Substance Designer: Jonathan Benainous is (desert) rocking it!

Vincent Gault on December 5 2017 | Substance Designer, Stories, Tutorials, Game, Film/VFX

It’s not the first time we’ve had the chance to talk to Jonathan, as we ran our first user story about him almost 2 years ago. But his latest Substance Designer creation "Desert Rocks" was so good that we had first to mentally process it, then to decide what we to do with it.

Thankfully, the stars aligned: just as we’ve launched a PDF tutorial feature on Substance Academy that lets you download text versions of tutorials, why not make a jaw-dropping how-to with Jonathan’s latest work? I’m pretty confident you won’t see any objections…

Hey Jonathan, glad to talk to you again! It seems you’re writing us from a different continent since the last interview. Could you give us an update about what’s going on?

Yeah, sure! Last time we talked, I was freshly arrived from Amsterdam, after a year working on Horizon Zero Dawn at Guerrilla Games.

I then spent more than two years on the production of Ghost Recon: Wildlands at Ubisoft Paris as Senior Environment Artist. After shipping the game, most of my time was focused on R&D for the Texturing department and experimentation.

At this time, I've been contacted by Ubisoft Quebec for a full-time Texture Artist position, and after thoughtful consideration, I decided to sign with them and once again to go working abroad.

So today, I'm answering from Canada, and this is how it happened.

You have been one of our core users for quite a long time. From your point of view, how have Substance products evolved within the past two years? What about Substance usage and perception in the industry ?

Well, in my opinion, the big change arrived with Uncharted 4. I have the feeling that something happened before and after the release of this game. Everybody was blown away by the visual quality and knowing that Substance was massively used on the production has probably raised awareness to people that the programs were solid enough to be used in such a big project – especially considering the fantastic visual results seen onscreen.

It became a standard and Substance became more and more popular. Today you can barely find a company not using the programs whether for indie games or massive AAA productions.

It's also amazing to see how fast the Substance community is growing and how more and more people keep joining it and sharing stuff. Guys like Daniel Thiger, Eric Wiley, and before them Hugo Beyer, Bradford Smith, Josh Lynch, Pierre Fleau, Chris Hodgson – this seemed to contribute to the critical mass.

It’s also a chance for the artists to have a company such as Allegorithmic who in spite of changes and growth keeps staying close to the users. This is one of the company’s strengths! For this, I really would like to thank all of you guys for your hard work at keeping these user relationships alive.

Do you have any new favorite Substance features since we last spoke?

Well, I must admit that the latest Designer update was a blast. I remember being so excited that I couldn’t stay in place while watching the video. If I can highlight a few nodes, I would say the new splatter circular, the flood fill, and probably the Cube 3D because we’ve all dreamed about it.

What about your latest creation "Desert Rocks"? Can you tell us more about this project?

It all started when I saw a work from Eric Wiley on ArtStation. He shared an amazing reference from rock erosion visible in the Qatari desert. And I was like, how can I make this sort of effect in Designer?

So I decided to give it a try and started to prototype rocks.

At the beginning, I wasn't sure I could reproduce this erosion pattern so I thought it was a good exercise for pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I pushed it further and when I started to have something interesting, I decided to work on the sand. Pebbles and wood pieces followed. Then in the end, it was cool, but I wanted to add something special, so I finally had the idea of making ants. It was a fun way to add some life and storytelling to the texture.

Do you already have in mind what your next Substance challenge will be?

Last year I had the chance to visit Rome, Italy. I was astonished by the beauty of this city and all the Baroque architecture. So I really would like to work on some hard surface project inspired by the monuments and temples I saw out there.

Which artist would you like us to interview next? And if you have one question to ask him/her, what would it be?

There are many artists that I would like to see interviewed. But if I have to choose only one person, since my arrival here in Quebec I had the pleasure of meeting someone whose work I already knew. He's one of the most talented artists I’ve had the chance to work with, and after few months of working together, he has really become an inspiration to me as well as a friend. His name is Vincent Dérozier, and I really would love to see him interviewed because he simply deserves it.

And if I had one question It would be:

Are you up for making a common art project?

Tutorial time! Discover how Jonathan built the "Desert Rocks" Substance Material, by reading the Art breakdown on Substance Academy.

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