3DValley Featured 3D Artist of July 2006 – Ziv Qual. Ziv is a very talented modeler and texture artist. He works as 3D department manager at a company that makes realistic graphical simulations in the medical field. He is also the Grand Prize winner of the CGsociety.com Spectacular contest with his image Rage over Babylon. Please read our interview with Ziv below 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?
Ziv: My name is Ziv Qual. I’m 23 years old and I live in Israel. I’ve been hooked on 3D since the day it was introduced to me when I was about 15 years old. I started out making fan artwork inspired mainly by games such as StarCraft which received quite a positive feedback from the gaming community and it kept me going at my ‘hobby’. As soon as I finished my military service, I’ve started doing it professionally. Today I work as the 3D department manager of MD Simulation, a company that makes realistic graphical simulations in the medical field for some of the best medical professionals around the world.
Christa: When did you first notice you had artistic talent?
Ziv: I always felt extremely inspired by things around me and my imagination, but I guess you could say I discovered my talent as soon as I found the 3D platform to express it which was when I was about 15 years old.
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Christa: Which software packages do you use for your artwork?
Ziv: For 3D modeling, texturing, rendering and animation, I’ve always preferred working with max for several reasons – First of all, it is the first 3D program I’ve used and got familiar with I’ve worked with several other programs that might have had better stability, but non of them really felt as intuitive as max. The whole modifier based object editing approach is really powerful and allows allot of original solutions I can’t think of in other programs. Being able to tweak things with soft selection and relax at real time for example has proven very useful to me. Also, I really like the way the material editor and procedural maps work in max. I really feel I have control when I texture something. I am planning on getting to know Zbrush when I get the chance. To do most of the UV Mapping, I usually go with DEEP UV, It offers some really awesome tools that allow me to map the most complex objects perfectly in a meter of minutes (as shown in the tutorial in my site). For the 2D post editing and texture painting I go with Photoshop (and after effects for video) because it has everything I need and it is the industry’s standard…
Christa: Can you tell us a bit of the way you work on your art?
Ziv: Well, this obviously vary from project to project, but it goes generally like this: I start by planning things in my head. I often ‘visualize’ the composition in my mind to the finest detail before I even begin on it. On large scale projects, planning ahead is an important step sometimes because it can save a lot of work and resources. When I work on a scene, I need to decide when things like the camera angle are final at a certain point so that from that point I start breaking the scene into parts (background, midground and foreground for example) so that I could afford a higher level of detail on each part. Compositing is often under-estimated. The more I learn, the more I realize how much things can be tweaked to look better in post processing. In our latest project at work, we rendered alphas for every object (or a group of objects) in the scene so we could tweak it separately, we also rendered different passes for specular, effects and other stuff and it really improved our control over everything. We also rendered several shots with different lighting setups and then blended between them to get the best results. I always try to get the best out of occlusion passes. I think it can really improve the results when used correctly (I wrote a tutorial about it too – Ambient occlusion pass guide).
Christa: What and/or who inspires you?
Ziv: This might sound cheesy, but everything around me inspires me. Really, I already have a dozen different things I wanna make when I get some free time. For example, I was watching National Geographic and I saw This program about alligators which really inspired me, so after a few days of gathering reference and preparing to give it a go, I just saw this big yellow scorpion at my friend’s back yard that also had me going “that is one cool animal”, combine that with the fact that it was just a few weeks after seeing the third LOTR movie, and you have the scorpigator rider as a result I am a big fantasy fan so usually, whatever inspires me will usually end up going to that genre. One of the biggest sources of inspiration that probably had the most effect on what I do and how I strive to do it is Blizzard. They were always successful in creating whole realities with so much story, atmosphere and details that I always found myself sucked into. Back when I was doing CG purely for pleasure and not for a living, I’ve made a whole fan site just for my artworks that were inspired by their games. I still admire their work, especially their cinematics, because they go into so much details that I find myself watching a 2 minute video 50 times straight just to appreciate all the small details that you cannot see at once.
Christa: Do you have a favorite genre/ theme?
Ziv: Yes, Fantasy.
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Christa: What is your goal as an artist?
Ziv: I guess my goal is the reason I got into this field, to express my creativity and passion with the tools that allow me to do so. Working in this field means you are constantly learning and improving as long as you keep an open mind about things. My goal is to keep on learning as I still have a long way to go. I always strive to make spectacular artworks that will keep the viewer interested for as long as possible. That is my passion and that is the reason I got into this field.
Christa: Besides 3D Valley, which other CG sites do you visit regularly?
Ziv: CGsociety.org – Definitely, the best CG resource today. With over 100,000 active users (can’t remember the numbers exactly but its insane), this is the largest CG community out there.
Maxforums.org – Great community. I’ve been using these forums since I’ve begun using Max. I’ve learned there allot of what I know today.
CGchannel.com – A nice all around CG website. I go there mainly to get updated on the latest news in CG.
3Dtotal.com – Another very nice news/resource site. They got a very nice gallery.
Maxplugins.de – The largest resource for free/commercial max plugins and scripts in all the versions.
Turbosquid.com – The largest place to sell your CG stuff. It can also be a good solution for tight deadlines.
Christa: Do you have any tips for the artists who admire your work?
Ziv: Well I have lots of specific tips but I can write tutorials for those so I’ll speak generally. What makes a good 3D artist? First of all, I think that besides the level of skill at what you do, you need to have a good eye. This may sound obvious, but learning the rules of what makes something good (what makes a model being modeled ‘correctly’, understanding what makes a lighting setup good and what makes it flat, understanding composition rules etc’) is a first big step that takes time. I think experience and having an open mind are the key to learn overtime what makes something good and how to achieve it.
Christa: How many years are you working in the art/ CG industry?
Ziv: Well, I’ve been doing it since I’ve been 15 years old, but professionally, I’ve been doing it since I was legally able to – right after I finished my military service which was 2 years ago.
Christa: Which area of your work do you enjoy the most?
Ziv: I actually like everything about my work – from the planning stages and managing the projects to the technical stuff (modeling, texturing, lighting, compositing etc’). I really believe that it’s important to master a little bit of all the aspects this field has to offer in order to advance. If I had to pick one, I’d say texturing and lighting (those are actually two but you cant really separate them is my favorite and my strong point I believe.
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Christa: You won the CGsociety.com Spectacular contest with your image Rage over Babylon . The image is truly spectacular. Can you tell us a bit more about the image and how you got the idea?
Ziv: When I first heard the contest’s guidelines I immediately knew one thing; my entry will have to portray something very detailed, with lots of things happening and with the sense of scale taking a major role. I took a week just to go through several ideas and when I locked on my idea I started ‘sketching’ out the composition in my mind to the finest details even before I set down and started working on the concept sketch. That happens to me quite often. After I get an idea going in my mind, I’ll already have most of it planned out before I even start on it. Of course, once I knew I was going for the Babel tower, the first thing I did was going through as many references as I could, to get more inspired about the architecture, atmosphere and even specific props and details. I found these would fit filling the scene with more detail.
When I started on it, I had a little more than two months to finish it. I was sort of doubtful about making the deadline because I was working full-time on other projects and I only had half the day (not including sleeping) free to work on it. once I got started on it, I found myself sucked into it so much that I hardly did anything else other than working on it afterwork, eating, getting a few hours of sleep and rarely seeing friends … I really wanted to use all the time I could get on it so that I could make the image as detailed as I could.
Obviously, this really paid off. Creating an artwork I was very happy with was rewarding enough, but taking the grand prize on such a large scale event was way more than what I could ask. I’ve also been honored to be one of the judges on the current challenge ‘The journey Begins’.
Christa: Your work shows you are very skilled in modeling and texturing. Do you prefer one above the other?
Ziv: I think that since Zbrush came along, the line between the two is getting blurred. I like them both pretty equally. Perhaps I prefer the texturing part because its closer to when the model is complete
Christa: Do you try to model as much detail as possible or do you rely on texturing to add details in a scene?
Ziv: Like I said, I think the line between modeling and texturing is getting blurred since Zbrush came along. Deciding when the modeling part is done and the texturing part begins has always been a hard choice for me to make. I always think little details and fine tunes can be added and its hard for me to decide when the model is perfect and should be mapped because after the mapping, some changes to the geometry would mean I’ll have to map and texture certain parts all over again. When I am done with the modeling, I do my best to make the mapping perfect (I even wrote a tutorial about it – UV Mapping) so that I can focus on detailing the model through the textures in every part without having to worry about stretches, seams, or overlaps. So to answer your question – I try to rely on both
Christa: What do you think are the most important points in a scene to make it look good?
Ziv: I think it all comes down to how long your artwork grasps the viewer and keeps him interested. There are 2 main factors to do that, 1 would be the strength of the story and emotions that are portrayed in the image and the other would be the quality and level of detail in the artwork. I know that most of my favorite artworks score very high on at least one of these factors and my humble advice would be to always approach a project this way: start by planning up as well and detailed as you can, gather as many relevant reference and inspiration as you can, try to keep things simple yet extremely detailed, and make sure you express your story and emotions well (this goes to lighting and atmosphere just as much as it goes to modeling).
Christa: Thanks for the interview Ziv!