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Insights into videogame art


By 3dtotal staff

Web: http://www.mlanoie.com/ (will open in new window)

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Date Added: 15th March 2017
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We chat with Eidos Montreal's Michel Lanoie about his exciting career so far...


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Michel Lanoie was born in Montreal, where he's now based at Eidos Montreal. His current assignments are to polish Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and settle into his new role as Assistant Art Director.

3dtotal: Hello, Michel! Could you introduce yourself to our readers with a bit about yourself, where you're based, and what you do?
Michel Lanoie : Hi everyone, my name is Michel Lanoie and I work at Eidos Montreal on Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. I was born in Montreal, Canada, a great city for the video game industry. My dream has always been to work in this field. Now that I've succeeded in that, I think it is still crucial to learn new things. I work on personal side projects that are unrelated to work, for pure pleasure and at the same time to develop other skill sets.

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Michel's wireframe view of Mechanical Rebirth

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In Mechanical Rebirth, Michel wanted to create a retro sci-fi scene, based on early 20th century technology, using a touch of humor

3dt: What is your creative background? How did you come to work with 3D?
ML: Besides the fact that I played video games in my childhood and was fascinated by them, I desperately wanted to know how they were made. I had to learn their secrets. I realized that the possibilities were endless with 3D art. I did traditional art before but always felt that I could do something more.

That's how I came to ask for 3D training books for Christmas. My parents were happily surprised because they saw the potential in it and so they were very supportive. The very first 3D software I learned was Bryce and from that I switched to 3ds Max.

3dt: Who or what are your biggest inspirations?
ML: I think I find the most inspiration simply by observing my everyday environment. I like to analyze how things are made and why, the way they are placed and for how long. If I'm on vacation somewhere I will without any doubt take many more reference pictures than pictures of my girlfriend, sadly for her, but she understands.

But more specifically, I read sci-fi books and comics, I watch sci-fi movies and TV series, I play sci-fi games, I love sci-fi. I also find lots of inspiration in other artists' work on 3D websites and in magazines.

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A wireframe of the jetpack gnome from Mechanical Rebirth

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A beauty shot of Michel's jetpack gnome from Mechanical Rebirth

3dt: What software and tools do you use for your artwork? Any useful tips, plug-ins or underrated programs that you'd recommend?
ML: I use 3ds Max and Photoshop for personal projects and at work. One useful trick I use sometimes for my personal projects is camera projection mapping. It saves time because you don't have to UV the object, and you can directly paint on the mesh using the camera view you will render with. I use this mostly for background objects as there will be less perspective distortion if I change the camera angle.

3dt: Could you describe your usual 3D workflow for us?
ML: I always start by searching for reference pictures, not only for modeling but for texturing and lighting. It's a starting point that will make anything you create more credible.

When I create a level, I must think about how I can maximize memory usage, pixel ratio, and time. I usually start with generic modules, because I know they will be used many times in a scene, even if I wish to do the hero prop right from the start. The reward of doing that is that as I develop material recipes for those modules, the textures created in the process will be reused in all kinds of forms later on, probably on that hero prop as well.

After that, I like to do some lighting because it gives a mood and tells me where I need to put the details. It also helps me to tweak materials accordingly, even if the lighting is not final.

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The idea for this image came to Michel one night when he was trying to sleep. He didn't sleep much that night!

3dt: What can you tell us about your contributions to the Deus Ex franchise?
ML: During Deus Ex: Human Revolution, we used an in-house engine and a lot of work had to be done to improve it and I was involved in its development. I was also involved in the texturing and artistic and technical direction. I had to communicate standards about specific techniques we had to develop and also quality control and visual style.

During the pre-production of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, I worked with a small team on a visual benchmark demo. The purpose of this was to obtain the highest level of quality from which we could extrapolate the whole game later on. During production, I was in charge of two levels and my biggest contribution was to Golem City. A section of this map was shown during E3 2015. In addition, the announcement trailer of the game was made using assets I created for this level. Right now I am working hard to polish other sections of the game.

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This is Michel's view of a destroyed world; he created in low-poly so it could work in a 3D game in 2007

3dt: What's one key piece of advice you'd pass on to other artists?
ML: Try to be humble and give credit to other people. Teams tend to become bigger and bigger with time, so team play is crucial to success. It's nice when someone comes to you and tells you your work is amazing. Try to do the same and congratulate someone for the same reason when it comes to it.

When you show your portfolio, please be respectful to the other artists that worked with you. Try to show only your work, and if you can't, describe what your contribution in the frame was.

3dt: Which project (personal or professional) are you the proudest to have worked on, and why?
ML: My ruins scene is my personal project I am the proudest to have worked on. It was done at the Centre NAD (National Animation and Design Centre); I had two months to do it and I gave everything I had. It came out well and I was greatly rewarded for my efforts. It definitely helped me to get a job at Ubisoft.

Professionally, Deus Ex: Human Revolution was an amazing project. It was a new studio, a new team, a new license and a big challenge. It felt nice to start from scratch and have some leverage to make things better. I truly felt like I was part of a colony on a new world. It was my first true marathon on an AAA project. It wasn't easy but I felt that everyone joined together and put their shoulder to the wheel.

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Michel's goal for // Tortured Souls // was to make an organic environment and something different from what he was used to

3dt: Finally, and most importantly: what do you like to do in your spare time?
ML: I like going to the gym or doing any other sports; it clears my mind and helps me to think of nothing. When I really need to unwind and get some real fresh air, there is a place I like to go in the country. It is a good mix of mountains, woods, swamps, and lakes. It feels good to cut off from all that technology sometimes. I also have several home improvements projects I want to do. It's nice to be able to create stuff in the real world and not in a virtual world for once.

Related links

To see more of Michel's work check out his website
Grab a copy of Master of Sketching for some inspirational art work
Follow 3dtotal on Facebook

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