Firstly it is a pleasure to speak to you, Olivier – we've enjoyed seeing your work in our site gallery for a while now. I'm going to start with an easy one: can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got to where you are today?
I'm a French 3D environment modeler and scene assembler currently working at Blur Studio in Los Angeles. After four years at Supinfocom (a 3D school) I started to work at Cryo Interactive in Paris (a games company). I spent three years there. After some relatively good experiences in smaller companies, I was hired at MagicLab as an environment modeler to work on a Ghost Recon-Advanced Warfighter trailer, which I believe had quite a lot of success. Then I was contacted by a previous co-worker (Jérôme Denjean) who had been already working at Blur Studio for four years. He offered me a job at Blur, which is based next to the beach. It was hard to say no!
What has really impressed us in the office is your ability to create huge scenes with flawless texturing and lighting. Can you tell us a little about your processes?
Wow, thanks! Well, most of the time for my personal projects I define a framing and never change it until the end, so I can do as many tricks as I want since there's only one camera and it's not moving. Whereas with professional projects I use lots of cameras and view angles; it's a different way of working.
When modeling and texturing large exterior scenes I try to adapt the level of detail according to the distance from the camera (except maybe for instanced objects or proxies). In the real world, as the distance is increasing shapes tend to be more abstract and complex, which can be a real challenge to do in 3D, not to mention that the area covered becomes enormous too. But I like to do most of my work in 3D, with some minor changes in 2D. I find it more interesting that way.
As for lighting, for exterior scenes it's usually very simple: sun and a skylight. I use a more complex light setup for night scenes, but so far it has always been easier for me to light exteriors than interiors. Moreover doing everything in 3D makes things a lot easier lighting-wise.
It often seems like your scenes are very well planned and the composition and camera placement work very well. Do you ever sketch or create concept work, or do you use references?
Over the last few years most of my personal projects have started with some assets I created for my professional work. I find it's a good way to do things that I never thought I would do, like a nuclear plant or a prison cell! Otherwise I would only make natural landscapes. So I don't really need the preliminary step, I go directly into Max. I like to play with some primitives in 3D to get a quick view of what I have in mind. On the other hand, when I get an idea I spend a lot of time searching for references. And I did do a
quick sketch for the personal project I've been working on since last year, because this time I started from scratch.
It appears that you have worked on a lot of really big projects, particularly in the gaming industry. Are there any projects that stand out as being a lot of fun, or anything that you would change if you did it again?
I'd say the Ghost Recon game trailer was the most interesting project for me. Not that I like the subject of US soldiers killing dozens of Mexican soldiers. It was interesting from the beginning because of the freedom I had. I was just asked to make a street in a relatively poor neighborhood in Mexico City, so no concept design, only some reference movies given by Ubisoft. As I started to gather photo reference it became more and more interesting and it eventually ended up being a personal project after the trailer was done.
Sometimes we find that sitting in front of a computer all day can be a little draining. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time to get away from the screen?
Now that I have a little boy I like to spend some time with him and my wife, going out for a walk, playing together, simple things like that! Otherwise I like nature, in general, and biking.