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CG Tantra Interview - jan 2009

Here is the link: http://www.cgtantra.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=261&Itemid=35

An interview with FREDERIC ST-ARNAUD

Frederic St-Arnaud is a Senior Digital Matte-painter at Rodeo FX. He is a visual effect artist with 12 years of experience, focusing on high-end photo-realistic digital matte painting, set extension, concept art and art direction in the film industry. He has contributed to more than 25 feature films, dozens of commercials for television and a few TV series. He is working for different visual effects companies as a matte painter, concept artist and sometimes as an art director or teacher. These are few of his Honours:

We caught up with him to share his experiences with us.

Q. Glad to have you here for the interview, Frederic! To begin with, tell us something about yourself?
Hi to every CGTantra readers! I'm living in the province of Quebec in Canada. I was born in a small French town in the mid seventies just in the middle of the province. I did my first drawing at 3 years old and since, I never stop. I always dreamt about doing special effects for cinema. I did many latex puppets, creatures and make-up effects for theater plays when I was a teenager until I discover the first 3D visual effects from movies such as Terminator 2 and The Abyss. I decided to do a traditional cartoon and 3D animation program in a private school in 1996 and 1997. I did different type of jobs for the first 5 years after school, from storyboard artist, character animator, texture artist to finally end-up in matte painting field.

Q. For all those, who are new to the art of Digital Matte-Painting, can you briefly explain about this form of art?
Before computer graphics, matte paintings were made by artists on large sheets of glass. They were using oil painting, acrylics and sometimes pastels to do their background scenery painting that was blended with the live-action footage. The mattes was the little pieces of black paper sheet that people used to hide different part of the camera lens while they were shooting. It was the only way at this time to do compositing! Today, advancements in computer graphics domain allowed matte painters to work digitally, which give new tools and save a lot of time in a production schedule. The term matte painting mean many things and I think people don't know exactly how to use properly these words. But according to this new definition, I would say that today, matte painting mean any creation of images related to environment and backgrounds with a certain attention to realism. A real definition would be more complex but at least, I think this is what people think of, when they talk or read about this.

Q. Briefly describe, how does the matte painting department work in the post-production stage of a feature film?
Matte painting departments work differently from a place to another, depending on the company philosophy, the size and the type of projects. Matte painting departments can be sometimes, separated from the rest of the pipeline. They do concepts at beginning of the projects while they also execute both, technical camera move and still shots during the production. Shots can be done entirely by only person who do everything from concept arts, modeling, texturing, lighting, matte painting to compositing, especially for establishing hero shots.

Q. Briefly describe, how does the matte painting department work in the post-production stage of a feature film?
Matte painting departments work differently from a place to an other, depending on the company philosophy, the size and the type of projects. Matte painting departments can be sometimes, separated from the rest of the pipeline. They do concepts at beginning of the projects while they also execute both, technical camera move and still shots during the production. Shots can be done entirely by only person who do everything from concept arts, modeling, texturing, lighting, matte painting to compositing, especially for establishing hero shots.

Q. I have heard, that you love traveling very much! Can you share some of your experiences with us?
Yes, traveling is one of my passions that I enjoy the most. I like to discover other countries, different way of thinking, different cultures. For me, it's so far, the best way to evolve personally, to grow up and learn about yourself and the planet earth as well. I went to many european countries when I was younger. I did some tropical destinations such as French Polynesia, Hawaii, Cuba. I went to Japan and China in 2008. I did also Trekking trips in North Africa and in United States.

Q. In 2008, you visited India! How was the experience?
It was an amazing and unforgettable experience. The first thought I have in mind when I remember my trip in India is the diversity. This country is so huge! You can find different cultures from the past that was mixed together. From snowcap mountains to beaches and jungles, almost everyone can find a particular interest. I went from New Dehli to, Kerala, Karnataka and Goa.
I really like this description from Lonely Planet: "Demystifying India is a perpetual work-in-progress and for many travellers that's precisely what makes her so deeply addictive. Ultimately, it's all about surrendering yourself to the unknown: this is the India that nothing can quite prepare you for because its very essence - its elusive soul - lies in its mystery. Love it or loathe it - and most visitors seesaw between the two - India will jostle your entire being and no matter where you go or what you do, it's a place you'll never forget."

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