Fancy looking at some awesome 3D eye candy while also learning about the artist’s inspiration and techniques? Then check out this showreel from VFX TD Jordan Walsh
Here we aim to spotlight talented 3D artists and showcase the best 3D.
For this series, we’ve found some truly inspirational artists who have been kind enough to share their CG tips and secrets with us.
We hope that you learn new techniques to help you to improve your CG skills, and most of all, that you enjoy the cool 3D artwork displayed here…
Jordan Walsh is a Melbourne-based FX Technical Director and Artist and has over 12 years’ industry experience. He has worked on many game cinematics, TV commercials and is currently working in the film department at Iloura
Watch Jordan’s inspirational showreel
3D World: How did you break into the industry? Jordan: After studying Industrial Design for two years I realised it wasn’t for me and I left uni to develop my hobby for 3D into a profession.
It took me a about 18 months of learning, doing a few freelance jobs, and applying for every 3D job I could find (even just cold calling places in the yellow pages) before I got a call back from a boutique animation house called Act3 Animation.
I was initially working on low poly modelling for game assets but soon moved on to do some great game cinematics and within a few years our staff had quadrupled and I was their lead Lighting TD and Pipeline TD.
3DW: What first inspired you to become a 3D artist? Jordan: I was lucky that a couple of my best mates through high school were also very much into computers. We used to spend a lot of time messing around with code and old graphics programs like Corel draw and POVray to make custom Doom 2 maps for our gaming sessions.
I think one of the real turning points was when my dad came back from Hong Kong with a copy of Mech Warrior 2 and a disk with some “trial” versions of 3D Studio Max v1 and Softimage on it.
I was absolutely blown away by the cut scenes throughout Mech Warrior and I think it was at that time I knew I wanted to someday create this type of thing.
Through high school and university 3D was a big hobby for me and by the time I realised that Industrial Design would not be creative enough for me I made the decision then to leave and pursue a career in 3D Animation and VFX.
3DW: Where do you draw your inspiration from? Jordan: I think I was always inspired by nature and the world around me. The smallest thing like a drop of water running down a window could captivate me. I would watch things like that and really think about what caused it to change direction, or why something would bend and twist a certain way.
My other big inspiration are the talented people I work with. I’m constantly amazed at seeing great work others produce and it inspires me to push myself harder. There is of course a lot of art and media (Games, Films, Art) that inspire you but its the things closer to home that have the biggest impact.
Jordan's favourite film work to date is Ghost Rider
3DW: Your showreel shows work from many blockbuster movies, but what is the most enjoyable project you have worked on so far in your career and why? Jordan: Ghost Rider 2 was probably the best project I have worked on so far. We had so much fire and explosion FX work to do on the film (albeit I have never worked so much overtime in my life!) it felt really good to knock out that much work.
I did a lot of RnD and look development for Ghost Riders flames, it was very satisfying seeing the early fire/smoke work carried through about 300 or more shots (Iloura did about 450-500 shots on GR2).
I also was responsible for getting the 3ds Max/FumeFX pipleine working with Iloura’s existing pipeline. This involved creating a lot of maxscript tools for bringing in presets, enabling the artists to save and share setups across shots, building all the render passes automatically and creating network simulation tools that would help the artist’s productivity greatly.
Working in stereo was quite cool too, especially with all the fire and particles going everywhere too although you have to be careful with how far you try to push the effect.
The first time I showed some stereo shots from Sanctum (the first stereo film I worked on at Iloura) in our theatrette, after thinking the stereo looked good on my 21″ 3D monitor, everyone let out a howl and yanked their glasses off because the stereo was so full on. I think everyone instantly felt nauseous! I made sure I was extra careful after that!
3DW: What 3D tools and techniques do you use on a day-to-day basis? Jordan: I have been using 3D Studio Max as my main package for almost 17 years and with its wealth of plugins and very shallow learning curve it has been great to work with on projects like TVCs and game cinematics.
You can get from RnD to final frames in staggering small amount of time. From an FX TD/ Pipeline TD point of view, the more I get into bigger film projects the harder it is to get 3Ds Max to do what you want.
Houdini is a great tool for FX work in a larger pipeline environment and I love its open and consistant workflow and how much power you can get from it. Houdini takes a bit longer to get things going but you can get exactly what you want out of it.
3DW: What’s your favourite film? Jordan: My favourite 3D film is Surf’s Up, I loved the documentary style of the film and thought the characters were well written and beautifully animated, but the star of the show for me was the waves!
The animation and simulation of the water and wave effects were spot on! I think I prefer the stylistic way of simulation/animating waves rather than the giant mass destruction of films such as 2012, although it was amazing!
3DW: What’s your favourite animation? Jordan: My favourite animation is definitely Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro. I love all the films that come out of Studio Ghibly. It’s so refreshing to watch such unique films that so beautifully capture the essence and spirituality of the Japanese culture.
3DW: What’s your favourite film in terms of VFX? Jordan: Funnily enough, I’m not really that into big blockbuster action films so I don’t really have a favourite VFX film. Although I do love seeing the bar being risen with each new film release. The Transformers series has done some awesome work, the tentacle Deceptacon that destroyed the building in Dark of the Moon was stunning. Also any film that features a mega pirana, mega shark or a sharktopus are awesome!
3DW: Who’s been a key influence, whether that be a director, animator, colleague, friend or hero? Jordan: I get most of my influence from the great people I have worked with over my career and all the people in the VFX community. One person in the industry that stands out for me is Borislav “Bobo” Petrov. Not only He has a great technical mind and has given so much to the VFX community. He has helped me out many times over the years.
3DW: What advice can you give for aspiring VFX artists looking to break into the industry? Jordan: I think the most important thing young artists can do is to be very proactive and be prepared to do their own work and learning outside school/university, do things that set them apart from classmates.
I see a lot of people come straight out of courses and think that’s all that they need to get their foot in the door when in reality they end up with the same type of reel as every other student.
3DW: Please could you share a technical ‘secret’ or top tip with us on how you work? Jordan: I, personally, like to try to keep as organised as possible right from the start. Keeping things named consistently, having layers setup and maintained well and generally being as logical as possible when starting has help me later on down the line when things get complex.
Things generally go wrong at the 11th hour and the last thing you want to do is spend extra time trawling through a pile of sphere01 or Box11 objects when troubleshooting.
Also I make a point of trying to script things as much as possible. Picking up scripting early on and being able to create my own tools has made my productivity skyrocket. This is important to me as a TD but I have certainly worked with many talented people that don’t work like this, so it can be a very personal thing.
3DW: Have you any comments on how VFX have changed since you first started? Jordan: I don’t think the industry has changed that much over the years, Computing power gets better and we always try to push the detail and realism that one step further. We still work to crazy deadlines sometimes, and other times there are dream jobs.
I love the fact that we seem to be riding the wave of hardware and software technology and I expect the industry will follow the same trends it has for a while now.
3DW: What’s next for you? Jordan: I seem to have a never ending list of new things I want to learn and try out so I’ll try to keep on top of that in my spare time.
I’m currently working at Iloura in Melbourne, Australia, which has been expanding quite solidly over the last few years, so it will be interesting to see where that takes me.