An interview with Maxence Leret d'Aubigny

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Maxence Leret d’Aubigny (a.k.a. Ahurig on Sketchfab) is long-time user and passionnate 3D designer. He kindly accepted to take part in our interview series to present his work.

Could you introduce yourself to our readers: Who are you and where are you from?

Hey guys, I’m Maxence Leret d’Aubigny. I live in Paris, France. I’m a lot of thing in one guy! Co-Owner/Founder of Cinemi a creative studio, photographer, filmer, graphist, skateboarder, snowboarder

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Can you tell us about what aspects of 3D you specialize in?

I’m not clearly specialized. I love modeling a lot (all kind of stuff) but I also like texturing, animating… As soon as I open my 3D soft I’m happy.

How did you first get started in 3D? What attracted you to it as a career?

Wow that’s pretty far now. It all started one day in 2002 as my father brought me a french 3D magazine (PC Team hors série / october 2002) that was talking about Blender and how to create Buzz Lightyear. I already was a Toy Story fan so I had to try it. All I remember is my epic fail on the version 2.23 of Blender. It was hard to understand the concept of 3D when you were drawing in 2D for so many years. Then I kept trying to understand the way 3D was working and gather more and more knowledge.

I think I dreamed for a few years to integrate PIXAR as an animator. But without any specific academic knowledge it was toasted so I just abandoned this utopia and kept learning and training to reach the PIXAR render quality. So we can say that 3D itself did not attracted me. That was the high level 3D productions that motivated me. I was just running after that quality level. It inspired me a lot. Later I found out that 3D could be part of larger projects involving multi support pieces.

So basically I work on Blender since 2002 but I tested deeply or not some of the other famous softs. Like Max, C4D, Maya, Lighwave… Max is the 3D soft on which I have the more experience after Blender.

Do you have any academic training or are you self-taught?

The only “academic” knowledge I have is my drawing skills that my father (art teacher) did teach me. The rest of my skills are self-taught and are based on training, trying things and the most important, having fun.

How did you come across Sketchfab and how does it help you in your career?

If I remember well a friend of mine sent me a link to the french website 3DVF about an article. I can’t remember if the article was talking about Sketchfab or if I found a news about it in the related posts. Anyway that was the way Sketchfab entered my life.

It’s the tool I was dreaming for. Be able to show my models in real time, in every possible angle, with textures, env reflections, bump… HEAVEN! That’s the perfect tool for sharing your work with anyone.

With those who don’t understand 3D it helps to make them appreciate the work, and with those who love 3D it’s the perfect tool to spot details and enjoy models.

It also clearly can be included in an approval process where the client can judge and give feedbacks directly on the model. 

Time saving feature. We used it at Cinemi with one of our french client: Aëdle. 

Where do you usually get inspiration from?

Pretty much everywhere my eyes stop on. To be precise I get a lot of inspiration in gaming (Naughty Dogs Games, Katamari Universe…), galleries websites, trips, technologies (as the Augmented reality I used in the Chihiro project).

On a daily basis I visit few websites as abduzeedo.com, behance.net, deviantart.com, blendernation.com, etc.

I usually have too much ideas that pop on my mind so I really have to chose the more interesting one. 

Pixar’s films are a freaking amazing inspiration source too. So much details in it.

Tell us a little bit more about your creative process and how you go about starting a project?

It depends of the project. At Cinemi we love to maintain things organized. So we follow a step by step process.

We define a scope with the client to clearly understand what is the project goal. Quality, modeling, animation. All that kind of stuff. We define a planning and some stage gates to approve the content and keep going forward.

I usually begin by doing sketches (photoshop or drawings) then I translate it in 3D. Step by step we meet the final quality level.

I try to keep this organization in my personal projects. Scouting for assets, understanding the technical aspect (ie. for a Formula 1 project), organizing the steps (modeling, unwrapping, texturing, lighting, rendering)…

Usually a project starts by a motivation overfull. Then it’s like a TNT wick that can’t be turned off. 

Depending of the complexity a project can last few years. Sometimes I love get away of what I’m doing by starting another one (simpler) to step back. 

Of all your current pieces currently on Sketchfab, which one are you the most proud of and why?

I have actually 2 favorites pieces. I’m really proud of the F1 2000 High Poly.

Because it’s really accurate and it represent few years of hard work. And on another hand I’m proud of the Chihiro Scenery (embedded above question 7).

This one was a present for my father’s birthday and was a step forward in my exploration of the augmented reality.

The augmented reality was the old « Sketchfab » for me. It was the best way to share objects in an interactive way. Today Sketchfab do it without plugin/camera or marker. The perfect tool.

Can you tell us a bit more about your NES Icons series? (idea, process, length, etc.)

Now that’s a flashback! I remember that the idea came while I was dreaming to have a Mac with their beautiful icons. At this time I was new to deviantart and was really enjoying Dock Icons. I designed few ones before thinking that I should mix my 3D skill with photoshop post prod to produce shiny icons.

I remember that I was aiming to create a full set of icons for Windows. Files icon, system icons… Then I realized that it was too big so I decided to create doc icons. And eventually I ended up with a little set of big icons (512 was the new MacOSX standard).

I can’t say how much time it took me to be completed. Few months as I had other projects more important at this time. (I was working in a game dev team composed of internet people). 

The process was quite empirical at this time. I starred with the NES icon. Defined a lighting, a camera angle. I rendered it and worked it inside photoshop. When I thought it was good enough I just duplicated the blender source file dans then did the game pad and so on. One by one. 

Then I launched it on DeviantArt to know how would my work do compared to other artists. And it worked pretty well I have to say.

Sketchfab gave me the opportunity to present it in a more friendly way. That’s why I posted it on Behance recently.

And I promised a pack #2 few years ago (I never have time to work on it). It goes on slowly. But you can already see some elements on the Behance page (the zapper and the star) and on Sketchfab (embedded below).

I have one on the Duck chase game too. I changed a bit the philosophy in this second pack. I will include toys from the 80’s.

Stay tuned it will come… one day!

What would be your personal advice to someone getting started in 3D modeling, which software you’d recommend starting on?

That’s a nice question. I would recommend to use Blender because of the community and the growing curve of the soft. It constantly evolve to meet the market standard and it works pretty amazingly well. It’s simple and efficient. And it’s FREE. Can you believe that? 🙂

To get started I think the main thing is to continue to have fun making things. No need to become serious in 3D more than in drawing or painting… Find his own way to create what you’re aiming for. Before asking on forums, try buttons, experience failure to success. 

More seriously on the modeling side. Forget all you ever learn in drawing or 2D graphism. You are working in a vector world with a Z dimension. The more important thing is to simplify the shapes. The more you do it the easier it is to create a versatile mesh and then to had complexity to it. Don’t hesitate to draw (in volume) on a paper the shape you want to achieve. I do this all the time. That helps me to visualize how I will arrange my vertices. And cheat a lot. No need to model a complexe shape if the simple fact to superimpose it do the trick in the camera view. It saves time, cpu/gpu memory… and maybe you would get 15/30 min extra time to go skateboarding before sunset!

As a 3D designer what are your thoughts on 3D printing, have you planned to work with it?

3D printing is like the mix between Sketchfab and the Augmented reality. I was following it since the beginning but it recently grown faster than ever. It’s amazing. I tried it myself as a part of the Photoshop CC print feature beta test (thanks to Alban). I printed it via Shapeways. The result is way beyond what I expected.

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Having in my hand a model created from scratch on my computer is a fabulous feeling. 

On a personal side I would maybe use it to create presents. 

On a professional side we would love to work with 3D printing but it will depend of client strategy and budget. It remains a costly product (and more if you include the 3D work before the print). 

But that definitely something that amaze me!

Thanks again to Maxence for taking part in our interview series. Be sure to check out his Sketchfab profile!

Want more interviews ? Check out our last interview with Fatfish Animation. Here’s a link to our entire interview series.

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