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A red, red rose

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Gost Whisper

United Arab Emirates

January 4, 2008

Raphael Lacoste 

Could you introduce yourself?
Raphael Lacoste, I was born in Paris in 1974, I grew up for 2 years and a half in south Algeria, after, Bordeaux, south west of France. Now I live in Canada and work as Art director. I’ll soon be the father of a baby boy!

How did you come to 3D?
I was always looking outside the windows when I was at school… I was a boy in the moon (I’m still :) I drew a lot during the courses… finally I went to the Fine art school of Bordeaux where I studied photo and video in the “art and Media” option … Fine arts were very “conceptual - Art” oriented and I didn’t find my way in this very closed area, very hermetic and like the new temple for sophism… During my studies I worked for a theatre company, I was photographer and did also a few sound tracks for theirs shows. When they had the opportunity to work on “The little Prince” of St Exupéry, they offered me to do pictures that would be projected on a giant screen behind the stage! I was very exited to work on this project and did my first 3D pictures for this show. I used the Atari TT of my father with a script 3D software called Renderay… This is how I learned to be patient :)
What are your main sources of inspiration?
I think that the best way to learn and take inspiration Is to know well the history of art, I love the art of Vermeer and Jean-Léon Gérôme for example, 17th, 19th century Painters … I also find inspiration in Photo, Movies, and life! I always bring my camera with me, I love to catch atmospheres.
I’m not sure that working after the work of other 3D artists is the best way of doing impressive 3d art…
Where do you work at the moment?
Actually I work for Ubisoft Montreal, I’m Art Director in the Cinematic Department.

What are some of the projects you worked on? What was your role?
My last project Was the awarded Game “Prince Of Persia The Sands Of Time”, I had the Chance to be Art director on this one.
Before, I worked on a few games like Dark-Earth Ps2, Highlander online, Asterix at Kalisto Entertainment as BG Artist, but they were not released before the ship went down!

What is your favorite genre, theme?
I love to work on settings, Matte Paintings, I’m very found of Dark fantasy universes like LOTR, SF, in other words I love to be carried by Moods, immersive but not realistic universes.

In your opinion, what are your strong points?
As I’m also photographer, I have a good background in composition and lighting.
 

Tell us a little about "JuJol".
I did this picture after the lift originally designed by Jujol, an early 20th century Architect, friend of Gaudi.
Did you see the original lift in Barcelona?
Unfortunately not! But if someone knows where I can find it, I’d be really happy to go there, the next time I’ll be in Barcelona, send me a mail :)

What reference material did you use?
I used a photo I found in a book on the Art of Jujol, the design of the lift cage caught my eyes and I really wanted to challenge myself doing this scene…
 

How accurate is your scene compared to the original?
My version is different because I added the spooky mood … the original is not light in this way and doesn’t carry the same atmosphere. I worked more on the feeling of it than on the details of the modeling

Are you particularly interested in architecture?
I’m particularly interested in Environments and Architecture… I like the story buildings have in their walls, this is the reason why I prefer old places…
I particularly like to take pictures of abandoned places during the night because I can project my imagination and play with the light like in an old German expressionist movie… :)

The textures in this image are very realistic. How important is texturing for you compared to modeling, lighting, ...?
I’ll be fair, I don’t think that a very beautiful model can do a beautiful picture, If the light and the textures are not good…Modeling is important to catch the rays of light and represent the proportions, but the real challenge is to set a mood, a feeling, an emotion, this is the goal of Art …I think in this step, lighting and texturing are very important and that makes very often the difference between demonstrative works, too technical in my eyes, and a nice picture.
It’s like the picture of a beautiful sculpture, would you prefer the plastic copy, lighted with a front flash light or would you prefer the original, carved in stone, lighted by a sunrise light, with subtle leaves shadows of the surrounding trees?
 

What kind of lighting did you set up for this scene?
I used a mix of different point lights, to enhance the Ambiance locally, also negative lights to create contrast in the actual 3D scene, in fact, a lot of omni directional lights with falloff and a key direct light for the skylight coming from the ceiling.

You used VRay to render this image. In your opinion, what are its main advantages over the default 3ds max renderer?
I used this renderer because it’s quite fast and so sharp! Also it is really easy to use, as I really don’t want to loose time with technical stuff; this is helpful, the default settings are already very convincing, this GI renderer is very good to ground the objects.  

Tell us a little about "Dawn on the Ancient Hall".
This picture was first a personal project; finally it became a reference for the cinematic project we work on actually at Ubisoft.

This image looks very detailed. Do you prefer your objects to be as precisely modeled as possible before beginning to texture them or do you heavily rely on textures to add details to the objects?
My level of detail is not that high, I model mid-res, (this is maybe because I learned a lot from Game :) but it is very important to represent proportions in the modeling, In other words, it’s important to have very small objects and huge ones to create a certain range of scaling. In this scene I took the time to break pillars and modeled small stones to give nice shading to the small details, but It is not necessary to go crazy with the details, as we don’t want to be lost in details but focus on the main feeling of the picture.
I have a good idea of the lighting and the level of details I want in my picture before texturing. The texture helps a lot to add the last pass of det
ails, especially with the bump map.

Do you rather draw your textures from scratch or do you start from real life photos or other textures?
I’m not doing a lot of texture from scratch, because I’m quite impatient, I use a lot of pictures, also a lot from my personal digital photo bank, I try to mix a lot of different sources as I can have nice and fast results.

Do you use existing commercial texture libraries too?
Off course, I use 3D total and a lot of Mayang textures, they are really good, I bough the CD’s for my team.How big do you usually paint your textures?
It depends of the size of the object to map! It can be from 256 pixels up to 6 000!

Does it mean this image would only look good with this point of view, camera angle, lighting?
Exactly, this is the reason why I draw a few sketches before getting crazy with the details, I also used Camera map, it is like matte painting, you know what is your frame and you detail your picture where you’ll need it, with camera mapping, you can’t really move a lot your frame ! … When I work for cinematics or videogames, I have to texture and model after the story board needs, and sometimes it has to look nice for 360°, this is the challenge of Game Graphics!

What are the sub-maps you particularly pay attention to?
Well, they are all essential, usually, I prefer to de-saturate my diffuse texture, then I can really control the
palette of my picture with the lighting. Specular map is as important as the bump… Actually I’m found of realism in texturing, so, I try to be subtle when I use these sub maps, just enough to give the right aspect to the objects.

What kind of lighting is used in this scene?
Very classic, no GI, just a spot and a few point lights
How did you achieve the volumetric lighting effect?
I used a standard volume effect in max. But as I used a separate pass for the volume effects, It was easy for me to control the contrast, the falloff and the intensity of it. I think it is not honoring to finish the picture in one pass, you have a better control in separated pass, for the fog, the volume effects, specular etc… Tell us a little about "Malik Sha's Sanctuary".
I did it last summer, just after the production of “Prince of Persia”, I needed to do a high-res render after all this months doing real time modelling!
Where did you find the inspiration?
I found inspiration in 19th century Orientalist paintings and LOTR illustrations (John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith…) .
I suppose you saw the LOTR movies. What did you think of them?
I
really loved this movie, and particularly the third one, because the environments are very varied and the picture is like a living painting composition wise, color wise!
I was moved by this trilogy, I’d really enjoy to work as matte painter on this kind of movies one day…The matte paints are awesome, the work of the Quebecois Yannick Dusseault is a real reference for me. I was
also impressed by the 3d creatures like the Elephants and all the scenes in Minas Tirith… The mix of 3D and real models is impressive, this is an example and a new standard in CG and feature SFX movies.How is the lighting for a night scene different from one for a day scene?
I won’t say that it is easier; you have to play with contrasts and reveal subtle details in the dark areas. What I particularly appreciate in night scenes is the monochromatic feeling and the contrast between warm and cold tones. Also I like to use an other kind of blue, not too cliché, more peacock blue, this is one of my favorite color :) The challenge is to keep the nice contrast and equilibrate the light in the composition.
Just like your other works, there are a lot of details in this one. Some details are so small they are only a few pixels large in the final rendering. Do you pay particular attention so that these details do not distract the viewer from a main point of interest?
When I start to figure out a composition, I try to focus on a part of the picture, it could be a detail in the foreground like a broken pillar or an object, as I don’t have a lot of characters in my scenes…I try to equilibrate the details and have a nice detailed foreground, this helps to create the proportions. Usually, the composition and the lighting are there to drive the eyes of the viewer, this is not a problem to have a very detailed texture in a shadowed area, if the light is highlighting the subject.
 How important are sketches, drawings, ... to your artworks?
This helps a lot, it is the first step to figure out the picture I have in mind, it gives me a good idea of the composition that I want, how I’ll frame the scene, It helps me also to know where I’ll put the efforts…
Do you have everything clear in your mind, lights, textures, color, etc when you start an image or it develops as you move on?
Usually, I know pretty well where I want to go: nigh scene, day scene, sunrise scene…This setups already the palette and the style of the textures, but I can change subtle things in the ambiance and the atmosphere, you always have some surprises, nothing is “locked” in my mind.Some people believe that in order to be a good 3D artist, you don't have to have traditional art skills... what are you thoughts on this?
First, what is a good 3D artist? In my opinion, 3D is just a tool, it is like a pencil, and if you have good basis in traditional art, you’ll be a better 3D artist. It’s like a good keyboardist, if he has a strong background in piano, jazz and classic, he will be a better keyboardist, even if he plays dance music…
I think that to have a good sense of composition, lighting, a 3d artist should spend more time taking pictures with his camera and drawing than surfing on 3D forums :) I’ll loose some friends there! Well, you have to take the problem at the beginning, if you have a rich imagination and a good sense of perspective, lighting, it is surely because you have strong traditional art skills :)
What is the most important aspect of 3d graphics, and why did you chose this medium to express yourself?
The thing is with 3D CG, you can give life to your imagination and make it almost real! I work faster with CG than if I had to do models and light them with torches, filters etc… Also, 3D allows you to fake immersive and plausible environments, the size can be increased with depth fading, volume effects… You can create a
huge setting and make it almost real with a great depth and a large range of details…It is also for me the way to mix my passion for photo, lighting and scenery.Are there any artists at 3D Artists you particularly admire?
Jeremy A Engleman is a great artist, he is the first Artist that challenged me with his digital Art, Gille Tran has really cool ideas, I’m really impressed by what he does with POV!
Like many other artists, you moved from France to Canada. Do you think it to be a necessary step for a European artist who would want to work on bigger projects?
Well this is not an obligation, but so many ships went down between 2000- 2002 in France that I left for Canada to work on very interesting projects… But there is still very interesting projects to work on in France, the only problem is there is just very few ones…Also I receive a lot of offers from US and Canada, but never from my own country! I think that France is not doing the necessary to keep their people…
What do you think of France bigger productions such as "Kaena - The prophecy"?
I liked this movie, I found in it the "french touch” I loved so much in “Time Masters” and “Gandahar”, (directed by René Laloux)… I think it’s different and more sensible, less cliché than a lot of big 3D productions from the big companies that are making money…The only problem with this movies is that they are poetic, but not commercial enough. I know it’s a shame that poetic animation is not seen enough, but it is not in the standard that people have in mind since Disney was leading the empire of Animation.
But, regarding Kaena, we are not yet in the good path I think, the end of this movie is quite Slapdashed.
I didn’t see “Immortel” , (directed by Bilal), I heard that the movie is really nice, but I didn’t have the chance to see it yet in Canada... you know! Here it is difficult to see this kind of French movies, even if we work on the sfx of a lot of these movies!
Do you miss France sometimes? How are everyday people, culture different in France and Canada?
Yes I do, I miss the diversity of the French landscapes, architecture, European culture… But people here are great, there is no stress, nobody judge you, you can be yourself, this is important and I’ll miss that in France :)
Also you don’t feel scared if you walk by night in dark streets, It is a really different culture, “Bowling for Columbine” is a good example if you have the chance to see this movie…
What will be your future plans?
Educate my son and learn him drawing and Piano! (kidding) Also work on a personal project, a feature animation movie with a couple of well known talented 3D artists…
 

 

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05:28 AM Aug 01 2008

raphael1017
China

too professional for me.

my english is poor