Interview with Paul Ambrosiussen

Published on 08/27/2018

Paul Ambrosiussen is a 3D Technical Artist @ SideFX from Austria, but lived most of his life in the Netherlands with 4 years of industry experience. He likes to work with Houdini, Unreal Engine, Unity, Photoshop, Sublime and Perforce.

What led you into the CGI/3D? Tell us your story.

So before I officially started in the CG industry, I was already tinkering with website development for startup companies and other interested people. Next to that I was also drawing a lot in my spare time. At the start of my career I did some business-to-business projects revolving around both eye-tracking and holographic displays. I even did a cool holographic game for the Disney Star Wars IP as part of dsXpress GmbH. Around that time it was mostly building branded applications for a holographic display called Dreamoc using Unity. It was pretty challenging, since it was a new type of device nobody had ever developed for before. After that I went on and developed games called The Automatician and Einar with my company. I really learned a lot from that which helped me get where I am now: SideFX.

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Where do you go to get inspired? What/Who inspires you?

I like going to the beach whenever I’m not working, and just not do anything. It’s very relaxing, and empties your mind. Inspiration comes from the places you least expect it to come from. So whenever I don’t do anything, I tend to get bored and look at the things most people don’t bother looking at. My mind will then try and make them interesting in some way, which sometimes gives me pretty useful out of the box type ideas. My favourite inspiration at this moment is Elon Musk — The real life Batman.

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How does a typical working day look like?

My typical workday is pretty straightforward. I get up, have a nice breakfast and start my day. Usually I browse some online websites to get the latest news about our industry… Reading tutorials, breakdowns and demo reels of people gets you excited to start building cool stuff yourself. Once I’ve done that, I read my emails and do customer support around the GameDev scene in Houdini. I’m pretty active on things like forums, discord and slack. People typically have questions about how to do certain things, and I’m always happy to troubleshoot or build an example for them whenever I’m available. But that’s whenever I’m just working on projects. Sometimes I also have to go on trips to visit customers or attend events, so overall it’s pretty varied; which is great!

What does your workplace look like?

My workplace is pretty normal compared to others I think. Whenever I’m working from home or in my office I tend to work with a powerful desktop. It’s designed to work with Game Engines so it’s a pretty compact machine, which is what I like about it. At home I only work with one screen, but at work I have three so that I can have my messages, scripts and main applications open simultaneously.

As for keyboards.. I really love clicky mechanical keyboards. The one I’m currently using is a Corsair Vengeance K65 Compact. But since I sometimes need to go talk at events or visit customers I also have a portable setup that I can bring anywhere. My favourite pick for portable setups is a Razer Blade notebook, since it’s compact, powerful and professional looking. (pretty important when presenting to people) When working with multiple devices, it can be challenging to get all files synced between devices. So for that I use services such as Github and Perforce.

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How do you stay motivated in this tough industry?

Honestly.. I haven’t had the need yet to motivate myself since I’ve been lucky enough to always have a cool project to work on, both commercial and personal projects. It’s really important to always have side projects, so that you can do some work there when things are a bit slow.

I tend to pick up really challenging projects, since they keep my mind sharp. One of the things I like is being stuck on really tough problems, so that’s usually what I do whenever I’m working in my spare time. It’s also really important to talk to your peers online. You get updates on what they are doing, and sometimes even collaborate on cool projects with them.

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What is your passion beside CGI/3D?

I like playing story driven games. They just take you to another world, where you can forget about everything else in the real world. My favourite game in that genre is The Last of Us. Next to that, I also really like to go and explore things. It’s amazing to see how different, yet similar, various countries are. Europe especially is fascinating as everything is so close to each other, yet so different. There are a lot of tiny countries that still have a very unique culture.

How do you keep your portfolio up to date? Any tips?

Personal Projects are key. They not only get you to try new things, but will also become a library of cool little bits you might be able to use in a future project. Sometimes they are massive time-savers when you need something quickly.

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What Software do you use to create your artwork?

I tend to use the combination of Houdini, Photoshop and Unreal Engine or Unity. Houdini allows me to build procedural systems, Photoshop allows me to create all sorts of 2D work, and Unreal Engine or Unity is what I use to make interactive experiences out of it.

What Software do you want to learn in future? And why?

I don’t have any specific software in mind that I’d like to learn, since I can write my own inside Houdini whenever I need anything. I do however have some tech I’d like to learn more about — Machine Learning. A primitive approach of it has been around since 1959, but we now finally have the tools and hardware to make it more accessible to a lot more developers.

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Which books would you recommend to the readers?

There are plenty of good books around, but I personally prefer watching TED talks since they have a really wide range of topics covered. That’s rather important, since it makes sure you don’t get too obsessed / focused on a single interest of yours. The more diverse your sources of information are, the more creative your thinking will become.

What music do you listen to while working?

That really varies. The only real preference I have is that it keeps playing seamlessly for multiple hours. That usually tends to be something like Drum and Bass, an Instrumental Beat Volume / Mix and or Deep House. Some artists I really enjoy listening to are Pendulum, Fox Stevenson, Kaytranada and Oliver Heldens.

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Any advice for new Artists?

When starting out, creating good art is just as important as building a network of peers around you. Create cool stuff, and share it with others on websites that have been specifically built for that such as ArtStation, Vimeo, Polycount, 80lv and many more. Talk to as many people as possible, and don’t be afraid of showing your work and ask critical questions. Most opportunities I have had in my life so far have been from meeting people at events and forums.

It might sound cliche, but this industry is all about knowing people. If you don’t talk to people they won’t know you, and you won’t know them. Send an email to the people you respect and whose work you admire. They’re just humans, and love to talk about their experience and passion with others. That’s what made them successful after all.

About the Artist

The internationally acclaimed 3D artist is well-known for his work on exciting video game titles, such as Guanta Gnomo (winner of the Totally Epic Unreal Engine Award by Epic Games, a leader in the games industry) Prism Warden (recipient of the 2015 Tobii Hardware Innovation Award for the best use of eye tracking technology in combination with hologram technology), and BoombaCats (which received the Excellence in Gameplay Experience Award at the Global Game Jam 2017, the world’s largest game creation event). As Mr. Ambrosiussen is an award-winning artist and also regarded as an expert in the industry, he has been invited to speak at important trade events such as the Game Developers Conference, the world’s largest and longest-running event serving professionals dedicated to the art and science of making games. His critically acclaimed work has also been featured and hailed by trade publications including 3D Artist, VentureBeat, 80 Level, and GC Press.

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