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Interview with Tom Isaksen


By 3dtotal staff


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Date Added: 13th October 2015

We chat with one of Ubisoft's Senior Character Artist, Tom Isaksen
about what it means to be a 3D artist.


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3dtotal: Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?

Tom Isaksen: I'm 39 years old and from a small village in Denmark, I got into 3D graphics in the early 90s as a hobby and my love for the craft hasbeen growing ever since. I graduated in 2000 with a MA in Computer Animation from Bournemouth University, UK. and have been working in the industry ever since; first as a Lead Animator in TV but my passion was always creating characters, so I spent most of my free time teaching myself how to make video game characters. In 2003 I moved on to be a Character Artist and later Lead Character Artist on the Hitman games at IO Interactive in Denmark. After 6-7 years in Copenhagen, I took a few years off to work as a freelance artist in Brazil, where I really started to grow as a 3D artist working with 3D print, advertisement and several different video games, I even got involved with local 3D schools giving lectures and classes. After 3 years as a freelance artist I was starting to look for new challenges and that happened to coincide with Ubisoft getting in touch offering me a job in 2013 which lead to my current position working on Ghost Recon Wildlands as a Senior Character Artist at Ubisoft, Paris.

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Actual in-game model and textures of Agent 47 from Hitman Absolution from 2011 (rendered in Mental Ray)

3dt: Where did you find the inspiration for your work?

TI: Most of my inspiration comes from everyday life, traveling, movies, and from my colleagues... my best ideas usually come to me while I'm on the treadmill in the gym...

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Original design from 2013 - Real time character (making of video)

3dt: What software and plug-ins did you use to create this image? Did you face any difficulties, and how did you overcome them?

TI: I used 3ds Max for all hard surface modeling, ZBrush and Marvelous Designer for the organic stuff and cloth. Substance Designer and Photoshop for texturing. Rendering is done with Octane Render. The biggest challenge with this one was simply the huge amount of modeling involved, lots of late nights and patience was required. Actually, this image was originally made as a 360 degree image for Virtual Reality, so this render is just a small part of the full image!

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Fan Art from 2015 (3ds Max, ZBrush, Marvelous Designer, and Octane Render)

3dt: Do you normally use this software in your workflow? What other software and plug-ins do you favor?

TI: Currently 3ds Max, ZBrush, Substance Designer and Octane Render are my go to softwares. But I always keep an open eye on new tools and plugins to optimize my workflow. I would probably switch out 3ds Max with Maya at some point, but since I use 3ds Max in my day job, I think I will stick with it a little while longer.

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Fan Art from 2013 (ZBrush and Octane Render)

3dt: Are there any particular techniques that you use often?

TI: My main approach to 3D is to make it the same way it would exist in real life, same scale, same nuts bolts and stitches. I always feel that cutting corners when I make 3D gives a disappointing result, even if I can barely notice half the details I spent my time creating in the end.

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My first and only car model/render from 2012 (3ds Max and V-Ray) Check out Tom's 3dtotal tutorial here


3dt: What are your artistic ambitions?

TI: I suppose I wouldn't mind working on a Star Wars movie someday :) but mostly I just want to keep improving as an artist and hopefully be able to keep doing it for a living.

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Fan art from 2015 (3ds Max, ZBrush, and Octane Render)

3dt: What software would you like to learn in the future to expand your portfolio and skillset, and why?

TI: I think I still have a lot to learn. For me, software is secondary, most of all I'd like to improve my artistic abilities – a lot more. Currently I'm trying to get a better grasp of composition and to be able to better present my work.

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Fan Art from 2014 (3ds Max, ZBrush, and Octane Render)

3dt: How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?

TI: The hardest part about having an up-to-date portfolio is finding the time, but I have a constant urge to create so it comes pretty naturally. Once an idea is starting to form I will slowly start to collect reference, I will start to flesh out the idea, creating a more complete image in my head, and when I feel like I have a clear enough concept, I will start to create.

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Fan Art from 2012 (ZBrush and Mental Ray)

3dt: Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?

TI: I look at artwork from all over the world, from all kinds of artists every single day, famous or not, doesn't matter. I don't really follow any particular artists as such... but of course love the work of Ralph McQuarrie, just for the pure nostalgia! I like newer artists such as Pascal Blanché and Simon Stålhenhag for their unique style and ideas, to mention a few.

3dt: Do you like to experiment with your personal works, or do you prefer to stick to tried-and-tested methods?

TI: With personal works I always try to push myself, do things that I have never done before, learn new software, learning new skills. With my Star Wars fan art my idea was to improve my hard surface modeling and to create more complete scenes rather than just a character render.

3dt: What can we expect to see from you next?

TI: I'm not quite done with the Star Wars universe, there will be a few more images coming in the following months...

3dt: Exciting stuff! Thank you Tom for taking the time for a quick chat :)

Related links

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