Featured Artist: Ramiro AMK Fernández - Argentina
A Universe of creation
Hi there readers, my name is Ramiro AMK Fernández. I’m a passionate Art Director and digital artist based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
If you prefer to read the Spanish version of what follows, click HERE.
My Experience as an Artist
I have worked in the animation and visual effects industry for over 15 years. During my career I was fortunate enough to be able to explore a variety of artistic media such as Architectural Mapping Projections, Live shows, CG animation for commercials and feature film, Augmented Reality, Kinect and VR.
I actually started my career as a traditional artist drawing illustrations. Later on I became a CG generalist and motionographer. Finally, after accumulating extensive experience in my field I can now focus on the direction of projects, which allows me to implement my artistic vision at a larger scale.
Throughout my career I have had the enormous responsibility of directing widely different projects and I would love to highlight a few.
Recently I was able to do the art direction of a feature film called "El espejo de los otros", which was a wonderful experience and where the main task was to create a gothic CG cathedral to function as the main environment for the film.
I was also able to direct several national and international mapping projections for huge clients. One such client was Coca-Cola. I designed their “Celebrating 100 years of the Coca Cola bottle” show, done simultaneously in a variety of countries around the world.
Also worth mentioning is the opening ceremony of the Copa America 2011, created here in Argentina and seen in over 52 countries. In this project I created the script, took on the art direction and the direction itself.
My artistic mission
Thanks to everything I have learned as a director and as an artist, today I know that what I’m truly passionate about in the audiovisual arts, or at least in terms of my role in life, has to do with the universe of creation, the universe of possibilities that surround us. My specific purpose is to capture the beauty that did not exist, and to materialize it onto a support. I want to capture ethereal variables that float in the void and when combined can result in an image or an animation that reflects beauty. I want to transform chaos into order.
Sometimes the clients or we artists ourselves are very attached to the concept of hyper realism or the rules of a certain aesthetic, and often a technical or aesthetic level is reached that meets certain requirements for a job, but it all ends up being an industrial product, which doesn’t capture a moment of beauty.
This industry in which we work has well defined processes, but it is also a means of communication and expression, I try with all my strength to focus on communicating something and on expressing and awakening feelings in my audience.
I recently opened my Instagram account, because apart from people posting selfies I saw many artists upload their work, their experiments and their own explorations, without the intervention of clients. That makes it possible to have a new channel of communication in which to reveal your artistic self, independent of the possibilities awarded to us by commissioned projects.
The Secret of Spring
Today I’m going to talk about a project that I participated in a few weeks ago. It’s a short film called “The Secret of Spring" by Jean Claude Billmaier.
Jean saw my Instagram profile and he wrote to me, fascinated by my images and eager to tell me about a personal project he had been working on for years. In this short film, one of the sequences is about a journey through the galaxy, a trip at great speed through a universe capturing different moments, until we zoom out through the eye of a little girl. ( I can’t tell you more about the short film, it’s in festivals now!)
When Jean told me how little time I had to do the job (about 20 days) I was a bit scared, since this was his personal project and his passion, which meant he did not have sufficient financial resources for me to subcontract my own team Instead, I was forced to get the work done completely on my own, with the same challenging deadline.
At the same time though I was quite enthusiastic about the project, because it represented the possibility of giving the best of me in that timeframe, and to create for a great sequence that communicates the essence of the script.
Something decisive for me was that we agreed with Jean that realism should neither be an anchor nor a limitation, but that the sequence should be beautiful rather than realistic. That gave me the peace necessary to undertake this journey through the universe. Here is a VFX breakdown:
As interesting as it is to create an entire universe, there is also a technical part to solve, and that was my biggest challenge as a lone wolf… I know and use many software packages so that I can have enough tools to materialize what I imagine, but I can’t say that I’m an expert in each one as as would be the case with a VFX specialist.
I began to imagine in a pipeline that would allow me to see the progress of the work almost in real time and to to modify scenes with immediate feedback.
As a render engine I chose a Trapcode plugin called “FORM”, within After Effects, which today offers many possibilities to integrate elements with 3D coordinates inside a 2.5D space. With this plugin you can import OBJ models and make each vertex of the model function as a particle. And that particle can have assigned properties such as custom sprites, colorization, turbulence, etc. I came up with the idea of generating complex point clouds, importing them into FORM and generating multiple copies of the same geometry. This approach also allowed me to change properties of the particles involved to generate complex looks based on a certain morphology.
To generate these point clouds it was necessary to have a suitable particle system, since modeling a galaxy with polygons wasn’t possible for me and it did not seem a viable or smart option at all. This is where help came by way of this amazing software called SideFX Houdini - I could learn to timidly manage some if its infinite possibilities!
And so I began to generate very basic geometries with the necessary subdivisions to emit particles from their vertices and volumes. In this example I’m going to show you how I managed to generate the Spiral Galaxy.
With the basic geometry my first idea was to give the particles, despite their static nature, some property for a movement, a directionality. And here something interesting happened to me: In the beginning, I set up a POPNET and started to try out different nodes that could generate particles emitting outwards, as if exploding. I also tried to set the particles up so they would all follow the same direction of the spiral. After many frustrating hours of research I was still not able to find a node that would solve this approach for me (even searching on the web). I felt painfully aware of my technical limitations and thought that my knowledge of the program could only progress by taking on a VFX course. At that point I said to myself: "I'll do it my way, even if I do not respect Houdini best practices" So I put an XFORM before my POPNET that scaled up the geometry and rotated it in a short span of 10 Frames. Then I placed a TRAIL to compute the velocity and from the POPNET menu I used the USE INHERITED VELOCITY option. And presto, I had a system that was running perfectly!
Feeling guilty I mentioned this episode to a friend who knows a lot about Houdini. It so bothered me to not have done things "correctly"! My friend however told me: "What you did was perfectly fine! The great thing about Houdini is that there is no right way to do things; there is in fact a universe of possibilities to reach the desired result " Granted, when we work in a team, pipelines have to fulfill certain requirements to coordinate work done by different departments. But there are also times when the only thing that matters is to achieve the result you’re looking for, without necessarily respecting all the rules.
But let’s get back to discussing our galaxy system! For each galaxy in the sequence I created several POPNET instances with different settings to generate several looks and then subsequently merged all in order to achieve a more complex but manageable result for the plugin FORM.
Here we can see that the imported base geometry is very simple.
In the first POPNET the emitter is set to emit particles from random vertices.
Then, with a MOUNTAIN we generate certain amount of organic turbulence, but keeping the general structure of the model.
In the second POPNET the emission is restricted to less vertices and then with a SPLIT and a DRAG I generate little groups of particles.
Here is the third system. I’ll show you the internal structure of the POPNET.
Here we can see the very basic emission.
And here we could see that, because of the inherited velocity, the particles spin around the geometry with the help of the rotation given by XFORM outside the POPNET. This way was simpler than playing around with vectors and crazy stuff, at least for me. Remember that I’m an artist, not a hacker, lol!
Here is the viewport with all the POPNET instances merged together. From here we can export this point cloud as an *.OBJ
Here is the render within FORM of this point cloud with multiple instances and settings for the particles.
My approach allowed me to complete all the elements that make up this journey through space according to Jean’s specifications, delivering the resulting one minute sequence within the expected deadline.
Here are the scene files . . .
Here in Argentina ( the very end of the world for many), unfortunately the industry is a bit underdeveloped compared to other countries, This is why my aim is to to contribute my experience and creativity to a major studio outside of Argentina. It would be great to continue to learn and grow by collaborating with talented colleagues from around the world. I am looking forward to facing challenging projects and meeting new people who share my artistic passions. Part of capturing the beauty of the universe is to enjoy and share our passion with those around us and make some lifelong friends along the way.
You can follow me on instagram at: instagram.com/amkdirector
Explore my portfolio at: www.amkdirector.com
See you soon!
¡Nos vemos pronto!
Ramiro AMK Fernández 2016
By: Patricia Cornet