Interview with Nelson Tai

Nelson Tai is a Concept Designer from Hong Kong, Hong Kong with 4 years of industry experience.
He likes to work with ZBrush, Keyshot, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blender and Fusion 360.

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

I started off my career as a web designer, but got really bored of it after a few years of repetitive work. My wife’s love for movies inspired me to pursue a career in film and entertainment. We would often check out ‘behind the scene’ videos after watching movies, and it was some movie’s „making of“ video that introduced me to idea of concept art and design in film, which I was previously not aware of. My background was in 2D and had no previous experience with 3D, so learning it was definitely difficult at first. I got my first 3D job when we moved to Hong Kong 4 years ago when my wife got a job offer there. I was luckily hired to FATface Productionwhen I stumbled upon their ad for hiring animators, but instead of doing any animation work, I became involved with doing designs for the studio’s main sci-fi film project – Warriors of Future. I pretty much developed my career into a Concept Designer with huge thanks to Kofai (boss of FATfaceand Director of “Warriors of Future”) for his trust and giving me opportunities that I could have only dreamed of. The past 4 years has been beyond awesome designing for “Warriors of Future” and various other projects.

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

Inspiration can be from anywhere. I always have a laptop beside me that plays movies / netflix / youtube. It may seem distracting but it has helped inspire me with new ideas many times. BBC’s nature documentaries are also something I often go to for inspirations. Most insect’s design is just ridiculously cool! And the crazy amount of talents on Artstation are just good reminders to always do the best work you can.

How does a typical working day look like?

Working days are pretty standard. I pretty much meet with Director or Supervisors to get briefed on what is needed. We work out a schedule and I work according to the deadlines. Things are pretty flexible at the studio. 

What does your workplace look like?

FATfaceon the top floor of an old industrial building. The studio is pretty modern and has a nice little balcony that looks out to the harbour between Hong Kong and Kowloon island.

How do you stay motivated in this industry?

I think I’m still pretty new into this, so I haven’t ever felt unmotivated. I’ve only been doing this for 4 years or so. 

What is your passion beside CGI/3D?

I love music and love motorsports (F1 and motoGP), which probably shows from my work and style.

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

I use Artstation as my portfolio and it really can’t get easier than how Artstation manages your artwork.

What Software do you use to create your artwork?

ZBrush > Keyshot > Photoshop is my main tools. I’ve also started adding Procreate, Marvelous Designer, Blender and Fusion 360 lately to speed up time for designing certain things.

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

Blender. I know a bit of it but definitely want to learn more about it as 2.8 looks crazy. I would also want to try VR sculpting. I’ve seen pretty cool results different artists have been sharing. There’s so much to learn out there. MOI, Octane and 3Dcoat all looks very cool to try out as well.

Which books would you recommend to the read?

I don’t really read any books, but I do go through a lot of “Art of (movie / game)” books to know more about the ideas beside the designs. Always inspiring to understand what the artists were thinking behind the designs. Pixar and Marvel ones are always great to go through.

What music do you listen to while working?

Metallica is my main thing. But I also enjoy pop stuff like Bruno Mars to everything in between.

Any advice for new Artists?

Always find time to do personal work. Personal work has proved to be really important to me in establishing my own style and designs. It has also opened up great new opportunities. But do set deadlines for your personal work so that you don’t drag out the project endlessly.