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Andrew Baker's top tips

By Henry Winchester

Web: http://andbakerdesigns.blogspot.co.nz (will open in new window)

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Date Added: 29th July 2014

Andrew Baker, a Creature and Character Designer at Weta Workshop, shares a fascinating insight into his life and work, while sharing some of his ultimate tips for
best practice...



We're pretty envious of Andrew Baker. The Creature and Character Designer studied at New Zealand's Wanganui School of Design before migrating to LA to work on Sega's game Golden Axe: Beast Rider and facial modeling for Image Metrics.

He then returned to the land under the land down under (New Zealand, in case that doesn't make sense) to work alongside Weta's legendary co-founder and co-director Richard Taylor.

We had a chat with Andrew about how he gets things done, what it's like to work at Weta Workshop, as well as his guitar and skateboarding skills!

Aliens are one of Andrew's favorite subjects
© Andrew Baker

"Starting off a project with some mood boards and inspiration helps keep one on target”

3dtotal: Deadlines are looming and time is of the essence. How do you typically start your day to ensure maximum productivity?
Andrew Baker: I tend to find that when deadlines loom, all sorts of distractions present themselves – like cleaning the house! It varies depending on the project but I find having a good playlist of music, or a soundtrack to get you into the right head-space really helps!

Starting off a project with some mood boards and inspiration also helps keep one on target. I find when I have a blank canvas and time is ticking I feel the most intimidated, but having some inspirational images to set you back on track really helps.

3dt: How do you improve your system performance to stay at the top of your game?
AB: I like to make sure my machine won't hinder my creative process, so keeping enough memory there to run the programs you need is essential! Luckily at work we're blessed with an IT department which keeps us afloat.

Weta's Sir Richard Taylor was so impressed with Andrew's DemonGirl ZBrush sculpt that he had it turned into a life-sized statue
© Andrew Baker

3dt: Which programs are the ones that you turn to for solid results?
AB: ZBrush and Photoshop, mainly. I've started using KeyShot as well now for rendering sculpts and maquettes. ZBrush is the best digital-sculpting software out there, especially from a conceptual point of view. It's easy to use and quick to get results and you're left with the design in 3D which can be printed or worked on further for the production model.

Photoshop is always fun to take the sculpt into and paint up into a scene or environment, and it's great for sketching and quick photo-manipulation to get you started – or finished for that matter!

Being able to create awesome dragons is obviously a pre-requisite for working on The Hobbit
© Andrew Baker

3dt: Which program shortcuts have you adopted into your workflow to speed things up?
AB: Rendering out various layers from ZBrush and compositing and painting them up in Photoshop. I have found with this workflow that there's not much in the nature of materials, form and lighting that I can't achieve for a concept. It's incredibly fast to sculpt in ZBrush and effective to finish the image off in Photoshop.

"A good diet and exercise over anything else keeps me focused on the job at hand”

3dt: How and where do you learn new skills?
AB: Looking online constantly at other artists' workflows and always trying to improve my own. The communities online are so helpful! It's rare that I have a problem and go on the forums and can't find someone with the same problem.

This chap was created for a book titled Essence: Creatures
© Andrew Baker

3dt: What tricks do you use to keep up the pace on a busy day 3D-ing?
AB: I don't always '3D it up', but I have found a good diet and exercise over anything else keeps me focused on the job at hand.

"Nature documentaries really inspire me!”

3dt: How do you stay inspired during the daily grind to keep productivity high?
AB: Music definitely inspires me. I like listening to documentaries when working on certain projects as well. Image sites, Tumblrs, Reddit and so on always have something that strikes a chord for a project. Nature documentaries really inspire me, too!

"It's key to be aware of yourself and how you react in certain situations”

This creature, a Kha-Philian Peasant, is based on a water flea with a hookah habit
© Andrew Baker

3dt: What tips do you have for handling high-pressure situations without exploding?
AB: Staying calm is so important. In a highly passionate job like this it's extremely difficult not to feel invested. It's key to be aware of yourself and how you react in certain situations, and to stay on top of that so you don't do anything you regret. Regular exercise and meditation helps me with staying on top of that.

3dt: Do you have any advice for unwinding at the end of the day/week during a busy period to keep energy and motivation levels high?
AB: I like to play guitar a lot and find that really lets my mind unwind. I also go skateboarding with a few guys from work which is really fun, and funnily enough really helps with problem solving trying new tricks on the board!

In closing...

It's not hard to see how Andrew's established himself as one of Weta's key personnel – not only does he have a laid-back but committed attitude to work, but his art strikes exactly the right balance between cartoony proportions and slimy, jowly horror tropes that The Hobbit director Peter Jackson is so fond of. We just can't wait to see what he
does next!

This tusky fella was created by Andrew to experiment with the FiberMesh feature in ZBrush
© Andrew Baker

Related links

Visit the official site for The Hobbit
Learn more about Andrew's favorite digital sculpting tool, ZBrush
Check out our ZBrush eBooks and books in the shop
To see more by Andrew, check out Prime - The Definitive Digital Art Collection and Digital Art Masters: Volume 7

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