Playlist
December 7th, 2016

Each project The Mill touches requires the artistry and skill of various departments ranging from production to design and colour grading to 3D. Collectively these artists work to bring each Mill project to life and execute creatives brief to successfully meet our client’s needs.

Artistry and people are at the heart of The Mill and in this blog series we’ll take a closer look at some of the artists that make up our award winning VFX teams in New York.

Today we’ll be focusing on the New York 3D team, which is led by Heads of 3D David Fleet and Ruben Vandebroek. The New York team is shaped by a series of specialist roles, known as discipline supervisors.  These discipline supervisors ensure the 3D team is the best that they can be in each of The Mill’s core 3D disciplines; Modeling and Texturing, Rigging and Animation, Lighting and Rendering, FX, Digital Matte Painting and Realtime.

Adam Dewhirst
Adam Dewhirst, photographed by Olivia Burke

Adam Dewhirst, Modeling and Texturing Supervisor

How and why did you get into 3D?
When I first decided to get into 3D I was half way through a graphic design degree and pretty confident I didn’t want to end up a graphic designer. I was very into film and would spend most of my time watching and arguing about movies. It hit me that I wanted to work in film - I’m not a director or actor, but I figured I was artistic. I tried to get a job at the Jim Henson creature shop by simply standing outside and bothering everyone who came in and out. In the end, someone told me that if I really wanted to get into visual effects I should forget animatronics and go and learn Maya- the rest is history. Twelve years later, I haven’t regretted my decision once.

What’s your role within the team?
My current role is as Modeling and Texture Supervisor. I’ve always been a modeler of all sorts, organic, hard surface, low res, sculpting, high detail work - I don’t like to pigeon hole myself, I’ve always believed if you say "I’m a modeler" you should be able to cover all facets of that area.

Who or what inspires you?
I get very inspired by the work of the artists around me is the honest truth! I’m thrilled to be working in the same office as Paul Liaw. I'm on the Artistation app most days liking other people’s work or saving it to convert to a 3D model later on (I never get the time, but always have the ambition) - currently I’m very into a few concept designers -  Faud Quaderi, he is amazing with 3D coat, and Anthony Jones who runs robotpencil.net - I’m hoping to get one or both of these guys in for some lectures - both very inspiring artists!

One piece of advice to a budding 3D artist?
Don’t be afraid to show your work. A lot of juniors I‘ve spoken to are afraid to show their work to people, but the trouble is you will never be able to grow if you can’t or won’t accept criticism. it’s my experience that most people just want to help, so by showing your work, you can get more feedback and improve your skills, it’s one the foundations of the weekly lunch crunch exercise I run - to just throw caution to the wind and get creative.

An interesting fun fact about yourself.
I'm the reigning champ of The Mill's mince pie eating contest -3 pies in 1 minute and 8 seconds! Beat that!

Jeff Lopez Copy
Jeff Lopez, photographed by Olivia Burke

Jeff Lopez (aka J-LO), Animation Supervisor and 3D Lead

How and why did you get into 3D?
Without a doubt Star Wars and Disney had a tremendous influence in becoming an animator.  Ever since I saw Dennis Muren animate the AT-AT Walkers and Milt Kahl animate Madame Medusa (in The Rescuers) I fell in love with the art of animation. In the mid 80's I saw a commercial  called  "Brilliance", this became the ultimate push which made me realize I could combine my love for computers and animation together.

What's your role within the team?
Currently, I head up the Animation and Rigging teams.  I make sure that we give the best performance for every job that comes out of The Mill.  I push the animators to do their best work and have fun while doing it.

At times I like to think of myself as Mr. Wolf from Pulp Fiction, I need to find solutions for problems.  If there is a way to do it clean, fast and good...I'll take the challenge.

Who or what inspires you?
Great animation inspires me all the time. My fellow animators push me to be a better artist and to never lose that childish behavior that is so often lost when one becomes an adult. Depending on what I have to animate, I will find inspiration anywhere...family, friends, even my dog.

One piece of advice to a budding 3D artist?
One piece of advice I always give people is to try to do your best no matter what it is. If you have to animate a ribbon, box or creature, always give it your best.  Be creative and be a team player.  Think outside the box and stay away from animation cliches. There is so much to tell from the way a person stands.  As an animator, never loose the art of watching/observing how people walk, eat, jump or hold a bag.

An interesting fun fact about yourself.
I love computer engineering. On the side I enjoy playing with raspberry pie and power-tools...Building stuff with my hands.

Tom Bardwell
Tom Bardwell, photographed by Olivia Burke

Tom Bardwell, Lighting & Rendering Supervisor

How and why did you get into 3D? 
When I was 15 years old, my parents bought a Mac which was amazing at the time because it could run Photoshop. I started doing tutorials from Computer Arts Magazine and in one issue there was free copy of the 3D app called Infini-D on a CD attached. I used it to make a bunch of 3D animations for fun in my spare time after school. I was hooked!

What’s your role within the team?
I'm a 3D Lead and the Lighting Supervisor for the NY office. So naturally I specialize in lighting. The scope of work we do is very diverse. We create creatures, environments, organic things, man-made things, fantastical things--in a variety of different styles, but mostly photo-real.

Who or what inspires you?
Cinematographers and photographers are great inspiration to me. A lot of what we do is trying to mimic the real world, so it's beneficial to learn how a scene is lit and composed on-set, in the real world. To learn how cameras are operated and how a set is dressed, what goes into making a shot. Our rendering is based on the real world so we try to apply the same techniques a Director of Photography would use. We have so much to learn from them.

One piece of advice to a budding 3D artist?
Be curious. Be attentive. Be patient. Seize opportunities. Criticize your own work with an objective eye, don't show something you're not happy with. Be a collaborator and be considerate of your fellow workmates or students. Work hard and make your work the best it can be. Go out of your comfort zone, problem solve and try something new. Even if you fail, you'll take away something from it.

An interesting fun fact about yourself.
On two separate occasions when traveling to the other side of the place, I've randomly bumped into friends on the street without a clue they were there. It truly is a small world!

Todd Akita
Todd Akita, photographed by Olivia Burke

Todd Akita, FX Supervisor

How and why did you get into 3D?
A studio-mate of mine was taking an Alias class at Parsons (for CAD modeling) and suggested that I give it a try. So I signed up for a summer course, taught myself how to use the animation module, and ended up teaching product design students how to set key frames and do product demos in CG.

What’s your role within the team?
Problem solving ability and observation are all really important skills for an FX artist (mostly we handle natural phenomena like smoke, fire, water, and destruction).  The learning never stops and there's always a different way to approach a given problem.  But a method that works well for one person might be poorly suited to another.  So I try to keep the flow of information moving so that everyone can continue to approach the task at hand from a fresh perspective, find the approach that works best for them, and most importantly - looks good.

Who or what inspires you?
I don't sail or do anything of the sort, but there's a fellow by the name of Nainoa Thompson who in the 80's revived the art of traditional Polynesian navigation. To me they are like the first astronauts, but with a lineage going back thousands of years.

One piece of advice to a budding 3D artist?
Take full responsibility for your education and don't limit your studies to your discipline of choice.  Having a broad and diverse skill set not only makes you a better collaborator, it can also help you transition between disciplines and improve the quality of your primary focus as well.

An interesting fun fact about yourself.
In high school I used to paint large aerosol mural and a bunch of friends and I got the backdrop for Public Enemy when they played Aloha Tower in Hawaii in '89. After that, I figured 'ok then, I'm done - it's all downhill from here.'

Joji Tsuruga
Joji Tsuruga, photographed by Olivia Burke

Joji Tsuruga, Realtime Supervisor

How and why did you get into 3D?
Toy Story had the biggest impact on my interest in 3D.  After watching it in theaters I was completely in awe. It taught me that in the world of 3D, the possibilities are limitless. You can make your dreams come true. I knew then 3D was something I wanted to do. 

What’s your role on the team?
In the 3D department, I am the Realtime Supervisor.  My role is to take all the knowledge I've gained from being a 3D Generalist and VFX Lead, and apply it to real time applications and new technologies including AR, VR and interactive installations.

Who or what inspires you?
Indie creators (artists, film-makers, game developers, etc.) are hugely inspiring.  Being unbound by conformity, some of the most unique and interesting experiences are created by these people.  It is especially motivating to see indie content reach huge successes, sometimes going above and beyond large business competitors.

One piece of advice to a budding 3D artist?
Try, try, try.  Don't be afraid not to specialize. Expose yourself to new aspects of 3D. Test out some new tools. It is exciting to use technology that is constantly evolving.

An interesting fun fact about yourself.
I have studied the art of using a Soroban (Japanese abacus) for over the 12 years, starting at the age of 5.

Cedric Menard
Cedric Menard, photographed by Olivia Burke

Cedric Menard, Digital Matte Painting Supervisor

How and why did you get into 3D?
During my Art Degree a friend of mine gave me a CD with a free demo of 3D Studio Max 4. I used it to start creating very simple characters. Back in those days there were very few tutorials so learning new techniques was very difficult than today. 

What’s your role on the team?
I am the Digital Matte Painting Supervisor, but I come from a CG background. I spend my days crafting digital matte paintings for projects that require them. Between projects, my main focus is training up other team members.

Who or what inspires you?
Whilst I was studying CG I saw images of Yannick Dusseau and Dilan Cole. Their work blew my mind and opened my eyes to a part of the industry that I didn't know existed. I started focusing more on matte painting and less on CG as I knew this was the perfect fit for me

One piece of advice to a budding 3D artist?
Passion is key and no one will hold your hand.

An interesting fun fact about yourself.
I love food more than anything on this planet.