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The masters behind the effects


By Melissa Massey


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Date Added: 4th December 2013

Surrounded by Myst

Playing Call of Duty: Ghosts or Diablo III, you will become immersed in gameplay running through areas painted and created by Devon Fay.

Inspired by Myst, Devon entered the world of digital art via an early 3D program package. Thereafter, he put a lot of effort into learning as much as he could about the technology.

Talking about his influence, Devon referenced a range of sources: "Fantasy, science-fiction and surrealism movies, books and comic books were pretty commonplace at home. Star Wars, Alien, Starship Troopers, Brazil and Willow are a few movies that stand out early on. Myst, Riven, Metroid, Mega Man and even the Mario franchise have also made lasting impressions on me.”

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Devon Fay

Years on and well into his professional career, Devon reveals the staggering range of aspects he worked on for matte painting in Diablo III: "We worked on animated clouds, fire, foreground environments, epic vista shots, morphs, wipes, animations, compositing, particle effects and full 3D renders. You name it we did it!”

Believing the Unbelievable

An FX expert, Alessandro Pepe has worked on Happy Feet, Shrek Forever After, Kung Fu Panda 2 and the TV Show Blacklist to name but a few.

"Even if the effect is completely unrelated from reality – like a fire that turns into ice or a character that becomes a swarm of bees – there are still references based in reality that give the guidelines to make the effect believable"


He says: "When I started playing with 3D computer graphics, I had no idea this whole game would one day become a job.”

He marks Tron, Blade Runner and Star Wars as strongly impacting his imagination and lauds YouTube
as the go-to medium for researching all-important references: "Even if the effect is completely unrelated from reality – like a fire that turns into ice or a character that becomes a swarm of bees – there are still references based in reality that give the guidelines to make the effect believable.”

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Alessandro Pepe

Dinosaurs and Dragons

Before working on major titles including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and BioShock 2, Brandon Young says: "I was inspired a lot by Jurassic Park and video games. I started doing mods to Quake 2 and Battlefield 1942. This is initially how I learned 3D/digital art.”

Now working for Blur as a lead FX artist, Brandon names Justin Sweet, Neville Page, Albert Whitlock, and Nathan Fowkes – alongside supportive friends and colleagues – as the biggest influencers on his life to date.

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Brandon Young

Playing with the Planet

An art director, who has worked on big titles in both film (Alice in Wonderland, Star Wars: The Old Republic) and gaming (Halo 4, Elder Scrolls), Nick Hiatt explains that his artistic influence comes from 'planet earth and the internet.'

Responding to his jump from drawing to digital, he simply says: "I ran out of paper to draw on.”

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Nick Hiatt

Atari to Avatar

Progressing from creating ASCII graphics for his BBS (a pre-internet dialup bulletin board) to full-time art work on blockbuster movie Avatar, the founder and director of Gnomon has journeyed quite a distance.

Professionally speaking, Alex Alvarez says: "In 1993 I got a job as a Photoshop colorist for Malibu Comics. They had a game division making PS1 games using Silicon Graphics workstations. That was my first exposure to 3D software. Then the game Myst came out and I was set on becoming a 3D artist.”

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Alex Alvarez

Location? Everywhere

The school started life in 1997 as the brainchild of the then 24-year-old, Alex Alvarez. Sixteen years on, Gnomon School of Visual Effects has expanded well beyond its base in Hollywood, California – both physically and digitally.

Alex discusses the opening of a second school in Sao Paulo, Brazil last year: "It's impossible to say if this will happen again, but we're proud of what we have accomplished thus far with Axis, in partnership with a Brazilian school called Saga.”

Looking back, he adds: "Gnomon started as a training centre for studio artists to share their knowledge with each other, which was a very special thing at the time. There was then, and still is, so much to learn... and the hope was that Gnomon could help empower artists.”

Well, it certainly looks like it has and will continue to.

"The increased availability of broadband access has created many more opportunities for artists around the world to interact with each other, and we are proud to be a part of that experience"


The offshoots of Gnomon – The Gnomon Workshop, Gnomon Gallery, Gnomon Studios, Sketch Theatre and CGchannel – have brought the school to a global market and have helped to develop community interaction through video, online classes, gallery shows, events and private forums.

Over the past year, Gnomon has dramatically increased its online course offerings to over 50.

Considering the current and future potential of Gnomon, Alex Alvarez says: "I do believe that the increased availability of broadband access has created many more opportunities for artists around the world to interact with each other, and we are proud to be a part of that experience.”

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Nick Hiatt

To Infinity and Beyond


Considering the future, Alex believes creating imagination will happen faster. Already improving over recent years, the tools of the future will allow increasing accessibility to artists of all levels.

On the importance of the artist, Devon Fay adds: "Even if the tools become perfect, there will NEVER be replacements for the talented artists that work so hard on the projects.”

The 2013 master classes will run from December 16th – 31st costing a total of $295. One ticket grants access to all 14 classes and each 2-hour HD video lecture will be available 24 hours a day. Students save $20.

Related links


Gnomon school of visual effects master classes 2013
Gnomon school of visual effects website
The courses offered by Gnomon
Gnomon founder, Alex Alvarez's official site



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