Project Proxy 248
3D Concept Art presents project Proxy 248. A project interview with Martin Jaud about making his personal vision on synthetic, organic, and tech-like interconnected systems to produce energy at a self-sustained level. 3D Concept Art presents a special projects interview about the personal project Proxy 248.
| 3D Concept Art: Tell us about your starting idea, how was it born and what was your main goal?
| Martin Jaud: → The starting idea came from a small experimental scene I did in Houdini. (Link to clip: https://vimeo.com/741564984/9c39e14628). It is a growing network of strings with small, interconnected spheres spawning around the network. I thought something was interesting there that felt like a hybrid between tech and organic matter. That was the basic idea, some futuristic or alien tech that could grow organic matter to produce energy. From there the other ideas were born. Like, such a system could be self-sustaining, so it is contained in a cube. Of course.
And there has to be something that rhythmically pulsates, almost like a heart or timer. I also like the idea of how some tiny cells and processes can power something larger, like in the human body. Right, so we do a long zoom-out or camera path. And so on. Also, personal projects are a way for me to learn about topics and concepts of CG that I would like to know more about. And I try to wrap those learning goals into something visually interesting. For this project, Proxy 248, I wanted to learn more about Redshift Proxies, It was something that was coming up more and more at my day job so I wanted to get familiar with it. OK, let’s pack as much geometry into those proxies as my computer can handle. So procedural modeling played a huge part in this project. Additionally, I wanted to use velocity volumes to drive some motion and I thought it would be fun and try to create one of those space nebulas. The name of the project is a combination of those ideas.
There are two main aspects: the organic and the tech. Then there is a cube, power generation, and a lot of proxy geometry. 2 to the power of 2 is 4 and 2 cubed is 8. So it was Proxy 248. There was one shot where the sphere popped and the green liquid goo and some strands shoot out. I saw something similar online somewhere and I did really like it. I thought it would be fun trying to create something similar. And I thought it would fit into the project. Unfortunately, there was no author provided on the website where I saw it .. so I do not know who initially created it. But whoever it is .. thank you for the inspiration on that one.
| 3CA: How much of your time went to R&D during this project?
| M.J: → Probably about 4 months during evenings and weekends. I try to think of something in every shot that takes me out of my comfort zone. It might be something technical like a math concept or some code, or something more visual like camera moves or lens choices. For this project, most RnD time went into the procedural creation of the detailed geometry. Almost everything you see is geometry. Only on those hexagonal tube shapes, some displacement was used in shading. So there are shots with billions of polygons in those layers of proxies.
| 3CA: Did you use any previs for the different shots, and why?
| M.J: → Yes, I try to do some simple previs for my projects. I feel like this is where the project is created. Sure I go into previs with a written description of the shots, some rough drawings, and references. But everything is still possible during the previs stage. For me, it is important to get an idea of the scale, timing, and general layout before going into more detail. There are times when I think that I know what I am going for and that no previs is needed .. but I always regret it later. It helps to get a better feeling of what the project will be like. Often it is just a flipbook with some basic shapes and motion.
| 3CA: How did you handle scale for such a large environment to make it fit together nicely in the different shots?
| M.J: → I did struggle to fit the shots together. I wanted to do that continuous camera move from a close-up of the timer to the outside of the cube when we are in space. So I can only blame myself for making it more complicated. Additionally, the whole cube is moving and spinning which means the interior of the cube is in constant motion as well. So there are a lot of parented objects to keep all the parts in sync. But if you can solve it in previs you can produce it. One thing I thought would be problematic was the scale at the end with the planets and nebula. But after some tests, I found that moving that nebula out a couple of million units was not an issue. So I just went for it. As a result, the planets had to be pretty large as well – again lots of geometry.
| 3CA: Which difficulties did you face when modeling the different parts?
| M.J: → It would probably be faster to list the easy parts. For me pretty much everything is difficult on those projects. Some obstacles I remember were: Everything was modeled procedurally on this project. The tools for detailing and cutting up the geometry use some math for matrix transformations which was difficult to wrap my head around. Coming up with a somewhat nice-looking design and shape language is always challenging for me as well. Often it is more difficult to know what to create than how to create it. Also, it was challenging to find a balance between the amount of detail and what the computer could handle. It is pretty easy to run out of ram and crash when layering details. I used Redshift to render this project. And at the time I had older video cards which meant that I could not render the project. Not even preview frames. Graphics cards were pretty difficult to get at the time so I had to wait for a few months until I could get my hands on two RTX 3090s that could handle the render.
| 3CA: Did you use any procedural texturing for everything or did you use an external paint application for texturing?
| M.J: → Except for one or two materials all shaders were created procedurally in Houdini using Redshift nodes. Overall the materials were pretty simple with some procedural noise for variations where needed. I did not use any external paint application for this project.
| 3CA: What kind of simulations or animation did you use for the different shots?
| M.J: → Everything was created within Houdini. The motion on the main cube is just a simple expression. For the camera I used keyframes. For the pulse of the timer, I used velocity volumes to create those trails and to move the points to grow the lines. A POP simulation was used for the growth and motion of the green cells. Pyro simulations for the cold vapors, some of the atmospheric fog, and the asteroid impact. RBD simulations for the cracked sphere and the asteroid impact. Vellum and FLIP simulations were used for the stuff popping out of the cracked sphere. The nebula is a FLIP simulation into a POP simulation and in the end, converted into VDBs. Everything else that moved is probably just some VEX code inside of an SOP solver.
| 3CA: Which tools did you use for the short, and why?
| M.J: → Pen and paper for the early ideas and storyboard. Still the easiest and fastest for me. Houdini for previs and the production to rendering with Redshift. I did not render layers for most of this project because everything took so long. So I just went for it and hit render on the whole thing. Only for the shot in space, the nebula was on a separate render layer because it did not fit into the VRAM of the graphics cards. I did the comp for that space shot in Nuke. For the edit, sound, and audio mix as well as color correction and final export I used Davinci Resolve. I like to use PureRef for handling my reference images. Also, some Adobe apps like Bridge, Photoshop, and InDesign were used during pre-production to organize images or take notes.
| 3CA: “The project” sometimes gets bigger than expected, what were the biggest challenges and what changed your vision during the project, is that something that you would like to change now?
| M.J: → After an early edit of the previs, I knew that a lot of frames would be needed. And that it would be far too many frames to complete as a single person in high quality in a reasonable amount of time. As a result, I knew early on that a lot of compromises would be necessary to be able to complete the project. There are many aspects of this project that could be better. It would be easy to go through all the shots and list my regrets, ha. But I did not want to spend years on the production of it. So you have to be able to say, ‘OK that shot is done. Do not touch it anymore.’
| 3CA: What is your advice when it comes to making this type of project?
| M.J: → That is a difficult question. Not only because I am a noob myself and need to learn so much more. But also because everyone is in a different situation and has different motivations when creating projects. One general piece of advice is ‘to finish what you started. It is easy to create new projects but keeping the pace until the finish line can be really difficult. Try to finalize and polish every aspect of your project. I did not receive any formal education in 3D or CG so my approach has always been to just try things out.
And well, search engines and coffee are your friends along the way. One of my main goals with my project is the learning experience. But I also want to make it look nice. I feel that it is very satisfying to create something just for the joy of it. So for me, the most important thing is to find an image, topic, or story I am passionate about and try to find a way to create that. There are so many cool projects and amazing artists out there that it is almost impossible to not be inspired. Go for it, find some inspiration, add your twist and challenge yourself along the way.
3D Concept Art Community thanks Martin Jaud for this interview about his Project, Proxy 248. He Shared his know-how and how passionate an artist you should be to make a full fledge short.