We catch up with industry pro Dmitry Gaborak about his latest ventures
and advice for budding artists...
Thanks for speaking to 3dtotal, Dmitry! Could you please introduce yourself: who are you, where are you based, and what do you do?
Hi everybody. My name is Dmitry Gaborak, also known by my online nickname ‘Neverwintered'. I'm a 3D artist specializing in 3D character and creature art for film, cinematics and games. Currently I'm located in Portland, OR, USA. I'm working as Lead Character Production Artist at Liquid Development, one of the largest and oldest US-based video game art production studios. Lately, I have been working on some high-detail character production (pipeline development, modeling, texturing and shading) for two major game titles and one film title, currently unannounced.
High-poly ZBrush model made for the biggest video-game art competition Dominance War IV, 2009. It got into the Top 10
I have been working for over 11 years on both video games and movies. I graduated from two fine art schools in Russia with the highest score, where the fine arts are traditionally strong, which helped me a lot to build myself as a digital character artist. I started my career as a 3D artist at MiST Land South, Zelenograd. After that, I worked in a few of the biggest Russian video game companies based in Moscow, including Astrum Online Entertainment.
After participating in Dominance War IV art challenge, I got an invitation to work overseas at the largest global mobile game developer company, Gameloft (at Redsteam, Shanghai). After that I had opportunities to work in Singapore, Dubai, Montreal and now the USA. During my career in the electronic entertainment industry I've worked on mobile games, AAA PC and console titles, animated feature films, live-action film, and game cinematics. I have taught 3D character art classes, presented at workshops, and contributed as freelancer or in-house artist to some well-known video games and series including Batman: Arkham Knight
, Halo 5: Guardians
, Halo: The Master Chief Collection
, Warhammer 40,000: Regicide
, Wild Blood
, Rival Knights
, and many others.
The main character for the cover/poster of the Chinese version of Dungeon Hunter 4, created in ZBrush
Did you always want to work with 3D? What inspired you to begin?
No, at first I didn't know about existing 3D art, not even 2D, otherwise I would have started earlier! I was studying fine art school and playing online web games, and I wanted to create some images to upload to a game. I drew with ink on paper first and scanned it, but I wasn't satisfied with the result, so I looked for some simple, easy-to-learn 2D graphics software but ended up studying Photoshop. It was my first meeting with graphic design and my first enthusiastic contribution to a video game. After a while, I discovered online communities were talking about 3ds Max, and since then it has taken me over. I have a strong fine art education, but I'm self-taught in 2D and 3D computer graphics. So, a big thanks to all my colleagues, co-workers, and friends for sharing your knowledge, experience and tricks with me. Thank you all for being my inspiration and leading me to where I am.
I wanted to improve my skills at sculpting likenesses and clothes, so referenced this 3D sculpture from the movie Die Hard
What software do you use for your work, and why?
I mostly use ZBrush, Photoshop, Maya or 3ds Max (depending on the design pipeline) for sculpting, Marvelous Designer as a base for clothes, TopoGun, headus UVLayout, Substance Painter and Designer, Quixel DDO, xNormal, MARI, Marmoset Toolbag 2, Unreal Engine, Windows/Linux, and some other digital plugins/software depending on the project technical specifications. I know, it's a pretty big list, but it's what today's industry requests for realistic 3D asset creation. A lot of things become significantly faster/automatic, but the amount of software I need to know has grown dramatically.
I made the sculpture of the head for the official 1:4 statue of Caesar from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The body and the spear are done by another talented artist ©Culture Shock
Could you describe your general 3D workflow for us?
Sure! This is a general order, so I may follow these steps or skip over some:
Reading detailed information regarding the task and project, doing background research and collecting references
Blocking/base mesh, making the clothes' base in Marvelous Designer or using scan data
Modeling/sculpting in 3ds Max/ZBrush, starting with large and medium shapes, finding a good silhouette and making sure I'm following the concept art/reference, if I have one
Comparing all shapes and fine details
Retopology, which is a combination of ZBrush (ZRemesher), TopoGun and 3ds Max, to make UV textures for low-poly (sometimes for high-poly, too)
Baking, usually using different software. My choice often depends on certain technical requirements of the project, the amount of textures (like normal space or world, displacement, AO, cavity, curvature, ID, color and so on).
Texturing: I mostly use Substance and Photoshop, or ZBrush and Photoshop/Quixel DDO.
Shading: Most of the steps depend on the project, especially texturing/baking/shading. I mostly use Marmoset Toolbag 2 or Unreal Engine. For film VFX (cinematics, trailers) I mostly do only modeling or texturing (MARI). Some shading/materials setup is done by another department.
Again, this is a pretty general overview, and certain projects have their own tools. Many artists must change their workflow if they move to another studio or project. Sometimes, the workflow will depend on the amount of time I have for a task. If there is no time, and I'm trying to use shortcuts, I choose a less fancy and more simplified way to do it, trying to optimize the process in order to make a deadline.
High-res fantasy elephant done for the cinematic Project "I” for IxorVFX ©IxorVFX
You've had to move and relocate a lot in your career. What was that like, and do you have any advice for artists considering their first big move abroad? Where have you worked?
I have had the pleasure and honor of working at the legendary Industrial Light & Magic Singapore, the third biggest cinematic studio Plastic Wax (as a freelance artist), Barajoun Entertainment, IxorVFX (freelance). In the video game industry, I've worked for Gameloft Redsteam (special pre-production studio) and Gameloft Montreal (making primary characters for leading projects, high-res videogame covers and advertisements), Astrum Online (senior character artist), Liquid Development and more. I've contributed to Halo: The Master Chief Collection
, Halo 5: Guardians
, Warhammer 40,000
, Batman: Arkham Knight
, Rock Band 3
, and many others.
Fanart for Metal Gear Solid, high-poly and real-time in-game model (Marmoset Toolbag 1.6)
Relocating is definitely a big challenge, especially for the very first time, but on the other hand, it is a great personal and career experience. I have worked in seven countries so far and have visited more for workshops. If you're looking to relocate, it's a significant benefit to have a friend in the new company or city to show you around and tell you about aspects of life there from their own experience, but don't be discouraged if you don't have any.
Most companies, especially big ones, provide great relocation assistance like booking tickets and hotels for you, meeting you at the airport, helping you open a bank account, buying a SIM card, taking final steps for completing work visa documents, medical insurance, helping to search for a new apartment, providing information regarding food and entertainment in the area, and so on. Often, companies even provide free language classes. International teams are also especially friendly and understanding, as most of them pass through similar relocation challenges, so they can understand what you face very well.
A mutant created for Gameloft, 2012 ©Gameloft
I would advise you to do your research regarding a new place, including the culture and laws, as they might be different from yours. You don't want to get into any funny accidents just because you didn't know. I would also advise that you have a certain amount funds in your bank account for the first month, just in case, especially if you'll need to pay a deposit for your apartment, buy furniture, a computer and other items, as you can't bring everything with you. Also, close all your current memberships, deals and contracts and renew necessary documents like your driver's license and passport in advance. Knowing the local language Is a significant plus for initial comfort, but it's not critical.
High-poly, textures and render done for Gameloft Redsteam, 2012 ©Gameloft
What are some important things you've learned as you've progressed through your career?
As part of being a professional, it's important to be able to control your mind and mood, for example to stay self-motivated, focused and inspired. Emotional conditions are critical for producing better art. Strong communication skills, a positive attitude, active mind-set, and self-sufficient career and time management are almost as important as actual art skills. In short, to be professional, it is not enough just to be able to make art, even if it's very cool art. :)
ZBrush sculpt of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine
Finally, what are you currently working on? Can you tell us about any projects we can expect to see soon?
Currently, at Liquid Development, we working on two big AAA titles for well-known franchises. Unfortunately, because the games are not yet announced, I can't give you any real details. With Barajoun Entertainment Animation(Dubai), I was working on the animated movie Bilal
, which has won the most prestigious award of the MENA region, Broadcast Pro. With Industrial Light & Magic, I was working on an upcoming epic fantasy film, which is scheduled to be released in 2016. It was a really fantastic experience and I'm looking forward to the release; the art and story are incredible. It was really exciting to be a part of this amazing team, and I had a lot of fun working with teammates and friends Ashwin Ram (Lead Modeler), Haure Sebastien, Waldemar Bartkowiak, Gene Chee, Charlie Kim, Daniil Alikov, Nichal Kriukow and Adam Walker, all of whom are awesome people and amazingly talented artists.