Thursday, March 26, 2009

Interview With Billy Butler.

1) Could you tell me a little bit about yourself Billy? Where are you from and when, and how did you get started to have interest in this field?

I was born and raised in Byron Bay, Australia with a true passion in drawing, art and design since a very early age. When I got my hands on MSpaint (lol) then photoshop for the first time i figured that this was the future.. so i studied more into the digital medium side of things.

This eventually lead to 3d map design & creation (for half-life-counter-strike & quake 2) for fun & eventually i got my hands on a copy of 3dsmax during highschool and then converted over to Maya when i found out that was the industry standard for film and television vfx.

After high school i moved onto study a 3d animation course in Byron Bay SAE. This was quite a waste of money as the course was not structured very well and the teacher had no idea what he was supposed to be teaching!

It did however open the door to my first job in the industry hearing about Photon VFX only 1 hour drive away.I built a good enough generalist reel to get a junior position on the film 'Day Breakers' as a Rigger / Generalist then moved onto the television series 'Animalia' for a good 2 years.

They were going to employ me on that project as a Rigger but my passion was in modeling - so they assigned me a junior position as a 3d Character modeler instead.

2) How hard is it for a recent graduate to break into the business as a modeler? Is there a difference for a reel for games, animation, and live action? Do you have any tips? Maybe volunteer or intern somewhere first?

To be honest its quite difficult to tap into the industry. It really comes down to a good strong reel, a professional attitude and presentation.

If your reel was to be for a games position, i'd demonstrate low-poly character, prop or set modeling but with a detailed normals map finish.

[I haven't worked in games but im assuming thats what it would be like.]

As for film and television you dont have to worry about polygon or detail limitations as such. But as a modeler its good to provide examples of clean topology on your mesh. An understanding of Rigging and texturing helps a modeler get the position alot easier also as the understanding of the right topology layout (flowline), UV's and providing a test animation or pose of your model helps also.

3) How is it like working? Is it an intimidating work environment when you start off? I was wondering how many models is the quota for a modeler?

Its awesome! At first it can be quite intimidating because not only are you working with geeks with no real social skills allot of the time, but you are working with professionals who have been in the industry a while who tend to have quite an ego on their shoulders.I think a good social environment helps the production alot. Good social skills and being easy to get along with helps you get further faster.

The money is quite rewarding, but you have to get used to doing long hours. As for a modeler on say a television series - you would probably get given 2 - 4 weeks to complete a character.

For film - maybe more than a month..? Iit really depends on the model, the concept art, what rigging need it to do and how detailed its supposed to be. We churn out characters in less than a week though then spend the rest of the time bouncing back and forth from the rigging & texturing departments getting it to work best for them so it can then continue down the pipeline.

4) Do you have a specific workflow that works best for you when it comes to characters? Would u ever reuse models and modify it with deformers to save on time? 

When ever we can - we recycle models or bits of models to save time. (depending on time and budget of course) As for the movie im working on now - most of the characters are birds, so we have to create different characters using the same mesh and point order. its quite tedious.

If i were to be given a fresh piece of concept art and a reasonable deadline then i'd usually create the thing from scratch. using all primitives and tools available i prefer to patch model rather than hacking away at a giant cube. this provides a faster, more accurate workflow. as a modeler you aren't just restricted to the polygons menu I also use deformers, joints, dynamic simulations etc etc to help get the look im after.

5) Do you think its good to be multiskilled as a modeler? Should we also be masters at texturing and lighting too? Modeling seems like the beginning of the pipeline and when the work is done we're out of a job unless we have other skills?

It helps alot to be a generalist or multi skilled but not many people are as 3d/2d is so big and department specialized. texturing or rigging contracts usually start around the same time as modeling contracts start. lighting, compositing and animation however start a bit later. so yes. It could be a good idea to learn those fields in order to stay on that same project a bit longer.

Depending on the company's success, how well you did on the last project and how much the company likes you, they will try and transfer you over to a new project when your contract is up. Company's don't like losing people, because recruiting new people is such a big job. so if you want to settle down and not travel much - make a good impression in a good company and you shouldn't have much trouble staying.

I like modeling because its at the start of the food chain (pipeline) which means less stress, longer deadlines and a more fun relaxed environment.

6) Do you have a favourite experience at a place? And would u prefer working on feature films or on tv shows?

My favourite so far is working at Animal Logic in Sydney. Not only is Australia my home country, but the people here are fun, out going, love to party and we get to work on big awesome projects such as Happy Feet, 300, Australia, Knowing, Television Commercials and the current 'Guardians Of Ga'Hoole'.
Its the first company I have worked for that encourages socializing (e.g friday afternoon/night drinks in the office).

Personally i'd prefer to work on Television commercials i think. i guess that depends on the project really.
Film is lots of fun, but i tend to find it very slow and picky. I like to be busy and work on projects with a fast turn around (TVC).

7) When creating a reel.... is it a disadvantage if u show all objects, and environments as models instead of characters and vice versa?

Not quite. But always remember this.
When creating a reel - you dont want to bore the recruiter to tears. they have to look at boxes and boxes of reels every day so the last thing they want to see is: another shiny porche/Lamborghini rotating 1080 degrees, a half nude girl in skimpy ripped medieval clothes holding an oversized sword, a cheezy dragon with a lens flare in the back ground or any character model rotating in T pose.

A reel is about presentation, showing you are professional and love what you do. its like an animated business card. if you hand over a black and white business card with 'comic sans' font then its an epic design fail and the person you gave it to is instantly going to throw that thing in the bin. so make sure you take time to present your work professionally so you grab the recruiters attention. A good selection of music is essential (no lyrics!!) if you chose a piece of music that has lyrics then you are taking half of the attention away from your work and into the song. which is a bad thing.