Hullo everybody !
Even if we are The Lighting Club, we all know that lighting is obviously depending of all the other departments. And the one having the biggest impact for the final look of a lighting is probably the one we will talk about today : the look development.
What could be more logical than to talk with the guys from Shaders.xyz. about lookdev ? If you don’t know Shaders.xyz it is a “forum created in an effort to unite all look-development nerds from the various render engines out there. The focus is on doing monthly material challenges whilst being as transparent as possible about your process. It’s all about learning from and sharing with like-minded people.”
Every month there is a new challenges then, and you have everything ready to create a specific look dev. In addition to receiving a t-shirt, the winners will also get an invite to become a moderator on the forum. Sounds really cool isn’t ?
Zeno Pelgrims, currently Technical Shading at Animal Logic Vancouver and also Shader.xyz forum’s founder, answer our questions.
Hello ! Thanks for answering our questions, could you please present yourself and the concept of shaders.xyz ? If I’m not wrong Shaders.xyz has been run by Zeno Pelgrims. How many are you in the team ? From where ? Are you all professionals working in the industry ?
Hi ! Yes, it was started by me (Zeno !), but recently a few awesome people joined the gang. We’re all professionals working in vfx/animation. Most of us are in Vancouver, with the exception of someone in Europe and South America. We’re six people now. Arvid, Jonas, Tom, Adriyan, Caio and myself
When and why did you create shaders.xyz ?
When I became interested in CG many years ago, there was a forum culture. People made threads about projects they were doing, ideas were shared, and it was public for everyone to read. This is where I learned the craft. Unfortunately nowadays it seems a lot of this has moved to social media, which comes with a few downsides. People still share their work, but the constructive discussions around it have somewhat vanished.
Currently there’s still some communities thriving, which is great to see. But they are usually specific to certain software. The maths behind each renderer is > 95% the same, so we should take the opportunity to learn from each other
So, in an effort to give back what I received (and to continue learning myself ! ), I set up shaders.xyz. What’s more awesome than gathering lots of like-minded people and learning from each other?
Every month there is a new challenge, how do you find those tricky shaders to do ?
Sometimes that’s a challenge itself ! Usually the ideas come from daily life. Once we think of an idea, we have to find a physical sample to photograph ourselves. In look-development we’ve got two main variables – the lighting and the shader. It’s important to eliminate one of those to do shading that will hold up in any lighting condition.
All the challenges are based on photo-real references, but you worked on Lego 2 at Animal Logic, thus is it in your plan to propose a complex cartoon lookdev challenge as well or not at all ? What it could be ?
I think you learn more from looking at real life. If you photograph any object, there’s a higher surface complexity than you could have imagined yourself. This is why I think it’s important to learn from real life, and then push and pull what you see to stylize it when dealing with cartoon characters.
Do you think feature animation provides more or less creativity than vfx in terms of lookdev and why ?
Usually more. In both vfx and feature animation we usually work from references, but we have more room for creative input in animation. When shading for vfx (e.g digidoubles of objects), the end result might not be ‘creative’, but you can be sure the process to get there had a lot of creative thinking involved.
Who also worked on the awesome Love Death & Robot – The witness episode. As you were the Surfacing Supervisor, could talk in details about this fantastic project ? The surfacing is a huge artistic part of the short. What were the challenges in terms of lookdev ?
Honestly, the credit for that should go to Alberto. He had a very set art direction, and our goal was to figure out how to make that work in 3D. We did some really unorthodox things shading wise, but I can’t talk about that just yet. It was a very fun project.
What is the strongest shader you had to do and why ? And what is the more complex challenge on shader.xyz for you for now ? Why ?
Recently we tried to tackle bread… Some people really broke their mind over it but in general nobody achieved tasty looking bread. It’s just that hard. Maybe let’s try again in 10 years.
What is your definition of a good shader ? And your definition of a good lookdev artist ?
A good shader is a shader that looks good in any lighting condition. Then there’s many artistic principles that set apart a good-looking shader from a mediocre shader. It’s actually a lot of the same principles you often hear in painting. A good distribution of detail together with spaces for your eye to rest, good value ranges, etc.
A good lookdev artist is someone who can_really_ look at something. The technical skills are secondary to training your eye. We all look back at work we did years ago, work we were very pleased with at the time, and now think it is really shitty. This is because your capability to perceive has improved. You can only shade better if you know what is missing. Sometimes that is harder than it sounds.
Do you have advices for people/students who would like to be lookdev artists ?
Learn some stuff about quantum electrodynamics. This is a subsection of physics which concerns itself with the interaction between matter and photons. It has no practical use in shading (we use geometrical optics), but man, the way our world really works is so fascinating. It’ll make you appreciate everything around you. It’s that deep appreciation of the world around you that I look for in shading artists.
What is the next step for shader.xyz ? And for you ?
Honestly, the objective is to just keep going. It would be great if more and more people join the challenges, since that benefits everyone that participates. But apart from that, let’s just have fun . It’s that simple !
Thanks for answering our questions, welcome in The Lighting Club, a last word ?
A huge thanks to everyone who has participated, or supported what we’re doing.
Now you know what you will do next week end right ? Thanks again to Zeno and to Shaders.xyz team 🙂 ! We really like this idea of monthly challenges and we encourage you to try one and share it with your friends !
Feel free to share this article with your friends, thank you so much for being for your feedbacks we receive, this is priceless 🙂