The project: Abandoned City, was published on Artstation a few months ago. A personal project #MadeWithClarisse of such quality, made us want to reach out to the artist Pozong Huang to learn more about his methods and how he used Clarisse to create this ominous masterpiece.
Abandoned City - Pozong Huang
Hi Pozong! Could you please tell us a bit more about yourself and your VFX background?
Greetings! I'm a digital matte painter from Hsinchu, Taiwan. Drawing has been my favorite thing to do since childhood. I started to learn new techniques using online platforms while I studied an Animation and Game Design major, but also during leisure time while working in my first job. This really improved my drawing skills a lot. Then I discovered Digital Matte Painting.
I decided to go for a career in the VFX industry after finishing my first job. During a three month digital matte painting and Texture training course at CGCG inc. I learned about how an actual 3D pipeline works and also met a group of friends who are very passionate about the VFX industry. After passing the final test, I became the digital matte painter at CGCG, now four years ago.
Destroyed City (detail) - Pozong Huang
How did you first hear about Clarisse?
CGCG collaborated with BaseFX for a movie project called Monster Hunt 2 last year. During this period of time we discussed about techniques and pipeline with BaseFX in order to achieve the best possible result for the project. I also heard from my supervisor that BaseFx used Clarisse iFX for most of the environment and matte painting work. Soon after that I started to learn Clarisse.
How would you describe Clarisse to someone who doesn’t know about it?
Clarisse is very useful when dealing with complex scenes. The way it manages geometry, lighting and AOVs makes it so much easier to create big cities or other environments. Not to mention its data management and fast speed of the render preview, all of which combine to provide the user with a very smooth and efficient workflow.
What did you find the most surprising when you started using Clarisse?
I was using a I5-6600 processor while doing this work, but the workflow was still very fluid! Very impressive.
How smooth was it integrating Clarisse into your workflow? What’s the learning curve like?
Even with the slow processor, I was able to finish this complex scene, my first in Clarisse! I learned about and used the point cloud and scattering tools for the city. At first, I was learning Clarisse after work. Using techniques I have learned for this series of personal work, helps me to maintain the knowledge as well.
What resources did you use to learn Clarisse? Did you use the online tutorials, did you get help from another artist?
I learned Clarisse in two different ways. In the beginning, I was checking on the Isotropix website for the tutorials, which have a clear guidance for beginners to understand how Clarisse works. It was also very interesting to see how the other VFX companies or studios are using Clarisse in their pipeline, through the customer stories.
Later on I bought the tutorial made by QinYao, who is working as a Digital Environment Supervisor at BaseFX, because I wanted to know more about the software especially for environment and digital matte painting work. In his class I obtained the necessary techniques and working experience.
Destroyed City (detail) - Pozong Huang
This project looks like it comes straight out of a high-end Hollywood disaster movie, what were your main sources of inspiration?
It was actually an advice from a good friend. We were inspired by the mayor of KaoHsiung (City in Taiwan, ed.) because of some of his statements which we disagree with. Some of his election slogans are weird and hard to accept for young people, such as: ‘Love the Ferris Wheel’ and ‘Conquer the Universe’ etc.
So I decided to make this project background based on the city of KaoHsiung. I put in some real life elements that people can recognize, such as the Giant Ferris Wheel, the Love River and the No. 85 building. However, the city is destroyed because they fail to take over the universe.
The goal was to create a 100% photorealistic scene, exactly like in the high-end disaster movies, to make this point.
Abandoned City (detail) - Pozong Huang
There’s a lot of different layers of meaning then! What are the main challenges you faced when beginning this project?
I had no experience of making scenes in such a large scale either at my job or in my personal work. I would say that because of this it was challenging throughout, from the first step of the texture work to the final step in Photoshop, but that’s also one of the reasons it was a lot of fun!
How did Clarisse help you build this scene and make these images?
The standard shader in Clarisse is the same as the Arnold shader in Maya, which helped me to quickly start doing lookdev work for this scene. Throughout the process I was continually using the 3D view and Clarisse’s fast render preview to adjust the layout. It enabled me to work artistically by getting instant feedback.
Clarisse’s very powerful scattering feature, as I mentioned before, is also very handy for creating this type of large scale scenes that contain repeated elements, but still contains enough variation. The other features of Clarisse help a lot such as the ease of the lighting set-up, the HDRI and camera settings, and of course the render and AOV settings.
Abandoned City render passes - Pozong Huang
What other software did you use, how easy was it to use it alongside Clarisse?
I mainly used Maya and SpeedTree along with Clarisse iFX. I'm familiar with Arnold from my previous job experience, so it was easy to work with the standard shader in Clarisse and to make a bunch of damaged textures right at the start. I also created some custom trees in SpeedTree and used them in Clarisse.
What type of hardware did you use?
This entire project was done on my old computer, which has a I5-6600-4 core with 16 G RAM and NVIDIA GTX970.
I felt that the overall speed of the workflow was good but I still ended up upgrading to a modern machine based on AMD 3900X 12 core and 32G RAM to get more speed at the end of the process.
Abandoned City (detail) - Pozong Huang
What do you think of Clarisse’s evolution so far, how do you see it evolving in the future?
I started using Clarisse not too long ago, but I know that it has already added many new features since, with more to come. So far, the integration with other softwares of Clarisse has been very good, especially the data management part. The future of this software will be very exciting for sure!
What feature would you like to see implemented in Clarisse the most? What do you feel is still missing from the package?
Maybe a built-in function of several types of scattering features would be handy. A node that could create different types of vine systems, or physical lights etc. Personally, I think a quick accessible adjustment of environment light is an advantage when making a large scale scene.
What personal project(s) are you currently working on?
I have recently finished an entry for the Kitbash3D Post-Apocalyptic challenge. Next up I would love to create a huge historical city environment in Clarisse!
Post-Apocalyptic City in Ruins (Kitbash3D contest) - Pozong Huang
What would you consider to be your dream project?
I'm interested in historic buildings, especially Chinese architecture. Maybe it is because of the martial arts novels I read when I was young. I want to join a historical type movie project if possible.
Any tips for aspiring Matte Painters or Concept Artists picking up Clarisse Today?
I recommend Clarisse if your work contains huge amount of data such as countless models because it’s fast and doesn’t need a lot of memory. I chose it for its CPU render rather than GPU, which is more expensive, and of course for the better workflow with a faster rendering engine as well. I’m very satisfied with the performance! You can really feel the difference when dealing with an above average complex scene.
Thanks a lot!
Note to all readers: Make sure to have a look at the breakdown of the project (that moment when the spaceship arrives!!!)
Get to know Pozong: