Dmitriy Glazyrin: How to Excel in the CGI Industry

Photograph of Dmitriy Glazyrin
Dmitriy Glazyrin

Lightmap asked the co-founder of Mondlicht Studio to recount his journey as a CG artist and share his tips for achieving success.

From his first job as a web designer in Russia to his current role as co-founder of Mondlicht Studio, Dmitriy Glazyrin has collected a wealth of industry knowledge and experience.

Dmitriy has spent the last twelve years working in CGI production, media and advertising, both in freelance and studio roles. He found his way into the 3D field whilst looking for a job to support his University studies: “There are no schools or universities which prepare CG artists in Russia. What's more, in 2007-2008 there was no CG industry in the country. After school graduation, I decided to enter a Medical University. During my education, I had to figure out how to pay the bills, but I couldn’t get a job connected with medicine. I stumbled over the vacancy of a web-designer by chance, and that’s how I discovered Photoshop. There was a trend for promo-sites in those days, which consisted mostly of beautiful pictures and product descriptions. Working on those, I realised that I loved graphics but I didn’t like to deal with typography, layouts, usability and the other inevitable parts of web-design. I decided to concentrate on what I enjoyed the most. My colleagues were sure that images themselves wouldn’t become marketable, but I decided to take that risk.”

Zombie studio CGI
A recent Zombie Studio project for Ford trucks. Dmitriy worked on post-production.

Dmitriy was inspired by the work of foreign art studios and in-particular the work of Brazilian studio Platinum FMD. He joined forces with other enthusiasts to found the company Ujean & Glazyrin.

“Russian agencies didn’t have advertising mock-ups, so they used European ones and adjusted them to the local market. I found myself in the right place at the right time - agencies wanted to create advertising for the domestic market inside the country - and I got my first orders. There were only ten people working at Ujean & Glazyrin and every one of them was trying to make projects as good as the European and American studios did. We began with 2D and slowly, step by step, began to integrate 3D. We were hunting for every piece of information we could find on the internet, working and studying at the same time.”

In 2010, Dmitriy received a contract from Platinum FMD. He quit university and went out to Brazil. “Only then did I gain an understanding of how a big and successful studio actually works. I believe that this was the first significant training for me. After the contract expired, I realised that I still had gaps in my knowledge, so I entered a private CG school where more experienced specialists from movie and game industries were teaching. It was a very good experience which influenced me a lot.”

Plastic Fish CGI
Plastic Fish Campaign by Platinum FMD. Dmitriy worked on post-production with Flavio Albino and Luciano Honorato.

Dmitriy first encountered HDR Light Studio in 2013, when working as an art-director for CG Production Studio Western Jack. “I was working on a project for Philips - for a new phone. The main idea behind the project was to emphasise how capacious the battery was.”

Philips Phone CGI
“Philips — Huge battery”

“As well as working on projects, I had to look for new ways to improve the working process. Back then, there were no real-time renders and one had to spend a lot of time on changing light sources and testing - so, I decided to look for a more effective way to work with lighting. That’s how I found HDR Light Studio. I easily integrated the program into my working process and I’m still very glad that I found it. Instead of wasting my time thinking where I should put a light source to get a highlight or the glare that I need, I can focus on the visual part, save time and enjoy the process. With the time saved, I can handle more projects or spend time on other things. Time-management is very important when you’re working as a freelancer. The more time you spend on your work, the less you have on your life in general. A lot of beginners are ready to sacrifice their interests to gain success, but it's not a very wise decision in the long run. It’s much better to find the right balance to avoid a burnout.”

Cardboard Bull CGI
A project on which Dmitriy was working with the Platinum FMD team

This year Dmitriy co-founded Mondlicht Studio with partners David Schäfer and Maksym Khirnyy. The studio takes on a diverse range of projects and has shown a real flare for automotive and architectural CGI.

“Founding the studio was a very natural step in professional development. I wasn’t intentionally looking for this chance, but when I met David and Maksym the idea appeared itself. We were working together on several projects and the process was so easygoing and productive that we decided to broaden our collaboration and create a studio. I had experience launching a business on the Russian market and creating teams inside existing studios abroad - so, I was able to apply that knowledge.”

Audi Q8 CGI
Audi Q8 is one of the latest projects created by the Mondlicht team

“The key to Mondlicht Studio’s success is people with vast experience in different industry directions. Both Maksym and David are very talented artists with profound knowledge and vast experience in the industry. David worked at Daimler for more than ten years, creating different CGI projects. Maksym is an expert in AR/VR projects - a very interesting, profitable and demanding direction of CG.”

Mondlicht Studios combine their various talents to offer clients solutions to any problem connected with the production of high-quality content. Dmitriy enjoys his role creating concepts and visualisations, and working on materials, lighting and post-production.

“I started my 3D studies with 3ds Max, V-Ray and ZBrush but recently I also began to use Cinema 4D and Octane more often. My decision to switch from 3ds Max to Cinema 4D is connected with the fact that 3ds Max hasn’t changed much for some time, and in a constantly changing market this becomes a problem faster than one could expect.”

Dmitriy continues to use HDR Light Studio on relevant projects. “The projects I am working on could be very different and I don’t need to use HDR Light Studio for every one of them. I could say that I use the software in 30% of all my projects. It’s great that I can easily create a new light map or adjust an existing one to my needs and spend on that less time than in 3ds Max or Cinema 4D. I know many other designers who are using this software, especially for automotive and product visualisations. A recent example is our Lexus NX project. This project has a very interesting idea behind it. We imagined what would happen if a fashion designer had a chance to create an automotive CGI. We decided to develop this idea and created a series of images.”

Lexus NX Gold & Black CGI
Lexus NX Gold & Black CGI
“Lexus NX: Gold & Black” created by Mondlicht Studios team

“I really appreciate how responsive the Lightmap team are. For five years, I have been sending my ideas to the team, and a lot of them were integrated into the program. It was very nice to see how these ideas appeared in the software as new tools and it made my work even more comfortable. I hope that the team will continue with further development. The market is changing very quickly, and software companies always have to be at the edge of progress to stay relevant.”

Another aspect of Mondlicht Studio’s success has been its approach to meeting client’s needs and finding solutions to their problems. “It’s very important to understand that CGI is not only about beautiful images, nice applications or motion videos. It’s also about problem-solving. And that’s what we do: we solve the problems of our clients and make them happy. My experience in the industry began with a situation where a client needed a qualitative product, but nobody knew how to create it (including me, by the way). This remains for me the most exciting part of the job - the moment when a client is asking for help and the process of problem-solving. It’s incredibly fulfilling to discover the most appropriate and effective way to solve a problem. I see each project as a collaboration with a client, where my job is to solve the problem and 2D, 3D, VR are the instruments which help me to succeed.

“One of the latest projects we are especially proud of is a Virtual Studio created in collaboration with KST Moschkau. This project is a great example of collaboration with clients. When David and Maksym began to work on the Virtual Studio, the client decided to rely on their experience and gave them almost full freedom. As a result, our team created an awesome project and the client was very happy with the result.”

Virtual Studio created by Mondlicht Studios for KST Moschkau:

With so much experience as both a freelancer and studio leader, Dmitriy shared his thoughts and tips for those setting out on a career in CGI production:

“I was a person who participated in the creation of the industry in Russia. I had no chance just to fill in a CV and send my portfolio to the existing studios - there were none. Nowadays, it’s easier and harder at the same time to get into the industry. Easier, because there are so many companies where you can get a job and so much information to develop your skills - and harder, because the competition is high. This level of competition exists only when you’re a beginner, however. It’s a huge problem to find a person for any senior position. Demands in the industry are changing - now the search is for people with a broader skill-set ready to deal with a project from beginning to end."

“When an artist begins their career, they have to concentrate on skills and software. Hard skills are the first important step, but very often people forget about soft skills; the ability to improve, to teach others, to work in a team, to collaborate with a client and with colleagues, and to understand not only the production processes but the business and financial ones too. I know incredibly talented artists who have problems getting jobs because it’s too hard to collaborate with them during a real project. At the same time, I know mediocre artists who are buried under projects because it’s nice and easy to work with them - they know how to communicate and solve any problem. If we talk only about technique, practice will make anybody perfect. But if we talk about career and success, it’s crucial not to forget about soft skills which are vital in the modern world and highly appreciated in any company.”

Weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of working at a creative studio or going-it alone as a freelance 3D artist, Dmitriy suggests experience of both can lead to an all-rounded professional.

“If you don’t have any experience, I totally recommend finding a job in a studio. This will help train your skills, giving you an understanding of the process and the pipeline. Look at it as one more stage of your education with a very nice bonus: people will pay to you. Then you may choose to freelance if you look for horizontal growth and want to gain an all-round experience. But, freelance has its pros and cons: At some point you will earn more money than in a full-time position but will stop developing skills so fast - mostly because you will have to spend time on new responsibilities, including searching for clients and communication. Then you’ll realise that for growth you need some people around. There are two options: look for an art-director position or create your own team. I found my way - short contracts. This type of employment allowed me to get full-time experience and travel to different countries - but, when I finished the job, I became a freelancer again. However, this way is not a solution for everybody. This way could be tough for artists with kids and families because of regular relocation.”

As Mondlicht Studio focuses in on their current projects, Dmitriy has one eye on the future and the ever changing marketplace. “Now we’re finishing an automotive project in collaboration with German photographer Thilo Sicheneder. Thilo provided us with the beautiful images of the desert and my job was to integrate a car and make it look photorealistic.

Honda NSX Moonlight CGI
Honda NSX Interior Moonlight CGI
“Honda NSX - Moonlight” created by the Mondlicht Studios team

“HDR Light Studio remains an essential part of my regular pipeline. As long as it responds to my needs I don’t see any point in looking for something else. In the beginning, I tested some other solutions, but at that time HDR Light Studio was better than all of them together. I hope that the software will develop further and will respond to the changing market and the demands of its users all around the world.”