Interview - Mark Laszlo


Mark Laszlo 
3D Generalist

 Hungary, located in Berlin

Tell us a bit about yourself...
When did you decide to become a motion designer? What programs/plugins/scripts do you use?
I was 16 i think, when the craziest thing happened on one day during computing class. I got bored of Duke Nukem. It had a small number of maps for multiplayer games. So I looked around and saw the  system administrator playing with some blue software. It had many buttons to figure out so I instantly had a liking for it. It was 3d studio r4. Later I found out CG is the perfect territory where I can equally play out my technician and artistic self too.   
At the moment I mainly work with Nuke, Maya and 3dsMAX. I had a nice collection of scripts and plugins, but as a freelancer I have to change my computer often, so it's a lot easier to learn the basic functions and shortcuts while trying to minimize your extra tools. 

Your experience covers modeling, animation, shading, lights, rendering and composing. Which one is closer to you?
I started to work in my hometown, Budapest, and although many talented artists live there  along some really great companies, we don’t have a substantial VFX industry. So if you want to make a living you have to know every area a little.  Now I feel like it’s time for me to specialize. I want to go in depth in creating the final look, concentrating more on shading, lighting and compositing. For now I’m mostly interested in Nuke because I feel like it’s the most dynamically developed software nowadays, and a vast advancement can be expected in it during the years to come.  
How do you keep up with all the changes in technology? Do you think the traditional tools (drawing, painting) are losing interest in front of the electronic tools (computers, rendering farms)?
One of the stupidest disputes is the one surrounding the traditional versus computer-based tools. There are no two distinct categories, there are just a bunch of tools. One should use the one which is the easiest, fastest, provides the best result or is the most fun. I saw a bunch of people cutting out paper for a whole day, which could have been done in two hours on a computer and in such a way that you couldn't distinguish the two. The people cutting the paper didn't look like they had a blast while doing so... On the other hand there were many occasions when we were struggling with something and realized that the best solution was to stop making it cg and just got out there and shot something like it with a camera. Drawing and painting will not disappear because these are part of our daily life - yet, who cares if it's done with a pencil or a stylus? Maybe pencil producing companies. But who cares about them anyway? 

Can you tell us a little about your experience in 3D and VFX for advertising? Has computer graphics changed visual advertisement?
On the creative field, yes a lot has changed! People stopped thinking! There is this tendency to figure out the advertisements after the shooting, because with cg you can do everything. Which is true if you have unlimited money and unlimited time, but mostly this isn't the case. If you don't have a good idea and you don't plan what you want, even the best cg artist won't be able to save the ad. But if there is a good idea, cg can support it to get the results unthinkable before it. 
“Life” Project . Can you give us an insight on the process, the goals of the project and the difficult parts?

I was hired by KGB Studio to make some of the spots of the newly started Life television. Unlike the spots of Ozone, these shots were completely different, so every spot was a new challenge.  But one problem was the same, namely how to make the approved storyboard and tell the story in only two and a half seconds. And we were struggling with the many changes during production as well, but in the end I think the team did a terrific job!
How do you start working on a production like Pillars of the earth? Do you use references or just imagination?

Now this is a really interesting story. I heard about the company from my friends, and I sent out my resume, and two days later they called me in. This is how it started. I was compositing in Pillars of the Earth so not so much imagination was used. The workflow was pretty usual: people from production figured out the look, mattepainters or the 3d guys made it, and the compositor team placed it in the picture. 
How important is it to have a proper education in this field?
I don't believe in education in the CG field. Techniques are evolving so rapidly, one year’s tuition will  possibly become outdated for the next year. People can develop themselves best if they start to work for a company. No school can teach the real life situations that can occur everyday, and besides you will have a ton of experienced people around you, who are really doing the stuff, not just teaching it.
Technique is not everything, everyone needs to develop their visuals as well. Luckily, it's the age of the internet with millions of inspiring images and videos that are accessible to everyone, every time. 
What was the biggest challenge in the Hellboy Project?

For me the whole project was a challenge because Hellboy was the first time I met with feature film quality demands, which was a pretty big step for me. I arrived to Cube Effects in the middle of the production of the Golden Army Chamber sequence so everybody was in a crazy rush. However, I was lucky to have  co-workers who were kind enough to answer my questions if I got stuck with something. 
What was the most difficult part in Ozone?

We used fisheye lens for the Ozone shots, so the navigation in the viewport was a mess, we couldn't really see what was happening. If I moved an object by a unit, it could be moving one or six hundred pixels on the image, depending on its position to the camera. I ended up making maps for the scenes, but it still wasn't easy. At the time we didn't have realtime renderers like Vray RT, looks like one problem less for the future! 
Do you still find time for your own projects? What do you have up your sleeve for future projects?
I used to do competitions and fun projects too, but this kind of work needs a lot of time. Nowadays after 10 hours of work and two hours of reading and watching the new stuff coming out in the industry, I’m happy if I can get a beer and live a little bit. I just relocated to Berlin so now my personal project is to check out what interesting jobs are in this city. 

We know the “ups”, but tell us about the “downs” in your career. Was it an easy ride?
For me probably the hardest one was to get into the industry. After school I was constantly trying but they sent me away, because I didn't have any experience. I tried to make a living from working as a web designer but this was one of my biggest mistakes I think. Kids, don't design websites! It's no fun!  But after my first job I think everything was fine. True, there are times when there is no sleep for months, your computer crashes all the time or you have to work with a client who’s a real pain in the arse, but I'm happy with that. Satisfaction comes from hard challenges. 
What’s the one project that you received the most praise for?
Usually we don’t receive any praise, people normally have no clue about what we are making and who we are. I honestly find this quite strange, because one of the main reasons why people go into movie theatres is the effects. Exceptionally, now when I uploaded my reel, I found it linked to websites and blogs and got a few congratulating emails as well. It felt pretty nice. 
What would you like to add to your portfolio?
Some shot from Sucker Punch would be nice, but I think I would be getting into some legal quarrels if I did that. 
If you had the opportunity to spend a day with anyone from this industry, who would it be?
Angie Dale, fxguide tv hostess.  It just excites me when pretty girls say things like linear workflow or deep compositing. 
What’s your favorite movie?
If a had to choose one it would be Fight Club. At last we had an entertaining movie from Hollywood which deals with my generation’s problems, and didn't try to be nice and easy just to get more income. Good directing, good acting, and awesome CG as well! I think this movie is the first attempt of using CG to support the story and not just as an eye-candy. 
If you had unlimited resources (from artists to money) what path would you take?
The same path. Although I would probably buy a nice castle and would go to work with a helicopter, but otherwise I feel pretty OK now.