Interview - Christopher Malheiros




Christopher Malheiros
Visualisation Artist & Architect 

Région de Paris , France

Tell us a bit about you...When did you start freelance work as an architectural designer? What programs/plugins do you use? How do you keep up with all the changes in technology?

Hi all. After graduating I started an internship at mecanoo architects in the Netherlands. That's where I started to develop my 3d skills and where I learned that 3d could be an individual job and I was introduced to offices that were specialised in doing only 3d (luxigon, mir, dbox, guthrie, etc). I was amazed by what those guys could do and I tried my best to do the same! After a year I got the opportunity to work for luxigon in Paris. I never thought about working only in 3d until then and I decided to give it a try just to out of curiosity. I joined them as freelance and also kept working with mecanoo. This was 4 years ago and I'm still doing this...

The softwares I use, unlike 95% of 3d artists I do not use Max nor Vray! I use Cinema 4d and Photoshop. Actually I've been trying Vray for c4d for a while now but just for personal interest. I find it a very good render engine but it is too detailed and realistic and it kind of blocks me to develop the photoshop part of my work! But I'm adapting and it's really great for interior images.

I also try to keep up with architectural websites and blogs and also with 3d community blogs and all. Everyday I check what others have been doing.
The 3d industry is developing at a really fast pace. I feel that there are cycles, like in fashion or design with the 70's, 80's or 90's that became popular again this past years. 5-10 years ago the graphical approach really developed in the 3d industry, but now it seems that 3d artists are more into hyper realistic things so I developed a more realistic but still graphical approach.

What was the goal for DGT - Stone Gardens – Beirut and what was the most difficult part?

This image was requested because they wanted to print it in a huge billboard in the construction site. I was given a photo and had to make a photo montage. Like all photomontages the most difficult thing is to find the correct camera position and lightning. Once you have that the rest is standard work in 3d. Then in photoshop you need a sharp eye to make the montage look credible. Actually as the image was 15000 pixels high to most difficult thing was to work in photoshop. The level of detail was really high so I needed to be really precise when zooming at 100% or at 10%. The image is to be seen from far away but if you look closely the details need to be good.

Did you use the same techniques from one project to another? What changes?

Every project is different but the process, at least the first steps in 3d are more and less the same, once you have the model you need to apply materials, vegetation, people etc... This is the same process and often I use the same materials, of course I'm always creating new ones because sometimes I'm requested specific materials and I also get tired of the old ones.
Then you need to find a good lightning and a good camera position. Photoshop is always a different process for each project. I never use the same psd for other images as the process in photoshop is not so technical but more something emotional it depends on the inspiration. Something to think about: if you take the same project everyday and make the same view with more and less the same lightning over and over again each day, the result in 3d will be more and less similar and you'll get very similar raw renders. But the photoshop process, that's another thing, every image will be different, even if you try to make the same as the previous day, it will be different and in some days you'll want something with a colder mood, other days with a warmer mood even the people in the scene will be different...

What was the biggest challenge in Mecanoo - The Noble Qur'ran?

For this image the biggest challenge when I started was actually how will I convince them that this sand storm mood would be the best thing for them!
In the end I didn't even have to say anything, they loved the image as it was! The project itself is very beautiful and if you find a perfect lightning and a perfect camera you can achieve a great image. Technically there wasn't any major obstacle.

Out of all the projects you have done, which one is your favorite and why?

It's difficult to say because each time I finish a project it becomes my favourite!
I really like the Wei Wu Ying Center for the Arts for Mecanoo, I had to make the images for all the theatres and concert rooms for this building and it's funny but when I applied for Mecanoo 5 years ago that building was the reason why I applied their! I love that project.

The render for the Congress Center was awarded “visualization pro of the week”.

Can you list some important differences between working on night shots and day shots? Which one is closer to you?

Night shots of course! I clearly prefer to make night images. I guess the result is always much more impressive and you can make such different things. Differences? I don't really know, the technique is the same for day or night but you just have a different process!

How did you start working on Daniel Gusmão Arquitetos Associados - Rio de Janeiro? What was the most difficult part? How long did it take?

This project had to be done really quickly! I think these were 4 images to be done in 4 days or something. Time was short and there was not much time for try outs but in the end the result was nice. I feel that working in short deadlines is better because you produce things more impulsively but from time to time I wish I had more time to add more detail or to achieve a different result. I try to make the best with the time I have. Sometimes you have less time so you just think ok we'll lower our standards and make it "less good" but for me it has to be good every time.

The most difficult thing was actually to clean the model, it was a sketchup file and exporting + cleaning this kind of files is always time taking.
I don't think there's difficult images. You have maybe more challenging and time taking images. For example the images for DGT's stadium in Japan, those were interesting to produce. It was very time taking to find all those details to apply in olympics version or football version. You need to find lots of detail like camera man, journalists, photographers, staff, security, etc... I had to cut out all those people! But it was challenging and detail is what makes great images.

Which production do you believe was the most difficult to complete? (How did you do it?)

There is one project that was a pain a few months ago, I didn't publish the images because the result isn't what I expected and in the end I had to make exactly what the client wanted. I had to make a couple of images for a given deadline and a week after the deadline they came back with more modifications because their client was quite insistent in some parts of the project, then a week after concluding this second stage they called me with more urgent modifications to be done in the next 3 days, I got the call when I was the airport ready to take a week off! Not the best timing! I ended up doing it after I got back.
There's always good and bad projects and there's also good and bad working process. The best thing to achieve better result is to have freedom to create. If the client is always making changes and also trying to tell you how to do your job it's not the best way to go.

What’s the one project that you received the most praise for?

Humm, I don't really know... I think the images I did just for personal portfolio are the ones people prefer. This ones for Mies Van der Rohe's Nationalgalerie, Gehry's Guggenheim Bilbao or the art gallery in Buenos Aires (also personal) had good feedback from fans. The commissioned projects that got more positive feedback I think were Mecanoo's Congress Center in Baku (night), Daniel Gusmao office building (night) and this last one for Mecanoo's Noble Qur'ran.

With the market becoming more and more competitive, what do you believe is a must that an Illustrator has in his portfolio or skills? How important is it to have a proper education in this field?

It's a difficult question... People often ask me how I make my images thinking there's some secret recipe or that I can tell them "do it like this: ...." and they will magically earn my skills. I don't know how I do what I do, it's just me doing my best to make great images. Of course I have a technique but it's not very different from other people. You need to understand what you're doing and I think the most important things are the camera position and the lightning. If you have this 2 things set in a way that it can't be better then you will make a good image. Then the process or style is up to your competences of course and very often I see great raw renders and the people just mess it up in photoshop trying to make it like something they saw somewhere else. It doesn't work like that. The photoshop process complements the 3d. I sometimes work in photoshop and feel blocked at some point. The best thing is to take a break or start over. Simplicity is the key. If you add too much, well, the result will be "too much".

I don't really know if education is a key point for our job... I graduated in architecture and I feel that what I learned in school helps me in some ways to interpret things in the project but I feel that a good knowledge of photography, composition and lightning are more important. Experience is the key to make nice images. Once you made 500 images you know some new things and you see things in a different way I assure you.
Before I couldn't analyse images like I do now but now I feel that I have a better sense of analysis and critic... Now I can easily find problems in my images that can actually help to improve it. Before I couldn't do that, I knew there was a problem but I couldn't find a solution. Of course it still happens sometimes nowadays. The solution is get up of your chair and grab a cup of coffee or something. When you get back to your chair, at the first glance at your image you see what's wrong! When you work too intensively it's not good, even when you close your eyes what you see is the image you're doing!

If you had the opportunity to spend a day with anyone from this industry, who would it be?

Aha! I don't really know, I actually already met some, let's say "important" people from our industry and it's really cool to see that they are actually normal people that eat and drink and only talk about 3d all the time like me! I always like to meet new people, "important" or "not so important" I always have something to learn or to teach...

What do you have up your sleeve for future projects?

Well I actually have many great projects that I've done this past months for great architects but it's all under NDA for now so you just need to keep following to see what will come next!
Oh I'm now making images for the Guggenheim Helsinki competition...

Thank you for reading and if you have questions about my work or critics let me know!