How To Show Epic Futuristic Transport By C4D Artwork
Recently, a 3D Challenge with the theme of Futuristic Transport attracted so many CG artists to participate. With climate change becoming more and more immediate, questions for the future of transport are increasingly urgent, and how will the future transport look like? CG artists give their answers through their artworks.
Philip Hofmänner, a CG Artist & Filmmaker from Switzerland, won first place for his epic artwork, which was created by C4D, Corona Renderer and Photoshop.
Futuristic Transport © Philip Hofmänner
He has been working on this picture in his free time alongside client projects, which took him around 20 hours. The work is marvellous and full of details, as Philip described, “The world is destroyed, but mankind has found a way to transport itself into the future with a portal. The idea is that nature could have recovered after a few million years. Will mankind take this second chance and do better this time?”
As the sponsor and long-term partner of the competition, Fox Renderfarm is pleased to have an interview with Philip Hofmänner, who talked about how to create the work and shared his CG work experience.
- Philip Hofmänner
- CG Artist & Filmmaker
- From: Switzerland
- Artsation: https://www.artstation.com/trixer
With the ambition of becoming an artist, Philip gave up his job as a carpenter in his mid-twenties and opted to attend the University of Art in Lucerne and completed his design bachelor in animation. His graduation short film Evermore had some success and was shown at countless festivals around the world and won the NIFFF award for best Swiss short film. Now he is a successful CG all-rounder, and he has founded a CGI company Trixer (trixer.ch) and worked for over 10 years mainly in advertising and architectural visualizations.
Evermore - Winner Score © Philip Hofmänner
Here’s the interview between Fox Renderfarm and Philip Hofmänner.
Fox Renderfarm: Hi Philip! Congratulations on winning first place in the Futuristic Transport Challenge, how do you feel about it?
Philip: Thanks! This is the first CG Challenge I've participated in and I'm happy and flattered that I won.
Fox Renderfarm: Could you share with us your inspiration/references/mood board for the Futuristic Transport Challenge?
Philip: I love dark science fiction movies such as Blade Runner and I think those influences are obvious. I also searched the internet for ideas and inspirations, but unfortunately, I can't present a mood board because I hadn't created one.
Fox Renderfarm: The award-winning work is marvellous, could you introduce your CG pipeline?
Philip: Thanks! I used Cinema 4D and Corona Render Engine for this picture. To be honest, I tend to be a lazy learner when it comes to complex CG software. That's why I've stuck with Cinema 4D and Corona Renderer for years despite the fact that there is arguably more powerful and complex software out there that go way deeper such as 3D Max, Blender or Maya. However, the simplicity of Cinema 4D and Corona Render has always appealed to me and are exactly the strengths of these programs in my opinion. Lately, I've also been using Octane sometimes when I want to render animations.
Apart from a well-organized material and object library, I really don't use any third-party tools. My setup is pretty basic.
I tried to approach the topic of the Futuristic Transport Challenge in a somewhat unconventional way. While thinking about it, I came up with the idea of this portal. I'll let you be the judge of how unconventional it has become.
When I had the idea with the portal, it was triangular in my imagination. I started directly with the portal in 3D as the portal was the central element in the scene, without much sketching. After I had a rough model of the portal I first defined composition and then started to build everything else around it.
Later I changed the shape of the portal to a ring and changed the camera to a central perspective because I wasn't really happy with the appearance of the image.
Originally, I wanted to create a rather yellowish desert-like atmosphere. But since I wasn't really happy with the result, I changed the mood to an evening scene almost at the end of the process.
I also added a lot of the atmosphere afterwards in Photoshop using the Z depth layer. Over the years I've learned that my renders don't have to look perfect and I can still get a good 30% out of them in the post, using render passes and light mixing.
Fox Renderfarm: The future city is so dystopian, did you model from the scratch, could you share with us the process?
Philip: Yes I modelled a lot of it from Scratch and I used some models I did in the past for a project that I never finished.
Because the dystopian city in the background is not well visible, I have built the objects pretty rough and I didn't care much about topology or imperfections as you can see in this picture.
Fox Renderfarm: We were all impressed by the humongous details in the scene. How did you set the lighting and texture to make sure the harmonious colours and the right balance?
Philip: Yes, that was probably one of the hardest parts to get the light and colors right. As I mentioned, I planned to make a yellowish desert atmosphere. But because it didn’t look that impressive, I changed the mood pretty much on the last day. The advantage of this decision is that now there is a stronger contrast between the world behind the portal and the rest of the environment. The base of the lighting was an HDRI image. But because it looked a bit boring with only the HDRI, I started to set accents with area lights around the scene. I think at the end there were about 20 additional invisible lights that I had placed. Also, I had to shield the light from the world inside the portal with a tube that only let light through the front of the portal. This created this interesting backlight and long shadows on the field with the crowd.
Fox Renderfarm: In the compositing and rendering process, how did you set up to make sure the whole picture wouldn’t overwhelm the viewers?
Philip: As I already mentioned I rendered a lot of light mix layers and balanced them in Photoshop. I also obscured the background a lot with dust, which greatly reduced the contrast. This, of course, helped a lot not to overwhelm the viewer's eyes.
Fox Renderfarm: Did you meet any difficulties when creating this work? And how did you solve it?
Philip: The most difficult task with this image was to create enough detail without running out of memory. That's why I tried to work with as many render instances as possible. Many of the objects are copied countless times in the scene. And as mentioned in the previous answer, I struggled a bit to get an interesting light and atmosphere.
Fox Renderfarm: You’ve got a contentful portfolio, what is your favorite commercial and personal artwork respectively?
Philip: I am usually most enthusiastic about my latest work. At the moment I am working on some personal concepts inspired by the horror genre.
Subway Nightmare © Philip Hofmänner
I do like my commercial work but I can't really pick a favorite.
Our showreel gives a good overview of the work we did over the years (if you want to show something of Trixer)：
At the end of the day, my heart is definitely with my own stuff.
By the way, I always wanted to make concepts for films, which is rather difficult in Switzerland, because we don't produce many genre films, but rather classic European cinema that doesn't require that kind of concept I’m good in. That's why I ended up working for advertising industries and architectural visualizations. If by any chance, decision-makers from the film or game industry read this and like my stuff, I would be really happy about inquiries or proposals for collaborations!
Fox Renderfarm: As we know, you have founded your CGI company Trixer for 10 years, could you briefly introduce Trixer? And does the pandemic have any impact on your work?
Philip: We are a small CGI company from Zurich with 3 artists and we work as already mentioned mainly for the advertising industry and in the area of architectural visualizations.
Yes, the pandemic has greatly reduced the volume of work.
Fortunately, the Swiss government helps small companies like ours financially not to go into bankruptcy. It’s slowly getting better in the last few days but our business is still barely surviving. I hope that the economic situation will get better fast. I can only imagine what it is like for small businesses in countries where the government does not or can not provide financial relief. The only good thing about the situation is that for a long time I finally have some space to work on my own projects. It gave me some breathing space to reflect on my life and my career. As I mentioned, I'm thinking about whether I should possibly pursue a career in concept art for films after all. I’m also trying to get enough online followers to eventually find an income with my personal artwork. Unfortunately, I have neglected my social media presence completely ever since it became a thing, which is why I now also participate in such challenges.
Fox Renderfarm: As a successful CG artist and entrepreneur, what do you think are the most important factors in making a successful commercial artwork? Any unforgettable stories for you?
Philip: If you want to do work for clients, the most important thing is to understand the clients and what they want. You have to learn to communicate properly.
Also, as an artist, you have to learn to put your needs for artistic expression a little aside sometimes, because clients often have their own ideas. This can be a bit frustrating at times. A good way to compensate for this is to never stop working on your own projects from time to time.
A pretty crazy story occurred right after I had graduated from Art school (Animation) when we accepted a job that was way too big for us back then. It was an animation with pseudo-realistic CGI animals for a commercial with a budget of $80,000 (not a lot for a commercial but way bigger than anything we had done so far). We were also supposed to finish the entire thing within 2 weeks. Looking back it was absolutely insane to take the job. We had to fly in a fur specialist from LA who had worked on several Disney movies because no one of us had the required expertise in fur back then and we couldn’t find anyone in Switzerland who could do it. I remember when he came into our tiny studio for the first time, where we had like 4 workstations with crappy monitors. He looked so confused and asked where our render farm and the other artists were and if he could speak to our TD. When we said we didn't have a farm and there was only us (3 freshly graduated guys from art school), he turned pale. I only vaguely remember the 2 weeks that followed. I remember that we bought a small farm of 10 gaming computers with expensive RenderMan licenses only to switch to Mental Ray at the last moment because there was an export problem of the fur from Maya. And I remember that we had to outsource the animation of the animals because there was no way we could do all the work in time. We burned through that 80’000 within days and had almost no profit in the end. No idea how, but somehow we managed to finish the damn thing. So if you are ever in this situation at the beginning of your career to get a big job offer, better to think twice if you are able to do it.
Fox Renderfarm: Are there any new projects or new plans for you or your company recently?
Philip: I’m shooting a sci-fi indie short film this summer called “Flechtwerk”. The film will be a gritty relationship drama and a metaphor for how advancing digital communication is changing humanity.
Anyone who is interested in the project can follow me on Instagram where I will soon share more details about the project. We will also start a crowdfunding campaign in the next few weeks on Indiegogo.
Fox Renderfarm: How do you improve your CG professional skills in your spare time? Could you give some learning advice to CG learners?
Philip: I see many aspiring CG artists doing tests and small exercises all the time and never starting a real project that they are planning to share. Personally, I've found that I learned the most when I was working on bigger projects right away. The more I’ve been struggling, the more I have usually learned. I've also noticed that I try harder when I’m planning to publish the work too. Such CG challenges for example are therefore a good opportunity to push yourself!
And finish what you start. I'm guilty of that sin as well of not finishing projects. But no matter how great or bad your artwork gets, try to finish most of it as good as possible (in a reasonable time frame). And set yourself Deadlines and goals. I personally realized that I learn the most when I have to struggle through the last 10% of a project (which is usually the most difficult part) and that I often find creative solutions when I'm facing deadline pressure. What I've also noticed is that many CG artists tend to be over-perfectionist. Try to invest a lot of effort where it really matters. One last important tip is, you shouldn't just do CGI in my opinion. In photography and cinematography or also in drawing and painting, you can learn a lot about composition and lighting. Or if you want to become a great animator also do body-oriented hobbies like dancing or martial arts or take an acting class. Also, look at the real world from time to time and study how things actually look or how they actually move.
Fox Renderfarm: Have you used or heard of Fox Renderfarm before? If yes, how do you feel about it?
Philip: I heard about it but I haven't used Fox Renderfarm yet.
I have been using one of your competitors for years because it was used by a film studio I once worked at and ever since I stuck with it. But I am really excited to try your services with the render credits I have won. I have noticed that you offer a better price than the one I usually used. I could very well see myself switching to Fox Renderfarm if it turns out to work in my pipeline.
Fox Renderfarm: Any other things you want to share with the CG enthusiasts?
Philip: Thanks again for this interview and the great prize.
And to my fellow artists, keep up the inspiring work I see every day out there. Feel free to contact me if you want to connect or if you have proposals for collaborations!
Terminus © Philip Hofmänner
Princess of the skies in the port of New Babylon © Philip Hofmänner
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