Hayden Zezula and Project Felix: Experiments in Light
In 2016, Adobe asked a group of designers to use a pre-release version of Project Felix in their work. Their feedback allowed the Project Felix team to better meet user needs. In this editorial series, we share the experiences of some of those designers, what they learned, what they accomplished, and what they can do with Project Felix that they haven’t done before.
Hayden Zezula’s work in design originally began as a photographer and video editor, but eventually he turned to 3D animation. He liked the freedom 3D animation gave him to create without limits.
Unlike the other designers in this series, Hayden uses 3D animation and design software on a daily basis. “While Project Felix is being built for graphic designers who are new to these types of features and capabilities, we frequently consult with designers who have extensive experience using 3D design software,” says Kerensa Hogan, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Adobe. “We want to make sure we’re building a solution that gives graphic designers control over the visual aesthetics they admire that come from traditional 3D design platforms.”
Adobe approached Hayden last year to be part of the Project Felix pre-release program to get his perspective on how Project Felix compared to the sophistication, control, and visual results of 3D software.
It’s all about the lighting
As a professional 3D designer and animator, Hayden knows that the key to realistic images is light. Similarly to last week’s featured designer Victoria Pavolv, Hayden experimented with Project Felix’s lighting tools to gauge how successfully the app could composite images and objects into something that felt and looked real.
“I experimented a lot with lighting because, I think, it is the most important thing you approach in 3D design,” Hayden says.
In Project Felix, users can add their own background images and build image-based lighting (IBL) from those images. Hayden took pictures with a variety of backgrounds and used the Auto-IBL feature to evaluate the lighting effects in his scene in relation to the placed 3D object. The hope was to make sure the object looked like a natural part of the scene, not simply a layer on top of a background image. By using shots with different types of lighting, Hayden could see how the software would adapt to preserve the photorealism of the image.
The way light reacts in the image has a lot to do with the characteristics of the 3D objects a designer chooses to place on the background. Hayden’s compositing work in Felix has mainly consisted of suspended geometric shapes. “I wanted to make it feel like a sculpture, but hovering over the ground,” Hayden says. “No anchors or anything holding the pieces down.”
By suspending the 3D objects in the air, Hayden was able to clearly see where IBL was successful and where improvements could be made. Equally important to light in creating a photorealistic image is the resulting shadows. The hovering 3D objects gave Hayden plenty of opportunity to judge the effectiveness of Project Felix’s IBL features by observing whether or not the shadows it generated were realistic.
The faster, the better
From his experimentation, Hayden said that compared with heavy duty 3D software, the Auto-IBL tool rendered much faster, making Project Felix advantageous for certain projects.
“In full-fledged 3D programs, you have to do a little bit more manual tinkering to get it to look just right. There are a lot more steps involved before you can get the finished project,” Hayden says.
For example, Hayden was invited to take photographs and create an art series during New York Fashion Week. He says that had he been using Project Felix, he could have made the project go a lot faster without losing the photorealistic feeling aspects like light create.
“What I ended up doing in 3D software was going and masking out every single frame. It took a long time to pump stuff out,” Hayden says. “With Project Felix, I could easily take a photo and then have all the light come through. I could just as easily add geometric images and have them floating around.” Eliminating manual steps with automatic tools like Auto-IBL comes in handy when you are working on tight deadlines but still need to create high quality images.
From his perspective as a 3D designer, Hayden says Project Felix is a good introduction to the field for those with minimal 3D experience. “It’s a good entry to figuring out how to manipulate textures, shadows, and especially lighting — all important aspects of quality 3D design.”
Want to get your hands on Project Felix? Download the beta app, and stay tuned for more stories from other designers who are discovering the graphic design possibilities that exist in 3D.