"No other program can boast of flawless capacity to manage billions of polygons, of very convenient realistic lighting tools, of methodologies like EcoSystems, and of many other priceless designer tools!"
Roman Senko - Digital Environment Artist and Motion Designer
Please meet Roman Senko, Digital Environment Artist and Motion Designer who lives and breathes Nature, and found in VUE his tool of choice for the creation of impressive Digital Environments.
In this exclusive interview, Roman goes behind the scenes of the Sochi Winter Olympic opening sequence that aired during the opening ceremony, and was seen by hundreds of millions of people on the planet.
The Olympic Winter Games Opening in Sochi XXII was created in the Motion Design Studio, where I have been working at for two and a half years before this project. The group was very friendly and professional group and we worked really well together, I felt very comfortable in this collaborative effort. I believe that all of the participants felt a personal responsibility for the result of the project, since an event like Olympic Games commands an audience of millions.
Our studio consisted of fourteen artists, each with unique skill sets. The tasks for the project were assigned by the creative director and the supervisor in accordance with the artists' individual abilities and software knowledge. I was assigned natural scenes and landscapes, being the sole artist working with VUE.
The process of producing the scenery was fascinating, since much of it depended on a specific artist who would be realizing the Art Director's prototype sketches. On top of the prototype ideas, there was plenty of freedom for improvisation and experimentation that added to and improved the final result. It was an incredibly interesting and fun experience! All artists were bound by the common theme, and added to each other's work as needed.
The scene representing A. S. Pushkin's iconic fairy tale "Ruslan and Liudmila" represented one of the biggest challenges for me, due to several things. First, I was required to convey the mood, color palette, and lighting according to the design prototype concept by the Studio Art Director. When you work according to a well-defined concept, you are bound by the constant reference to how the final elements of each scene should appear. Second, this was a scene with night lighting, and with both natural and additional light sources. This kind of a lighting scheme is significantly more complex than the usual daylight design, with a single natural light source. In addition, though it was a fairy tale, we researched what species of plants grow near bodies of water, so that the scene looked authentic.
For this scene we needed a pond surrounded by rocks, so I modelled the main terrain as well as complex elements - trees and stones - in Zbrush. Then I imported those elements in VUE to create the main composition. It took around three weeks to achieve the final image. All this time we looked for a balance between fantastical and realistic appearance of the scene. We tried out multiple EcoSystems and lighting schemes. Even the frequency of water ripples on the pond was taken into consideration.
In this scene there is also a cinematographic feature called Dolly Zoom: the spectator sees midrange objects as nearly immobile, while elements of background or foreground approach or retreat.
For the scene depicting the famous russian artist K. Malevich we also prepared nature building blocks to use as EcoSystems in VUE, such as twisted leaves, long branches, grass. We do not see the surface of the terrain, thus the details were not as important, it was a generic fractal terrain design. However, it did take some efforts to match the EcoSystem according to the main concept.
Another challenging scene was the one depicting the writer A. Chekhov, which has a very unusual appearance. According to the concept, this scene was to have a modern trendy style. Thus it became an empty white room with cherry trees, with unusually shaped flower beds. The flower beds were designed in VUE, using EcoSystems and lighting dictated by the principal scene.
Our Studio has plenty of experience with filming. Filming in the pavilion was well-rehearsed and orderly, so there were no particular difficulties with chrome keying, or 3-D camera tracking.
When the project was finished, we received extremely positive feedback. I think it is obvious that we put our souls into this project, which reflects our love for our profession and for the subject.
Every project we do, every single new scene provides new and unique experiences. Subsequently this experience may become useful for future projects, indeed 100% of the time it will be useful. Working on natural scenes for this project gave me new skills with lighting in VUE, and with rendering of nocturnal scenes.
I first saw VUE in the distant year of 2006, and fell in love with the program. Despite the fact that my first specialty is motion design, VUE remains my favorite program, and I try to use it as much as I can and whenever possible.
For a long time I was unable to utilize VUE, since I did not have projects that would be appropriate for it, I did not have sufficient fluency in it to work in VUE in real time, when deadlines and a guarantee of success are important. Given my lack of extensive prior experience and projects, it took some time before I could guarantee quality results. I was teaching myself VUE almost fanatically, with the manuals, instructional videos, and lessons.
With time, VUE-appropriate projects began to emerge, as I was seeking them actively. Around 2010 I got fluent in VUE, and actually changed my professional self-identification to - Digital Environment Artist.
To me, VUE is an ideal program for designing natural scenes. No other program can boast of flawless capacity to manage billions of polygons, of very convenient realistic lighting tools, of methodologies like EcoSystems, and of many other priceless designer tools.
I love creating huge, detailed aerial scenes at high altitude - those that are very hard to film with a real film camera. I always looks at references, photos, and strive for maximal realism in lighting, shapes, textures, perspectives, colors, and other aspects - maximal realism is my goal.
My main and universal work tool when I am wearing my motion designer hat is 3dsmax. I also use Photoshop, After Effects, PFTrack, Zbrush and Mocha on a regular basis.
I was born and grew up in Moscow, Russia. When I was 8, my dad bought a rare and expensive thing in the then-USSR - an Atari 65 XE computer. I became computer-literate by gaming, programming, computing textbooks and manuals and journals. Later, we got a more modern machine, Atari 1040 ST, with a different processor and OS architecture, with more computing power and opportunities. In 1996, I met an IBM machine and Windows OS. Other than computing, my second passion was cinema: I was fascinated by all aspects of this art form. My artistic taste was formed by the works of Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Paul Verhoeven, and has since been enriched by many other names of newer talents. Watching movies is a ritual and a retreat for me.
In 1997, when I was 15, thanks to my dad, I was introduced into an artist' collective, where I did a lot of learning. At first I learned Adobe Photoshop, without which a graphic artist cannot function. Then I got to learn my first 3d program - LightWave. In those early times, there were no video tutorials as abundant as what you can find online today. I learned from books and from my colleague's work, by observation, there was no other way to learn.
I've been doing motion design professionally since 2006. However now, "Digital Environment Artist" is my primary speciality.
Recently, I finished working on two complex scenes for a motion picture, a russian sci-fi film. All for that work was done in VUE.
My last project, of which I am duly proud, was an extensive and interesting design, on which I collaborated with my friend Dax Pandhi from QuadSpinner. We are now planning other collaborative work on future projects.
Travelling is my hobby. I am inspired and happy when I travel. I like to find myself in beautiful places, to observe nature, to photograph textures, to analyze shapes, proportions, thinking about how to recreate them in VUE!
If you ask my advice as to how to learn to create beautiful landscapes in VUE, I would say - do not be afraid to experiment, study references, and nurture your own unique style - that way you will become a name.
Check out Roman's Behance portfolio at www.behance.net/romansenko.
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