Interview - Tsahi Reznick

Tsahi Reznick
3D Character Animator and Partner at Argaman Creative

Contact: Ra'anana, Israel
Email: tsahi at argamancreative dot com


Tell us a bit about yourself…
Thank you for inviting me.
I’m 32 years old. I studied animation at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. It was a 4 year program and I majored in 3D character animation. My first animation jobs were as a character animator, the next phase involved some storyboarding, character design and cg character creation. I found myself very attracted to cinema and animation from a young age. For me personally it’s the need to imagine, tell a story and bring characters to life. These desires kept on nudging me to expand my creative skills and possibilities beyond the role of animator, until it led me to establish Argaman Creative together with my partners. Besides our business, I also teach 3D character animation to college students. 

How did you start your business?
After several full time jobs in several studios, I decided to go freelance, and did so for a while, working for some of the main animation studios and post-production companies in Israel and for some international clients as well. My partners Daniel Shneor (animator and 3D artist) and Sivan Koller (illustrator and designer) went through similar roads, and eventually we decided to establish Argaman Creative, so we could implement our creative vision and abilities to their maximum.
What was the biggest challenge you faced since you started the company?
That’s a good question; it’s hard to pin-point the greatest challenge in a sea of challenges. I think that developing the wider view of “not just an artist”, but learning to deal with the business, production, administration and all other aspects that come with establishing a business, these are the greatest challenges. All of a sudden, you need to take so many things into consideration constantly, things which you were never aware of, as an animator. Another huge challenge is keeping the creative flow running and refreshing it with every project, and learning new skills all the time. Although I’m counting these things as the greatest challenges, I have to say, that these challenges are among the things I personally enjoy most in what we do. 

When did you discover 3D? What programs/plugins/scripts do you use?
During high school, a friend introduced me to 3D Studio (it wasn’t called max yet), but it was a very short encounter. At my early 20’s I played with it a little bit more, but didn’t progress much. But by the time I started studying animation, I already knew that 3D is my direction and at the academy, that’s when I started studying Maya seriously.
As a kid I was very captivated with animatronics and I think that 3D attracted me because it eventually became an alternative to animatronics as a medium that allows artists to achieve endless possibilities in all genres of animation and cinema. I use Maya, for 3D production and animation, and Photoshop, After Effects and Premiere for all the pre and post. 

With the market becoming more and more competitive, what do you believe is a must that an artist has in his portfolio or skills?
I think that the “must” thing to have is the creative expression, the one that comes from the mind and not from a specific software or technique. The technical tools today are amazing, many people learn to use them to extremely high levels of proficiency and that’s totally necessary for any kind of artist, be it an animator, modeler, illustrator, etc. But… as the world is flooded with huge amounts of visual and CG art, it’s becoming harder to innovate and be original, and I think that’s something an artist, any artist, shouldn’t neglect. We try to put a strong emphasis on that at Argaman Creative, in any project we approach. 
How do you start on an image/environment? Do you use references or just imagination?
It always starts with imagination, but it never ends there. I start with imagination and brainstorming with my partners until there’s “white smoke”; tossing ideas in and out, getting feedback, testing what feels good or bad about it. Once a certain idea sticks, it’s time to develop it, by collecting references of any kind relevant; visual, cultural, context references, etc. After that, come the phases of considering technical issues, budget and schedule, and the actual detailed planning of how to do it. 

Do you use the same techniques from one project to another?
As far as creative techniques go, I like trying new things, as well as returning to create things that worked before, pretty flexible about that.
As for technical methods, we try to be systematic in order to be efficient from one project to the next. So if something works, I’ll definitely try it again, but if a technique fails and we can’t improve it until next time, I’ll probably ditch it and look for an alternative way. 

What is the typical starting point in a 3D project? How long does it usually take?
The starting point would be refining the idea and planning how to achieve it. Once the production is planned it’s easier to know where to start and what to prioritize. Some projects can be very short, like a few days, and others can be a few months. On some projects we work alone, and on others we might recruit freelancers. It all depends on the type of project, and the production times vary accordingly. 
We know the “ups”, but tell us about the “downs” in your career.  Was it an easy ride?
It’s never an easy ride. It can be fun and rewarding, but as long as you aspire to evolve and push forward, you can’t expect an easy ride even during the “ups”. As for the “downs”, in 2004 I was sacked along with all the other employees of a feature film studio that got shut down here. I think most of us took it hard at first, but learned and grew stronger from it, eventually.
Establishing a business, during times of a global economic crisis, there are some tough times or dry spells, when projects get canceled and nailing down new ones is harder. It’s a matter of patience and endurance, to pass the “downs” and carry on, looking forward and planning ahead. 

How difficult it is to find a new client?
Naturally, new clients are a challenge to reach, especially international clients. The geographical distance seems like a barrier at first, but there are bigger advantages; service quality, budgets, the amazing local talent pool and industrious attitude in Israel. Many technological industries and companies realized long ago, that there is a unique and innovative work mentality here, and I hope that animation and creative industries will realize it as well. 
Where do you see your company in 5 years?
Well established, financially and creatively, bigger but not huge, creating a lot of animation content, and developing a lot of our own intellectual property ideas and content. 

If you had the opportunity to spend a day with anyone from this industry, who would it be?
I would choose either Tim Miller from Blur, or Brad Bird. I think there’s so much I could learn from either one of them, about building a successful studio, producing and directing animation. 
What would you like to add to your portfolio?
Quite a lot of things… more VFX work, animation with live action, more fantasty/sci-fi characters and animations, and high quality projects in general. 
What’s your favorite movie?  
Choosing one would be too hard. To name a few: Dr. Strangelove, The Labyrinth, Fight Club, and to add up a few animated movies: The Incredibles, The Emperor’s New Groove, Surf’s Up, Jungle Book. 
If you had unlimited resources (from artists to money) what path would you take?
Wishful thinking… If I had unlimited resources, I’d concentrate on developing and producing our own creative ideas and projects, and then distribute them to the world. We have some wonderful ideas that we’re very passionate about, but in real life executing them would require extensive time and budget. 
If your child wants to be a 3D artist what would you tell him?
I’ll tell him to do whatever his heart desires and makes him happy, but not to expect an easy ride, to learn to combine his natural talent with learning skills as much as he can, and to have faith in his path and patience, lots of patience.