All Roads Lead to Design: Featured Tutor Update with Stas Poritskiy
Stas Poritskiy, digital artist turned technical director, is always looking for his next learning opportunity. His pursuits have led him to film, industrial design and even gaming. We caught up with him to get a glimpse of what it's like to be a TD, his thoughts on visualization trends and how artists can stay competitive.
Digital-Tutors: In February, we interviewed you for our Featured Tutor Series. A lot has happened since then! What are you currently working on?
Stas Poritskiy: Thank you for getting back in touch with me. It's true. A lot has taken place since our last talk. I have moved up into my Technical Director position and have been focused a lot on programming. Unfortunately, I can't say exactly what I am doing, but I think a few words won't hurt anyone! I am working with Adobe on developing a publishing tool to allow our company's clients to easily manage and publish images of the products on their websites, which we also developed. It involves a lot of programming. I'm working with a great team of tech-artists and leads, and so far it has been launched in a beta testing stage.
Digital-Tutors: How has becoming a Technical Director broadened your ability to design?
This position has introduced me to a lot of what happens on the inside of product design from the client's point of view. So, not only solving and working with technical stuff but also consulting with clients on requirements, explaining technical terms and even trying to translate the client's needs to the artists.
As Technical Director though, I'm focused a lot more on the design process instead of making an image. These responsibilities include workflow design, optimization and proposals to enable faster turnaround. I haven't had much experience designing applications or tools before but over the past year I've gotten a good sense of what it's all about.
Digital-Tutors: What is a typical day for you?
Like most people that spend a lot of time in front of a computer, I start with a cup of coffee. My day is full of meetings when we have a client in-house or, for instance, when Autodesk and NextLimit teams come to introduce us to some of the newest features of their unreleased products or ideas. Otherwise, it's researching and prototyping, handling effects for a project, troubleshooting rendering and modeling problems, optimizing geometry or reducing render time. My most favorite task is pipeline work though because it involves interacting with all stages of production, starting with a "cold call" to a client.
Digital-Tutors: What is the greatest difference between industrial design visualization and other industries you have experienced with?
The core difference is the cleanliness of the shot or model. Working on a movie effect, model or game art usually requires you to focus on fluent integration with the environment or create either a real or artificial environment, requiring lighting, texturing, shading, etc., to create "weathered" conditions.
However, in product design things must be perfect - ideal. There will never be dramatic lighting to invoke emotion. Anything surrounding the product has to be new or, if it's an older asset, it has to "age" in a controllable way. I often figure out ways to create simulations, usually fluid, that behave in an idealized way with the client saying, "Please, no extra. Just do what it does."
Digital-Tutors: What are some trends that you see happening in industrial design visualization?' Is there any specific technology or trend that you are excited about that will change the way you design?
Today, product manufacturers can request CAD/engineering files from their development departments and provide visual studios with very accurate and highly detailed models where only the geometry needs to be polished to make an efficient render or effect.
Our studio is seeing customers not only wanting to show what their product looks like but how it functions as well. They want to show the airflow and showcase mechanical components performing cycles. This greatly impacts production. An artist today must not only understand the concept of a beauty-render, but also have a decent understanding of engineering and mechanics.
Digital-Tutors: In your free time, are you continuing to focus on VFX? If not, what? Where have you found your greatest learning experience in that area?
My free time is dedicated to programming and exploring the VFX industry. Most of the tools that I come across do very similar things with some more effective than others, but in general gravity is gravity regardless of the application. My learning research usually starts with trying to see what are the possibilities of the application I am interested in. What kind of community and support does it have? These are fundamental elements.
Digital-Tutors: Are there any other areas of study you are working on? What sparked your interest?
At the moment I am talking to a few game companies about a professional position, rather than freelance. The game industry has evolved a lot and I always keep an eye on it. Many of my friends are working in the game field, often reaching out asking questions about modeling, texturing or programming. This is the main reason why I decided to give it a shot. Being partially involved is great, but oftentimes I get an idea for doing something a particular way and really want to try it.
Digital-Tutors: You obviously have a thirst for learning new things! What could you share with those watching your courses to inspire them to learn with the same voracity as you do?
I look at my professional development as a stairway, where each step means one new set of knowledge on the shelf. If you want to get further up and dive deeper in an industry, make more connections and work on different projects. Naturally, you have to have a new skill or tool at your disposal - the main force behind constantly learning and researching.
This is why I decided to try teaching. In my opinion, teaching is a great way to learn more and prove to myself that I know a particular area. I also get inspired watching other artists share their skills through teaching. I find new methods, make them more effective and share them with other artists. The chain goes on and on.
Digital-Tutors: With so many areas of experience, what was your favorite project?
This is a pretty tough one to answer, actually. I have been part of many projects for profit and not-for-profit. All are very fresh in my memory because each was unique and allowed me to explore my capabilities. If I had to choose one, it would be working on a pilot episode of L5.
I had a great time working with the entire team as Technical Director, responsible for managing two teams of artists, rendering pipeline, merging assets into new or existing environments, modeling, fixing problems with scenes and creating scripts to automate tasks. I also worked with render management and configuration and assisted with tracking on several shots.
Digital-Tutors: Is there anything else you would like to share?
I would like to thank Digital Tutors for their interest in my development. I hope the lessons I make help other artists as much as they help me. We all learn from each other. I look forward to making more lessons in the future as I learn and explore this world of CG. Thank you!
If you would like to know more about Stas check out his exclusive interview and LinkedIn profile, along with all of his courses on Digital-Tutors.