Artwork courtesy of Adrien Ehrhardt

Texturing for VFX and Advertising with Adrien Ehrhardt

Pierre Bosset on September 1 2016 | News, Stories, Film/VFX

Today's user story has a slightly different angle and introduces Adrien Ehrhardt, a 3D artist using Substance for freelance VFX and advertising work. 

Hi, Adrien! Can you tell us a little more about yourself and your projects?


I first started 3D when I was young and my father gave me a copy of 3DS Max and Photoshop. At that time, 3D modeling didn’t go beyond a few hundred polygons, so it was really the beginning. When I finished high school, I went to Belgium for 3 years to study 3D, and I followed with 2 years of photography studies. After my studies I started as UI Designer in a software startup, which was a great experience. After that I wanted to go back to 3D and that’s how I started doing advertising.


What are your specialties?

I don’t really have a single specialty. My job is to go from modeling to rendering, so I’m not focusing on one special part of the workflow. My mission is to make a certain atmosphere and mood, and then end up with an illustration of the finished product.

How and when did you start in advertising/VFX?

I have a friend who works for a luxury watch brand. He introduced me to the team and had me work with them. This allowed me to have a first portfolio to show to further clients.
Advertising was my goal even when I was doing photography, so I've been working with it for 6 or 7 years now.

What are the advertising/VFX projects you worked on?

Louis Moinet, which is the luxury watch brand my friend works for, has been one of the first advertising projects in which I used Substance. On this project I mainly used Substance for the decors.
In advertising the most important thing is to stay as close to reality as possible. So it’s different than in video games where everything is can be stylized and exaggerated. Here, we must make everything look like it’s a picture.

Recently, I also worked on a purely 3D modeling project for luxury brand Trussardi, in which I modeled the head of a dog. It was then 3D printed and used as a prop for the advertising campaign. I also worked on some car campaigns for Jaguar, Fiat and a Michelin safety campaign, through a photographer in the car industry.

What I really liked about the latest version of Substance Painter is the 8k support. This is really important in advertising, where projects often go up to very high resolution as it’s for print and must look as realistic as possible.

What are your sources of inspiration?

My sources of inspiration are quite broad. It spreads from the internet, with the infinite image database you can find thanks to search engines, to paintings (Caravaggio is one of my favorites for lighting), photography, fashion lookbooks… I just tend to cultivate my eyes as much as possible without focusing on a particular theme.

Tell us more about your workflow and the tools you use. How does Substance integrate into it?

I start with setting my principal forms and cameras in 3ds Max. I proceed with ZBrush for sculpting/details and unwrap. I then import my objects in Substance Painter and I start with freezing the main colors. I go back to 3ds Max to set a small base of light and I look at how everything is integrating. I then return to Substance Painter to pose some effects and smarts maks and really begin the texturing. I then again go back to 3ds Max to make my renders with V-Ray thanks to the export preset in Substance Painter.

Why did you start using Substance?

Its ease and speed of use enabled me to create textures much faster and of better quality. Previously I used to go through Photoshop and work flat, or go with or Zbrush which, in spite of its qualities, is not as easy to use and as powerful as Photoshop. With Substance Painter, the learning curve was very fast and the approach very pleasant.

On which personal projects did you use Substance?

On many of my last personal projects:

Side road poetry: One of my first projects that was 100% Substance. Primarily made for a first approach on the software. It enabled me to test smarts masks, the effects of wear…I like doing 3D typography so I got the idea of making some neon verses of French poet Paul Eluard on roadside billboards. I’m planning to do more of these with different verses.

Free Music: what is interesting with this image is that it is tone on tone. As a result the essence of the work of texture is in the effects of relief and brightness. I tried smoothly working on a light wear of the helmet with some scratches, some spots more patinated, etc…

Ride or Die: I used Substance for the bicycle as well as the wheel. For the bicycle, it enabled me to quickly create convincing metal elements as well as rust effects in a realistic way. It also allowed me to generate the effects of dirt and wear on the relief of the wheel and work the roughness with precision in order to have something interesting.

Where did the name Ride or Die come from?

I have a friend who has a fixie bike and I just asked him: what do you bicycle guys say to each other? Ride or Die.

Greenhouse: Full Substance. Many smart masks, as on the stones with foams effects on the relief and in the interstices, but also the stain on the edges of the windows and the wear on the metal of the structure of the greenhouse.

Jewel beetle: I primarily texture painted this one in the aerographic way. What was nice was being able to work with a very high definition version of the insect directly within Substance Painter. On top of all that I added some smarts masks so as to come to tint certain zones in relief with precision.
The Jewel Beetle is an actual insect that exists in many different colors so it was a great source of inspiration. I’m thinking about making more versions and variations of it.

Neon R: The brick background was made thanks to the RDT textures on Substance Store. I wanted to see how that would react in large resolution. Work in Substance was to make a realistic metal, containing realistic wears, with many details like drips etc…



What is your favorite feature?

I’m a huge fan of the concept of baking integrated into the software. You just have to open your object, bake it and you’re ready to work. What is brilliant is that all these generated layers (AO, curvature…) are used by Smart Masks to generate masks adapted to the volume of your object. This creates very interesting effects at a great speed.

How is Substance interesting in the field of advertising?

For two things: I often work with rather tight deadlines. Substance enables me to meet these deadlines while generating qualitative textures.

I’m often asked to do very high resolutions for the exports of my images, so the new 8K export feature allows me to have my textures at a convenient resolution/scale for the final image.

What is in your opinion the future of Substance in advertising?

In 3D advertising I’m asked to create a lot of photorealism.

It could be interesting to have Substance B2M integrated into the software so as to be able to slip/deposit photographs in Substance Painter and generate a Substance texture containing the tileable texture, with the diffuse one corrected, the extracted height map so as to be able to use more photographic and less generated textures.

How did Substance change your approach to texturing?

With all the time Substance Painter saves me, I can go much further in the texturing phase. Before, I mainly used textures which repeated and I did the painting in Photoshop to bring back details and chaos, now I do it directly in Substance. It enables me to feel much more free and to be more creative during this phase.

What are your next projects?

I have wanted to make a short film for a while and would love to find some time to work on it. I am also a big fan of video games, so I'm spending some time working on a small game with a friend on Unreal Engine. And thanks to Substance and its Unreal Engine presets, the work will be a little easier. Otherwise, as always, I will keep creating images.

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