Nicolas Brunet: 3D animator interview

3D Animator and VFX artist Nicolas Brunet espouses the value of good story in animation and provides some sage advice about trends in the 3D industry...

3D Animator and VFX artist Nicolas Brunet espouses the value of good story in animation and provides some sage advice about trends in the 3D industry...

3dtotal: Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
Nicolas Brunet: I'm a CG artist based in Nantes, on the west coast of France. I've been what we can call a "one man band artist for more than a decade now. For much of that time I worked as a 3D and VFX artist, but a couple of years ago I decided to focus on creating animated short films.

3dt: What inspired you to get in 3D? Do you ever work in any other forms?
At around the age of 15 I had developed some drawing skills so I was considering a career in 2D animation. I was amazed by Disney films like Aladdin but was intrigued by the use of computer generated images. When Jurassic Park was released in 1993 I was blown away by the film and its VFX, I was like "This is the work I want to do!"

A challenging personal project to learn facial mocap and 3D object tracking. It's also almost full CG

However, I was an extremely bad student and couldn't get a foot in the door at any art schools, so I had to find a way to learn art and CG by myself. Why 3D over 2D or stop motion? Laziness. I discovered you could create and animate 3D objects faster than going for 2D animation or stop motion. How little I knew at that time, ha ha.

3dt: Tell us about your creations and the type of work you love to make.
NB: If you watched my short film Unexpected Gifts you clearly see that I have a fetish for creating real life objects in CG to trick the audience. However I also enjoy creating fantasy artwork with interesting characters and telling real stories with hidden meaning in the final scenes. The Christmas in Alsace commercial series really put me in an animated short film universe that I really love. Over the course of creating of that film I went from a technical/realistic aesthetic to a more cartoonish look by the time of its release. This has become a goal for my future projects.

"Versus: The Way to Shadow", the project that taught me sleep is for the weak but also the use of Mental Ray in animated projects

In the past, the project Versus: The Way to Shadow acted like a VFX school project for me, as I worked alone on the VFX of this film. I expanded my initial 3D skills to matchmoving, video based motion capture and rendering. On a technical side, modelling and texturing are at the top of my list of skills.

3dt: Which artists do you most admire, and what do you like about their work?

NB: The main artist I admire is Bill Plympton. He creates his films almost entirely alone, it seems he has no producers telling him "No, you can't do that, people will get offended." He doesn't polish his vision to reach a wider audience. For me, he's the definition of a real artist. David O'Reilly is another artist of this type, I can't stop laughing and being amazed by his original ideas.

Of course Japanese animation has a lot of influence in my work: Hayao Miyazaki, Mamoru Hosoda, Makoto Shinkai, Hideaki Anno, these artists make me travel through their films and always leave me full of emotions. The way they add fantasy in real life situations is surprisingly inspiring. Many music composers also have a place in my heart, such as Matthew Bellamy, Yoko Kanno, Yoko Shimomura, Joe Hisaishi... I could go on, but I'm afraid this interview can't be ten pages long.

3dt: What are your artistic ambitions?
NB: Id like to become an animated film director. I have so many stories to tell that can't fit in artworks only. What I learned on a project like "Yo(r)u & I" is: no matter the technical side, no matter you only have eight days to complete an animated project; the most important aspect is the story, the way you tell it and how is communicates feelings to the audience. Now that I have spent years on the technical aspects of CG I'd like to dive right in the artistic side. I'm used to living my life upside down.

"Yo(r)u and I" is the winner of an animated short film contest (2012) around Tim Burton's universe. The president of the jury was Tim Burton himself

3dt: How do you keep up to date with trends, techniques and practices within the industry?
NB: I'm pretty slow to adopt new techniques seen on internet; you're talking to a guy still using Mental Ray (I love MR). However as soon as I feel my work can be done faster I try new software or plugins. You have no idea how much I would have loved to use Substance Designer when I worked on the clone trooper's textures for Versus: The Way to Shadow.
Trends? I avoid trends.

3dt: What are you working on right now? What projects can we expect from you in the future?
NB: My recent move to the city after years of life in the countryside inspired me to make a series of very short films I would like to complete by the middle of 2017. I'm also working on an animated short film, that project that should be released by the end of 2018.

WIP from an artwork I'm currently working on

WIP from an artwork I'm currently working on

3dt: Do you have any advice or tips for someone just starting out in 3D modelling and animation?
NB: Don't start, have a life. Or else as everyone says: observation is the key. The technical aspect can be tough at first but after a few weeks you'll understand the basic workflow of 3D modelling and animation, then things will be easier.

Also, take your time. Have a break from time to time to give your brain some fresh air. Don't forget it's a muscle that needs some rest. Finally, stay true to your feelings, don't be swallowed by the many useless possibilities that the 3D can offer.

A portrait version of the Cheshire Cat made for my very first huge artwork "Why is a Raven like a writing desk" back in 2010

A portrait version of the Cheshire Cat made for my very first huge artwork "Why is a Raven like a writing desk" back in 2010

Related links

Head over to Nicolas Brunet's site
Grab a copy of 3ds Max Projects

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