VFX artist Matt Radford shares his background, skills and inspiration with us. Check out his VFX breakdowns containing fantastic 3D effects and discover two top secrets…
For this series, we’ve found some truly inspirational 3D artists who have been kind enough to share their backgrounds, CG tips and secrets with us.
This week, we caught up with Blur Studio’s VFX artist Matt Radford after seeing his recent work on Planetside 2.
Here he shares his invaluable insights, VFX breakdown videos and, when we asked him to share a technical secret with us, he said “I’ll give you two secrets. One has to do with procedurally destroying things and the other has to do with compositing.” So read on…
Matt has worked on numerous titles and films including Overstrike, Resident Evil: Racoon City, Dishonored, Planetside 2, Lord of The Rings Online, Injustice: Gods Among Us, The Girl With The Dragon, Tattoo, The Amazing Spiderman.
3D World: What’s your job title and where do you work? MR: My current job title is FX artist at Blur Studio in Venice California.
3D World: How did you break into the industry? MR: I’d say a lot of work, a little luck, and a college career fair. The “I got a job” moment came at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I was in my senior year and was definitely gun-ho about getting out and working professionally. I took a trip up to New York during our spring break to visit my sister. While I was there I went in and visited Nathan Love and Buck – two shops I was very interested in at the time.
It’s tough going to those early interviews when you know your work doesn’t quite measure up, but you still want it.
But people were generally very welcoming. I was all set to move to New York after graduation. One Saturday though I went to this career fair SCAD had with some friends. On a whim I talked to a few companies. One was Method – a commercial/film studio in Santa Monica, California. Two weeks later they called me, offered me a lighting job. I’d never intended to move to Los Angeles, but it seemed like an opportunity that would really challenge me. So I took it.
3D World: What first inspired you to become a 3D artist? At what point in your life did you make the decision that that’s what you were going to do? MR: Videogames. I love videogames. I don’t play quite as much as I did when I was a kid, but I still feel all warm and mushy about games.
I always wanted to tell stories with these game engines when I was younger. I’d come home after school and play with various engines – never making anything particularly cool, but it felt very unique to me. I started pursuing 3D modelling software because I really wanted to create my own assets for these “mods”. I had loads word documents with lame ideas for counter-strike rip offs. But I loved it – coming up with that stuff!
3D World: Where do you draw your inspiration from? MR: A lot of places. Music definitely – I’m a huge audiofile. I keep this music blog at www.musicalmost.com – it’s a music blogging service I coded as an experiment.
I’m always on www.ffffound.com/ looking at weird pictures. I used to check www.CGHub.com a lot for concept art. I definitely geek out over game cinematics from Blizzard and Blur – I’ve always found that stuff so fun.
3D World: What 3D tools and techniques do you use on a day-to-day basis? MR: Well at Blur we use alot of 3ds Max. For me I use Thinking Particles, FumeFX, Particle Flow, RealFlow mainly.
We’ll render in V-Ray and do our compositing in Fusion. Sometimes I’ll find myself in Softimage to do some ICE stuff – though never as often as I should (what a powerful tool!). Before that back at Method, Hydraulx, and school, I’d use alot of Maya and python.
3D World: What’s your favourite 3D package? MR: I love Maya. It was my first love. It can do so many things and the way it lets you script tools is so great – mainly aided by its excellent scripting reference. I’ve grown to enjoy max, mainly because of FumeFX and Thinking Particles.
3D World: What’s your favourite film? MR: Oh man. That’s a hard one! It sounds cliched, but I still find Jurassic Park to be really inspiring. [Ed: You're not the only one who's answered with Jurassic Park - it's a classic and still holds up today.]
3D World: What’s your favourite commercial and why? MR: I’m a big fan of the Halo: Reach commercial that Method did. The one with the chilling piano and battle scene. I got to method just as that was wrapping up. I think everyone working on that really poured their heart into it – lots of sleeping bags under the desks.
3D World: What’s your favourite animation and why? MR: I’m actually not a huge fan of kids animation. I’d say my favorite animation would be the StarCraft 2 cinematics. The attention to detail is just phenomenal. Blizzard has the time to put in all the little subtle magic.
3D World: What advice can you give for aspiring 3D artists looking to break into the industry? MR: I’d say the best advice I could give is to never compare yourself to your peers. Compare yourself to the places you want to work. Want to work at Blur? Make your work look as good as theirs.
Also, there’s a mentality I experienced in school, “Pixar or bust”. Don’t go into this industry with the intention of working at ILM, or Digital Domain, or Pixar, or any of the other giants. Look around for smaller studios doing work you find creative or interesting.
Working in commercials for a while will make you fast, it’ll make you good. You’ve no idea the deadlines you have to meet. Use commercials as a springboard into what you want.
That may in no way be appropriate to you. That’s more a refactoring of my own experience phrased as advice – you’ll make your own path. As long as you’re genuine, you’ll be golden!
3D World: Please could you share a technical ‘secret’ or top tip with us? MR: I’ll give you two secrets. One has to do with procedurally destroying things and the other has to do with compositing.
1. If your procedurally destroying something with voronoi fracturing (in Thinking Particles or Houdini). An easy way of avoiding the ugly voronoi look is to break it once into 20 pieces or so, then fracture each of those pieces heavily, but only activate 30-60% (I usually go from -Center). This will get you a lot of really interesting looking bigger chunks and lots of little small debree – this, however, is not the most efficient method.
2. When your compositing – especially volumetrics – try taking the plate, blurring it, jaking up the brightness or saturation, then multiplying it on top of your element (then fading that 40-80%). This can really help integrate it into your scene. This technique can be used for tons of stuff.
3D World:What’s next for you? MR: Well I love my job at Blur. I’ve been here about a year and a half and don’t have any immediate plans to change that.
The projects are always so interesting here. But in the long term, I don’t know. It’s too bad Los Angeles, London, and Vancouver seems to be the hot spots for CG – if only it was in Virginia where I grew up!