3D Total Interviews
Frank Vitale

In terms of CG, How did it all begin for you?

CG began for me at school, Northern Arizona University. I studied Astronomy for 2 years as I found it very interesting and seemed like a fun way to get my first two years rolling and decide exactly where I want to go with my schooling. I was always and artist and decided to study graphic design. I also knew that "flying logos" were getting real popular on tv and saw dollar signs so I decided to take any computer graphics I could. Well there were only 2 so I took them and realized that I'd better do something on my own if I want to pursue this career. So I set up independent study courses and continued on with my CG education. I was able to work in the Engineering school using an I-Twixt system, at least I think it was call I-Twixt perhaps it was K-Twixt. Anyway we worked on an amber terminal plotting the xyz of individual points and assigning them a color. We had to move to a different room to see out renders, that was a long time ago... 1989. We then got a Wavefront system and everything changed, the first thing we did was model the campus... that was a lot of fun. Took all semester to do what I can do now in one day... crazy. The rest is history, I never let up and still push has hard as possible

What was your very first CG project? was it a success?

As I mentioned above the first real project was to create the NAU campus using Wavefront back in 89. It was an awesome project and very changeling. Everything was so simple, no textures, no real detail, just the basic shapes in the right place and the right size. We actually use USGS data for the terrain to get it just right... kinda funny the piece, we did not know this at the time, but it was being used to show where the new freeway was going to go, so it went to good use.

How long have you been in CG and what is your current job?

I've been working in CG since 1990 so 11 years now.
For the past 4 years I've run my own studio out of my home. I keep very busy and out source a lot. Having said that, if you think you've got what it takes, and really do have what it takes (do you compare to the top 5% of artist out there?) then feel free to contact me, there is a good chance that some day, I'll have a project that I can use you on. That goes for, animation, modeling, surfacing, character work (especially character work) and design... never underestimate the importance of design.

What has been your greatest accomplishment in your career?

Not taking a full time job for the past 4 years.... really, it's tempting to say yes to many of the offers I get, especially the ones overseas that pay outlandish salaries. It would be fun to work on a big project again like LOTR or Starwars as many of my friends do, but I really like working for myself and working out of my home... and I can do better financially this way, just takes a lot of self discipline.

Of all of your artwork, which piece is your personal favorite and why?

That is a tough one... I'd have to say it's between the Rockford Fosgate Wolf for 2001 and the Postman Caterpillar I did way back, 1998 I think...
I love them both for the same reason... they capture the mood I was after. Neither one is terribly complex or has amazing textures or amazing lighting... but they do capture a moment in time and a mood, that pleases me and it is what I look for in other artists work.

What is one piece of advice you would give to the aspiring artist?

The age old question, how can I do it. There is no short answer, no magic formula. Actually it's different for everybody. The best thing you can do is set very high standards for yourself and don't stop until you achieve them. Realize that when you see something as incredible as the "Balrog" from LOTR don't think... "my god... there is no way I can do that, I wouldn't know where to start" Instead think, now they did it so it can be done, I wonder how it was done... then research, research, research... Trying to emulate realism is a great way to shape your attitude toward production... the simplest thing, say a bus stop... is actually infinitely complex

What software program(s) do you use for your CG and why?

I use Maxon's Cinema 4D and Discreet 3d Studio Max
C4D because it has some wonderful tools and incredible rendering fx... and Max because it's Max, I mean there is no doubt about it, that program rocks. And it is so expandable a great base from which to build. I highly recommend it. I've only been using it for about a year and I've a lot to learn about it, but I really love the depth it offers.

What are your plans for the future?

Hard to say... more of the same, might start up a game company, might put together a production studio and do tv and film projects and might start directing and producing music videos. All of the above are on the table and I just might end up doing them all.

Are you working on any projects currently? If so, what are they?

Yes and I cant really talk about my current projects but I did just finish up another round of designs for the 2002 Rockford Fosgate literature. Rockford took best of show at CES again this year, mostly due to the fact that there products rock, they are extremely edgy and know how to build amazing show cars. do check out their site http://www.rockfordcorp.com

Can you give away one of your CG secrets to success?
CG secrets to success... um... take little steps? No really, set small goals that you know you can achieve, then achieve them and move on to the next. This holds true across the board. Take lighting for example. You can use one light to light a scene and try for hours to get it just right... works here, does not work here... Or you can use several small lights and have fewer headaches. Lots of small goals are better than one large goal and in the end your work will not only look better, it will be easier to go back to and adjust.

Many thanks to Frank for sharing his advice, inspirations and brilliant artwork

See more of Frank's work at his website http://www.vitalef.com/