Q & A with Chris Durso
3D Concept Art presents an Q & A with a very talented Environment artist specializing in Lighting, Props and Vehicle creation, Chris Durso. He has been around for about nine (9) years working in production of games, from pipeline to one-off assets. For companies like 343 Industries, Zipper interactive, Zoombie Studios.
He uses frequently his talent to make believable environment concepts, illustrating a realistic feel and mood.
His work has been seen in different games like, Halo 4, Socom 4 and M.A.G. And has been published in different international publications like Kotaku and 3d artist Magazine.
| 3D Concept Art: Tell us about you and how did you become interested in 3D modeling and to work with environment, props and vehicles?
| Chris Durso: → I became interested in 3d modeling and animation in Highschool when I was 16. At the time I was taking a CAD class, the teacher was a retired Architect. At the time, that is what I wanted to do. I did well in CAD and finished all the work 4 weeks before everyone else so I had all this free time. The teacher gave me a big book about 3ds max version 3 and told me to learn that program and make a project. As soon as I started messing around with it I was hooked. I spent many hours working on really ugly work in there. I made an entire scene of a giant mechanical spider with animation, I wish I still had the project, but I can’t find it anymore. Pretty funny, to say the least. I made everything out of primitive shapes and shaders.
After that, I knew I wanted to work in games. I had always loved japanese RPGs growing up and played them on weekends. So I went to school for animation after highschool and then got my first gig in the industry after a few years. I was always drawn towards props and environments especially because I love creating scenes that tell a story with everyday, or designed objects. I think there is alot of challenge and fun in that.
| 3CA: As you work in the game industry and have been part of some very exciting AAA titles. What has been the most important for you when it comes to your own ability’s as an artist, where you have been surrounded by very talented artists? How do you feel in that sense, has helped you to develop yourself and keep pushing your own boundaries?
| C.D: → The most important thing for me was indeed when I was surrounded by amazing artists. When I had worked on Halo 4, that was a place where I felt that sense of wow. Every day, walking into that studio with the amazing talent that was there, felt like I was playing baseball with the NY Yankees or something.
Everyone was doing such amazing work you knew you had to show up bringing your best every day. Because of being in an environment like that, you get a lot better very quickly because you want to be on the same level as those guys who you admire. I am always grateful for my time there. In order to keep pushing yourself outside of an environment like that, it takes plenty of disciplines, keeping a schedule, having goals and constantly working towards those goals.
| 3CA: Where do you get inspiration from and who are your role models?
| C.D: → Inspiration for me can come from just about anywhere. Film and games sometimes. Mostly for me though its probably seeing other artists work and music. Also photography, in general. My biggest inspirations for what I do are probably Neil Ross, Lebbeus Woods, Daido Moriyama, Craig Mullins, Syd Mead to name a few.
| 3CA: Working with environments isn’t an easy task. Also when it comes to finding a good harmony between objects, module assets and to get a well thought out scene that encourage the user (player) to play and to be led through a level. What are the most problematic parts when it come to making an engaging environment concept that not only looks well but feels realistic? Also, what are you best tips when making modular scenes?
| C.D: → I think lighting and composition are the most important factors for me when doing environments. The details don’t really matter too much in my mind unless there is a point when they need to matter. I hide as much as I can in shadows and use lighting to guide the eye through an environment. Only then will I decide how much details are needed to be modeled. I save a lot of time this way.
To make things modular, it’s generally good to understand the design language of what you are going for in an environment and making a set of assets you can use quickly to fill up space. When I do this I generally place many objects and move them around like Legos while doing lighting at the same time to see how it all makes me feel. When it starts feeling in the right mood I am after, I start refining what the objects are and what the lighting is doing. I think this also creates a sense of depth and drama doing it this way while keeping the process dynamic and engaging.
| 3CA: Any good advices for artists and students who want to get into the business as a 3D Artist in fields like props, vehicles and environment and going for a career in the game industry?
| C.D: → Absolutely! 3d can take a lot of time. Spend more time drawing and painting. Ask yourself what you want your vision to be as an artist and focus on those things. If you want to be good at environments, it’s worth studying people who understand composition and lighting.
When designing props and vehicles its good to study science and real world objects, as well as artists who design in a way that you enjoy. Environments are mostly about mood and feel to me, don’t spend so much time on modeling, also getting into photography is a big help for getting better with composition and lighting. I try to shoot as often as I can to keep my eye sharp.