3DArtist Issue 18 Interview – July 31st 2010

Due to space considerations, only part of my interview ended up in the actual magazine. Please purchase the magazine by clicking on the link below for the majority of the questions...

3DArtist Issue 18Click Here to buy this issue.

the unused portion of the Q&A can be read below...

3DA: What were you doing and where were you working before your move to Pixar Animation Studios? When and how did the job offer come about?
NB: I worked for a company called Blur Studio in Venice California, doing Video Game Cinematics, Feature and Ride films and Commercial work. Blur was much smaller when I joined it than it is today, and almost everyone was a generalist, so I tended to do everything in a shot from the original modeling to the final composite. I learned so much at Blur. In early 2002 I decided it was time to escape Los Angeles and applied to Pixar in San Francisco, and was lucky enough to be offered a job. They were looking for someone with my skills for a role on The Incredibles.

3DA: On a personal level, how do you keep yourself motivated to keep up with the fast pace of the CG industry?
NB: No real trick, I just love the field. It's not just a job for me, it's a passion, I like seeing new technology and trying new things, and figuring out how I can use new tools to help me improve my ability to take the visions in my head (or in the director's head) and make them a reality.

3DA: How does your work in the industry differ to the personal creations you choose to make in your spare time? Where do you seek your inspiration?
NB: My personal work tends to be darker and more scifi oriented. That's not to say there isn't a lot of crossover, Wall-e for example is pretty close to my personal aesthetic. And I've learned so many lessons at Pixar in terms of color theory, composition, lighting etc, all stuff that can be applied to any media and any aethetic sensibility. Most of my personal work is inspired by Nature. There's so many odd creatures out there, so many interesting patterns, shapes and lighting conditions. All stuff I put in a big blender to spark my creative side.

3DA: Can you give us an idea about the workflow behind your beautifully abstract and often surreal personal projects?
NB: Well, I always start off with a sketch, just pencil / pen and paper. Then bring it into photoshop for adjustments (lots of liquify tool). Then I'll usually do a quick 2d color study, something ugly but that has all the right colors and lighting. Then I'll start the slower process of building the models in 3d, texturing them, then rendering them and bringing the result in photoshop. I then composite the pieces and paint ontop of them, so almost all of my work is part 3d, part 2d. If I've done a good job, it's tough to tell where one ends and the other begins.

3DA: What projects are next for you at Pixar Animation Studios? And how about personally – what can we expect to see from you in the near future?
NB: I'll be on Cars 2 pretty much till the end of the year, after that, who knows what my next adventure will be. From a personal perspective, my wife and I are expecting our first born in a few months, so personal projects will have to be on hold for a little while.

3DA: What do you think the future of CGI film production has in store for us? What would you like to see happen in the next few years?
NB: I'd like to see a radical change in the way we interface with our tools. I saw an interview with the inventor of the cellphone a few weeks ago, where he said most cellphones are made by engineers to impress other engineers, and not made for the convenience of the end user. The same can be said for the majority of commercial 3d software, and that needs to change. I certainly want to see engineers doing work that interests them, but the way those projects are packaged up and handed to the end user needs to move out of the stone age. We need tools that are intuitive, easy to learn and use, and powerful. I am not talking about dumbing down 3d software, I believe it's totally possible to create software that is both easy to use and powerful at the same time. A few people "get it" (like the mudbox guys, the brazil guys, and apple's UI team), but we need more software to embrace better interfaces.