Far Cry 5 trailers: how Andrew Averkin relied on Substance (long version)
Today, we present you the story of Blur environment artist Andrew Averkin: from his young days growing up in a family of artists in Odessa, to his key role in some awesome projects with one of the greatest VFX studios in the world! Discover how he recently adopted Substance in his work on Far Cry 5 trailers, and on his own project named “Utopia”.
Hi Andrew, thanks for taking your time for this interview. Could you introduce yourself to the community and what is your background?
Hi! My name is Andrew Averkin and I am a 3D environment artist from Blur, which creates stunning game cinematics and visual effects for films. Also, I am the founder and the head of a game project called Utopia.
I was born and grew up in Ukraine, in the sunny city of Odessa, on the Black Sea coast, in a family of workers, artists, sculptors, writers and musicians. My family has always loved poetry, painting, music, and everything related to creativity. My father is a builder and handyman, but in his youth, he loved painting, like his mother, my grandmother, who was a wonderful artist and poetess. My great-grandfather was a first-class sculptor and he sculpted mostly people, toys and gypsum dolls, which were quite popular at that time. Mom is an engineer by education, but literature is her biggest hobby, so our house was always full of books. Her family is from Poland; her father, my grandfather, played the trumpet for a long time in a military orchestra. I think that my passion for art and creativity was passed on to me by all these talented people.
In my childhood I was attracted to drawing, writing poetry and music. I remember a huge amount of written and painted paper on my table with adventure and fantastic stories, filled with fantasy worlds, fairy-tale creatures and character, their adventures and travels! At that time, in the 90's, my TV was full of Hollywood blockbusters. Star Wars, Terminator, Robocop, Aliens, Predator - some of my favorite films of that time. Perhaps these films also influenced my formation as an artist! A little later, when I had my first computer ZX Spectrum, and then Dendy, Sega Mega Drive and PC, I began to dive deep more and more into the world of computer games. I fell in love with adventure games such as The Legend of Kyrandia, Gobliiins, The Curse of Monkey Island, The Full Throttle, Neverhood, Broken Sword, Alone in the Dark and Little Big Adventure. I spent hours building strategic plans in Civilization, SimCity, Dune, Age of Empires, Command & Conquer, Red Alert, Dungeon Keeper, Heroes of Might and Magic, and of course the legendary Warcraft and Starcraft. With huge happiness, I was passing such wonderful and colorful games as Prince of Persia, Aladdin, The Lion King, Blackthorne, Earthworm Jim and Oddworld. At nights, I was fighting with enemies from Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein, Duke Nukem, Half-Life and Mortal Kombat, and was completely immersed in the world of the series of games Fallout, Diablo and Nox. Remember these games? And this is only a small list of games which I played in the 90's, but there were, even more, more great games after the 2000s. I listed such a long list of games, because many artists, especially the younger generation do not even know about their existence. But many of these games were one of the best representatives of their genre and they pushed me - and many other guys of my generation - to conquer the world of computer graphics.
I remember my first and very significant meeting with computer graphics. I was in high school and did not understand much about CG. But my friend, who was older than me and already had experience in CG, told me about one very interesting software. "You can create everything you want, the only limit is your imagination," he said. To tell the truth, I was conquered! It was 3D Studio Max, version R2. The next day, I was sitting next to my friend and looking madly at his monitor, where he was spinning some amazing space stations and spaceships. They came to life before my eyes and it was absolutely stunning! From that moment I realized that my life would be about CG, and since then, we have become the best of friends!
My hobby, writing electronic music and sound effects - coupled with my knowledge of computer programming - pushed me to go even farther in the world of CG and game development.
You have worked on various projects with Blur Studio. How did you learn about Blur Studio and start working with them?
I used to work in advertising and architectural visualization because it gave me a great chance to gain experience in 3D. I remember those times with a smile because it was the beginning of my career where I was quite green in CG. And almost everyday, after work, I continued to study other fields of CG. I watched a lot of video tutorials, read a lot of forums, and practiced.
After some time, when I already had several publications in a few magazines about 3D graphics, I met a few guys from Blur studio on a 3D forum. I already knew about Blur and was a huge fan of their work! I always liked game cinematics, but Blur‘s work is on another level! I remember my first big project - it was a cinematic for Dark Souls 2, where I created a few environments. What an unforgettable feeling! With each new project, I was getting more and more new knowledge about the creation of 3D environments for game cinematics, and after 5 years of work I became an offsite 3D environment artist for Blur. I was lucky enough to take part in Dark Souls 2, Halo 2 Anniversary, Rainbow 6 Siege, Middle Earth: Shadow of War, Star Wars: The Old Republic - Knights Of The Eternal Throne, Destiny 2, League of Gods, Fallout 4, Far Cry 4 and Far Cry 5 and other stunning projects that are still under development.
Blur Studio is a company which specializes in creating visual effects and CG animation for a wide range of media - short and full-length films, advertising, concept art, music videos, computer game cinematics and much more. The art of Blur Studio was nominated for an Academy Award, among other awards. Blur Studio was founded in 1995 by Tim Miller and David Stinnett and is based in Culver City, California, USA. The clients of Blur Studio include: Disney, Universal Pictures, Microsoft, Bungie, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Activision, Nickelodeon, FOX, Bioware, Ubisoft, and others!
Blur Studio created in-game cinematics for Warhammer, Halo, Hellgate: London, Tomb Raider, Transformers, Dark Souls, Doom, Destiny, Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, The Elder Scrolls Online, Batman, League Of Legends, Star Wars, Fable and many others, as well as visual effects for the films Deadpool, Thor: The Dark World, League of Gods, Avatar and this list can be continued!
I met a lot of good people, and it's hard for me to describe the gorgeous kindness, positivity, and energy of everyone at Blur!I would like to take this opportunity to thank them. And first of all I want to thank our wonderful women's team - Monica Haley, Tiffany Webber, Laura Pepper, Jennifer Miller, Savanna Aghassian, Celine Lam, Mariel Song, Rachel Berry, Daryn Houston and other girls, and very cool guys - master of all masters, father and teacher Jerome Denjean (Master Jedi), great Kevin Margo, kind Jeff Fowler, Al Shier and Chris Youngless, super charismatic supervisors and talented artists - Darren and Evan Butler, Chris Bedrosian, Dan Akers, Peter Wildman, Colin James, James Atilano, Oded Raz, amazing Mike Johnson, Sebastien Chort, Jean-Baptiste Cambier, Gary Christian, Valerian Zamel, Jeremie Passerin, Mario Adriano! Forgive me guys, if I forgot to name someone! I also want to thank Tim Miller - the founder of Blur Studio, the director of the film Deadpool, a family man, and a very kind and positive person!
I got a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge first-hand during this LA trip! Leaving the City of Angels and going home to my family was bittersweet - happy, yet sad to leave these new friends!
“Substance Painter became an integral part of my work, which not only allows to create professional quality textures and materials, but also allows me to do it in much shorter amount of time”
Recently you have worked on the Far Cry 5 trailer, what was your role in it? How did you discover the Allegorithmic tools and can you describe your texturing workflow on the trailer?
This is an unforgettable project for me, not just because I'm a big fan of Ubisoft, particularly of their Far Cry game series, but also because this project has become in some way unique. The Far Cry 5 trailer consists of 3 separate stories, telling the struggle of protagonists for their rights in Hope County, Montana - a picturesque corner of the world where a sect of religious fanatics is trying to establish control over the locals. Many talented people, artists, actors, producers, scriptwriters and other professionals are involved in this project, and spent days and nights working to create photorealistic cinematics! One of my supervisors, Dan Akers, explained the creation of these trailers in more details at Siggraph 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqk6v5P8wFA&t=8s
I work as a scene assembler, which mostly consists of the creation of 3D environments for cinematics, sometimes starting from scratch, sometimes using ready-made library models, texturing, setting up the lighting and much more. I also often work on individual props and vehicles.
In the Far Cry 5 project, I created different items, from props to a full 3D scene. In some way, it was not just a unique project, but also a challenge. Each of the three trailers includes many close-ups, so I had to be sure that all objects looked as detailed as possible. This led to the decision to use Substance Painter for the first time, which allowed us to create a lot of great textures for a large number of 3D models. I encountered Substance Painter (and other Allegorithmic products) about 3 years ago, but I only began using it a year ago when I started developing my personal game, Utopia. Subsequently, Substance Painter became an integral part of my work, because it allows me to create professional and quality textures and materials, and lets me do it in a short amount of time, which of course significantly speeds up the whole workflow.
So, for the bar trailer, where Mary May tells her story, I made a full 3D scene. Some models that I used to fill the background space were taken from libraries, but the most significant objects were created specifically for this scene and textured inside Substance Painter: floor, walls, windows, tables and chairs, chandeliers, lamps and sconces, bar stand, beer column, cabinets and other furniture.
I had to make quite a lot of objects for the Nick Rye scene, in the garage, mostly furniture - racks, metal tables, chairs, concrete floor and so on.
For the church scene, where Pastor Jerome makes his magnificent speech, I did: church benches, pianos, church altar with a chair, a table for candles. candles and candlesticks, as well as wilted roses. All these objects were textured with Substance Painter.
Far Cry 5 has driven me to use Substance Painter, in order to rapidly create professional textures, both for personal and commercial projects. Now, in every new project, I try to implement Allegorithmic tools and use Substance Painter! In the near future, I want to study Substance Designer, which will also certainly help me create even better textures and save me a lot of working time.
“The Far Cry 5 project has been a huge push to use Substance Painter in order to create professional and quality textures in the fastest way possible, both for personal and commercial projects”
Now let’s continue with your own personal project: the game Utopia. What can you tell us about it? How does Substance Painter integrate into your workflow on the project?
I know that many creative people are familiar with the boundless desire to create something unique, something that will give a part of yourself to others - a part of your thoughts, ideas, feelings and even emotions! A wish to implement a project in which you can display all your ideas and fantasies, whether you are an artist, programmer, musician or writer. I believe you know this feeling? Many factors influenced the birth of this idea, however, as I said earlier, the influence of computer games has driven me to become a 3D artist.
The project is a game called Utopia. It is a point-and-click adventure quest with elements of horror, fantasy, and mysticism, with many levels and locations, in which you have to follow parallel storylines and solve all kinds of mysteries and quests. Everything is still in early production, so many things could still change at this points the game progresses, other genres will appear, for instance, action.
Utopia will be divided into several chapters, each of which has its own unique setup, storyline, and characters! Right now, the script is still being written and finalized, so I can’t say too much, except that in the first chapter, Utopia evokes a version of our life that is far from bright and colorful. I hope that the story of the game will be interesting!
Utopia is an indie project that I develop after work. My older brother is working on the game logic, and a few freelancers help me with models. Utopia uses unity and is first being developed for PC. It is still a young project at an early stage of development, and many obstacles still need to be overcome, but I am full of strength, ideas, desire and the confidence to go further and further to develop Utopia!
Finally, the brush packs you created for the game look super cool and useful! Could you tell us more about them?
Recently, I have been releasing mini video diaries about the development of Utopia, where I talk about the process of creating the game and the programs I used. I use Substance Painter to texture all the models for my game. Since there are a lot of models inside the game and most of them do not require hand painting texturing, I decided to create a collection of alpha brushes and a smart material library in different categories, specifically for the Utopia project: stone, concrete, metal, fabric, plastic, paint, etc. Thanks to these, there is no longer any need to spend hours drawing and detailing the texture of models, as you can just pick the material, drag it onto the model and bam! Everything is ready and you can safely move on to another model. Alpha brushes also speed up all texturing processes, since they allow you to add even smaller details to the model without much effort, which also saves time.
You can follow Utopia on Facebook, VK, and ArtStation, where I share a lot of useful information about alpha brushes, 3D models, materials and so on. I recently released a pack of alpha brushes that can be used in any software that work with height maps, as well as a collection of hard surface 3D models. All this, of course, is absolutely free!
*If you're wondering what 's next for Substance Painter, tune in next Thursday for the latest news ;-)
Thanks Andrew, it was a pleasure learning more about you and your work! Lastly, can you send us a picture of you and your desk?
Thanks, Allegorithmic, and thanks to everyone who is reading! I sincerely wish creative success, good ideas and excellent games to all you artists and developers out there!