POV: Interview with Oasim Karmieh, CG Generalist
My name is Oasim Karmieh. I’m a graphic designer, web designer, lighting artist and computer graphics (CG) generalist. I live in the beautiful city of Brasov in the heart of Romania, a city surrounded by mountains and inspiration.
I have been doing CG design work for almost nine years now, and it has been an amazing journey. I have worked on many different projects, from graphic design, logos and branding, graphical user interface (GUI) and user interface (UI) projects, web design, animation, 3D modeling and 3D lighting. I love trying new techniques, and I always love a good challenge to push my work to the next level.
How did you get started in 3D animation and design?
Well, I started in design and 3D because of video games; they inspired me so much and they still do. They opened, for me, a magical world. While trying to learn more about how video games are brought to life, I started learning about 3D Studio Max and Maya and all the other great 3D tools out there. I still remember the first project that I modeled, textured and lighted. It was a simple scene with a pack of cigarettes, an ashtray and a lit cigarette. You can’t imagine how happy I was when I created that scene — that for me was a world that I had to be a part of. So I started learning more Photoshop techniques and graphic design. My first encounter with animation was using Macromedia Flash 5 doing simple animation for websites. Design is beautiful, but when you see something that you have animated come to life, it’s just awesome.
When I finished working on my website and animated the four colorful boxes with ties for my website, I wanted to learn more about what makes a character come to life.This is when I decided to join Animation Mentor to learn from the industry’s best professionals on animating a character and bringing it to life. I started learning Maya and animation basics, studied Disney’s nine old men, and the great animators that brought to life the films that I grew up with.
While at Animation Mentor, I had the honor to be around talented mentors and great classmates, and it is there that I found out that I love lighting and shading. I started looking more into 3D lighting, and again, I had the amazing honor to be mentored by Jeremy Vickery, who helped me in understanding the techniques surrounding lighting and coloring.
I started enrolling in couple of lighting workshops, but mostly, I started doing a lot of personal projects, creating scenes that tell a simple story and, at the same time, trying different techniques. I have to thank Pascal Champion for inspiring me to create my 3D scenes, especially my “She Didn’t Say Goodbye” scene which was featured in 3D World magazine.
Describe your creative process. What tools (traditional and/or digital) do you use?
My creative process is quite simple and straight forward, but I try to adjust it and make it better with each project that I work on.
No matter what project I’m working on, be it logo design, layout design, a product label or even a complex 3D scene, I always start with looking for reference materials from books, or I just use Google images and other sites to help me with inspiration. I have to feed my subconscious with all the information needed for a project.
Then I start sketching using a pen and my sketchbook. I try not to sit at my desk in front of my Mac when I’m sketching, because I want to focus on that task without any interference. I start doodling ideas, shapes, text, pieces and elements until I find something that I like and will work perfectly for the project that I’m working on.
I know that many professionals say, “Never use the first idea that comes to mind.” I agree, but this doesn’t mean that your first idea is bad or you have to throw it away — don’t do that. It just means that you have to keep on trying a couple concepts or alterations of that first idea and maybe even come up with a better, or sometimes, a worse idea. I can’t remember how many times I spent hours sketching up multiple concepts and shapes, but then ended up using the first idea that I had because it was just perfect for the project that I was working on.
Once I have my concept sketched out, I will end up scanning my sketches if I draw a shape that I really like how it looks on paper and I want to capture that. In some instances, the sketches are so rough that I’ll just use them for guidance.
Now, the next step might be a bit different depending on the project. I begin blocking in the main shapes and colors. If I’m working on a 3D scene, I would start blocking the scene with rough shapes like squares, spheres and tubes, just so I can get the feel of how the elements are interacting with each other. I always start working on the lighting before starting to work on detailing the scene, because it helps me visualize the scene better. This way I know the details I should put in the piece.
How do you begin to work through the idea for an animation?
The first thing you do when you start working on an animation is reference. I know that I may sound repetitive, but reference and planning is about 50 percent of the work, if not more sometimes. So you start with searching or creating the reference materials for your scenes. If the scene that you are about to animate involves, let’s say a guy trying to push a box or lift something, take out your camera and film yourself, or a friend, or a family member doing that particular task. If you are going to create something like a Parkour (free running) or maybe a Tango dance scene, unless you are a free runner or a dancer, or maybe both, then I think the best way is to search for that material online. Once you have found or shot your reference material, you start breaking up the movement in a few key poses and using it to create what is called a blocking pass. Once you block in your scene, you have to make sure the timing of your scene feels right. Then you can start detailing your animation and adding secondary motions or any small details just to make it more alive.
But sometimes the animation scene that you are working on might be just a simple cube that is transforming and you might not be able to find reference materials for that. This is where video games, movies and toys come in handy. I created the animation for the Toyism 3D flash website through inspiration from a Bakougan toy.
You run the site Pixelophy and help others to learn your techniques. What are some of your favorite aspects about creating these tutorials and lessons? What type of reaction have you received from the community and aspiring artists?
Well I started Pixelophy, which means having an affinity for :loving: attracted by pixels, because I wanted to give back. I received so much help from my friends and mentors in my career. It was the obvious thing to do, and at the same time, it was a great way for me to test my knowledge. When you write a tutorial you have to make sure you understand every aspect in what goes into creating that shader and style of lighting setup. At the same time, it’s a great way to learn while you are teaching. Last but not least, it is a good way to promote my work and the work of other artists that I respect and admire — it’s a win-win.
What are some of your favorite projects that you have worked on?
One of my favorite projects was and still is StudioCity — it was a great challenge. I got approached by one of the largest broadcast marketing companies for television in the US, which was awarded two Emmy’s for on-air promotions, to create, design and develop its website. The pressure was huge, because I had never worked with a company that large. I really wanted to create a website that would stand out from the crowd and have a wow factor. We just finished designing their new website two months ago, and with the new design we went for a simple, clean approach, but the old website will still have a special place in my heart — it was a new start for me.
My second favorite project was designing, modeling, shading, lighting and animating the website for Redolution, a company that I love working for. Designing that website was so much fun. The initial concept was changed three times. We finally got to a place that we were all happy with, but I think the result speaks for itself.
But, when it comes to personal projects, my all time favorite project was “Luca’s Day Off.” This project meant a lot to me. I not only had the chance to work with Luigi Lucarelli, who I commissioned to create the 2D character Luca, the Mafioso, featured in all of my personal project scenes, but also had the chance to create a scene the pays tribute to Pixar, “The Incredibles” and the ’50s era.In this scene Vickeylane is created, which comes from the Ford Victoria Fairlane of the 1950s.
What inspires or influences your work? How do you look differently at objects and materials that you are going to model or design?
Anything and everything! I can’t really name a particular thing that inspires me. It might be a beautiful film that I watched or maybe a beautiful photo or artwork. Sometimes all it takes is sunlight hitting a colorful surface and casting colors across the room to give me a great idea for my next scene or project.
Sometimes when I go out with my friends you might find me examining a bottle or taking a photo of a reflection or type of material that looks interesting that I would love to try out in my next scene. And I always deconstruct objects in my mind into simple primitive shapes and think of how I would model that shape and how I would shade it or light it.
The most amazing thing, and a bit annoying at the same time, is when watching a film, especially one with a lot of CG effects. I usually start thinking of how that scene was done and then have quickly try to get back into the film.
What are some trends that you see happening in the animation and design field? Is there any specific technology that you are excited about that will change the way you create?
In the animation field, I see a lot of motion graphics animations, especially because of the rise of Cinema 4D. There are some amazing animators using this software, and they really are inspiring me to try Cinema 4D for a personal project. They are able to create some amazing effects, which are not easy to create in Maya or 3Ds Max.
As for the specific technology, I’m really looking forward to trying Kinect as a motion capture device. I have seen some great examples online and there are a lot of tools for both Mac and PC to capture motion using the Kinect.
What is the value of creating conceptual designs?
I think the main value is pushing the limits of design.
Your website is incredibly unique and interactive. How do you stand out from the crowd of designers and animators? How do you show your creativity rather than just talk about it?
Thanks! I’m really glad to hear that. For a website that was designed in 2006, it still manages to attract attention and get praises. What more can I ask for?
Well, I always try to capture the wow factor in the websites that I design. I want you to remember that website when you close the browser, and I want you to talk about it with your friends. I want my website to make you laugh and that is the main comment that I get from people that visit my website. They all tell me that the website made them laugh or chuckle, which I think is just amazing. If my websites can cause an emotional reaction, I know that I have done my job.
I think being a generalist helps me stand out from the crowd, because I can mix the beauty of each technology or styles into one project and come up with something original or at least interactive.When I created www.oasim.com, I didn’t want to have an about me page. I wanted these four boxes to be my ambassadors. I wanted them to show you around the website and present you the works that I designed and created, because I don’t think putting a brief history about myself on my website will help me promote my work. This is what interviews are made for!
What advice would you offer to someone starting out in the field? What are some websites that you visit for inspiration or learning?
The main advice I would give is that trial and error are your best mentors. Don’t be afraid of trying new styles; don’t be afraid to design a website or a product that doesn’t look like all the others just because somebody says, “This is not how it’s supposed to be designed.”
Most inspirational book or artwork:
“Dream Worlds” by Hans Bacher
Music that gets you in your zone:
Michael Buble, especially his version of “Mack the Knife” (I absolutely love that song!).
Jay Z — especially “The Black Album”
One reason you love what you do:
Getting paid to design cool stuff that I would do for free.
Find Oasim on:
Feature image courtesy of Flickr user joshuaseye.