By Joe “EarthQuake” Wilson
Jose Lázaro is a very talented, award winning character artist. I got a chance to sit down and talk with him about his first place entry in the GameArtisan’s Comicon Challenge, his experience working in games as well as film, how those industries overlap, and the state of next generation game art content creation.
Jose is a grizzled industry veteran with a massive amount of experience. Originally from Spain, Jose is currently working as a freelance artist. He is available for freelance or onsite positions, check out his portfolio to see more work.
How long have you been doing 3D art?
I started to play with CG programs in 2000 and have been working professionally for 8 years.
Where have you worked in the past?
I have worked in several Spanish studios, including MercurySteam, where I was very proud to participate in the creation of the game CastleVania: Lord of Shadows. Then I moved to the UK, after working at a big video game company and doing some freelance work I got into the film industry with Framestore, and finally got to work on the oscar-winning movie Gravity.
“This generation will be more cinematic than ever.”
You’ve done work for games as well as films, how does art creation differ between the two?
Well the beginning of the process is exactly the same. You have a concept and you have to model it, what differs is the end result and the obvious technological limitations of games. For example, right now you can do a game character with 90,000 or 150,000 triangles, in film you can increase that amount 5 or 10 times. However, technical limitations are reduced more and more due the next generation of games. This generation will be more cinematic than ever.
Does your experience in the film industry give you an advantage now that more detailed art content is required for next gen games?
Live-action film is fundamentally realistic, so my experience there helps a bit for realistic looking games, because you get familiar with those modeling techniques. However, if the game has a more stylized or unique look it doesn’t help as much.
Right now, almost all next-gen realistic genre games are introducing rigging techniques that have already been used in film, therefore it is good to know them, like creating blend shapes for example.
Can you tell me a bit about your process?
My process depends on the character. If I have a good, well developed concept with multiple views, I start by modeling a blockout, then move onto the basemesh or lowpoly. If the ideas are not very clear, I do quick drawings on paper or create 3D sketches with dynamesh in ZBrush to further develop the character.
How do you find time to enter contests like the Comicon Challenge?
You have practically to lock yourself at home until you finish it. I guess this is common with people who are dedicated to the CG scene. Our passion makes us do these crazy things, but because it makes us happy to do it, there is nothing wrong with it. In this case, I had to postpone freelance work to have time to finish my entry.
Why did you pick the Braniac character for your Comicon entry?
I liked the character from the first time I saw him. He has a certain personality that captivates me. And since I have not seen a good design of the character, I decided to make my own with a more modern look, as if he came out of a movie by Zack Snyder. Finally, a lot of people seem to like the new design, so I guess it means I did good job.
“It’s good for artists to know other real-time engines, but when it comes to the balance between easy to use and good quality TB2 beats them all.”
Why did you choose Toolbag 2 for your entry?
At first, I wanted to do the final render with SolidAngle Arnold, but as I had limited time, I did some test with Marmoset Toolbag 2 to get a rough idea of how Brainiac could look and boy, I was surprised that the quality was so good. So I put all my effort into making a cinematic character in realtime with TB2. From this day I use it daily.
How does Toolbag 2 fit into your workflow?
I use it in two different ways. Firstly, I use Toolbag a lot for testing textures and how they behave with different lighting, because Marmoset Toolbag is completely realtime you can work fast. Later, I use the textures with other renderers like Vray or Arnold. Secondly, I use it for all my final low poly characters. It’s good for artists to know other real-time engines, but when it comes to the balance between easy to use and good quality TB2 beats them all.
Are there any features you would like to see added to Toolbag 2 in the future?
I’m not a tech guy and I don’t know how Toolbag works inside, but in my case I would like to see:
- More control with shadows. Being able to create soft shadows or area light shadowing.
- More post process tools and being able to add textures like a dirty lens effect.
- Some volumetric lighting could be a good addition for environment artists to create fog.
- A hair shader, Marschner shader or Kajiya-Kay are some techniques used nowadays.
- Light bleeding and a more natural Ambient Occlusion, sometimes occlusion looks wonderful with light but when you move to an area with shadows, it’s quite dark and fake looking.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Yes, try to be creative and don’t give up. There are hundreds and hundreds of modelers or game artist around the world, but if you are different with a good balance between artistic and technical skills soon enough you will be awesome.
Thanks for joining us! View more Jose’s work on his portfolio.