5 Minutes With... Senior DMP Artist Johan Gay


5 Minutes With... Senior DMP Artist Johan Gay

26 November 2021

We sit down with Senior DMP artist Johan Gay for a whistle-stop tour of his VFX career to date

When did you first realise you wanted to work in the VFX industry?

In 2004 I had just graduated from a master’s degree in Fine Arts and was looking for my next career move. It was around then that I started to think about VFX more seriously. I felt as though it was a great opportunity for me to best express my creativity; there are very few limitations with VFX.

So, after that, I applied to Supinfocom, an animation school in Northern France. There I learnt to mix my academic artistic approach with VFX technology.

Did you always want to be a Digital Matte Painter?

I always knew I wanted to work within an artistic department, and I have always been interested in creating environments and designing new worlds, so I think DMP was naturally a very good fit.

I love being able to add or change subtle elements to an image that create mood and ambiance; DMP gives you the ability to change the whole feel of the environment and elegantly communicate different ideas.

What does a typical day look like for a Senior Digital Matte Painter look like at Outpost?

It can look different for other Senior DMP artists, but for me each morning I have a catch up with my supervisor or coordinator to discuss our goal for the day, we then make sure all tasks are on track. Then I will be working on starting or finishing shots, helping people when needed, and making sure we will hit our deadline.

I also make sure that I’m continuously learning and sharing any new information with whoever it may be relevant to. It’s a great team environment.

Do you have any advice for an artist looking to start a career in DMP?

Personally, I believe that having an academic artistic background is really important, but that’s not to say you need to study at university level. Having a thorough understanding of the basics, self-taught or otherwise, will put you in a good position to progress with DMP.

Learning a new software is also a contributing factor, so the more you can immerse yourself in the tools the better.

Other than that, curiosity is also very important!

Do you have a favourite kind of DMP work?

For me, I feel like each project is a great opportunity to educate yourself. For example, working on a historical show where you have to closely follow the look of the period, be accurate with the design and respect the chronological reality of the show, you learn how to accurately portray a very particular look and feel.

A futuristic show, on the other hand, is an amazing opportunity to be creative and invent a whole new world. Both sides are so different it’s hard to compare, but it’s great to work in a department that has such a range of projects where you can enjoy the creative challenges that both types of projects bring.

What has been the most exciting project you’ve worked on over the last year?

It would have to be “News of the World”! On this show I had the opportunity to be the lead DMP artist for the first time and I learnt a lot from it. It was intense, but highly rewarding.

Other highlights have been “Foundation”, “The Alienist: Angel of Darkness”, “Watchmen”… the list goes on but all the projects I have had the opportunity to work on at Outpost were exciting in some respect. There is always such a variety of work.

What’s the biggest challenge DMP artists face today?

Our industry is moving very fast, we have to constantly update our skills and knowledge, making sure we are always staying efficient and not using outdated technology or practices. That’s why it’s so important for us as DMP artists to continue to learn, stay curious and always add to our skillset. It’s like a race – you’re in it for now, but the aim is to stay there!

How do you see the future of VFX, particularly DMP, evolving?

In some companies, DMP artists are being called generalists and truly I think this is where we will all be heading. DMP covers many different aspects and I think we will continue to be integrated more fully into becoming ‘generalists’.

What excites you most about DMP?

I think the great thing about DMP, and what I touched on earlier, is that there are so many different types of projects to work on that it’s impossible to be bored.

Every project is different and with it comes different lessons and learnt skills that you can take on into your next. I think DMP can add so much to a show as well; you can really tell the story with environments and DMP.

Finally, some quickfire questions:

What’s the one thing you always keep on your desk?

My sketchpad

You can eat one thing for the rest of your life – what is it?

Baguette or rice

What would be your superpower?

To control minds and time travelling

You’ve got a couple of hours to kill – what do do?

Anything outside near the beach or in a forest just watching nature

What are you currently learning?

Houdini, Blender

Any pets?

My giant soft doggy, Batu

Favourite way to relax?

Away from any computer, phones and internet.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Antarctica, south America, or just home with mom and dad

What irritates you?

Where shall I start…

Guilty pleasures?

Belgian milk chocolate cote d'or and Pistachio Ice cream (not together of course)

Favourite song?

"Miss Alzheimer" (French song from the band "Les Elles")

Last present you bought yourself?

A fruit juice extractor... I love it!