that are helping to construct the main robot. They're probably
a bit too organic looking for this scene.
us a little about "Ancient Evil".
This is another image inspired by something I saw on TV. I was watching "The Odyssey",
and they had this hydra with really crooked and jagged teeth. A month later I
decided to make some teeth that looked similar, except the gums were robotic.
Then the rest of the scene came together.
How did you create the teeth ?
The teeth are simple cones. The mechanical gums were created with spheres and
cylinders, and lots of booleans. Then I copied the teeth, and changed the scale
and orientation of each one so that there are no two alike.
How did you model the mouth ?
With metareyes, using it's metamuscles feature.
Do you like Metareyes ?
Very much. The program has a few bugs and design issues that I'm not too fond
of, but overall, it's a very useful program, and the best metaballs modeler that
What did you use outburst for ? Is it the best particle
system you know ? What are its strong points ?
The outburst particle system was used for the falling water in the back of the
scene. I used the program for two reasons, first, I was beta testing it, so I
wanted to try it out in a scene, and second it has a particle trail option that
lets you elongate your particle by creating a tail that follows the motion of
the initial particle. That's how I made the long flowing sheets of water. I'm
not sure about the future of the plugin though, many of its unique features were
covered by max2's new particle systems, and outburst isn't a true max particle
system, as in you can't use standard particle space warps on outburst particles.
How did you texture the mouth ?
That's a very complex question. I created a material that was itself composed
of 5 separate materials. Each of these 5 materials had unique bump, texture, shininess
and shininess strength procedural maps (like noise). Then I combined the 5 materials
using a set of mattes painted in Photoshop. The reason I did this was to remove
a phenomenon called stretching, which happens when you try and apply a standard
map to a complex object. Your map ends up stretching at certain points where the
mapping coordinates of the object don't align with the faces of the mesh. Procedural
textures don't have that problem, but they're usually too generic looking. So
by using this technique, I used procedural textures, but got to pick what areas
had which texture or which combinations of textures by using mattes.
What's your preferred scene between these five ? Why
Probably Factory. First, I am happy with all my work, I wouldn't release an image
if I wasn't happy with it already. But the stuff I really enjoy doing the most
is the intricate work, with hundreds of little pieces stuck together. The more
detail in a scene the better as far as I'm concerned, I enjoy looking at a scene
again and again and always seeing new things. I set out to make Factory the most
complex image I'd ever made, and I think I achieved it.
As we can see from these artworks and the other on
your web site, your images are mainly 'abstracted' and 'strange'. Are you fed
up of common scenes such as dinos, spaceships, ... ?
I grew up with dinosaurs and spaceships, but when it comes down to it, we've seen
it all before. I'm interested in making something people have never seen before.
While the basis for most of my images might be standard science fiction or fantasy
themes, I'm not interested in copying things I've already seen. Being inspired
by them yes, but not copying them. So I try and make my scenes as unique as possible.
What are the most important points in a scene to make
it look good ?
Geez, I could write a book about that.
First, Color. Have a unified color scheme, choose a single color or
a few colors that work well together, and make sure the objects in your scene
conform to this color scheme. And make sure you have lots of slight variations
to avoid monotony.
Good composition is also important. Where are your objects in the scene?
Would it look more visually interesting if you placed the elements in a different
position? What if you added elements? Subtracted them? Does the scene have a single
focal point, or should there be more?
Atmosphere. Real scenes have fog, mist, depth of field. A color scheme
adds to the atmosphere. Further away objects have cooler, less bright colors.
Closer objects are brighter and livelier.
Movement. Even in a still image, a sense of movement is important. The
character(s) in the scene or even the scene itself should look alive, like it's
ready to jump out of the screen.
Detail. Even if you're not going for a realistic image, avoid the cliches
that you see in most computer images (like polygons and easily identifiable primitives).
I find the best way to do this is to add lots of details, either with geometry
Textures. Use lots of them. Even similar objets will never have exactly
the same sort of texture. Play with shininess maps. Add dirt and grime to your
objects, no object is perfectly smooth and clean.
Most important: Be creative. Try something that has never been done
before. Don't do something because everyone else is doing it. I don't know how
many times I've seen the same spaceship or alien rendered over and over again.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't do spaceships or aliens, just approach it from
a new angle.
What are the strong points of 3D Studio MAX which
make it being such a good package ?
It's interface and plugins. I'm very impressed with the thought that went into
making max, and how functions are organized. And the fact that there are hundreds
of plugins, virtually all of them free, makes the package even better. If you
want something added to the system, someone will be bound to write a plugin to
Do you think that the ability Kinetix give to programmers
to "easily" (compared to 3D Studio DOS) write plug-ins is one of the explanation
of the success of 3D Studio MAX ?
Definately. Also, Kinetix is very active in helping out programmers to write plugins,
I mean, Kinetix has released a huge portion of MAX's original code so that outside
developpers have top-notch examples of how to program max compliant code.
Have you ever tried other 3d packages ?
I have tried Alias before, but it was a really old version, and I know it's a
lot more advanced now. I'd like to try Softimage, but access to these programs
is very limited in my school, and I don't have the money for an SGI at home.
What will be your future plans ?
Once I've finished school, I'd like to work in a few studios doing films, TV and
video games, and then maybe when I'm 30 settle down somewhere and try to live
off my artwork by making posters, books, etc.