This article is available in: French
Romain Toumi: I therefore added a blue streak behind the reactors, this way you can always tell where the spaceship is. I only had to do this on the small spaceship: the big one, is always easy to spot in the frame, obviously.
Adding the streak was not as trivial as you might think. Since it’s a flat streak, similar to an animated sprite in a videogame, I had to tweak things so that the end result would work on each and every shot, wherever the camera was.
3DVF: What about the other people who worked on the episode?
I mentioned Alexandre Labedade earlier, there was also Lezly Prager who is a CG artist working in Paris and who helped me a lot to design the shield of the Nexus VI ship, with this nice effect when a particle collides with the shield: which modifiers should be used, how to cheat on a specific detail, and so on.
Cyril Muller, another artist, created the interior of the escape pods airlock. I just added a few details, tweaked the shaders and added the lighting.
The escape pods (designed by Arthur Chamerois) are an interesting part of the project. We did create real pods, but only the upper part! We had to create the pods in CG, both for the exterior shots where you can see them completely, and because we had some lighting issues with the sides of the real pods in a few shots. In the end, only the front of the pods is real.
There is therefore a mix of CG and live-action, the shooting team had a nice surprise during the premiere screening!
3DVF: Can you tell us about the reception of your work, for example by the Nexus VI fans?
Lots of reaction and feedback, many people are very impressed by the end result given that this is a Youtube project. Once again, I should highlight that I put 2 years and a half of my life into this, with very, very long working days!
Many people got in touch with me to know more about my work, including the PIDS Conference [Editor’s note: a French conference focused on visual effets]. During the 2022 edition, which took place in January near Paris, I was one of the speakers. I have also been in touch with the organizers of other French conferences.
Ton Roosendaal, the creator of Blender, also shared this project, and I had the opportunity to talk with people from the Blender Foundation, as well as other people from the Blender community, such as Ian Hubert.
I am so glad the Blender community had the opportunity to watch it!
3DVF: Does this mean you might attend the Blender Conference as a speaker?
I would love to. Of course, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was no Blender Conference last year, but I’m still open to the idea for Blender Conference 2022! This would be quite interesting since I pushed Blender to the limits: this could be a good opportunity to improve what Blender can do.
3DVF: By the way, why did you choose to use Blender and Cycles?
Once again this is explained by my background, when I studied metallurgy and I got interested in computer graphics. Blender was the first software I downloaded: as a teenaged, buying a 3000€ software was out of the question, and downloading pirated versions was not that easy… Moreover, Autodesk software can be quite cumbersome, especially at the time without high-speed Internet access nor SSDs.
Blender was free, lightweight and fast on my parents’ computer. I therefore started learning computer graphics using Blender 2.42, which was very, very ugly. Let’s be honest, at the time it was not an easy tool to use! A first, I didn’t do much since I didn’t understand anything (pretty much everyone had a similar experience at the time), however update 2.45 really allowed me to tame Blender. I was quite satisfied with what I created (in hindsight however, this was garbage), then I watched Big Buck Bunny, an open movie from the Blender Foundation, I kept following Blender… And when the short film Sintel came out, I told myself that this tool was really taking off. Some time after that Cycles was released, and this confirmed I had bet on the right horse. At first I was a little bit afraid of using nodes: I had a hard time getting used to them, but 10 years later there is no way I would go back.
This is when I made my career change, with the help of online forums (at the time tutorials were written, nowadays video tutorials are the norm).
To sum it up, my skills improved at the same time Blender gained new features update after update… And today I have my own Blender custom version!
3DVF: Any advice for people willing to become self-taught artists, just like you? And is this a good idea nowadays, given the fact that many animation schools and degrees have been created?
I think Internet is still the best school you can go to. Nowadays if you are curious and willing to learn, this is a place where you can find whatever you want, you don’t have to explore obscure and weird websites like you used to. Just go on Youtube, binge-watch tutorials 24/7 for a month like you would binge-watch a Netflix series, and you’ll be able to master 50% of Blender if you practice and use the software at the same time.
I think you just need to be motivated, patient and eager to learn.
You should also like cheating: since in the end you will create a fake picture, you should not hesitate to take shortcuts and to use “dirty tricks” to get the result you want, especially if you are alone and self-taught.
Going to an animation school is quite different, you will learn a specific way of doing things since you are supposed to learn how to work within a team, in a studio, and this is indeed quite different from working alone. When you are a solo CG artist, you can allow yourself not to follow the rules, and to use a little bit of everything.
You also need to acquire skills that go beyond pure CG, for example you will need to work on framing or on direction, rythm if you don’t focus solely on still images.
3DVF: One last question: can you tell us about your work on the upcoming Nexis VI episodes?
Episode VIII should be released soon. The story begins right after the end of Episode VII, so there will be an crash landing.
It will be short but impressive, with a mix of live-action footage shot using a drone and the CGI Nexus VI ship. Overall, Episode VIII won’t be as CGI-heavy as Episode VII, since the characters aren’t in space anymore.
However, Episode IX will feature a lot of effects! Ships, gunfights in space, and so on.
Overall, Episode VII will remain the episode with the most CGI shots, as well as the most complex sequences to create. I still can’t wrap my head around the idea I managed to pull it off.
3DVF: Thanks a lot Romain! We can’t wait to watch the upcoming episodes.