Meet the 3D artist: Michael Balthazart
Michael Balthazart is the director of the fantastic live-action and CG short, Voile Noir, that’s featured in the new issue of 3D World. Meet the talented, young artist and find out more about his inspiration…
CG artist Michael Balthazart has been passionate about special effects from a very young age. Before Michael Balthazart graduated from his high school with a diploma in Sciences, he knew that he wanted to work in the cinema industry. He studied at ArtFx school of VFX and CG animation in October 2008, and graduated in June 2012. He’s specialised in modelling, texturing, lighting and compositing.
“I was already a cinephile,” he says, “huge fan of blockbuster movies. But I didn’t really know what type of school or education program I had to take in order to work in this area.”
“I started learning computer sciences and had my degree two years later. During this time, I took the time to really inform myself on different schools: I chose to go to ArtFx, the french School of VFX and CG Animation I recently graduated from.”
“The first year was more about the learning of traditional techniques of drawing and art history… Not my favourite subject, I admit it!”
“But serious things began when I started, the following year, the three years’ CG learning cycle. I made my first steps into the 3D and visuals effects, and that was the time I truly discovered my will to work more and more to become a 3D artist.”
Mecha model: Michael's first piece of CG
3D World: Do you remember what your first piece of CG was?
After learning the basics of 3D modeling and texturing, during the first year at school, we had to do an exercise : creating a Mecha-like robot. Really inspired at this time by the Gears of war game saga, I decided to create one, as if it was directly invented for the game.
It was a really interesting way to learn more and practise on UV unwrapping and texturing.
3D World: Where do you find inspiration?
“As I said, I’m a real cinephile, so I mainly find inspiration when I watch tones of movies or tv shows.”
“But I’m also following some artists on the internet that I really admire: Alessandro Baldasseroni, Dan Platt, Mike Nash, Scott Patton, Marek Denko, Alex Roman… And they are so many other talents I’m certainly forgetting.
Still_Life ArtFx 2nd year exercise. Everything from modeling to final compositing. Software: Maya, ZBrush, Photoshop and Nuke
“As a CG artist, I’m really curious to know how special effects are created in movies or in other stuffs I watch, so I’m constantly looking for behind the scene videos, making of and other breakdowns. Every magician has heir tricks, and you always want to know their secrets right?
3D World: Do you think you have developed a certain style of work?
“I think it’s a bit early in my starting carreer to have already developed a certain style of work.”
Air Jordan Retro I : Personal modelling and sculpting exercise. Software: Maya and ZBrush
“I’m trying to do my best in every work I do in order to learn each and every day. You know, it’s always about solving problems, and that’s what makes the job interesting.”
“But I’m sure that after my first professional experiences, I’ll have the chance to really find my way, and find what I like the most to work on. All I can say right now, is that I’m always amazed by a movie which mixes CGI pieces like robots, futuristic armour, gadgets and vehicles, and CGI characters as well. Maybe I’ll had the chance to work on that in my carreer, we’ll see…
3D World: What is your favourite 3D software?
At this time, it is Maya, for sure. And the reason is really simple: with it, you can work closely with all the other softwares like ZBrush, Nuke or Photoshop. Making links from Maya to all the other softwares is really simple and efficient. That’s really what makes Maya such a powerfull tool.
- Read our Maya 2013 review and find out the latest about Maya 2014
“The fact that you can work with a lot of different rendering engines in it, like Mental Ray or V-Ray for example, that you can work on fluids simulations, dynamics, modeling, texturing, animation, tracking…”
“You can almost do everything with Maya so it’s always easier to work closely with other artists specialized in all the different disciplines… “
“Maya can involve all the creation steps of a VFX shot, and that’s really cool!”
Watch Voile Noir’s fighter aircraft video. Modelling (and sculpting for close up shots), Texturing.
Software: Maya, ZBrush, Mudbox and Photoshop.
3D World: What is your favourite film?
“It’s really difficult to choose one, but there are some that particulary made my day! I’m not going to be very original by the way, but as a huge fan of Christopher Nolan, Inception and The Batman Trilogy, specially The Dark Knight Rises that I recently saw and found brilliant, form part of my must-see favourite film list. Avatar is totaly in it too. As you can see, I’m obviously a blockbusters guy!
Watch Voile Noir’s enemy aircraft video. Modeling, Texturing.
Softwares : Maya – Mudbox – Photoshop.
3D World: What is your favourite animation and why?
“Concerning animation, technically speaking, two movies I particulary enjoyed are Rango and The Adventures of Tintin. They are just an indescriptible pleasure for the eyes, two so beautiful pieces of incredible work!”
“I also give a very special mention for Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs which is just hilarious. A very surprising and powerfull story, with such fun characters!” [Ed: We agree - it's a fantastic film from the talented artists at Blue Sky Studios.]
What is the best critique you have received?
“It is for sure during my graduation jury, the 22th of June 2012. This was just after the projection of our short film Voile Noir.”
“A jury composed of professionals from Paris and London were here to give feedback and advice. We were totally stressed and impatient to hear if the movie had been appreciated.”
Watch Voile Noir’s final sequence. Modelling, sculpting and texturing.
Software: Maya, ZBrush and Photoshop.
“My teammates and I walked through the little stage in front of the screen, ready to listen to the professionals and to answer their questions. My heart was beating so strongly.
“One of the Moving Picture Company VFX supervisors took the microphone, and we were waiting to hear what his first thoughts were about to be… And he just said, ‘That rocks.’ “
It was such a relief, specially coming from a guy which represents a world leading company like MPC. After one year of living for our Voile Noir project, that’s exactly the type of critique you are hoping at your graduation jury. A very cool memory
3D World: Any word of advice for aspiring artists?
“I’m just a very very small guy which will try to make his way in the industry, but if I had one piece of advice, it’s a very simple one: do what you like, and do it the best you can! Their is no secret, hard and serious constant work is the key, but if you are as passionate as I am, it’s just going to be fun!
Currently, my main objective is to start a carreer in the best conditions as possible. I truly want to work on movies and famous commercials, and I’ll have the opportunity to do that in a few days: I’m off to work for The Mill London.
Want to know more about how Voile Noir was made?
For more about Voile Noir see our making of article.
The digital edition of the new 3D World (issue 162) also has loads of video extras from the film. Check it out now!
Also watch the making of Voile Noir video
on Monday, October 8th, 2012 at 4:51 pm under Movies, Shorts, Showcase.
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Tags: Meet the 3D artist, Michael Balthazart, Voile Noir