Fox’s Got Talent January Winners Revealed: Jelly, Demonstrating Connection, Unity and Hope
At the beginning of 2020, the TPN-accredited render farm, Fox Renderfarm is glad to receive numerous submissions in our Fox’s Got Talent mailbox. More awesome is seeing all the talented artists integrating professional 3D skills with their unique minds, shown on their 3D renders. Now, let’s beat the drum for the Fox’s Got Talent January winners - Stefan Kang & Grace Hori Reaves!
Left: Stefan Kang, Right: Grace Hori Reaves
- Stefan Kang, FX/ CG Generalist, The Mill
- Grace Hori Reaves, Freelance Houdini Artist
The winning artwork - Jelly, is a 15-second short video filled with sophisticated details. Inspired by jellyfish, yet instead of making it a mere recreation of the jellyfish, Stefan and Grace did a lot of experiments on the technical and aesthetic aspects during production. Encountering some “happy accidents” and overcoming them, they rendered their artwork with Fox Renderfarm and achieved the stunning final result.
Jelly by Stefan Kang & Grace Hori Reaves
After seeing artwork, you must be curious about how they made it and who they are. Please enjoy the exclusive interview between Fox Renderfarm and our beloved winners, Stefan and Grace!
Fox Renderfarm: Hi, Stefan and Grace! Thank you so much for accepting our interview! Could you please give a brief introduction to yourselves?
Stefan: I’m a Motion Designer/ VFX Generalist specializing in using Houdini for creative work, currently working as a fulltime Generalist at The Mill LA. I started working as a Motion Designer a couple of years ago, and after that, I immersed myself in furthering my skill set with Houdini which landed me my current full-time position at The Mill LA.
Artwork by Stefan Kang
Grace: I am a CG artist from Japan. I started out as a 2D motion graphic artist in Tokyo, focusing on concert visuals and online advertisements. I came to LA in 2018 to study 3DCG, and started freelancing as a Houdini artist in 2019.
Artwork by Grace Hori Reaves
Fox Renderfarm: Congrats on winning Fox’s Got Talent! How do you feel about getting the prize? Which part of the artwork were you in charge of respectively?
Stefan & Grace: We are very honored to receive the prize. Having our work recognized and appreciated leads to a stronger motivation for producing new artwork. The render credits are also going to help us a lot on the next personal collaboration project we are planning! More credit means more high-quality rendering!
In this project, we started out by discussing the concept and the overall feeling together. Once we both had a good understanding of the idea, we split the task so Grace was in charge of exploring the technical aspect of the project, doing R&D for the look and motion, while Stefan was in charge of the development of the look, shot execution and finalizing the shot through compositing.
Break-down of Jelly
__Fox Renderfarm: Jelly has a technological and oceanic vibe, what’s the inspiration behind Jelly? __
Stefan & Grace: It started out as a pure fascination towards jellyfish. Their shape and motion are so elegant and mesmerizing, so we decided to do a project with a jellyfish as a hero character. To make this project more than a mere recreation of a real jellyfish, we experimented with abstract shapes and motion inspired by the jellyfish itself.
Fox Renderfarm: We found some abstract and concrete elements and patterns of the jellyfish, how did you come up with these beautiful images? And how did you create them?
Stefan & Grace: Since we wanted this project to be an experimental project, we decided to step back from the standard modeling/animating process and approach things differently. In the early development stage, we created several patterns of velocity fields that were based on the jellyfish’s pulsing motion; and throughout the project, we re-used these velocity fields multiple times, when animating tentacles, advecting particles, even the jellyfish itself is generated through a volume simulation based on this velocity field which was then converted into a mesh. We also utilized custom growth systems and mathematical algorithms to generate organic-looking patterns that resemble jellyfish tentacles.
Fox Renderfarm: We noticed yellow and blue are the 2 main colors, any ideas behind the lighting and colors?
Stefan & Grace: Blue comes from the color of the ocean, indicating this scene is underwater. It also represents the sense of unity and security, the connection of underwater creatures, especially all the mini jellyfish and the big jellyfish at the end. Yellow is a symbol of comfort, happiness and hope. This color kicks in when the big one awakens, and all the mini jellyfish get affected by it.
Fox Renderfarm: How long did it take to finish the artwork?
Stefan & Grace: The project itself took 2 months.
__Fox Renderfarm: What renderers did you use? __
Stefan & Grace: We rendered with Redshift and Arnold.
Fox Renderfarm: What’s the most fun and interesting part of the creation?
Stefan: I enjoyed exploring the creative side - the why and how that help create the whole picture - and designing meaningful styleframes and motion sequences. However, we also took a very different approach for this personal creation. Most of the early design process actually came from the R&D stages. We invested a short period of time to create some interesting setup and explore using simulation tools to find abstract patterns that are related to our references. Putting the R&D process a little earlier in production and using whatever we explore to create all the motion tests and shapes. I often find this more interesting as I will learn and meet with some happy accidents!
Grace: I had a lot of fun experimenting with various motions for the jellyfish. In CG, there is always more than one way to achieve a look, there is no such thing as the “right answer”, and this always fascinates me. To achieve the feeling of a jellyfish I took multiple approaches, including a simple sine wave to distort the mesh, a cloth simulation with the wind blowing periodically, creating a velocity field colliding with spherical geometry, etc. Of course, not all of them make it to the final render, but you can still see all of the fun stuff gathered in the process video.
Fox Renderfarm: Did you meet any difficulties? How did you solve it?
Stefan & Grace: Since this was a personal project and not a work for a client, there was no deadline, which allowed us flexibility in terms of schedule - maybe a little too flexible! There was a certain period of time when we both got busy with our client works and had to pause this personal project. In order to get the ball rolling again, we decided to set a hard deadline by aiming to submit to an award that was coming up. This helped us to keep motivated and also to take time management seriously.
Fox Renderfarm: How did you step into the CG industry?
Stefan: I first started working in the industry about five years ago as a motion designer after graduating from a multimedia design program. Like many other artists, I wasn't confident enough with my skill level and the creative path where I was heading. But I was lucky that I got the opportunity by one of my instructors who needed help to do some freelance projection mapping for a fashion show in Asia. I learned so much during that time and understood all the CG processes, managed to gain more experience and prepared a more solid personal portfolio to continue in the CG industry. Most of my early work was in projection mapping, where I worked alongside other artists to create large-scale projections for events.
Skywatch End Credits Design by Stefan Kang
Grace: I started out as a hobbyist playing with After Effects and creating random 2D motion graphics in high school. Although I always had a dream to become a CG artist, my first job was as a salesperson in an advertising agency in Tokyo. As a result, this gave me a thorough understanding of the entire workflow of any kind of content creation, from communicating with clients to pitching ideas, going through production, delivering to clients/media, and seeing how the content influenced the public. While I was working as a salesperson, I started taking some freelance projects for simple motion graphics using After Effects, which helped me build my very first motion graphic portfolio. After 3 years of sales work, I started sending out my portfolio to CG companies, and soon thereafter I was able to make a transition to a 2DCG artist creating motion graphics for concert visuals and online advertisements.
Houdini VFX Reel + Breakdown by Grace Hori Reaves
Fox Renderfarm: Could you briefly share your education and work experience along your CG journey?
Stefan: I first started working in the industry as a motion designer, creating creative content for fashion shows and projections for events in Asia, mainly focusing on design and motion. Then I took a two year break away from work, and went back as a student at Gnomon school of VFX to improve my technical skill. This is when I first discovered Houdini and realized the potential of this software. I wanted to combine both my design and technical skills to become a better artist. I continued my journey as a Houdini Generalist at multiple studios such as Blur Studio and The Mill LA.
The Essence _Title Sequence Design by Stefan Kang
Grace: For 2D motion graphics, I was basically self-taught by watching After Effects tutorials available online, and was pretty confident with it until I actually started working in a studio and exposed myself to all the professional work out there. There was this thing called “3DCG” whose renders looked amazing. It seemed to have a steep learning curve, but was becoming a bigger deal day by day. After a few attempts of self-teaching 3DCG (and failing), I decided to take a break from work and go back to school to actually sit down and study. I first learned Maya at a school called Digital Hollywood in Tokyo, then found out about Houdini and Nuke which seemed to be the new hot topic in the VFX industry. I flew to LA and spent another year studying these software at Gnomon, and once I got comfortable with it I started freelancing again using my new 3DCG skills.
Compositing Reel by Grace Hori Reaves
Fox Renderfarm: Which area are you mainly working at now? And what’s your next step?
Stefan: I’m currently focusing as a Houdini Generalist at The Mill LA. Most of my daily work involves creating realistic CG/FX works for commercials and 360 experiences creative content. However, I’m hoping to move on as a motion designer, focusing on creative work and hopefully one day becoming an art director in the CG industry.
Grace: I’m currently working for a studio that specializes in volumetric capturing for VR/AR content. At the studio, Houdini is utilized to develop and optimize the pipeline. The work involves a lot of coding, and it is clearly more technical than artistic. However, I am noticing the technical skills actually helps a lot with the more artistic projects I work on in my free time. My next step will be to continue studying the technical aspect of CG, and also start exploring the possibilities of real time rendering and see if I can integrate these new skills to my projects.
Fox Renderfarm: As brilliant artists, how do you keep yourselves inspired and motivated? How to form a unique style in creation?
Stefan & Grace: There’s a lot of creative platforms online these days. We both visit Behance and Vimeo almost everyday to keep ourselves updated to the latest creative content. It’s important to feed yourself with the latest trending design and look at what the others in the industry are creating. Sometimes, seeing all this fun and playful design work just makes you want to create more. Whenever looking for inspiration, we will go on Pinterest, searching for some abstract images, pattern design, or cinematography lighting reference. Then we will use all the reference images to brainstorm a new idea.
Fox Renderfarm: Anyone or any artwork inspires you the most in the industry?
Stefan: Personally, I found “ManvsMachine” and “BUCK” commercial work most inspiring to me. Their work always has the essence of a thoughtful design, you can feel the sense of elegance, cleanness and playfulness. It has a combination of everything, including design, color theory, animation principles and art direction. Just by looking at their breakdown, I feel like they have so much fun during the creation.
Grace: As a CG hobbyist back in high school, I was a huge fan of Andrew Kramer’s work and his After Effect tutorials on Video Copilot. Through his videos I’ve learned not only how to use the software, but that the key of creating an awesome design is to have a strong passion for what you are doing and always be hungry to learn more.
SHOWTIME: Making Slime VFX! by Andrew Kramer
Fox Renderfarm: How do you feel about Fox Renderfarm’s cloud rendering services?
Stefan & Grace: I’m very satisfied with the service, especially when I have any technical issue there’s always someone ready online to help me fix my problem. Nevertheless, the price is reasonable and the free coupon helps a lot to test out the rendering issue.
Fox Renderfarm: Any other things you want to share with CG enthusiasts?
Stefan: The most inspiring thing is when being a beginner at something, always strive to constantly reinvent yourself. With every sacrifice comes with a great reward. I like to remind myself why I started in this industry, how much I enjoy the creation process, and seeing the end product that entertains everyone, that makes me so fulfilled. On the other hand, in addition to doing just client work, invest some time on your personal work.
Grace: As a CG artist, you will be going through a never-ending learning curve, and once in a while you will face a wall that seems to be impossible to climb. There may be no clear answer on how to tackle it; however, it will help if you know what resources are available around you. For a common problem, there is most likely a documentation or a tutorial that can help you. For tricky ones, you might be able to find an answer in an online community. You can ask your peers and they might know the answers, or if not, they may be able to help you figure it out. We all know that learning CG is not easy, and there is always someone out there willing to help. Also, don’t forget to get plenty of sleep! CG uses a lot of brain power, and if you’re making more mistakes than fixing problems, it's time to get some rest.
If you also want to win a big sum of render coupons provided by our render farm while showing your talent on the world stage as Stefan and Grace did, don’t hesitate to send us your excellent 3D render artwork through the following link: https://www.foxrenderfarm.com/fox-got-talent.html
You are going to be our next winner!
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