You have been working in the CG industry for over ten years now, but how did you get involved in this sector?
The story began a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, back in my childhood years. Drawing has been my greatest hobby since I was a kid; I had a true passion for it. Later on, a friend of mine introduced me to 3D Studio Max and I was literally blown away. I bought every book that I could get my hands on, and started learning. When I turned 18 I was hired by Antena1, one of the main TV stations in Romania. I was very fortunate to meet some really great people there, notably Mihai Anghelescu (http://www.anghelescu.net)
who was my first "teacher”. He was patient enough to teach me everything he knew about TV broadcasting, graphics, and what real production meant.
Is there a big CG industry in Romania and how easy is it to get experience there if you are keen on getting into films or video games?
In recent years, the CG industry has expanded a lot. Many game developers have opened up studios in Romania, such as Ubisoft, EA games, Gameloft etc. So if you're into gaming there are lots of career opportunities. In television it's a bit harder. It's harder to learn broadcast graphics from home since hardware requirements are higher and you also need footage to experiment on. I guess learning motion graphics is more a matter of opportunity. I, for one, got hired on an internship for almost a year before getting paid. As for the film industry, it's slowly growing but there are only a few studios doing it and the biggest one has only a small percent of people compared to big post-production studios in the US or Europe.
It seems from your resume that you have been a 3D generalist and matte painter for some time now, but which areas do you tend to spend most time working in and what are your favorite disciplines?
I think expressing myself through concept art and illustrations gives me the most satisfaction. 3D takes a lot of time, especially production-ready 3D. I always try to avoid it and use as much Photoshop as possible, since 2D is getting a lot closer to the "what you see is what you get” feeling.
When working on illustrations, I never pay attention to clean meshes or production workflow given it's a static frame and the fact that I can always correct it in Photoshop. My favorite part is, of course, putting it all together and seeing my final work come to life.
I used to be one of those guys who thought: "If it's not completely 3D, it's fake”. You do realize after a while that the only thing that truly matters is the final output. I remember seeing this great Making Of by Framestore, of a Guinness commercial. They had to create a terraforming effect and tried everything possible, from procedural terrains to animated displacement maps and so on, but with no satisfying results. One day someone had the brilliant idea to film a pudding at high speed. The way the dough grew looked exactly like some terraforming hills and valleys. That was a big wake-up call for me. I started experimenting with all the media tools available, from oil painting to pencil or marker drawing, photography, animation, compositing, filming and so on, and I was very enthusiastic about it. I learned a lot from it and each media taught me something about lights, cameras, composition, color, timing, rhythm etc. I've always loved the diversity and the possibility of learning something new every day.
What types of projects interest you the most and why?
I love the sci-fi and fantasy genres since there's more creativity involved, endless possibilities and the imagination can run as wild as it wants. I don't try to recreate reality anymore as I see it every day. I can spend two weeks working on a photorealistic interior design, or I can use my camera for two minutes and I'm done. Not so mind-expansive, is it?