Founded in 2004, Happy Finish is a globally renowned Production Studio and Agency offering a vast range of cross-platform creative production services including VR, AR & Mixed Reality, 360 images, Stills Retouching & CGI, Animation and Motion Production & Post, as well as Artificial Intelligence. (Wow, that’s a lot of services!)
We spoke to Derek DSouza, a CG Artist based at Happy Finish’s Mumbai Office, to discuss the challenges faced by CG Artists in India, his preferred workflow to meet these demands and of course how HDR Light Studio plays a key part of their workflow.
Lightmap: How did you get started as a CG artist?
Derek: My interest in this field started at a very early age. Ever since my childhood in the 90s, I have been very inclined towards photography; initially with a film camera, then progressing into the digital era with my first digital camera. My interest in the art of photography combined with my love of cars and engines, led me to experiment with CGI and I became passionate about merging the two.
Pursuing the art of Automotive CGI showed the most promise for making this happen; it would enable me to utilise both skills/interests to their greatest potential, allowing me to create meaningful and radical creative images.
It has been a great journey for me so far, working with Happy Finish in their Mumbai office, doing what I love most – bringing cars to life in CGI!
Lightmap: What kind of work does your company do, and what kind of clients do you have?
Derek: Happy Finish, globally, has a wide spectrum of clientele. They’re considered a one-stop solution for all creative campaign needs such as CGI and Image Retouching, as well as being a pioneer in the world of AR, VR, 360 films and Artificial Intelligence. In our Asia operations, the majority of our clients are in the automotive, FMCG, fashion and hospitality sectors; Hindustan Unilever, ITC, Nestle, L’oreal, Nissan, Volkwagen, Skoda, Jeep, to name a few.
Lightmap: Do you think there are any challenges that you faced as an up-coming 3D artist in India that artists in Europe and USA don’t have? Or maybe there are advantages?
Derek: Honestly, there are many challenges! Artists in Europe and US have a lot more exposure. There are designated field of study to develop 3D skills, maturity level of the clients and audiences are higher in comparison to the India market, with CG being utilised in more ways and over a wider range of industries.
Cost is another factor which proves a challenge for us in India, in terms of machinery, software licensing and educational courses to learn CG skills.
Having said that, there are some advantages of being a 3D artist in India. The market is relatively untapped in terms of providing quality over quantity; the requirements for excellent high-end imagery to help boost a marketing campaign, especially in the automotive sector.
As India and its market becomes more globally aware of the latest trends, having creative know-how and technical expertise, aids us as 3D Artists and creative post-production houses, such as Happy Finish, to stand apart from the crowd – we can provide both quality and time efficiency.
Lightmap: What benefits do you think there are for clients to work with an India based CG artist?
Derek: For international clients cost is one of the primary benefits, as they can attain CG services of a similar quality at substantially lower cost than having them produced by artists in Europe or the US.
For local clients, the benefits are plenty. Owning creatives of the standard and quality which is on par with global campaigns, at a cost only fractionally higher than existing local creative houses, is a major plus for any brand/agency. With the use of software tools, such as HDR Light Studio, means the time efficiency is also in line with existing projects, whilst the final output are levels higher than what we are used to.
Lightmap: How was it working with Vikram Bawa as a CG artist?
Derek: It was an excellent experience to have worked with an ACE photographer and learn everything from the basics of the workflow, compositions, lighting and shot setups, and dealing with clients. I would say it was the most important step in building my career and merging my knowledge of photography and CG to get to where I am today.
Lightmap: What software tools do you use for modelling, texturing and rendering, and what led you to choose those tools?
Derek: Although I have basic knowledge of modelling, I have chosen to stick to my strengths which are texturing, shading, lighting and rendering. I use 3Ds Max and V-Ray, since they are part of the production process pipeline here at Happy Finish. I have also done a fair bit of experimenting with VRED and Corona, so that we could look into implementing it in our future projects and stay updated with the current trends.
Lightmap: How do you approach integrating CGI elements with photography? How important is lighting for this?
Derek: We do a lot of ‘recky’ (reconnaissance) once the brief is given to us. Shooting the car in various lighting setups and environments to see how light falls on the car and how it would be best for us to incorporate it in CGI. We also need to understand how the environment is going to affect the car; if time and budgets allows, we have the location shots taken, and then come back to develop the car shaders and textures based on how they react to the real environment lighting conditions. Sometimes we might enhance it as well for the client’s branding and marketing content requirements.
Lightmap: What challenges were you facing that led to you starting to use HDR Light Studio?
Derek: To be honest it was my lack of patience and missing interactivity in other software tools, which led me to start using HDR Light Studio. Also, the fact that I can present it to the client live when they come and sit with us for the look development of their products. This adds immense value to what a boon this software is in terms of saving time for everyone.
Lightmap: What made you confident that HDR Light Studio was a good fit for you?
Derek: I had used the trial version of the software and had been reading up a lot online. At the same time, a lot of artists in EU were posting amazing work, which I also studied, to learn the capabilities of HDR Light Studio better. I had to try it myself and get hands on experience to master it. Hence, I took the plunge and I haven’t looked back to the traditional ways of lighting since then.
Lightmap: What projects have you used HDR Light Studio for?
Derek: I have used HDR Light Studio for almost every project I have worked on in the past 4 years – mostly automotive and a few FMCG product projects.
Lightmap: Are there particular features/capabilities that you use the most?
Derek: I particularly love the feature wherein I can import any image and use it for reflections, to manipulate and achieve creative requirements for clients, faster. Another useful feature is LightPaint and how the light can be dragged around to find the proper placement. Very recently, we at Happy Finish, acquired the HDR Light Studio ‘3Ds Max Connection’ plug-in. This has taken lighting one step further and made a lot of things much easier on the whole.
Lightmap: What overall business benefits have you seen since implementing our solution?
Derek: HDR Light Studio has helped improve the productivity on the whole. It has helped us reduce the average time to develop a CG shot drastically, therefore giving us time to get more done in the same time frame as before.
Lightmap: Would you recommend HDR Light Studio and why?
Derek: Yes, I would indeed recommend it to fellow CG artists. With the introduction of the Area Light feature, I think even someone who hasn’t used it much, can go about using it with relative ease. I have changed a lot of minds in our studio itself. The traditional artists had reservations about the software, but once they started using it, they have just loved the experience.
We would like to thank Derek for sharing his journey of being a 3D artist in India.
Try HDR Light Studio today and overcome your lighting challenges to create photo-realistic images.