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Interview with Pete Sussi

We inteviewed Pete Sussi – 3d modeler and animator creating 3d characters.

May 11, 2005 | Stryker

About Pete
M my name is Pete Sussi and I live in New York and have been doing 3d since 2001. I am a 3d modeler and animator creating 3d characters, logo’s and fx’s. My tools of choice are lightwave and photoshop, running on a mac platform. I do my compositing in final cut and after effects when needed.

About the Process
I have done several freelance jobs for clients around the world. when hired, I supply the clients with a realistic timeline. The client is then updated at every stage via email. usually the process is a design sketched on paper or story board. With an approved design, I move onto the model. this is followed with emailed updates at every stage. Once the model is approved it’s on to the texturing. These are usually painted by hand. With an approved textured model, it’s time to animate, or pose if it’s a still picture.

If this is a character, it will have to be boned. this is sort of like adding a skeleton to the figure so it can be posed. Depending on the complexity of the character, this can be fairly time consuming. then the character will need facial expressions built in. this is what gives the character’s face it’s personality and enable it to talk! Usually there are around 20 individual expressions. Sometimes it’s quite a bit more!

The final step is lighting. this is crucial to a render. It sets the mood for the project. If it’s going to be an animation, there is a careful balance between render times and the final look. With a final render complete, the final stage is polishing the render in photoshop or after effects if it’s an animation. This includes retouching any awkward deformations and color corrections.

When and how did you get started in the 3D industry?
I started 3d in early 2001. I work as a Creative Director at an ad agency and have been in advertising for 19 years. In early 2001 I grew creatively burnt and frustrated about not doing "real" art anymore. So as a personal creative outlet, I bought Carrara and Poser, basically for my own entertainment. Shortly after, I was hooked by the 3D bug. So, after having a discussion with my wife, I decided to pursue a professional career in 3d and have been doing it seriously ever since.

How long you in CG?
I started 3d in 2001

What are your primary 3D packages and why do you choose to use them?
My main 3d program is lightwave. It’s what I learned on. I also use Photoshop for all texturing and hand paint most textures. I ‘d love to try out ZBrush for painting and bump maps. I also have motionbuilder. Which I ‘ve seen some wonderful work done with. however, I still haven’t taken on learning it. I wish it had more books to learn from like other 3D applications.

Have you had any Art Related Schooling?
I did 2 years of college for advertising art. and minored in illustration. I wanted to be an illustrator…but good luck making a living of it.

Do you feel that an artist looking into a CG based career requires Art Education?
Hmmm…that’s a tough one. I was blessed with two creative and supportive parents and grew up in a art environment. Drawing was a way of bonding on a Saturday while sitting down with my father. from that, I always strived for perfection in a fun way. I absorb what ever books or information I can find. even simply watching people, or going to a museum could bring you a wealth of knowledge. For some people it’s a way of life and they have done beautifully with it. For some, school is a great option to learn human form and light theories. When I model, it draws on all my past art abilities. figure drawing, painting, photography for lighting. even sculpture. So to answer your question, would it hurt a character artist to learn the human form and gesture drawing? Of course not. If you paint textures, would it hurt to take a color class or painting? Of course not. However, there are some incredible artists who are all self taught.

The Germ

What methods did you use to render?
I normally use lightwave’s renderer. It is really quite good. HDRI and radiosity is a wonderful combination.

Whether you create animation for characters?
Originally I never thought about animation but as time goes on, you want to breath life into your creations. I think it’s a natural progression. I first started working on animation 4 years ago making the animated short, "the oddfather". Your abilities grow so fast in the beginning that I laid it to rest after 6 months because I hated what I did in the beginning.

I didn’t want to show it, since it was not at a level I wanted to represent me. however, a year later a director call me and was interested in pitching the uncompleted short to become a comedy series. With that, I have really been studying animation and also have re-worked the models to a much higher level. I hope, in the next year or so, to start production on this short again….from the beginning.

How many people help you out with your work?
All of my work is done by myself. However, due to the amount of freelance work, I ‘ve started seeking out people to "partner up with". You only get one chance to have a first impression. and I wouldn’t jeopardize a clients due to deadline I couldn’t make.

How long did you work on one character?
This is another tough question. How difficult or complex is the character? is it for me or is it for a client on a deadline? If it’s for me, I could afford the time to be a perfectionist. I could take the time to try things a couple of different ways. If it’s for a client, I try to build the character in a week to a week and a half. it may take me 3-5 days to UV it and hand paint it. rigging a character can take another 3 days (if it’s real complex and requires several tests).

Do you have a favourite character?
"Germ" was real cute and was my own design. The "new" oddfather is far superior to the original. So, you see. they all have parts in them that make me my favorite.

What site do you advise for training?


Dan Alban and Tim Albee make some great books too…(mostly Lightwave based)

Your wishes to beginners!
Take your time. focus on a goal and work towards it. too many people settle for the shinny, floating ball. if you want to do a character, study it. get books. watch videos. Study others that you like. Take a character from start to finish. don’t just do the head. Do the body and rig it. also, people tend to concentrate on the "main" parts like the head. to combat that, tell yourself that for the next two days, I ‘m going to make the perfect hand. or whatever part. the point is to fool yourself into not rushing the unglamorous parts. THAT will really make a difference in your characters. THE DETAILS!!!!

Best of luck to all who go down this path. and feel free to email me at if I could help.

Thank for you interest!


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