Image courtesy of Lightfarm

UNHIDE 2019: Celebrating the Brazilian Digital Art Community

Pierre Bosset on September 21 2019 | Stories, Film/VFX

Today we're taking a look at the Brazilian digital art community, as it gathers for the second edition of UNHIDE, the largest digital art event of Latin America. This event, created by the Brazilian branch of VFX studio Lightfarm, celebrates creativity in Brazil, and more broadly in Latin America overall. In addition, Substance is used at Lightfarm and taught at UNHIDE, and we're proud to be one of the event's official sponsors.

Hi guys, thank you for taking the time for this interview. Could you introduce yourselves to the community?

Rafael Moco: Hi guys! My name is Rafael Moco, I'm a 3D generalist at Lightfarm Studios, and my specialty now is to explore new techniques for the team, and create some procedural solutions for our projects. I have a tutorial series at UNHIDE School where I develop an entire project using Blender for all the modeling part and Substance Painter and Designer for the texturing and look dev.

Rafael Vallaperde: Hey there! my name is Rafael Vallaperde, former CGI artist; now my role is creative director/partner at Lightfarm Studios and UNHIDE School. My job is to always be on the lookout for things that make our environment better. This includes working closely with artists to bring our concepts to life in the best way possible!

Could you tell us more about UNHIDE? How was the event born?

Rafael Moco: Here in Brazil, we have a bunch of art students full of potential, but we also lack good places to study and evolve skills as a 3D artist, photographer, or post-production artists. So, we created UNHIDE School with the objective to give these people a place to discuss art, exchange experiences and study together, showing important concepts about the market and workflows.

But we needed more. We needed a place to consolidate all this information, bringing to them people with experience to share, people who already "got there" in their careers. And this is what UNHIDE Conference is about: Inspiring people and connecting them with their idols. We want to give these students an opportunity to evolve their skills, and maybe even get some job in the studio of their dreams.

Rafael Vallaperde: The event started as a way to introduce the school to people, but the turnout really surprised us (+1,200 attendees), so we started to realize the event was a lot bigger than introducing the school; it’s more about filling a gap in the digital art market in Brazil. There are just way too many artists who are not represented by any kind of event at all. So we went all in!

How do you see UNHIDE evolving in future years?

Rafael Moco: Well, of course, we want to be bigger, but more than that, we want to be more and more relevant to Brazil. Relevant to all the Brazilian artists, not only those who still live here but all who leave our country to work in some great studios out there like ILM, MPC, The Mill, etc. We see UNHIDE as a platform to bring back these people and let them share their experiences as an artist: The experience with the market, what they learned in the process, their workflow, and what is relevant for the students to learn and get the same opportunity to grow as an artist. Plus, this is an excellent way to bring some attention to our market, our internal studios, and to show to the world the talent of our people, what we are creating here and what our artists are capable of. We want to grow, and help all these people who are sharing their passion with us to grow together.

Rafael Vallaperde: There is a lot of work to be done! We see many opportunities to broaden the spectrum of digital art content, mainly on audio production and games. These are huge digital art markets that we haven’t gotten to yet. Another important point for us is to really understand the community down here and try to put up as much learning content that is relevant for them to go world-class and chase a job anywhere they would like to go, or, work from home. There is a lot of unexplored potential.

How do you use Substance for the different content you create for UNHIDE?

Rafael Moco: The Substance package is like a brutal Swiss Army knife tool with a bunch of possibilities. With Substance Designer, you can create anything, out of nowhere, without the need of other software for your material and textures. And with Painter, you can use all this stuff and use it in your model in an artistic way, but at the same time, in a technical way as well. Everything remains procedural, from the base of the material to the final look, and this is wonderful for us since we work with clients who want to do a bunch of changes as the image evolves.

This procedural nature also helps us in the look development phase, so we can experiment with a lot of ideas before the final render. And, since we are teaching about composition, color theory, and design, it’s awesome to show all these possibilities in real-time. On top of that, I can work entirely on Linux! This is pretty awesome because independent of the platform, it's guaranteed I will have my favorite tools, whatever the workstation I choose.

Rafael Vallaperde: Substance Designer and Substance Painter are here to stay, and I don’t mean only UNHIDE or Lightfarm — it has quickly become a standard tool into any 3D generalist out there! I’d love to see more training on UNHIDE School!

Could you give us a texturing breakdown made with Substance?

Rafael Moco: I've used Substance Designer and Substance Painter for pretty much all the Neuromancer project. In this image, my main objective was to tell a cool story about that sci-fi helmet. The book Neuromancer is one of my favorites, so I had some good tips on what to do with the textures, without running away from the original concept, made by Josan Gonzales. I thought about a piece of hardware treated like "junk," without too much caution, even for something fragile.

In my vision, all the helmet was made of modular pieces, maybe from other decks or distinct hardware. Maybe someone had sold these pieces for the man of the cover, for a cheap price, and this is why some parts have little dents and scratches. With all this information in my mind, I could begin to think about the materials of the helmet — not just the painting, but what was underneath everything

My approach in Substance Painter is simple: Create specific kinds of materials, put one on top of others, and make that story about the image work with all kind of masks and auto masks. During the modeling phase, all my worries were on the whole design of the helmet. This way, Substance Painter allowed me to add all the small and micro details on the surface, painting normal maps directly on the 3D model, like any 3D sculpting software.

After that, I've used all this surface information to drive my masks and add some interaction between all the layers of materials in the image. That was done not only with smart masks and custom masks but also painting the masks directly, which gave me all the artistic freedom I needed.

And to create some consistency between the different pieces of the image, I could use the instance system to replicate all the base materials for other texture sets of the helmet. And for some specific details and variations between the sets, the Anchor system did the trick. I also had the chance to create some base materials in Substance Designer, like the LED pattern for the visor, where I could control not only the pattern of the grid but also the emission and color. After that, all textures were exported to Blender, and the final render was done with Cycles.

Rafael Vallaperde: I’m not supposed to say anything, but there is another project that will be coming of the over super soon, and we’ll leave a first-hand sneak peek of it with you guys. This has a lot of potential to be my new favorite.

What is the current state of the 3D market in Brazil? How do you see this evolve in the upcoming years?

Rafael Moco: A lot of great artists came from Brazil. What about Rafael Grassetti? Or Glauco Longhi? Krishnamurti "Antropus" Costa is still seen as a God here. But why did they leave? Because we lack great productions here, and great studios, doing really great things. That's the question, and what we are trying to change. Unfortunately, the 3D market is still seen as something distant for a lot of people here. And the UNHIDE Conference is trying to show these people the importance of this market, to realize what we can reach and what we can do. We're trying to show this not only to new and veteran artists but to people who can actually invest in our market and make it grow.

Rafael Vallaperde: The 3D market in Brazil grew a lot on advertising, and in this sense, it made a lot of great generalists, many of those that Moco mentioned above started their careers in advertising, and you can see that shining on their work as this usually reflects in a broad spectrum of knowledge because you have to learn it all to get a job.

Things changed a little bit —we have more space for specialized artists — but the advertising market really benefits from great generalist and they are still highly valued.

Advertising kicked as the main market in Brazil for a long time, but now things are changing and we have the video games art market exploding! There is just a lot of people starting on this field. There are also all of the platform-based entertainment models like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney — the list goes on. Brazil will become more and more important for these guys because our currency is worth one-quarter of the dollar price. So, it’ll just make sense to produce more here.

Brazil is a great consumer market (+200 million residents); there is a lot of demand for fresh creative content, however, our industry is still catching up with the global demand. And I’m pretty sure we’ll get there.

Anything we forgot to ask or that you would like to mention?

Rafael Vallaperde: We’d love to say a big thank you to you guys on creating such a nice piece of software while on an amazing journey that led you guys to the top of mind tool in a highly competitive market! We hope we can see you guys at UNHIDE Conference next year!!

All images courtesy of Lightfarm.

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