The History Buff and the Mercedes Dash

Teaching modelling and sculpting at The Digital Animation and Visual Effects School in Orlando, Florida is my profession. Every twelve weeks, I start with 40+ students of all backgrounds showing them the world of 3D-Modelling.

Throughout the course, one of my favorite things is to see the variety in moments when and the reasons why students have their breakthrough, where the seemingly complex becomes suddenly clear. Even those who struggle, can be guided with understanding and supervision to that “a-ha” moment, knowing that eventually it will come.

From Frustration to Professionalism

And I should know. Remembering the first time I tried my hand at 3D modelling – there it was only a hobby. I just wanted to do some 3D work around a WW1 aircraft. A trial copy of MODO 301 was downloaded quickly, some videos were watched but in the end there was a complete frustration on my side. My conclusion: This is definitely NOT for me.

But apparently it is. I was happy to contribute with my work to the successful Project Dash, the collaboration between Mercedes-Benz and The Foundry to create the next generation User Inferface/User Experience interface for the in-car experience. Mercedes represents one of many of the global brands known for design and performance I had the honor to work for and with.

Video on Vimeo

Concept Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile

For the Project Dash my task was to recreate the car from CAD (computer-aided design) data into a usable mesh. In particular, my focus was mainly on the rear fins and the front slats of the car, which were quite challenging. It was a lot to do and I really had to nail the shape and form of the car.

Even though I was part of the Project Dash, the unveiling of it within the Mercedes-Benz show car „Concept IAA“ blew me away. When I saw the video I was amazed by the UI elements which were just perfect with the 3D elements of the car.

Strategy impacts design

Being a designer I love how the underlying strategy of Dash has the potential to impact the design process, both in terms of what it offers and how the industry closely watches Mercedes’ innovation. I can see you can do different iterations and animations of model. Dash allows the UI designers to add elements to their items.

If you have to model, rig, animate and render, it just takes time. Now, the speed of iterations are much quicker than what you could previously do. I’m excited to see how far Mercedes goes with it. People generally follow trends what companies like Mercedes do.

The love of history made me a 3D Artist

My way started with love of history and interest in models of planes and tanks. At that time I worked in the automotive industry. And I have to admit I was a bit bored. After my first failed attempt at 3D design, I gave it another go, watched tutorials, played and experimented. Finally I made the decision to commit to become a professional 3D Artist.

I realized that I needed a decision – Either stick with my current job or jump whole hog into 3D. I chose the latter. Since then, in addition to Mercedes, I had the joy to work with SkullCandy, Vitamix, 3D Artist Magazine, USMC, and various flight simulator creators and law firms.

Working with MARI

During modelling an M-4 Sherman Tank I wanted to add more texture on it. To do so i watched some videos for inspiration and found Justin Holt and his work with MARI on the movie Battleship. Really impressed I immediately downloaded the software and started to work with it.  Jack Greasley, head of new technology at The Foundry, was really impressed by my work and asked me to create some of the MARI training videos.

There isn´t just one way of doing it

Having achieved what I wanted as a self-starter I can now give instructions to others to help them find their way. You don´t have to go the same path I did – there is a variety of other options to become a 3D artist. Looking back I really wish I had a teacher or supervisor to support me.

Property of MBRDNA

There have been times when I’ve spent three to four hours working on something and it would have been helpful to have had someone to help me through the process.

Don’t limit yourself

Beside the specialization in visual effects or games, I always give my students the advice to remain open to any and all possibilities. Every student has to take my lecture and I make a conscious effort to not force them to choose between the two industries while in my class.

I hear students say ‘I want to go into either VFX or games’ and I think:

 Guys, that’s not the only direction you can go. Don’t limit yourself. There are more choices than just A or B.

And always be open to new opportunities. I hope that my trajectory shows that you shouldn’t set limits.

You can see more of Mike´s  work on his Homepage

He has a passion for all forms of modeling and texturing. He has worked on film, commercial and design projects. He enjoys working on anything from environment props to hero assets. Currently he is working as a modeling and sculpting instructor at The Digital Animation and Visual Effects school in Orlando, Florida.