In this interview we talk with Lukas Kutschera, the 1st place winner of the CG Boost Samurai Challenge from Germany. He will give us some insights of his journey as CG Artist and a look behind the scenes of one of his winning artwork.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
I’m currently working in a small VFX studio in Darmstadt, Germany as a 3d artist Intern.
2. Tell us more about your creative path: How did you get to the point you are now?
Basically I started studying a course called ‘Animation and Game’, because it was the closest to 3d art I could find, but I realized programming and 2d animation were very intensive so it didn’t leave much time to develop 3d skills, which was depressing, so I dropped out after the first semester, so it wasn’t that much time lost.
After that I spent some time working on my portfolio and got an internship position at a small VFX studio called Faber Courtial.
3. What was your main motivation for participating in the challenge?
I had a friend telling me about it and because I like 3d contests and Samurai is a cool topic I didn’t hesitate.
I think challenges are great for multiple reasons, but the biggest one is having a deadline which helps you to get the things done.
4. Where did you find the inspiration for your latest entry, and what inspires your work everyday?
Pinterest was a great resource for inspiration. What inspires me every day is trying to get a job as a character artist for VFX or Games.
5. What software (and plug-ins) did you use to create this image? Are there some other tools that make your life as artist easier (maybe not only CG tools but also something you used to organize your work etc.)?
I used Zbrush for sculpting and modeling, Substance Painter for texturing and I like to assemble my scenes in Maya and render with Arnold. I used Krita for post-processing. It’s a free software and for the basic things, it’s working just as well as Photoshop.
6. Are there any particular techniques that you use often?
It’s all very basic. I guess one technique that is not that popular that I used on this particular piece is Nanomesh in Zbrush. It’s basically adding instances of a mesh to polygon faces you select. That was handy for adding some repetitive armor details.
7. Can you give us a short breakdown of your entry?
I started in Zbrush with the head.
Since the head is usually the focus of a character I always make sure that’s going in a good direction, else the rest is useless. I usually do as much as possible in Zbrush, because it is so flexible. I think Zbrush hard surface modeling works pretty well too for a lot of objects.
Nanomesh is always useful for placing patterns or repetitive objects, so that was handy for the samurai armor. I also used a rope brush a lot. Combined with the ‘Frame mesh’ function you can also get certain shapes with it, that you determine with polygroups or by adding ‘crease’ to edges.
In Substance Painter I like to use Procedural Maps a lot for masking or color passes. There is rather few hand-painted stuff.
In Maya my light setup ended up having one key light, two fill lights, because there were some dark areas that were hard to illuminate because the key light is so high here. I used the HDRI on very low intensity because I like to have as much contrast as possible, so I avoid strong global illumination.
Finally, I added a Rim light to separate the character from the background.
For the final composition I added Key, Rim and Fill light and added some smoke and dust particles, and I also adjusted the color/contrast a bit.
8. What was the hardest part on creating your entry?
So I actually started doing a Mecha-Samurai, and I already put a considerable amount of effort into that, but It was becoming clear that it’s looking horrible, so I decided to start over.
For me personally and I think for most people there is this tendency to stick with something because we already invested time in it, even if it’s going nowhere. So I guess that was the hard part.
9. Have you learned something new from participating in this challenge and if yes, what?
There was no new software or workflow for this project.
I wanted to spend more time on working on the composition, trying out different color schemes and lighting set-ups.
This stage feels so fun to me because after more tedious work especially with UV’s and baking it allows for drastic changes in a matter of seconds.
10. Any advice for people who want to learn 3D art or join challenges like this?
Try incorporating new thing you want to learn or something you want to practice/improve, so even if you lose the challenge you gain something.
Also try to get as much feedback as you can. If you’re like me a while ago, you don’t like hearing you’re not as cool as you think you are, but it’s essential and after a while you stop caring because you know it’s helping you move forward faster.