Swiss French 3D artist Vincent Salasombath has a striking sense of detail and a gift for bringing flair to images of everyday objects.
Vincent is an experienced freelancer, living and working between Paris and Barcelona. He specializes in advertising and print work.
Vincent spoke with Lightmap founder and CEO Mark Segasby about his journey as an artist, his love of 3ds Max, and just exactly how tricky it is to make a toothbrush look cool.
Mark: Where did it start for you Vincent, in terms of 3D?
Vincent: I was studying watchmaking and worked as a watchmaker at Cartier for some years. During this time my brother was making 3D art as a hobby and I saw how complex and fun it looked. After getting my first salary I bought a computer and said: ‘OK, I’m going to get good at this!’
I decided to go back to school and study Graphic Design and Web Design for three years in France. I planned to go on from this to study at an animation school, but it was very expensive. At that time, I was creating watches in 3D and a Swiss production company saw my portfolio and liked that I was into watchmaking and 3D and offered me a job. They specialized in 3D watches and advertising images and taught me everything I needed to know to do the job.
I spent two intense and productive years at Le Truc creating images of watches and completing work for other companies such as Nespresso. It was a very good time, and I learned a lot, but I still felt the urge to do something by myself. As I always wanted to live in Paris and because many big agencies are there, I decided to give it a try.
Mark: When you were doing watchmaking, what kind of things were you actually doing?
Vincent: At a big company like Cartier there is a chain of production. At every stage of the line just a few pieces are added. I was working at the end of this line, once production was finished, and it was my job to check the watch’s settings and that it was calibrated correctly. It was technical and interesting, but still I felt like just a piece in the middle of a big company, and that was not so rewarding.
Mark: Do you think any of your previous experience helped when you moved into 3D, because you had been dealing with these very intricate designs? How do you think working with the watches helped you with 3D?
Vincent: My experiences were really helpful. For watchmaking, you need to be patient, precise, and be able to take a lot of time for details. This is very similar to 3D. Sometimes images are very complex and it will take you a lot of time to achieve the realistic details you want.
Mark: Has 3ds Max always been your tool?
Vincent: Yes. I’ve also used a little bit of Cinema 4D and I’ve tried Blender, but I think 3ds Max was the first love, you can say. It was the first thing I discovered and it feels like home.
Mark: What about renderers? What did you start out using? Have you changed over the years?
Vincent: I started first with the basic Scanline, but as it felt so limited I switched very quickly to V-Ray. Since then, I’ve felt it was the best thing to use. At the time there were other options like finalRender and Brazil R/S, but I think V-Ray looked the most versatile and the most easy to use. It was technical and you could go really deep into the settings. You could use it for animation, still pictures, architecture etc.
My toolset today is 3ds Max, V-Ray, and HDR Light Studio.
I don’t use HDR Light Studio on a daily basis because I’m not lighting every day, however, it’s my first choice when I need to light as the process is very easy and intuitive.
Mark: How long do you think you have been using HDR Light Studio?
Vincent: Five or six years, I remember before using HDR Light Studio I had to position every light by hand. It made it very difficult to light complex objects. You had to think ‘I want the light in this position, so maybe it would go on this side…’ and then just render to test it and repeat the whole process until you achieve your goal.
With HDR Light Studio the process is much faster as you can decide where the light has to be on the object. It really boosts the productivity to be able to decide where you want the light, where will be the highlight or the reflection.
Mark: When you moved to Paris to try and get work, how easy was it to find clients and start out as a freelancer?
Vincent: It wasn’t always easy. I started working for a production company for a couple of months but it didn’t work out as expected. Therefore, I decided to start to work as a Freelancer and contacted a 3D artist representative I liked. I was very lucky as they decided to represent me.
They found me jobs with different companies and famous agencies in Paris. Some projects were big and others small but I gained a lot of experience.
I also started working with an amazing agent in Madrid called The Mushroom company. They represent a lot of very creative artists and I’m honored to be represented by them in Spain.
I would say that having an agent has helped me a lot to start as a Freelancer, because I just had to focus on my 3D Craft, and the agents were prospecting for me. That’s a huge time saver.
During one of my projects as a freelancer, I had the chance to meet a very talented art director. We had a really good connection from the start and have been working on many projects together since then. Lately we’ve been doing many images for Unilever.
It seems simple but it’s actually very complicated to create luxury images with ordinary products like toothbrushes and to give them a special flair. It might look like a basic object, but when you have to model a complex toothbrush it becomes a difficult task. Luckily, I love modeling.
Mark: I can imagine. When an object is simple, to actually make it look real is a harder task.
Vincent: The lighting is very important. When I was starting out in 3D I didn’t use soft-boxes in my lights, I was just using simple area lights. It looked really harsh and I was never completely satisfied with the result.
HDR Light Studio was a big discovery for me. It completely changed the lighting of my scenes. It added so much more realism to have such details in the lights.
Mark: How do you find that HDR Light Studio helps you work with the customer in terms of being able to change and react to their demand?
Vincent: HDR Light Studio gives me the possibility to adapt in real-time to the different demands of my clients. I just share my screen by video call and position the lights directly with the client. Sometimes we spend hours trying different setups until we have found something we like.
Mark: In the future, what projects would you like to do?
Vincent: I’d like to make more creative and fun images. I would love to find some time in the future to create more personal images and find some new exciting collaboration. There are so many creative artists out there that I would really enjoy working with.
Mark: Would you say you’re more of a technician and a craftsperson than a creative?
Vincent: I’m definitely more of a technician. These years I’ve been very focused on my technical skills but my goal is to build something of my own, develop my own style.
Mark: What advice would you give to young and aspiring 3D artists?
Vincent: Work hard and try to enjoy what you are doing. Today there are so many crazy artists on the internet, you see such an advanced level of work and it can be very overwhelming. Forget about this and just do what you like. Inspire yourself but don’t copy, instead, try to find your own style.
For me, I am spending between nine to fourteen hours in front of my computer every day. Definitely, you need to like what you are doing. If you can make a living from it - that’s amazing. If you can’t at this point, don’t be discouraged, you will find a way. There’s a place for everybody, you just have to find it.