Archviz Rock Star: An Interview with Victor Erthal

March 7th, 2012

“AU is amazing. We’re treated like rock stars here.”

I recently had brunch with Victor Erthal at a restaurant called Lucky’s Lounge, a local favorite here in Boston. It was a casual conversation about life and business, artistic inspiration, the creative process, and human nature. We touched on the future of archviz, new media, and the role that Autodesk University (AU) plays in developing tools and learning.

For the past five years, Victor has been a senior digital artist at Neoscape, www.neoscape.com. He has, all told, more than 10 years of architectural visualization experience. Born in Brazil, he graduated with a degree in architecture from the Rio De Janeiro Universidad Santa Ursula in 2000, and moved to the US in 2006. His rendering and animation career has encompassed a wide array of projects, from large-scale master plan films in Bahrain and Egypt, to residential promotions and luxury hotels, as well as animations for PBS’s Nova series. He has collaborated with many high-profile clients, including the internationally acclaimed design firms Studio Daniel Libeskind, Callison, KPF, and Safdie Architects. Victor is also an instructor of Autodesk® 3ds Max® rendering and animation at the Boston Architectural College.

BishanTowers

Inspiration

Victor got seriously interested in 3D while earning his degree. “After school I interned for a healthcare design company called RAF,” he explains. “Doing mostly CAD work, I got into 3D CAD and was soon the go-to guy in the office.”

With impact studies of new projects being required, rendered images were essential to the approval process. It was not long before Victor got the chance to experiment with 3D Studio. Perhaps his first inspiration came much earlier, when watching Tin Toy in his teens. “I remember not having a clue of what exactly I was seeing, but it fascinated me.” It had been a while since I had seen the film myself, but upon seeing it again I saw the appeal: all the cinematic elements of archviz are there—storytelling, animation, 3D characters and sets, lighting, cameras, and so on.

After graduation, Victor was hired to work at ARCHIGRAPH, a studio owned by his former professor. “There were just four of us when I started, and we grew to about 12 by the time I left,” he says.

Lake Library

The Next Level

In early 2005 things began to slow in the market and it was time for Victor to consider new options. He collected his portfolio and made connections with production houses outside Brazil. While attending a reception sponsored by CG Architect in 2005, Victor met Lon Grohs of Neoscape. “I asked him if he’d take a look at my work. After looking through my book for a few minutes, Lon said, ‘You’re hired. No, really, I mean it’. And that was it.”

Skylofts, Neoscape.

As senior digital artist at Neoscape, Victor took the next step in his career, and since then, he has collaborated on projects that focus on the vision and mission that have cemented Neoscape’s reputation in the industry. “Someone joked that working here is like going to an Ivy League school,” he says. Truth be told, there may be no better pedigree in archviz.

Last year Victor attended AU, representing Neoscape.  “There is no doubt in my mind this was one of the most valuable events in my professional career so far,” he says. “The number of knowledgeable speakers and the ability to learn first hand from both experts in the industry and from Autodesk itself makes this event worth every penny.  For most of the week-long conference, I attended classes on various subjects ranging from quality control and color management to parametric modeling.”

Victor Erthal

These days there is a new crop of digital artists every year, armed with degrees and certificates and some truly amazing skills. Having trained colleagues and taught at the BAC, Victor is in an excellent position to gauge how the field of archviz is evolving. Personal success doesn’t change, though. He says, “I tell my students the two most important ingredients to success are self-criticism and vanity. First you need to uncompromisingly assess your work and be sure you are not satisfied too easily. Make a list of what needs work, etc., and be methodical.  You need to be vain about your talent, too; be confident that each new project will outshine the last. You don’t want to hear someone ask, ‘is this your best?’ unless it actually is.” 

Augmented Reality X-Ray views

Looking Ahead

I asked Victor for his view of what lies ahead in the industry. “Essentially, it is becoming very hard to draw a line where design ends and visualization starts. From study images, daylight analysis, rapid prototyping, etc. it is becoming difficult to tell when our role in a project starts. Many in-house companies have had very competent viz teams working directly with the design team for years and coming up with solutions where visualization is a design tool rather than a final product display,” he says.

“There are tons of new media devices and technologies that require exploring,” continues Victor. “The old formula of short movie and still images does not work as often as it used to, and we need to explore new frontiers of what is possible to integrate into our products. Using design visualization integrated with smart design tools and new media like iPads, e-book readers, augmented reality, real-time cloud computing, etc. will help us all push the envelope just like when we first thought about using visual effects to render something that was done in watercolor or airbrush.”

BuenoNetto Berrini Fachada Trifuga

Berrini One in São Paulo, Brazil

And what lies ahead for Victor? He is moving forward once again. He is joining up with the Sao Paulo-based powerhouse Digital Light, http://www.digitallight.com.br/.

“Change is very exciting,” he says. “In one of my roles I will be an international liaison. There will be a lot of travel; in fact I leave for San Paulo on Friday. I will be helping develop improved ways of interacting with clients. To me, client management is a matter of establishing trust. I like to use the steak analogy: If you’re in a restaurant and you order a steak medium-rare, you should trust the chef to do his job. If not, you’ll keep going back to the kitchen to ask ‘how it coming? Or, I want to change my order.’ Everyone becomes frustrated, but more importantly, the end result will suffer. It is best to cultivate confidence and trust because it allows you to do the best work possible.”

A Final Word

Asked if he has a 3ds Max wish list, Victor replies, “The only thing I would like to see is improved stability.  I’ve been a Max user since the beginning, and while other 3D packages have been rewritten from the ground up, Max has been ‘added to’ version after version. I’m not sure, but I think this is in the works.”

Max Crash…

You can contact Victor Erthal at victorerthal@gmail.com 

Tom Cipolla is a digital artist specializing in architectural visualization.  Born in New York, he trained as a sculptor and began working digitally in 2000. A seasoned Max user, he has trained and taught 3DS Max for years. He has written numerous articles and tutorials, and is currently a Content Manager for AUGIWorld. His studio, Onion3d, is a consulting and animation company located in South Boston,  Massachusetts. Visit www.onion3d.com, and contact him at tm.cipolla@gmail.com.

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