1. Starting out, tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get into the VFX industry?
I was born in Loreto, a small Italian town but I live and work in Castelfidardo, another smaller town too
I got into the industry as professionist in 2011, when I had the opportunity to be part of Naiad fluid dynamics software. Prior to that, I was not more than a hobbyist, with not great generalist skills. Back then I was graduating in Engineering degrees and finally, I had the opportunity to combine my love for physics with a branch of VFX. After some tests I posted on Vimeo I received my first job enquires for commercials involving small scale liquid simulation for Italian/Russian brands.
2. Why did you choose Houdini for FX? Why Houdini scares off many fx artists?
Simply because of his logic. The procedural and node-based approach is what I was looking for in software and with Naiad background, Houdini was the better choice that gave you the impression to have everything under control. I think the reason why it scares a lot of artists it’s because it’s an uncommon way to approach VFX compared to other software. But once you get into it, I am sure you won’t get back anymore
3. Looking at your reel, we have seen a lot of water simulation works, What is your workflow for these complex tasks?
Yes, Water simulations are basically the main tasks in which I am involved. Just simply because I love to control something that is so complex by its nature and I invested more time in learning and improving those branches. In the latest 2 years, lot of tools has been developed by software house to accomplish common tasks and they are super good but there’s always the needs for customization, especially for small scale liquid simulation. Example: Doing a tsunami wave crashing towards a coast can be done almost 90% off the shelf now. Doing a tsunami wave with a specific shape, that becomes a surfing wave and then crushes into existing practical water at the correct timeframe decided by the director…It’s another story. That’s where custom assets are needed. Not always about deep programming, but just writing some vex line, combining nodes to create something that can do what you’re needing for. And optimization. That’s the key to everything. Not about reinventing the wheel but sometimes off the shelf tools offers more than you actually need. And it can be a lot of time-wasting in learning, tweaking lot of parameters, and also hardware computation can be compromised. So better sometimes to prepare something for the specific task. I tend to do this, especially for the foam stuff. Then job distribution is important too. I use a render manager to distribute my job across my multiple workstations.
4. What were some unique challenges you faced on your recent projects and how did you overcome them?
Every project has a unique challenge, and that’s the funny part of this job! When you think something it is going to be easy…It won’t! One of the best challenges remains The fate of The furious opening sequences. I was about to close the cliff splashes when the directors asked for the same splashes but without the cliff!
It was so crazy to make them look natural.
And lot of development both my side and Pixomondo side have been done to found proper solutions.
5. Have you developed any pipeline or tools for your fx jobs?
Usually, I simulate/mesh/do whitewater simulation parallel to speed up the things and It’s only about to have a good dispatcher that controls the tasks and timing properly. About the tools: Yes, I have my custom foam solver and an uprising flip assets. And other few ones for small scale simulations.
6. What are the projects or shots you have worked on of which you are so proud?
I easily can say “Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines 2” with Platige Image studio. There’s a blood tsunami wave at the end I am very proud of. Then all the shots I did for “the fate of the furious”.
7. As a remote freelancer, how do you handle rendering for fx heavy shots?
There are so many ways to manage them. Sometimes I deliver caches, sometimes I deliver scene files and some other times I render in-house in my office with my small render farm.
8. What’s your point on the future of FX career, both in the movie and game industry?
It’s in continuous flowing…Like Water Definitely not predictable, I am sorry
9. What would you be looking for in an FX TD’s portfolio, if you were hiring?
Personal stuff Definitely I think that having the good of them on Vimeo it’s the main proof of an artist’s value.
10. Any thoughts you would like to share with artists who want to become FX TDs ?
Sure. Don’t spend too much thinking about every button of your software. Give yourself a specific task, every day, although you have no literal idea about how to achieve it. The 1st week will be a failure, the 2nd week you will start to realize what you’re going to do, the 3rd week you will feel like you’ve learned better than another manual out there. Let’s prepare to be kicked on the floor a lot of times. If you’re going to resist and you’ll continue to improve yourself, you have everything you need to become a great FX TD.
vfxexpress prabu -Thank you For your interview
Mirco Paolini – Thank you vfxexpress