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Darko Mitev: lead character artist interview

Darko Mitev

Senior Character Modeler

Brown Bag Films lead character artist Darko Mitev talks about creating his staff-pick winning image Oris City, and the IP he is creating to inspire his latest personal projects…

Darko's Website

3dtotal

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?

Darko

My name is Darko Mitev, and I am 3D generalist from Macedonia. I started my career in Macedonia doing VFX and commercial work. Then I moved to the TV show animation and feature film animation industries,  and I am currently living and working in Dublin, Ireland, as lead character artist for Brown Bag Films.

corridor metallic environment 3d model render base

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What was the workflow behind your latest gallery image? Where did the idea come from?

Darko

My latest image titled Oris City is a part of a much larger project that I started to develop a few years ago. I started writing series of stories that are connected to each other and tell one massive epic tale. So, to help me visualize the world that I was writing about, and to make sense of it all, I started creating artworks that will depict certain key moments and characters from the stories. Oris City is the latest addition to that collection of images. This was by far the biggest scene I have ever built from scratch.

Just as I was preparing to start the model, a website called Wingfox contacted me and asked me to do an exclusive tutorial for them of a sci-fi city. So the timing worked out perfectly, because I was about to do a sci-fi city as my personal project anyway. So, Oris City became the largest tutorial that I have ever created to date. The raw recorded material is over 300 hours long, and I am in the process of editing that and turning it into more manageable size tutorial, and it will be available on the website when it’s ready.

wooden model render fantasy shack ogre wood

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What challenges did the image present? Did you learn something new?

Darko

This image was a big challenge for me for many reasons. First of all, I had to build a massive city from scratch. Second, I had to record everything I did and do it more methodically and in a more regular kind of way so that it would be understandable for anyone who is trying to follow along. And last but not least, I implemented ACEScg color space and V-Ray 5 into my pipeline. So, I learned very quickly that trying to work on a massive scene like this with 30 plus buildings while recording everything was not going to work. That is why half way through the process, I had split the scene into two main parts: foreground and background.

The foreground consisted of 13 unique buildings, the sidewalks and the “under city” area (the part that is in the narrow gap leading to the ground level) – everything else was considered background. Every building in the foreground area was treated as a hero asset so I exported each of them to a separate file and referenced them back in. This way, I could easily work on every building individually, add details, iterate as much as I wanted, and have very fast render times, and every once in a while I would replace the reference in the main scene to check how everything is working together. So, this project forced me to rethink my entire approach to making such a complex environment in general, to make it more efficient, and to be able to render everything in a timely manner.

cyberpunk render model environment art 2d futuristic

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Do you use any other software, either for work or personal projects?

Darko

For this project, the main addition that I made to my pipeline was introducing V-Ray 5 in the mix and the ACEScg color space. I used V-Ray in the past so it was not a brand new experience for me, but I haven’t used it in a while, and in V-Ray 5 for Maya they completely changed the V-Ray Frame Buffer with lots of new options such us the ability to do compositing right in the VFB, use other color spaces such as ACES, relight your scene after you rendered I, and so on. So, I spent a lot of time playing around with those settings and it really helped me in the decision making process.

3dtotal

How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?

Darko

This is always a tricky one, isn’t it? After a long day of working for a client or in a studio going back to the desk and doing personal work is challenging, and often you don’t have the energy for it. So that is why I started to do a lot of world building. In days when I feel low on energy, or not really in the mood to open up ZBrush and start sculpting again, I would start writing small stories, or take notes of ideas that came to my mind; try to do a research on the subject I am working on; watch documentaries about medieval castles, and how and why they were created; or science-based shows on interstellar travel and how would that be possible.

One challenge I gave myself was to analyze what movies and games get right and wrong when they do these kinds of stories, and how can I make this in my stories. How can I create a world that feels believable even for a human today, with our current technology. And that serves as a fuel for my writing, which serves as fuel to my artwork. I find this incredibly satisfying and fun to do, because everything you place in your artwork has a reason, every design choice is intentional, and builds towards something bigger. This way, I create an infinite loop of creative fuel because one process influences the other, and I don’t feel bad if I decide to binge a whole series when I don’t feel like working, because it’s a research for the project.

3dtotal

Are you a member of any social media groups? Any favorite hashtags you check on a daily basis?

Darko

Like most artists nowadays, I am part of some of the bigger Facebook groups such as Ten Thousand Hours, CG Character Arts, CG Environment Artist, 3D Modeling and Animation Group. I also like to follow environment photographers and explorer’s pages such as Rebecca Bathory Photography, and @abandoned_nordic on Instagram.

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What are your artistic ambitions?

Darko

My goal these days is to be the best storyteller that I can be. I always strive to tell stories with every artwork that I create. Over the years as I started to progress my writing and my art skills, and my stories became more than isolated pieces but rather converge towards one bigger story happening in the same universe, the ultimate dream would be to make that in some sort of entertainment media that would be available for the public, be it in a from of short films, animated TV show, games, or even series of graphic novels.

jungle orc tree nature stone 2d illustration art

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Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?

Darko

Recently I really enjoyed the art of Ben Erdit, Sebastian Luca, and Rodion Vlasov. I guess  because the current world that I am creating is a mixture of sci-fi and fantasy genres, their artworks really resonate with me.

snowy thriller the ritual 2d digital illustration art

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What can we expect to see from you next?

Darko

My project is far from finished – there will be many more characters and environments to visualize the small IP that I am trying to create, so expect to see many more artworks related to that project for sure, and perhaps the occasional stylized study that I do for fun sometimes to change things up a bit.

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