Interview with Andi Wenzel

Andi Wenzel is a Freelance VFX Artist from Mainz, Germany with 3 years of industry experience.
He likes to work with Cinema 4D and Fusion.

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

I guess I had the perfect starting point at home with my parents being an artist and a computer scientist. As a teenager I started to combine both worlds and made my first contact with Photoshop, Webdesign and Video Editing. Home movies became bigger and bigger projects for me and I experimented a lot with editing and effects. After school I decided to make my passion into profession and went to study Media Design (or Time Based Media as they call it) in Mainz. During that time I fell in love with both film making and CGI and got my first freelance jobs as a 3D-Artist and lighting technician on set. I graduated in 2016 and continued freelancing fulltime. Since then I do what I do. I feel very lucky that I had such a smooth start and didn’t have to start from scratch.

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

I get inspired by almost anything that surrounds me. It can be a tiny fraction of everyday life, the way light and shadow falls on a specific object for example. Sometimes it can be music and the pictures it forms in my head. Traveling always inspires me as well. You get to see exciting places and have more time to think and daydream than in the usually busy times at home. Of course I also take lots of resources and inspiration from the internet, although I am often overwhelmed or even intimidated by the sheer amount of great pictures and the work of others.

How does a typical working day look like?

I usually take the bike to the office and arrive there at around 10 am. I start the day with a big cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal, sitting in front of the screen and checking out some news and social media. Then I focus on my work as much as any deadline demands. To keep a good working morale I have a lunch break, a short ping pong match and some chit-chat with my friends and collegues at the shared office during the day. I always try to call it a day not later than 8 pm.
Few times a year, I have to work at a clients office. I like to do this now and then for a change, but after a few weeks I’m always happy to be back at my own desk.

What does your workplace look like?

I share the office with a few other freelancers from the creative industry. We sit in a cozy and bright former small fire station. On my desk there’s a two monitor setup with two 24 inch HD Eizo monitors connected to a quite new and fast machine with two GPUs for 3D rendering. One monitor usually shows the image I work on fullscreen. I hate running out of RAM so I built in the full 128GB for compositing huge sequences. Apart from that there’s a medium sized wacom tablet on my desk and an Audio Interface with great and comfy headphones to not disturb my workmates with loud and heavy music.

How do you stay motivated in this tough industry?

I would say the best way to stay motivated is to do a project you really love at least once a year. Unfortunately you don’t find these projects amongst payed jobs that often. So if I can afford it, I try to take one month each year off to do a personal project and learn some new techniques. That keeps me up and running.

What is your passion beside CGI/3D?

Music has always been a great passion of mine. I play guitar and sing in a rock band. We meet one evening a week to write new music. This helps me to let off steam and forget all the strain there may be at the moment. I also visit many concerts every year.
Another good way for me to spend money is to go travelling as often as possible. I especially love to go hiking and camping with my future wife. We both are pretty much nature addicts and love to spend time outside.

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

Maybe I’m not the one to give any advice on this. My showreel is 8 years old. But the portfolio on my website is quite up to date. I use Adobe Portfolio in combination with Behance for this. It’s easy to use, minimalist, responsive and puts all the focus on your work. If time allows it, I occasionally try to make some work in progress screenshots of important projects. They are always nice to include in a portfolio.

What Software do you use to create your artwork?

Depending on the type of project it is mostly a combination of Cinema 4D and Octane Render for 3D and Fusion for Compositing. Many clients rely on After Effects for Motion Design jobs, so I still use the Adobe Suite quiet often.

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

I recently started playing around with Substance Designer and already love it. There’s so much potential in creating photoreal and procedural textures. I hope to get more confident with the Substance workflow during the next year.
To expand my rendering skill set, I also want to learn Redshift. Everything I see and hear about it sounds very promising.
Another big topic is Houdini. I’m already convinced by the node based workflow and the unlimited possibilities. If I just had another spare lifetime to learn.

Which books would you recommend to the read?

I have to admit I’m not that much of a reader. In case of VFX related specialised books there are some that help me understand many complicated topics better:

  • Digital Lighting and Rendering (Jeremy Birn)
  • Digital Compositing for Film and Video (Steve Wright)

What music do you listen to while working?

Most of the time I listen to heavy Rock stuff like Post-Hardcore, Alternative or Mathcore. If I really need to concentrate I like listening to instrumental Progressive Rock. Apart from that I’m also a sucker for acoustic Singer-Songwriter Music, or sometimes ambient electronic stuff.

Any advice for new Artists?

Don’t let anyone – especially worried parents – take away your dream. It’s really possible to make a good living out of this work.
If you know what kind of work you want to do, allow yourself to say „no“ to projects that don’t help you getting there.
Try to make business contacts as soon as possible during your studies. Don’t be afraid to ask for freelance jobs even if you feel like a beginner. Often the first small jobs later lead to bigger oportunities.