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The Academy | Meet 3D DMP Trainer, Luke Panayiotou

September 12, 2022

Hi Luke! Can you tell us a bit about your background? 

My first introduction to CGI was playing video games such as ‘Sonic’ and ‘Super Mario’.  At a young age I enjoyed watching animations such as ‘Wallace and Gromit’, ‘Pingu’ and various other stop motion pieces. I discovered a fascination with Disney and Pixar films such as ‘Sword in the Stone’, ‘Robin Hood’ and of course ‘Toy Story’.  I would watch them, look at the backgrounds, and admire the artistry. 

Now I’m a DMP artist with thirteen years of experience in the VFX/CG industry working at over 35 studios to date. Before studying animation/VFX, I was a traditional landscape painter, using oil paint with canvas and pencil studies. When I entered the industry, I worked in creative production studios for advertising and then automotive as a CG Generalist learning many disciplines including modelling, texturing, lighting, rendering and compositing. 

After around 6 years of working as a CG Generalist, I slowly started to transition over to a concept/matte painter. From there my career grew and I went to work as a freelance DMP artist for many studios including Aardman, Mikros Animation, Outpost VFX, Nineteentwenty & MPC. 

Since 2019 I have been a Senior/Lead DMP artist for many studios working on both small-scale and large productions all over the world. Everything from large blockbuster films to short animation pieces and VR projects. 

What drew you to 3D DMP? 

I enjoy 3D DMP the most out of all VFX roles as it’s the best representation of my traditional art skills. It’s a position that feels natural to me and as I’m more artistic than technical. 3D DMP suits my approach to problem solving and creative decision-making. 

I’ve always been drawn to environments and landscapes rather than characters, and I took my first steps toward being creative when my father taught me to use a manual SLR camera. I enjoy finding a location to shoot as well as making it a piece of art. 

How would you explain what 3D DMP is to someone who had never heard of it? 

“You know when that actor is stood on top of that building that’s covered in snow? I put that snow there and made it look all cool and war-torn.” Basically, most things in the background that don’t move are digitally painted by a 3D DMP Artist and a lot of CG that is created usually requires a DMP artist to paint on top of it. 

I feel like DMP artists are the unsung heroes in a lot of cases. We paint over CG when there isn’t enough time to refine renders, we reconstruct large environments. We change climates, we remove and add buildings, we add snow when there was no snow on set, we change the time of day from sunrise to sunset and at the same time we always make the skies look beautiful. 

It’s sometimes hard to explain what DMP is, because if it’s a great DMP, you won’t know it’s a DMP. 

Talk us through one or two of your favorite projects from Technicolor Creative Studios and explain why you’ve chosen them  

My favourite project that I worked on at MPC was ‘Call of the Wild’. This project was located in Montreal.  It was my favourite project because of the people I worked with and the support we gave each other. It’s not very often that as a freelancer you get to see a project through to the end with the same set of people. This was one of those rare opportunities. Everyone on the team refused other projects or positions and saw this one through because the project was so fun, the team was supportive and when we had to do extra work, it was worth it. It was a joy being around and learning from such great people who, for me, have become close friends.  

I also got to travel a bit and experience a new city in a part of the world I’d never been to before. Which is always pretty cool.  

What sort of existing skills should someone have before joining the 3D DMP course at The Academy? 

Basic technical knowledge of 3D programs, preferably Maya. A solid understanding of Photoshop with experience of using a professional Graphics Tablet like Wacom. An awareness of Nodal-based compositing software such as Nuke or Fusion. 

Just as important as understanding the software. I would expect students to have experience in receiving feedback and critic on their work, have a ‘can do’ attitude and want to learn a new fresh and professional way of working with these programs.   

Trainers have dailies with the students four days a week which involves reviewing shots with everyone attending. Students should be happy to take feedback from their trainers and be comfortable making changes to their work on a day-to-day basis. 

What’s your favorite thing about being part of The Academy? 

I am fortunate that I have a wonderful team alongside me. Everyone is incredibly friendly and supportive, regardless of whether they are a trainer from a different discipline or on the other side of the world, everyone is looking out for each other. 

Being part of The Academy is always satisfying and fulfilling. My position as a trainer allows me to support artists before they make their first professional steps into the industry and it’s important to me that they know the realities of the world they are stepping into. As much as it can be stressful, it’s a rewarding and fun industry to be part of and I want my students to remember that.

Whether we are helping students with artistic, technical or even personal queries, we are there for them at every moment. Knowing that they have support from experienced artists like myself and all the other academy staff lets me know that we are helping them make the right career choices. 

Discover more about The Academy and apply for courses here.

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