Strange World and Zootopia+

Very excited to announce the latest shows from Disney Animation Studios, that I had the honor to work on: Strange World, which is releasing Nov 23rd, and Zootopia+, which is now available on Disney+.

Here are some of the newest Trailers for Strange World and Zootopia+

Some of my shots from the trailers so far…

Hope you enjoyed the clips! Make sure to see Strange World on November 23rd!

If you are interested in Matte Painting, check out my courses at Matte Mentors!

Teaching at Matte Mentors

Hi Everyone,

I just wanted to announce that I am teaching at the site Matte Mentors

The new class on Matte Painting for Animation will start on January 8th, 2023. You can pre-order it now to reserve your spot. It will be an 8 week course with weekly live interactive Zoom sessions and individual critiques on everyone’s work. So if you are interested in learning Matte Painting for the Animation industry come check it out.

I also have a FREE course if you’d like to get a taste of what I will be teaching. This course is Ancient Bridge and is available for download now.

High Speed Clip Highlighting the Ancient Bridge Demo

Hope to see you there, and signup to our email list for future classes and seminars.


Landscape Demo

I recently had the pleasure of completing a virtual lecture and demo at Escena, school for an animation and concept design school in Mexico City. The students were wonderful and engaging. Here is the environment demonstration I created for them showing a little bit of my process.

For this Demo, I utilized the following software: Photoshop, Maya, Clarisse and Gaea.

I’ve been wrapped up in all things Tolkien of late and I remembered some concept sketches from Jeremy Bennett that I loved from the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies and some stills from the new Amazon show, The Rings of Power.

Jeremy Bennett Concepts and Image from Power of the Ring

To make things move quicker I utilized assets I have from Kitbash 3d, The Ancients.

Kitbash 3D – The Ancients

I use Maya as my go to place to do Layout and Preliminary lighting. I created some simple hills and mountains using Maya’s sclupting tools. Bringing in some of the Ancient models. I used Arnold lights and shaders since I can replicate the same look in Clarisse afterwards.

Rough Layout in Maya

Now, I want to swap out my rough hills with some better geometry. You can use do this multiple ways, import into Zbrush and high res my hills or use heightfield terrains. I went with the Heightfield route and used Gaea.

Gaea geometry

I made about four different landscape elements and then did a texture pass on them inside of Gaea.

Texture pass in Gaea

I brought in these assets into Maya and matched them to my Layout and adjusted the lighting a little.

Maya Final Layout

Instead of rocky terrain look I wanted to have some vegetation so I exported out my files into Clarisse. I moved the light around and added a simple water shader.

Clarisse file

I brought in some grass elements and scattered them on the landscapes.

Scattered grass on landscapes

While in Clarisse I figured I’d bring in some VDBs for volumes of mist and clouds.

VDB volumes in Clarisse

For the finishing touches I rendered out passes and painted the remaining details in Photoshop. I can do more nuances very quickly here. This is the final image.

Final paint work in Photoshop

Hope you enjoyed my little breakdown of my workflow on this piece.

Oh, if you noticed the logo, “Matte Mentors” on my images I will be teaching a new Matte Painting class through that site starting in January. Sign up to our newsletter for more information.

Gaea Mountains – LOTR Inspired Concept Painting

I’ve been watching Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and it got me wanting to create some mountains. I created this quick concept.

So, I opened up Gaea this weekend and did some quick mountains there. Gaea is great. Very intuitive and easy to use with it’s node based system.

Simple node setup

You basically keep adding nodes and moving sliders till you start getting something you like.

Gaea nodes

Once you get shapes then you can apply textures within it as well.

Gaea mountain with textures

You just export out your maps and geometry and bring it into your program of choice. I went into Maya to design my shot.

Maya layout

Here is a simple render using Arnold to test look mountain.

Maya render with Arnold

Once I got the placement of geometry (you can use height maps as another method) in Maya, I exported it all over to Clarisse. Here I added volumes of mist and clouds using VDBs.

Clarisse for final and adding volumes

Here is the final raw render.

Clarisse raw render

I then wanted to add some little character traversing the land, so I exported out a ranger archer character from Mixamo and placed in the scene.

Mixamo Character

Little bit of Photoshop retouching and painting for the final.

Final Quick Concept Painting

A quick little Lord of the Rings-ish Mountain concept painting, definitely not a finished painting but was fun to put together for a few hours.

2021 New3dge VFX Graduation Projects

I had the incredible honor again this year of being part of the 2021 VFX Graduation Projects for the Senior Projects at New3dge school.  This year again due to Covid we looked at the students work and met virtually. The school allowed us access to the students’ work, breakdowns, and face time with the groups.  The Senior Projects are a group of shorts that a small group of students (usually 5 to 6) work on as team replicating a mini pipeline as they execute a highly caliber of work. The students of VFX/Animation graduation projects for 2021 were just as impressive this year. They produced really outstanding quality all the while having to work remotely due to Covid. This is no small feat! So much great work and inspirational to see!

It was a great pleasure to interact with each team and talk about their projects and questions. New3dge school is doing a superb job teaching their students to be ready for professional careers in VFX, Animation and Games.

Unfortunately I can’t share the projects that the students worked on yet. The School has them submitted to various festivals. Once I am allowed I’ll share the works with links.

Just like last year, these shorts are worth checking out!

Clarisse 5

This is was released over a month ago, Clarisse 5!

There is a whole host of cool features the Isotropix has been working hard on.

Enhancements in layout set dressing, lookdev, lighting, rendering, and workflow.

I’m still going thru all the various upgrades, but so far they are great in speeding up your workflow and output.

Coming soon, I’ll do some short demos in Clarisse workflow.

For now James Miller’s tutorials on getting started are great.

Affinity Software

There is this relatively new software, Affinity that’s pretty good candidate as an Adobe substitute if you are looking for a non-subscription model. Their current applications are Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher. I’m currently most interested in Photo.

You can download them for a 90 trial.

The Affinity Photo has some nice features that Adobe Photoshop still hasn’t addressed over the years. Raw editing, true HDR workflow, and 32-bit workflow.

What’s nice is you can import/export PSD/PSB file formats and it supports ABR brushes, so you can have the best of both applications.

You can see the UI is very similar to Photoshop so working in it it’s hard at all.

The cost of the software is pretty affordable, just $50. You can purchase these apps at a 50% discount now. They are available for Mac, PC, and iPad. It is not a subscription model. It is a single one-off price. You have full capability whether on PC, Mac or Ipad.

Download for free and see what you think. For me the HDR and 32-bit capability alone is worth looking into.

Human Generator for Blender

New “Human Generator” addon for blender allows you to create and customize any character. It allows you to design your character’s gender, ethnicity, body shape, hair, age, clothes, and it’s fully rigged. Cost for the personal license is $68 and $128 for the commercial use. It’s created by Oliver J. Post and Alexander Lashko.

Simple clicks and adjustments to create
Various poses and clothing

Check our this teaser YouTube clip:

For even more information, check out their website:

Pretty easy to use and great for creating a variety of characters very quickly to suit your projects needs.

NFT Art…what is this?

There’s been big buzz on NFT Art over the past several months and now it’s really starting to explode.

So what’s NFT? Or should I say “Non-Fungible Tokens.” And what are NFT artworks?

NFT art is a record of who owns a digital piece of art using the blockchain technology. Any piece of digital content can be “minted” into a NFT that creates a file which lives on the “blockchain” which tracts the entire history of that piece. That NFT art can be sold and re-sold and a record exists of it’s ownership and price value. The payment for these artworks is cryptocurrrencies, usually Ethereum. Now, the head scratcher is after you’ve bought a NFT artwork, you don’t receive an actual piece of art with your purchase. You’ve bought the non-fungible token which is just a long series of letters and numbers that is dropped into your digital wallet. You don’t receive some physical file or print to hang on your wall.

An NFT is non-fungible because it is not interchangeable. Each NFT Art is distinct and has a unique ID assigned to it. It’s blockchain cannot be altered. It is a permanent record or ledge of this piece.

When you buy a piece of NFT artwork you retain ownership of the digital piece, but it still is available on the internet and various other digital means. Anyone can still download that piece from the internet, share it, etc. So what good is ownership? Well, the more a digital artwork is seen and shared it increases it’s visibility and potentially it’s “worth”.

Now, when that artwork is first sold, the site hosting the artwork retains a commission and the artist receives their payment. If the artwork is resold (and resold and resold) the original creator retains a “commission” on every resale (usually 10%). So as the work gains in value the original creator still receives “commissions” on the work.

This sounds awesome. How do I get into this new market?

Well, it’s not as easy as it seems. Not crazy hard but their are some hurdles to handle.

You need to have an account to buy Cryptocurrency, like Coinbase, Kraken, or many others. Now you need to buy some cryptocurrency (like I said usually Ethereum).

Once you have that you need to attach your coin to a digital wallet (usually MetaMask). Finally, you can link your digital wallet to the NFT Hosting site. You can now buy a NFT artwork.

But what if I wanna sell NFT Artwork? That’s another hurdle. Some of the top sites like Nifty Gateway or Super Rare are curated sites. Meaning you have to submit a portfolio and a video about yourself to gain access to sell on those sites. Other sites, you need to submit an application, and other sites you can just upload an NFT artwork and sell. Obviously the curated sites offer a larger audience and can command a larger selling price.

Okay, you are able to get onto a site to sell a NFT artwork, you need to convert your file to the blockchain. This will take “gas” to “mine” your artwork, which costs you a fractional fee of crypto currency. Now, the gas rate is variable. It depends on when you go to “mint” your artwork. Think of an utility company charging different rates for electricty, peak vs. off-peak time. This mining comes with an environmental impact since it takes a neural network of computers to process the data.

So is this a sustainable market? Is this all hype? Should I do this? Are all very good questions and honestly I don’t know. I do know people said the same thing when Crypto Currencies first cam on the scene. The technology of blockchain is very real and stable, but is this a fad? I guess only time will tell. There are good signs that maybe it will stay, Christie’s auction house is treating it as real. Artists such as Beeple, Ben Mauro, and many others have had tremendous success with it. To be honest I’m still learning about this interesting new art space for digital artwork. If anyone has any thoughts I look forward to hearing them.

An excellent talk about all things NFT is with Emmanuel Shiu and Jan Urschel on their Art Department Podcast. Listen to it, they go thru the whole rabbit hole of NFT art and should you do this or not. Also, check out their links page, it’s a great collection of information.