Meet MAT Student Winner Guillaume Hecht passes by

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To coincide with the release of Meet MAT: The Art Book of the 3D Painting Contest, we recently had the pleasure of receiving the winner of the Student category of the Meet MAT competition, Guillaume Hecht. He passed by our office to pick up his copy of the book, and to tell us a little about what he’s been doing since Meet MAT.

To recap, can you tell us about your background and experience in 3D?

Hello! I’m Guillaume Hecht, currently Level Artist at Ubisoft Paris studio. Two years ago I was finishing my school course at Créajeux, where for 3 years I studied the basics of 2D and 3D applied to videogames. My work is mostly oriented towards environment art and props modeling.

What have you learned over the past two years? Have there been any surprises?

I’ve learned a lot during my time at Ubisoft. I had the opportunity to work on various environment themes, with a huge props library. As a level artist, I had to develop my ability to use and re-use objects in different ways (even weird ways, sometimes!) to present layouts I was in charge of. Being a part of an AAA team taught me a lot respecting technical, level design, and art constraints.

However, I’m still surprised by how many polygons we’re able to use nowadays in game engines, despite what I learned at school. Polygons will never be free, but I’m happy to have so much freedom in my work!

Apart from working for Ubisoft, I’ve tried to ‘stay in shape’ with modeling and texturing for the last two years during my spare time, for a few hours a week. I didn’t realize how much it takes to keep working on other projects in addition to my professional activities. I thought it would be easy, like it was during my studies. How wrong I was.

But I’m glad I still find the motivation to keep moving on my personal stuff, despite it taking way more time than I expected. It’s with this mindset that I came up with my first ‘real hardsurface’ practice, the P47 I made to learn and push my modeling skills in Maya, to learn more about clean baking in Substance Painter, and to practise texturing. The gun itself is based on a concept by Longque Chen, who allowed me to reproduce it in 3D. Huge thanks to him!

How has your art evolved over the last couple of years?

For the last two years, I’ve been trying to use one or two main references instead of a lot of images, where I focus more on ‘What does my reference make me feel? What is the atmosphere I want to convey?’ Then I push details as much as I can where necessary.

When I was a student, I barely had the time to push the details, because I was learning the software, trying to figure out the composition, and so on. Now that I have a solid workflow and a sharper eye, I have more time to push things and to clearly understand what works the most for me!

Have you implemented any changes to your workflow over the last couple of years?

Thanks to my time at Ubisoft, I’ve learned to iterate way more on my work, and even sometimes to let it rest and come back later with a new perspective. I saw how much my work was improving in quality if I iterated on it over several weeks rather than doing a ‘one shot’. Of course, it depends on the kind of project I’m working on, but working in this way gives my work a huge boost in terms of quality, if I have the time to do so.

Alongside this, when it comes to starting a new project, in addition to sketches I do what I call ‘3D sketches. Because my drawing/concept skills are a far cry from what I can do in 3D, I feel more comfortable shaping things directly in 3D software, and seeing what it looks like in a game engine when composing my scene.

I extrude, bend, twist and scale my models in all ways possible to have interesting shapes/proportions. Once I’m satisfied with what I come up with, I overpaint the model in Photoshop where I draw details and try to figure out how the object is supposed to work in a decent way. I’m not sure if it’s the right way to do things, but it works well for me and it gives me a lot of freedom. Most of the time I’m pretty sure I’ll have an original design!

Are you still using the Substance toolset?

Of course! Substance Painter and Designer are inherent to my workflow. However, I have a hard time keeping up to date with the latest features, but I can’t wait to finally finish my current personal project, and then take a month or two to follow a lot of tutorials to catch up on what I’ve missed! I know that the industry moves fast – really fast – and I won’t let myself get left behind.

What type of hardware and software do you typically use?

The traditional Painter/Designer with Photoshop, some ZBrush for the high-polys; Unreal Engine/Marmoset for my scenes or objects.

Concerning 3D softwares, I use 3DS Max at Ubisoft, and Maya at home. I must admit I have a huge preference for Maya!

Concerning my hardware, at home I have dual screens with a Cintiq Pro 13, and a rig with an i7, 16Gb of RAM and a GTX 960 along a Quadro M4000.

One of the things that really helps me with my work is saving my files on my cloud storage. That way, if I have the software and a good PC I can pretty much work anywhere. I did a lot of things during my lunch breaks at Ubisoft thanks to this! For example, in half an hour I can bake my models, do a quick Substance Painter session, or a material on Designer before going back to work.

Which projects are you most proud of?

Hard to say, I really enjoy looking back at what I’ve done despite all the mistakes I’ve made. I’m really happy with the hardsurface P47 I made because I managed to work on something I wasn’t comfortable with, and to come up with a good result, despite only being able to work on it during my free time while at Ubisoft.

Of course, I’m also proud of my MAT Substance Sheriff, and I still have a hard time realizing it’s now been two years since I made it! Time flies!

But the project I’m most proud of is yet to come. It’s the scene I’m currently working on at home. It has been in the pipeline for some time now, and it will need a few more months to be fully done, but I consider it to be a huge step in my art, and for myself personally. I faced a lot of issues with it, realizing I had flaws in how I approached my work, and managed my 3D practice at home. It made me recognize that I still had plenty of things to learn.

It’s a pleasure for me to finally show a first picture of it, as I wanted to wait for the right moment, and for sufficient visual quality. This Unreal scene is mostly inspired by the Dishonored and Gears of War franchises. The image is still a work in progress, so there are light issues and placeholders! Except for the Unreal bushes used for the foliage (which are a bit stretched out, to act as placeholders for trees – my apologies!) everything is my work!

Which 3D artists, or artists in general, do you really love?

I’ve seen a lot of great artists, but one that keeps inspiring me with colorful works and shapes is Tyler Smith. He has a really cool way to design his creatures and environment and as I said, has an awesome color palette!

Another artist with a colorful portfolio is Daniel Thigher; his materials are like a huge pile of candy, and his use of Substance Designer is outstanding. I’d like to thank him for sharing his experience with the ‘Substance Fundamentals’ tutorials he made. I will definitely do all of them once my work is done!

In your interview for the Meet MAT book, you mentioned that one of your career goals was to work on the Gears of War titles. Two years later, are you any closer to achieving that goal?

I hope so! I sincerely hope my upcoming scene mentioned above is a step in the right direction. I still wish to one day join the Gears journey. Anyway, I’m really hyped to see what they will show for the upcoming E3, because what they showed of Gears 5 last year was awesome!

However long it takes, I’ll keep working towards this goal!

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