Interview with Alberto Silva Villegas, 3D Designer at WebCreek
The Twilight Zone: popular television series from the late 1950s, filmed in black-and-white, and produced by Rod Serling. It was dubbed in Spanish and transmitted in Mexico in the early ‘80s, carrying the loosely-translated (but very relevant, given the topic) title, La dimensión desconocida (The Unknown Dimension). Each episode referenced a different topic that landed outside the spectrum of norms and appearances. Since we were kids, we’ve been told about the “three dimensions;” we proved them with both sight and touch. Later, as teens, we became aware of the fourth dimension: time. And, from the fifth and beyond, our imaginations have pushed us to see these dimensions like the continuous reflection of one mirror in the next. In my interview series of talent that “connects the dots,” it’s time to meet a young designer of the third dimension. I invite you to get to know the dimension called Alber Silva, as he’s known in Slack and by his coworkers at the Quito, Ecuador office.
We’re going to see him deeper through the following questions, which I asked in two dimensions, through a video chat.
Rafa: What is the inspiration that pushes you to create WebCreek’s designs? Do you follow a certain school, trend, or model?
Alber Silva: Well, basically, I’d say that I focus on our current projects. I concentrate on a database, but I’m always looking for inspiration about things exist already on the internet– something from other artists or businesses. Currently, the subject of 3D is quite scarce in the company. 2D dominates more here, whereas transportation is central to my work: all kinds of vehicles, especially machinery, which is my speciality. Everything that I do is related to those types of designs.
Rafa: How much time do you invest in the process? Could you tell us your steps from beginning to end?
Alber Silva: Yeah, basically, I’ll tell you the steps for a 3D project, which always starts with a sketch. And when dealing with a new project or prototypes of different views, to give me more or less an idea of what I’m going to build, the next phase would be modeling. That is, I build the whole thing polygon by polygon. Then comes the grid consolidation phase. Polygons can be corrected, a bit of disorder, and, then, the third phase. This is the UV mapping or cut, that is, the 3D model converted into 2D. Here, I can place textures and take it to any three-dimensional level. Then comes the rendering process. I use a motor for that; there are a number available. The rendering motor is basically a photograph– you can edit the framing, focus, lighting, shadows, and refine all those details. Basically, it’s the creation process of rendering. Because, if we’re talking about animation, it’s a totally different thing. There are various steps for each process, but it depends on the task. And regarding time, well, it depends. For example, a vehicle could take me two months, depending upon the level of detail. If it features exterior or interior modeling, that adds more time, which might take me five months to finish. It all depends, like I said, on the level of detail.
Rafa: Do you think that animal kingdom photography, in particular, the macrophotography that you do of insects and spiders, is related to your work with WebCreek? If it is, how so?
Alber Silva: More than anything, it’s a hobby. It’s about getting outside of the norm. I’ve always liked photography, although small things–especially insects–started to draw my attention a long time ago. Like I told you, I’ve worked on 2D projects at WebCreek, although this applies for 3D work. Above all, the world of small things is very interesting; in particular, the topic of insects applies here because of their textures. I would even like to do an organic model at some point, I mean, of creatures. Or, it could also apply for the mechanic models that I do, where I could combine organic and mechanic elements, and from there develop something novel in this branch of design.
Rafa: What was the joining of engineering and marketing like for you, during your professional formation? What caused you to mix these two specialities in your profile?
Alber Silva: Well, as you would have seen, I’m an engineer in marketing. And in my last year of university, I had to organize events and create the models for them. Hence, the love of innovating from the typical mock-up, and working on the 3D aspect. That’s how I started to investigate the programs that are managed, and that’s where this passion for three-dimensional modeling was born. Little by little, I dove in. And I convinced myself that this is what I wanted to dedicate to doing– this is what I want to keep working on, and keep surviving on, let’s say (laughs). So, in a big way, marketing helps me understand the systems of production: who a product that I’m making is directed towards, and the identity of the work that I’ve done or am doing.
Rafa: What’s your relationship with Domestika? What can you tell us about this?
Alber Silva: Well, it’s an educational online community with a really good reputation in creative professional circles. Currently, I’m part of the staff of Domestika’s instructors, or professors, in the 3D area, and in the subarea of vehicle modeling. There are other professors in design of people, of riggings, and in all that 3D modeling implies. But they didn’t have anyone specific for assets or mechanics modeling. And they contacted me to conduct a course on vehicle modeling, which we’re developing from zero. Students will be able to take from it the modeling, texturing, and all of the following processes, until arriving at the final rendering. That way, through my experience with WebCreek, the participants will possess all the tools needed to do vehicle 3D modeling projects– whether they be high, medium or low polygonal; or for a videogame motor; or for a virtual or augmented reality project. Everything will be explained in the course, which, although quite basic as an introduction to all the programs used for these purposes, will allow students to establish a solid base to develop these particular projects.
Rafa: Tell me a little more about your beginnings with 3D at WebCreek. Above all, talking about the oil company platforms.
Alber Silva: I’ve been in the company about 2 years, a little bit longer. When I started, well, applied, I was contracted and immediately assigned to the team that was working on one of the business, OMNI‘s most ambitious projects. It was a virtual reality training platform in the oil sector. Now, I didn’t have experience in assets development, in that sense, with machines at that type of things. Rather, I had focused on vehicles, trucks, etc. It was therefore something interesting and challenging in my work as a 3D designer; well, I’d never done an industrial generator or a fracking unit, but these were the tasks assigned to me. I had to first soak in the model that I was going to do, and– keeping with the example of a fracking unit– I had to copy the reference images, videos, and even available documentaries, as much as possible. All this was to learn how it functioned, or how they took it to the worksite, and even how they do maintenance on “X” or “Y” machine. That way, I was clear on what I was going to do, which parts are moving or fixed– that is, everything–even how I was going to texture the materials so that the asset ends up as realistic as possible in the preview motor. That’s how I had to do all the models. It enriched this project for each of the 3D team members, and helped us improve our workflow. Because it’s a fact that not one person can do everything; we need a coworker to help us. Well, our our process is like a small chain of production. One of us can help do or continue someone else’s work– we’re a team. This experience disciplined my work habits and my ability to turn in a final product, or one that could follow-up on and better another team member’s work. To summarize, by working this way, we learned 3D in the process. But we also learned the way in which the industry we work for functions.
Rafa: As you’ve seen, I ask a random or quirky question in my interviews, and I’ve developed one especially for you: If WebCreek were a form of transportation, which would it be? With what design qualities do you imagine it? Would it be a fast and furious car, or a tactical machine with some armor and artillery?
Alber Silva: Yeah, nice question (chuckles). More than a specific form of transportation, I would characterize WebCreek in a category of vehicles– I mean, just like we know that there are sedans, compact cars, sports cars, and SUVs. I would put WebCreek in this last category, because an SUV is a multifunctional vehicle. It’s comfortable, practical– let’s say, it works well in urban settings, but if dirt roads come along, SUVs have the ability to keep going, roll on those lands, and deal with adversity. In WebCreek, it’s similar: there are projects that, let’s say, in a certain sense and in quotations, are a bit easier and make the teams feel comfortable. They’re light, and allow a light workload, too; everything flows easily, let’s say, with a clear structure. While, at other times, there are difficult roads: there are complex projects. They’re complex and we don’t know the path we should take. But following this idea, if our business were a car with a resistant structure, it’d be able to deal with these adverse roads. And, well, that’s how WebCreek is. The team of personnel that works here is full of all professional people, and with these characteristics that move ahead with all types of projects that are presented to the company. So, responding to your question, I would say that WebCreek is like this type of SUV, because we’re multifunction. That is, if things are less easy or difficult, we adapt and push our projects forward.
Rafa: What would you recommend to designers or engineers, so that they develop their potential, just as you’ve have done at WebCreek?
Alber Silva: Well, my recommendation would be this: don’t sit back in your recliner chair, since one of the company’s strengths is the multitalented quality of each one of us. My recommendation is to not become content with only what we already know. As for me, I look to dig in to new projects and tasks, and that leads me to gain more knowledge, experience, and skills to do “X” or “Y” project. My advice is to always tend towards improvement, overcoming challenging, and to not fear the new and unknown. Because with willpower, work, and support from teammates, we will achieve whatever with success.
Rafa: Do you have a famous quote or personal mantra that kicks your creativity into motion?
Alber: Yes. More for designing, but for whatever activity I do, I always apply the phrase that one of our teachers once said: “When they ask you if you know how to do it, you say, ‘yes,’ and start figuring out how it’s done.” And I apply this. There have been situations in which some things ended up being complex, and I didn’t know how to solve them. But the important thing is to keep advancing, like technology, and not fear what you’re doing– to just do it, regardless of the type of daily work that each one of us carries out.
I said goodbye to Alber, thanking his willingness to do the interview, and congratulating him for his profile on Art Station, where–in addition to at WebCreek– he shows his creativity. Without a doubt, these questions allowed me to delve a bit more through this unknown dimension of one of WebCreek’s talents: the twilight zone, where technology, imagination, and creativity are connecting their dots.
“So, you who designs in 3D, would you want to move your 5 fingers and apply for this company?”