Spotlight On Nejc Polovsak

Nejc Polovsak (@twistedpoly) has built a reputation for creating some of the most beautiful motion graphics on the Web today. I knew almost nothing about Nejc so was super excited when he agreed to step into the spotlight on Motionworks. I asked Nejc to share with us more about his style, himself and how he works.

Where are you based?

I’m based in Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia, a really small, beautiful country located in central Europe. After sharing an office space with some friends I decided to move back to my cozy home office, from where I currently do most of my work.

 How long have you been in the motion graphics design industry?

I started doing 3D as a hobby about 11 years ago, it’s about 8 years since I got my first job.

How long have you been freelancing?

I started doing my own stuff
and networking well before
going freelance

I spent first 4 years years in the industry in a full time job, which didn’t involve that much motion graphics, but some kind of mix between game design, some vfx work and occasional animation work. After those initial 4 years I really wanted to focus on and do more of animation/mograph work than anything else. Unfortunately my job at that time didn’t offer that, so I decided to leave and tried to figure out if I should find another full time position somewhere around the EU – as locally there weren’t many interesting options – or start freelancing. After first few months I was lucky to get some freelance job opportunities, so my career naturally transformed from being a full time employee to full time freelance. It helped a lot that I started doing my own stuff and networking well before going freelance.

What are the advantages of freelancing?

After being freelance for 4 years I love it, but I cannot say there aren’t times when I would prefer having a “normal” full time job. The biggest advantages of being freelance for me are, having the freedom and being able to control and manage my own time, having opportunities to work with people from all over the world – every new collaboration gets me super excited; and over time being able to pick projects which are a good fit for me and set the style of work I want to keep doing in the future.

What kind of formal training have you had?

Pretty much none. I studied computer science and as mentioned before, 3D was just a hobby for me which I started doing at the end of high school. But I learned a lot from tutorials that were available at the time and mostly by doing lots of my own personal work.

What kind of training do you do these days?

I do watch a tutorial every now and then, but not a lot, as I never tried to know everything. I usually try to learn stuff on the go while working on something. There might be a thing I have to do and figure out, so that’s when I’ll go and search for a solution to a specific problem I run into.

Which software do you use?

You can mostly find Cinema 4D, After Effects and Photoshop open on my computer daily.

How long have you been using the software?

I started out using Maya and learned all the basic 3D stuff there. Then I was lucky enough to have won a licence of Cinema 4D R9.5 in some online competition around 2006, tried it out and switched to it. I learned After Effects a bit later when I actually had to use it on my job.

Are there any specific tools you use more than others?

I can’t really say as this is always a project specific thing, but to point something out, I don’t know how could I live without the Mograph tools we have inside of Cinema 4D.

Do you use plug-ins? Which plug-ins are your favourites?

Yes of course. My favourite plug-ins are the ones that do the job I need.  I got super comfortable using Octane render all the time and X-particles. Cinema 4D introduced it’s own solo functions some time ago but I still prefer using the Magic Solo plug-in for this.

Do you use stock footage or images?

Pretty much never in my work unless there is something specific I have to use.

Do you shoot your own stuff?

I do shoot some stuff every now then. It’s mostly pictures when traveling. It’s always a good exercise trying to figure out how to come up with interesting compositions and different shots. My iPhone somehow replaced my heavy, hard-to-carry-around DSLR in the last few years.

 What is your computer system setup?

My current main workstation is a PC with Windows 8,  i7 3930K, 32Gb of ram, SSD disks and recent addition of dual GTX 780 6Gb. Besides GPUs, it’s a bit over 2 years old rig which will have to be updated soon. I have another older PC which I’m using for backup and to help out with rendering every now and then. I usually use my Macbook Pro on an improvised standing desk for all the emails, Skype calls and social stuff – it helps breaking up days and not sitting in a chair behind a workstation all the time. I highly recommend trying something like this out.

Do you use a Wacom pen or a mouse?

I use both. It’s funny, I’m really used to use both so every now and then I’ll use a mouse more and then I’ll maybe only use Wacom for pretty much everything I do. Depends on the day I guess!

Your work has a highly polished style with beautiful colour, lighting and use of depth of field. Can you tell us about your process when you create a look?

There are no secrets or crazy workflows behind this. I mostly try to tweak and polish things as much as I can directly in 3D, minimising compositing work. This means I might spend more than an average time on setting up lights and materials until I’m happy with the output. I also always try to render out depth of field instead of doing it in post, as I figured it usually always looks better straight out of the render engine.

TwistedLabs features experiments you’ve done. How important is experimentation for you?

I think these are super important for me, whenever I find time or energy to do them! Even if it’s a short or mini project, you usually always learn something new or learn a new trick or two on how to approach something.

Do you experiment a lot with new tools & techniques or stick to what you know?

I’m never afraid to learn
or experiment

This is a tricky one, because you can never know everything, but it’s not good to be limited only by what you already know or did in the past. So I’m never afraid to learn or experiment with something new, it usually takes more time and energy, but the output can be very rewarding. I’m currently planning a personal project which consist of some things I have no clue how to do yet, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out during the process.

Do you look around for inspiration or simply create whatever comes into your head?

A mix of both I guess. I think ideas or concepts are more of a thing that happens in the head, but design and aesthetics are more easily inspired by something else. Sometimes I might have an idea which mutates and turns into something completely different trough the process of experimentation. I’m usually getting the most ideas when I actually get into something and then trough the process of working on a pitch or styleframes , things evolve, new ideas come to mind.

Where do you find inspiration?

There’s  the Internet of course, with sites like Pinterest and Behance. But also when away from everything, traveling, life experiences or just doing something completely unrelated to 3D or animation. I get most inspired and motivated when I see other people doing amazing work, or discovering someone new that is way better than me, this gets me super inspired to do something of my own and try to be better.

Could you share a specific technique that you use all the time in your work, that may save readers time too?

Eliminate all distractions

Yes, eliminate all distractions, shut down all the emails, social media, Skype, phone, shut the door, put on headphones…and just focus on what you’re trying to do and get in the zone. We live in this crazy time of endless news feeds and constant feeding of useless information which makes it super hard to focus on anything sometimes. To be more Cinema 4D specific, learn the shortcuts of tools you use most often or add them to your interface. Definitely use dual displays. I’m totally with Beeple on mentioning ‘Reset PSR’ and ‘Scroll to First Active’ which are super useful! Also I highly recommend going trough this great article on optimising things inside Cinema 4D by my buddy Matt Frodsham (@mattfrodsham).

If there was one piece of advice you could give a beginner in this industry, what would it be?

Be prepared to work hard as this is super competitive industry. Especially if you plan to freelance, doing actual work is only part of the job. There are emails and tons of communication that has to happen before you can actually work on something. Invest time and money into meeting new people, networking and going to different events. Doing good work is important, but meeting and being in touch with other people in the industry has same importance.

Is there anything else about you readers may find interesting?

Yeah, pretty much nobody knows how to pronounce my name Nejc – it’s pronounced exactly the same as “Nate’s” sounds in English!

To learn more about Nejc check out Follow Nejc on Twitter.

  1. Matt Brushinski

    Wow. Great interview! I remember seeing the flying whale alien piece a bit a go and thought… how the heck does anyone think of this… then make it look like this and make it do that?! Always great stuff Nejc Polovsak and thanks for writing this up John!

    • John Dickinson

      Thanks Matt, you’re welcome.

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