Tuesday, February 18th, 2020 by Julian Karsunky
Have you ever wondered how cavemen won the hearts of the women they fell in love with? Let's go back in time with Armando Camero, a character, animation and VFX artist, who will show you what it took to win a woman's heart back in the day. We promise, that this interview will put a smile on your face.
Join us on this fun ride and hear everything about Armando's amazing career, his life as a freelancer and his early and unstoppable passion for 3D art.
Hi Armando, thanks for joining us. To start things off, please introduce yourself to our readers!
Hello, my name is Armando, I'm 32 years old and I live in Monterrey, Mexico. I started using CG software at the age of ten and currently, I'm working for amazing clients from all over the world. To be able to serve a wide variety of industries, I adapted various styles and learned to use various tools.
Do you recall when and how you first consciously encountered CGI?
Sure! Back in the late 90s, I used to watch ‘Splat!’, a TV show about animation and VFX. Around the same time, I had the chance to go see ‘Toy Story’, which for the very first time made me realize a movie can bring people, friends, and families together and make everybody have a great time. When I was ten years old, I found out my cousin Roberto used 3ds Max at work, so he started teaching me the basics and invested the time to answer all my dumb questions. I’m also really grateful my parents supported my interest: they bought me quite a few animation books, which was a huge investment at the time, considering that this could just have been just a phase.
When and why did you then decide to pursue a career as a 3D artist?
The moment I decided to take 3D animation seriously was after watching those beautiful first ten minutes of ‘Up’. I couldn’t believe how touching this medium could be and most importantly, how a room full of people could be moved by computer-generated characters. I wanted to be on the other side of that screen, designing these experiences for other people to enjoy.
What training or education do you have?
I have a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design, and an Autodesk Maya diploma from a local school. I’ve also taken a bunch of courses and workshops, taught by prominent instructors: ‘Character Design’ by Stephen Silver, ‘Painting with Light’ by Edu Martin, ‘Character Facial Rigging’ by Wade Ryer, and ‘Executive Production for Animation’ (MTC Media, Madrid, Spain). Everything else I learned through lots of mistakes!
Barry - the clumsy main character, who is not the smartest guy but still very adorable.
What were some of your personal highlights in your working life thus far?
Back in 2015, I was invited by Pixelatl, the biggest animation festival in Mexico, to create a one-minute short film with a single guideline of delivering a positive message. I decided to tell a very personal story as a tribute to my siblings. I was then invited to Siggraph as part of their Dailies program, where I got the chance to talk about my work next to NASA scientists, high-ranking industry people from the most important studios, not to mention the biggest audience I’ve ever seen in my life!
Talk to us about your current job situation. Are you exclusively freelancing right now?
That’s correct! I used to think that being an artist means you don’t have the mental capacity of a great salesperson. However, after committing to learning about entrepreneurship, I fell in love with the challenge, I got obsessed with sales as some people do with videogames; learning from mistakes and trying again. So I changed my mindset and learned how to value my time, my work, how to approach and communicate with clients and how to knock on the big doors.
What services do you provide?
3D animation for TV commercials, short films, game trailers, and VFX. I also enjoy switching to pixel art and motion graphics from time to time just because I dislike monotony.
Who are your clients and target markets?
I’ve done work for Target, The United Nations, amazing indie game studios from the US, Poland, and Italy, as well as marketing agencies from Los Angeles and San Francisco.
To you, what are the main benefits and challenges of working freelance?
Benefits: You’ll have the freedom to choose your clients, be there for your friends and family, and most importantly, you’ll learn the ins and outs of entrepreneurship which you can apply to a different business later on.
Challenges: You’ll have to learn how to manage bigger amounts of stress each time, keep your tech and knowledge updated so you can bring the best and most efficient results for your clients, especially with really tight deadlines.
Armando Camero's Showreel.
You have written, directed and produced several award-winning animated shorts in the past, such as ‘Glenda’, ‘Borrando Huellas’ and ‘Una Ilusión’. Tell us more about your experience as a film-maker!
This is totally the result of me experiencing theater production as a child; watching my dad staying up late writing screenplays, writing lyrics and composing music. While at the same time my aunt Norma was building props, costumes and even acting on those amazing musical plays. I got the chance to watch their plays during production, behind the scenes and from the audience’s perspective. I always felt really proud of them during the final applause.
This clicked in my mind so I unconsciously wanted to become one of them. Except I had my own set of tools; being shy and having a computer, as well as the will to sacrifice sleep and give away a little bit of my youth so that a new character materialized, started moving and got the chance to perform for an audience.
Are you currently working on another similar project?
Yes, I am. I want to pay tribute to my heroes, who are the people who have put their lives at risk in order to save other people from danger. My first short film of this series will be based on ‘The Clown of Aleppo’, who was an actual young clown, who decided to stay in the war-devastated Aleppo to cheer up orphans. He had an unfortunate death and his story is only known to very few people.
Is there some creative tension between your own artistic endeavors and your commissioned work? How do you strike a balance between the two?
This is actually the biggest challenge right now; picking which personal project to pursue and how to take the time to work on it. I started by putting this project within my commissioned work schedule and treated it with the same respect I give to my clients' projects.
Bessie – the beautiful cavewoman, Barry falls madly in love with.
Is there a specific design philosophy you adhere to? What inspires you as a 3D artist?
Empathy: I unconsciously imprint innocence and vulnerability to my characters. I want people to believe that they have feelings and want them to forget they’re watching a cartoon.
Emotion over Reason: People will take action once you arouse their feelings. If you are able to do this, they’ll buy things (your skills or your client’s product) or they’ll take the time to watch your short film. Getting people's emotional attention always gives the best results.
What does your usual workflow look like when working with a client?
I start by asking a lot of questions, making sure expectations are clear, references are gathered and all concepts are well understood. My project manager will create an asset and scene breakdown and will help me to manage additional artists in case it’s a very big project or if we have a very tight deadline.
Now let us talk about your work in more detail, namely the ‘When Barry met Bessie’ short you created a while back. Please tell us all about the project and the story behind it!
Sure! This is a story written by Charlie Johnson and executive produced by Grant Jonasson. They own the chainsaw and farming equipment business Jono and Johno in Australia and wanted to make a short film using their mascot, 'Barry the Caveman'. We got in touch and they provided me with a script, some rough character designs and let me add my own touch and sense of humor. I love silent films and this script relied heavily on slapstick comedy which was something I had never done before! I loved how irreverent, bizarre but cohesive the script was and how this dumb and shy character reminded me of my younger self. This was actually my first time using Redshift and an online rendering service. When looking for services, I noticed that RebusFarm was a constant on every forum so I decided to give it a try. I was fascinated by the simplicity and speed! I was able to just hit a button, upload my scene and assets, keep working on my workstation and just get my beautiful fully rendered frames back.
Can you, first of all, describe the circumstances that lead to the creation of this piece for what I found to be a rather unusual client?
I’m currently in the top 1% animators of a popular freelancing platform, where my client found my profile. Once we both agreed on a fixed price, we started our contract and managed our conversations and deliverables successfully, even with our very different time zones.
T-Rex – Barry's smart friend, without whom he probably wouldn't have won over Bessie's heart.
How precise were the client’s wishes? Designwise, did you have a lot of leeway or were you working under strict requirements?
I was very lucky and had a lot of freedom in terms of character and environment design, as well as being able to add my own sense of humor and visual gags to each scene.
Besides the script that was provided by the client, how much of the production process did you handle on your own? Did you have the support of a team or fellow artists?
Once I was finishing the production, new projects started coming in so that I needed help from additional animators. I was lucky enough to get in touch with two great animators from the Ukraine, who did an awesome job. They gave me the time to focus on the lighting, rendering and compositing. I also got some help with sound design and music editing.
What was the main goal/purpose of this project?
This was a passion project, funded by my clients and it was used as marketing material for their store.
How long did it take you to complete the project?
In total it took me 5 months to finish the project.
What were some of the challenges you had to overcome?
Getting used to a new render engine (Redshift) and standardizing and automating my workflow. I also got the chance to use motion capture, which worked great for specific scenes.
Designing the sales cart for Barry's firewood.
What software did you use to create this piece? Any plug-ins you found particularly helpful?
Yes, I used Autodesk Maya with Redshift as my render engine, as well as a motion capture system based on an HTC Vive and additional trackers and IKinema Orion for body motion capture. For post-production, I used Adobe After Effects.
Whether it’s educational content, entertainment or advertising, your work is mainly aimed at young audiences.
How did you specialize in this particular field? Was this always a passion of yours?
I always had an interest in children’s entertainment, I think they should feel protected, heard and most importantly it’s pretty easy to make them smile! I love being the ‘cool’ uncle, and someone for them to look up to. I want them to understand that you can still do silly stuff and have fun, even as an adult!
Was your style as an artist a natural fit for children’s entertainment or did you develop it over time?
I think it was a natural fit. Even as a child, I preferred to play with funny looking plush toys, trying to solve problems and having adventures instead of caring for muscular dudes shooting at each other for no reason.
The rodent and the baby bird, Barry accidentally switches.
What is important as a creator and artist when working for younger audiences? How does it differ from other industry branches?
I learned that we should be careful about what we show and what we say. Some kids really look up to these characters and may replicate their words and actions. It’s also a big emotional investment for me, that’s why I’m very picky when it comes to my clients.
Please tell us about your overall experience using RebusFarm. Is there anything you especially like about our service?
I’ve tried many different services and RebusFarm is the simplest from the user’s perspective. With other services, I need about 20+ clicks per task while RebusFarm only requires two or three. They also have a great customer support service!
In closing, is there anything else you want to say? Any present or upcoming projects you’d like to mention?
I just want to express my gratitude to all my clients, my family and friends for supporting me. Please keep an eye on my work as I’m doing my best to give back to the world, one rendered frame at a time.
Sounds like we have a lot to look forward to! Armando, thank you very much for taking the time and all the best for the future!
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