This article is based on an interview with the 3D artist Christian Hecker from Germany. He explains how to create science-fiction and space images using 3D tools like Vue, World Machine or DAZ Studio.
Hi, my name is Christian Hecker and I’m from Nuremberg, Germany. If you’re looking for me you might have an easier time finding me by searching for the name ‘Tigaer’. I’m a huge fan of the Scifi/Fantasy genre which is the main (but not limited to) field I work in as a freelancer. There I’m open for all kinds of work/jobs coming from that huge field that goes under the name Entertainment Industry.
I started my journey into digital imaging in 2001. While Photoshop will always be one of my main tools, I started to look into other stuff as well. I always was a big fan of matte paintings in movies and these inspired me to try out tools that would help me create huge landscape vistas myself. Since I never went to a school for graphic design or similar things, I learned it all myself and made some slow progress. Around 2007 it became more serious and I landed my first commissions.
Over the last couple of years I nailed down my arsenal of tools with Photoshop, Vue, World Machine, Geoglyph, Plant Factory, Cinema 4d, Lightroom and DAZ3d Studio. Most of these tools are 3d tools and that comes from the fact that I always (pretty much every time) try to create a 3d plate of a scene before I go into Photoshop to refine it. It gives me the most flexibility and helps with getting perspective and light in the scene right.
The main tool here is Vue by Eon Software. It’s a tool for creating rich environments and landscapes. So, in my eyes, a perfect tool for digital matte painting. It is used by the biggest VFX studios around and it does indeed a fantastic job, especially with open landscapes.
I used it for close up scenes, such as rooms and nature scenes, as well and am quite happy with the results I got. While Vue itself has a fantastic terrain creator built in, I more often than not tend to go for World Machine (WM) when I need a nice natural looking midground or background terrain. While Vue and its procedural terrains (or by using the hyper-terrain technique) can work really nice for foreground elements. So Vue and WM go hand in hand. Unfortunately Vue’s renderer isn’t the fastest one but everything comes for a price and I can live with it.
My Endeavours series started in 2011 for a topic for a themed art collection by The Luminarium. It’s a collective I’m part of. It brings together artists working in all kinds of fields. The topic back then was ‘Sequential’. So, ideally a series of connected images. That’s at least how I tackled it. At that point I, for a while, wanted to do a series of pics that progress and read much like a comic. So I took that chance and got rewarded with some really nice pics and subsequent very positive feedback. Especially one picture (Leaving The Fields Of Steel) got features on numerous websites, magazins and books.
The story of the series is rather simple and probably as old as mankind itself. It’s about someone who leaves everything behind and goes somewhere else to start over again. In my story there is a reason for him to leave though. He doesn’t regret it and is happy to finally leave that megacity behind. We follow him boarding a ship that builds the main protagonist for the most part of the series so far. With every entry to the series I write three or four lines of what our passanger is thinking. Trying to build a more personal connection with the viewer.
Technically this series is very experimental. Its look or style is not completely consistent throughout, since I devided the series into hero and transition pictures. The hero pictures get some extra love while the transition pictures are meant to be done fairly quickly with a more concept arty look to them. At least in the first part of the series. In part two (which I’m currently releasing bit by bit) I can say that almost every picture is a hero picture. Although their style can differ from pic to pic as well. That’s mainly the result of me playing around with new techniques and having fun. All the entries in the series are done with Vue & Photoshop as the main tools. But it’s safe to say that pretty much every tool in my arsenal found its way into the series in one way or another.
Am I happy with all the picture in the series so far? No, certainly not. But for the most part I’m quite satisfied with what I was able to do and no picture is wasted. You can take away and learn something even from the works you’re not entirely happy with.