I interviewed Adam Dewhirst, 3-D modeler that’s worked on The Dark Knight and a bunch of other movies. Check it out after the cut.
N:First, could you talk about what your job is, and name some projects that you’ve worked on?
AD: Sure, I’m a 3-D modeler – by that I mean that I work on a computer making virtual models of things for computer generated (cg) effects – primarily I work in movies, but I have worked in games and TV commercials too. Some of my past projects have been visual effects work on – The Golden Compass, The Dark Knight, Clash of the titans and most recently John Carter. I am currently working on the new series of Dr Who.
(Editor’s Note): Here is Adam’s showreel to see some of the designs he’s done.
N:What’s your process like? Do you sketch out designs on paper, or do all that digitally? What are some tools you use?
AD: It depends on the scale of the project really, for most films we are normally provided with design work from the art department, as you can Imagine they won’t let any old Joe design some of these characters – so most often I am given direction. If they have made a costume or a physical representation of the object./person I am making then I will often get photos from on set, occasionally modelers are sent on to set to record anything that might be useful.
Once I’ve been given all the research available by the production department I normally rough out a basic digital version in a program called ‘Maya’ – which allows me to create something in three dimensions – think of it as digital sculpting! If it’s good to go – I will work it up adding detail – sometimes to really fine level, skin pores, hairs, wrinkles using a program called ‘Mudbox’ – which is a fantastic tool that allows me almost limitless detail! It is honestly like working with a block of clay, but it’s on my screen!
Anyone interested should try downloading both these programs, Autodesk who make them, provide free versions for learning from! Have a crack at it!
N: So, you modeled the Two-Face design for The Dark Knight; was there any particular Batman comics, animation, or the like that you used as a basis to build It?
AD: No, not really, I mean, when I was put on that project, it had been going already for several months, the design work was done and a lot of the modeling too – but I did dive into the comics regardless, It’s always nice to know the subject matter of the thing your building, I think it helps to be involved in the project beyond the capacity that you have to because it’s your job. I picked up ‘The Long Halloween’ and ‘Batman: Year One’ – both excellent book.
N: You’ve worked in feature length animation, live-action movies, and video games; is there any particular difference in your job between the different media?
AD: Yes totally, mainly in time-frame – games work has very short strict deadlines, commercial work is very fast paced, film not so much. It’s much more intense length work, where it has to be super accurate and spot on, but you may have to endure periods of waiting whilst sequences are shot, or reference is being collated! … It’s important in film to have everything ready to go before you start work. Commercial work has no such limitations because it’s just had to get done, so if the reference isn’t ready, you just have a crack at it anyway – get on, get it done!
My personal preference Is for TV/film work – I like the fact I manage my own hours, and I haven’t experienced anything that beats seeing your work up on the big screen – so for me, that the one, If It’s a comic or sci-fi film, then..that a big bonus, but hey sometimes you get weird shit to do – last month I was told I had to make a model of Russell Crowes ear…. just the ear! Bizarre.
N: Since you’re so familiar with CGI effects, you can probably recognize them very easily in movies. Following that, do you find yourself enjoying movies with mostly practical effects more, just because you aren’t so immersed in it?
AD: No, I really appreciate CGI work when It’s done well, not that bad CGI will ruin a movie for me, but It does make me step out of the moment a little and go “wait a minute, that was crap” so It can ruin the magic, so to speak. when CGI Is done well, you shouldn’t notice it. It’s sort of a back handed compliment in a way, that some of my best work is totally unnoticeable… so you get no credit, but, in a way, you’ve done your job well If that the case.
Recent films that I really appreciated the good VFX are – district 9 – which I thought was excellent! And the avengers (what can I say, it’s awesome!)
N: What advice would you give to someone interested in getting a job in 3-D animation?
AD: There is so much available online, if you’re interested – look into what films/games you like and try and find a making of, they normally tell you the software they used to make it, and then give It a go – most of these packages are available to try for free! I actually recorded some tutorials myself a few years ago on character modeling. Otherwise there are plenty of schools out there that do fantastic courses; the Vancouver film school in particular is excellent!
Thanks so much to Adam for the interview, and anyone interested can see his work and check out his site at http://www.intelligentape.co.uk/