James Lucas - [Q&A] Interview & Experiences within the VFX Industry.

Article / 22 May 2019

Hey Everyone,
James Lucas was in town last weekend, to do an interview with Craig Brown at the AIE Canberra Open day. The Q&A, was mainly about James experiences he has had within the Australian VFX industry and advice for prospecting students who are eager to enter the industry.  And what it was like to work as a Texture/Environment artist.

James has worked on Aquaman, John Wick 3, Men In Black International, IT Chapter 2 and now is currently working at Quixel.

It was an absolute pleasure to finally meet James in person. I've known him for a while, but only in the digital form. I helped teach the AIE Online courses back when James was a student. And I was luckily enough to have had James in a few of my classes. Though the sheer credit to his successes is himself, with dedication and commitment he has put to his craft. :)

If you are reading this James, keep up the stellar work! I look forward checking out the adventures you embark on next. Especially that which involves with sweet sweet... Megascans and other awesome texture goodness! haha

Make sure to check out James Artstation, it has lots of pretty artworks to check out and goggle at.

I also want to shout out, Craig Brown who organized, interviewed and edited the video and Tom Magill who was in charge of capturing the event on camera. Without these two, this video wouldn't exist!

- Finn 

Flashback Friday: First Teaching Gig (2012)

General / 29 March 2019

I thought to share a flashback to one of my first teaching gigs. Back in 2012.

It was the first time teaching Maya and I was responsible for teaching Certificate 2 in Creative industries at Lake Tuggeranong. Every Wednesday for 10 weeks for a duration of 3 hours, I would travel down to their school and teach them the basics of 3d Modelling and animation.

The last week of the course, instead of me traveling to their school. They would come to the AIE campus for a full week (10am-4pm) and develop their final production. Which they ended creating a cyberpunk car chase set in a not so distant dystopian future all within a week!

From memory, I think it was rendered in with Maya Software or Mental Ray.  But they had a blast. and we had a lot of fun together over the 10 weeks. Especially as none of them at the time have touched a 3d application before in the past. And the assessment requirements and qualification didn't demand a whole lot. But they went far and beyond with this animation and made something great.

It was also a great learning experience for me as well, my first real teaching gig besides doing mini-workshops during odd parts of the year when school holidays are on.

What I find interesting reflecting about it now, is that about ½ of the students continued studying. Completed their advance diploma, formed or joined existing mini indie studios and now have shipped games under their belts. While the other half have moved onto other industries doing things not related to 3d or games etc. (From what I am currently aware of)

Although I have lost contact over the years with the students in this class. If you are reading this. I would love to know how you are doing, and what you are up to regardless of the situation you are in now. Love to catch up!

Student Credits:

  • Nick Williams
  • Jordan Prasomsouk
  • Banjo Ward
  • Miles Sale
  • Kyle Nash
  • Nick Silec
  • Caitlin Davis
  • Cody Brook
  • Partick Collins

Music Credit: Power Glove - Streets of 2043

That's, all for today.

Catch you all next week. 


Michael Norback - Interview and Presentation - Advice for Aspiring Students

Article / 28 March 2019

Michael Norback was in town a month ago and did a presentation on how he entered the industry. The recording has just been uploaded and thought it would be useful for aspiring students looking to enter the industry.

Michael has worked at Method Studios, SlateVFX and The Mill within an assortment of roles. The video covers his personal journey, and the evolution of his portfolio and how he got his first job. Additionally, also giving a list of advice to other inspiring artists who are looking to enter the industry, the do's and don'ts etc. Overall great talk!

It was absolutely wonderful to have Michael drop in and conduct this interview/presentation here on the campus. And hang around with the students afterwards to answer questions and do a live demo in the class. The students and teachers appreciated the time he spent with us and look forward to hunting down his name within the credits of past and present projects he has worked on.

If you want to check out more about Michael you can find him on linkedin. :)

I also want to shout out, Craig Brown who organized, interviewed and edited the video and Tom Magill who was in charge of capturing the event on camera.

Although I was merely a participant to the talk, you can hear me asking questions for the students at the end. And if Michael is reading this... Thanks again and stay in contact! Drop in anytime if your in town, Always welcome!

Have a great weekend everyone, Enjoy the video!

- Finn

Digital Commercial - Soul Cartel (Mentoring)

General / 22 February 2019

As some of you might already know,
I have been working at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment for a few years now.
And from time to time I will share some of their work they have been working on.

In 2018, I had the pleasure of mentoring a new batch of first years, through the ropes. :)

These students were new to 3D. Learning Maya, Renderman, Substance suite and Nuke for the first time.

A portion of VFX students within class had to group up and work on a client project to put their knowledge to the test. Soul Cartel were kind enough to work along side, the teachers, and students and give them a chance to create a short advertisement for their business.
The brief was that they were to complete a 15 second advertisement for soul cartel, which is a southern themed burger restaurant that has multiple locations around Canberra, Australia. They created storyboards and concepts/documentation and pitched them to Soul Cartel which they green-lit two concepts. (Below is their final advertisements back to back of what they completed under 2 months working 2.5 days a week on it).

Should also mention that, along side teaching them I had the support of Dan Miller, Thomas Magill, Ryan Ware.

Artists Responsible (Check out their Artstations!): 

Overall, for the first time working with each other, and using source control to manage a mini production. They did really well.
I was fun to see them work together as a team and overcome hiccups throughout production. Great to see they all evolved together as a team and learn't a lot of lessons with this production that they can take onto the next.

I look forward seeing what they end up creating in their second year of study when they specialize in a specific skill or trade they end up choosing within the Visual effects industry. 

Thanks for reading,


Personal Development Diary 001 - Nuke

General / 18 July 2018

I wanted to get the Artstation blog up and running with a consistent flow of regular updates.
It seems silly to have a Artstation pro account and not use its features as intended.

So the objective is to post updates on projects that I am currently working on, while also on the side documenting additional learning tips and tricks I learn along the way that might seem useful. (as well as sharing existing knowledge that I am passionate about).

I will still be posting the usual portfolio updates and work in progress shots here n there.

but today's post is going to be briefly about NUKE.

Notes that I have been taking of the fundamental hotkeys/functions of Nuke

Nuke is a node-based digital composting application developed by The Foundary, and is used for television and film post production.

With my background in independent games development and studying media back in my college days I only really came into contact with After Effects by Adobe Systems. After effects has been an effective means to creating compelling game user interfaces, effects and explosions with its powerful robust compositing workflow. 

Back in 2007 I remember watching video copilot tutorials and discovering new ways to improve the films we had to shoot for media class. It was pretty straight forward to add blood/explosion effects on our footage and exposed us to this weird a wacky universe untouched to our eyes. But it did spark that interest within this industry and a passion to pursue it so I am pretty grateful for the opportunities I have been given and where I have ended up in my career so far. 

So it brings me back to Nuke, and why I am re-learning from scratch. and blogging about it. 

Nuke basically at the moment is a section of a road that I want to upgrade as its gotten a little dusty and worn since I last drove over it. I have a clear understanding for rendering within Maya and composting in After Effects, just not as much with the pipelines incorporating nuke. And my main objective is that I want to diversify my knowledge within various software packages to stay ahead of the curve. Nuke just so happens to be the next thing I want to tackle.

I have quite a few things lined up that I want to pursue but that will have to be another post for the future.

Having a blast at the moment, got much ground to cover, Nuke is pretty straightforward so far. 


Dennis Turbeni, England 1937 (FireTruck) - WIP

Work In Progress / 19 June 2018

Hey All,

Just posting up a work in progress, that I am currently working on for a personal project.

It's a firetruck I saw a few years back, in Malacca, Malaysia. I was fascinated by its design and took a ton of photos during the trip. I modeled some pipes at the back of the vehicle back in 2016 for a class demonstration but nothing really more after that point.

Only about 2 months ago I picked up the project and started modelling again. I have been squeezing it in during my spare time after work. The main objective is to practice my hard surface skills and go through the entire pipeline. So I am looking forward to tackling the texturing for this truck and then rendering after that.

Below are some reference images I am using within PureRef to support the modelling/texturing process. I kinda wish I took more photos of the vehicle as there are certain parts I don't have a lot to go on. 

Picture from the front

Picture from the back

If you wanted to see the high res images up close you can check out my Flickr album which have all the originals available to download for free if you are looking for similar hard surface references. 

Below is what I have so far, 

I have a few things to finish but its approximately 80% complete on the modelling side of things, with the unwrapping only at 25%

I aim to have modelling/unwrapping complete early July 2018 (Next month).
I have got to take into consideration of other side projects and work/life that usually eats into my time I can put towards the project.

I am really excited to be calling modelling side done soon,
Let me know if you have any suggestions or ideas,  Always keen to hear other people's thoughts. 

- Finn

Substance Painter to Renderman PBR Workflow (Pxrsurface)

Tutorial / 03 April 2018

Hey All, 

Just wanted to share some information regarding the workflow of Importing substance textures into Renderman using the Pxrsurface Material. Most tutorials out there are using the outdated PixarDisney Shader. I thought to update it to the new Pxrsurface material.

There is some info from Allegorithmic on this matter, but it's not using the PxrTexture node which is critical for certain aspects of rendering. You could run into some issues/errors during render time if using the default Maya file node. 

Here is my Texture Export Settings from Substance Painter for Renderman:  

*Note: Some cases Renderman has an issue with converting grayscale images. Resulting in the roughness not working correctly or not converting to a .TEX during render time. I would recommend then probably storing the map into one of the Alphas of the preexisting textures and hooking it up. 

 And here is the import settings for Renderman for Maya using a Pxrsurface material:

More or less after this step you should be done and test your render. 

Hope this helps someone in need. 

If you have any questions or suggestions, let me know your thoughts or share it around.



Edit 1: I should also note for Renderman 21, the roughness channel auto-selects the Alpha channel. So if you exported your roughness in RGB but not Alpha, It will auto load selecting the Alpha Channel, and the roughness will not work if Alpha is empty. So just check the wires and reroute it from the correct channel if that is the case.

Edit 2: Renderman 22, crashes when converting 'Indexed Color' or 'Greyscale' images (Usually roughness, or displacement) 

So open up the exported file in photoshop and manually change it to RGB and hit save. This should resolve the crashes within the Renderman texture manager. And they should convert correctly. Or just choose RGB on export rather than greyscale on export.

Edit 3: if you experience issues like the object is shiny when its meant to be rough etc. Ticking Linearize on Roughness and Displacement will change the contrast of the Black and White image. make sure they are unchecked.

Edit 4: Substance Painter 2020.1 (6.1.0) supports  pxrSurface and pxrDisney Output Templates.  No need for this guide anymore :)