Envy spot historyAlex Scollay
Juan Carlos Ramos
University of Applied Science
School of Visual Arts
The Animation Workshop
Media Design School
The Chimney Pot
Prime Focus 2
Prime Focus 1
Customer Success Story :: Platige Image
Interview with Kamil Pohl, Lighting & Rendering Artist
25 August 2009
What attracted you to CG and why? Does it happen accidentally or it was a matter of conscious choice?
This started about 10 years ago. At that time I was interested mainly in Photoshop and in printing photos, sometimes I was making something in the field of vector graphics. This continued until once I saw a strange program on the display of an acquaintance of mine. There were no colours, no palette of colours or layers in it. Only lines crossing, mysterious windows with sliders and options... Everything looked very exotic. I was looking at the third version of 3d studio Max. Of course, I did not start immediately working with this kind of graphics. This passion has been becoming imminent for me for several years, spent in efforts to solve this program. At that time Internet was not very popular in Poland. In the 90s the Internet cafes were rare. Because of a lack of access to any materials, I had to cope with complex options and functions' names by myself. I can still remember how-many sleepless nights I spent with a dictionary in my hand and the first successes in the decoding of Scanline. I recall those nights with special excitement. They gave me great satisfaction and persuaded me that you can always find a solution of a particular problem.
Could you tell us a little more about your company?
Platige Image is not a "company" in the full sense of the word. When you find yourself among people with similar interests, then you do not have the feeling you work from a sense of duty. We have created an atmosphere of freedom and friendly team-work. We try not to base our contacts on rivalry. You can always rely on the others. And that gives very good results.
Is there anything that makes a difference between Platige Image and other companies from this industry?
I do not know what it is like in the other companies. Everyone keeps his secrets eagerly. Unfortunately, in the companies for which I used to work before, dominating an atmosphere of competition and rivalry for bonuses. This did not give good results, and it was an obstacle to make teams because everyone worked for himself. That is why I quickly left them.
Can you tell us about some of the major projects you have worked on? Which of them have been a challenge to you? Why?
My most major projects? Undoubtedly this is "The Witcher". For me this was the first so huge and so important project. Then especially I learned to work on a complicated image, much more complicated than my past advertisements or visualizations. The project in succession then was an advertisement for the Portuguese , "Vodafone". This was not so big and time-consuming project, but the creation of a 30-second movie for about 10 days was a quite big challenge for me. The greatest enemy is time. The animation which must be repaired a few seconds before the lighting and the recalculation of frames, the corrections for the client. I think that everyone who has worked for clients understands what I mean.
After that I worked on the campaign “Allegro Winter”. This ad had to be simple: the camera had to fly over the house of Santa Claus - somewhere in the deep and snowy North. We had to achieve fairy-tale and at the same time slightly realistic atmosphere. I wanted to achieve a contrast between the land of cold and snow out and warmth inside the house. I lighted up everything with delicate dot lights by lighting up the separate elements. This gave me a great pleasure. I experimented with cold colours, which I broke with the "warm" light from the inside of the house. The entire ad was additionally coloured by Rafal Wojtunik but I think that then at the rendering phase we managed to achieve the necessary effect. The advertisement was accepted warmly by the client, as well as by the viewers.
The next project was the ad for Duracell. At that moment we finished with the third campaign of these series. In the first ad I did the rendering of F1 cars. This was an easy and pleasant job. The scenography was made in 3D, the lighting was not complicated - we only had to put stress on the cars' movement, the brilliance of the polish and the reflections in the surroundings.
In the second campaign the job was more different. The main characters of the spot were racing on a difficult way in the park. The film was shot in a film booth in Warsaw and the background of the entire scenography was filmed in Lisbon. Here the cars, as well as some elements of the atmosphere were made in 3D. In order to be able to light up the cars and to achieve authentic reflections on the polish coating or the windows, I filmed the whole set, worked out an HDRI map and used it as a lighting and reflecting element in the cars' polish coating. This led to surprisingly good results. Some V-Ray lights were added to this as it is structurally connected with film material and we obtained a very high evaluation from the client. This, of course, is only an insignificant part of my work in the commercial productions. Multiple ads of mobile phones, promotional movies for the Expo 2010 exhibition, Tesco advertising campaigns... there is a lot to tell about all this.
From commercials, to animation movies and games: Is there a field where you are more specialized in?
The ads as well as the making of movies have a lot in common. With the advertisements sometimes the requirements of the client can be hardly fulfilled. The people which are not in our field of business often have a wrong idea about how work and efforts the creation of a good advertisement requires. The sudden changes and the quick corrections are big challenge for those who realize it. With respect to games the client usually gets to know what can be made for a particular time and what the end product should look like. A lot of things here depend on the pre-preparatory stage, during which are discussed all possible aspects of the artist's work: storyboard and animations, conceptions about the surroundings and the characters are created. When I start my work, I already know what and how I should realize, and I approximately know what the final frame will look like. With the advertisements this cannot be always achieved and sometimes unfortunately the conceptions, the animations and the ideas about the ad go through changes then in the course of work. If I have to choose with a view to what is the easiest for me to make, then I would choose the cartoons and the shorts. In this type of productions I have my own little contribution to the work that should be created, I can give rein to my imagination, I can suggest some interesting solutions... in one word I enjoy it :)
The animation "What a channel" seems to be very amusing. Did you enjoy while working on it or you just concentrated over the technical realization of the project?
The idea about such a movie brightened me. A small family disguised as rabbits? They always have problems with the scenarios, the scenography, the TV and on top of that they must advertise a TV platform? The idea itself about such a cartoon should be making us smile. In the realization of the separate series I was doing the scenography. I am a photographer, I am good at studio lighting, that is why I took up the lighting and the filming of the models on which the already mentioned family was moving on.
In our studio by using MILO we recorded a sequence of the camera's motion. We were processing the finished material and after that we were additionally rendering the movable elements such as doors, cupboards or sofas. It was a very pleasant work.
What kind of 3D software you are using commonly? And what kind of renderers?
Every possible :). I usually use 3ds Max. The program is very efficient, everyone in the company uses it in its work, and therefore I cannot suddenly replace the soft for instance with another one - Softimage XSI or Maya. But this does not mean that we do not use any other software. The designers in principle use Autodesk Maya, rendering and lightning - most often on 3ds Max, XSI, Maya, and sometimes Houdini. Everything depends on the effect we want to achieve. When I need a beautiful, pleasant for the eye picture with mild shades and vivid contrasts, I use V-Ray. When I want to count the metals, the window-glasses, Sub Surface Scattering(SSS), then I use Mental Ray, and when I recalculate quick conceptions or masks - then I use Scanline. A perfect engine does not exist, but when you have them all, then you can force out of them really a lot.
Can you make a short comparison between V-Ray and other renderers based on your own working experience? When is it most appropriate to use V-Ray? In which cases?
Undoubtedly V-Ray is a very fast renderer with regards to recalculation of materials, GI or Motion Blur. In combination with the possibility of making very good looking shaders we can achieve a really powerful tool. But I do not like comparing the rendering engines. I always repeat that each of them was made for other things more different, and maybe with the help of each of them can be created something really excellent. But if I really have to compare V-Ray to other engines, then I would compare it to Mental Ray. Of course, both engines work on 3ds Max. With regards to Mental Ray, a disadvantage is the quite long process of the rendering itself. The recalculation on final gathering unfortunately is longer compared to the recalculation for instance on Irradiance Map. V-Ray has as well many other methods for calculation of the Global Illumination, which cannot be told for Mental Ray. In my opinion the thing that needs to be improved in V-Ray is maybe the not especially persuasive materials. Especially the metals, made with Mental Ray, are more realistic compared to the V-Ray metals. The consecutive - Fast Skin SSS in Mental Ray - this is something I miss very much in V-Ray. The realistic, quickly, recalculating skin is a big challenge for V-Ray. But after all we managed to achieve quite a good effect without using Mental Ray.:)
What improvements would you like to see in V-Ray?
I am looking forward to version of V-Ray RT with the possibility to viewing the real time rendering. This will extremely make the placement of lights easier. The quick viewing will be undoubtedly a considerable step forward.
What would be your advice to the young rendering and lighting artists? What should they know?
I always encourage people to get to know photography. This art gives fantastic possibilities. A one day work in a photo studio; a one day observation of the world through the lens gives exceptional knowledge, which later can be used during the rendering and lighting. In the photo studio is not necessary to wait for the GI recalculation, the Omni01 power or the width of fall of Spot05 are not necessary to be checked. You just look, move, close and open.... It is an indescribable pleasure to be able to see in live how the light in the picture acts, how the colours are formed, how by only one click you can make an amazing effect. My advice is: take pictures, observe the world. Look how the light diffracts, how it reflects from the surface, how it colours the surroundings. The more we observe, the easier will be our response after that to the challenges.
We thank Kamil Pohl for this interview and we wish the whole Platige Image team good luck in the future!