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Interview with Nicolas Ferrand


By Jo Hargreaves

Web: http://www.redwhirlpool.com (will open in new window)
Email: moc.nsm@gaiv

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Date Added: 22nd February 2012

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Do you prefer a vague brief or a detailed one? I'm curious because you'd assume a vague brief would allow you to have much more freedom and would therefore be better, but then I guess it might be easy to misinterpret what the client is looking for which would lead to lots of changes having to be made. So maybe detailed is better after all?

The worst client is the one who doesn't know what he really wants. A good brief can be either short or long, and can consist of a quick plot, information on the composition, colors palettes and sometimes references to the following locations/actions and so on... If the art director really trusts you, having complete freedom is always good too (Laughs)!

Now I'm going to pick out one of your images to talk about... and it's going to be the sunset beauty shot from your Farcry 2 work, because I've just set it as my desktop background! I just love the fiery colors. What was the piece created for? And turning the question around, if you had to choose a favorite piece from your collection, what would it be?

The marketing department requested this concept to guide the cinematic team working on the introduction of the game. I look at it as more of a beauty shot then a piece of concept art.

You want me to choose my favourite image? Agh! It's very difficult for me to do that. My favourite image always changes. If I had to choose now, depending on my mood, my favourite would have to be Blackrain. It was a speed painting I did with a random topic generator me and my friends created. I particularly love this piece because of its creepy mood and surreal setting, plus there was a Lovecraft touch and I love Lovecraft!

I've heard that you use a very interesting and unique technique when creating your concept art, where you kind of merge 2D and 3D together. Could you tell us a bit more about this?

I initially started as a 3D artist in the game industry and I merged some techniques from the movie pipelines and matte painting.

I like to sketch in 3ds Max. It's an unusual technique, but it's very good for industrial design. It's very useful when I am doing spaceships, weapons and environments. I like to compare 3ds Max to sculpting with clay.

The good thing with 3D is that I can show my composition, made out of sketchy shapes, to the artistic director and get quick approvals. With the camera systems you can use as many angles as you want to demonstrate various image compositions. Production-wise I feel this technique is very efficient.

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For concept art, I like to model directly in the cam view, so I don't have to do everything and can use cheats. Once I'm done with my 3D I usually do different rendering passes including Light, Speculars, Occlusion maps and so on... I then re-assemble and tweak every different render pass (like a matte painter).

It's very interesting because 3ds Max allows me to do crazy perspective views and it gives me the freedom to spend more time on design and to refine the realistic look of my images. Mixing different media is a good thing! Animation, sculptures, photos, puppets - there are no rules. Just try things and have fun!

Sketching in Max - definitely not something I've ever come across before. Sounds like you're basically a 3D concept artist! Do you do much work in the more conventional concept art programs like, say, Photoshop?

Yes, I guess I consider myself to be a hybrid of a concept artist and level artist, but there's no need for me to change my title. A concept artist is a concept artist whether you work with clay, 3D, paper or wood sticks. As long as you come up with fresh ideas, the medium doesn't matter.

As for the software, I started with Painter in my early years. It was particularly interesting for me because at the time I had just finished Fine Art school, which in some ways relates more to Painter. But now I am mainly working in Photoshop because the software is so complete and it's user-friendly.

I am always open-minded when it comes to learning new software. I am currently learning ZBrush to work on future designs.
On your website you mention being open to "challenging jobs" - that's quite a bold statement! I'm guessing you like to think outside the box, try new things and push yourself? What kind of challenging work have you been involved in? And do you think that by challenging yourself you're helping to improve your artistic skills?

Yes! Like I said in the previous question, try different things and have fun!

I am lucky to have such a strong passion for art. Whether it's professional or personal, a good or bad project, I am always learning. I really like to try to surprise by using different colors, unusual shapes or mixing universes.

Working with passion is not always easy. My motivation is not always there or it comes and goes by phases. After seeing a thousand pictures of spaceships or fifty different robots, I often need a break because sometimes it seems like everything has been done. But every once in a while something deep inside of me gives me a spark and gives me the "mojo" I need to start new sets of images.

As a concept artist, I constantly need to work with new ideas and I always challenge myself to surprise whoever looks at my images. It is not always a matter of being a God of rendering, but finding innovative ideas - that's what's important.

If you are taking a break from it all, thinking, meditating and researching can help. It may not seem like it, but you are drastically improving your skills, so it always pays off.

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
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(ID: 88497, pid: 0) Yohann on Thu, 23 February 2012 1:56pm
A great artist with an amazing job. The interview was conducted in a cool way, very interesting questions, hard too see on the web.
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