Interview with Bernd Richard Kopf

Bernd Richard Kopf is a 3D Artist / Sound Designer from Mainz, Germany with 4 years of industry experience.
He likes to work with Zbrush, Cinema 4D, Houdini, Redshift, Thea Render, Substance Suite, Photoshop and Ableton Live.

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

I started drawing and painting at an early age, with both my parents being artists. In the early 2000s my life was all about graffiti and music, but also film. While other kids knew films because of actors, my heroes were directors. I always wanted to know who “made” the film – whose vision it was. Before I finally went in that direction, I already absolved an apprenticeship and learned music production and audio engineering.

There were a few cool projects, but I was never really happy with the path I took, so in 2012 I finally decided to study “Media Design” in Mainz, Germany. This was were i belonged. In the beginning i still wanted to do “Live Action” filmmaking and did direct a few shorts and similar things, but also started to learn more about 3D and Motion Design. I somehow naturally moved to 3D as my main medium, because i was able to do things from the ground up, only driven by imagination. Also it was a perfect combination with my love for sounds and music. First real 3D Jobs came in 2015, while i was still studying. In the beginning of 2018 I finished studying with a masters degree and since then I´m a fulltime freelancer for CGI, Motion and Sound Design.

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

Since I´m a big movie buff, i think my main inspiration are films. Not only visually, but in a general sense their mood and atmosphere. I´m also a big fan of old Art and Design Books, which I collect – sometimes you get them for a few bucks on amazon. Also music is a constant source of inspiration. Of course i also look at other 3D Artists work, there are many great people in our field.

How does a typical working day look like?

I get up early and have to drive about one hour to my shared office space in Mainz. I arrive there between 8:30 and 9:30. I usually start working right away (or maybe after a coffee 😉 ), since I´m most productive in the morning. At around 13:00 the office normally makes a lunch break and after that I continue to work till around 19:00, with a few breaks at the ping pong table we have in our office. Sometimes I´m also On Site at Studios or when I´m doing a sound job I work at my home studio, where I can get in the right mood for music.

What does your workplace look like?

It´s a shared office in an old fire department, called “Feuerwache”. There are other great freelancers ranging from 3D to graphic design, who are not only colleagues, but friends. It´s a great working environment, where everyone shares their knowledge and of course much geeky stuff.

I prefer a two monitor setup. I switch between a Logitech G Mouse and a Wacom Intuos Pro 5, depending on the task.

How do you stay motivated in this tough industry?

I don´t think about that very often. I´m always motivated to create something and if it is not for a job, it is a personal project. Of course sometimes it is stressful or you´re stuck, while time is running. But I had a few other jobs before that, and there´s nothing like the rush when something works out in 3D or design projects in general. So I´m motivated to get that feeling again and again. I don´t think that will fade.

What is your passion beside CGI/3D?

I´m into many things art and design related. Photography, drawing, writing – I guess the usual artist stuff. I love to visit galleries and museums. Also I make quite a lot of music, mainly electronic, ambient music or techno – but i don´t publish much of that. And there is my passion for film of course, especially korean mystery and thrillers.

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

When I have time between jobs I produce personal artworks, which I started to publish on instagram, but I also upload them to my portfolio website. I use a simple Adobe Portfolio which i customized a bit. I did a few jobs with NDA, which i can´t post anywhere, what is not ideal, but sometimes necessary. My Tip would be to show only the artwork that represents what you really like. I got this tip from Simon Fiedler, and i think it is a great principle.

What Software do you use to create your artwork?

My main software packages are Cinema 4D and Zbrush. I love Cinema, because it is quite easy to come up with ideas and it is incredibly stable. Also it is quite commonly used by studios here in Germany. Zbrush on the other hand feels so different and is my go to application for an “artistic approach”, with most of the technical aspects swept aside for a moment. I also started learning Houdini and incorporating it more and more in my personal artwork, but there is still a lot to learn to get completely comfortable with it. Besides that, i use Substance Designer and Painter – an awesome toolkit. I always try to do my textures myself and not use render ready PBR Packs. I also started pretty early with GPU rendering in the beginning with the student version of Thea Render, which I still like and use for personal stuff. But my main renderer is Redshift now, which is great in Cinema and Houdini.

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

Getting better in Houdini is the way to go for me. It´s just so versatile and powerful. I also follow the rapid development in realtime graphics, especially Unreal Engine is really interesting for design stuff. Exciting times.

Which books would you recommend to the read?

The Advertising Concept Book – Pete Barry (Think first – Design later. Great Concept!)
Sound Design – David Sonnenschein (Especially for people not familiar with the subject)

What music do you listen to while working?

Techno, Ambient, Electronica and Original Score / Film Music. Sometimes also Soul/Funk, Hip Hop.

Any advice for new Artists?

It´s great to follow tutorials, or copy stuff and learn that way. This is totally fine. But also try to find your own subjects and style and incorporate them into your work. Explore. Sometimes it´s more exciting to use the right tools in the wrong way, to get to something interesting or even unique… Have Fun!