Is it a contradiction to love the great outdoors and be a 3D artist spending most of his time in front of a screen? Not if you look at Aron Kamolz’ work.
Without feeling the need to use the limitlessness of digital creation and exaggerate nature’s features, he makes recognizably beautiful scenes of waving grass, tranquil creeks and majestic mountains.
In this interview we look at his work and his creative process, but also how he leverages Clarisse to make these little gems of digital landscapes.
Nordic Vista - Aron Kamolz
Hi Aron! Could you please tell us a bit about yourself and your 3D/VFX background?
Hi, my name is Aron and I’m a 3D Artist based in Germany. I have an architectural background and work in both worlds, as an Architect and as a freelance 3D Artist. I’ve always had a passion for nature and cg and wanted to combine that and during my architectural studies I had the opportunity to do that. At that time I worked on a project where I had to scatter a lot of vegetation and I found a software called Vue, which did exactly what I needed.
After that I searched for everything I could find about digital landscape creation. My goal was to learn everything I needed to know to make my own content, like terrains, plants, rocks, and all the other things that contribute to building a believable landscape. So step by step I learned all the necessary software to do so. Since then I have worked on different projects like plant modelling/content creation for advertising and architectural agencies, artwork commissions for internet/print media but also software testing.
How did you first hear about Clarisse?
It was through a review of version 3.0 on 3D World, that I first heard I heard about Clarisse and I remember that it got 10 out of 10 points in the review, which I thought was very impressive.
How would you describe Clarisse to someone who doesn’t know about it?
Clarisse is a 3d compositing software where you bring in your assets to texture, compose, lit and render them and all of this in a very efficient workflow, thanks to its modern architecture.
What did you find the most surprising when you started using Clarisse? What did you like the most when first trying the software ?
I was totally blown away by the speed of this software in terms of loading heavy objects and how amazing the viewport looks and how fast it is in general. The scattering system, it's so flexible I can even scatter a scatter and if I want to, I can scatter those again. All the while it stays super fast and responsive.
What I like even more is that it always renders on the fly. No need to wait untill the render starts, which was always the case with heavy scenes in the other softwares I worked with. That makes working on big landscapes pretty straight foward and allows you to spend more time just being creative.
How smooth was it integrating Clarisse into your workflow? What’s the learning curve like?
For me the start was a bit bumpy because I was used to software more specialized in landscape design where a lot of things were already set up for me. Since Clarisse is more geared towards a general tool for set-design, I have had to build things like a scatter-setup myself with the built in node-system. But once you have figured out how it works, it's easy and you can achieve great results very quickly.
What resources did you use to learn Clarisse? Does it help that you can have a watermark free render straight out of the free PLE (personal learning edition)?
I only used the tutorials and the forum on the Isotropix website to learn Clarisse. Lots of useful information can already be found there. When I first looked at the website (back when version 3.0 was out) there weren’t that many tutorials to find, but since then a lot of great tutorials have been added.
That you can save up to 3 watermark free renders a day is such a great gesture from Isotropix and shows how much respect they have for us artists! As nice as it is to have a PLE version to learn a software I find it a bit frustrating to have a watermark over a render, even if it is for learning purposes. It's great and a motivation to show your colleagues and followers a watermark free render after a learning session.
Rivers - Aron Kamolz
You are clearly a nature lover, but how do you get inspiration for your works? Is it from seeing a landscape while travelling or can a simple picture be enough?
As you stated I'm a nature lover, but I don't need to be outside to get inspiration. A simple picture can be enough or just pure imagination. I think I have seen so many places on pictures, documentaries or in real life, that I can arrange a lot of compositions just from these memories in my head.
What’s the most important to you, photorealism or aesthetic quality?
Well, both are important to me and I try to always achieve a harmony between the two in my work. Aesthetic quality comes first though and I try to make it more photorealistic from there, which isn’t always easy I admit.
How is Clarisse helping you making these images? What features help the most?
With Clarisse I can set up scenes a lot faster than in other packages. Since polycount doesn't really matter with Clarisse, I can bring in high-res models/sculpts without further tweaking them and thanks to tri-planar mapping, I don't need UV's most of the time. I can easily change things in heavy scenes without having to wait like I was used to before. For example, I can change the sun’s angle on a scene with trillions of polys and it still renders on the fly!
German Landscape Study - Aron Kamolz
Are there any (landscape) artists, digital or other, that you admire?
When it comes to traditional painting I can say that I'm a big fan of Peder Mørk Mønsted who was a Danish landscape painter. When it comes to digital art there are many artists I admire, too many to mention here ;)
What other software do you use and how easy is it to integrate them with Clarisse, bringing in assets, going back and forth etc?
I use Plant Factory and SpeedTree for vegetation assets, both can be easily integrated into Clarisse. For terrain generation I use Gaea, World Creator, Houdini and World Machine where the integration via heightmaps or models works flawlessly. Besides that I use Vue, 3D Coat and others. So far I have had no problems to integrate their output into Clarisse.
Alpine Landscape - Aron Kamolz
How fast do you feel Clarisse is evolving? Is it getting better for concept artists?
I think it's evolving pretty fast, the improvements from 3.6 to 4.0 are great, so yes I think it's getting better for concept artists with every new release.
Which feature(s) would you like to see implemented in Clarisse?
I would like to have a physical sky implemented with settings for fog/haze, also with latitude and longitude and daytime settings. This would also be a nice feature for archviz people. I'm not talking about clouds as this would be too specific for a software like Clarisse and with Houdini and others there are great solutions out there to build cool looking clouds that you can bake to VDB's and bring them into Clarisse.
Misty Mountains (Clarisse iFX 3D Viewport) - Aron Kamolz
What project, personal or professional, are you currently working on?
Currently I have no professional CG related projects besides my architectural work, I use my free time to work on new plants that I want to sell and to learn new things, like Photogrammetry.
What would you consider a dream project?
Working as an environment artist on a film that has a strong focus on natural environments like Avatar would be awesome.
What advice would you give to someone picking up Clarisse to create a natural environment Today?
Forget the workflow you are used to from other software packages, where you were restricted to hide most of your environment via layers due to performance issues. With Clarisse you can work on the whole scene from start to finish without any drawbacks. No need to work with placeholder objects because of the viewport performance.
Another advice I can give you is that besides realistic assets, a good lighting setup is the key to a believable environment. I illuminate my scenes with an environment light (with or without environment texture) a distant light to simulate the sun and a volume box for simulating haze in atmosphere.
THANKS A LOT!
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) - Aron Kamolz
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