Alumni CEO’s blockbuster career in VFX
1 Sep 2017
Alumni CEO’s blockbuster career in VFX
1 Sep 2017
The role of a Matte Painter isn’t one that’s commonly known outside of the entertainment industry, but without their artistic skills our film experience wouldn’t be as vibrant nor as realistic. A Matte Painter digitally paints photo-realistic interior backgrounds and exterior environments that either do not exist, or the location wasn’t visited during the shoot.
Conrad Allan graduated from SAE Brisbane with a Bachelor of Games Development majoring in Animation. After five years working as a freelancer his big break came three years ago when he was offered a Matte Painter’s role with Rising Sun Pictures in Adelaide. Conrad was thrown into the deep end creating full matte paintings and 3D projection setups for blockbuster films PAN (2015), The Legend of Tarzan (2016) and Gods Of Egypt (2016).
Not only did he swim, he excelled. While he wasn’t working in the area he studied, Conrad discovered his niche, producing images for film. Taking a leap of faith, he moved to Vancouver to advance his career in Matte Painting. His faith was rewarded with job offers at world-class visual effects studios, Moving Picture Company (MPC) and Image Engine, where he currently resides. Image Engine is well known for their Academy Award nominated work on the film, District 9, the studio creates incredible creatures, epic environments and extraordinary digital effects for a range of projects that include the action-packed films, Logan and Detroit.
Seeing a need for a database of awesome, high-res reference images, Conrad took a second leap of faith and created his own company, MattePaint.com, an image reference website that will service the VFX industry and provide a tool for concept artists and matte painters. The transition out of film and into a CEO role will be bigger than anything before. The site will consist of over 100,000 high-res, copyright-free images. Several movies have already featured MattePaint.com images such as; Source Code, Deadpool, Tomorrowland, The Martian, Independence Day: Resurgence, and many more.
A MattePaint.com image from Independence Day: Resurgence
“I started the company from the kick I get helping out others. One day I brought my own photo library into the studio where I was working and my images were used in the feature films PAN and Gods Of Egypt. It was a small thrill to see other artists using my images - I think that's where the real drive to create my own company came from.”
In the whirlwind of launching the MattePaint.com website, Conrad took time to speak to us about his incredible journey that just goes to show how faith and perseverance really do pay off!
What inspired you to study games?
I played games all through my teenage years, like most boys do really, but it wasn’t an obvious career. After high school I didn’t want to do any further studies, I just wanted to earn money and play games! A few years out of school I started casual work doing structure modelling for architects. It was then that I realised I wanted to do something with 3D, so I decided to study Games Development. While I ended up in Matte Painting, I didn’t pursue it initially because I couldn’t (and still can’t) draw. It turns out my experience in creating 3D environments gave me a useful and transferable skill-set!
What are your fondest memories of your time at SAE?
Hands down the best thing was being around other gamers. We don’t tend to meet up in person all too often (especially these days with online gaming) so thinking back on it now it was kind of surreal and magical to be surrounded at SAE by like minded people. I still find gamers to be the most kind and caring people I meet, it’s lovely.
What did you love most about studying at SAE?
There’s obviously many college options out there to choose from. Ultimately I believe it’s the lecturers who make or break a college. I had three lecturers who I’d consider to be absolutely top notch!
Can you share how the skills you learned while studying at SAE have helped you in your career?
While I never went into the games industry, the skills I learnt in my course made me realise it wasn’t so difficult to pick up 3D software and start using it. Being around highly experienced lecturers I learned some pretty incredible insights about the industry, the psychology of animation/games, etc.
What other companies did you freelance for in the five years after graduation?
When I was freelancing I had clients from all over the world. It wasn't film work, because they have strict information-sharing rules, but it was work that increased my abilities. It was never easy... Almost three-years ago now I was about to start driving for Uber! And five years ago I got to the final stage of interviews for a job at Escape Travel. Thankfully I kept at what I was doing!
What made you move to Canada?
Vancouver is the Hollywood of visual effects. Right now we have seven features filming across the city - it's a hub of film activity! It's also an amazing city to live in - aside from the relentless rain for three months over winter.
What have been your career highlights?
I’ve just finished working on Game Of Thrones (the latest season)… that would have to be my party name-drop these days. I remember when the show started, I heard about it from a peer at the college and I remember watching the first season dreaming about how amazing it would be to work on that show. It’s been a dream opportunity!
What do you enjoy most about working in your industry?
Getting one of the big establishing shots for a film and being able to work on it almost entirely yourself. That’s the stuff I dream of. It doesn’t happen too often because film shots are getting so much more epic these days. Also there’s a lot more to matte painting in film than just the big shots, often your time is filled with much smaller work; replacing buildings, skies, painting blood etc.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
Unfortunately none of the shows I’m working on at the studio are public yet so I can’t mention them, but as I said earlier, I’m in a transition where I’m moving out of the industry and into full time work on my company, MattePaint.com. It’s a reference site dedicated to providing reference images to artists over all industries. Everything is copyright free and the prices are far lower than what’s out there at the moment. I’m really excited about it because it’s solving a problem that I myself have been experiencing over the years.
Can you share an artist that inspires you?
Oh my god… how do I even answer this? I literally go to ArtStation and click on the “picks” section and just sit there drooling. I feel like as soon as this is published I’m going to think of someone who inspires me more and wish I’d put them as my answer… I can’t think of anyone specifically. Just go to ArtStation’s picks area and you’ll see what I mean - it’s all so amazing!
What advice would you give to students aspiring to become successful their field?
There’s SO much I can say here. The grim reality of this field is that there are ten people lined up at the door to take my job, so you have to be the best. That doesn’t just mean in your art, you have to be good with your ‘business’. This means you have to be good at the chit-chat that comes before getting the job and making sure the HR person and your potential supervisor like you. This extends to your email contacts too. Take your time with these things, especially when they’re important like an application. When I’m working on an application, I’ll often re-write this two or three times over a couple of days, especially so if it’s important!
This and That Game
● Converse or Vans - Aren’t these two of the most uncomfortable shoes in the world, maybe second to Crocs?!
● Coffee or Tea - Coffee, flat white, extra shot!
● Apple or Android - Android hands down
● Instagram or Snapchat - Instagram