Mihai Pandelescu and Ovidiu Enache talked about the Making of 3D model 'Gandalf' with ZBrush and finalRender 

Mihai Pandelescu

Mihai (left), 2D 3D Artist, Videocopilot.net  

and Ovidiu (right) Freelance Artist, www.enaov.ro

Ovidiu Enache


Cebas: Now, which of you Romanian guys will go first? I think this is not a 'turtle and egg' question, the 3d model comes before rendering so let's start with you, Ovidiu Enache, can you tell readers something about yourself and your work?

Ovidiu Enache: Hi, thanks for the invitation, glad to be here.
I started out , like many others in traditional art - drawing, painting , traditional 2D animation and finally mural painting and restoration.

My first contact with the digital 3d world was at a Maya Animation course that I took when I was in the university. After that, I worked in web design for about 3 years , but it wasn’t for me so I decided to switch to 3d. That happened when I discovered Zbrush (it was version 2 at the time). During that time I manage to learn the tools necessary to land me a job in the industry.

Cebas: And what about yourself, Mihai? How did you build up your art career?  

Mihai Pandelescu: I have been working at Video Copilot for the past 5 years where I’ve had the pleasure to work with an amazing team of artists, creating high quality tools and assets for visual effects.

Even as a kid I loved drawing and painting and tried to do it every chance I could. First program I used was Paint and I remember drawing different characters from the games I played at that time. Growing up I was drawn to graphic design and during college I started a web design company with a good friend. After 3 years in this direction we decided we both wanted to pursue different dreams and that was the moment I started learning 3d.
For a short time I had to freelance, and that is when I met Cynthia, a very talented interior designer. Right from beginning we synced well together and had the pleasure to create 3d renderings for some amazing and sophisticated properties.

After 2 years I decided to work on my portfolio and created “Time Journey”. The moment was perfect because at that time Video Copilot was hiring. I gave it a shot and got in! Almost 5 years have gone by since and still counting.


Cebas: Okay, let's stop for awhile to make way for Mihai's Award-Winning 'Time Journey' on Vimeo: ...   In fact, both of you have won Awards, Ovidiu for his excellent 3d model of Moses as well.  

Cebas: And do you both work mostly with 3ds
 Max or Maya?

Mihai: Most of my projects when I first started as a 3d artist were Arch Viz projects on 3ds Max, and it felt like the right choice at the time, since most artists who were in this business were using it. Another great thing about 3DS Max, is the fact that there were and still a lot of plugins/scripts available that make your workflow much easier. 

Ovidiu: No, I don’t use Max, only Maya though I’ve used for a little time Cinema 4d, Modo and Nevercenter Silo . When I got my first job in 3d, at an outsourcing company here in Romania, all the clients used mainly Maya so I never switched to another 3d app. But I’m considering learning Blender in the future. 

Cebas: This Interview really is to talk about how you guys created the 'Gandalf' museum 3d sculpture and Mihai, you were an early adopter of finalRender in its beta form. You have also make some really lovely images which cebas has shown on social media: recently, the 'Nuts and Honey' and the 'Peaches' - we show it here again. 

Please tell us about these creatives:



Mihai: For placing the 'Peaches on the table', I used a quick simulation with Thinking Particles. Also, I like to use the Nick Collection (free plugin) for Photoshop to add subtle FX to the final image. And for creating the waxy texture of the bee wax in the honey jar, I found that the most useful finalRender feature was the Sub-Surface Scatter and the map for fr-material called fr-DirtTex to get a lighter harsh effect on the edges as like real wax. 

The 'honey and nuts' was specially made for cebas to show what finalRender can do. So, for the 'honey' if you want to get that raw texture for it you put the maximum distance value for Refractions, under advanced rendering options. Same, for making the glass jar look, I max out the Refraction distance. And to get that foggy look when the light rays touches the scene, I used fr-Sun and another fr-Square light coming from the 'window' to throw extra lights in the room. I made this rendering effect as if the 'sunlight' goes thru some leaves outside the window in order to create some really homely and nice ambience in the room, with soft shadows. Also important, I feel, while setting the material, what helped save time was the ActiveShade mode.

On the 'Peaches', like the other images, the render has all the elements in 3d with multiple masks. The only difference is the material on the table, and I only used a simple material over which I then painted a couple of grey layers with overlay in order to obtain the used-material look.

After I’m done with modelling and unwrapping, I normally use ActiveShade mode in order to set the lights and materials. When it comes to materials, in order to make the leaf, the SS for planes came in handy to obtain a realistic look.

(cebas note: finalRender fully supports all 3dsMax materials as well as has enhanced the ActiveShade features)

Cebas: As a CG artist, Mihai, and I have heard that you are very stringent with yourself in terms of getting the rendering done to perfection. Can you describe how you normally approach your work and what you feel is the perfect quality in a rendered image?

Mihai: Every image starts with an idea. Next I like to make a low poly block out of the scene and add lights in order to find a composition that works best for the image in question. After this stage, I start modelling the high poly version of the models, unwrap them and create textures. Now is the time for me to test render and make final tweaks on the material/light. Depending on the complexity of the image, I use Render Elements to obtain the needed passes that will be transferred to Photoshop. Then, after all layers are set with the right settings, I add a subtle effects or fx to the image (chromatic aberration, vignette, color balance, etc.)

It is very important that you always have a good reference for the objects or materials that will be created in order to compare and get the best possible result. Another important step is to take the time at the very beginning to properly name and organize your scenes. That will save you a lot of time when you need to make certain changes in the process and will make it easier to work on it later on.

 Cebas: How quick was the rendering with the new finalRender?

Mihai: finalRender is so fast using GPU that it makes no sense in my case to even use the CPU. If you are using a video card that has less CUDA Cores, then you can always use fR and render both GPU and CPU without a problem. It’s always great to have that choice without any limitation or quality loss. A true Hybrid indeed!

Cebas: Coming back to rendering with finalRender, Mihai, in the 2D ‘Peaches’ sim. Could you tell readers what are the main rendering you did ? And what are the major fR features that help you to complete it? How did it work in combination with Photoshop?

Mihai: The cool thing about finalRender is that you are able to adjust image temperature, exposure, vignetting and even film response curves while you render and get a better understanding on how you want the final image to look. Another great option are the Create/Compose Layers which let you independently adjust each Render Element of the image and compose it back without even leaving fR-Framebuffer. You also have a Glare and De-noise option which add to the final image when you don't have too much time for a beauty pass in Photoshop.

Cebas: Are you on GPU or CPU ? Could you give readers an idea of the hardware system
you are using?

Mihai: My current workstation is composed of Asus Rampage 4 Extreme motherboard, 3930k CPU@ 4.0Ghz cooled by a corsair h100, 64gb Corsair Vengeance, TITAN X 12gb as a main card and a 1080ti OC Strix 11gb, both from Asus, 256gb Samsung pro SSD + 3tb WD RED. All these are stacked in a Cooler Master HAF X case powered by an AX1200 W Corsair PSU. For displays I use 2 x 27'' DELL U2711.

All my renders are done on GPU (first card 75%, second card 100%). Due to the powerful nature of these cards, I prefer to use the CPU power and the remaining 25% to work on other projects while rendering for increased productivity.

Cebas: Okay, Ovidiu, coming back to you - the Gandalf was ZBrush modelled by yourself. We heard that you won the CGTrader.com Landmark Challenge with a 3d model of Moses some time back - You are quite a wizard yourself with 3d models.

Congrats! If you do another challenge, any idea what the concept will be?

Ovidiu Enache: Thanks! I don’t know, it all depends on the theme of the challenge. If it will be similar to this, maybe I’ll sculpt some of the Michaelangelo’s well known slaves or I will try to turn a painting into a sculpture. We’ll see if opportunity arises.

Cebas: And Ovidiu, you are also a great fan of Tolkien’s as many of us are, in this decade of fantasy and games :) - give readers an idea of the features you used on the 3D Gandalf model.

Ovidiu: Yeah, I’am a big fan of Tolkien and the LOTR and The Hobbit trilogies and also of the work that WETA did on those blockbusters. The Gandalf model I’ve sculpted it about an year ago, it was an exercise to sculpt a model without symmetry, like you would do in real clay and it was entirely sculpted in zbrush, and Mihai used finalRender on it.

Cebas: That is truly aesome, Ovidiu! Can we ask what do you find usually are the most difficult aspects of 3d model and concept work - is it getting the right tool or artistic inspiration ? - is there an available vfx software that resolves all your technology-to-creativity needs? What is missing?

Ovidiu: I think that the most difficult thing in this field is keeping up with technology, which is evolving fast nowadays and the fact that the artist needs to be also an engineer, sometimes, for the technical aspects of 3d.

To answer your first part of the question, say for the concept phase, drawing on paper or digitally and Zbrush is what you need, but things get a little bit more complicated after that when you build the model for production and you use different softwares that does different tasks because an all in one magic software that does it all is not yet available.  

Cebas: So, for your artworks - could you both elaborate a bit on how you start and how you reach the finishing line? When do you feel a 3d model has reached its state of perfection and you can safely say, ‘done!

Ovidiu: Finish line..... there is a great quote about that by Paul Valéry - “An artist never really finishes his work, he merely abandons it.” I think the model is “done” when you think you have nothing more to add to it to make it better. On the other hand, in an industry where you have to be fast and you can’t work on a model forever, you call it finished when the client says approved :) 

I usually start in Zbrush from a dynamesh sphere, blocking in the basic forms and work my way to the final piece (you will see my process in the time-lapse I’ve made for this interview, as above)

Cebas: Can you shed some light on how you folks trained in Romania to achieve such high standards? Were both of you self-taught ? Or did you have some form of formal CG training in an art college?

Mihai: I attended an economics college and have a Masters in Electronic Business Management. So, yes I am self-taught. Nowadays there are a lot of free and paid tutorials/mentorships that can help you learn and prepare your portfolio for your dream job.

Ovidiu: Yeah definitely, I’m mostly self-taught. I’ve learned with the help of books and training dvd’s like Gnomon, Digital-Tutors, Kurv-Studios, etc. As for the courses, I ‘ve only took a brief Maya animation course during university years and another , online , a few years ago - “BREATHING LIFE AND PRESENCE INTO DIGITAL CREATURES” with Andrew Baker. The rest is hard work.

Cebas: How is Romania like, in terms of the availability of CG work and jobs, and on in-depth training?

Ovidiu: There are in Romania a few big gaming studios , like Ubisoft, Gameloft, EA etc. There are also smaller ones , made by passionate people in different areas of CG ,either in gaming, film production and VFX , or studios that makes commercials for TV and print (one such successful one is Carioca Studio that is well known internationally). The market here started to grow fast lately, which is a good thing.

As for CG training, in recent years, there started to appear a few schools that teach people different areas of CG , and some courses taught by the industry professionals in Romania. When I started out those courses weren’t available.

Mihai: There are some private schools here for CG but I think there is room for improvement. If you are lucky enough to have a friend in the industry to guide you, and you have the will to learn, I think this is a cheaper, more efficient way to learn. And let us not forget there are a couple of great websites where for a small fee you have access to an impressive library of great tutorials.

Cebas: And you both have been in this industry for 6 years plus now -- what is your feeling on being a freelance vs full-time CG Artist? Have you guys had remote offers from the international ?

Ovidiu: Yes, until now I’ve been in gaming companies , working on a few game titles. Didn’t do much freelance, although I had the opportunity, but I’m looking into that possibility for the near future . Working in a company, surrounded by talented creatives is great because you learn a lot from them , you stay competitive and you grow your skills fast.

Mihai: Being a freelance or a full-time CG artist has some ups and downs. Working remote definitely gives you the ability to create your own calendar as long as you meet your deadlines. As a freelancer, it is very important to be a good organizer for both time and money.

You also have to consider the fact that you are the one who will need to invest in hardware and software and all payments regarding insurance. Many times I’ve heard people saying freelance involves less work than a full time job; from my experience it takes at least that if not more.

So when you make this choice you need to be prepared for the good times and the bad times, as they don't go without each other.

Cebas: Finally, in your view, what is your wish for cebas software to achieve that is not currently doing for you?

Ovidiu: I think it would be really nice if cebas software could be multi-platform,not limited only to max architecture, or at least to have a stand alone version so that non-max users could use your render engine .

Mihai: One thing I like about finalRender is the ability to use as many render nodes as you have with just the price of the license, and what I think what could make that even better is to have in the future a standalone version.

I have tested other renderers on the market and what I found limiting, especially when rendering in a studio environment, is the small amount of CPU/GPU that you can use with a single license. It would be great if there were a higher limit on these resources used with the purchase of a single license. Also in the future would be great to have a stand alone version.

(Cebas note: finalRender does come with three customizationto different studio needs more-in-one licensing, please refer to finalRender product page.)

Cebas: Last but not least, what projects can we expect from you in the future (if you're able to tell us)?

Mihai: I have always been passionate about concept art, so I will be working towards that for now. I’ll probably go with military robotic units, gadgets or explore a couple of ideas regarding interior design and office furniture.

Ovidiu: I hope to do more personal projects in the future, maybe I’ll get back to my easel and paint something traditionally again. As for professional projects...I don’t know yet, we’ll have to wait and see ;) .

Cebas: you can follow the artists work @ Mihai Pandelescu: http://pandelescu.com/ & Ovidiu Enache: www.enaov.ro

Thank you Mihai and Ovidiu, it's been a great pleasure talking to you, about your creative work and the Romanian scene! We hope to see a lot more of you guys with more finalRender showcase, I hope.   

To get the finalRender (finalToon included) top of the line, 3dsMax ultimate renderer : http://www.cebas.com/finalRender   Trial version is also available for instant download with a free cebas registration (no Credit Card required) and the cebas Product Manager app. 

Readers are also invited to Subscribe to cebas Youtube channel and access all finalRender trueHybrid ongoing tutorials and showcase Playlists:

Edwin Braun finalRender trueHybrid Tutorials 2017: https://goo.gl/7QXvzd

fR Artists Showcase and Tutorials: https://goo.gl/LdiXiK