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Efflam Mercier: concept designer interview

By 3dtotal staff

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Date Added: 28th September 2015

Talented freelance artist and illustrator Efflam Mercier shares some of his awesome portfolio, discussing his career so far and his recent gallery entry, Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly...

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3dtotal: Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
Efflam Mercier: Right now I'm doing freelance concept design for games and movies, working from the family house in France during the summer.

I was born in 1996 and started drawing pretty early, always being unsatisfied with my work, but I kept at it. I joined an industrial design high school for 3 years , then I went to a 3D animation school that was so terrible that I put 200% effort in my free time to build a portfolio and quit the school. I got my first studio call 4 days later:

"When are you available?"

I jumped into the train from my calm Bretagne countryside to big, scary Paris for a job interview, and ended up working a whole year at Cube Creative and freelancing for the rest of the world. When I finished my contract I decided to go back to Brittany and freelance from the comfort of home.


3dt: Where did you find the inspiration for your latest gallery entry? What's the story behind its creation?
EM: Like a lot of stuff I do, it was a nonlinear process. I originally wanted it to be a futuristic astronaut doing emergency repairs on a station, but then as I was showing work in progress to friends, someone took the render into Photoshop and color corrected it in very desaturated/ brown tones and added a caption "Now it's clear that she's dead". At first I think everybody is reluctant to change so I was like, nahhhh, but after a few moments I realised it was a better story. It's funny, it started out as a kinda whacky 3D sketch and my friends really pushed me to take it to the next stage.

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3dt: What software and plug-ins did you use to create this image? Did you face any difficulties, and how did you overcome them?
EM: I used a combination of Daz 3D, 3ds Max and Corona Renderer. I didn't face any difficulties on the technical side so to speak; it's all about design. Detailing the suit was tricky because I was basically trying to over-paint the render as photorealisitcally as I could, but I had to figure out all the details that I wanted to put on the suit so that it felt believable, even if the design isn't grounded in present day reality like a Nasa suit, for example.

This was my first 'successful' image

3dt: Do you normally use this software in your workflow? What other software and plug-ins do you favor?
EM: Yeah the 3ds Max / Corona workflow; I've been using it on freelance gigs and personal stuff for a few months now. I also recently bought the Substance Live suite for my texturing needs, it's very robust already. I also use Blender for modeling hard-surface; nothing fancy but it's fast, simple, and it doesn't crash. I've used it to design a creature for a film recently, pretty much everything was done in Blender – if you have a good GPU, blender can be a great solution for freelance work.

Freelance life can be dangerous

3dt: Are there any particular techniques that you use often?
EM: Making 80-percent of the scene in 3D by reusing assets I've made and hand placing them around to break the repetitive 3D look, then designing a composition and going in and pushing the render another 20-percent with tweaks in Photoshop to correct artifacts, or smooth out some transition of textures, almost how a matte painter would work on top of a photo plate.

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3dt: What are your artistic ambitions?
EM: Unfortunately for my sleep, they are really high! I want to get better at drawing, get better at designing with function, make a photoreal CG short film, maybe do some on-set cinematography work, creating my own content...

Learning; it's a journey, I know there is no destination, I just hope I'm going to have fun exploring.

People were trying to figure out whether he was dancing or running away from the creatures ¬–
I couldn't be happier

3dt: What software would you like to learn in the future to expand your portfolio and skillset, and why?
EM: Probably 3D-Coat, for the voxel sculpting. I bought Substance Designer, but I'm still trying to figure out how I can integrate it into my workflow. The software I'm looking into are those that haven't come out yet!

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One of my most recent work... this guy used to be an adventurer like you

3dt: How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?
EM: The way I learn a software is that I create an illustration based on the things I want to learn in it; say I just discovered Corona scatter and installed some new plant stuff, well let's create a whole rocky forest environment to see if it's reliable. 2 days and 200 million polygons later I have a brand new portfolio image – now I could go ahead and make 4 pieces a week like this, but I want to learn new things now, let's move on.


3dt: Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?
EM: Ohh difficult question, I just like so many artists, I think there's things to learn from so many people. I mean with some of my art buddies; I see some pattern in their work and taste/how they tend to do certain things. It's more of an inspiration in the moment, I find the work interesting, make some mental notes about why it's good, and totally forget who painted it – ha!

If I had to pick a few it would be the charcoal and lighting of Nathan Fowkes, the brushwork and value structures of Craig Mullins... and the weird storytelling of Sergey Kolesov!

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Work from Cube Creative

3dt: What can we expect to see from you next?
EM: Probably a few Magic: The Gathering cards in the coming months! I'm probably going to put together a demo-reel of my VFX work from last year, but I'm waiting for a big cinematic trailer to be released so I can have some of the beautiful work done by Unit Image that I contributed to design.
And of course, tons of experiments!

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Related links

Check out Efflam's ArtStation
Head over to Efflam's personal site
Start your next project with 3ds Max Projects
To see more by Efflam Mercier, check out Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 6
and Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 7
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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
MachineR on Tue, 29 September 2015 1:38pm
Thanks for this interview now im training to get at good lvl of digital painting and i love his style, its very near that i whant to achive. "tutorial coming soon..." :D!

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