Hi Benoit. At what moment in your life did you start taking notice of 3D and realize that's what you wanted to do for a career?
I believe it was when Half-Life 1 was released. It was one of the first times I played an online game, but that wasn't what interested me. It was the possibility of creating characters, weapons and other 3D things, and then seeing them in action afterward. From that day on, that was it - I wanted to do that. Thanks Valve!
You've been working in the industry for a while now and you've worked on some really cool games. Out of them all, which one was the most enjoyable to work on and why?
Easily some of the projects I have been doing with Ngmoco; it's a great team and the art is always fun. As a freelancer they are a dime a dozen! Nowadays I always have the most fun on old school stuff. Good old low poly models with nicely painted textures. I have done tons of these projects over the years, and I still enjoy it.
Browsing your impressive portfolio, one can't help recognize some very familiar faces: Hellboy, Marty McFly and several characters from Lost. Out of all these, which was your favorite to work on and why?
Marty McFly easily! Come on, Back to the Future is such a classic!! I really enjoyed doing that one. I wanted something very painterly. I am a huge fan of
Drew Struzan and that's the kind of look I wanted to achieve; something painterly but still realistic. I always enjoy doing these kinds of projects, even if it's only a bust. It's like my tribute to this character, turning it into my own style. It's always a challenge to keep the essence of that comic book character or that person.
Yeah, I probably could have guessed, as it's one of my favorites too! Do you have any plans to add a Doc Brown to your portfolio?
Yes, I would love to; it's on top of my to-do list. Hopefully I can manage to do it soon!
So how do you go about either designing a new character or stylizing an existing one, for example your ninja turtle?
When it's my own design I spend a lot of time doing quick thumb sketches. I have tons of sketchpads lying around the house with ideas I should, or many I shouldn't, turn into 3D pieces.
When I have one that is ready to be done, I surround myself with tons of references that fit the subject I have in mind. Once I have a good base
idea sketch down, I start modeling. I always go back to the drawing board, to fine-tune something that just doesn't work once it's 3D, or just to think of more stuff to add. I think it's very important to find references that inspire you and to sketch what you have in mind.
For an existing design or concept, like the ninja turtle, well it's pretty similar. Good reference hunt, then back to the sketchpad. I find exaggerating a characteristic or items that really remind me of that character help make it unique or well, my own. I do love adding tons of gadgets and hidden Easter eggs on these characters and seeing if people can spot them. I'm still waiting for someone to find the Nintendo console I hide on one of my characters. Come on!
Sometimes when it's a cartoon character like a ninja turtle, it's all about making it a bit more human or a bit more realistic. I didn't like the idea of having the bandana with holes in it for the eyes, but it's a huge part of the character design, so I made pilot goggles instead. They're a similar shape but a bit more believable and I kept the flowing strap at the back. Small things, but it helps make it your own, while still being recognisable.