Modeler and Animator
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and grew up in Germany. I was always fascinated of the world around us and how we perceive it, and loved to explore the way I was interpreting it myself. The puzzle of existence and the chance of expanding the content of reality by explaining my desires to reenergize the otherwise jaded view of everyday sightings started me into the never-ending quest to visualize my own perceptions, and offer a look at alternative worlds for both myself and everyone who enjoyed it as well.
At the age of 14 my father immediately gave in to my wish to have a computer and bought a Commodore 16 for me. In this early time of Home-Computers it was soon necessary to start programming one's own content in order to come into the full pleasures of a machine. So I started to program pretty much right away. This drove me into both visual as well as musical explorations within computers.
I started to illustrate professionally with good old pixel graphics at the age of 15 for some computer-based training programs. Eventually, in 1991 I believe, I got in contact with the world of 3D. Soon after this, I integrated it into my professional projects, first using Realsoft's Real3D and then Newtek's Lightwave 3.5 (pal).
After making myself a freelancer in 1993 when I turned 21, I more and more focused on the 3D part and built my first characters, as well as a method of animating them using bones. In 1996 I think I had my first internet presents and soon after landed my first US connection through fullpage adds of Lightwave.
In 1998 I received the famous Hollywood phonecall, that brought me over to the States joining StationXstudios. This is where we created project:messiah! to put together all the advances in character animation we had made, and to smooth out our productions.
In 2000 I joined Computercafe, who had been a collection of my favorite people in the visual effects business and I so enjoyed to be with. The initially-small boutique gave me the chance to really feel our success as we supplied more and more high-profile movies with our work. Bringing project:messiah with me and my recovered passion for programming gave us the chance to more and more create new and cutting edge effects, whether it was seen in the shots or simply behind the scenes.
In the beginning, 2001 I believe, I wrote a new shading feature I called "volumetric translucency" which then again changed all of the effects work after that, and was used in pretty much every project from then on. Besides this I started to write custom tools for many things that otherwise would have been either impossible or simply much harder to do without. In 2003 I had to write digital fire for the movie "Gothika", which not only burned the characters on the screen, but also my own energy as an employee to the production-world, so at the beginning of 2004 I left this part of my life to finally join back with pmG to help boost Messiah:Studio to where it is right now, and continue to do so until the real potential of it is crystal clear to everyone, like it is to us. My passion is to create and to help creating equally. I love seeing the perceptions and interpretations of life, and wishes of artists all over the world. I also firmly believe that we are one of the more recognizable elements of evolution and that there's a profound meaning to our work. As artists, we reflect the current capacity of human imagination and it is the duty of us developers to make it faster and stronger, and most motivating to bring this imagination out to the eyes of the world. And I see myself as a little part of both of these sides.
How did you first discover ZBrush?
I think it must have been right at the start, which to me felt like 10 years ago, but it turns out it is much younger than that ...hehehe... I was instantly fascinated by the concept and wanted to pursue it a lot more, feeling that there was this obvious power to it, but back then it still had to grow a lot and my occupation made it very hard to keep track of it. I can hardly begin to tell how much I was thrilled to encounter it again only a few months ago and instantly fell in love with it as it shows that it is now what I expected/hoped for it to be.
Which ZBrush techniques and applications have been useful to you in your work?
Most immediate, it is the possibility to create displacement maps for subdivision meshes with it by intuitively and organically deforming the divided high-resolution geometry. I instantly started using it for our content as well as my freelance projects. On top of it, it inspired us to add some additional functions for Messiah itself to support not only the use of those displacement maps, but also the animation of them. I also use the ability to work on the "2d" document for finetuning displacement maps by means of "crop and fill" of an imported alpha! It allows the work on 16bit images by displaying the lit and bumped data so it wouldn't be such a guessing game as it would be by using photoshop for instance, since 16bit display with all its nuances is impossible for current gfx-boards. (I hope that's gonna change, too!)
"ZBrush exceeds any previous experiences, and invites far more elaborate explorations of form and expression of shapes."
How would you rate ZBrush's contribution to your workflow?
Off the scale! It changes everything and I'm not kidding! It inspires a whole new approach to detail and deformation, and allows for a much much higher work performance, since it gives us the opportunity to animate a lot lower resolution geometry, making it faster on already on the most technical of all levels, as well as animate to a far higher level of detail with great ease.
The creation of models and their design is so incredibly intuitive that it exceeds any previous experiences, and invites far more elaborate explorations of form and expression of shapes.
What is your favorite new feature or features of ZBrush?
Obviously the creation of displacement maps besides the general navigation within the viewport.
What were your reasons for using ZBrush?
Following the intuition that told me it will change everything. I felt it has that potential and it did only confirm this suspicion!
Would you recommend ZBrush to other artists, and why?
I would almost want to force them to look at it. There had been quite a few inovations in the 3D industry and a lot of them refined the way we work, but ZBrush actually adds a whole new section to the known territory of 3D creation. This kind of leap into better ways to make computers more accessable and pleasant to use for artists, with the developement I do myself I so embrace the brilliance that comes into our field by ZBrush.
Do you plan to incorporate ZBrush in future projects?
It is already part of it and I can't foresee any changes to this beautiful partnership in the future!