Interview with Leo Semmelmann, A 16-year-old Student Who Won 2nd Place in 36th CG Boost 3D Challenge
Fox Renderfarm, the leading render farm in the CG industry, is always committed to providing affordable, fast and safe cloud rendering services for all 3D artists. Fox Renderfarm is always willing to support international CG challenges, including the 36th CG Boost 3D Challenge, themed Little Traveler, which came to an end in September, 2022. As a long-term partner and sponsor to CG Boost, we are honored to have the opportunity to interview Leo Semmelmann, who won the 2nd Place in the 36th CG Boost 3D Challenge.
Here comes our interview with Leo about his amazing work Little Traveler:
Fox Renderfarm: Hi Leo! We are honored to have you here! First of all, congratulations on winning Second Place in the 36th CG Boost 3D Challenge! How do you feel about it?
Leo: Hey, thanks for having me! I’ve already participated in these Challenges a few times, so I’m really happy to have won this time.
Little Traveler © Leo Semmelmann
Fox Renderfarm: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Leo: So I’m a 16-year-old student from Germany and I have been creating 3D art as a hobby for around 3 years now. But I’m also really interested in photography and cinematography, which comes in handy sometimes in my 3D works too.
Fox Renderfarm: What is the inspiration for your work Little Traveler?
Leo: I think I didn’t have a real inspiration for this one, but I have been wanting to make this kind of atmospheric forest scene for a long time, so I thought it would fit this prompt quite well. But I used some references of course, mainly for the forest but also for the light scattering and general vibe of the artwork. For this project, I tried AI-generated concept art for the first time and it worked quite well.
Fox Renderfarm: Could you elaborate a bit on your workflow/pipeline of this project? And how long did it take you?
Leo: To begin with, I first go about finding my references and in this case generate my concept art with an AI generator.
Reference for Little Traveler generated with midjourney
Then I start with a pretty rough scene blocking in Houdini, so I can start laying down my composition and choose a camera angle. After that, I often start with lighting to set the mood of the scene. Once I have a general idea of how I want my scene to look, I start detailing and placing the main objects.
Composition and layout © Leo Semmelmann
As you can see here, the general structure is already there but it lacks all the details. This always takes the most amount of work time. When I finished my 3D scene and also did the rendering, I continued with compositing and color grading. I normally do my compositing in Nuke and the grading in Davinci Resolve. Here you can see my node tree. It’s nothing fancy, just simple multipass compositing and after that is camera and lens effects. All in all, it takes me about 40 to 60 hours to finish a project like this.
Node tree for Little Traveler © Leo Semmelmann
Fox Renderfarm: Your artwork Little Traveler has a warm but also mysterious and a bit scary atmosphere. Could you share with us your considerations on lighting, color grading and layout?
Leo: Yeah, I wanted the character and the path in the midground to be lit pretty warm and welcoming, so I placed some warm, orange lights from this direction, shining through the trees. For the background, I placed a complementary light with a more teal tone and let the fog volume make the rest. I also increased the number of trees there, because It seemed too open and depthless at first. To further emphasize the feeling of depth, I placed some out-of-focus trees in the foreground, making it look more mysterious in my opinion. And as the last step for the atmosphere, I added some dust particles in the air.
Fox Renderfarm: Did you meet any difficulties during this project? How did you tackle them?
Leo: I think the performance was the biggest problem this time. I had to optimize the scene quite a lot, which almost always becomes a necessity in bigger projects. But especially the trees here were a problem because I had thousands of them. So I rendered them as proxies, which helped a bit, and also reduced the poly count for the ones in the back. Also, the rendering took a while, mainly because of the fog volume, but I managed to get it done in a few hours.
Fox Renderfarm: How did you encounter CG and develop CG as a career? Could you share your educational experience with us?
Leo: So, like most 3d artists who do it as a hobby, I taught myself and learned everything from YouTube videos and documentation sites or through self practicing with the tools I had. And I’m still learning something new with every project I get done, so I think it’s very important to start working on projects, even if they don’t work out exactly as expected. In my opinion, it is the best way to improve and learn something new.
Fox Renderfarm: Do you still remember your first 3D work? What is it about?
Leo: I think it was this, one of my first practices with 3D in Blender where I tried to make a landscape. As you see, there was definitely room for improvement there.
I didn’t really know what I was doing at that time and just followed tutorials. But everyone has to start small, and I think step-by-step tutorials are a great start to learn 3D software.
Leo’s first 3D work © Leo Semmelmann
Fox Renderfarm: Any artworks or artists inspire you the most?
Leo: Of course, Zach Reinhardt was a big inspiration for me, but also Andrey Lebrov and Ian Hubert have been inspiring me a lot with their educational content and artworks.
Fox Renderfarm: Have you used Fox Renderfarm? If yes, how do you feel about Fox Renderfarm’s cloud rendering services?
Leo: Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance yet, but I’m really looking forward to using it in my pipeline and being more productive. In that case, my workstation will not be blocked anymore for hours because of rendering offline.
Fox Renderfarm: As a CG artist, do you have any advice for people who are still new to the CG industry?
Leo: I think it can be really overwhelming at first and many people don’t even begin or just stop after the first few hours spent in Blender following a tutorial. But once you get through that stage and have basic knowledge of the software, you can really start creating the things you imagine and get better at it every time you do so. Just hang on and get through the learning phase of the beginning. It really pays off in the end!
We really appreciate Leo for this interview. Feel free to visit Leo’s ArtStation page to know more about him and his works! We wish Leo all the best in learning CG and we look forward to his future performance in the CG industry!
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