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We are excited to feature our interview with ILP today on our blog, a vfx firm from Sweden who has worked on many projects, from commercials to video games, and is now expanding to movies. Niklas Jacobson, the co founder of the company, answered our questions.
Novedge: Tell us about yourself and Important Looking Pirates
ILP: We are a visual effects / post production company based in Stockholm,
Sweden. ILP was founded by me (Niklas Jacobson) and Yafei Wu in October 2007
with the vision of one day be able to compete with the best
international studios. Since we come from an artist background, our focus
has always been about the quality of our work, together with an inspiring
and creative work environment to accomplish it.
Today we are
20 full time employees which we believe are among the most passionate
artists, producers and support personnel in the industry.
business has always been visual effects for commercials, but in the last
couple of years the way we consume media has changed quite a bit, with
the internet and other technologies. So now we see ourselves more as content providers
for all kinds of platforms like television, web, game industry. We
recently finished the visual effects work on our first feature film Kon-Tiki which was a fantastic project to work on. And we
are definitely looking forward to more film work as well!
Novedge: What or who inspires you?
take inspiration in lots of things. There are plenty of "nerds" in the
office so there is obviously a lot of discussion around art, movies and
games. But what drives us the most is the passion for what we do, the
competition in seeing what other people and companies manage to achieve.
I think it is very important to take pride in what you do, while remaining humble. There is so much we are constantly learning from each other, and from others outside of ILP, we all feel equal within our team. There is a
never ending journey of self improvement. This is a very fast paced and
evolving industry and so you need to keep looking forward and not get
stuck on old merits.
Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on?
ILP: We have recently finished about 60 very visual effects intensive shots
for the upcoming Norwegian feature film Kon-Tiki directed by Joachim
Roenning and Espen Sandberg. The film is about the legendary explorer
Thor Heyerdal’s epic journey crossing the Pacific on a balsa wood raft
The movie has been very well received and has just received a nomination to the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
This was an extremely fun and challenging project to work on. We worked
on a sequence featuring digital white sharks and a digital parrot.
exciting thing with this kind of work is that you often get to do some
pretty in depth studies on very random subjects. For this project we
spent a lot of time watching documentaries like "Life" and "Planet
Earth" We studied the movement of sharks and the look of underwater
One of the greatest challenges with our work was that it had to
look 100% believable. We are cutting between live action scenes and
completely digitally created scenes which puts incredible high demands on
everything, from models, textures, lighting and animation to compositing and
integration of the computer generated elements.
we founded ILP, Yafei and I spent a few years working abroad in London
and Los Angeles. We were very inspired by how well developed
the industry was at that time compared to Sweden. A lot of the companies were developing proprietary tools and pipeline workflows which in a lot
of cases gave them an edge in creating really stunning visual effects or in their workflow. We have embraced that at ILP and are not
afraid of putting a lot of resources into research and development and
pipeline work. Among our tools we have developed a proprietary
volumetric render to meet our needs for speed while rendering effects
like smoke and fire.
Among the "off the shelves" software that we use, Maya is
our main 3D software. Maya feels like industry standard in our field
and is a powerful tool that many 3D artists know and like. We use The
Foundry's Nuke for compositing for more or less the same reason. We
sometimes use Adobe After Effects for more motion graphics work. We use
both ZBrush and Mudbox for sculpting when you need that extra detail
in your models. In case we have to finishing work directly with the client we
have Smoke for quick playback and last minute tweaks but more often
we work remotely and review work over the internet especially with international clients. For FX work and heavy
simulations we use Houdini and Naiad. We render our images using V-Ray.
We switched to V-Ray about 1.5 years ago and are really happy about that.
It makes the look development process extremely efficient and V-Ray has a
lot of ways to get very fast feedback while still keeping all the fancy
features like GI. You can get a quick read on how your lighting will
look and when satisfied you can increase the settings with
very predictable results. Two other good reasons to use V-Ray is the
pricing and the excellent support.
Novedge: What innovations do you see in your field, now or in the future?
ILP: There are lots of great things already happening on the software
side of things. Things are becoming more accessible and new features are
being implemented to make our work easier. However, the expectations are
increasing as well. Higher resolution, frame rates and stereo production have been introduced and make for a continuous struggle to keep your head above
the water. The thing I personally look forward the most for ILP
is the fact that we just started using Shotgun in our pipeline as a
production management tool. I think the key to survive in
a business with continuously increasing demands is making sure the work
you do is made as efficiently as possible. And a huge part of that is
To see more of ILP's work, check out their website.
We will be using Alembic as the interchange data format between Modo
and RealFlow from now on.
Q: Will RF2013
Learning Edition support the use of external plugins?
The limitations for the 2013 Learning Edition will be pretty much the
same as with the existing Learning Edition license for RealFlow 2012,
which already allows the use of external plug-ins. Please contact us
if you are having any issues with your current LE license and the
Q: What about GPU?
Hybrido 2 base solver, hy-flip, will have the ability to make use of
the GPU, as long as it is openCL 1.1 compatible. To find out more
about what are we doing on the GPU, here is a link to the
presentation that Angel Tena gave at the nVidia booth last Siggraph.
Q: Is it possible to
develop a plugin for RF?
If the question is whether anyone can develop 3rd party plugins, the
answer is yes. There is a C++ SDK that allows for that.
Q: Will the 3rd party plugins (e.g the ones from WET WORK) work for 2013? The Plugins
are expensive compared to their size..:)
A: The makers of any third party plugins will simply have to recompile
those in order to be able to load them in the RF2013 version. We do
not set the prices for these plugins.
Q: I have a one year
student license for RealFlow 2012 (from the cgsociety workshop), can
I upgrade the license to use 2013 instead?
Yes, we’ll have an upgrade available for $170. All RealFlow
Learning Edition licenses bought within 2 months of the release of
v2013 will be upgraded to v2013 for free. By
the way, your RealFlow Learning Edition license is permanent – we
removed the time restrictions!
Q: Can we beta test
the new RealFlow 2013?
We haven't hit beta yet. We’ll be getting there in the next few
weeks (Jan 2013). At the moment, there are no plans to have a public
beta period, but do feel free to get in touch to make your case and
we will see what can be done
Q: How do you tile
RealWave with Hybrido - in Maya or inside RealFlow itself?
What RealWave and Hybrido share are the Statistical Spectrum waves,
and the ability to export tileable displacement maps. One can use
RealWave to get a faster look&feel, and then copy the parameters
to the Hybrido displacement. In Maya, you will simply need to make
sure that the area you want to cover is made of tiles, and use the
displacement texture from Hybrido to displace the Hybrido mesh, as
well as the surrounding areas.
Q: How does Realflow
2013 Hybrido compare to the standard of Naiad sims?
That will be for users of both products to decide. We believe that
our hy-flip, the implementation of the flip solver for Hybrido 2 base
simulations, is really good.
Q: Is the simulation flow
multithreaded? If so, and Python also comes with 2013 I can
definitely see the benefit of using the flow instead of Python. If
Python does also come with 2013, has there been any work done to
improve Python's speed and various bugs?
multithreading and nodes in the simulation graphs, any node that
performs RealFlow internal operations that are multithreaded is
multithreaded by definition. Most of the nodes that perform array
operations are multithreaded internally, and you will also be able to
create multithreaded heterogeneous compounds using the Kernel node
itself is not getting any updates on this RealFlow version. Although
Python will certainly still have its place inside RF, we believe that
simulation and batch graphs will allow for greater flexibility with
Q: Please show step
by step how to render a realistic Hybrido water material.
This will be pretty straightforward once you start using Maxwell
Render inside RealFlow 2013. With Maxwell, the artist really does
have the control.
Q: Any plans for a
python base job manager/ submitter?
We currently have a Python implementation that we can share. Please
send us an email if you are interested.
Q: Will Hybrido 2
have viscosity that can be changed over time?
Hybrido 2 won't have a viscosity model in this release. It will be
implemented in a later release.
Q: Will you have a
mental ray renderer inside RealFlow 2013?
No. We strongly believe that Maxwell Render is the way to go for
fluid/particle rendering, and that is why we are implementing this
Maxwell Render integration for previews inside RealFlow 2013.
And that's it! Leave your comment below and thank you for joining us for this latest installment of our Webinar Series.
If you have questions about purchasing a RealFlow license, please contact Bob Thayer at Novedge.
contact the Next Limit Technologies/RealFlow team, you can use the customer
gateway - or for non-customers, you can find a contact form here.
If you are a ZBrush user, you have probably already heard Joseph Drust and his video tutorials. He is not only a wonderful artist, but also a great teacher. We asked him to share a little about his work and his passion for character design.
Novedge: Tell us about yourself and what you do
Joseph Drust: I am a Character Artist for Ubisoft residing in Pittsboro,
North Carolina. Growing up I always knew I wanted to do something with art. In High
School I wanted to be a graphic designer/product designer (work on
design elements for retail packaging etc..) I also played A LOT of games;
pretty much anything I could get my hands on (One Must Fall 2097, Quest
for Glory, Madden, X-Com, Doom, Quake, Raptor:Call of the Shadows, and
anything on a Nintendo system.) I never really thought about games
needing artwork until my senior year when my drafting teacher by the
name of Stephen Satterwhite said "You enjoy playing those games so much
why don't you make art for them." Until that point I had never thought about games needing artwork to exist. After that all my
artwork through college shifted to having something to do with games
(along with any elective courses I could take.) I have been creating character art for video games for
over 10 years. I have worked on projects such as Tom Clancy's Ghost
Recon, Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, Ben 10 Alien Force, Earth
Defense Force Insert Armageddon, and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.
Novedge: What inspires you?
Joseph Drust: There is no sole item that inspires me. I have a
large library of Art Books that I reference constantly, then a
dedicated folder on all the computers I use that is home to any image I
find appealing on the internet and right-click save. I use these two
resources quite frequently to find inspiration. I feel that the wider
range of art you expose your mind to, the better art you will produce. I
also find a lot of inspiration in nature, focusing on patterns and
structures that organically exist. For most of the work I produce, I try
to establish functional realism and lore. I think this is a product of
creating military characters for quite a bit of my career. Now the list
of Artists that inspire me changes constantly, some of the artists I
have been enjoying following recently (their philosophies and art) are
Danny Williams, Andrew Jones, Derek Stenning, Kris Kuksi, Odd Nerdrum,
and Maarten Verhoeven.
Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on?
Joseph Drust: When working in games, production cycles can
sometimes go on for years before the product ever sees store shelves. The
most recent game I worked on that shipped was Ghost Recon: Future
Soldier. I was tasked primarily with modeling the high-res and low-res
customizable headgear objects that the player could select in
At home during the late evenings after my toddler goes to
sleep I continue working on various other projects in my shop. Most of
the time I am up till the wee hours of the morning sculpting,
kitbashing, recording tutorials, writing zplugins, or painting
something. The Piggyson Steam Series (kitbashed vinyl KidRobot Munny's)
has been one of my larger fully tangible endeavors I am currently
working on creating a new line of those and some larger scaled steampunk
style robots (that function of course).
Novedge: What software do you prefer and use? Tell us why.
Joseph Drust: The main software I use daily for digital
sculpting is ZBrush. Then I also use 3ds Max (varying versions pending on
what the project requires), Photoshop, xNormal (for map baking), Headus
UVLayout, CrazyBump, Marmoset ToolBag, and occasionally Marvelous
Designer. I am always on the lookout for new software or tools to help
speed up my production pipeline and let me do more art and less
technical processes. Most of the tools that I use are related to my
production pipeline (sculpting, generating retopology, unwrapping, map
baking, and previewing).
By far Zbrush is the tool that has changed how I
work the most on a day to day basis. Before Zbrush my day to day job was
pushing and pulling single vertices, and turning edges inside of
3ds Max. With the release of Mudbox (before Autodesk acquired it) I was
instantly hooked on digital sculpting. After AutoDesk acquired Mudbox
there was a lull period for the program and I had a friend by the name
of Abraham Valdez that convinced me to give Zbrush a try. After getting
used to the Interface I never went back. I've been using Zbrush for
about 80% of my working day since then. It's a excellent tool and it
keeps getting stronger with every version release. So now I go to work
and sculpt with a Wacom Stylus rather then move single vertices with a
mouse. I was a Zbrush fanboy even before I started creating tutorials
for them :)
Novedge: We are big fans of your tutorials. How did you get into
teaching? What do you like the most about it?
Joseph Drust: I'm glad you enjoyed the
tutorials! I hope they were useful! My desire to teach started back in
college. At the time it was extremely hard for me to find any information
on creating game assets. I spent most of my time doing trial and error
attempts for a lot of the processes (this was back in the
Quake1/Half-life1 mod era.) When I got my first game job, I was fortunate
enough to be able to stand behind an artist by the name of Eric
Armstrong. In a period of one week of 'over the shoulder' learning I
had every single question I had about creating game art answered. After
that, I decided that when I could I would help distribute my knowledge
of game art to others. My first open forum for tutorials was with the
original Ghost Recon. I set up a FAQ page that covered how to mod
Characters, Weapons, and Vehicles to Ghost Recon. Users could email me
questions and I would reply with diagrams and 'how to' steps if
necessary. Back then there were a lot of little things you had to
rotate/place/label in order to get items running in game. From there I
started giving talks at local schools and writing tutorials. The
tutorial writing eventually was upgraded to video and that's were we are
The thing I like the most about teaching is the
ability to share knowledge. I find that if I can share knowledge with
someone, then they have the potential to do something that I may not
have thought about, then if they share that knowledge the cycle
continues. This also directly relates to inspiration; giving others
information to help them create better art that in return inspires.
Novedge: What innovations do you see in your field now or in the
Joseph Drust: Even just since I have been in the gaming
industry the field has changed considerably. I see the character
creation process in the industry continuing to move to more traditional
methods (but of course with Undos and Symmetry.) The 3D printing is
taking off as well (in the future maybe having the ability to go to Sears and
have a part for your lawn mower 3D printed right there!), and so is 3D
Scanning (the resurge of photogrammetry.) I see the usage of 3D
printing, digital sculpting, traditional sculpting, and scanning to be
intertwined as standard practice for character creation.
In other technology I personally would love to see
the removal of the UV mapping process/requirement for game assets. Never
having to create a UV map would be great, someone needs to get on that
To see more of Joseph Drust's art, visit his website.
To learn more about the latest ZBrush release, register for our webinar here.
Autodesk Smoke 2013 is an amazing tool for editors. It is built to do much more than just edit, it combines non linear editing and effects in one platform. No need to spend time exporting files and moving data from different programs. Now you can do it all in this one program. From increased productivity, to the ability to keep more jobs in-house, Autodesk Smoke 2013 makes it easy to meet deadlines and to say Yes to clients' requests.
Finally, learning Smoke is easy, just check the Autodesk Smoke Learning Channel on YouTube. And the system requirements are more flexible, so you can work on your MacBook Pro or iMac.
To get your copy of Autodesk Smoke 2013, check out our website and don't forget to leave a review of the product.