3D Valley Featured 3D Artist of January 2008 – Michael Sormann. Michael is an CG artist from Austria who after 10 years working in the games industry decided to try it as a freelance 3D artist. The last several years he worked in his spare time on “Theme Planet” a short film with Pink, Elephant and the Mad Constructor as leading characters. The short film is also featured at the Maya/ Autodesk boot at SighGraph 2007 in San Diego. Please read the interview below with Michael to get to know him and his work a bit better.
Christa: Can you tell us a bit about yourself: Who are you and what do you do in your daily life?
Michael: My name is Michael Sormann, since I left school in Graz/ Austria, I moved to Vienna and worked there as CG Artist. I worked for about 10 years in the Games business, the last 5 years of this period I worked as Lead Artist at the Rockstar Vienna Studio. After this studio has been closed I started to work as a freelance 3D Artist, and I do that until today. Recently I worked on several TV commercials in Germany and I completed the Theme Planet Bunny Situation Short for the Siggraph Autodesk expo booth presentation.
Christa: Which software packages and/or traditional materials do you use for your artwork?
Michael: I mainly work with Maya/ Autodesk and for all concept works I simply use pen and paper and scan it in as a reference for modeling.
Christa: Where did you go to school and how did they prepare you for your career?
Michael: I attended the HTBLA Ortwein School in Graz, department of Graphic and design. During my education I learned a lot about design, layout and drawing, especially for commercials. All computer related knowledge I learned by myself using my own pc.
|Mr. Weasel||Pig and Elephant sitting in buggy|
Christa: Can you tell us a bit of the way you work on your art?
Michael: The first step is always the design. I draw for example a character in several poses and from different angles. Then I scan it and project it in Maya on a reference plane. Based on reference, I model the character, as close as possible to the concept art. Then I adjust the UVs and texture the whole model and create the light setup. The next step is skinning and rigging, and then I start to animate the character.
Christa: Who or what would you describe as having the most influences on your work/ style?
Michael: My art style is influenced by several French and Belgium comic artists. Regarding my 3D art I’m of course quite influenced by Pixar’s works. I especially like some of their short films, they impressed me most.
Christa: Do you have a favorite piece of your own artwork and if so, why?
Michael: I like my Mad Constructor character on his big Robot. I just like the little fellow, and I think I managed to create the robot with a lot of details but the overall shape is still clear and easily to understand.
|The Mad Constructor on his
body enlargement robot
Christa: What is your goal as an artist?
Michael: I will go on to develop Theme Planet. My Goal is to create any kind of product out of it, either a film or a TV series or an computer game… this is still a very distant goal I know…
Christa: How many years are you working in the CG industry?
Michael: Together with my time in the games industry… 11 years now.
Christa: What was your first break in the business?
Michael: After school I had to attend civil service in Austria for one year, and during this time I started to work at home, in my spare time, as freelancer for different Austrian and German computer game companies.
|TP. Barracuda – drawing||TP. Barracuda|
Christa: I read on your website that you are currently working as a freelance artist. What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of working freelance?
Michael: In my case, after 10 years sitting in an office every day, working only for one company for years… I simply needed a change. As a freelancer you don’t get your money that regularly as an employee, but I can schedule my projects much better and I have more time to develop Theme Planet.
Christa: You recently completed a personal animation project Planet Theme, which is also featured at the Autodesk boot at SighGraph 2007. It’s a fantastic short film and I love the cartoon style you used. Can you tell us some more about it?
Michael: I work on the Theme Planet project for several years now (in my spare time). A few months ago a guy from Autodesk asked me if I could create a short film to show it at their SighGraph Expo booth. The also needed assets to present some new features of Maya. I worked on that for about 3 month, but most of the modeling was already done by me at these date. I used Maya for the whole project.
Christa: What do you feel is the most important thing to do when you start on a project like Planet Theme and what did you learned from it?
Michael: Planning is the most important step, a good storyboard and, if possible, even an animatic to get a clear picture of the whole project before you start detailed animating.
Christa: Which areas of your work do you enjoy the most?
Michael: Design and modeling, this is really fun. Animating is also great but it can be very challenging and complex.
Christa: What would be your dream assignment?
Michael: Working as an Art director on a 3D animated movie.
Christa: What’s your favorite CG character from the movies?
Michael: The little rat from the last Pixar film.
|Big reactor room||Mr Bunny and Mad Constructor
at work in the lab
Christa: Do you have any tips for the artists who admire your work?
Michael: Try to develop your drawing skills as well as your skills using your 3D software. The combination of these two skills is, in my opinion, very important.
Christa: If you wouldn’t be working in 3D what do you think you would be doing today?
Michael: Drawing comics and cartoons for newspapers or magazines.
Christa: Besides 3Dvalley.com, which other graphic sites do you visit regularly?
Michael: Highend3D.com, CGsociety, CGchannel.com, Autodesk AREA and some Austrian and German sites like CG-creatives.de or CGforum.
|Theme Planet poster|
Christa: Is their something you can’t work without?
Michael: This is easy the answer is: coffee!
Christa: What do you do when you are not working or creating something?
Michael: I really like to watch movies. I have a large DVD collection and I like to go to the cinema and meeting friends in Bars, to drink a beer or two
|Theme Planet by Michael Sormann
Click here to download the large version (85Mb) for Windows
Click here to download the large version (120Mb) for Apple
Christa: Thanks for your time and the interview Michael!