James Stone on scorpiochs, Belgium and 3D modelling

The Head of Assets at Cinesite will speak at HP ZED Paris next week on digital doubles. We chatted to him to find out more.

As a young aspiring 3D artist, you dream for years of working on the big Hollywood films at a big VFX house. But once you've achieved your dream, there's no rule that you have to stay at the same firm forever. Sometimes you just need a break from the norm - and that's exactly what James Stone, who'd been working at Cinesite in London for more than six years, did last summer.

"I'd just finished up on Edge of Tomorrow and thought I would experience working outside of Cinesite and the UK for a while," he explains. "So I packed up my motorcycle and lived in Gent in Belgium for three months."

World War Z is one of many Hollywood epics on Stone's CV

Once there, he did some environment modelling, texturing and layout work for VFX house Grid on a PS4 launch title. "Belgium is a great country and working at Grid was the perfect escape," he smiles. "It's a lovely company to work for in an amazing city."

Coming full circle

With his skills very much in demand, Stone next got an offer from Framestore to do some environment work on Guardians of the Galaxy. "I couldn't possibly turn that down," he enthuses. "I'm a big fan of the comics as well as the work that Framestore does." Then soon after that, the position of Head of Assets became available at his old stomping ground Cinesite. Stone jumped at the chance, and within six months of leaving the firm, he'd come full circle.

"'Head of Assets' is just a brief way of saying 'Head of Modelling and Texturing'," he adds by way of explanation. "My role here at Cinesite is to oversee modelling and texturing work carried out across all shows."

The past few months have been very busy for Stone, with his department growing to 19 artists. "My main responsibilities are solving any technical and creative problems the team has, crewing the shows based around who would fit the task best and liaising with other supervisors and clients to provide them with the best 3D assets possible," Stone explains.

John Carter was a favourite film to work on

He's currently working on X-Men: Days of Future Past, Man from U.N.C.L.E and Hercules - adding to the extensive list of big-name movies on his CV. It's difficult to pick a favourite from these, he says, but the first Clash of the Titans is certainly a contender.

"We got to do the design for the Scorpiochs in house, which was a really fun challenge," he says. "I've actually seen someone with the design tattooed on them which is quite a compliment."

Disney space fantasy John Carter was another memorable film for Stone. "I was on set with the art department at Longcross for a few months working on the ship designs," he recalls. "Watching the on-set builds coming together was fascinating, the sets were huge and incredibly detailed. It was great seeing how the onset guys operate, something I would like to do more of in the future."

The talk

James Stone will join Dan Mason at HP ZED Paris on 11 April

Stone will be joining Dan Mason, senior texture artist and modeller at Framestore, to give a talk at the free event HP ZED Paris on Friday 11 April.

"Our talk will be focused around the creation of the zombie digi-doubles we created while working together at Cinesite," Stone explains.

"We'll be covering the entire modelling/texturing pipeline. What makes good reference photography, modelling in Maya and Mudbox to projection painting in Mari. It should be fun!"

Instructing an audience is always a delight for Stone, who has taught at the Animation Workshop a number of times since 2009. "The satisfaction when you see a student improve is immense," he explains. "There is a real passion to learn at a university that can get lost when you work full time. Public speaking is something that I would like to pursue more, its a new challenge from my day to day work."

See all the articles in this series here.

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Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specialising in design and technology. He was previously associate editor at Creative Bloq and deputy editor at net magazine, the world’s best-selling magazine for web designers. Over two decades in journalism he’s worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, Heat, Company and Bella. Follow him on Twitter @tom_may.