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Interview with Johan Svensson

By 3dtotal staff

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Date Added: 18th May 2015

Games industry professional, VFX team leader and entrepreneur Johan Svensson shares his experiences and his tips for teaching yourself 3D and forging your own career path in the industry

© Bsmart AB and Johan Svensson


After experimenting with Photoshop for a while, the young Johan Svensson wanted a new challenge and launched himself into 3ds Max. Already working as a freelancer during school, he built up a portfolio that landed him his first job in the games industry and he moved from his small town to Sweden`s biggest city, Stockholm, aged just 18.

After three formative years at Grin studio, the financial crisis forced the studio to close its doors leaving Johan jobless. Undeterred, he set himself a strict schedule working at home to polish a new portfolio. These efforts paid off as Johan landed a number of freelance gigs in the triple-A games industry, working on Final Fantasy, TomClancy`s Ghost Recon and Terminator 4.

In another savvy career move, Johan decided to study business management with leadership, economics and project planning, adding these skills to his 3D knowledge. Now working as head of 3D at VFX studio he leads a successful team on a number of impressive projects.

On top of his day job, Johan runs Sweden's biggest event's website, Activated.se, as well as doing some freelance work in the game industry. We find out where he gets the time for all this…

Johan wanted to reflect a Swedish outdoor adventure here. The parts were modeled in Cinema 4D and everything was rendered with Maxwell Render © Bsmart AB and Johan Svensson

A collection of published AAA game titles: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2, Ubisoft, 2004. Terminator Salvation, Evolved games, 2009. Bionic Commando, Capcom, 2009

3dtotal: As a self-taught artist, what resources did you use to develop your skills?

Johan Svensson: I think I'm extraordinary when it comes to self-knowledge. I haven't graduated from a 3D school; or completed any 3D training programs - nothing. I believe that if you have an interest in something you should spend as much time as you like on your interest. That's what made me what I am today.

I also saw early on how much knowledge is available for each person in a company, and have been open about getting feedback and expanding my knowledge. There is a huge amount of knowledge available that few people dare ask for.

I think one great resource to help develop your modeling skills is using real clay. Create some sculptures and learn the traditional way by using a lot of image references. When I started drawing and sculpting in clay, I discovered a new way to see shapes. The shapes then became clearer and I had a huge advantage of this later when using digital software. I think it is incredibly important to get access to all form of art, not just a computer, to be creative.

Sculpted and modeled with both 3ds Max and ZBrush. Retouched and rendered with Octane render to create
the final realistic look © Johan Svensson

3dt: How has working in advertising and editorial VFX compared to your work in the games industry?

JS: The deadlines were a big difference - from spending 2-3 years on a game, I now spend one day to a week in the commercial VFX industry. Each deadline in the game industry was broken up between months (called ‘milestones'). When the milestone was sent to the client, you could return to normal working hours - so it was more of a temporary high tempo for a certain period. With the commercial industry though, drafts are sent to art directors at only a few hours apart.

The VFX industry enables me to push the quality of my images to the limit by allowing me to add more details and the potential for a higher resolution on my work. There are lots of optimization and technical processes within the game industry, so you should consider about the number of polygons and how large textures are. It's not always the details that count in advertising; it's more the big picture of the game model. You have to think more about color placements and the shape.

The big change was also that I had more imaginative concept into actual products when I went from games to VFX, so I had a little more freedom to determine how things would look. This varies greatly in different game studios, where I prefer to work more in small teams so I have some freedom to decide.

An in-game screenshot of the game Bionic Commando © Capcom

An in-game screenshot of the pitch for Final Fantasy 12 © Johan Svensson

3dt: Alongside your 3D career, you also run a popular leisure activities website, www.Activated.se. How do these practices feed into each other and how do you find the time?!

JS: To be honest, you must set aside time to accomplish something - so there's always time, if you take the time. Activated.se has increased to getting over 5000% more visitors per day in just two years, and this is the driving force. To be successful and to find time has made Activated.se one of the biggest events website in Sweden. We collect all sorts of information, from opening hours to how many courses a bowling lane has. It's just to facilitate and make it easier for our visitors, where they can find the best nearby activity. And of course, I am responsible for the graphical elements!

To take care of something that is a big challenge and that you constantly have to find new ways to get more visitors in…. This work is so different from what I have previously experienced, but just working on something so different makes it interesting.

www.Activated.se, Hitta en aktivitet nära dig. Johan's events website © Johan Svensson

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