Behind the Render
With hip, historic districts full of iconic cultural attractions, shopping centers, and major-league sports venues (not to mention the plethora of movies and games it’s been featured in), Los Angeles has been begging for a 3D asset kit that fits its distinguished personality – and now it’s here! To show off the kit, we wanted a scene that would feel right at home in the heart of LA, so we turned to Vienna-based 3D Artist David Arno Schwaiger, whose deep affinity for the City of Angels helped him create a spectacular view, which we discussed with him below.
KitBash3D: Hello, David, it’s a pleasure to speak with you again! There have been some major updates since you placed 2nd in our the Post-Apocalypse #KB3DContest last year, right? Can you catch everyone up with your creative journey up until this point?
David Arno Schwaiger: In June I’ll be celebrating my 40th birthday. I don’t know how to feel about that, but it is definitely interesting ;-). Arriving at this point, I look back at about 18 years of creating films, commercials, music videos, television series, documentaries... I’ve done it all. It has been a challenging but beautiful ride with many ups and downs, both financially and emotionally. As a father, when other parents on the playgrounds ask how I earn a living, I used to answer: “I edit films, occasionally direct,” but as of the beginning of 2021, I have left the editing booth for good and mainly focus on creating 3D environments now.
About two years ago I wanted to extend my skills in matte painting and stumbled upon Maxx Burman’s highly regarded course ‘Intro to Matte Painting’ on Learn Squared. I was totally hooked by Maxx’s approach to image creation and soon realized I had to learn 3D in order to take my artworks one step further. That’s where I am at today. I am nearly 40 years old, my beard gradually turns more grey, and my daughter is about to finish elementary school, but I keep learning and conquering new ground each day.
KitBash3D: We certainly respect the hustle, and looking at the caliber of your artwork, some of our readers may be surprised to learn your career shift was so recent! What was your first thought when we asked you to make this cover art?
David: When Darren (your Head of 3D) contacted me, I took a screenshot of his email, sent it to a friend, and asked whether he thought it was spam or not. Just kidding… I’ve been following your company’s journey all the way. KitBash3D started back when I was Maxx’s student at Learn Squared. I admire the effort you guys put into the venture and obviously the covers for each kit play a vital role. In my opinion KitBash3D takes great action in community building for digital creators. I felt truly honored being able to contribute my chunk and hopefully inspire others to create their own interpretation of reality.
KitBash3D: What inspired or influenced your design for the cover art?
David: In winter 2014, my father and I went on a road trip through the US. Both of us had never been to North America before. We started in New Orleans and drove to Houston, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and went all the way along the West coast up to San Francisco. Driving through the iconic scenery my father and I had only known from films, was – in my father’s words – the ‘last great adventure’ he and I would go on together. Very poetic, dad!
Masterpieces of film craft like ‘Chinatown’, ‘Heat’, ‘Vertigo’, ‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘L.A. Confidential,’ and of course ‘The Big Lebowski’ taking place in Los Angeles had a deep impact on me. Therefore, the whole experience of our road trip was rather overwhelming. I guess my take on the cover for ‘Los Angeles’ can be seen as an homage to our road trip. I wanted to recreate the experience of looking down from the Hollywood hills… especially since I lost all my photographs due to a hard drive crash a couple of years ago. Damn!
KitBash3D: Oh no! That’s tragic, but it’s heartwarming to hear the sentimental attachment you have to Los Angeles. What was your favorite part about making the cover art, or your favorite part about the kit?
David: Obviously, the quality of the Los Angeles kit is as amazing, as all the other kits you offer, and I now know how much effort you put into their making. So, from opening the provided file in Cinema 4D, inspecting the models in detail, assembling various layouts, to finally rendering the image, I felt like creating something beautiful. But this time the bonus, the aspect I enjoyed most, was communication. I have to give you guys a huge credit for making the whole process a great pleasure. Your Head of 3D Darren Butler supported me all the way, and he was a huge source of inspiration for creating the piece. Kudos to Darren! ;-)
KitBash3D: Three cheers for Darren! Thank you for the kind words, it means a lot to us for you to enjoy the process. Is there anything you learned from making the cover art?
David: When doing research, I looked at road maps of Downtown Los Angeles and was totally fascinated by the way cities in the US differ from European ones. While European cities appear to have grown organically over the centuries and are somehow a huge mess (at first glance), North American agglomerations are based on a straight and seemingly highly functional scheme. The linear grid of Los Angeles was something I could easily adapt to, and I am really fond of the way the models could be effortlessly implemented into my setup.
KitBash3D: That’s a fascinating perspective. Being based out of Los Angeles ourselves, it’s easy to take what you know for granted, but we can also confidently say that you nailed the LA look. Is there anything that you would like to try next with this kit?
David: Don’t ask me why, but somehow, I am constantly drawn to producing large backlit cityscapes disappearing in dense mist. I also did that for a series of futuristic London renderings. With your new kit I will definitely try to recapture a typical warm Californian sundown look and feel in my future artworks. Maybe even go ‘Californian Cyberpunk’!
KitBash3D: Haha, two words: “Do it!” Before we go, can you share what inspires you to keep creating?
David: I have to admit that my sources for inspiration are in constant flux these days. If you look at platforms like ArtStation, there is no wonder why. The vast amount of utterly talented artists showcasing their skills is mind bending. At times this circumstance is even confusing. In order to not get lost, I regularly try to get a grip on myself and focus on what truly inspires me. What is authentic and makes me ‘feel’ human?
I have a variety of artists in various disciplines that always inspire me, but to this day, if I had to name only one, it would be Akira Kurosawa. Not only could I watch his films over and over and find something new every time, but, more importantly, his work sets a tone. For me, his films create a variety of feelings that I welcome with an open mind and cherish in their entirety. Now, that sounded pathetic. I know. I am sorry, but given my bad English it’s the only way I can possibly describe the experience.
KitBash3D: No apologies necessary. We’re all friends here, and I’m sure many can relate.
ABOUT DAVID ARNO SCHWAIGER
David is a creative who lives and works in Vienna, Austria. He has edited and directed films of various productions and has won the Art Directors Club (ADCE) Silver Award, the Cinema for Peace Award (Most Valuable Documentary), the Cannes Corporate TV Gold Award, and the Politiken Audience Award at CPH:DOX, among many others. Since the beginning of 2021 he has been doing 3D environment art professionally.