Sergey Poltavskiy is a 3D artist from the State of Georgia who primarily focuses on automotive rendering. He creates his own backplates and HDRIs, and does automotive photography too. We spoke with him to learn how he got started, and what advice and tips he has to share!
Read the interview with Sergey Poltavskiy
What first drew you to 3D?
Even though I consider myself an automotive artist, the thing that first got me interested in CGI was actually Shrek! When it first came out and I saw the movie, I was so impressed and motivated that I told myself this is something I really wanted to learn.
How did you get started in 3D, once inspired to try it?
After I’d been inspired, I had a cousin living with me at the time who did a little CGI for a furniture company back in Russia. He told me the software they used was 3ds Max and that it was very difficult and it wasn’t something I’d be able to learn. That there was the rest of the fuel I needed to light my fire!
From that point on I picked up a copy of Discreet 3Ds Max R3 from a friend and started learning how to model.
Which came first for you, the photography or the 3D?
CGI is actually what came first. I picked up a camera later on in my years just for fun and never actually wanted to do photography until recently. With me getting a tad bored with 3D and wanting to learn something new I decided to pick up a better quality camera, a set of strobes, and started to learn photography which actually helped improve my CGI a lot!
Now I light my CGI cars exactly how I would in real life, which I believe helps give my images that extra realistic vibe. Also, I get to be on set around cars and I get to see the tiny imperfections which I then add into my CGI shots, which I believe helps sell realism.
How much does your experience with real world automotive photography influence and educate your 3D work?
Photography has helped my CGI greatly. Before I started to shoot cars, I shot back plates and to be honest they were very weak – the composition was simply not there and it was just an image of a location!
After spending time around cars and trying to get “sexy photos” it has helped me learn about light and what actually allows for an image to become beautiful. In my opinion every CGI artist should pick up a camera, even a cheap one, and practice photography.
It’s amazing how much we don’t understand about light until we focus on it on a set and see how the light would affect the subject and the environment. This is something that also helps me a lot when compositing my automotive renderings. You now keep an eye on DOF, motion blur, shadows, etc. – all the little details that I used to pay not much attention to, but now I do, like Grain, Chromatic Aberration, etc…
How did you first discover Corona Renderer?
I discovered Corona from a couple friends who are also top guys in the Automotive Industry. They were mentioning how great it was and how fast it was, so after a few months of not giving in I decided to drink the kool aid and I must say, its some amazing kool aid!!
Why is Corona Renderer your engine of choice?
To be honest, I do not have a big nerdy explanation of why I like Corona over other render engines! I have not tried many engines, but I have used another render engine in the past.
After playing with Corona there was 1 main element that really sold me on the renderer and that was its Interactive Rendering. Because of how responsive and fast it is, I was (and still am) able to light my cars and environments the way I should be able to. The issue I always had with other engines was waiting for a response, it seriously made rendering boring and a job. With Corona IR I have a blast rendering and at the end of the day that’s why I do what I do, for the love and excitement of it!
What are your personal favourite projects?
Some of my favorite projects would be those of mixing my backplates which I shot with strobes and Corona strobes. The fun part here for me is that I can light the CGI car the same way I would light a real car and in the end the quality does look real because its how I would do it on set.
I have actually done this test with a Ferrari and a Porsche. I shot my friends Ferrari 458 and then recreated the lighting in CGI with a Porsche 918 to see how close I can get it. For this shot there was no HDRI, just disc lights in Corona.
What drew you to the automotive field?
From my first days in CGI I have always loved cars. I spent about 10+ years of my life learning how to model, and I only modeled cars because for some reason! I just find them exciting.
My main inspiration for the automotive field would be the “Fast and the Furious” series. I loved the obnoxious spoilers with the big body kits and have always focused on modeling those kinds of cars. Years later when I got my job in a studio, I realized the skill of modeling was not that important in the advertising industry and to stay relevant I had to learn how to rig, animate, light, shade, etc.. This of course also helped me greatly because I can still apply all these concepts to my automotive hobbies.
Where else do you take inspiration from, outside of the automotive field?
Any advice you can give to those who are thinking of pursuing 3D as a career?
One thing I would say is produce badass work! But also build many connections. It is sad to say but I have seen some awful artists get great opportunities just because of who they know. So build connections – but also, create great work!
If you could give your younger self some advice (say 5 or 10 years ago) that you wish you knew then, what would it be?
I would love to tell myself to stop playing so much Counter-Strike and focus more on learning about photography and rendering. I spent way too many years goofing off and not focusing on my future.
Anything that you are working on at the moment that you are allowed to share?
Besides me always going out and shooting backplates, I am actually focusing on creating a CGI automotive set which will have a couple cars grouped together and the back plates will be shot with strobes and gels.
I will then relight the cars with the same colors as I shoot my backplates with, but will also add some Corona Volumetrics into the mix to give it a atmosphere/smoke feel with color. It should be an exciting and artsy project which I cannot wait to do! There will also be a training video on the lighting stage on one of the shots, to show how I setup my scene and use Corona Volumetrics to create atmosphere effects.
I hope all you car enthusiasts have enjoyed this article!