Interview with Mario Tran Phuc
Thanks for agreeing to do an interview with us. We saw your beautiful work and thought it would be cool to ask you a few questions about your process.
Thank you so much for having me. I’ve been following your work for many years and your tutorials helped me a great deal getting into Cinema4D. It’s a huge honor to get interviewed by Greyscalegorilla.
First, what is your name and where do you work?
My name is Mario Tran Phuc. I’m currently working for Insydium (the creators of X-Particles) as VFX Designer, Art Director & Technical Support.
What got you into 3D and Cinema 4D when you first got started?
I got into 3D during my studies about 8 years ago. My buddies and I made a ten minute short film using Maya which was a great start into 3D animation. I then worked at Pixomondo for 7 years as an Art Director / Project Lead working on projects for advertising, live events as well as working on feature films. Adobe After Effects was my go-to tool for many years, but with the rising demand of 3D visuals in Motion Design and impressive Mograph demonstrations by my great workmates, I finally decided to dive back into 3D again. I chose Cinema4D, because of its amazing modules and its seamless connection to After Effects. Actually, over the last few years it increasingly became my tool of choice for nearly every kind of design work.
Your X-particles work is so beautiful. What got you into X-Particles originally?
Thanks a lot! About 1.5 years ago, I opened up X-Particles for the first time, because we needed particles in the VFX department and I was totally sucked into it. First I started out with a little program called ‘Particle Illusion’ and later on ‘Trapcode Particular’ for After Effects and eversince I have been using particles on pretty much every project so far.
Finally, X-Particles allowed me to achieve all the difficult things that were out of my reach before, e.g. accurate collisions or particle emission based on 3D geometry. Due to its wide toolset of particle modifiers and the unique Questions&Actions system it suddenly opened up almost endless possibilities for a digital artist like me. So while I got dragged into learning XP I started doing personal artwork & experiments in my spare time. I still thoroughly enjoy exploring visual effects and expressing my creativity with X-Particle.
What is your favorite “Go To” modifier in X-Particles?
Definitely the xpTurbulence. It is one of my favorite modifiers to begin a setup as it quickly adds a nice random motion to the particle flow and therefore realism. It works beautifully with other modifiers like xpGravity or xpAttractor and it can be restricted to the XYZ-axis seperately, which gives you a lot of control, especially using multiple turbulences. I really adore many other modifiers as well, for example the xpConstraints, xpChangeGroup or xpSpawn, because of their high viability within the X-Particles system.
What is your favorite feature in X-Particles 3.5?
I really like the new xpParticleFalloff. It basically converts your particles into spherical falloffs, that can be used within every modifier of XP and any C4D object with a falloff tab. My favorite use of it is driving a xpChangeGroup modifier. You can just assign all the modifiers you need to the new xpGroup and they start triggering once the falloffs come into reach. It opens up countless possibilities! I highly recommend checking it out.
As part of an ongoing artwork series for Insydium this rendering was an example of using the xpGenerator and the fluid dynamics of the xpDomain. From my experience the xpDomain achieves the best results by emitting particles out of a thin source to capture the forces nicely – in this case a spline-circle. After linking the particle colors to their speed, I cached the simulation and made multiple copies of it to fill the view (the ‘Copy Tag Data’ needs to be checked to copy cached emitters). This way I didn’t need to simulate them again at a larger scale.
To render the particles as custom shapes I used the xpGenerator, which is perfect for transfering attributes like facing direction, size and colors from the source emitter onto custom geometry. In order to get particle colors and glossiness at the same time, I actually rendered the picture twice (with and without a reflective material applied) to achieve this look in compositing later on.
The way to achieve this kind of traditional painting style is to use particle emitters to generate trails just like paint brushes. For that I keyframed the scale and strength of multiple xpTurbulences to shape the wavy form. After doing some variations I converted the xpTrails into splines and rearranged them to get a volumetric feel.
The coloring was done with the xpMaterial as you can apply the xpMaterial to xpTrails since the release of XParticles 3. Simply activate the age parameter beneath the color properties to enable the color-gradient for your xpTrails. This works even after converting the xpTrails and therefore on any kind of spline within Cinema4D.
We loved your Noise Palettes renders. How did that idea come about?
I came up with the idea of the Noise Palettes while I was testing different kinds of noises within the Displacement Deformer. I was totally surprised how appealing they looked in 3D space and couldn’t stop experimenting with the different types and attributes. At this moment it was when I came up with the idea to bring them together as a visual reference. It can be quite hard to judge the 2D thumbnails from the Material Editor and therefore to predict how one of them leads to the texture you are trying to achieve.
So I created a “printing plate” for every single noise by applying multiple Displacement Deformers to subdivided planes and adjusted each noise to look the most appealing while trying to keep the overall noise-scale in balance at the same time. In order to achieve the sculptural look I applied a Subsurface Scattering Material and positioned lights of different colors at opposing positions to shine through the geometry. The rendering was done with the Physical Render with a bit of color correction using After Effects.
Is there any advice to someone just starting out that wants to make great looking 3D renders?
Well, I think a good start is to study the artworks you personally adore the most. You can learn a lot by analyzing their composition, framing and contrasts in color and shape. I love those pictures where you feel like you can literally dive into, if you know what I mean. I try to give my renderings as much depth as possible by adding equal amount of detail into fore-, middle and background.
Once you have set up enough elements in space, which can be complex forms as well as simple shapes like particles, the “Rule of Thirds” helps a lot to balance out a composition. Apply it on the part that looks the most appealing to you. You can achieve a lot of depth by using warm colors with high contrast in the foreground and cool colors with less contrast in the background. It really helps to zoom out of the picture from time to time to check if the composition is working overall.
I can highly recommend to join the wonderful Cinema4D community as well, either online via platforms like Twitter and Motion Design Slack or onsite at Maxon user-meetings and conferences. You can find me at this year’s NAB in Las Vegas demoing X-Particles 3.5 for Insydium at the Maxon Partner Booth. I hope to see some of you there and chat with you in person.