3DTotal: You are currently working at Blur Studio, which has a prestigious history and is known for its high standards. How did you reach the level that enabled you to get the job and what do you feel were the defining moments for you leading up to the position? Alessandro: I was working for a video game developer in Milan, but at the same time I was developing my own personal portfolio which basically had nothing to do with my work as a game artist.
This gave me the chance to get noticed online so I made a few contacts, got some freelance work creating some high poly assets and gained some popularity because of them. One day I just asked Blur via email if there was any chance to work with them and they told me that there were no open positions for a character modeler at that time, but if I wanted there might be the chance to do some freelancing and so I did. I freelanced for Blur for some months, and during this time we both realized that we were kind of comfortable working together. So after something like one and a half years Blur asked me if I was interested in moving to Venice and working full-time for them. I accepted and after some technical time to prepare the papers I moved to Los Angeles and here I am.
3DTotal: How easy was it to fit in freelance work for Blur during that period whilst working and how many hours a week did this entail when you had projects? Alessandro: It was not easy at all, but I was very committed and passionate. The remote freelance work for Blur had the same kind of schedule as working in the studio, so I basically had to work no less than 18 hours a day (considering I already had a regular eight hour a day job in a games company) for something like 16 days straight at times. It was pretty crazy, but Blur’s commission came usually at a rate of one every couple of months so it was feasible... somehow.
3DTotal: As lead character modeler you obviously have a high number of characters in your portfolio. What modeling technique do you favor and what is your typical approach to creating a detailed model? Alessandro: Actually a solid base of poly modeling is still at the core of every Blur character modeler, even if the approach may differ. Some people prefer to use ZBrush even at early stages for roughing up proportions and later for detailing, whilst other people prefer to rely on a brush only for the details. As far as I am concerned I couldn’t imagine not including ZBrush in every step of my modeling pipeline, even during the early stages whilst blocking in the proportions. Usually we have a given concept and sometimes we just have to stay close to a given game asset, but in both cases we just want to be sure at the beginning that the proportions are correct and locked in a very few days to allow the riggers time to do their segmented rig.
Then it’s just a matter of following the concept and adding detail after detail, often with a bit of necessary retopology to some meshes. What we usually have in the end is a situation in which we are able to extract all sorts of Normal, Cavity, Ambient Occlusion or Displacement maps from a high res Ztool organized on many subtools. Each subtool is UV edited accordingly and some people do it in Max whilst others use external applications like UV Layout and some even use XSI. Then comes texturing and shading, based on a light rig given by the project supervisor. This process can take several days.
3DTotal: Is the texturing and shading intrinsically related to the provided light rigs or can you ever use a general approach which will work under various lighting conditions? Alessandro: Well, let`s say that it’s very dependent on the lighting rig for fine-tuning. Since we use the mental ray architectural materials, which are supposed to be physically accurate and the lighting rigs are as physically accurate as possible, the shaders we use should work on their basic properties under a wide range of lighting conditions, so they are quite reliable.