Zsolt Poczos is Senior Lead CGI Artist/Team Leader at Burrows CGI and is recognized as an leading name in the automotive CGI/design visualization industry in the UK.
My earliest artistic memory was being drawing the sign of a small simplified sailing boat in kindergarten about 35 years ago back in Hungary. I drew it on my little storage space, lunchbox and clothes. I drew so many versions of it, adding more and more detail and colours. It turns out I was a natural lefty!
I think the next step was drawing what I saw in cartoons. I remember a particular one about a little boy who had a magic pencil - I could do with that pencil!
I also tried my wings at watercolor painting as well, which turned out quite badly!
Of course I loved coloring books. When Coloring over the black line was a disaster to me, nothing could put the smile back on my face!
What training have you had (if any)?
I was trained in traditional drawing in primary and high school. But as far as CGI is concerned, I am a self-taught artist. Of course I have done a few courses but before that, the start was a very steep learning curve. Particularly with Max as the software was in English which I didn't really speak and the only learning material available was hitting the F1 key - no internet, no books etc. It was not easy to say the least. I think it is quite difficult to imagine what it was like, as nowadays everything is available through the internet and magazines. But back then trial and error is the only way. It took some time but it was worth it - you don't forget what you learn the hard way.
Are there any particular schools or courses that you'd recommend?
Not having the experience to make such recommendation, I would rather suggest looking for a certain way of teaching when you want to commit to a training school/course. Try to find trainers who don't spoon-feed you. It is dead easy to get to a basic level by being told what settings or values to use but it only gives a superficial knowledge. Sooner or later you will come across the need for problem solving and optimization. When I teach colleagues, instead of telling them 'type this here and click there' I always start with how things work, that way they will quickly understand what affects what and how, and what certain values mean for example. When a question arises, I don't just simply give them the answer but ask them what they would do and more importantly, why - leading my students to solutions.
Ask others about their experience and try to find the course that approaches teaching a similar way and gives a thorough understanding. You will greatly benefit from it, I can guarantee.
What was your first job in the industry and how did you get it?
About 15 years ago I heard about a CAD exhibition. I didn't even know what CAD meant but I saw a few intriguing computer generated visuals on their leaflet and it made me very interested. I went to the exhibition and it literally changed my life. I knew it then and there, this is what I wanted to do and it was clear that architectural studios were my best chance for it.
I learnt Graphisoft's ArchiCAD, which was, and if I'm correct still is, the number one competitor of Autodesk's AutoCAD. To see what it was about, I tried to build a bird feeder. Due to the limits of the software I had to write scripts for the custom components. I learned the rest through my very first project. It was a massive Victorian detached house. All I had was a perspective sketch and a floor plan from an American magazine. I worked out every detail on paper first, basing it on The Four Books of Architecture written by the late architect Andrea Palladio, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_quattro_libri_dell%27architettura
, and slowly picked up the techniques to recreate them in 3D. Everything that is not a simple wall, slab or roof is a parametric object I wrote the scripts for.
The real hard work to find a job just started when I finished the project after about three long months. I started knocking on the doors of dozens of architects I found in magazines. Most of them liked my work but when they asked me if I was an architect and I explained that no, I was a visualiser they looked at me like I came from Mars. Visualisation as such was just taking its baby steps. Eventually a gentlemen who I'd like to mention by name, Mr Gyula Szitas, who was the reseller of ArchiCAD introduced me to a studio and they hired me. Gyula was the biggest contributor to the start of my career. Funny enough, I didn't do 3D but CAD for a year before the real breakthrough, a proper visualiser opportunity in Toronto, Canada.