We are lucky that we could get this extraordinary artist, that managed to work his way up to the big screens and knows his share about blowing things up. I guess all of us have seen his work in some blockbuster, I bet. So great to have him here.
Meet Anselm von Seherr-Thoss!
xoio: Welcome Anselm! We are honoured to have you on xoio-air!
anselm: Thanks for featuring me! Much appreciated.
xoio: Your filmography which anybody can find on your website - is almost as impressive as your name. That’s quite something. Do you have any royal blood?
anselm: My great granduncle is the original Red Baron, the WW1 flying ace :)
xoio: Anselm, if you have to put it into one sentence: Why did you start 3d what was your interest back then in CGI ?
anselm: Video games! *hah* I played waaay too much when I was a teenager. I wanted to work in this field since I was 16 or so. After my design degree I seaked an internship at SoulPix in Hannover. Rest is history.
xoio: Most of 3d-artists work as generalists, while you became highly specialised. Tell us about your main field of expertise.
anselm: Particle and fluid simulation driven vfx. If it burns, it breaks, it flies. I was fascinated with Particle Flow in Max (v7 back then) after watching Allan McKay’s first DVD.
xoio: What motivated you to specialise so distinctively?
anselm: Since particle simulation was/is still a niche field I figured I could get well at it and would always have work, there is not many of us compared to modelers and animators. I originally started as lighting and shading dude in late 2004 (during my internship). I switched because I hated waiting on test renders. Now I wait 10x as much on simulations *LOL*.
xoio: You are living in New Orleans right now. That really sounds like a dream come true, especially since moving to the US is not easy. How did you manage to achieve this?
anselm: I found the right lady (a New Orleanean) before I moved here :D
Coming to the US was pretty straight forward. I was offered a job by Frantic Films as VFX TD in 2008. I had never applied for positions before so I said “yes sure”…They provided me with my first US visa and took me by the hand a bit over the process of visa interviews, moving, finding a place, etc.
When I left Frantic when it became Prime Focus I got a new visa and moved to New Orleans. It’s really nice down here! And I still work plenty. I was afraid that I would have to be in Los Angeles in order to land jobs. That’s true for big blockbusters, all that is handles on site usually. But I can travel to LA for a gig or have initial meetings and then execute the job here. Over the years I established good relationships with a few studios that now know me and my work style and let me do it from New Orleans. I have multiple workstations here and the software infrastructure in place. I also still work a lot for European studios. being bi-lingual helps! So yeah, busier then ever before, who would have thought?
xoio: Most of us work in small to medium sized studios, while most of your work is done in big studios. You want to give us some insights how it is working in one of the big studios?
anselm: Well, in bigger places the infrastructure and available horse power is more. Having 200+ render nodes is nice. Custom in-house tools and presets can make the work a lot easier. Also it’s great to have other artists you can ask if you get stuck. A well structured team can achieve great visuals! But I like working at/for boutique size shops as well. It’s a little more family style there.
xoio: Contemplating about your work I had to think of Colt Sievers, one of my childhood heros: the unknown stuntman I think there is a quite good reference to the todays unknown VFX-artist- making all the big impressions, risking his life (because of late hours), but in the end nobody would know your name. Do you mind being a more or less anonymous wheel in the big productions you work in?
anselm: In the production I like to be credited (properly or at all). After all the VFX blockbuster are the highest grossing of all time. Yet VFX driven movies have catering and the dog trainer run before vfx in the credits because it’s union code…Credits run too fast with long lists too because the theaters loose a full screening per day if they run the credits in original speed. VFX makes the most money in is the worst treated. I get a lot of recognition for my work from aspiring or other vfx artist within the community. That’s really cool. I put out a lot of making ofs and tutorials. So vimeo is where I get my “5 minutes of fame” if you wanna call it that. But that’s not what I’m after. It’s my personal outlet, my video blog :)
xoio: There is a lot of criticism heard these days about some working conditions in the big production companies. Are you affected? What do you think about it?
anselm: Who is not? I worked my fare share of 100+ hour weeks and still do! Although in just a few bigger production companies like Pixar and DreamWorks Animation (the latter ranked the best place to work in animation) it’s not as brutal. Barely to no overtime, good pay, BENEFITS (!) , in house university and sport activities, etc. The problem is the price war in the industry and rediculous deadline expectations. A great blog to read is VFX Soldier’s.
I mean “The Hobbit” and “Avatar 2&3” are shot in 48/60 FPS in stereoscopic. In my book that is AT LEAST 4x the amount of work (double the regular 24 fps and 2 sides for each eye). By the same token I doubt the deadlines will double. Or the pay. I guess we just work 4x more and be grateful to have a job after all… Others pay to work in vfx apparently…
xoio: What was the weirdest / most extraordinary thing that happened to you working in the industry?
anselm: To me that’s meeting amazing people. Being part of something like Avatar was a great experience too. I mean don’t get me wrong, I love my job! I just can’t recommend it. I am a grumpy German, that’s all :D…
Living in LA you run across some weird folks, I can tell ya.
xoio: Where do you see your future as an artist? Can an artist in your field do the same thing for 30 years?
Or is there any bigger plan for you?
anselm: You grow as you go. You become senior, as artist and your bones :D You become Supervisor, etc. We will see what’s in stores. Maybe Shrimp boat captain is where it’s at when you had enough or educating the next generations.
xoio: With all the big titles done, is there still some dream-work that you would love to do? Personal professional ? Anything you know that you would love to do that has not been there yet?
anselm: That’s always the next project.
xoio: Do you have a special advice for young artists, something you might consider important? How would a young artist become Anselm 2.0 if he would love to?
anselm: The answer is out there! You life in a great time where there are plenty of video tutorials on every field in 3d animation. Some are free on YouTube or Vimeo, some cost money like TurboSquid, Digital Tutors, Gnomon, etc. but it’s well spend if you really wanna learn.
And don’t let it grind you down when the work of others looks “film” and yours does not! VFX is a team sport. Usually it’s more then 1 artist touching a shot. Keep that in mind! Also be open for critique and comments. You might learn a thing or two! I did 2 years of video tutorials and just hours and hours and more hours of personal R&D at home before I landed my first particle gig. It was hard work!
xoio: You brought some presents for our readers. What is it?
anselm: Yep! Since I make purdy particles mostly the “presents” are particle related as well, I tried to keep it as lean as possible in terms of additional plugins. First one up is a simple 8Bit animated object generator that requires the Toolboxes but was asked for many times on the forums. But if you wanna work serious with particles they should be in your arsenal anyways…
Second scene is a simple shape “A” to shape “B” morpher that doesn’t use any plugins. It stores the initial position in a script and then uses a FindTarget Operator to read those values. Again this effect has been asked for a lot in the past so check it out.
Third file is a gras growing Flow. Feel free to play with it. In addition to the scene provided here it’s worth a mention that there is a detailed video tutorial on Evermotion.org that I did a while back: Evermotion Tutorial
And lastly a teaser for my Debris Collection on TurboSquid that I use for all kinds of particle vfx work. Concider it a little present! Check out the full collection and demo files here: Debris Collection for VFX
Additionally we collected some of our favorite particle-tutorials free on vimeo.
xoio: Anselm, we are very grateful you took your time and hope to see more and more of you in the future!
anselm: Anytime! Thanks for having me! Much appreciated.
WATCH MORE VIDEOS:
And here is some separate training stuff he’s doing:
And here are some stills of Anselm’s stuff he did over the last years: