Artist Focus - Marcel Schulz

SEARCH
Tutorials Press Center Join Isotropix Community Buy Clarisse iFX
Customer Stories
October 26th, 2022

After introducing Clarisse into his workflow just months ago, Marcel Schulz is already a fan-favorite in the community. Known for his industrial and automotive renders, Schulz has a knack for creating high-energy car scenes in Clarisse. So buckle up and get ready to learn more about why he incorporated Clarisse into his workflow alongside Blender, Houdini, Quixel Megascans and Substance 3D Painter, and how it has helped speed up his creative process.

 STAR CITIZEN VULTURE FAN WORK - Marcel Schulz

AE86 vs RX7 - Marcel Schulz

HYUNDAI N VISION 74 - Marcel Schulz

INITIAL D DRIFTING - Marcel Schulz

Hi Marcel! Thanks for sharing your experience of using Clarisse and talking us through your workflow on some of our favorite projects of yours. Let’s get started!

Can you tell us about your background in VFX?

I actually started when I was 12 years old, photo bashing some artwork for my favorite games to use as a wallpaper, and decided then that I wanted to be a 2D artist. When I started my apprenticeship at “eder GmbH” in 2017, which had a 3D department, my eyes were opened to so much cool stuff. So, I decided to learn Maya in my spare time. And after my first project, I had the opportunity to complete my remaining apprenticeship at the 3D department. 

After 2 years, I finished training and moved into the R&D Unreal Engine department. Now I'm a CGI and Unreal Supervisor for high fidelity (mainly) Automotive renderings and Real-Time configurators. But nonetheless, I never lost my passion for creating my own art in my free time, learning new workflows and softwares, and growing as an artist.  

Can you describe the type of work you do? And is there a difference between what you work on professionally vs. personally?

Definitely! While in my professional environment, the main goal is a clean and beautiful product for advertising. In my spare time, I want to create a mood or feeling. It's not about a product, it's about an emotion.

LAST RESORT - Marcel Schulz

How were you first introduced to Clarisse? And what made you decide to adopt it?

A colleague of mine, Bianca, once told me about a software which could easily handle almost an infinite amount of polygons and details. So, I looked at Clarisse iFX and after a bit of research, I felt like I had found the program I’d always wanted. 

Since starting 3D in 2017, I always hated the fact that I had to optimize scenes for my camera frustum and/or use a proxy. With Clarisse I just love the idea that I can create a “living” environment. Where I can use all my models, details, and textures in the highest possible detail to create the world, instead of optimizing assets and baking objects further away from the camera.

How would you describe Clarisse to someone who hasn’t used it?

I usually describe it as an enormously huge, almost limitless playground for 3D artists, to place your assets, lights and all the effects you need.

How did you find the learning curve of Clarisse? Was integrating it into your workflow a smooth process?

Since I use Maya and Unreal frequently, Clarisse felt like the best of both worlds. It behaves exactly as an artist would expect, without hindering you with a lot of technical details. This helps you focus more on the artistic side of 3D rendering instead of the need to find workarounds and solutions for problems.

What resources did you use to help you learn Clarisse?

I used the “Beginner's Journey with Clarisse 5” tutorial series, which I think is one of the best series I’ve ever watched. It was short enough that it didn't feel like a huge amount of work and it was complete enough for me to have a basic understanding of things. After that, I felt like I could “stand” on my own and begin my own work. 

AE86 vs RX7 - Marcel Schulz

You have quite the passion for creating stunning CG scenes with moving vehicles. Obviously this is inspired by Initial D! Can you describe your workflow, with Clarisse and other packages, for creating your AE86 vs RX7 image?

Sure! Usually I already have a picture in my mind and, as you said, it's inspired by Initial D. I'm a huge fan of the series and have a passion for the 80s, 90s JDM scene. So, I gathered some references of the real race track which was used as inspiration for Initial D, as well as the actual race track from the series, plus some games.

I then used lidar data from the real mountain as a base and blocked out the way the street matched the anime and games. I then adjusted the mountain in Zbrush according to the way the street was, which left me with an approximately 2km long serpentine road.

OVERVIEW ALL - Marcel Schulz

The AE86 is an older project of mine which I modeled in Blender over the course of a week. For modeling car parts, I love to use shrinkwrap and other techniques to guarantee a smooth surface, which is extremely important for cars. For this specific picture, I had to model a Mazda RX7 too, which I hadn't at this point. After animating both cars for the whole 2km long street, I exported both as a separate Alembic cache, as well as the street, and transferred the mountain as a displacement map.

KOPIE - Marcel Schulz

The detail in ‘AE86 vs RX7’ is impeccable. From the lighting and shadow placement, to the sense of movement, and the miniscule characteristics given to each car in terms of steering angle and lean, they really look like they are drifting. You also nailed the roadside environment, I especially like the street sign in the foreground! How was Clarisse used to bring this entire scene together? 

I had been trying to create this kind of scene for a long time, but in every software I used I had some trouble, especially since my home computer isn't as strong a workstation as I have at my workplace. So, I either needed to highly optimize it with a proxy or split it into dozens of small shots. I disliked this option because I wanted to have the whole racetrack so that I could render from wherever I wanted, and change my camera, lighting, and car position without having to worry if my environment is detailed enough when I change anything.

Using Clarisse I was able to avoid this. I started to work from the big main parts down to the small parts, like pebbles and leaves on the side of the road. I love the way I could use procedural or manual generated masks to control the point clouds and create my lush grass with flowers, sticks, stones, branches, and dead leaves. Once the ground was done, I was surprised at how easy it was to achieve what I wanted without creating bigger issues. After a bit of tweaking my environment, with cliffs, trees, and street signs, I was happy with what I had. 

At the end, I did the lighting and found the composition I wanted. Although I think this environment is still not done. I’ll probably come back to it again and expand it with more accurate streets, just like in the anime or in the iconic scenes, like the meeting place at the top of the mountain.

STAR CITIZEN VULTURE FAN WORK - Marcel Schulz

‘Star Citizen Vulture Fan Artwork’ is a switch up from your usual car themed projects, and it highlights your ability to perfect multiple styles. This is a stunning render, and we are huge fans of the fan art! Can you walk us through your workflow in this piece?

To be honest, it all started with the thought, ‘What can I create that would reach the limit of Clarisse on my machine?’ and so I thought of a fun way to test it. I decided to create a Planet Ring out of real asteroids, instead of relying only on a texture. To do this, I created a little tool in Houdini to make an endless variety of random asteroids which I exported as Alembic files.

The next step was to create a planet and the ring. I started with the rings, where I used a disc to scatter the points to, and a painted texture for controlling the point cloud. I noticed I probably wouldn't get the desired result with only one point cloud, since I had memory issues creating such a big point cloud. In the end, I decided to create 4-5 different point clouds which then were fed into a scatterer for my asteroids. This scatterer was put inside a combiner, which I duplicated quite often, playing with rotation and position, and repeated that process for all my point clouds. Resulting in a poly count way beyond 100 quadrillion!

I controlled the texture on my asteroids with an instance color node. My desired color was applied according to which position they were in. The only thing left to do was to create a local volume around my asteroids to simulate the very small debris and dust flying in between them.

STAR CITIZEN VULTURE FAN WORK, IN PROGRESS - Marcel Schulz

There are too many details in this piece to pick a favorite. From the meteor shower in place around the ship, to the industrial elements of ‘The Vulture’, and the celestial skyscape behind it all. Which elements in this project did Clarisse prove to be most helpful on?

Clarisse's ability to handle and nest instances, as well as the scatterer and the combiner, gave me the ability to create the Planet Ring the way I wanted to. Without that, I think it would almost be impossible to create such an extremely high-level of detail.

STAR CITIZEN VULTURE FAN WORK, IN PROGRESS - Marcel Schulz

We notice you consistently use Blender and Substance 3D Painter alongside Clarisse when creating these scenes. Can you tell us a bit about this workflow, and what you do with each package? 

Blender is my go-to software whenever it comes to stuff like data prep or asset creation. The incredible modeling toolkit is a life and time saver in most cases. I love to model every hard surface hero object of my projects in Blender. And the Blender export as Alembics or OBJs has worked perfectly so far, without having any problems.

As a Photoshop enthusiast, I always felt comfortable with Substance 3D Painter. Although I don't always use it, as it’s an extra step which isn't always needed. If an asset works perfectly fine with some procedural masks, tiling maps and imperfection maps, I won’t use Painter. Which is usually the way for my car scenes. However some objects need some more precise painting of specific properties like rust and rain wear on specific parts. In this case, I love to create UDIM’s on my object and paint it in Painter. Since Clarisse supports UDIM without any problems, this has greatly sped up the setup of materials and makes updates to my textures much faster.

THE FIGHTER - Marcel Schulz

How do you find the interoperability of Clarisse with these other softwares, and any others that you commonly use? 

The best interoperability I had so far for Clarisse is with Houdini and Blender, since both exports could be easily transferred to Clarisse. Therefore I can read all my Houdini and Blender attributes in Clarisse without any struggle, which helps a lot!

HYUNDAI N VISION 74 - Marcel Schulz

We’re bringing it back to some of your classic stylings with ‘Hyundai N Vision 74’. This is one of your earlier projects made with Clarisse. How did you find working in Clarisse for the first time?

At first, I had to get used to stuff like context and how I wanted to use the internal system for my purposes. But once I found a way, it always felt like a logical and fluid way of working, which has accelerated my workflow.

The work in this piece is clean, smooth and slick. You can almost feel the car coming at you from the image. The sense of movement between the road and the Hyundai has been perfectly created. Can you tell us how you achieved this? 

A colleague of mine was working on a procedural car rig in Houdini, which I tested and used for this car. The road and landscape is also an iteration of my AE86 environment, with some slight adjustments. I then did 3-4 previz renders to figure out my favorite motion blur, one which gives enough impression of speed without blurring everything else.

HYUNDAI N VISION 74, IN PROGRESS - Marcel Schulz

Another impressive detail worth noting is the overall render quality of the Vision 74. The car looks great with nice reflections of the guardrail on the side. How did you find doing automotive look development in Clarisse?

Car materials in the automotive industry are a science of their own. The paint materials are a big part of it and sometimes it can be extremely huge and complex depending on the look you want to achieve. The seamless integration of OSL helped a lot with some effects like spider web scratches. And industry standard shaders like Autodesk Standard Surface or Disney Principle helped to transfer the knowledge of previous materials over to Clarisse.

HYUNDAI N VISION 74, IN PROGRESS - Marcel Schulz

Do you have any particular features that you would like to see implemented in Clarisse in the future?

My most wanted wish is a feature which is already approved in the feature tracker. It is the blending of materials between different objects. I love the idea of placing small objects which haven’t had a connection before together and using Material Blending to create a realistic and believable world where conditions like weather affect all of the objects the same. It  would greatly speed up your environment workflow too. For example, if cliffs and rocks blend with the environment in a believable manner. Also, I am extremely excited for Angie and can't wait to create something with it!

What project, personal or professional, is up next?

Right now, I'm working on my first animation in Clarisse, which will be a recreation of the space battle over Scarif from Star Wars Rogue One with focus on high fidelity.

What advice can you give to aspiring VFX artists who want to take their personal and professional work to the next level?

I think the best advice I ever received was to look at 3D like it’s a good road trip. It's not about the destination. It's about the experience and knowledge you gather on your way to your goal.

Thank you Marcel! We’ve had a blast getting the inside scoop on how you use Clarisse to create such awesome auto-art. For all you aspiring artists out there, keep your eyes on the road, and check out Marcel’s upcoming work for more inspiration! Here’s a sneak peak at some of his next projects.

Check out Marcel’s work: ArtStation, LinkedIn, Instagram