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Interview with Mikael Genachte

By Richard Tilbury

Web: http://mikael.genachte.free.fr/ (will open in new window)
Email: moc.liamg@ethcanegleakim

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Date Added: 30th November 2012
It is evident from your résumé that you studied graphics and illustration before specializing in 3D after leaving school, but what was it that prompted you to pursue this particular branch of computer graphics?

After graduating from a drawing school (Ecole Pivaut in Nantes), I worked at a graphic design company for four years. One of our clients was a local radio station and every week I had to make some flyers and posters for them. It was really enjoyable because they let me do pretty much whatever I wanted.

Then a friend showed me some software called Bryce 3D. He created a sphere and placed a chrome shader above it. I was very impressed. I later asked my company to buy Bryce, Poser and Amapi, and I started testing my new toys on the flyers and posters for that same radio station that still gave me a lot of freedom.

One year later, I finally decided to specialize in 3D and I studied 3ds Max at a school in Lyon (Ecole Emile Cohl) for one year. There, I made a short movie with a colleague in four and a half months, which allowed me to get a job at BUF Compagnie nine years ago, before moving on to the Moving Picture Company and Rhythm and Hues.

As an environment artist you cover a number of disciplines, but from your list of tasks what do you spend most time doing and which do you enjoy the most?

There are two things I really enjoy. The first one is matte painting in Photoshop. That's the most time-consuming task and involves the greatest amount of amendments.

The second one is camera mapping. I'll never get tired of seeing a matte painting come to life through an animated camera.

That being said, as I started my career as a generalist at BUF Compagnie, I still love to be given the opportunity to work on as many aspects as

possible. Most of the time we need to create the models ourselves and from time to time we need to set and animate our own cameras and do some compositing. I find this diversity very interesting.

Is matte painting something you have learnt during your employment or at school, and what is the most difficult aspect to get right generally?

I think that it has been the logical consequence of all my previous experiences. Illustration school taught me proportions; to observe what's around me and to pay attention to detail. The graphic design company taught me Photoshop and at BUF I learned all the 3D technicalities, especially camera mapping, so when I had to find a specialty to go abroad, the choice was obvious for me.

The most difficult aspects vary according to the projects and the shots, but generally speaking, I think what really makes a matte painting work

successfully is consistent lighting and accurate perspective. If we work from a plate and manage to catch both of these aspects then the matte painting will naturally fit.

Your reel breakdown outlines your work on various projects, which include a lot of camera mapping. Which of the films proved the most difficult to work on in this respect and why?

On 10,000 BC, for the mammoth hunting sequence, we had to make the ground and the animals' legs interact. To do that, we had to erase the ground on each plate, replace it with dirt, and then add CG grass that was reacting to the movements of the mammoths. The motion covered very long distances and for each shot we had to create lots of cameras in order to avoid stretching (some shots required more than fifty cameras just for the ground, plus another twenty for the surrounding background). For The A-Team, we had to cover a gigantic area of 28,900 hectares and create an environment capable of receiving some 360 camera movement.

On each movie, all shots with wide motion coupled with a rotation are the trickiest ones and a real hassle as you need to avoid texture stretching.

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