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A Chat with Lee Dodd, Whose Work Features the Look and Feel of Pixar Animation

2024-01-15
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Fox Renderfarm Interview

Presenting Lee Dodd, a talented Irish artist who is leading the way in 3D art. Most notably, he won first place in the professional category of the FGT3D New Adventure Challenge for his excellent work "Small World, Big Adventure." A respectful congratulations is in order! Fox Renderfarm, a renowned render farm and provider of cloud rendering services, was proud to host this competition and interact with Lee Dodd.

Come along for this fascinating interview as we examine Lee Dodd's artistic development and learn what makes him unique.

Fox Renderfarm: Hi Lee Dodd! Thank you so much for accepting our interview! Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

Lee Dodd

© Lee Dodd

Lee Dodd: Hello everyone! I'm Lee, and I'm absolutely delighted to have this opportunity to connect with you all. My passion for 3D modeling and rendering sparked during my college years while pursuing Interior Architecture. It was there that I first delved into the fascinating world of 3D visualization, primarily focusing on crafting renders of interior spaces and architectural designs. I then decided to refine my 3D rendering abilities and try different styles such as the one I entered into the FGT3D New Adventure Challenge.

Fox Renderfarm: Congratulations on winning first place in the FGT3D New Adventure Challenge, professional category! How do you feel about it?

Lee Dodd: Thank you very much! Winning first place in the competition was an incredible honor and a deeply humbling experience for me. When I initially submitted my artwork for the competition. I never anticipated receiving such acknowledgment, let alone securing the top spot. It was a fantastic opportunity to challenge myself and explore new dimensions within the realm of 3D modeling and rendering. Each participant brought exceptional talent to the table, making the victory even more meaningful and inspiring.

Fox Renderfarm: Could you give us a brief overview of the project that you brought to the FGT3D New Adventure Challenge?

Lee Dodd: Absolutely! The artwork I entered depicts a small boy who has been shrunk down to a size where a typical garden could be perceived as a tropical jungle or forest. I aimed to include various natural elements in the scene, such as leaves, plants, water, and insects. That's why the small river is framed by grass and plants in both the foreground and background. To draw the viewer's attention to the main character, I decided to incorporate a small lantern as the primary source of illumination.

Small World, Big Adventure © Lee Dodd

Small World, Big Adventure © Lee Dodd

Fox Renderfarm: What inspired you to participate in the FGT3D New Adventure Challenge, and how did you come up with the idea for your winning entry?

Lee Dodd: When the competition was announced, I was delving deeper into natural modeling, particularly focusing on trees, plants, etc., to incorporate natural elements into my workplace renders for interior designs. I knew that whatever render I created would involve these elements. That's when I decided to make them the focal point of the artwork. What better way to emphasize these elements than to portray the character as if he were shrunken down to their size? The scene's composition drew inspiration from the fantastic animation movies of recent times, aiming for a distinct "Pixar" feel.

Fox Renderfarm: The scene you created is full of greens and vibrant colors. How did you create the textures for the scene, and what was your creative process like?

Composition Creation Process © Lee Dodd

Composition Creation Process © Lee Dodd

Lee Dodd: The majority of the textures in the scene were created entirely using Blender's built-in material node trees and UV unwrapping. However, for more complex materials like the "leaf boat," real-world pictures were used, edited in Photoshop, and then integrated into Blender's node tree. Sub-surface scattering played a significant role in enhancing various aspects of this scene.

Fox Renderfarm: Lighting plays a crucial role in setting the mood of a scene. How did you approach lighting in your 3D environment, and what considerations did you take into account to enhance the overall atmosphere?

Lee Dodd: I couldn't agree more on the importance of lighting in any scene. I understood that lighting would play a crucial role in guiding the viewer's focus. My intention was to illuminate the scene warmly while diffusing the light throughout the background. To achieve this effect, I incorporated a minimal amount of atmospheric volume into the scene, which significantly contributed to my desired outcome.

Fox Renderfarm: What innovative techniques or technologies did you employ in this project that set it apart from others?

Lee Dodd: Perhaps not considered innovative now, but it was my first time utilizing Blender's geometry nodes system to scatter elements like the grass around the scene. I was also pleased with the composition of my scene. Initially, I had positioned numerous trees in the background. However, I ultimately opted for framing the ladybird in a negative space, which significantly enhanced the overall look and feel of the scene.

Fox Renderfarm: Could you share the duration it took to bring this piece from concept to its final rendered form and highlight which aspect of the process consumed the most time? What contributed to this time investment?

Lee Dodd: In total, I dedicated approximately 10-12 hours to create the scene, spread out over 3 days. Most of the time was spent on modeling and composing the scene's layout, which required the most effort. As previously mentioned, it was my first experience in modeling natural elements and utilizing the new geometry nodes system. Consequently, there was a learning curve at the beginning of this project.

Fox Renderfarm: What were the most significant creative challenges you faced in this project, and how did you overcome them?

© Pixar Animation Studios

 © Pixar Animation Studios

Lee Dodd: Achieving my desired "Animation Movie" look and feel was definitely a challenge as it was unlike anything I had attempted before. Luckily I have seen my fair share of Pixar and other studios' movies which definitely helped in that aspect. 

Fox Renderfarm: Are there any moments you enjoyed during the creation process? And what was the most memorable?

Composition Stage © Lee Dodd

Composition Stage © Lee Dodd

Lee Dodd: Be it a professional project or a hobby, my favorite phase is witnessing the final render gradually taking shape on the screen after I hit the render button. Alongside this, I really enjoy the composition stage, where each individually modeled piece is placed within the scene. It almost feels like solving a puzzle.

Fox Renderfarm: Are there any hidden details or Easter eggs in "Small World, Big Adventure" that viewers might not notice at first glance?

Lee Dodd: Unfortunately in this artwork, there isn't. I truly wish I could say there were. Usually, I would include a small detail as an Easter Egg, solely for myself or my friends and family.

Fox Renderfarm: Have you had any experience with Fox Renderfarm's cloud rendering services in the past? If you have, what is your opinion of our cloud rendering offerings?

Lee Dodd: Yes I have. I have used the service both in my profession and for projects I do as a hobby. I think the service is great! Especially when I get over-ambitious with a scene and my computer just can't handle it. 

Fox Renderfarm: Do you have any ongoing projects or future plans at the moment?

Lee Dodd: At the moment, I am in the process of moving to another country, so my 3D artworks haven't been receiving the usual amount of time and attention. I'm still actively working with 3D in my profession as an Interior Architect, but on the hobby side, my involvement has slowed down. I hope that I'll soon have the opportunity to resume creating scenes again.

Fox Renderfarm: Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring 3D artists? Are there any key lessons or insights that you have learned along your journey?

Lee Dodd: The times when I enjoy making 3D art the most are when I'm learning a new technique or creating a scene purely for the fun of it. For instance, this artwork was created while I was in the process of learning how to model natural elements, aiming to explore something unrelated to architecture and venture into a different creative direction. So, I would suggest that if you want to learn how to create 3D art, find something you want to model, whether it's a car or a house or anything, and start by watching tutorials on how they are made. The techniques you learn there can be adapted, changed, and applied to anything you want to create.

Thanks again to Lee Dodd for accepting our interview! Wishing new heights in your professional career!


Lee Dodd's social media:

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