3D Concept Art latest interview categorized as special projects. Going behind the scenes asking, what is Project Insects in this interview with Ramtin Ahmadi. He is a 3D Technical Director at Optix Digital based in Dubai and he had a vision.
It started as a spare time project and became a beautifully drafted sequence of art. Showing the nature drastic view of life in a fantastic slow motion pace. As this is a solo project, he directed and was responsible for the whole project, from concept, modeling and rigging to the final rendering and compositing. Also the music and sound design.
| 3D Concept Art: Tell us about your starting idea, how was it born and what was your main goal?
| Ramtin Ahmadi: → It started with me thinking to my self, what if I pushed my own boundaries and knowledge as much as I could and try to get every element of an animation as perfect as possible. I also had a big constraint, a full time job that takes 10 to 12 hours away from me everyday.
So the second idea was to put all this limitations aside and see what happens if I slowed down the process and gave it a lot of time, as much as it needed without any compromise. The result is what we have here after around 6 months. The reason I chose Insects was my love for aliens in general, and I always see insects as the living aliens around us on earth! haha…
| 3CA: Your project Insects is a beautiful and dramatically acted sequence with a slow motion pace, tell us about how you developed your story and found such a interesting protagonist and antagonists?
| R.A: → Sure, we have this round and cute looking kind of bug flying towards a bright light source. But sadly for it, there is a powerful force in the middle, the mantis that over powers it and blocks the light and puts and end to its life. These dynamics had the direct influences of how I choose certain compositions and camera angle. At least in my mind all of these elements serving the main story somehow.
The reason why I chose slow motion is my obsession with super slow motion footages. I can be watching them all day long and still want more! But seriously, The smaller the world gets, it requires more time for the human audience to realize the importance of that particular moment. I wanted to use everything in my tool set to stress that moment, and I think animating it in slow motion played a really important role in it.
| 3CA: How much of your time went to researching about insects and narrowing down the specifics?
| R.A: → I would say for couple of days before I start a project. For a few days I only watch references and try to read a little about them. Also I keep coming back to the references to the very end of a project. It’s like recalibrating my eyes and puts me in the right and real mindset every time I study them.
The most important thing before animating is to put my self in the insects mind and try to see and feel how they feel. It sounds funny, but it’s hard to answers people’s question when they ask me how I animate or how I come with some certain animation choices. I believe it’s all down to the body gestures of things and how they can possibly think or feel about a particular situation. By the way there many amazing super slow motion insects footages all over the internet, which gives anyone more than enough inspiration. Try them, Guarantee!
| 3CA: Creating a vision like this, using insects and giving it a natural feeling with animation isn’t an easy task,what were the biggest challenges?
| R.A: → You’re right. The biggest indeed was how the two were going collide and interact with each other. There are so many legs and wings and basically moving parts on the way that made it such a pain to animate, and quite honestly I’m still not very happy with the result. I got to a point of redoing it over and over again too many times and losing my passion about the project and that’s when I let go, Because I knew that’s a dangerous thing, to not like something. Not liking it meant cancelling the project.
But now at least I know there’s a weakness in my animation skill set in general, which requires a lots of improvements. I feel better thinking about it that way, haha!
| 3CA: Trying to keep both the originality of nature and also adding your own interpretation and keep the essence of nature is difficult to uphold, how did you define the balance that was needed for this project?
| R.A: → Hmm, I don’t find it that hard quite honestly. I always push things and try to twist and exaggerate and I know I’m good as long it looks convincing and believable. Of course there are times when things look abnormal and out of place and I should look out for those areas and find out why they don’t work or look right.
| 3CA: Under how long time did you work and how many hours did you put on Insects?
| R.A: → I had around 4 hours at night after getting back from work, as well as the weekends. But big chunks of creative work usually happened during the weekends where I have rested and I left the repetitive tasks like fixing textures, draft renders, animating secondary motions and etc… For other days because they don’t need as much attentions. Over all the project took around 6 months from start to finish.
| 3CA: Can you explain which tools did you use and why did you choose those tools for your pipeline?
| R.A: → Of course, I used Zbrush for sculpting, Mudbox for texturing, Maya as the main 3D software , Arnold renderer for Maya and Nuke for final compositing.
The reason would be me having experience with them in the company I work for. I just feel comfortable using them and trust them in someway or another. I’m a Huge Arnold Render fan by the way!
| 3CA: Arnold Render, which technique did you use for getting the best possible realistic render for your project Insects ?
| R.A: → Well I started with a piece of geometry in the background, like a plate that covers the frame at all time during the shot. Then using Maya 3D painting capabilities I roughly sketched the background and where the main light is. Then I took that texture to Nuke and made a HDRI using some forest images and a little of matte painting. I tried to make the main light source really bright in the matte painting. Then I picked that HDRI and applied it to the same background plate in Maya and used the plate as a light source. I also added 2 additional straight forward softboxes to brighten the dark parts.
One rendering challenge I had was the Depth of Fields and the bokeh effects. Micro lenses produce a lot of depth of field effects. Doing in composition can produce too much artifact around the edges when they’re used aggressively.
So I had to render each insect separately from frame 0 to 199 where they’re not contacting each other, and then a second setup after frame 200 where that are not separately rendered. This way I was fine pushing the depth of field as much as I wanted without producing compositing artifacts. For Arnold setting, I set the AA samples to 12 to get rid of noise of motion blur, and set the rest of the samples to 1. SSS was set to 2.
| 3CA: Do you have any new vision that you would like to fulfil as a spare time project or as collaboration?
| R.A: → Yes of course, I have quite a few ideas, but not sure if they actually are worthy to spend time on or to be realized. However one thing I’m sure of is that the next project is not going to be me doing everything in solo as it turned out to be extremely tiring. I truly believe with collaboration things can turn out much nicer and the whole making experience much more satisfying.
| 3CA: What are your advices to other artists that would be interested in doing a similar project on their spare time?
| R.A: → First of all, the goal has to be real and plausible within the constraints we have. I have some friends who still think they can make a movie all by them selves in a year or two and guess what, with all that talent they haven’t even made a short yet! So pick something that’s manageable within the limitations you have and you’ll be fine.
It’s also important to be patient and make one step at a time. Doing things slowly but consistence makes all the difference.
And the last thing which is the most important is to do something that you truly love and passionate about, not necessarily trendy. If you love something then the chance of finishing it is a lot higher in the long run. Don’t fall into the trap of competing with certain artists or only pleasing others for what you have done.
I know it, because I used to do it and I remember it made the process much more frustrating and less fun most of the time. After all it’s art or whatever you name it. Be your self and try to make the visions in your mind come true and have fun 🙂
3D Concept Art Community thanks Ramtin Ahmadi for this interview about Project Insects. For sharing his know-how and by this article giving us a lot information. A personal project that became an interesting and evolving story about an protagonist and antagonist.
What do you think of Project Insects?