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You are here: Homepage /  inHouse /  Behind the Screenz / Edu Martin: Once Upon an Indy
Edu Martin: Once Upon an Indy
 
 
Posted: Apr 18, 2009
Published by: the area
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Software: Autodesk Maya
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The Area:
Hello Edu and welcome to the AREA! Currently, you are working in Madrid at Ilion Animation Studios as Lighting and Comp Sequence lead for the upcoming animated feature film "Planet 51". Before we get into that, could you please tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been in the CG industry?
Edu:
I was born in Barcelona, Spain in 1975. Since I was a kid I loved to watch films and draw so after finishing high school, I tried to study cinema during my time at university. Unfortunately there were only 50 seats available and my school qualifications weren't that good. Thankfully I heard about one of the first computer animation courses in Spain (ESCAC) and I got in. That was during the mid 90's and from that moment on, I have been working as a 3D artist in all kinds of projects – on computer games, for editorial companies, TV commercials, animated television series and feature films.
The Area:
When did you start to use computers for visual work?
Edu:
Nowadays it is kind of easy to find a job related to the computer graphics industry but back in 1995, there were only a few companies who could afford to buy a Silicon Graphics computer and software to run on it. I was very lucky and a company doing 3D visualization hired me because they had bought one of those computers that had Alias (PowerAnimator) and Softimage|3D and there were just a few people in Spain who knew how to run those applications. So even though I was a very junior guy, they hired me for the job and that was the starting point for me of using computers for visual work.
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The Area:
At ESCAC, what software did you learn to use and what type of work was created?
Edu:
The computer graphics course was divided into two parts. The first part was more theoretical, involving traditional art, basics of cinema, script writing and 2D animation...while the second part was trying to do very simple short films with the computer. During that time we used an application called "ElectroGIG 3D-GO" as well and a version of Softimage running over an SGI "Indy" with 32MB RAM. We did two terrible short films around one minute each which were stored in a Hard Disk player called "Abekas A60". The frames were transferred through the network and only 60 seconds of video could be stored, so we had to back up those frames to a Betacam tape very often. Those were tough times :)
The Area:
How long was it before you began to work professionally in the industry?
Edu:
Before enrolling in the CG course, I didn't have any work experience. Actually I didn't have a computer either so everything for me was brand new. The school program was 9 months and I spent one year wandering around trying to find a job. During that year I got a copy of Lightwave which had just been released for Windows 3.0, and I created another short film at home, with my first computer -- a Pentium 100Mhz which cost me a lot.
The Area:
Was it difficult to find CG work right after school?
Edu:
As I mentioned before there were only a handful of companies who could afford the SGI computers. I heard that the Indigo² which I was using in 1996 with Softimage and Alias, cost around 0,000. Anyway, it took me about one year to get a job so it was not too bad.
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The Area:
What are some of the projects you've worked on?
Edu:
I have work on many kinds of projects. I have been doing 3DFX for TV commercials, animated commercials, 2D series with 3D backgrounds ("Juanito Jones"), modelling characters for videogames and architectural stuff for real-time. I tried to produce our own TV animated series project ("Chess Mate"), I've directed and completed two short films ("Valle Paraiso" and "Smoke City"), worked on a TV show for kids ("Lazy Town"), I have been teaching at schools and universities, also did work on feature films…and I'm probably forgetting some of the projects here. As you can see, my career has been quite intense so far.
The Area:
What aspect of 3D are you most passionate about?
Edu:
My drug is really lighting, although I also feel very conformable doing character modelling stuff.
The Area:
What are your primary tools?
Edu:
My primary tools are Maya and mental ray. At work I use 3ds Max, a proprietary render engine and Nuke.
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The Area:
Nine years ago, around the time of CG explosion, you founded the animation studio "Pixel in motion". Can you tell us about your company?
Edu:
The main goal of the company was to create our own content. What really pushed me into the CG industry a few years back, was the ability and power that computers were giving to create digital content, films, TV series, game cinematics.... so we wanted to have a try at it. My partner and I had done a short film when we were working together and we thought that it would be wonderful to create our own stories using the very same computers and that's how Pixel in motion was born. We started offering CG services to all kinds of companies so that we could get some funding for our own projects. We were able to hire two good friends who were also interested in CGI and we started developing our own project called "Chess Mate", with the help of another friend who worked on the 2D concept. It was a TV show where the characters were chess pieces and they talked about standard social problems, but it was all set in the Middle Ages. In excess of the two years during which we worked on the development of this project, we were also working on TV commercials, videogames and all kind of projects that allowed us to self-finance "Chess Mate". Unfortunately once the main development was completed, we couldn't find more funding to start with the production of the project. We were very tired and disappointed, so we finally gave up.
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The Area:
Now you are also working at Ilion on the film "Planet 51". Can you describe to us what your responsibilities are and how an average day is like in the office?
Edu:
I'm working as Lighting Sequence Lead with a team of five. We are assigned entire sequences of the film which I supervise, following the guidelines of the lighting supervisor and director of the film. I'm the first one to start work on the sequences of the called "key shots" which determine the mood of the sequence, as well as the light rigs that will be used later on the production shots.

I usually start working around 10:30 in the morning, checking all the renders from the previous day. I compose them for the afternoon review with the director and keep or start working on a different shot. I also try to help and lead the people on the team who have technical problem, as well as with the artistic part. After lunch, at three o'clock we start copying all the shots to be reviewed later with the lighting supervisor and the director of the film. Once the reviews are done, I go back to the shots either to address the comments from the review or to work on a new shot. In the middle of this all, I constantly meet with supervisors and leads from other departments trying to solve technical problems. I also assist in different meetings, sequence kickoffs and weekly meetings with the tools department to improve pipeline and workflow issues. As you can see, my average day is kind of busy.
The Area:
What is the primary 3D app used for Planet 51?
Edu:
The software used is 3ds Max, rendering with a proprietary engine called "Cyclops" and compositing with Nuke.
The Area:
Speaking of animated films, you also created a personal animated short film "Valle Paraiso". This is kind of a dark film about two twin brothers. What does "Valle Paraiso" mean?
Edu:
Valle Paraiso was born after the "failure" trying to produce "Chess Mate". After the huge effort we had done, I felt a little bit disappointed and I had the need of doing something. I had had the idea of creating a short film with "obscure" kids for a while so I started developing the story. At the very beginning, it was way darker but it ended up being more like a tale. Valle Paraíso doesn't mean anything, rather it was the need of telling a story on my own.
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The Area:
How many people worked on the film?
Edu:
Basically I did the whole short film myself. A good friend of mine, Daniel Tejerina, did the music and Pep Aguiló did the soundtrack and the mastering of the audio. I can say that I did all the visual part from the storyboard, the concept art, to the final lighting and compositing. My partner at Pixel in motion and friend Mario Tarradas also helped me a lot to nail down the script.
The Area:
What was the inspiration for the story and artistic style of the film?
Edu:
As I mentioned, I had in mind of doing something dark but having kids as main characters -- which frighten even more. I also have the feeling that kids are often very cruel so the starting point grew from there, and from that moment on, it was only a matter of developing an interesting story.

Following the premises above, another thing that had always scared me are those old toys which open the eyes when you tip them, so the style of the characters was inspired from those toys. For the location, I thought that the story could fit very well in an isolated little village, back-dated to the 50's so I did some research about those particular kind of old towns in Spain.
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The Area:
How long were you working on the film?
Edu:
It took me about two years to complete the whole film. During the first year, I combined my job at Pixel in motion while working on the film, but it was taking forever to move on because I was very busy at work. Then I decided to leave the company for a while to focus on the short, doing some freelance and teaching at the same time to finance the film.
The Area:
What apps did you use to produce Valle Paraiso? Did you use it 'off the shelf' or did you incorporate any custom tools/scripts/plugins for it?
Edu:
The film was done using Maya and rendered with Maya software renderer. At the time, mental ray wasn't that well integrated inside of Maya yet, so I chose to go with the native renderer. I didn't incorporate any other tools except the ones standard inside of Maya.
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The Area:
Have you produced other animated shorts?
Edu:
From 1997 to 1999 I did another short film called "Smoke City". It was a short film where the characters were cigarettes, lighters, matches and cigars. It was a thriller, where one cigarette was found dead and two policemen had to find out who the killer was, where alZIPPOne the boss from the mafia of the city was the main suspect. Again I worked on the film with my partner at Pixel, Mario (before we founded the company). We even got a nomination from the Spanish Academy of Film in the ‘Best Animated Short' category.
The Area:
It seems that you have a big passion for creating short films, do you have any plans to produce your own big budget animation?
Edu:
I think I'll never give up doing short films. Unfortunately working on those projects is really hard and you need some time to recover. I have a few ideas already for new short films but I'd like to do them properly, with some budget and great artists working on them so I'll probably have to wait.
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The Area:
Given the global economic situation, can you tell us what is the environment for CG in Spain?
Edu:
CG in Spain has always been very tough, not many companies, low budgets and a poor culture about 3D animation. Although the global economy is going through some bad times at the moment I think CG in Spain is on its better moment with regards to 3D animated films. There are three companies doing CG films right now, some of them with bigger budgets and some others with less, but we have never had so many film productions going on at the same time. I wish that all of them generate nice profits so they can keep doing films and give work to the excellent 3D artists living in Spain.
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The Area:
What are your future plans for 'Pixel in motion' and for yourself?
Edu:
Pixel in motion and I took different ways a while ago. My partner is running the company and I'll always have my heart on it, but for the moment I'd like to keep working on films. I wouldn't mind moving to USA, Canada or Australia to work on major feature films. We'll see what's going on once I'm done with Planet 51.
The Area:
And lastly, who/what are your biggest sources of inspiration?
Edu:
Life is basically my source of inspiration. I try to travel as much as possible and meet new people, with lives completely different from mine. Film, art, TV, books. I have the feeling that my mind is kind of filtering and saving information about things that I like and when I need to create something, they come up with little effort without even knowing were they come from.
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The Area:
Edu, thanks for sharing your story with us. And we are looking forward to Planet 51!! :D Adios for now..
Edu:
It has been my pleasure :)
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Posted by redrain833 on Sep 14, 2012 at 10:59 PM
excellent work. i bethink seeing the one with the boxer, which i absolutely liked.

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Posted by LoveFest on Apr 09, 2012 at 02:31 PM
I like Edu! What did you use to model and render it?
Posted by drinkbeat on Nov 19, 2009 at 01:03 PM
esta chido
Posted by duttyfoot on Sep 25, 2009 at 12:50 AM
excellent work. i remember seeing the one with the boxer, which i really liked.
Posted by snrazan on Aug 21, 2009 at 12:45 PM
Excellent work!!