Interview- Onno van Braam


Onno van Braam
3D Artist
Contact: Amsterdam, Netherlands


Tell us a bit about yourself...When did you discover 3D? What programs do you use? 
I discovered 3D roughly 10 years ago, when a friend of mine whom I went to school with, used 3Ds Max 2, which he got from one of the infamous Twilight CD's, back in the day. It was around the same time that the internet was coming up, so finding tutorials and how-to's became easier and easier to find. Along with the manual and those tutorials, I taught myself the basics and went on from there.
Apart from 3Ds Max, I use Adobe AfterEffects for compositing things together, and Adobe PhotoShop for all my 2D work and creating maps. 
As a freelancer I tend to work for production agencies the most, such as PostPanic and Koeweiden-Postma in Amsterdam; always on a projects basis. Sometimes I can do the work from home, and other times I work on location, where a computer is usually .

PostPanic Rebranding campaign for MTV in Europe

You have a Bachelor in Physics? How does that relate to 3D? 
It doesn't relate to 3D at all actually. I studied physics and astronomy for seven years at the University of Amsterdam, and it was very interesting to do so, however it was also quite difficult at times. Especially the last years, I worked more as a 3D freelancer, than actually attending classes. Both, physics as well as astronomy, I still have affection for, but after a number of years it lost its magic for me, and was too clinical and mathematical. 
What makes you distinct from the crowd? 
It's difficult to say, since I haven't met all the 3D professionals out there, but I think it would be speed: I can do a lot of work in a very short amount of time, even more so when the pressure on and a tight deadline approaching. At times like those, I think, I am able to concentrate well and make very few mistakes. 

Can you tell us a little about your experience in 3D for advertising? Who are your major clients?
Most of the work is done as a freelancer for other agencies, and not directly with clients, but because those agencies are relatively large, I have been able to work on projects for global coorporations such as Nike, Coca Cola, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Getronics

How’s Amsterdam?  

I'd say it's certainly the place to be in The Netherlands: I think most of the large creative agencies are based here, or at least have an office here, so there's certainly no shortage of work. And because of that, more and more people move here, since they want to be close to their work and the other agencies.

Apart from that, it certainly is a creative town altogether, with a lot of artists in all fields.
Tell us a little about how you engage your work. How does a 3D project start? How long does it usually take? 
Personal projects usually start with a lot of research on the subject, and trying to find as many reference images as I can find. Then all the modeling starts, and when all the modeling is done, only then do I start with mapping, texturing and lighting.

Most professional projects I work on start with a story board, or sketch in case of a still. Then an animatic, a rough draft of the shots, animation and 3D objects, is created. When that animatic is approved, the fun starts and the creation of all the resources and thus real high detail models starts, which is usually 30 to 40% of the total work. The general procedure is to do one entire shot completely, with all the animation, models, texturing, lighting, rendering and compositing, so that the compositors can work on the look and feel of the animation, while we go on to the other shots. Usually the discussion with a client of agency starts, and lots of things have to be re-done (new camera motion, different animation of hero objects etc.), which means a lot of rendering and fixes.
Some projects take less than an hour, quite literally; others I have worked on have taken 3 months, but they are the two extremes. Most stills I create take a couple of days, and the TV-commercials I have worked on range from 3 to 6 weeks, usually. 
More than half of your portfolio focuses on car design. What's the best way to model a car? Or to render it? 
Pretty much all the cars in my portfolio were personal projects, and back when I still made them (I haven't made a car for 5 years now, I think), creating cars was the one thing I wanted to be able to do and be proficient in. Right now, with all the 3D work I get, I don't have as much creativity or time left anymore, to create a realistic car. With my other side project, the blueprints website, I tend to spend a lot of time on that, in stead of doing more 3D when I time in between projects.
I wouldn't say there is a 'best' way to model a car, but with 3Ds Max I wouldn't advise anyone to use anything but poly-modeling. The tools available to you doing it that way, are very powerful and in my opinion should be sufficient to create anything technical. 
All my personal car renders are flat, all-in-one renders: so no layers, no compositing, no nothing, just straight out of 3Ds Max images. The last few years all the commercial projects I have worked on, were done with layers though, sometimes only a few, and sometimes literally more than one hundred for a shot. So if I'd do a personal project right now, I'd certainly render everything out in layers, and composite it back together in After Effects, since I can see the advantage of it, especially considering the render times I use to have when rendering everything together.

What’s the one project that you are proud of? 
That would definitely be my Porsche 911 GT2 project: I had only been doing 3D for a couple of years, but still got selected to be published in EXPOSE 2 from Ballistic Publishing. For me that was the recognition that made me feel I could produce images that were on a global level. Considering I didn't have any training whatsoever related to art, computers, or 3D Max in general, I consider it one of the highlights of my 3D carreer. Any time I look back at those renders, I can still appreciate them, and remember how much time and effort went in to get to the point where I felt I really couldn't make it any better.

You give a lot back to the 3D community. - tell us a bit about this project. Should the artist give back to the community? 
When I started 3D'ing, I of course started to look around and see what other people had made with 3Ds Max. Among the artists I found, was Thomas Suurland, whose work inspired me to become a better artist and be able to create renders of cars that were as realistic as his were. On his website he had a collection of 3-view/4-view drawings, or blueprints as most 3D people call them, and after some research I realized that his collection was nice, but could be bettered. And so I devoted a part of my personal website to collecting the blueprints; first as part of my own personal portfolio website, when I was still hosted as free hosting such as, then under a sub-domain of my website for a while (, and in 2006 I made the split between my own portfolio website ( and the blueprints collection website (, because I wanted to get more serious about the blueprints.
Back then I had gathered around 5000 images, and a couple thousand registered members, while now there are almost 37000 thousand reference images online and more than 135.000 registered members, and the website is still updated every day of the year. It takes a lot of time, but I am proud of what I have built up over the years: I have already made the goals I set for this year, and will have new, even higher goals for the next year. 
I am not the person to say what anybody else should do, but I do know that I appreciate anyone who has written a tutorial for any 3D or 2D program and published it publicly, for free. For me creating tutorials has always been natural, and I love doing it; in fact I want to start doing it more again, and focus on creating a series of short video tutorials for 3D Max, for anyone who wants to learn modeling and certain specific aspects of the program.
All of the tutorials I create, are made so that other people can experience the joy and pleasure I had when working on all those personal projects when I was starting to get more and more serious about 3D'ing. It was all still a hobby, but still the images I created were of a level high enough to have gotten me my first serious freelance job in 2004: a full CG 30-second television commercial for a large home appliance company: Miele. So in the end the transition from doing it as a hobby to becoming a professional was very smooth.

Onno's Tutorials
What are you working on right now?
Currently I am part of the 3D team at PostPanic, as a freelancer, working on a 35-second television commercial for Holland Casino, which is the only allowed casino in The Netherlands, and is actually owned by the state. It's a mix of live action and CGI, so we have to make sure everything blends together well.
This project only started a couple days ago, and we were working on a different 30-second, full CG commercial for a Czech bank before that.
Next to that, I am also working for a different Amsterdam based agency: Koeweiden Postma. I have done a lot of illustrations for one of their clients, Getronics, a very large IT company with roughly 23000 employees all over the world. The current project is about creating this year's Christmas card for Getronics, in the style of the logo that Koeweiden Postma created last year.

I don't have much in the planning, when those two projects are over. We'll see, if nothing comes up, I'll start working on those tutorials and websites. 
Who would you pick to spend a day with (from the 3D industry)?
I think I'd pick a person who has inspired me to become a better 3D'er, so probably Neil Blevins, who used to work at Blur and is now working for Pixar.
What’s your favorite movie?
Only one? I wouldn't name one, because there's no specific movie that sticks out for me, so I'll name a few that would be in my top 10: 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly', 'Gladiator', 'The Royal Tenenbaums', 'Sin City' and 'The Big Lebowski'. Those are movies that I can watch over and over again, and each time I see them they are better than the time before. For anyone who hasn't seen Sergio Leone's classic (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly): watch this movie on the biggest screen available to you, with the biggest audio set you can find, and set it as loud as your neighbours let you: it's an audiovisual spectacle the way they don't make movies anymore.
What do you think is lacking in your portfolio?
Anything related to character modeling and animation, even though I am doing more and more animating lately, yet not much has ended up in my portfolio yet.
What would you do if you had unlimited resources (from artists to money)?
Create world peace? Or isn't this a beauty pageant? 
If I had unlimited resources I'd try and solve the frustration of render times, by having someone build the fastest super computer in the world and have it open to anyone doing to 3D and let them render on it. I really get tired of waiting for my renders: ever since day one, it already took too long, and now 10 years later when the computers are much, much faster, it still feels like it takes forever. Of course, the power of the super-computer would scale with the number of users rendering on it, so that any render would still be finished the moment you'd submit it. 
Or if it wouldn't be related to 3D: I'd start my own custom bicycle shop, here in the center of Amsterdam. That actually is on my to-do list, if I wouldn't have to live of of it. Cycling and bicycles are one of my great passions. 
If your child wants to be a 3D artist what would you tell him/her? 
I'd advise him/her to not want to be a professional too soon, but play around with it as a hobby for a couple of years. 3D'ing is very different when you work on a personal project, or on something that is commissioned. I wouldn't particularly say one is better than the other, but if you go from going to school learning it (or teaching yourself for a few years), straight to doing it as a full-time job, that you missed out on the years of complete freedom when doing those personal projects, for which you have all the time in the world and can make it look like whatever you want.