Interview with Neutron

by Mr Ed (February 2000)

    Hello Neutron.

    Oke, the first question is always an easy one. Could you introduce yourself to our readers? How old you are, where do you live, stuff like that.

    My name is Zoltan Pocza, and I live in Hungary, Europe. I was born on a cold winter in 1977.

    And what do you do? Do you still study? Or do you have a job?

    No, I'm not a student. Iíve got a job. Lots of them. :). My primary one was Post Edison, this is the best VFX studio around here, but I left them few weeks ago. The other one is Game Development, the third is a magazine.
    I'm the chief editor there.

    Sounds like you're a very busy man. Tell me more about this VFX studio and Game development. What do you do there?

    Yes, I'm really busy (and i have to make some time for my girlfriend too ;). This is a studio with a 7 year history, and it's the best known one around here. We're making advertisements mainly, but nowadays we have film projects too. This studio has the best technical devices like Quantel Editbox FX (Price is over 50.000 $US), AVID, etc... 

    About the game development. We've been developing a professional Off-Road simulation for more than 1,5 years. Actually this game is sold to Virgin Interactive, so this is the other reason why i'm that busy. 

    Just sold? Must me exiting times for you. What is you're job? Do you do graphic work or mayby something like an project manager?

    I was the project leader at first, but now I have no time for it. Anyway I was the first 3D man in the team. We were with 4 in the beginning. Now we are with 9...

    If you are so busy, do you still have time to spend on creating graphics for the scene?

    Because I'm that busy, I had no time for the scene in the last months. But when we finish the game, i'll go back to the scene.

    Tell me more about this game. 

    It's a simulator, with high realism phisique engine. It doesn't mean that it's hard to play with it, because the car's reactions are the same as in reality. There are more game modes, with lots of multiplayer options.

    Could you give us some technical info about it?

    A normal PC, with 3D card, for example a PII Celeron 300 with a VooDoo or TNT card will be enough for most of the players....the multiplayer mode needs a little bit stronger machine. There is OpenGL, Glide and DirectX support in the engine. 

    What was youíre direct input in the game? And when can we expect this game in the shops?

    Mainly the 3D objects and design. The release depends on Virgin's marketing strategy. Maybe around E3, maybe later...

    Oke, let's go way back. When did you start getting interested in computers?

    My first computer was a Commodore 64 (Personal Computer). There was a little program called Art Studio if I  remember correctly.... It was my first computer graphics experience :). I'm dealing with real computers for more than 7 years and i have 3 years of industry experience from it.

    Where did you go from there? Amiga or straight to a PC? 

    Straight to PC. My first computer was a 286 with EGA. There wasn't any 3D softwares available for it, so I upgraded it to a 486DX33, 4MB with a highcolor 1MB videocard (it was a really strong machine at this time).

    And when did you started to get interested in raytracing? 

    When I got the 286 I mentioned, I had a friend with a 386DX40, and he had 3D Studio R3...I saw that was a good thing to create graphics from nothing...It was love at the first sight. It was what inspired me to upgrade to a better PC. 

    So what kind of hardware are you using now?

    Now..erm...yes. I have an MMX200 (sometimes 233) with 128Mb, FireGL 1000Pro. But i have a Dual PII 350 256Mb in the studio, and another one at the game development.

    What softwarepackage(s) do you use to render you're pictures with?

    My skills are the bests in 3D Studio MAX. I like Maya too, but unfortunately I have not enough time to increase my knowledge in this great software. 

    What was you're first contact with The Scene? 

    In 1996 I was invited to the team Unique PC. I accepted the invitation as raytracer. (It was the point when the idea came: why we don't developing games :) That was my second question in my new team :)))

    Tell me more of you're group Unique PC. Who are it's members? 

    The team's core is the ex syndicate Fanthomas, MicroGenius and 2 graphic artist, Jupiter and me. And we have many outsiders.

    And are you making the off-road racer with them? Or is that another team?

    It's the same team extended with some more coders and graphic artists.

    Why did Unique PC contact you? Did they know you're work? And how did they know? 

    It was at my first scene party....I only had a few pics then. I showed these pics, and they liked it. 

    Which party was that? 

    Scenest'96 or Flag'96...both was held at the same place...

    What was you're best result in a raytrace competition?

    Actually I can't answer it, coz there almost always was a problem. For example, the "Roam on the Road" was shown in a bad category, not in raytrace, the "Atlantis" was disqualified on Assembly. And i still don't know why.

    Atlantis probably looked too real. :)  I thought it was a photograph. How did you came by you're handle "Neutron"? was very difficult. Before I started to go to scene parties, my name was "kacsa" which means duck. But this name sounds bad for a scener. So I collected about 300 names, and I called the members and asked them :) We chose neutron.

    So it was a democratic decision. Kind of a group thing hehe.... Tell me, which productions have you worked on?

    I have entered on raytrace competitions mainly.

    So none of you're pics have ended up in a demo? 

    No :). My pics are a different subject from the pics that are in the demos. My pic's theme are realism mainly.

    Oke, some questions about you're work. Every picture you make is almost completely different. From "Southamption" to "Parking lot". Were do you get you're inspiration from?

     I don't know....there are times when an image is appearing in my mind... 

    How do you start creating a picture? Do you first make a sketch or do you already have a perfect image in you're head?

    Oh, I have all the stuff in my imagination. I start the base of the scene, and then finetuning... 

    Of the pictures you made yourself, which one do you like most? And of course why do you like it?

    The one with Titanic. I have very lot of work with it. And I'm really proud of it. 

    april 10 1912 Southampton  

    And you should be. The Southampton pic looks really great! How long did it take you to create this image, and how long did it take to do the final render?

    It was about 3 months. One month for getting the needed documents, and 2 months for building and animating, as it's a very complex scene.

    I used Surface tools to model the body of the ship. Then, I build the forecastle deck and the poop deck with the cranes and all of other details. After finishing, I created all the levels. It needs a lot of attention, because many of these give you sizes that have to be equal on the top level. 
    For example the top of the windows of the first class Lounge give you a size between two funnels on the first class deck space, and all sizes between the funnels have to be equal. So there was many many similar complications you can't see before you get to this phase.

    After finishing the modeling of the ship, I added the particles and special effects to the scene. When Titanic was done, I started the seaport, the bridges, the cars and other stuffs in the dock. After finishing the dock, I decided to bring real life in the scene, and I started the "manufacturing" of characters. I payed attention to making the clothes looking like these looked in 1912. Finally there are more than 690 animated people, all animated with Character Studio (no motion capture data was used). It was the first time I dealed with characters. In a difficult scene like this, the best (and fastest) way is using a composer to compose everything what you can. You should save weeks with it and you have the possibility to change the layers and correct them later. 

    Did you do some final manipulation in Photoshop? And if yes what did/have you add/changed?

    No, I use After Effects for color correction and comositing (as it's a sequence).

    Southhampton looks pretty complex. How heavy is this scene in terms of total polygon count?

    The scene contains more then 2200 Objects (and groups), it means it's about 8.000-10.000 in unique mesh elements. The final polygoncount was 1.05 million faces without the bipeds. The max file is 142Mb. And more than 35Mb of textures (all created by hand, not scanned).


    Did you model everything yourself or did you use models from some library?

    No, I did not use any objects or textures (or presets) from any library. It's a clear work :)

    Are all these people actual character meshes with skins? Or are some represented by transparancy/opacity maps mapped on a few plane polygons?

    There are more than 690 animated people. Rich businessmen with wives and children, poor people on the 3rd class, the crew, the health officer, etc. All the guys are real meshes with clothes....and moving..

    I noticed the cool rainy reflections on the tarmack in the "The Rest". How did you create that?

    It's a simple shininess and bump mapping with masks. It's not my best work....i don't like this scene, but it's done in 3D Studio R3 long time ago. I'm thinking on recreate and modernize this scene.

    I'm looking forward to it. :) Also the Atlantis looks great. How did you achieve the realistic throttle and smoke effect (what particles did you use)?

    Actually, I used the standard built in spray particle of MAX with Afterburn volumetric shader.

    april 10 1912 Southampton

    Which one of all your images was the hardest to create and which one took the longest to render?

    The hardest to create is Titanic ofkoz. The longest render was Atlantis, it was more then 22 hours, but then I had a P133 with 32Mb of RAM. :). Titanic's rendertime is about 1.5 hours/frame (768*327 - PAL Widescreen) on a Dual PII350 256Mb of RAM, and 47 minutes on a Dual iPII500 with 512Mb of RAM (same conditions).

    If you could give some general advise to people who have just started raytracing, what would it be? Any useful tips?

    The best way to learn raytracing, is to develop your creativity, fantasy, and pay attention for the details. It needs lot of patience, and time. But if you're talented, you must have time for it. 

    When can we expect new stuff from you? What are you're plans for the future?

    Maybe after we'll finish the game. That is the first step. As you know the whole team is working hard on the project.

    Then I could continue game developing, or I could move to a studio somewhere far away. I have contacts at the best studios around the world. Everything depends on the game now. 

    It's time to close. Is there anything special you would like to say to our readers?

    Yes. Scene is cool, and I think the best programmers, gfx-artists, and all the talent teams will come from the scene to the "real?" life...

    Would you like to say hello to anyone?

    Greetings to all sceners, keep on working, and making wonderful stuffs! 

    Thank you for you're time and i wish you all the best in the near future. 

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