Cinema 4D and V-Ray artist Nicolas Delille discusses the surprises that brought his career attention and reveals the challenges that made him a better artist.
Nicolas Delille is a talented 3D artist and art director based in Nantes, France. After graduating from a degree in Art Direction in 2006, Nicolas began his career as an all-round creative guy and art director, working for various advertising agencies. Over four years in these roles, he developed many specialties and picked up the art of composition, post-production, creativity, concept creation — and even discovered how to invent entire new worlds through 3D illustration.
In 2010, Nicolas decided to take his work abroad and traveled to Montreal in Canada, before hitting Adelaide in Australia. After spending a year in each location, he realized that he had officially become a 3D artist by trade. “I had the chance to work for a wide variety of cool projects for international ad agencies and brands, for magazines, and I was able to win several cool prizes — as well as get noticed by 3D Artist magazine and Maxon,” Nicolas explains. “So, I worked as a 3D artist for five years with my studio, Modern Age Studio.”
We talk to Nicolas about the twists, turns, successes and lessons that have made Nicolas the incredible artist he is today. Read on to learn more — and find out why he has no regrets about his Cinema 4D and V-Ray workflow.
Can you guess the rock-and-roll bands?
This fun series, Rock Heads, was created with Ludovic Ismaël, the great French photographer. Nicolas and Ludovic had been searching for a mutual ground between photography and 3D for quite some time, and then they stumbled upon this idea: To make portraits of rock fans of some of the most famous rock-and-roll bands. The bodies are photography, and each has a symbolic head related to a particular band.
How did your passion for 3D develop?
ND: I discovered CGI by accident at 24 years old while working for an advertising agency in Paris. One guy was sculpting a realistic face with ZBrush. I was highly impressed by his skills, but I didn’t start CGI right after that; I initially thought it was too complicated for me.
Two years later, when I was back in France after a year in Montreal, I decided to give it a try — mainly because I had some free time at home while looking for a new job. I started with Maya, but this software seemed too complicated for me. My next trial was with Cinema 4D, which seemed way easier — and suited for a mac user, like me. And that was it for many years. And it eventually led me to trying V-Ray for Cinema 4D to get some decent depth-of-field in my work.
Apart from CGI, do you have any other creative passions — and how do they help you in your 3D career?
ND: I have a lot! I like to read a lot about art, so I have a great bookcase full of artists I like. I really like the study of anatomy, so I’m a huge fan of people like Scott Eaton, and classic sculptors like Houdon or Bernini.
I also like photography — I recently started learning macro photography as well. It’s very different and complementary to CGI: You instantly have a photorealistic image, but with dust and imperfections. On the other side, with CGI, you have a clean picture, but you need to add imperfections to make something believable. The work of light is very important in both disciplines, like in the use of post-production. So, I like to do photography as it helps me to understand CGI better.
Moving away from CGI, two years ago I learned how to create iOS applications. I’ve created several ones. My favorite app is a free one where you can localize free toilets in the big cities of France; it’s called Youpee France. You can find it on the App Store — you might need it on your next vacation in France!
CG: That’s awesome! You’re also running a blog to help fellow digital artists with tips, tricks and inspiration. Tell us about who currently inspires you the most?
ND: I love artists like Cornelius Dammrich, who manage to master composition, materials, lights and post-production, with a unique style. I also love Zhelong Xu, who creates amazing sculptures where you really feel Chinese culture. Ian Spriggs I love for his amazing family portraits; Beeple for his commitment and creativity; and Raphael Rau for his amazing knowledge about CGI.
I could give you many more names as well — like Scott Eaton, again, who has an impressive knowledge about anatomy. But these ones are my top artists.
CG: What are the software tools that you use on an everyday basis? Do you have a typical workflow that you follow?
ND: I mostly use Cinema 4D with V-Ray, and ZBrush, for CGI creations. I also like to use a lot of Photoshop and After Effects for the post-production stages. I like to play with my layers to enhance my raw renderings dramatically, which I can do thanks to some of the retouching skills I learned as an art director in ad agencies. And that’s what I try to teach in my tutorials: Your raw render isn’t the end; you can turn it any time into something even better.
In the future, I’m planning to try Marvelous Designer and Substance Designer, depending on future projects.
CG: What attracted you to Cinema 4D over other 3D content creation platforms?
ND: Firstly, Cinema 4D doesn’t seem intimidating — like Maya, for example. Its GUI is the most friendly by far. I also like the way MoGraph is working right now, and how you can quickly create motion designs with it.
I can’t really argue much more about the pros and cons between Cinema 4D and its competitors because I made my choice way back, and haven’t changed since — but I haven’t regretted my choices either!
CG: When did you first start using V-Ray for Cinema 4D and how do you believe it helped shape your rendering skill set?
ND: I actually started using V-Ray in 2012, firstly because the standard renderer in Cinema 4D in Release 12 wasn’t efficient enough — which, wow, seems like such a long time ago now! I really needed some features like the Depth of Field, Hair — and speed, of course. I learned how to use it over a few months, and I reached the point where I no longer knew how to use the standard render in Cinema 4D anymore.
My initial goal was to create hyper-realistic images, and V-Ray really helped me with that. I was able to produce the Ladybug Journey, two pictures of a photorealistic ladybug, which gave me a lot of media exposure. The second image was used as the international marketing material for Cinema 4D R17 by Maxon. And in their user gallery, I was featured close to Cornelius Dammrich and Westworld — and that was enough for me!
CG: If you could give just one tip to readers to improve the quality of their renders and achieve higher levels of photorealism, what would it be?
ND: This is what I like to teach people: Get to know your 3D software; your rendering engine is one thing (or two), but there is far more knowledge to obtain first, in order to become a better artist.
The first thing is to learn — every day — from the best artists out there, and get to know how they managed to get there in the first place. But how do you do that? Well, it’s easy: Just like I am doing now, artists often do interviews where you can learn about their stories. And you can often reach out to them by email to ask them for advice and comments. Most artists are nice people and will reply to you.
I started my Better Digital Artist to show just how good 3D artists are. I wanted to talk to the 3D artists I love. And you know what? They all replied to me. I was shocked that it really wasn’t that hard.
My other advice is to take real pictures; play with real-world cameras. You’ll learn so much from light, composition and settings that you’ll be able to transpose into CGI.
CG: Tell us about a rendering challenge you’ve personally had to overcome, and how did you solve the problem?
ND: I encountered so many challenges during my freelance period — and even now, working in agencies. I can remember a commission by an advertising agency for Air Asia. At the time, I needed some extra money, so I was saying “I can do it!” even though I wasn’t sure at all that I knew how to do it. The idea was to create, on a paradisiac beach, a staircase made of sand — like a sandcastle, but made into the shape of the steps you’d take to climb onto an airplane. It seemed pretty simple at the time, so I said to my client that I would complete this easily and quickly.
But I forgot to consider that I was abroad, with a small MacBook for rendering, with a very low library of assets. I became very nervous suddenly. That’s where my post-production skills really helped, otherwise it can be a very hard time! So, I managed to grasp some textures here and there and finish the image the best I could. Thankfully, the client was happy with the final image, so the story all ended well.
I hope to see new kickass features [in V-Ray for Cinema 4D] which haven’t even crossed my mind yet but will become essential to my workflow after it’s released.
Nicolas Delille, 3D Artist & Art Director
What are you most excited to see in the first in-house developed version of V-Ray for Cinema 4D?
ND: I’m very curious about how it will look. We have all been waiting for an in-house developed version of V-Ray for Cinema 4D for a long time. I hope to see new kickass features which haven’t even crossed my mind yet but will become essential to my workflow after it’s released.
And also please don’t forget: Speed at its highest, as usual!
What is the next big project you have planned?
ND: I’m working on clay modeling some characters for my current agency, created in ZBrush and rendered with V-Rray. The hardest part is the post-production. I want people to believe that everything has been made with real modeling clay. I hope I’ll achieve some great creatures with realistic looks!
Nicolas Delille is currently working at the web agency, Lycanthrop, in Nantes, France. He continues to create personal projects in his free time to keep learning new things and always evolving as an artist. See more of his work on his official Behance page.
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