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Interview with Marco Patrito

Tuesday, February 25th, 2003 | Article by Jean-Eric Henault

Marco Patrito was born in 1952 in Turin, Italy, where he still lives today. His love for drawing developed at an early age. Later, he attended a high school specializing in artistic disciplines. He went on to university studies, but although he graduated with a degree in architecture, he never entered the profession. Instead, he remained lured by the beauty of imagery, becoming a painter, photographer, comic book author and scriptwriter with many of his stories published throughout Europe. He is also an accomplished science fiction illustrator, with more than 160 published covers.

Hyleyn


CGC: What is the Synopsis of Sinkha?

MP: Sinkha is a whole universe. It’s essentially an enormous background, our Arm of the Galaxy, where human and alien characters interact together in adventures that I’m trying to tell in an unconventional way. The action takes place at present time but, at least for now, in zones far away from Earth, where mankind has forgot its origins and the only terrestrial thing are its ancestors! The Sinkha belong to an immortal race, friendly and positive, but also unforgiving. In this fascinating milieu I love to explore the game of virtual realities, that can be synthetic paradises, or lethal weapons, too …And then there is the container of all this, the narrative technique that, consistently with the rest of the story, may be considered as a kind of ‘virtual reality’… a mixture of 3D and CG, graphic novel and a little bit of cinema.

CGC: What is the ultimate goal of this project?

MP: Obviously to meet success. Perhaps I should say to meet again with success as it happened ten years ago. Yes, because the first old Sinkha was a winning formula. The first 3D Graphic novel on CD-Rom went on a trip around the world. Then ingenuously I didn’t continue and I was convinced to make other things. With my Sinkha I arrived at Hollywood and at that time Columbia was on the verge to produce a movie… Afterwards a lot of things kept happening…. I’m starting again with new techniques and possibilities spent in the same formula, determined to realize a new series of episodes and ready to work focusing myself on this project with no distractions… naturally also improving along the path…!

CGC: What is the most difficult part in bringing this project to term?

MP: The project is a series and I’ve on schedule the first five titles, but I hope to continue further on. The episode I’m launching right now, being the first in a new age, has been developed among uncountable difficulties and uncertainties. What to change without canceling the past? This has been the first problem, and how to reach the deadline before ending the budget has been the last one in order of time…but not the least important anyway, like everyone working in a production knows very well!

CGC: What is the most important aspect of creating a life-like super-real digital characters?

MP: Even if I look with immense admiration at the great talents, who leave us flabbergasted with their characters of ‘real’ flesh, I would like to point out that super photorealism isn’t my final target. In some cases I choose to disappoint who’s waiting for an image such as to mistake reality. As long as I’m able to keep a small trait d’union with the traditional illustration, I like to give away a sense-of -wonder in the pictorial image at the cost of something a bit fake in lights or materials. I direct rather my attention on the realism and quality of the facial expressions. It’s very important, I believe, because it represents the ability of your digital actor in acting his part.


CGC: Did you use some sort of motion capture rig or did you use Keyframing for the body and facial animation?

MP: No motion capture. Even if I work with movie shots as a base for my animation, I like to interpret the original movements in order to better suit them to my requirements.

CGC: Looking back now, what was your very first digital character you created?

MP: My first digital human being in 3D was Hyleyn, in 1991. She was already my main character in Sinkha, slightly different from the modern version, but always recognizable…

CGC: What was the most difficult back then?

MP: It was 1991! Just imagine how it was difficult to find software able to model a face or a body! At that time I found out Strata Vision, an excellent program of rendering, with the possibility of realizing materials almost like the current software, yet not provided with a modeling system. And think about the character animation! I wonder if people talked about it only inside Pixar! So I studied a kind of neuter look able to give the impression of acting thanks to a few modifications in the post-production step. Finally the hardware, two or three hundreds times slower than the current one, obliged you to long waits just for the screen redrawing. And the rendering? What about the rendering? The reward for all this was the result…with a good result you are able to amaze the world!

CGC: What is the most difficult now?

MP: Today, on the contrary, it’s very difficult to astonish someone! I haven’t to explain here how many incredible CG artists there are in the world! But also who isn’t a 3D artist is a more exacting expert today, able to pinpoint every imperfection in an artwork. Even something I could judge as a shot of genius, could be a defect for someone who has been analyzing my image in an aseptic way. The real hard work is to make what I like without disappointing people.

CGC: What tools did you use for this project?

MP: Maya for characters and interior, defined settings, Max for cities and wide spaces. I believe Maya is unbeatable for character animation and organic modeling, but whenever I have to work upon an architectural or technological structure, I choose Max, maybe because I’m in the habit of doing it. In any case I’m comfortable with both the programs and I shift my models from one program to another at my convenience. For post-production I use Photoshop and After Effects unquestionably. Talking about the hardware , I own a bit outdated SGI and a PC we assembled here in Virtual Views. Nothing special however…”what does it matter it’s their quickness!”?


CGC: How did you paint the facial textures?

MP: I need to make a premise. It’s over twenty years I’ve been working professionally in the illustration field, I’ve been also a traditional painter – I mean an artist with brushes, oil and acrylic paints – and of course this experience has helped me today with Photoshop and textures. My technique is very simple. I use a program-plugin for Maya called 4D Paint, which let me trace a sort of sketch directly upon the 3D model, that I may subsequently export to Photoshop. What I get is the development of my texture complete with the wireframe on a separate layer. The image is tremendously twisted, but if that doesn’t disturb you, it’s possible to paint a portrait without shadows being respectful of the original sketch as well as the wireframe. This is for the ‘diffuse texture’. The same operation can be repeated to create all (removed “the”) other textures needed for rebuilding the skin effect. I don’t take reference photos for the characters; I’m just a good observer, like any artist should be.

CGC: What was the reference/inspiration for your characters?

MP: No particular reference. I like to observe people carefully and I represent a girl right as I’d like her to be. I could quote a line you usually read in the SCIFI movies ‘any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental’!

CGC: Who are the artists out there that inspire you the most?

MP: Here comes back my old culture of classical SF illustrator so therefore people who inspired me belong to that world. To name a few: Chris Foss, Jim Burns, Roger and Martin Dean, Giger, Sorayama and two dearest friends Juan Gimenez and Oscar Chichoni, all greatest artists in the fields of SF illustration, comics books and film industry. But there is also a great man who was able to produce without computers what we are doing now in CG: Carlo Rambaldi. I knew him a year ago and his compliments towards my production filled me with an incredible joy. The truth is that while all these people gave me the spur to make, draw and narrate something, the real teachings came from real life, from the rivers of images overwhelming us everyday with their load of good and evil.

Interview by Jean-Eric Henault

Editorial contribution by Xen Wildman

Related Links:

Sinkha’s home-page
Sinkha’s trailer

Contact Marco Patrito via email

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