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Finding inspiration: artistic insight & inspiration with CEO David Schäfer

CGI artist and Mondlicht Studios CEO David Schäfer offers insight into an artistic mind with useful software tips and favorite inspirations…

Mondlicht Studios

Introduction

Hello all, I hope everybody is doing well! With the Corona pandemic gaining momentum, now and then we all appreciate some distraction, so let me share insight into 10 of my favorite art-related things and want to share with you. I feel that giving the author that kind of freedom can produce very interesting results and – hopefully – inspiration.

My favourite 3D software

Cinema 4D. I started using it a very, very long time ago. I made my first steps in Bryce 3D and Poser around mid to end of the 1990s. Then I got the chance to try 3D Max and it was interesting, but just too complicated. Cinema on the other hand was quite intuitive and easy to handle as a beginner or hobbyist. Starting my professional career, I was forced to learn Maya and lost all connection to Cinema for quite a few years.

The cool thing is that I am able to work with a lot of different software. I also recommend that and to try different tools. In some cases I am going back and forth between applications to get the best result in the shortest amount of time. But Cinema is my first choice if I look at the WHOLE package. For some things, Maya, 3ds Max, Blender, Houdini, and so on, are better for sure. Additionally, I really like the progress Maxon is making in development, so I am faithfully looking into the future!

car model 3d render advertisement
The latest project by Mondlicht Studios for 3D Design & Motion Show was created in Cinema 4D

My favorite book(s)

Artbooks, of course. I am in the lucky position to have 3 beautiful copies of Syd Mead books. They are crazy expensive today, but if you can get your hands on one, it is a pleasure to browse and enjoy.

The Art Of... books give a great look behind the development process, which I also really enjoy. Like 'The Art Of Cars'. Last but not least I want to recommend scouring the internet from time to time and look for old books on art and photography, from before the CGI industry got the big boost in the 90s. These reads helped me a lot in understanding theory behind CGI, compositions, lighting, and everything a good artist needs to be able to do.

My favourite movie

Finding Nemo. Yes, really. There are A LOT of amazing movies, but that's the one. I am a huge fan of Pixar. After all, their movies made me follow the career path of becoming a CG artist. Toy Story (1) for one, and Finding Nemo sealed the deal for me. But that is another story. I watched Finding Nemo at least 30 times when it was published and later on combined. The quality of the imagery, the details, animation,.. everything, just blew me away. Maybe you want to watch it (again?) and realize that this motion picture is seventeen (17!) years old. There are many, many more brilliant movies, for example from Stanley Kubrick and George Lucas (*cough* the OLD ones), that I totally recommend as well. Many times it is great to look back to shape the future.

My favorite traditional artist (only considering the 'old masters')

Albrecht Dürer. I had a good art education in school, so I know about a few of the old masters and their works. I also love Dali for his skill, not necessarily for the content of his art. Or Caspar David Friedrich. But Albrecht Dürer to me has a way of pushing his masterpieces to the next level that left me stunned when I visited a huge exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany. If you get deeper into the history of his life and personal development you will see that he is not an undisputed artist. However, his achievements really stand out to me.

My favorutie Photoshop lifehack

Using shortcuts. Now, probably not the way you think, but for everything. Especially browsing through menus. Not only Shift+F6 to feather a selection or Alt+Backspace to fill (or Shift+F5 to open fill menu). If you have a selection, hold down Alt, then press in that order s, m, c to contract the selection. Give it a try and you'll see where I am going with that. It works for all items, which Adobe made available via the small, underlined letter that appears when you are in a menu and hold down the Alt key.

For the items missing, add your own shortcuts or actions for things you need a lot. Like blur and gaussian blur and so on. One more additional tip: If you make an action, check the left box in the same line as the command to make that small window icon appear. That will open the menu for the command and lets you enter your desired value instead of executing the command with the same value as defined in the action.

Post-production is a vital part of every project, so it’s incredibly important to understand the process even if you’re totally focused on 3D.

My favourite hardware

A Windows computer, Eizo monitor, a good mouse with a cable (I don't like wireless stuff because of charging and I still imagine I notice the super tiny delay in the commands). Intel was nice, but AMD is just as good. My best tip here is to get a gamer mouse and assign different things to the keys that will speed up your daily work. Most importantly some years ago I reassigned the middle mouse click to my thumb, which drastically reduced finger movement and enhanced speed. Try it, please! And if you are not using a tablet to retouch, get yourself a Wacom.

My favorite thing outside of work

Music. Listening and making music for myself. Here is my pledge to music: Professional musicians have an up to 25% better connection of left+right brain halves! You 'feel' music, before you really 'hear' it. That is because biologically our brain was used to react immediately to noises around us (if a predator comes sneaking into the cave way back). You need to run, THEN think about what you just heard. That still happens today with music, which gets processed by the limbic system (the part where 'feelings' are made), before it gets processed by the auditory cortex. Isn't that amazing? That is also why people can be influenced very well with music. For example in theatres (ok, not now, you know) and when shopping in a store. Nice music, you feel good and buy more.

My favorite mindset

Confident, humble, powerful, calm, and in control. That might sound a little bit abstract, but once you think about it, so many times in life your behavior gets dominated by your feelings. If you stay calm and in control, you will drastically reduce the moments of 'why did I do it this way' in your life. Confidence and power is one of the keys to success for sure. Being a humble person is my personal taste. Not being arrogant or offensive. It is also my contribution to making our world a better place. If I behave nicely consistently I can maybe get more people to do the same who are behaving, well, not so nice. What goes around, comes around, you know.

My favorite visual treatments

Attention to detail and beautiful color grading. There are not so good images with beautiful color grading that still gain my attention and make me like them. There are artworks with an amazing level of detail that I can easily fall in love with. If they have both, I'm totally hooked. If I finally do like images and motion pictures it depends on my personal taste of what is shown. If you beautifully depict a very violent scene, I will not want to look at it again and again, but I respect the piece for its message – hopefully! Same thing with music. I do respect a lot of artists you can find in the billboard charts, because they have great skill. Doesn't mean I like the music.

My favorite vision of the future

Sustainability, respect for each other, progress over profit, making the world a better place for everybody - which will include sacrifices from all of us. For some more, for some less. But only if we are able to live together, overcome conflicts and use differences to move forward instead of bashing our heads in, we will have a bright future. As the story goes, history repeats itself. Unfortunately. I hope someday we will finally understand how to make our planet a better place. I had high hopes when I was a child, because I thought mankind is smart and everything will just get better. I was disappointed, but hope springs eternal in the human breast.

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