Interview - Tony Andreas Rudolph

 
 

Tony Andreas Rudolph
Visual Effects Artist


 Germany

http://www.zulusplitter.de/

 

 

Hello and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Tell us a bit about your artistic background, when did you start, what are your goals?

Hey everyone, no problem, any time. My name is Tony Andreas Rudolph, I am 23 years old self taught Digital Matte Painter and Concept Artist from Germany. In 2008 I started my career with digital paintings. But not too often. After a big accident in my family, I stop digital painting for a while. I was painting around 5 images in a year. But in 2010 I decided to come back, doing concept art and I worked really hard to get better and better.

I had a dream since I was 16 years old. I wanted to be a Matte Painter and Concept Artist for feature films. But I don't just want to be any Matte Painter and Concept Artist, I want to be a Matte Painter and Concept Artist who works for Industrial Light & Magic. That is my current goal, my ultimate goal. And I want to reach it.

Currently I am working for ScanlineVFX in Munich as Digital Matte Painter and Concept Artist.

Before that, I started my professional career at Trixter as a Concept Artist Intern. My next step is to join the Framestore Matte Painting Department in London in the next few weeks. I am very excited and open minded to learn new skills and techniques to reach my goal.

Do you collaborate with production companies or advertising agencies?

Well, my career is at the very beginning. I don't had the opportunity to work with production companies or advertising agencies in the past besides my work at Scanline and Trixter. But I am very interested in this. I have my "dream" companies I want to collaborate with in the future like Blur, Method Studios, Digic Pictures or The Mill. I am very interested in working for a game cinematic company and doing some matte paintings and concept arts for it. So, I am a big fan :D

What programs/plugins/scripts do you use?

Mainly I am using Adobe Photoshop CS6. For my character concepts I am using mostly a combination of Photoshop and zBrush. Last but not least I use Autodesk Maya for my Matte Paintings and Concept Art. Now I am interested in Arnold or VRay Rendersoftware. I don’t know which one I should choose, but I will start working on two matte painting projects to test both renderers with the trial version.

You do everything from concept art to matte painting. How do you keep up with all the changes in technology?

I don’t do everything, I am a specialist in environments and landscapes, but I like it to do fx concepts and vehicle concepts as well. Today it isn't a big difference between concept art and matte paintings for feature films. Mostly concept arts had to look photo-realistic like matte paintings. This is very important. But this give me the chance to combine both techniques and technologies. The only main difference is, that I can spend more time into a matte painting as in a concept art. Sometimes you have one week for one concept art, but mostly you only have one day to two days to finish one concept.

With the market becoming more and more competitive, what do you believe is a must that an artist has in his portfolio or skills?

That is true. But if you want to go into the industry, it's important to do only what you love. The overall topic isn't important at all. But if you want to be a matte painter is it important to have more matte paintings in your portfolio. Concept art or digital paintings as well but not so much, this will only show that you have painting and drawing skills which are essential in this fields like perspective, color understanding or picture composition like the rule of third. Matte Painting is more photo-manipulation today. So it's important to show that from my point of view. If you want to go into matte painting, it's important to have a second or third skill you can combine with your matte painting skill. I combined concept arts and matte painting. But I know a lot of matte painters with a second skill in compositing or 2d matte painting, 3d matte painting and compositing. It depends on what you want and like. My next step for example is to go more and more into 3D and I can integrate that in my matte painting and concept art.

Your Cell Mutation looks great. What were the challenges on this project? Can you give us an insight on the process, the goals of the project and the difficult parts?

Thank you, I am glad you like it. Cell Mutation was a very funny project. I was inspired by the contest from cgsociety about the HIV Virus. I never knew such great and detailed medical pictures can come from the computer (which means no photo manipulation).
At my time at Trixter, I had some time for myself in between projects. I used it to learn a bit of zBrush and go more into it. The cell mutation was the best topic at this time for me. It took me around 2 hrs from start to finish. To get such a fast result, I just used one tool in zBrush. The Sketch Brush. For me one of the most powerful tools in zBrush besides the dynamesh. After I painted the basic form of the cell, I used the transformation from zSphere to a polygone model. At first I duplicate my zSphere model three times which I created with the Sketch Brush. The main model is my backup model. For the second model I used a transformation with less polygons to generate a rough form. The third version of the model get the double of polygons which got the second version. The model get the double polygon count from the third version. I created 3 different steps of details, generated from one rough Sketch Rough form. To create the final touch and to add the photorealistic details you still have to add noise in different sizes again to each polygon version. After that you're finished with the zBrush part.

I painted just some details in it and creating the mood in Photoshop.

What were some of the challenges on Metropolis?

Oh, good question. Overall I have to say, the whole painting was new for me. I used a photo as base for the first time in a painting. So the challenge for me was to paint seamless on top of the photo. My main brush was the round brush in combination with the Rectangular Marquee Tool. I made tons of rectangles to create all the little edges which you see in the result. I spend around 2 days for this concept. The reason why it took so much time was to create believable scaling information in the painting, the rectangles shouldn't look like to big or to small in front of the photo. It should fit mostly perfectly into the basic photo as well. I also used some matte painting techniques to fix some parts of the basic city.

What is the typical starting point in a matte painting project? How long does it usually take? How much of it is just trial and error?

It depends on the matte painting and its goal. Sometimes I start painting on top of a photo or a 3D model. Other times I start with a concept art and after that create the matte painting on top of it. To finish a matte painting it takes me 3 days to one week on average. But very special and massive matte paintings take me around 1 month to finish.

Everything in the vfx depends on trials and errors I think. If you want to resolve a problem, you have to test and develop. Only a simple change of a camera angle or a camera move can make a matte painting very 3 dimensional and transform into a complex painting. But this problem solving makes me very happy and I enjoy doing it every day.
Dylan Cole says in an interview:
"Matte Painting combine different techniques and skills into one painting like photography, photo-manipulation, design, drawing, painting, 3D, graphics, anatomy, compositing..." and so on. I think this says all and this is the reason why I love doing matte paintings. It can combine every artistic field or category into one painting.

What other supporting departments do you typically involve on an average project? How large does this list grow when you’re working on a bigger project for Scanline VFX?

The list can grow very fast if a company has to do a big shot. Mostly I am working in partnership with the composition and 3D department. If I want for example 3D models for a concept art or matte painting which could be in a database, so I only have to ask the 3D department. Or if the compositing department needs some support with adding details into a part of a shot. So the department supervisor comes to the matte painting to get some support like doing a matte painting or a texture. So if a bigger project reach the company, can only one shot involving all departments. Like Matte Department, Compositing department, 3D department and the fx department as well. It’s very interesting, because I really like it to work with other people and departments. It helps to see a shot with other eyes or from another point of view.

Do you use the same techniques from one project to another? What is your strongest point (concept, matte painting, modeling)?

No, not really. But this depends every time on the shot itself. I only use the same technique on similar shots or categories like a cityscape or landscape or fx concept art. But to combine techniques to create a new technique is still possible. It’s just a back and forth technique which you can use for a project and learn from.

I like to paint, it doesn’t matter if it’s a concept art or matte painting. I want to use every chance to paint elements or details in a painting a create. But from the other side 3D becomes more and more important. So I still integrate it into my workflow to get photo-realistic results or a good base to start painting on top of it.

Was there ever something you wanted to do in a project and couldn’t? (Technology wise) Which design do you believe was the most difficult to achieve?

Ouh yes, sure. As you know from my previous answers in this interview that I am interested in 3D integration into my concept art and matte painting workflow. I want to do that as Trixter for example, but we hadn’t so much time to do that for the concepts. I used every chance I had there to work with zBrush and Maya. I mostly spend my lunch break to work with these programs. For example my Cell Mutation and my Lost Turbine paintings are the results of this lunch journeys. :-)

Tell us a little bit about your part in Captain America. What were the challenges on this project?

Everything and nothing. I know it’s a meaningless answer, but it’s true. At Trixter I had the opportunity to do some concepts arts for Captain America. And at ScanlineVFX I did some matte paintings for this feature film. From my side it wasn’t easy to switch from the Trixter workflow to the Scanline workflow. It’s easy if you work on different shows but the same wasn’t quite easy for me. For concept art it’s okay if you don’t have a linear workflow, but with matte painting is essential. But after 1-2 days it works fine for me after all.

What is the typical starting point in a VFX commercial? How long does it usually take? How much of it is just trial and error?

It depends on the matte painting and its goal. Sometimes I start painting on top of a photo or a 3D model. Other times I start with a concept art and after that create the matte painting on top of it. To finish a matte painting it takes me 3 days to one week on average. But very special and massive matte paintings take me around 1 month to finish. Everything in the vfx depends on trials and errors I think. If you want to resolve a problem, you have to test and develop. Only a simple change of a camera angle or a camera move can make a matte painting very 3 dimensional and transform into a complex painting. But this problem solving makes me very happy and I enjoy doing it every day. Dylan Cole says in an interview: "Matte Painting combine different techniques and skills into one painting like photography, photo-manipulation, design, drawing, painting, 3D, graphics, anatomy, compositing..." and so on. I think this says all and this is the reason why I love doing matte paintings. It can combine every artistic field or category into one painting.
What other supporting departments do you typically involve on an average project? How large does this list grow when you’re working on a bigger project for Scanline VFX?
The list can grow very fast if a company has to do a big shot. Mostly I am working in partnership with the composition and 3D department. If I want for example 3D models for a concept art or matte painting which could be in a database, so I only have to ask the 3D department. Or if the compositing department needs some support with adding details into a part of a shot. So the department supervisor comes to the matte painting to get some support like doing a matte painting or a texture. So if a bigger project reach the company, can only one shot involving all departments. Like Matte Department, Compositing department, 3D department and the fx department as well. It’s very interesting, because I really like it to work with other people and departments. It helps to see a shot with other eyes or from another point of view.

Do you use the same techniques from one project to another? What is your strongest point (concept, matte painting, modeling)?
No, not really. But this depends every time on the shot itself. I only use the same technique on similar shots or categories like a cityscape or landscape or fx concept art. But to combine techniques to create a new technique is still possible. It’s just a back and forth technique which you can use for a project and learn from. I like it to paint, it doesn’t matter if it’s a concept art or matte painting. I want to use every chance to paint elements or details in a painting a create. But from the other side 3D becomes more and more important. So I still integrate it into my workflow to get photo-realistic results or a good base to start painting on top of it.
Was there ever something you wanted to do in a project and couldn’t? (Technology wise) Which design do you believe was the most difficult to achieve?
Ouh yes, sure. As you know from my previous answers in this interview that I am interested in 3D integration into my concept art and matte painting workflow. I want to do that as Trixter for example, but we hadn’t so much time to do that for the concepts. I used every chance I had there to work with zBrush and Maya. I mostly spend my lunch break to work with these programs. For example my Cell Mutation and my Lost Turbine paintings are the results of this lunch journeys. :-) Tell us a little bit about your part in Captain America. What were the challenges on this project? Everything and nothing. I know it’s a meaningless answer, but it’s true. At Trixter I had the opportunity to do some concepts arts for Captain America. And at ScanlineVFX I did some matte paintings for this feature film. From my side it wasn’t easy to switch from the Trixter workflow to the Scanline workflow. It’s easy if you work on different shows but the same wasn’t quite easy for me. For concept art it’s okay if you don’t have a linear workflow, but with matte painting is essential. But after 1-2 days it works fine for me after all.

What techniques do you use when matching virtual environment with real footage?

Analyzing the real footage is the first part you have to do. That means you have to look from which side the sun come from, which daytime is it or could be, the perspective, the colors and mood of the footage. Sometimes you have to spend some time on this, but other times you do it automatically in a couple of seconds. To see how the camera moves is important too, so don’t forget that.

After this it’s time to find some references that can match your footage. You can cheat a bit when you found an image, which could match with the lighting situation and the quality for example but not with the perspective. You have to import the image into Maya and start doing a projection on top of a rough geo, after that you can move the perspective a bit to follow the direction of your footage. This depends on the reference you found, but sometimes it’s very useful; for example with building references, street parts or modern ships.

After this I start editing the shape with a mask and matching the colors. For the colors I am mostly using a combination of the „Curves Tool“ and the „Hue & Saturation Tool“.
Today matte painting is a lot of working with photos, but painting and drawing skills help you to understand the shape of a element of an image. If you understand that, you’re able to change a shape to a direction you want. The main goal overall is that every new element you add looks natural.

How important is it to have a proper education in this field?

From my point of view, it's important for sure. But I am a self taught artist, all my painting and drawing skills come from my own experiences. I study as well but I only learned the basic technical skills like Nuke Composition and Maya modeling. But it helped me a lot to get the minimum skills a matte painter must have today.

To go to an university can be a good learning process. Spending time learning with other people, meeting other students working on their dream job like you. I think this can push you further and further. Otherwise you only learn the basics. Not really advanced skills which makes you an unique artist. It's really hard, I know that. I think that if I didn't spend my free time studying on personal projects, I wouldn't have had the chance to work for companies like ScanlineVFX and Framestore. If you have the passion, you really won’t have any problems spending your last free time on personal projects to get better and better.

Do you still find time for projects outside the movie industry? What do you have up your sleeve for future projects?

Sure I have, but not really much. I wish I had more. Currently I am working on a bigger personal city Matte Painting and a harbor matte painting which is inspired by the Hamburg container harbor in Germany. I really want to finish this two matte paintings, because I like the ideas and I am really fire and flame for this. These are research projects for me because I want to go more into 3D. For future projects I want to learn Vray or/and Arnold. I like the results I see on the web and from colleges. This 3D rendering software are for me a must have. And I can't wait to start working with it.

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

Haha, your last question is the hardest. Well I don't really know. If I had the opportunity, I would spend a day with Dylan Cole or Jaime Jasso. I would learn from this guys as much as possible. I know that Dylan Cole is a "mainstream" idol of matte painter around the world but from the stuff I see from him, it seems to me he is such a relaxed and nice guy... so if I would have the opportunity, I would spend the time with him. (or Jaime Jasso) ;-)