Ubisoft Montreal senior art director Pascal Blanché divulges his working practices and offers some useful tips for artists...
The perfect toolset for solid results
I've always used four main software. Firstly, 3ds Max
for anything 3D-related; it is a strong program that gets the job done, from modeling to rendering (with V-Ray
) and animation. I use it in combination with ZBrush
for the obvious need for more detailed products these days, whether it is organic or hard surface, you can count on it. ZBrush is also the best of tools when it comes to retopology, optimization, or UV remapping when you are not the tech type (like myself). Then of course I use Photoshop
as it is the ultimate 2D software, and for editing or FX I stick with After Effects
Improvise with kitbashing
I tend to do character posing and elements composing in 3ds Max first, then export the whole thing into ZBrush to rework the details. I've been in fact doing the equivalent of kitbashing in CG for a long time now, and more and more tools tend to help me continue this way. What is interesting with kitbashing, is that, like custom brushes in Photoshop, it leaves a certain amount of space for improvisation and unexpected result.
Try the Vraydirt shader
When rendering, never underestimate passing some time doing some research with shaders. For instance, I use Vraydirt shader all the time to help dispatching the colors on my models without having to care about UVs. Used as a mask, it allows me to combine two different types of shader on the same model, following its topology only. It helps enhance the sculpt and details of my creations.
There's no trick for keeping pace; it's coffee and music mainly. When I am on a busy day, I cut myself off from the rest, and get on with it. I focus on getting the job done, starting with what is the most important. Then at lunch time I force myself to get off my desk, for one full hour, to keep the pace for the rest of the day.
At work as an art director, inspiration comes mainly from discussions or emails with my teammates, even better around a coffee. I like to bounce back on another artist sketch, try out the possibility for a while, and basically take the best out of them. When you know that an art director is as good as his team is, the rest is just fun and exploration. Of course I create guidelines and a general direction, mostly by picking up inspiring artists or works, but then the team process allows me to redefine the direction, taking in all the ideas that strengthen my goal. When I work on more personal things, I take my inspiration from music, books, artbooks, Google, Wikipedia, and so on.
Keep your cool
I am art director. I am not a surgeon working on a dying patient... now that would be high pressure situation. So keep your cool; there is no life or death risk here, just a matter of priorities. It is like that joke about how to eat up an elephant... the answer is: one chunk at a time! What is stressful is not knowing what to do or what you want. Once that is fixed and approved the rest is easier.
Rise to the challenge
From a business perspective, the best advice I've been given is to always apply this rule: say yes first, figure out how to do it later. What it means is that if you want to progress in your job, you have to be ready to rise up to the challenges in front of you. There are no more valuable employees/workers/artists than the ones that people know they can count on. The best in the industry are reliable artists. Set you mind to it and you will become one of the best too.
Check out Pascal Blanché's website
Take a look at the work done by Ubisoft Montreal
Grab a copy of 3ds Max Projects