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Want to know the secret to amazing work?
Us too. Unfortunately, the secret is "work really really hard."
Working out of his home office in the capital of Slovenia, Nejc Polovsak is consistently turning out some of the most creative, polished, and beautiful 3D work in the Motion Graphics world.
What's really incredible about Nejc is that he's more or less self-taught. He never received a formal education in design, animation, or any of the hard-core 3D techniques he uses to make his work look so incredible.
In this episode Joey talks to Nejc about how he got so damn good at doing this stuff, and then really dis into his process, his favorite tools, and his style. By the end of this interview you'll feel incredibly inspired to go make something cool.
Joey: Well hello there, and thank you for checking out another School of Motion interview. This interview is with a 3D artist that I've been following for awhile and a ... Lately he's been coming out with some just sick, killer work. A piece for Pause Fest 2014. A piece entitled Mothership. And most recently a piece for Stampsy, which is just incredible. And of course I'm talking about Nejc Polovsak, who lives in Slovenia, in the capitol, which and I practiced saying this a whole bunch of times, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
So I spoke with Nejc and my goal with this interview was to try and understand, how the heck he's so good? It turns out, he's entirely self-taught. Which may be mind-blowing, but when you listen to the interview and you listen to the way his brain works and his process. I think you'll understand why he has become so good at this.
And it was a really inspiring interview for me and I hope it is for you, as well. I will say that I apologize, you know, I was hoping that he would just kind of give me the secret. And that I could just tell it that to you. And then, we'd all be really good at Cinema 4D, like Nejc is but ... It's not. It's not like a magical combination of Red Bull and Ayahuasca, and Piracetam. It's actually years of hard work. So I hope that didn't spoil this for you. With that enjoy the interview.
Joey: So Nejc, thank you so much for a ... Joining me and agreeing to talk with me and hopefully let me un-peel your brain a little bit. So if you want to say, hi to everybody. Say hi to the people out there listening.
Nejc: Yeah. Sure. No worries. I'm happy to be here and a ... Hi, everyone listening.
Joey: Awesome. Well I'd know, you know when I mentioned I was going to talk to you. A lot of people got excited and I think ... I understand why, cause I spent all morning going through as much of your work as I could possibly find. To kind of, try and trace your growth as a 3D artist. I actually found ... I found some pretty old stuff of yours on like CG Society.
You may not even know it's up there. But it was amazing to see kind of how far you've come with it. So, you know, I know that you did not actually go to school for this. You went to school for computer science, correct?
Nejc: Yeah. Exactly. I started and even in high school I went to took a course of like computer science, programming, coding and ... Yeah. And I were really like felt this was something I really want to do for the rest of my life. Or you know just stare at the code for at least 8 hours a day. So ... I don't know like end of, at the end of my high school. I like a ... Got into 3D a bit as a hobby and then things just ... Yeah, better just on how progressed from just being a hobby to like getting first job, and just ... Yeah, then starting freelancing.
Joey: Sure. So it's funny cause, I kind of can remember back you know, I never studied computer science, but I got really into programming when I was I don't know ... Middle school. High school. And then I found Visual FX and 3D. So I'm curious, what 3D program was the first one you started playing with?
Nejc: Sure. Well. First one I started playing with was Maya. But actually, like the first one that a friend introduced me to was 3D Studio Max. But I never really liked it or just like, I don't know, I just found Maya that time to bit more intuitive for me to learn, maybe? So when I-
Joey: I never heard anyone say that.
Nejc: That's like 10 years ago. So.
Nejc: So things are a bit different now. So. Yeah. I just, I got hooked instantly and just trying to learn so much and I just saw this world of like potential things that could be done with it. And just, yeah, I was just like absorbed to it with all the like, everything I could found online and just started to learn basics like modeling, texturing, lighting, like no animation from for I don't know maybe five, six years in the beginning. I didn't truly do much animation.
But. Yeah. I just like really enjoyed learning basics and just coming up with different renders and just like still images and yeah.
Joey: Gotcha. Okay. Well so. One of the things that stands out I think about your work, and even kind of the earlier work that I found. There was a shot from 2005 on there, on CG Society of ... It was just a simple interior with some chairs and a table. But it was already, getting pretty photo realistic. And that's how I would describe a lot of your work. It's got, it's very bizarre stuff and it's really surreal. But the quality of the textures and the lighting and the framing and all that stuff is very photo realistic and I'm curious did you ever dabble in photography or making home movies or anything like that to kind-
Like how did you ... Like how does your work have that quality when no one taught that to you?
Nejc: Yeah. It's funny. I never really liked learned design or photography. Photography was again, was one of my hobbies and I just learned a ton there maybe about like lighting and compositions and how to frame stuff and ... I don't know. It's just even now I just do like things by how I feel it should, it could work right you know. It's like just this feeling I have and just messing around with things until something doesn't look right. And ... Yeah.
Nejc: I don't know. It's a bit weird maybe but that's how it works for me.
Joey: All right. Well here, let me jump back a little bit. So, you were studying computer science which I mean, that's an incredibly left-brain kind of a thing, you know, very structural and rigid sometimes and now you're doing stuff that is, you know, in many ways the complete opposite of that. You've got ... And not even just the you know, in terms of the technical ability that you have in Cinema 4D to make stuff, but even just coming up with these ideas. You know like the Pause Fest piece you did, being a good example of just weird kind of, like where does that even come from. And I was, you know, I wanted to ask you ... Do you ever struggle with balancing those two-halves of your brain? You know, having to come up with the ideas and the image, but then you also have to figure out how to execute it. Is that ever a struggle for you?
Nejc: It's always a struggle. It never gets easier. Like, I mean yeah. For the first, I don't know how many years, it's like with the 3D it's so complicated and so in depth and so many like different tools, and so many things you have to learn. Like for the first I don't know like five years let's say. Or maybe, I don't know, four, five years I was just like learning tools and I didn't really try to be to much creative. I was maybe more, like you said before you saw an interior ... Maybe I was just trying to figure out how to achieve something that is like, there in reality.
And ... Yeah, then things maybe somehow, like, when you know the tools and your not so much limited by like not knowing how to do something? Then it's much easier to just play around with stuff. And I would say a lot of my work, comes out of just like experimenting and trying out different things and ... Some things, sometimes something good comes out of it, and sometimes there's nothing good which fortunately you don't really see online.
Joey: Yeah you just curate your own work right?
Nejc: Yeah. That's how it works.
Joey: Well it's interesting you brought that up though because you know a lot of motion graphics artist, probably most ... Are in a position where they are given some sort of brief and there's kind of maybe even some art direction. And so ... They're not asked so much to play around, come up with some neat looking thing and then let's figure out how to use that neat looking thing. But you're saying that's typically how your work comes around. You actually figure out something cool and then figure out what to do with it?
Nejc: Um. Yeah. I mean it's like totally depends on the project. Sometimes you already have the concept or sometimes you have like a certain style that you have to go with it. Or just like a bunch of references and ... But sometimes you have to like come up with something from scratch and I don't know sometimes it's cool to just search for references. Sometimes it's cool to just try and go into 3D and then try to come up with something cool. So yeah, it's like it's never like straight bad. It's always like a bit different and yeah.
Joey: Right. So since you're self-taught and you kind of figured out how to do this stuff on your own. Do you follow any of the typical kind of workflow that you know like a studio would follow. So for example, on you know Mothership or Pause Fest. You've got these, pretty detailed and very funky looking kind of spaceships and creatures. Did you draw those out first? Did you just go right into Cinema 4D and start modeling? Like how did you design all that stuff?
Nejc: Yeah one thing, I'm really bad at is drawing. So. That is something that is still on my to do list, so maybe it will be like a really good idea to learn it. But a lot of times, actually just start like sketching in 3D. Just playing with shapes and like really simple stuff low poly stuffs. Just not over doing anything. Just trying to come up with something and then like when you're ... I don't know, when I'm just trying things out then I could get idea about, okay, maybe I could try this or maybe I can try that. And it's always this kind of like process that gets me to whatever I do in the end or whatever comes out of it.
Joey: Gotcha. So how do you approach modeling in Cinema 4D? Do you typically just start with like you know a cube or just a simple shape or do you actually model the correct 3D way with making sure your edge loops are nice and all that stuff?
Nejc: Yeah I mean it totally depends what you want to do with the model, you know? It's ... I mean it's sometimes if you know just drawing it blind and [extruding 00:11:11] it works then that's fine. But if like I have to put something in subdivision object and do something else with it, then it's, it's like a good habit to keep in mind all the loops and everything. But it's ... It's like not like one of the things I enjoy doing but it's like, something I-
Joey: I know. It's a necessary evil. Well I said this to Rich, which is that, you know I think Cinema 4D is great because it let's you start making stuff, way before you really understand what it is your doing. Like you can make awesome stuff without having a clue how to model in 3D. But from looking at your work, it looks like you do know how to model and you do understand the importance of you know, topology and all that. I'm curious where you learned that?
Nejc: Yeah that was like, basically first two years maybe of just me trying to learn 3D [ents 00:12:07]. I started with basics. I started with modeling stuff and that was Maya and like after two or three years, I switched over to Cinema and like realized how much faster, or just like simpler certain things are? And yeah, but I think it's like pretty important to have that like solid base ... Basis when it comes to like modeling, texturing, this kind of things. Which like these days, I see a lot of people getting into motion graphics, maybe they ... There's people that want to animate. But they don't really like know the basics of it? Like, basics in 3D I mean.
Nejc: And it's so much easier when you like understand the whole process from like designing something to when you actually have to animate it. So. I'm pretty happy I started learning 3D that way. It took a long time but yeah.
Joey: And what were the resources you used to learn it? I mean did you just open Maya and figure it out? Or was there like a website or a you know a DVD or something that helped you get the hang of it?
Nejc: Yeah there was, I mean there weren't nearly as much tutorials as there are today for Cinema definitely but I remember there were a lot of Norman tutorials. There was this, I think they're definitely still around. It's Norman, like online school.
Nejc: And they have bunch of DVD's on modeling stuff. On texturing stuff. On like lighting rendering. But it was mostly, everything was mostly for Maya. But like when you know it's stuff for one 3D software, you can easily switch over to something else. Especially, if you switch over to like a Cinema. Which is a bit easier to use than Maya.
Joey: Right. Well so I'm not, I've opened Maya maybe twice in my entire life. I've just kind of avoided it and so, what just out of curiosity ... What are some of the things that are easier in Cinema 4D than in Maya?
Nejc: It's ... I wouldn't say it's like specific things. I would say it's maybe just the whole approach to like tools, how everything works maybe? Just like the whole interface. How everything is organized. Yeah. I don't know. It just felt so much, I don't know maybe a bit more natural when I switched over to Cinema. I'm not really sure why, but it was just a bit less. Also a bit less crashing.
Joey: Right. That definitely helps. Nice. And so, do you, you know I've seen lately you've been doing a lot of experiments with Octane rendering and stuff like that. But you know, was there a point where you were using the built in Cinema 4D render engine?
Nejc: Yeah definitely. I've used it on like a ton of stuff. I mean I used it on Pause Fest video, and like bunch of different stuff. I like maybe after Pause Fest video, that was maybe a year, a year and a half ago maybe I switched over and tried to use V-Ray for most of the stuff. But before that, I like mostly just used Advanced Renderer which is part of Cinema 4D. And yeah, I see a lot of people are like, I don't know, kind of feel limited by it? But it's capable of doing a lot. But it could be a bit like slower for certain things, but it's definitely like pretty solid render engine.
Joey: Yeah. That Pause Fest one I was actually kind of surprised to hear you say that you used the built-in render. Because there's sort of, I think there's a perception that V-Ray and Octane they give you a look. There's like a certain look that they give you. And I think that look is what you have on the Pause Fest. It looks very solid and real. And it just feels natural. So what are some of the things you do to get that look using the you know using just the built-in Advanced Renderer?
Nejc: Yeah. I would say, maybe not just about Advance Renderer. But I would say every time like I do anything in 3D I just try to get to the final look. To the look I want to achieve in the end. So I try to like polish things as much as I can in 3D without like doing too much compositing or just too much color correction in it. So like maybe one thing Advanced Renderer overdoes is that ambient [inaudible 00:16:58] look. So maybe that's something that you could try to like avoid a bit. And I don't know, it's a lot of times it's just like tweaking materials and lights just like a little bit here and there and then somehow things come together.
Joey: Gotcha. So on that Pause Fest piece what was your lighting setup for that?
Nejc: That was super simple. That was ... I think that was like just a sky. Parallel sky light and basically a sky with a texture and global illumination and that was it. It was super simple.
Joey: Wow. Yeah. I mean it looks, it definitely looks like a global illumination render. But then there's like a lot of beautiful kind of back lights on the clouds. And there's you know nice highlight and stuff.
Nejc: Yeah. Like for instance, the clouds had ... I mean a lot of times I also try to like fake stuff. So I think the clouds had ... Didn't have any global illumination because I mean I render clouds in separate paths. But I think they don't really have any global illumination because that render forever. And basically, I just faked it with adding some luminance to the clouds material.
Nejc: So they still like catch shadows but they have this like their own sort of their own luminance a bit.
Joey: Yeah. That's a good ... That's a really good trick actually. I use the same trick. You just add a little luminance and it kind of brings up the level of everything. It makes it feel ... It's almost like that sub-surface scattering look. It just fakes it a little bit.
Nejc: Yeah. Yeah. And it's much faster. So.
Joey: Yeah. Yeah. That's another question I had for you. So you know a lot of this stuff, I mean the Pause Fest, the Mothership one is probably an even better example. There's a lot going on in your scenes. You know, it looks like there's particles, there's dynamics going on probably also key frame animation. And then you've got very, very nice textures and lighting. Do you use a render form when you do this or do you just render it on your, you know on one machine?
Nejc: Yeah this ... We're talking about Mothership that was like rendered on my PC. In about like five days. When I was away on vacation.
Joey: Five days. And you were so confident that those renders would look right when you got back that-
Nejc: You know I mean like ... I did a bunch of like test renders before like firing off you know. Final stuff. But yeah, I mean I just try to pushed it and again still faking certain things and render times weren't really that bad. So yeah, somehow managed to render it all on my machine. Basically the heaviest thing in there was, I think it was like the battlefield?
Nejc: Because it's a lot of it and it's that was maybe the heaviest part of it all. Because I again, I just faked global illumination in certain places. But yeah that was like the heaviest part I think.
Joey: Gotcha. So do you always prefer to render depth of field in the 3D render as oppose to a post effect?
Nejc: Yeah. If I mean if I can do that. If I can like afford to do that. If I have time then definitely I do it because I mean I try to do it in post for so many times and I always had trouble. Like for instance, when I have something that's out of focus over something that's in focus like overlapping stuff. It never works as well, as if you just like render out single pass. And it's like perfect, then it probably also looks a bit better but yeah it's a bit more heavy on the render.
Joey: Gotcha. And how much trouble do you go to get rid of noise in your renders and stuff like that. Are you really dialing in settings or you just kind of crank it up to a high setting and say, all right, go ahead.
Nejc: No not really. I mean. I always try to optimize and come up with some kind of like normal solution so render times are not too crazy. And yeah I don't know really, like for instance if we look at Mothership, I know like I faked global illumination in the tunnels.
Nejc: Basically, so that rendered pretty fast. But I had to render it out depth of field so that was like the heavy one. But to get rid of the noise in depth of field you just have to crank up samples on the camera, so that was like the only option I had. So that rendered for awhile. But like when you also have motion blur that helps a bit to get rid of the noise in like when things are moving you know and it's like, yeah it's always tricky but yeah.
Nejc: If I like manage to get times like to certain like levels where I can render stuff, like locally? On my computer or my computers. I have two. Then I just like do that. Otherwise, I use render farm, online render farms for certain things. But yeah if I can optimize then I just try to do it here. On my machine.
Joey: Interesting. So are you, when you're using depth of field and motion blur are you using the Physical Renderer to do that?
Nejc: Yep. Like so Mothership was done in V-Ray and like we talked about Pause Fest before which was done in Advanced Renderer and Pause Fest was rendered with Physical Renderer, I think? Yeah.
Nejc: And yeah V-Ray is just V-Ray.
Joey: Gotcha. And so you know I've used V-Ray a little bit and I know that one of the things that is kind of a selling point of it is you can really tweak the settings. So if you need you know more samples, just on the depth of field you can just add more samples on depth of field. But it won't really hurt your render times in terms of motion blur and other things like that.
Joey: So but that also makes it very hard to learn. So how hard did you find it to move to V-Ray?
Nejc: I think what's cool with V-Ray is that even if you don't really touch much of it, it still looks nice. So and there is like a bunch of presets that comes with it. So if like you know some basics of it, you can like do a lot of stuff. So I wouldn't say I know V-Ray like in depth. Like every little setting here or there. But like for instance, Mothership was rendered with just like some presets setup for GI which I tried out, and it worked well so I used it. And yeah then there's stuff like you mentioned like depth of field samples and motion blur samples. And like a lot of times what just the V-Ray's output looks good enough even if you just like leave it at default or just like looks really good. Yeah.
Joey: Did you end up on Mothership using any you know features of V-Ray that you couldn't have used in Cinema 4D. You know I know that before R-16 there were certain material kind of things you just couldn't really do. You know before they added their reflecting channels ... Did you use any of that?
Nejc: Yeah actually, you know what. I still haven't used reflecting channel at all until now. I mean I still haven't had time to like ... I don't even use Advanced Renderer much anymore? I'm just like, I'm a bit addicted to Octane, these days. I'm just like ... Just messing with Octane. If I can use it. Then I'm just using that. But I don't know. I think like if you would go in and try to get something really similar out of Advanced Renderer, you could because it's not ... It's like Mothership. It's not something that looks maybe super photo realistic or it's actually the style of it is something that is quite like something that Advanced Renderer would be I think would be perfectly capable of doing. Yeah.
Joey: Yeah. Yeah, I mean you know V-Ray, when I started getting into it. You know one of the, it's one of those renderers that it kind of comes from an architectural place. So you have material settings on top of material settings and you can have maps for everything. And that's kind of you know, that's one of the ways you can get super duper realistic. Brushed chrome with scratches on it and stuff like that. But to you what are the advantages of using V-Ray over say, the Physical Renderer in Cinema 4D?
Nejc: Well I guess first thing would be probably the speed. It's faster but like also the output you get is when you just like maybe try to compare but it's what you get out of V-Ray is just like ... I don't know. It just feels kind of like more solid. Maybe better. But I would say like when you're trying to do like specific thing then I think you could take either of the render engines. And if you like nail all the settings and all the tweaks and everything down then a lot is achievable with both I think.
Joey: Gotcha. And so now you know this would be a good time to talk about Octane a little bit. You know I've played around with Thea Render quite a bit. And you know I think that these GPU renderers are kind of, I mean that's the way everything's going. That's the future. It has to eventually. Everything has to be GPU accelerated. So how has Octane changed the way you work? Or you know, like what has it done for you, you know obviously it's faster but other than that what other kind of things has it enabled you to do?
Nejc: Well it's just it's just like so much faster when it comes to just maybe tweaking stuff. When you can instantly see small tweaks and changes? I would say that's like the number one thing. Because maybe when you switch over like to final render settings, maybe it really depends on what kind of like graphic cards you have. But maybe like for the final renders it's not that much faster then let's say V-Ray? But when you're just like trying to figure out materials and textures and lighting it's like so much faster when you have that instant feedback on like what's going on. Or what the lights are doing? What the materials are doing? So that's like, that's definitely like big advantage of it. Yeah.
Joey: Gotcha. So you're saying the final quality of the render is not necessarily any better, it's just the process of getting to that render is less painful?
Nejc: Maybe yeah. It's a bit more, I don't know. It's a bit more intuitive. And it allows you to work a bit faster I think. And just like tweak things a lot easier then doing like bunch of test renders and then comparing them and you know when you can like almost instantly see changes on screen.
Joey: Right. Right. And is there was there a big learning curve for you to hop into Octane?
Nejc: Not really because like it has I think it has the least settings of like both of V-Ray and Advanced Renderer. Octane doesn't really have that much settings so that's nice. And that's like easy to learn. And things somehow just look really good. So I don't know, I did some test projects but I would say I mean I don't really know it's super good now. But it's like pretty easy engine to learn.
Joey: Gotcha. Well I ... That's definitely on my list of toys I need to play with. Because you know, just I've been using Thea which is very similar. Although it doesn't do all that great on my ... I use an iMac. And it doesn't, it works ... But it kind of, it makes everything else go really slow. What do you, what kind of system do you use to do this stuff?
Nejc: Okay. I didn't really use Thea before. But well I have PC with dual GTX 760 or 780, I think? And like it's fast. But it could be faster. So it's like ... It's never fast enough usually. But for stills it's great but when you like want to do maybe like in full HD animation that it's a bit longer, then maybe you still have to, I don't know, I would say still have to find maybe render farm or something.
So maybe like I'm planning ... I'm just a geek. Can you add maybe I'll just like try to build another machine. New one with maybe four graphic cards which are like, which is like a small render farm in itself you know so it can do a lot of stuff on just one machine.
Joey: Yeah. I've seen some YouTube videos of you know people that have built these monster machines with four graphics cards. And it's pretty mind-blowing like how fast in can render something that looks, you know like a final render almost. In like two seconds.
Nejc: Probably also when you're throwing it on all the lights in the room goes out for a little bit because of the power it use.
Nejc: Yeah. It's pretty awesome.
Nejc: Like where things are going.
Joey: You'll get like third degree burns on your legs but other than that, it renders really fast though.
Nejc: Yeah. That's the important thing in the end.
Joey: Nice. Yeah. So have you ever worked on Macs or do you always work on PCs?
Nejc: I did quite a lot of work on Macs. But, like when I went freelance. I didn't really like ... That was also the time when the Mac current version of Mac Pro was getting quite old already about four years ago. And yeah, I just like bought myself a PC workstation. But like before that, I worked on a Mac Pro workstation and also now if I go to some other places to work. There are times when I work on a Mac but I would say it doesn't really matter that much when like 99% of the time you spend in Cinema or AfterEffects or Photoshop it's like the same thing.
Joey: Right. Right. Yeah. I mean I guess there's the perception that a PC you can you know for half the money you can put two or three graphics cards in there and really have like a really powerful workstation for using Octane or something like that. Where as ... You can't do that with an iMac, you would need a Mac Pro. And the Mac Pro is way more money so I didn't know if you had a ... If you had an opinion about PC versus Mac, or not.
Nejc: Yeah. I mean one problem with like if we are looking at rendering with GPU's is one problem currently with Mac Pro's is that they use AMD GPU's right, and they don't really support CUDA which is in DDS technology and so you can't really use Octane or Thea as you mentioned before. I guess that only works in on NVIDIA cards right?
Joey: Right. Right.
Nejc: So but like the next version of Octane should support AMD cards so I'm not sure, I guess like, I'm not sure how they will compare speed wise with all the NVIDIA cards but I'm guessing that will like make Mac Pro's much more interesting to a lot of 3D users again.
Joey: Yeah. It's that like the eternal conflict between Mac and PC. And i guess you're right in the end, it really doesn't matter what you're working on you know like ... And I also believe that however much time you have to complete a project. That's how much time that project takes.
Nejc: Yeah. Exactly.
Joey: You're never going to finish early. So. Yeah.
Nejc: I think you never should limit yourself with either like software you are using, or the render engine your using. You shouldn't like never go, "Oh, I'm using you know Advance Renderer, I can't really do something like this." Which is done in V-Ray because I mean, a lot of stuff could be done either of those. You just like have to get rid of that mindset that you need to have this to do this you know.
Joey: Yeah. I agree with you 100%. I think it's not about the tool, it's about the artist. So let me ask you this Nejc, so you've got some really really good animation A. But you've also got really good camera work in your pieces. It like and specifically I want to call out the Tray Flip piece. Where the camera zooming all over the place but always ends up exactly where you want it with these nice little drifts and stuff like that. And I'm curious A - What tools your using to do that in Cinema 4D? If you're just key framing a camera or if you're using camera morph tag or something like that. And also, you know, where did you develop your ability to control the camera like that?
Nejc: Yeah. Like, camera is still something I really struggle with like getting proper camera moves out of like whatever I try to do. And that exactly that Tray Flip project was something that was like one of the most challenging camera moves I ever did because I think it took me a few days to just figure it out. What will be like the best approach to do it. And how to do it. And like when I have the boards spinning, you have to like have ... I mean I had to had like the board animation first and then figure out the camera. So it was a bit of a like weird process but eventually I got to the point where I was happy with it. But like I use Cinema's camera morphs and ... Basically I used few cameras for like setting positions and rotations. I didn't use just one camera which is moving along the like the space. But I just used bunch of motion cams to just like try to get some nice morphs and then also animate those cams. So the morph cams weren't really. I mean the like ... So yeah. It's so complicated.
Joey: Yeah. I know. I know. I think I get what you're saying. And it's obviously to explain without having any kind of visual aid.
Nejc: I think I posted an image of the hierarchy I had in Cinema for it. And I think it was about 10 cameras in the end. Total.
Joey: Oh okay.
Nejc: So like it was like one mo-cam morphing from this mo-cam which was morphing with like this two cameras. So it was like, bunch of morphs going on.
Joey: Gotcha. And so, this and you know I'm looking at this piece right now. And there's very shallow depth of field so I'm assuming that, that was done in the render engine obviously. That wasn't a post effect. What did you render this with?
Nejc: Yeah. That was Octane.
Joey: That was Octane.
Nejc: And it was, it was pretty heavy to render. But yeah I just wanted to render it out because it look so good in the end. So yeah.
Joey: Oh let me ask you this. So I'm going through it and you know when the skateboard is in front of, like you've got these cool lights kind of lighting everything. And there's these beautiful like balloons you know. Like you know the light kind of bleeding around the edge of the skateboard almost like it's blowing the camera out. Did you do any of that in compositing or was that all in the render?
Nejc: That was, I would say that is a mix of Octane and some of the post work I did in After Effects. Some of the like the balloon comes out of Octane's engine, where you actually have a settings where lights can glow. And I think on top of that, I also applied some glow or maybe some optical flares in After Effects. But like overall, the whole video doesn't really have that much compositing on it. It's like a lot of it is just straight out of the render engine.
Joey: Gotcha. So how much compositing do you typically do on things? I mean I ... Like when I render something from 3D, I have you know mattes for absolutely everything. And I'm color correcting everything. And I think all kinds of stuff.
Joey: How much do you do?
Nejc: Yeah that's what I was saying earlier is like I try to like tweak everything as much as I can in 3D. So like when it comes out, usually I just like do some color correction on it. Some contrast corrections. But like most of the times I just like tweak things. Like in like really in detail. Just in 3D.
Joey: Gotcha. Yeah. I ... Rich said the same thing. And I wish I was that confident in my 3D abilities. I got some work to do. Let me ask you about this too, so you know the Tray Flip, you know I'm assuming that was pretty much key framed animation. Right? Like was there, did you simulate that board flipping or did you actually just key frame it the way you wanted it?
Nejc: Yeah it's, it's all key framed. Definitely, no, no, no dynamics or anything like that going on.
Joey: Gotcha. But then obviously in Mothership or Pause Fest you've got some really intricate like particles flying around and tendrils and they're simulated and all that. And you know, I found that especially when people are starting out. They tend to shy away from the manual labor of like key framing something and so ... What would you say your balance is between like key framing stuff and really taking full control of the animation versus simulating it and using particles and stuff like that?
Nejc: Yeah there's it's like constant battle with me it's like what should I use and a lot of times I learned that it's so much smarter and easier, I mean if you can't, to just key frame stuff instead of just you know trying to replicate something with dynamics and just like tweaking settings for two hours and you still like don't have the result you want. But if you like maybe try to key frame something and it takes you an hour. But you know you'll have it like exactly the way you want. Then it likes make so much more sense to key frame stuff.
So like with Mothership and Pause Fest, there is like bunch of objects. So I couldn't really key frame them. So there were a lot of particles and dynamics going on. But like for instance, in the [TV3 Spot 00:40:47], where there's like this bulb bouncing around. And there's also some magnets snapping together that's like all key framed because it was just, I guess it was also tester. But it was just so much more easy for me to do it that way. Because like when you know what you want to achieve ... It's a lot of times it's just like, I think it's just easier to key frame stuff if you can.
Joey: Yeah. Now did you, you know because even though it may have looked kind of simple. Having a ball bounce and have it look correct. There's actually a trick to that. And did you ever you know learn animation from somewhere? Or did you just sort of figure it out and start to understand on your own how animation curves work and stuff like that?
Nejc: Yeah it's. It was again, like a process of me just like teaching myself through different projects I think. And it's the way I do things now. It's just like based on how I feel it should be and how it feels it should work. You know?
Nejc: So um ...
Joey: Cause I'm looking at that you know that [TV3 Puls 00:41:54] project, the one with the you know the ball kind of bouncing around and landing on stuff. I mean it looks very natural. It's animated very well and again, like I don't know I guess whenever I see something that looks that good. I'm like what's the secret? And you're just telling me it's hard work and that's not what the answer I wanted but ...
Nejc: Yeah. It's just like getting your hands dirty and getting you know in key frames stuff. That's what like, takes care of like a lot of work.
Joey: Yeah. Yeah. Well I'm a big believer of just getting in there, getting your hands dirty and key framing too. And you know, that's another one of those things I think Cinema sometimes makes it a little too easy to just throw that dynamics tag on there and then, "Oh look now it does it all by itself." And then sometimes that's not the best way.
Nejc: Yeah. Probably.
Nejc: Yeah. I think like that [TV3 Spot 00:42:59] took me about two or three days to animate. Where if I would like try to come up with dynamic solution for it I would just probably go crazy.
Joey: Yeah and you'd still ... And it would lose that personality that it has too. You know.
Nejc: Yeah. Exactly.
Joey: Everything kind of works. All right. So the last thing I wanted to talk about is, kind of where your career has taken you. Cause you know on your website, and let me double check this make sure I get this right. But you're kind of calling yourself a director. Right? You're an animator obviously, but you're also saying that you're a director now and I want to know kind of what's the ... Like what's the difference and what does a director really do, you know as a motion graphics artist?
Nejc: Okay. Yeah. Well I just recently I actually changed it from being like director or motion graphic artist to just being a creator. Because I don't know, I just do like everything from design to animation. And I didn't really want to narrow it down too much. But like, I don't know like the director probably just has a good overview of like the whole piece of the whole video and just figures out the shots and figures out the compositions and framings and like just the flow of things. I guess. And yeah ... Where as if you are just like motion designer on something then maybe you can just like animate a part of something, instead of like having overview of like the whole piece.
Joey: Right. I mean cause you know there's big companies like you know, Elastic or something where they have a director who doesn't actually ever open Cinema 4D or After Effects. They just direct. But you obviously, you know a lot about Cinema 4D and After Effects and production. And so I didn't know if there was, you know, if you were for example being called in to lead a team of junior artists or something like that. Has that happened yet?
Nejc: Yeah. Maybe I had few opportunities to do that. But it's yeah, I guess it depends like if you're working in a team. Or if you are doing like stuff on your own. But I've had projects where I like maybe I set kind of like defined shots or maybe set a style of animation, in the beginning. And then there was like other guys that tried to mimic that kind of style throughout the whole thing. And yeah I guess it's like, two different ways of like you can I don't know, like you can direct by doing things and setting up things in 3D actually. But you can also direct by just lik directing people working on the projects and like proper directions.
Nejc: With the style and flow of everything.
Joey: Do you ever, so I struggle with this a lot. So you know, if you're working with a team and you may be working with people who went you know to school and have degrees in graphic design and stuff. Do you ever feel a little bit like an imposter? Like don't they know that I'm just faking all this. Like do you feel that way?
Nejc: Yeah. I don't know. Of course there's like always like sometimes I see like really young guys. That are doing such a great work and I'm just like saying to myself well I should, maybe if would study something like this, I would, I could be even better. Or yeah. I don't know but I'm pretty happy the way things turned out so.
Joey: That's good. That's good. Yeah it's just funny cause I you know, I've been very fortunate lately. I've been able to talk to like you know artists like yourself that are very accomplished and doing amazing work. And I have yet to meet one that's like yeah no. I'm awesome. I know I am. Like everyone kind of struggles with that just you know. Eternal artist thing I guess like it's never good enough.
Nejc: Yeah. It's like as soon as I finish something. I don't really like it anymore.
Joey: Yeah. And that's a shame.
Joey: But I guess that's what keeps you going. So what's your goal now? As far as your career. I mean you're freelance and you're starting to direct a little bit. Where do you see this going in you know, the next 3 to 5 years?
Nejc: Yeah. I quite enjoy the way things are right now. I mean I'm pretty like flexible I have a lot of freedom and just taking things easy but I don't know. It would seem obvious that the next step would be maybe trying to like come up with something bigger I guess. But I'm not really sure. I'll just see how things go and what feels right. But like right now, I just like probably want to freelance. Like I am now for a few more years. But then just like see what happens along that.
Joey: Sure. And how often do you travel to other countries to freelance?
Nejc: I would say I did it more often when I started. So I started about four years ago, and lately if I can do work from like my home office I just do it from my home office. Because I mean I really enjoy traveling to different places and meeting new people. And just like working in different places but I also like enjoy having my own spot. Where I can focus and just like work on stuff. So I would say like a good mix of both is cool. But maybe like recent, recently maybe like two or three times a year I've been to different places. In different countries. But yeah. That's-
Joey: And do you think that ... Do you see any kind of advantage. Well first of all, I don't know if this is true or not. But I would imagine that you know, living where you do is probably less expensive then living in like New York City or Los Angeles, or something like that. Is like, the city you live in is it fairly affordable compared to those two?
Nejc: Yeah probably it is. I mean definitely it is.
Nejc: [inaudible 00:49:35] definitely cheaper.
Joey: So are you able to have like a you know, I don't know what you're day rate is. But I mean is, I would imagine you're able to have a much nicer quality of life being freelance and working from where, you know, from your home office then if you were like living in New York or L.A. and trying to get in the mix or something. And I was just curious if that's part of the reason that you do what you do. Or if you just really like where you live?
Nejc: Yeah. I mean I have some plans. But maybe I wouldn't like go like ... I wouldn't discuss about that too much until it's more fixed. But I would say, the way I currently work and live it offers me quite like a good life quality and it also like, allows me to like have a bit of break between client work and work on my own stuff. And I knew if I would live someplace that is like two or three more times more expensive. I wouldn't really, I couldn't really afford it because I would just like jump from one client project to another one just to you know, pay the rent. But that's not my goal.
Joey: Yeah. It's a actually it's a great time to be doing this. And it's, I'm seeing this with more people that I know too in the States. I mean, myself included, I moved from a very expensive city to a very inexpensive city. And when I still freelance, you know I still charge the same amount. So. I basically, everything it costs half as much here. But you make the same amount. It's beautiful.
Nejc: Yeah. Yeah. It's nice right.
Joey: Yeah. That's excellent. Cool man. Well I ... You know expect that whatever you decide you want to do, you will be very successful at it. And I just want to say thank you one more time for answering all these questions and I think everyone's going to get a kick out of this interview.
Nejc: Yeah. No worries. It was a pleasure to talk to you man.
Joey: I want to say thank you to Nejc one more time for coming on and chatting with me. I learned a ton in this interview. I hope you did too. And again, if you like this interview ... There's another one I did recently with [Rich Nosworthy 00:51:49]. Similar level of geekery and dorkiness. And if you're into these, please let me know because this is something that I really enjoy doing and if it's something that you know you're getting value out of and you're learning from. Let me know. Because I could schedule more of these. I love chatting with artists. That's really inspiring for me and I learn. I just learn so much just being around people who are doing things at the level that I'd like to be doing things at. So yeah. Please leave feedback. The show notes are going to be on schoolofmotion.com. On the page for this interview. And I hope you enjoyed it and I'll see you next time.