My name is Tim Blake, I'am Hard-Surface/ Synthetics Modeling in Framestore
How did you start your career in vfx?
In fact, my career as an artist started in the second year of my studies at university. I was fortunate enough to be included in the 'First Step' internship scheme at MPC film, in London. This gave me a good understanding of the quality of work that was expected and the workflow which makes artwork possible on such a grand scale. The following year I was successfully applied for the role of 'Modeling & Texturing TD'
How were you involved into the guardian of galaxy project?
I was a Junior Modeling TD when I started on Guardians' which meant I was responsible for creating geometry and preparing it for texture/ rigging, as well as doing fixes as per requests from other departments. I also provided geometry for FX sims in one instance.
How born the idea of the main concept of the Dark Aster?
The main concept of the Dark Aster was quite concrete throughout the process. The final rendition of the ship is the outcome of artistic direction from both the client and some of the artists working on the show. It was a tough one to get right, but I think it was extremely successful.
What kind of references you use in your work on the project?
This is very good question indeed. Because of the uniqueness of the models I created, finding reference was quite difficult indeed. For the Dark Aster, we kept to the concept quite faithfully and used some of the on-set shots of the interior to help define the style guide.
How's it to be a part of the big creative collective and work on the one project?
It's amazing. Collective is a great word to describe it. It felt very much like a family of artists who inspire and are inspired by each other to make the best work possible and find creative solutions to difficult problems. Disagreements were not often present, there were more cases of hearing opinions and ideas to get to where we needed to be, and doing so in a streamlined and efficient manner.
Sometimes an artist should create something new. And always, it’s something that never be seen by human eyes before. How did you bring to live orb sphere and make it a part of our life?
I was responsible for making the outermost layer of the orb; so the silver webbed layer and the dark material immediately underneath. We actually had a lot of physically-based reference from the shoot for this, so it was a largely straightforward task. Retopology for the most part in modeling, then some great texture work from a fellow artist.
In the film, we also saw a new world of the other planet. It’s really awesome and difficult to create. How did you build this world and what kind of concept you prefer to use?
I was responsible for creating some of the skyscrapers and landmark buildings on Xander. We used a great deal of references from the real world for scale and structure. However, it is impossible for me to claim ownership as the vast majority of it was in fact created in the environments team, as one might expect.
What is the most difficult task was for you’re in the project?
Certainly modeling the Dark Aster. It was the first time I had to deal with something so vast and complicated. It took every ounce of creativity and problem solving with my superiors and other artists to get out. I will never forget it!
What's the part of the project was outstanding and honorable for you?
Seeing the film with my best friend at the cast and crew screening was the most memorable for sure. It was when I saw my name in the credits with the rest of my team I knew that all the hard work was worth it – and that the film was 100% complete and I didn’t have to model on it any longer (haha).
What films influenced you and your work? And how it helps you to improve yourself?
Guardians' was a real influence, even whilst working on it. I was never really into sci-fi until I started working on the show. The sci-fi I was used to seeing was usually too far in the future to relate to, however on this show it was a mixture of retro styling and post-modern technology, which helped ground it with me creatively. I love the photo-real but often found it underwhelming, because it's seen every day. After working on the show, my personal project seemed to follow a decidedly sci-fi course and I think they still do today. As for other films that influence me, perhaps Gravity? It was one of the first films I watched that I could enjoy without looking for bad CG. It was spotless, yet encompassed most of the frame on most of the shots. I think this is something I strive to work towards, creating CG that is so believable that you don’t need to question it. Instead, you interpret is as part of the wider content, like you would a good soundtrack.
Modeling any complex objects like organic or mechanics need a special vision like a sculptor talking with the stone block. What is the main principle of working with object shape for you?
The form is really important for me, as it depth. What makes a complicated asset look good is attention to detail. This doesn’t just mean small scale detail. It's important to make sure the silhouette is interesting and serves the purpose of the asset. This form also needs to be relayed to medium-sized areas and then micro detail. Without these layers it often ends up not working from certain distances or feeling the wrong scale. It's a hard one to monitor, I guess it just take a little bit of experimentation, or better yet input from other artists.
How did you start your first’s step on the projects? It’s always different or you have a special approach for each task?
I always, always start my project the same way. Blocking in with very basic objects to the main reference (concept art/ photography) then slowly refine with real-world reference. I keep chipping away and adding detail until it looks like the image. It's a very simple science. The real difficulty comes with being motivated to keep advancing. Without having a solid, physical example of what it looks like it's very difficult to get through the process, as frankly it looks quite ugly and basic for a very long time.
By working with hard surface modeling, you create a really complex mechanic. That’s looks like real worked or alive. So how did you find any inspiration for creating a mech?
I love trying to create photo-real things. A large part of that is finding something that you can relate to on some sort of level. You can have the best shaders and lighting, but if it doesn't make sense it really won't come through. My inspiration came from the concept, by Darren Bartley. I love his style of artwork, it's very precise in terms of narrative and the sense of character you get from each image in incredible. Furthermore, there are plenty of rooms for me to go my own way. Too often I find amazing concept art but they are so detailed there isn't much thinking left for me. I'm very picky when it comes to the images I used, I usually wait to fall in love with an image before I create it. just because I know it's going to take a lot of time and I’ll need to motivation to finish it.
How did you find yourself in hard surface modeling?
That's a good question. I grew up building Lego, like any other child. This moved on to wooden go-karts, bicycles, cars and pretty much anything I can get my hands on. When I started 3D I found myself building these same things and that evolved into me making mods for racing games I had installed on my computer. I didn't really have a very creative background, so I would find myself modeling things from what I could see in everyday life - items in my bedroom, cars, buildings etc. It never really occurred to me to make demons or orc giants, they were too messy and ugly. However, more character work is what I’m pursuing now, as I do really enjoy creating the costume.
If you have a chance to working on the one of the famous film ever filmed what is it was?
I would have loved to have worked on 'Gravity'. For me it was perfect; perfect CG; believable narrative and the art direction were so fresh and clean I could really relate to it. Not to mention hugely successful However I did get to work on Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' and I have to say that was incredible. I'm really looking forward to seeing what people think of it when it gets released.
What do you think about vfx industry and recent future?
I like it – no, really! The VFX industry is always so animated and dynamic. There is always something happening and it feels like they're in it together. There are ups and downs for sure, like other industries, but I don't think I could imagine doing anything else and having so much fun doing it. The future of VFX is certainly a hard one to predict, especially for me only having a few years' experience. I have no idea what's coming next, but I’m sure whatever happens, it will be as big and as spectacular as all the work we all produce is.
What is vfx for you?
VFX is a community of artists helping to deliver the very best in entertainment for the rest of the world to enjoy - usually without them knowing it. A lot of us prefer it that way!
Could you give any advice for our readers?
Keep going! It's a tough industry to crack and just as hard to maintain momentum. The work is difficult but with some dedication and a genuine passion to improve yourself there's not a lot that can stand in your way - maybe time!?
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