From Brazil to Scotland to London, from architectural visual to VFX, Nelson Fernandes Jr. talks about his love for VFX and his career.
Cebas: Hello there Nelson, Cebas is very happy to speak to our sixth new talent in the series, Nelson Fernandes Jr. who has so kindly posted and shared many times his ongoing VFX RnD with thinkingParticles at the facebook, 'cebas Thinking Particles' users page. First let's have Nelson give us an intro to who he is.
Nelson: Hi. My name is Nelson Fernandes Jr. I’m originally from Brazil but I have lived for almost ten years in Scotland (really cold!) now. I started my interest in VFX when I first watched ‘The Return of the Jedi’, particularly with the lightsaber and particle effects. I put the idea aside for awhile though and I decided to be an engineer (boy, was that hard stuff!) One day I decided to go for an adventure and moved to Scotland. I´ve got a job there at a bank (had to pay the bills!) and did it for a few months. One day a friend showed me a DVD that he had done with a consumer level program and it was pretty cool. I tried it myself. I liked it but I wanted more control over things so I did some research and ended up having my first experience with After Effects.
This same friend talked to me about doing 3D stuff and about a program that I had no idea existed at the time called 3DS MAX (who would have guess!). It was Love at first sight! I started doing lots of online courses on MAX, PFlow and reactor. I did some personal RnD and sent my personal projects to some guys in Glasgow and I got my first job as an ArchViz artist. I did this for 3 years. It was so cool but I was always trying to find ways to use DYNAMICS and Fluids to enhance the job I was to do.
I decided then to change careers to VFX. I knew it wouldn´t be easy but I was up for it so I stayed almost 6 months studying between 8 and 10 hours a day with no weekends. After all that work, I started to send my personal projects to studios and I got a job at a post production studio in London as a digital compositor. I did this for some time and I had to move back to Brazil where I did vfx work for another 3 years.
Alongside with all this, I found out about the Allan Mckay´s dvds and started learning them, always aiming for excellence and to be the best I could be. As a FXTDT student, I used all the knowledge learned in the course and applied the techniques to personal projects, always trying to think outside the box.
I´m very proud to say that I´ve never been to any classes or schools but I´ve always been very active on forums and communities. I know much more is to come and many more things to ‘blow to pieces’ - I cannot wait :)
Cebas: thanks for the intro, Nelson, I know you want to share some awesome TP effects with readers from your RnD projects, and creative destruction is your cuppa.
Nelson: my most recent project is the one called ‘Angel Destruction’. I watch as much destruction videos (both features and real life reference) as I can to get inspired. No doubt that the movie 2012 has been a great one for me. This project was inspired by the night scene where the Washington Monument collapses. I could have tried to reproduce it with much more fidelity but I wanted to create something new as well, not just a reproduction. So, I chose this excellent model (Lucy) and from there I started to tear it apart. Awesome stuff!
The idea was to break the statue up in ways that would be consistent with an earthquake. For that, I used VolumeBreaker´s activation by light. That was crucial to make the cutting where I wanted them to happen. From there on, it was a matter of tweaking the parameters and getting the feeling I wanted. It was a lot of work but very fun!
Cebas: are you a 3ds Max mostly guy and you said you started in archictectural visualization, how did you made the career change?
Nelson: as mentioned, I started in 3D using 3DS MAX which was crucial to get a job in the ArchViz field. Later on when I decided to switch to VFX, I studied Maya and tried to get acquainted with the tools as well but MAX was always my tool of choice. I find that 3DS MAX is easier and more intuitive than Maya, specially when it comes to speed. I customized the right click quad menu to my needs and It speeds up my workflow tremendously.
Cebas: Could you tell us more about how you created the 'angel destruction'?
Nelson: the ‘Angel’ project was almost all TP. Everything from the debris to the particles generated when debris hit the floor was all TP. I used TP for the snow as well. Using a matter waves node, I plugged in a noise texture with an animated phase to make the generating of particles random. This is an important stage because the birth of the particles had to be as chaotic as possible.
I feel that a killing feature for TP is the possibility of cashing the particles. That is a huge time saver and great for art-directing too. Once I was happy with that, I used Krakatoa to save particles as .prt because there were millions of them. I used Frost to turn the particles into geometry.
Cebas: Nelson, you're quite the self-starter and pretty much learned a lot by yourself - what did you find in the tool that you felt gave you the edge in creating vfx destruction ?
Nelson: I think TP is brilliant because after you have designed the whole shot, it remains procedural. Its procedural nature with nodes and adjustable conditions, makes the job a lot more easier than, for instance, pre-fragmenting the scene. The possibilities are endless. Also, you get real time fragmentation feedback (if you wanted to) which is awesome.
The director may come to you and ask you to change a small part of the work. When you have a parametric system, it is easy to change the parameters and achieve the what was asked for.
Cebas: Tell us something as well about being an artist, someone who loves imagining and creating visuals and then the VFX technical artist side of you - do they work hand-in-hand?
Nelson: In my opinion, the creative part is the hardest part. We have great movies like ‘Armageddon’ and ‘Deep Impact’, both from 1998 (almost 20 years ago). Both of them have great destruction effects although the tools then were not as advanced as they´re nowadays. So, creativity is the big thing and the tools simply help you to achieve what your imagination wants.
As far as tools are concerned, I don´t think one tool will solve all the visual effects needs or the problems. I think it is deeper than that because, in my opinion, hardware plays a huge part in this. FX work needs more and more powerful GPU, for instance, to capture and display more particles in real time to speed up the job design.
In the ‘Angel’ project I mentioned above, I had used more than one tool to achieve the result because the workflow was then quicker and nicer on my machine.
Cebas: How is the freelance vf work progressing and how do you find the market in your area nowadays?
Nelson: I believe that you can do whatever you want once you put your mind to it. There will be a price, however, and in my case, I had to catch up with studying 10 hours a day, 7 days a week for 6 months. I´m actually moving to the UK in the next couple of months. VFX for movies and commercials are much better there. There are a lot of great opportunities and when I think about companies like DNeg, MPC, Framestore (just to mention some), I really get excited.
More VFX by Nelson:
Cebas: how did cebas software integrate into your production pipeline? How straightforward was it for the commercial vfx?
Nelson: I´ve used a well known software in the past to get a RBD simulation going for an older project but there is really no comparison to TP. Again, the flexibility and scalability of TP (because it´s procedural) is unsurpassed. Thinking Particles integrates very nicely and seamlessly with MAX. As I mentioned, I use a lot MAX´s right-click quad menu. TP is part of that menu and it works really well.
Cebas: Nelson, tell us what is the best part of doing VFX work - what is fun for you?
Nelson: design and art-direction of the ‘breaking’ effects and how I wanted it was the fun part. Actually, it was challenging as well. In this particular project, there are a series of breakings that happened at different frames which would have to be balanced in order for the whole system to work properly. That was the part where a procedural system is very important. Every time I changed a parameter, it carried it out to the whole system. That made my life a lot easier.
Cebas: we value users feedback always so tell us what would you hope for in the future upgrades of thinkingParticles in terms of getting an even more robust and powerful effects for your work?
Nelson: I would love to see a more robust fluid dynamics system.
Cebas: any latest scoop on your next VFX project to share with readers :) ?
Nelson: I´m already working on a new project which is pretty cool and there´s (of course) lots of destruction and have another one lined up. Hope everyone enjoyed the sneak peek of some of the VFX with TP that I have done!
Thank you so much Nelson for this awesome interview!
Cebas wishes you only good things in your vfx career.